Friday, November 20, 2015 - Sex-offender registry requires reboot in Ohio and the nation: editorial

This is a pretty good editorial from

Sex-offender registry requires reboot in Ohio and the nation: editorial

By Editorial Board 
on November 19, 2015 at 11:33 AM

Title 1 of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 created an all-inclusive state-by-state registry of convicted sex offenders.

Known as the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, Title 1 also attempted the impossible: to protect the public, particularly children, from convicted sexual predators who had done their time and were now back on the street.

It was well-intentioned, codifying rules that mandate states monitor and track sex offenders by having them publicly register their addresses.

Parents, guardians, caregivers, and anyone else can access those records online, or by contacting their local sheriff's department, to see where released sex offenders are living in their neighborhoods.

States were given three years to implement the registry. Noncompliance with the federal law would be punished by a 10 percent cut in millions of dollars of annual federal criminal justice funding.

Ohio, which had a less-rigid sex-registry law already, complied -- creating what critics now call a one-size-fits-all behemoth of a sex registry that wrongly limits judicial discretion, penalizes young people and costs sheriff's departments hundreds of thousands of unneeded dollars to monitor.

You might think that all advocates for rape victims would support the practice of forcing sex offenders to publicly register their addresses after their release from prison. But you would be mistaken.

In fact, SORNA – as the federal registry law is known colloquially -- is today under attack by the very people who advocate for the rights of survivors and victims of sexual assault as well as the judiciary that rules on the consequences of such predatory behavior.

"It's like using an Atom Bomb when a stick of dynamite would do the job," said Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Michael Donnelly.

"It creates this false sense of security," said Sondra Miller, head of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center.

Even the Ohio Supreme Court has weighed in, declaring sections of the state's version of SORNA unconstitutional, according to assistant state public defender Brooke Burns. In 2012 the court ruled that imposing automatic lifetime registration requirements on juveniles was cruel and unusual punishment.

In a 5-2 opinion, the court said the punishment violates the Ohio and United States constitutions because it is cruel and unusual, and because it violates a defendant's right to due process.

"A 19-year-old and his 15-year-old girlfriend have consensual sex," Donnelly said. "He gets labeled as a sex offender for life. He should be punished for violating the law [the age of consent is 16 years old in Ohio], but he's not necessarily a predator."

The registry also misleads the public into believing that the majority of sexual assaults are committed by strangers, Miller said. "Most sexual assaults are committed by family members and acquaintances."

It's not that the registry serves no purpose, Miller said, but its Draconian approach to public safety blunts its effectiveness.

"There are serious sex offenders, predators that the public needs to be protected from, and they are diluted in a sea of individuals who don't pose a threat," Donnelly said.

There also is no "wiggle room," as Burns describes it, for judges to use discretion in determining who gets put on the registry. "The law has to be applied as written."

The time is ripe for a common-sense, evidence-based reboot of Ohio's version of SORNA, and a redo of the federal requirements, as well.

In Ohio, a recent bipartisan legislative criminal-reform initiative provides the vehicle to re-examine Ohio's sex-offender registry. 

The Ohio Criminal Justice Recodification Committee has been tasked with reviewing state criminal statutes and making recommendations that enhance public safety and the just and equitable administration of justice.

Its 24 members include judges, public defenders, prosecutors, politicians and criminal justice advocates.

The committee has broken into working groups to study different sections of the criminal code, said Amy Borror, a spokeswoman for the Office of the Ohio Public Defender. One group is focused on sex-offender registration and notification reform.

There are some 19,400 sex offenders registered in Ohio, according to the state Attorney General's office. In Cuyahoga County, the sheriff's department tracks about 3,300 sex offenders.

The criminal-justice-reform committee is scheduled to deliver its report to the General Assembly by August 2016.

"I've offered to provide testimony and statistics to the legislature to return discretion to the courts," Donnelly said. "And I'll get 15 other judges to join me."

He argues that courts have access to psychiatrists who are experts on assessing sex offenders and their proclivity for recidivism.

New legislation that did not restrict judicial discretion could allow those risk assessments to be argued in open court, Donnelly said. "Then the process is transparent and evidence-based."

Judicial discretion returns accountability and justice to the process without compromising public safety.

The committee should recommend that such legislation be enacted.

And the federal government -- and Congress, if needed -- should make sure Ohio's federal criminal justice funding is not docked because of such a common-sense improvement to the state's sex-offender registry.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Justices uphold sex-offender label for Ohio man who had sex with teen

I say lets put Injustice Lanzinger on the registry. Better yet, lets do all those things to her than the Internet trolls are always saying we should do to s*x offenders, and lets see if we find THAT shocking!

The D'OH-io Supreme Court doesn't even remember their own recent decisions. Take this case for example:

State v. Williams, 129 Ohio St.3d 344, 2011-Ohio-3374

{¶ 16} Following the enactment of S.B. 10, all doubt has been removed:

R.C. Chapter 2950 is punitive.

Justices uphold sex-offender label for Ohio man who had sex with teen

By Alan Johnson
The Columbus Dispatch  •  Thursday November 12, 2015 11:02 AM

The Ohio Supreme Court upheld state sex-offender registration requirements in a case in which a convicted offender challenged them as “cruel and unusual punishment.”

The 5-2 decision issued on Thursday involved Travis Blankenship, of Clark County, who was convicted for having unlawful sexual conduct with a 15-year-old girl when he was 21. He met the girl through a social-media site.

