Sex offender activists increasingly turn to federal courts for relief

By Maurice Chammah . . . Mary Sue Molnar estimates that she gets at least five calls a week from Texans on the sex offender registry who can’t find a place to live. Numerous towns around the state have passed ordinances prohibiting those on the list from residing within a certain distance — anywhere from 500 to 3,500 feet — of a school, park, daycare facility or playground. In some towns, that’s almost everywhere. “We’ve got people living in extended-stay motels,” says Molnar, who runs the sex-offender-rights group Texas Voices for Reason and Justice. “We’re in a crisis mode.”

Molnar and her allies have considered lobbying the Legislature to ban these ordinances, but they’ve found lawmakers unreceptive in the past to any bill perceived to benefit sex offenders. So she decided to go to court.

Molnar enlisted a small army of parents and siblings of sex offenders to compile a list of towns with such ordinances, and assembled research showing that the rules can actually make the public less safe. She enlisted Denton lawyer Richard Gladden. He was already representing Taylor Rice, who as a 20 year-old had sex with a 14 year-old he met online and now, after his conviction for sexual assault, was legally barred from living with his parents because their house was too close to a high school’s baseball field. Gladden had found a 2007 opinion by then-attorney general (now governor) Greg Abbott saying that towns with fewer than 5,000 residents — which fall into a particular legal category in Texas — are not authorized by the state to enact such restrictions on their own.

Gladden sent letters threatening lawsuits to 46 city councils. Within two months, half of them had repealed their ordinances. Gladden and Molnar are currently suing 11 of the remaining towns.

Restrictions on where registered sex offenders can work, live, and visit vary widely from state to state and city to city. Over the last few years, Molnar and her counterparts in other states have come to the same conclusion: Politicians aren’t going to help them. “Who wants to risk being called a pedophile-lover?” says Robin van der Wall, a North Carolina registrant on the board of the national group Reform Sex Offender Laws.

So the activists have taken the route favored by other politically unpopular groups and turned to the legal system, where they are more likely to encounter judges insulated from electoral concerns. Their legal claims vary, but in numerous cases, reformers have argued that these restrictions associated with registration add up to a sort of second sentence, and that they are defined in a vague way that makes them difficult to abide by. In some cases, the plaintiffs have argued that individual towns have enacted restrictions above and beyond what states allow them to impose. (Please continue reading at The Marshall Project)

This article was published in collaboration with The Texas Observer.

13 comments for “Sex offender activists increasingly turn to federal courts for relief

  1. Roberto
    October 28, 2016 at 9:04 am

    I’m a sex offender have register for life here in Illinois and it sucks big time my case was from1999 i was locked up for a federal case at the time they made it to register as a sex offender for life I don’t understand that law what’s the reason for this. Now that we have moved out from other place I was staying at I was told from the police officer that they send out flyers to let the neighborhood know that there’s a sex offender near by ok I understand that but don’t you think that could start something against the offender or even get hurt why must some of us still pay it’s like they are looking for a reason to get at us or something but this is just me speaking. Roberto

  2. Bill
    October 16, 2016 at 6:22 pm

    Has anyone else received a letter in the mail saying this:
    By the 8/25/2016 decision of the United States Court of Appeals in Does v Snyder, Nos. 15-1536/2346/ 2486, you must act quickly to obtain a local court order to be removed from the sex offender registry BEFORE the Sex Offender Registration Act is amended to keep you as a second-class citizen forever.
    You must provide an email address where your legal documents, forms, and instructions can be sent. It does not need to be your email address
    We cannot guarantee that you will not draw a biased county judge who denies your rights. However, if that happens, we will be here to help you proceed. It is our goal to have all Tier III offenders convicted in Michigan before 2006 removed from the registry. Once the Legislature amends the law all bets are off. By typing in your name and email address, then clicking “Buy Now,” you acknowledge that you have read this disclaimer and agree to proceed at your own risk.
    It’s $34.95. They send you official Michigan court documents to your email address. What does everyone think?

    • Tread carefully....
      October 17, 2016 at 10:36 am

      What is the source of the postcards, e.g. law firm, etc? Sounds like a phishing expedition otherwise if not a real honest source. If it is a real deal, sounds interesting as possible class action deal. Do your research…

    • trina
      October 22, 2016 at 2:32 pm

      Disregard, this is a scam to get your personal information.

