Tag: sex offender registry

The Sex Offender Registry: A Gorilla on the Basketball Court

restaurant-small1By Michael M.

 Why does the public ignore the obvious unconstitutionality and overt cruelty of a sex offender registry that not only fails to accomplish its stated purpose – keeping our communities safer – but also condemns hundreds of thousands of registrants and their family members to a lifetime of humiliation, harassment, and possibility of unemployment, homelessness, and vigilantism?  It would be easy to assume that this apathy and inattentiveness by the public is simply the result of hatred, bias, or ignorance but there may be something else at work here, something that scientists have dubbed “inattentional blindness.”

gorillaIn 1999, psychologists Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris conducted an experiment that became world famous and was the subject of their 2010 book entitled, “The Invisible Gorilla.”  In their experiment, test subjects were shown a video of a basketball game after being asked to count the number of times the basketball is passed by players wearing white shirts.  During the game, a person in a gorilla suit strolls to the center of the screen, pauses to beat on his chest, and then wanders off.  After viewing the video, as many as 70% of the test subjects had no recollection whatsoever of a gorilla being in the video.

kenneth conley
Officer Kenneth Conley

This study has become the cornerstone of various theories and further experimentation centered on the phenomenon which became known as “inattentional blindness.”  The legal community took further notice of this topic when an undercover police officer named Kenny Conley was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in 1995 for claiming that he did not see a fellow officer beating a suspect as he ran by in pursuit of another suspect.  The jury simply did not believe that it was possible to miss something that obvious and convicted Officer Conley of lying to protect his colleague.

Simons, Chabris, and others decided to conduct a test to see if it was indeed possible that Officer Conley hadn’t seen the incident.  They set up a similar scenario and asked test subjects to chase a suspect and count the number of times the suspect touched his head while running. The route took the test subjects right past an on-going fist fight yet, afterwards, as many as 72% of the test subjects had no recollection of seeing the fight, which “obviously” occurred right in front of them.  As a result, Officer Conley was exonerated in July 2000.  The results of this study were published in 2011 under the title, “You do not talk about Fight Club if you do not notice Fight Club: Inattentional blindness for a simulated real-world assault.”

The conclusion of this and other similar studies is rather straightforward and simple.  Our brains pay attention to what we think is important or, at the very least, what others tell us is important.  Everything else is subconsciously categorized as being irrelevant and is discarded before having any effect on cognition or thought. As a result, we are literally blind to it; we simply don’t see it.

misdirection-3-638The mainstream media tells us daily what we should be paying attention to.  Their laser-like focus is invariably trained on sex offender registrants, high visibility or highly-placed pedophiles, and sex-traffickers.  The constant drum-beat and warnings of “stranger danger” not only stoke our natural anxieties as parents, but it also blinds us to the potential dangers that may exist right under our noses.

97% of the sexual assaults against juveniles are perpetrated by someone the victim knows.  59% are committed by acquaintances; 34% by family members.  Less than 7% of sexual assaults against juveniles are committed by strangers and an even smaller fraction of that number is attributable to known sex offenders.  “Stranger danger” is largely a myth.  Targeting registered sex offenders as your primary focus of fear and loathing is not only irrational, it is dangerous.

As for America’s “epidemic of missing children,” over 91% of them are runaways. 5% are the victims of family abduction. Less than 1% of the missing children were abducted by strangers and most of those were not registrants.  Again, the conspicuous focus on registered sex offenders makes the public blind to the real dangers that abound in our society.

Bu what about sex trafficking?  Surely, that is an issue we can all agree needs more attention and aggressive prosecution.  Yet, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an astonishing 88% of the children who end up being sex-trafficked became victims after going missing from government social services and foster homes!  It isn’t some creepy guy at the park who is snatching children from their homes and turning them into chattel, it is the very same government that is fueling your unwarranted fears of “stranger danger” and registrants.

Inattentional blindness causes the great majority of Americans to overlook the unconstitutionality and cruelty of a sex offender registry that makes our communities less safe by focusing your attention where it is least needed and accomplishes absolutely nothing.  It is a classic case of misdirection, blinding you to the political incompetence, law enforcement impotence, and contemptible court decisions that are so pervasive in the realm of sexual offense laws and policies.

It’s time we “just said no” to the media hysterics and political grandstanding about sexual offenses and start paying attention to the (now) painfully obvious gorilla on the basketball court.