Blankenship pleaded guilty and served 12 days of a six-month sentence, which also included five years of community control. He was classified as a Tier II sex offender under state law, requiring him to register in person with the sheriff’s office in the county where he lives every 180 days for 25 years.

Blankenship appealed the registration requirement, arguing it was too severe given the nature of the crime, a fourth-degree felony. The Second District Court of Appeals rejected his appeal.

Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger, writing for the majority, said that the registration requirements are “not so extreme as to be grossly disproportionate to the crime or shocking to a reasonable person and to the community’s sense of justice.” She said the sex-offender law does not violate the U.S or Ohio constitutions.

Justice Paul Pfeifer dissented, saying the rules breached Blankenship’s rights under the specific circumstances.

“I do not believe that the registration and address-verification requirements at issue in this case are cruel and unusual with respect to all Tier II sex offenders. But as applied to Blankenship, who was deemed to warrant a prison sentence of only 12 days, who has a low risk of reoffending, and who possesses none of the characteristics of a sex offender, the requirement to register and verify his address every six months for the next 25 years ‘would be considered shocking to any reasonable person.'"

Monday, October 12, 2015

Sex offender registries draw criticism from some unlikely sources

From the Captain Obvious files:

Sex offender registries draw criticism from some unlikely sources

Ida Lieszkovszky, Northeast Ohio Media Group 
Email the author 
on October 08, 2015 at 7:00 AM, updated October 09, 2015 at 2:08 PM

CLEVELAND, Ohio - You might think that all advocates for rape victims would support the practice of forcing sex offenders to publicly register their addresses after their release from prison. But you would be mistaken. 

Growing numbers of victim advocates and criminal justice researchers are among those who have concluded that sex offender registries are too costly and provide little or no protection to the public.

"The registry gives the appearance that our community is safer, but we really question whether it lives up to that expectation," said Sondra Miller, president of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center.

Northeast Ohio Media Group contacted Miller and others to address both sides of an ongoing debate over the effectiveness of the registries, which are now used in every state.

In the beginning 

Sex offender registries gained popularity after the 1994 rape and murder of 7-year-old Megan Kanka by a neighbor in New Jersey. "Megan's Law" was followed a decade later by the Adam Walsh Act, named for a 6-year-old boy who was abducted and murdered in Florida. Ohio began registering sex offenders in 1997.

Today, about 19,400 sex offenders are registered statewide, according to the Ohio Attorney General's office. 

The Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department tracks an estimated 3,300 sex offenders at an annual cost of $675,000. That includes registering sex offenders, sending out fliers warning neighbors that an offender moved into the area, and tracking offenders who fail to report. Sheriff Clifford Pinkney declined to comment for this story. 

How registries can help 

Proponents of registries say the goal is to alert people to the presence of sex offenders in their neighborhoods and, by extension, help keep people and their children safe.

That's especially important for victims of sexual assault, according to Janine Deccola, a victim's advocate with the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office. The knowledge that an offender is being tracked helps victims "find a sense of safety or comfort" following a harrowing experience.

The registry is also a way to validate what victims have endured. Teresa Stafford, the senior director of advocacy and outreach at the Rape Crisis Center, said that's particularly true in cases of rape, where victims' accounts are often met with doubt or skepticism. 

"So many people may not have believed them in the process and that's another public place where they can say yes, this person did rape me, this person did hurt me." Stafford said.

The rap on registries

Critics contend that registries are costly to maintain and are often inaccurate because of undocumented moves by sex offenders or offenders listing phony addresses. And Stafford questions how many people actually make use of the registry. According to the Attorney General's office, some 445,000 people statewide are signed up to receive alerts about newly registered sex offenders. 

Critics also contend that the registries leave people with the false impression that most sexual assaults are committed by strangers. 

Assistant State Public Defender Brooke Burns said the vast majority of sexual assaults are not committed by strangers down the street. The Bureau of Justice Statistics found that in 85 percent of sexual assault cases, the victim and the offender knew each other or were related. 

Sexual assaults are also one of the most underreported crimes. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, 70 percent of sexual assaults are never reported. Among reported cases, the network estimates just 2 percent of rapists are convicted and sentenced, making them eligible to be included on a registry.

Cullen Sweeney, an attorney with the Cuyahoga County Public Defender's Office, said the registries also can't protect against a first-time offender.

"If it's not really making your children safer, then it doesn't really make financial sense or policy sense," Sweeney said. "And if it has negative consequences, like destabilizing the offender's lives, then it actually makes the community less safe."

Unlikely folks are opposed

It's not surprising that defense attorneys oppose the registries, but therapists and victim's advocates also are among those calling for change. 

"The biggest frustration we have with the registry is it feeds into the myths that the general public has about sexual assault," Miller said. "It feeds this stranger-danger mentality when we know it's such a small fraction of the sexual assaults that occur in our community." 

Miller said the registries give people a "false sense of security" that sex offenders can be easily identified and avoided, when that's not the case. 

Tyffani Dent, a psychologist and vice president of the Ohio Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers who works with both victims and offenders, said registries spread law enforcement too thin. Deputies have to check in not only on repeat, violent offenders but also teenagers who sent illicit text messages to their girlfriends, and who pose little threat to their neighbors.  

"I want for victims to get justice," she said. "Unfortunately, registration the way it is now doesn't do what it's designed to do."

Studies are critical of registries

Several large-scale studies have shown that registries don't do much to prevent criminals from committing new crimes.

A 2008 U.S. Department of Justice study concluded that "Megan's Law showed no demonstrable effect in reducing sexual re-offenses."
A 2011 study from the University of Chicago found that "registered sex offenders have higher rates of recidivism" than those who did not have to register.
Another study published in 2011 found that a registration requirement has a deterrent effect on sexual offenders, but the notification aspect of the registries leads to higher rates of offense because of the social and financial costs to the offender. 
A 2004 Canadian study found that "after 15 years, 73 percent of sexual offenders had not been charged with, or convicted of, another sexual offense."

Better solutions

Dent doesn't think the registry system should be abandoned entirely. Instead, she favors registering only the most dangerous offenders. That would free up resources for preventative measures and treatment, such as mental health therapy, which Dent said has been proven to reduce recidivism. 

In particular, Dent said cognitive behavioral therapies, which address the way people think and behave, have been proven to reduce recidivism among sex offenders. 

Burns, who primarily works with juveniles at the state defender's office, said that in the cases of young offenders in particular putting their names on a public registry inhibits them from reintegrating into society.

"It's really important that kids get proper treatment, intervention, and their needs are addressed so they don't reoffend, and I think that's far more effective than a registry is," she said. 

Miller echoed that sentiment, and noted that victim's services and treatment programs are both underfunded, and could use some of the more than half a million dollars Cuyahoga County spends maintaining its registry.

"It really is a question of where do we put our resources where we're going to have the maximum impact and I'm not sure the sex offender registry is where we're getting the most impact," Miller said.

Registered Citizen says registry amounts to punishment for life

The state Supreme Court agreed.

Sex offender says registry amounts to punishment for life

By Ida Lieszkovszky, Northeast Ohio Media Group 
Email the author 
on October 08, 2015 at 7:00 AM, updated October 08, 2015 at 7:07 AM

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Nearly three decades ago, Emil Basista was convicted of raping a 33-year-old woman. While serving time in prison, he was retroactively labeled as a sexual predator, a designation that requires him to report where he lives every 90 days to the sheriff's department.

Basista, 66, is one of several thousand Ohioans who have tried to challenge the state's sexual offender registration requirements, contending that the publicly accessible registries amount to life-long punishment.

During a recent interview with Northeast Ohio Media Group, he said he has turned his life around since his release from prison.  He is married, and said he has become a model citizen despite the hardships that go with being labeled a sexual predator.

"It's been tough for me and my wife because sometimes it just gets to you, especially when you feel you did wrong and you've been punished for it and you did your time and now you want to carry on as a responsible citizen, but society makes it really tough to do that."

Basista said he applied for dozens of jobs, but as a convicted sex offender he was "dead in the water." He managed to piece together several jobs through people his wife knew, and has since retired.

He also credits his wife with helping him find a place to live. Registration laws limit where sex offenders can live. For instance, they can not live within 1,000 feet of a school. Basista's wife has a Middleburg Heights home that complies with the laws, so he was able to move in there. But as required under the law, all of his neighbors were sent postcards notifying them that Basista had moved in.

The registry also limits his daily activities. For instance, he can't go to recreational centers, many of which screen for sex offenders in an effort to keep their patrons, particularly children, safe. 

He also thinks its unfair that he is forced to register since the sex offender designation wasn't part of his original sentence when he was convicted. 

"I think it is a form of punishment because it doesn't enable you to get back into society and do what you're supposed to do because there's always a cloud over your head," he said.

But worst of all, Batista said, is the social stigma that comes with the label since people often mistakenly assume the term "predator" means he assaulted a child. 

"I don't care if people call me a rapist, but don't call me nothing having to do with children" he said. "That really bothers me because that's the furthest thing from my mind is hurting a child."

Basista said many people he speaks to don't understand the registry system or its labels, and instead just respond with fear.

According to the state public defender's office, more than 7,000 sex offenders have challenged the state's laws on registry requirements, and several have taken their cases to the state's highest court. Several years ago, the Ohio Supreme Court agreed with an offender that the current registry system is a form of punishment.

Basista said he doesn't want to remove his name from the registry entirely, but hopes to downgrade his status so he's no longer called a predator. He has not been successful.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

A disaster in the making: Ohio HB 353 will require Registered Citizens to give the sheriff info on every adult in the household

Cross-posted from the Shiitake Awards.

If there is a state that could challenge FloriDUH for the sheer stupidity of sex offender laws, it is the state of Ohio (or as I call it, "D'Oh-I-O). Ohio was the one state that finally dethroned FloriDUH's Shiitake Award dynasty (if only for a year), and D'OHio was the first state to pass the Adam Walsh AND is the only state that can place people on the sex offender registry through a civil trial

So now the great state of D'OHio wants to remind us that our legislators can be as birdbrained as FloriDUH. State Rep. Margaret Ann Ruhl has introduced HB 353, which will "amend sections 2950.04, 2950.041, and 2950.99 of the Revised Code to require a sheriff to mail a notice to every adult member of a household where a person who is required to register as a sex offender resides informing those household members that the person has committed a sexually oriented offense or a child-victim oriented offense."