County Agrees to Pay $115,000 to Man Mistakenly Listed as Sex Offender

restaurant-small1by Michael M., Registry Report

Yakima County, Washington – Damian Garza Cantu sued Yakima County in November of 2016 for damages after someone else’s criminal conviction for third degree rape somehow ended up on his record way back in the mid-1990s.  For the last 20 years, Mr. Cantu failed background checks for jobs and housing, but assumed that it was because of a DWI that he’d gotten in 1993. In 2016, he learned that he was erroneously listed as a sex offender because of a rape conviction for one Damian Eduardo Gutierrez Cantu, and sued the county for $800,000.

Rather than go to court, both parties agreed to a settlement which was announced on June 3, 2018 awarding $115,000 to Mr. Cantu.  We’re going to assume that, like most settlement agreements of this type, Mr. Cantu will be prohibited in the future from discussing the details of the case, sparing Yakima County from the embarassment of having to explain how something like this happened in the first place.

Like others before him, Mr. Cantu will take the hush money and run, kicking this particular can down the road for the next poor victim to deal with.  He can hardly be blamed for coming to such an agreement with Yakima County, though. After all, he’s had just a tiny taste of what sex offenders everywhere have to deal with on a daily basis, many of them for the rest of their lives, and in states with much harsher sex offender laws than Washington.  If someone offered to remove me from registry and pay me $115,000 to keep my mouth shut about the indignities and harm my family has suffered as a result of being on the sex offender registry, I wouldn’t have to think twice about accepting the offer.

Here, however, is the crux of the story that will be missed by many.  Yakima County would never have agreed to this settlement unless they believed there was a realistic chance of losing this case in court.  And by losing, I mean that the court would not only rule against the county, but award substantial damages.

Damages are calculated by the court from quantitative measurements of harm.

Yet, we’re told time and again that being on the sex offender register isn’t punitive and that, while it may be inconvenient and embarassing, it doesn’t actually do anyone any harm. I’m not sure anyone actually believes that load of malarkey, but officials and judges repeat it like the rosary hoping, perhaps, to ward off any “cruel and unusual” judgments from on high.  Finally, someone is admitting (although in a round-about way) that being on the sex offender registry causes a person a great deal of harm.

The only question now is, if Mr. Cantu’s experience on the registry is worth $115,000 in damages, then what is a lifetime on it worth?

Read the news release at KIMATV.com

Read the story in the Yakima Herald

SO Registry Endangers the Lives of Those It Was Meant to Protect

thehill-logo-bigExcerpt from The Hill, October 25, 2017

Registries just don’t work.

The scientific consensus is that registries don’t actually do anything to prevent sex offenses, which means they’re an enormous waste of taxpayer resources. Michigan’s registry, the fourth largest in the country, is bloated, with nearly 44,000 registrants, and growing by about five people every day. There are more than 850,000 registrants nationwide.

Registries are dangerous because they push registrants to the margins of society, making it harder for them to get jobs or an education, find homes or take care of their families. Draconian restrictions mean registrants face years in prison if they to do something as simple as borrow a car without immediately notifying the police. And the internet has turned these registries into modern-day scarlet letters, leading to harassment and even vigilantism.

The good news is that there are effective ways to keep our families and communities safe. We need to focus on prevention and support the critical work being done by sexual assault survivor groups. We need to recognize that the vast majority of child sex abuses cases — about 93 percent — are committed by family members or acquaintances, not strangers, and focus on where the real danger is…

Read the entire article at TheHill.com

How the Sex Offender Registry Abets Vigilantism and Murder

restaurant-small1
OP-ED by Michael M.

May 25, 2018

Let’s peruse a handful recent news articles, and let’s see if we can identify a common thread running through them…

Las Vegas Man Killed Homeless Couple Because One of Them Was a Sex Offender

Michael Thompson

Michael Thompson told his neighbor that he killed two homeless people because one of them was a sex offender, according to court documents.  Prosecutors charged Thompson with two counts of murder in the Dec. 26, 2017 shooting deaths of Rhonda Ballow, 27, and Alfred Wilhelm, 53. Thompson allegedly told a neighbor that he killed the man because he was a sex offender and killed the woman because she refused to leave the scene. The Nevada sex offender registry shows that Alfred Wilhelm was convicted of first-degree rape in Hawaii in April 1984.  Police said it appeared the shooter fired six to eight continuous shots while walking toward the pair.