Now, it is already a stupid idea to waste millions of dollars of taxpayer money to send a notice to every adult living in the household with a Registered Citizen that they are indeed living with a Registered Citizen. It seems as asinine as placing warning labels on jars of peanut butter that peanut butter contains peanuts. I can't imagine a single scenario where this is even necessary or helpful. Obviously, people living with a Registered Person knows they are living with a Registered Citizen. What's next? Notices that water is wet?

But this isn't the worst part of the law. If passed the Ohio Revised Code will be revised again, adding to the information collected by the Sheriff's Office, "Regarding an offender or delinquent child who is registering under a duty imposed under division (A)(2), (3), or (4) of this section as a result of the offender or delinquent child residing in this state or temporarily being domiciled in this state for more than three days, a list of every other person age eighteen or older who resides at the residence at which the offender plans to reside."

What this means is the state will expect Registered Citizens to register the names of every adult living in the household with the Sheriff's Office. I know that Anti-Registry activists like to use the expression, "When someone is forced to register, the entire family registers," but it seems Ohio is taking this expression literally. 

But hey, it isn't like something like a computer glitch would accidentally add dozens of people to the Ohio sex offender registry or anything, right? Oh wait...

Dozens Mistakenly Added To Ohio Sex Offender Registry

Wednesday November 2, 2011 6:33 PM 
UPDATED: Wednesday November 2, 2011 7:45 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Some people raised questions on Wednesday, wondering how dozens of people could have been wrongfully included to a statewide sex offender registry.

Outdated and inaccurate information was put into the system by an outside company that helped run the registry, 10TV's Chuck Strickler reported.

It took more than two weeks to figure out what the problem was.   The site was then shut down and fixed. 

The state had been working to switch the entire registry operation over to a Louisiana company called Watch Systems. 

In early October, the state said the company took control of the search operation of the registry and mistakenly put inaccurate information into the system for all to see, Strickler reported.

The state attorney general's office said the problem was a result of human error. 

"There were probably hundreds, but we don't know exactly because we didn't take the time to go through the records individually," said Steven Raubenolt, Deputy Superintendent of BC&I.
Members of the group 'Families Against the Registry' said they were concerned that people who were no longer required to register were listed again during the glitch. 

"Watch Systems and the Ohio Attorney General do not seem to care that when you list a man on the registry, his wife and children suffer," said Ellen Shores of Families Against the Registry.

"Obviously we are sorry this happened.  As I said, we don't want bad or inaccurate data being displayed to the public," said Raubenolt.

I see nothing but problems arising from this idiotic bill. Ohio has already screwed up and added innocent people to the registry once before, so this bill is a disaster waiting to happen. Florida had similar problems recently, so obviously non-registered citizens understand that being mistaken for a "sex offender" is a pretty bad thing. The last thing Ohio would want is for a non-registrant to be beaten to death by a deranged vigilante, as has happened in Florida

This smiling face is that of State Representative Margaret Ann Ruhl, by the way. This is the woman listed as the primary sponsor. Rep. Heather Bishoff, Rep. Cheryl L. Grossman, Rep. Brian Hill, and Rep. Martin J. Sweeney are co-sponsors. I have added direct links to their representative pages. Feel free to contact them and ask them what they were thinking when sponsoring this stupid bill. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Columbus Dispatch: One in four Ohio prisoners are sex offenders

There is one small error in this report-- the three tier system was in use in Ohio since 1997, not 2008. The Adam Walsh Act passed in 2008, changing the classification scheme from risk assessment-based to an offense-based system.

Here is the original report from the Ohio Correctional Institution Inspection Committee

And here is the article from the Columbus Dispatch

One in four Ohio prisoners are sex offenders

By Alan Johnson
The Columbus Dispatch  •  Thursday September 24, 2015 3:12 AM

About one in four Ohio prisoners are serving time for a sexual offense, most for rape, a new report shows. 

The Correctional Institution Inspection Committee, a legislative watchdog agency, reported 7,707 inmates are doing time for sex offenses, with another 2,415 incarcerated for parole and other violations accompanying prior sex offenses. 

The vast majority are male. Just 137 sex offenders are female, 2 percent of the total. 

The agency said the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has been working to improve programs and treatment for sex offenders, but gaps still exist. There are no programs for sex offenders in the highest-security level in state prisons, mainly due to the potential for “disruptive behavior.” 

The report also noticed that released sex offenders have more problems than other ex-inmates in finding housing and jobs. That often leads to new offenses, the report said. 

After rape, with 4,768 inmates incarcerated, the other crimes with the most offenders were gross sexual imposition (736), failure to register (508), sexual battery (476), pandering obscenity (425), unlawful conduct with a minor (419), felonious sexual penetration (147), and promoting prostitution (68). 

Among women, rape was the highest category with 77 offenders. Woman outnumbered men, five to two, in just one category -- soliciting. 

Ohio began a three-tier post-release registration system for sex offenders in 2008, with the most serious offenders, Tier 3, required to register their address with the state every 90 days for life. Those with less serious offenses must register every 180 days to 12 months. 

The report showed the average time served for sex offenders dipped slightly to about 10 years between 1998 and 2013. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Ohio Admits It Has a Problem With Mass Incarceration

Republished from the ACLU. Not directly RSO related but still important:

Ohio Admits It Has a Problem With Mass Incarceration

By Alison Holcomb, Director, ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice
SEPTEMBER 11, 2015 | 3:00 PM

The first step is always admitting you have a problem.

Yesterday in Columbus, Ohio, I saw lawmakers do just that, launching what could be the best chance to improve the state’s criminal justice system. Leaders from all sides of the political spectrum convened to celebrate the start of Ohio’s Recodification Committee, a group of judges, prison officials, criminal defense attorneys, mental health advocates, prosecutors, and others who will evaluate the entirety of Ohio’s entire criminal code and see what should be tightened up, revised, or eliminated. We don’t yet know what the result of this committee will be — they will provide recommendations to the full state legislature in the 2016 session — but we do know that this is an historic and potentially groundbreaking endeavor.

We also know that a majority of Ohioans and Americans are unhappy with our criminal justice systems. Our nation, founded in order to “secure the Blessings of Liberty,” is also the world’s leading incarcerator, both by raw numbers and percentages of population. No matter how you slice that reality, it’s an abject failure of our founders’ effort to prove that freedom is the most important precondition to maximizing the human potential and achieving greatness.

Ohio has the seventh largest population of people behind bars in the nation. Its incarceration rates beat Cuba, Rwanda, and the Russian Federation. That kind of leadership and company is hard to celebrate, but those numbers create an opportunity: One in four new prisoners in Ohio this year will be for a drug offense while half of the people in prison are there for the first time.

Our challenge, and the challenge for the committee launched yesterday, is clear: Can we do something different here? Can we change our system in such a way that it is not exclusively focused on these individuals’ acts but looking at the potential to prevent first-time and repeat offenses through families, neighborhoods, communities, and government programs focused on solutions?

Nationwide, voters believe by a two-to-one margin that reducing the prison population will make us safer if we invest in crime prevention and rehabilitation efforts. Eighty seven percent agree that drug addicts and the mentally ill shouldn’t be in prison but rather in treatment facilities. We’ve seen that reform efforts can work: Behavioral therapy, intensive treatment for mental health and substance abuse, and preventive programs, like the Nurse-Family Partnership, can deliver the crime reduction we all want without destroying lives and families. We can invest in better options here in Ohio and make it explicit in the criminal code that solutions are favored over incarceration and by rewarding the law enforcement and other service providers who focus on non-jail alternatives effectively in our communities.

There’s clear momentum for criminal justice reform, and the ACLU is leading the efforts to make change in states and on the federal level. I’m proud to have joined some nonconventional allies in Columbus yesterday supporting the Buckeye State’s effort to create a justice system that reflects our hope in the future and not just our fears. But today begins the actual work through which lawmakers, judges, and advocates take a hard look at past successes and challenges to build a better Ohio that is more just.

Reform is on the way and the momentum to shift our justice system is turning to action. The real work here will begin when Ohio’s legislature hopefully implements meaningful change. And our work here at ACLU continues as we try to spur others to take action. They say that as Ohio goes, so goes the nation; here’s to hoping that as a nation we can begin the process to change our justice system.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Woman appeals prostitution case, sex offender label

This story is one reason why I like to refer to the Buckeye state as "D'Oh!-high-O." And to think, people actually believe everyone on the registry rapes and/or molests people.

Posted: 6:05 p.m. Thursday, July 2, 2015
Woman appeals prostitution case, sex offender label

By Mark Gokavi
Staff Writer

DAYTON — A Kettering woman convicted of promoting prostitution and labeled a sex offender after she drove a friend to what turned out to be a prostitution sting was granted judicial release after serving about seven months of an 18-month sentence.

But Aimee Hart, 42, is continuing with an appeal of her fourth-degree felony conviction because she doesn’t believe she should have to register as a sex offender, which she did after she was released last month. Hart was found guilty during a December 2014 trial.

She said Thursday she’s grateful that Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Gregory Singer let her out of prison and enabled her to spend the remainder of her sentence on probation.

“I personally feel that they perverted the intention of the law to fit my circumstances,” Hart said in an exclusive interview. “I think it was a miscarriage of justice the way I got convicted and what they’ve done to me in connection to it.

“As somebody who lived through serious sexual abuse as a child, it makes me sick to my stomach. … The sex offender thing is overkill and irrelevant to what I did. It puts me in the category with people who are predators and prey on other people and take advantage of them either for their own good or to make money off them.”

Efforts to reach prosecutors for comment were unsuccessful Thursday.

Tiffany Isaacs, the woman Hart drove and who asked Hart for a condom once she got to the sting location in January 2014, was sentenced for a misdemeanor solicitation charge and later arrested for another prostitution-related offense. Isaacs is not a registered sex offender.

“She got a misdemeanor and did 60 days and I got a felony 4 and was sentenced to 18 months, which I served seven and then I have to register as a sex offender for the next 15 years of my life … because I gave my friend a ride,” Hart said. “I’m not at all saying that there shouldn’t have been some consequence. I would have gladly done 60 days on some sort of misdemeanor just the way she did.”

Hart was charged under a recently revised Ohio law that stripped the language about transportation for sex-for-hire needing to be across state or county lines. The promoting prostitution statute states a person must knowingly transport another to facilitate sexual activity for hire.

“(Isaacs) got a misdemeanor and she was the one who would have been performing a sex act,” said public defender Susan Souther, who represented Hart at trial and at the judicial release hearing. “I just find that a crazy statute.”