Florida Man Wanted to “Barbecue” Sex Offenders at Motel

Jorge Porto-Sierra
Jorge Porto-Sierra

Jorge Porto-Sierra, 50, confessed to Osceola County investigators that he attempted to kill multiple people on March 7 at a motel in Kissimmee, WESH reported.  The man allegedly told police that he went to the Friendly Village Inn & Motel to “barbecue all the child molesters… and kill them.”  The news station reported that two of the four victims were convicted sex offenders.  Porto-Sierra made several threats, including, “I’m going to kill you, child molester,” before allegedly splashing gasoline on their motel room door. Witnesses said Porto-Sierra also hit a couple’s car and poured gasoline on it and broke a hotel window to pour gas inside the room.

Man Torches Sex Offender’s Home to Prevent Him From Moving Into the Neighborhood

Harold Nyberg
Harold Nyberg
Russel Speigel
Russel Speigel

Russell Speigle, 50, was arrested in Cottage Grove, a town outside Madison, WI.  Mr. Speigle lives down the block from the torched home, a residence that was to house Harold Nyberg, 40, who was convicted in 1994 of sexually assaulting a child. The house was destroyed in the fire.  Speigle claimed it was an attempt to keep the sex offender from moving into his neighborhood.

 

Judge George Gallagher

Texas Judge Electrocutes Accused SO During Testimony in Court

As we’ve reported elsewhere in RegistryReports.org, TX State District Judge George Gallagher ordered an accused sex offender to be shocked three times during a trial in 2014 in order to force him to answer questions to his satisfaction.  Stun belts can legally be strapped around the legs of some defendants and used to deliver thousands of volts of electric shock in the event that a defendant turns violent or attempts to escape the courtroom. However, in the case of Terry Lee Morris, who was convicted in 2014 of charges of soliciting sexual performance from a 15-year-old girl, an appeals court has ruled that Judge Gallagher used electric shocks as punishment because Morris failed to answer the judge’s questions. As a result, Morris’ conviction has been overturned and a new trial ordered.

“Pedophile Hunter” Beats Registrant With Hammer, Robs Two Others

In Anchorage, Alaska, 41-year old Jason Vukovich attacked three Registered Sex Offenders in June 2016, saying to one of the victims that he was an “avenging angel” for abused children. The court Prosecutor, Patrick McKay, argued in court that there was no excuse for Vukovich to target and attack the three strangers, beating one man so badly with a hammer that he fractured his skull and knocked him unconscious.

Superior Court Judge Erin Marston handed down his sentence to Vukovich: 25 years in prison, five years fewer than the maximum. He also sentenced Vukovich to five years’ probation. The men Vukovich singled out and attacked were complying with the law, Judge Marston said. They had gone through the court system, received their sentences and put their names on Alaska’s public sex offender registry, where Vukovich found their addresses. “It was not the purpose of the registry to allow people to do their own brand of justice,” Marston told Vukovich. “The purpose of the registry was to keep the community safe.”

Bakersfield CA Man May Have Been Targeted For Murder in the Erroneous Belief He Was a Sex Offender

The murder of 32-year old Roderick White may have been connected to comments found on his Facebook page alleging that he was a child molester, according to Kern County sheriff’s Detective Daniel Perez. In the years he’s worked in law enforcement, the detective wrote, he is aware that convicted or accused sex offenders are sometimes assaulted or killed because of their criminal history. Perez found a Facebook page that had pictures of White, and comments alleging that White was a child molester and listing possible addresses for him.”Social media platforms like Facebook have messaging applications which suspects will use to discuss, plan and execute crimes like assaults and murders,” Perez wrote. White had been stabbed more than 50 times on his face, chest and hands, among other areas.  It’s unclear whether White was ever convicted of sex crimes. No one with his name and age turned up in a search of both state and national websites listing sex offenders, and he has no criminal cases listed against him in Kern County. Apparently, all it takes is the rumor that you’re on the sex offender registry to get you killed.

 

The Bottom Line

Just in case you haven’t figured out the common thread weaving its way through each of these stories, I’ll spell it out for you.  SO Registrants in each of these instances have been shot, stabbed, electrocuted, set on fire, robbed, and beaten because they did the right thing and complied with the law requiring them to register and divulge what should have been privileged private information available to law enforcement only, rather than to vigilantes and murderers.  Innocent bystanders suffered collateral damage as well, but let’s not use that euphemism. Non-registrants were often murdered for simply befriending an offender, or for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or because of unsubstantiated rumors and social media postings.

Remember when the sex offender registry was supposed to make our communities safer?  How much longer will this have to go on before something is done about it?