Monday, June 8, 2015

Cost of arresting a single 76 year old nursing home resident for failure to register? $11,000

Bring back Tom Brokaw and stop this fleecing of America!

Return of sex offender from Ohio costs county $11,000

June 07, 2015 6:45 am  •  Edith Brady-Lunny

BLOOMINGTON — A stop in Bloomington to cash a check following his release from prison cost James Grimm six months in jail and McLean County taxpayers almost $11,000.

The arrest of the 76-year-old resident of an Ohio nursing home and his return to McLean County for lengthy criminal proceedings was not necessary or cost effective, said McLean County Public Defender Carla Barnes.

"He had no intention of staying here. He was plucked out of a nursing home and spent 180 days in jail. The Sex Offender Registration Act is not meant for people like this," said Barnes, whose office represented Grimm.

Grimm left the Department of Corrections on June 13, 2014, having completed a nine-year sentence for predatory criminal sexual assault in a 2002 McLean County case. Grimm, like an estimated 1,500 other sex offenders in Illinois prisons, also completed about three years of parole in prison because he lacked an approved residence when his term was served.

Homeless, Grimm signed an IDOC form that said he would register as a sex offender three days after his release.  

Grimm got off a train June 14 in Bloomington and met a friend who agreed to help him cash a $855 check from his prison commissary account. After the check was cashed that day, Grimm tried to secure a bus ticket to Cleveland, Ohio.

"The bus company said I was too old to get on the bus, said I wouldn't be able to handle the trip," said the 76-year-old who battles leukemia.

So, Grimm boarded an Amtrak train on June 18 bound for Cleveland where he stayed at a shelter before being hospitalized and moving into a nursing home.

According to Grimm, he completed sex offender registration shortly after he arrived in Ohio.

The day after Grimm left Illinois, Bloomington police received a tip that Grimm had been in the city.  BPD officer Shawn Albert started an investigation to find Grimm. Two months later, Albert checked a possible address in Ohio for Grimm and noted that he was not on the offender registration list.

Albert recommended Grimm be arrested for violation of Illinois' sex offender registration rules.

According to McLean County Assistant State's Attorney David Spence, the lack of verification of an Ohio registration was the impetus for the McLean County warrant.

"It took the trip back here to unravel this whole thing. The state of Illinois had an obligation to track him," said Spence.

About four months after he left Bloomington, and after Grimm had moved to a new nursing and had reported his new address to Cleveland police, he was arrested.

"They put the cuffs on me and said, 'Illinois wants you," said Grimm, who never faced charges in Ohio for a registration violation.   

A van from Prisoner Transport Services took Grimm and several other inmates through five states, picking up and dropping off prisoners before arriving in Bloomington on Nov. 13.

"I was never so happy to see a county jail," said Grimm.

Plea negotiations on the registration charges included an offer of two years' probation, something the critically ill inmate turned down.  "That would mean living in a tent city and I knew I couldn't do that," said Grimm.

The threat of a return to IDOC for three years was a better option than living on the streets, he said.

In the end, Grimm was sentenced in April to conditional discharge and allowed to return to Cleveland.

Grimm said he received good medical care at the McLean County jail. With the $1,437 in medical costs added to the $336 transport fee and $9,150 in detention costs, taxpayers paid almost $11,000 to prosecute the elderly sex offender.

"It's been one miserable experience," said Grimm.  

Barnes said she is pleased that an agreement was reached with the state to return Grimm to Ohio.  

"We wanted to do what was in the state's best interest and his," said Spence.  

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Lawmaker Starts Sex Offender Prison Push After 10 Investigates Story

When I think online stings I immediately think of all those corrupt sting operations in Florida last year.

Lawmaker Starts Sex Offender Prison Push After 10 Investigates Story

By Nathan Baca
Wednesday May 13, 2015 6:37 PM 
UPDATED: Wednesday May 13, 2015 6:38 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A state lawmaker wants to change state law on sex offenders after 10 Investigates exposed a legal loophole.

House Bill 208 introduced Wednesday would create mandatory prison sentences for more online sexual predators.

10 Investigates uncovered multiple cases of criminals going online and trying to meet teens for sex. The crime is called importuning. Some of them ended up caught by undercover Sheriff’s detectives.

In its series “Online And Off The Hook,” 10 Investigates looked at every Franklin County importuning case since 2010.

There were 107. Only 19 were sent to prison and 70 got probation and sent back on our streets.

The numbers uncovered by 10 Investigates upset the lawmaker who wrote a 2008 law he believed mandated prison sentences.

"We've got to improve this law. We've got to fix this loophole that apparently the judiciary is letting some folks through without any prison time," Rep. Tim Schaffer, Republican from Lancaster.

10 Investigates found the cause for so many online sexual predators were receiving probation. Prison overcrowding was one concern. But some judges questioned detectives posing as teens online.

"Some might say, we have a victimless crime,” Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Richard Sheward said.

If passed into law, the new prison sentences would work like this. If a person tries to solicit someone between the ages of 13 and 16, or an undercover police officer, they would be guaranteed six months in prison.

If they offend again, that prison sentence goes up to 18 months. If that same person is approaching someone they believe is 12 or younger, they could spend as much as three years in prison.

If House Bill 208 passes any new law on online sexual predators would not change the sentences on those who already received probation.

10 Investigates found sexual predators who avoided the sex offender registry with plea deals. That means parents don't know where they live.  You can see their names and pictures at the link below.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Oral arguments for Case No. 2014-0363 Travis Blankenship v. State of Ohio (Ohio Sup Ct)

Click the link to listen to the oral arguments for Blankenship v. Ohio.

Are Mandatory Sex-Offender Classifications Unconstitutional in Certain Cases?
Travis Blankenship v. State of Ohio, Case No. 2014-0363

Monday, March 9, 2015

Ohio Supreme Court to hear case of Adam Walsh Act classification

The logic of the Ohio prosecutors should be appalling to any reasonable person in this state. They aren't interested in justice, but in ruining lives. Hopefully now that the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the AWA is punishment, they'll take it a step further and admit the law is CRUEL AND UNUSUAL punishment.

Man fights designation as a sexual offender

By Randy Ludlow
The Columbus Dispatch  •  Monday March 9, 2015 6:07 AM

Travis Blankenship is marked with what one judge describes as an undeserved “scarlet letter” — that of a sex offender.

Blankenship was 21, working part time at a department store and a few hours away from receiving his associate’s degree at Clark State Community College in Springfield when he had an affair with a 15-year-old girl.

But the illicit relationship did not remain secret, and he was arrested. A psychologist found he was not a sex offender, did not require treatment and was unlikely to commit another offense.

A judge likewise did not consider Blankenship much of a threat, sentencing him in 2012 to serve 12 days of a six-month sentence for unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, a fourth-degree felony.

But, under Ohio’s Adam Walsh Act, Blankenship automatically was declared a Tier II sex offender, requiring him to register his address, employment and other information with the sheriff for the next 25 years.

His public defender will argue before the Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday that mandatory sex-offender registration constitutes cruel and unusual punishment when it is “grossly disproportionate” to the offender’s character and crime.

Ohio prosecutors, including Franklin County’s Ron O’Brien, counter that sex-offender registration justifiably protects the public and is “not shocking to any reasonable person in this state.”

Blankenship is appealing a 2-1 decision by the Second District Ohio Court of Appeals that upheld his classification as a sex offender, which before 2007 required a hearing and allowed judges to make the call.

Judge Mary Donovan was the dissenter, writing, “He was punished with a scarlet letter of 25 years duration ... grossly disproportionate to the crime committed.

“This classification carries significant restraints on Blankenship’s liberty and a social stigma that interferes with employability, travel and housing.”

Clark County Prosecutor D. Andrew Wilson counters that Blankenship’s conduct was “typical of grooming behavior by sexual predators.”

“Blankenship engaged in sexual intercourse with a young and impressionable 15-year-old girl when he was an adult. This is a clear violation of the law,” his office argues.

“Registration is by no means shocking. Rather it is a consolation and comfort to the families and victims of sexual offenses.”

O’Brien filed a friend-of-the-court brief, saying automatic sex-offender classification and registration is legal. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that offender registration does not constitute punishment, he said.

“If it’s not punishment, it can’t be cruel and unusual,” O’Brien said.

However, Katherine Ross-Kinzie, the assistant state public defender representing Blankenship, said the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that the state’s offender-classification scheme is punitive in nature.

“Decades of sex-offender registration requirements, restrictions, and consequences constitute cruel and unusual punishment for people like Travis,” she said.

In another case, the high court will hear arguments on Wednesday in the case of Dale Johnston, a Grove City man who spent seven years on Death Row after he was wrongly convicted of the 1982 murders of his stepdaughter and her fiance.

He is asking the justices to reverse a Franklin County Court of Appeals ruling that threw out a trial judge’s finding that he was illegally detained for the dismemberment slayings in Hocking County. Such a finding is required to allow Johnston to seek damages for wrongful imprisonment from the state.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Ohio Supreme Court rules GSI mandatory sentences in certain cases unconstitutional

Mandatory sentencing guidelines are total garbage, so this is good news.

Differing sentences for child sex offenders unconstitutional, court rules

By Randy Ludlow
The Columbus Dispatch  •  Wednesday February 11, 2015 10:49 AM

Part of Ohio’s gross sexual imposition law is unconstitutional in requiring a mandatory prison sentence for offenders when evidence consists of more than a child’s testimony, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled today. 

Under the scheme the court overturned by a 6-1 vote, sex offenders must be sent to prison for five years if there is evidence — such as DNA, other witnesses or a confession — beyond the victim’s statements. 

When a gross sexual imposition conviction is based solely on the testimony of a child under the age of 13, a prison sentence is not mandatory. 

There is “no rational basis” for the differing sentences the court ruled, finding that the law unconstitutionally deprives defendants of due process and, when guilty pleas are involved, their right to a jury trial. 

The ruling came in the case of a Columbus man who was convicted in 2012 after pleading guilty to two counts of gross sexual imposition for molesting a 10-year-old girl. 

Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Charles Schneider declined to sentence Damon Bevly, now 37, to five years in prison despite other evidence consisting of his confession. The judge imposed a three-year sentence. 

The Franklin County Court of Appeals overturned Schneider’s ruling after Prosecutor Ron O'Brien appealed, prompting Bevly to turn to the high court. He is scheduled to freed from prison on April 21. 

The gross sexual imposition law “is unique in Ohio felony sentencing law in that it enhances the sentence imposed on the offender based on the quantity of evidence presented to prove guilt,” wrote Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger. 

“But the quantity of evidence or the number of witnesses used to establish guilt is irrelevant to the imposition of punishment,” she wrote in the majority opinion. 

The mandatory sentence also would have required a jury to make a finding of collaborating evidence, thus depriving those who plead guilty of jury trials, she wrote. 

Justice Judith L. French dissented, saying separate sentences based on the amount of evidence are not illegal and that the court majority improperly substituted its “policy” judgment for that of the General Assembly. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Did the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office interfere with fulfilling the dream of a dying vet?

A few days ago, I posted about the Dream Foundation's revocation of a dream trip for a dying vet after it was discovered the man was a Registered Person. Now, after a number of activists contacted the media and the Dream Foundation, it is highly likely the people most responsible for sounding the alarm were members of the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office. 

Below is a press release from the National RSOL group. 

RSOL, Inc. | Cambridge, Massachusetts

Contacts:                                                                             FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
National RSOL | 888.997.7765 xt. 1
Ohio RSOL |

Montgomery County Sheriff Office Conspires Against Veteran
Dying man suffers public humiliation as direct consequence of
overzealous operative determined to prevent his final wishes

January 20, 2015—Dayton, Ohio—Military veteran Greg Poston and his brother are dying of cancer. Their physician, Dr. Emily Vannorsdall, contacted the Dream Foundation about their dying wish, to see the Grand Canyon. At first the foundation was on board, and, with the help of the Veterans Service Commission, offered the trip to the brothers and their siblings.

The Dream Foundation is an organization headquartered in Santa Barbara, California, that grants dreams to adults with life-threatening diseases.

It was originally reported that after announcing the gift, the Dream Foundation received numerous phone calls from angry citizens informing them of Greg’s status as a registered sex offender. The Dream Foundation subsequently announced that it had withdrawn the gift to Greg, stating, " ‘After speaking with members of this individual's community, and consulting with our legal counsel and board of directors, Dream Foundation does not believe it is appropriate to proceed in the fulfillment of this individual's dream.’ ”

However, sources close to Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer have confirmed that his office was chiefly responsible for leaking Greg's status to Channel 22 WKEF, the local ABC affiliate in Dayton, and conspiring to puff Greg's registration as a legitimate reason to deny him the trip.

RSOL, Inc. demands to know who contacted WKEF and why. “I am outraged about all of this. The fact that the Dream Foundation first gave a gift to a dying veteran, then snatched it away, is bad enough,” said Brenda Jones, Executive Director of RSOL, Inc.

“But the very idea that the sheriff's office, in collusion with Channel 22, may be behind the effort to gin up the public's obvious indignation is too much to swallow. When is enough, enough? Greg Poston had been tried, convicted, and punished for his crime. Justice was served. What's the point in humiliating a dying man? 

“At this point, for Greg, there is not even the pretense of justice but only that of revenge, and it is an outrage that his last dream was held out to him and then snatched away due to the hatred and unforgiving heart of someone who is sworn to protect the public trust.”

Both National and Ohio RSOL had initially written the Dream Foundation to protest its decision. RSOL, Inc. is a national organization that advocates for and encourages the successful rehabilitation and reintegration of former sex offenders into a law-abiding society.

“We strongly object to continued consequences that amount to additional punishment after a registered citizen has satisfied his term of court-ordered punishment,” said D. Madison, head of the Ohio affiliate. “We have lived for years now with the absurd consequences of basing legislation and policy on emotions and victim-driven reactions rather than facts and evidence, and studies show these consequences to be ineffective—indeed, often harmful—in improving public safety.”

Founded in 2007, RSOL, Inc. ( is a national organization dedicated to enacting effective, fact-based sexual offense laws and policies which promote public safety, safeguard civil liberties, honor human dignity, and offer holistic prevention, healing, and restoration.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Dream trip revoked for sex offender with cancer

If this story makes you angry like it made me, feel free to contact the Dream Foundation here:

This story makes me glad I'm not a vet.

Dream trip revoked for sex offender with cancer

By Katherine Wright
Staff Writer

A dream trip to the Grand Canyon has been revoked for a local terminally ill veteran after the dream-granting organization discovered that he was a convicted sex offender.
Greg Poston, 62, of Dayton, received a free vacation from the Dream Foundation, a national wish-granting organization for adults with life-threatening illnesses. Greg Poston and his brother, Roger, have terminal cancer. Their three siblings were to accompany them on the trip.
The foundation decided to revoke Greg Poston’s trip. Greg Poston was convicted of two counts of gross sexual imposition in Moraine in 2007, according to court records.
“After we announced the trip, we received a series of phone calls from the Dayton community to ask us if we were aware that this person” was a sex offender, said Tristan Layton of the Dream Foundation. “We were not. It was a very, very difficult decision to make. But we listened to the feedback and respected the families of these victims, and we made the decision to revoke Gregory’s trip.”
The organization serves 2500 dreams a year from its small Santa Barbara, Calif., office. This is the first time something like this has happened in 20 years, Layton said.
Greg Poston’s brother, Roger, and the rest of the family can still take the trip, he said.
“We hope that the rest of the family take the trip. That is up to them,” he said.
The Montgomery County Veterans Service Commission, which had partnered with the Dream Foundation to deliver the trip packet to the Postons, had nothing to do with the decision, said Montgomery County spokeswoman Cathy Petersen.