    • Roy
      October 24, 2016 at 3:26 pm

      This link provides further information.
      http://www.sado.org/calendar/Details/277

      Michigan State Appellate Defender Office and Criminal Defense Resource Center

      “A recent editorial published in the Detroit News noted the extremely large number of names on the registry in Michigan and suggested the registry “must be pared down to contain only serious offenders who pose a real and ongoing threat”:

      http://www.detroitnews.com/story/opinion/editorials/2016/08/28/editorial-court-takes-step-rein-sex-registry/89514702/

  3. Maestro
    October 10, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    I got an idea! Since the lawmakers don’t seem to give a damn about making people homeless, especially those with a sexual offense and who actually have opportunities to live with relatives but get denied due to what schools and parks may be in the area, how about this: ALL the homeless sex offenders gather outside on the front lawn of the main politician’s house and do one of those “occupy” movements? Sure, chances are there will be arrests made but imagine hundreds upon hundreds of RSO’s gathered in someone’s front lawn saying “Well, if you don’t care about leaving us homeless, then wherever we lay our heads is where we lay our heads. If it has to be YOUR front yard, then that’s what it’ll be”.
    It would be rather difficult to arrest hundreds of people. And we live in a country that does offer the right to peacefully protest.

    • Fred
      October 10, 2016 at 8:25 pm

      The problem with that is trespassing on his private property can be considered violent, not peaceful.
      We could do it on the capital steps though.

    • LM
      October 11, 2016 at 7:13 pm

      We should all assemble at the little park every year that was built to “honor” Megan Kanka in New Jersey. Preferably on her birthday or the anniversary of her death. 1000+ showing up would make a statement that we’re sick and tired of their LIES and subjugation.

      We are NOT Megan’s killer.

      Actually, they should have stopped with that little park as a memorial

      • Deb
        October 12, 2016 at 6:01 pm

        Excellent idea. Protest there with a signs “We are Not Megan’s Killer”, “Let us Live”, “Our Safety is Your Safety”, “All Lives Matter” and the best one would be “This is our Grave Yard”

    • rps
      November 9, 2016 at 8:53 am

      Yeah, don’t even tease. We have a habit of making things worse, not better through actions such as staging protests. We have to be smart. We simply have to be fighting our cases in court. Unfortunately protesting, occupy movements and picketing are no longer effective actions. It’s been done too much, too easily ignored and the minute anyone in your group does one thing wrong it gets shut down. Not one significant policy change has been enacted in the last 20 years due to a protest, picket or occupy movement. We won’t get there by “pushing against,” rather we will get there by taking actions which have the ability to actually solve the problem. FIGHT YOUR CASE, NO ONE IS GOING TO FIGHT IT FOR YOU! The Florida Supreme Court should have so many requests for Sex Offender cases that they would be forced to stop ignoring the issue and would have no choice but to take at least one case a month! RSOL and your state groups work tirelessly on the “big picture” and are desperately trying to get laws changed, educate the public and be as much help as possible, but this process will be many years. Consult an attorney and take your case to court. Here are some examples of those who have won: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkfweRxUr5ilM9jZxhYNXIw

  4. October 8, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    I;m Spencer and I was convicted in 1988;but the alleged offense occurred in 1987 which was an set up case. And I am.in Alabama!!!! Where I am going though hell behind this SOL!!! But I would like to know is there any MONEY!!!!!! Behind going though hell with this stuff????

  5. October 6, 2016 at 8:01 pm

    They say two wrongs don’t make a right but its people that do. RSOL is doing good things no doubt and lobbyists are also doing what they can also. Even Mary Devoy that I correspond here in Virginia where I live is helping in her direction.

    Peter Aiken in Florida and his blog are in the fight and Peter tells me he will not give up the fight as I’m sure RSOL won’t give up the fight. We all could call it a sexual warfare, a spiritual warfare, or a controlling warfare or a cold stone warfare.

    The sex offender is grouped up into one big ball of wax. Even the laws have Federal guide lines and their are also state guide lines.

    I was never interested in politics until I got myself wrapped up into all this. It wasn’t my intent to start with but it is what it is until someone comes to reason that all lives matter even those of the sex offender registry. They have the right to liberty and justice for all and to live in a normal fashion.

    One could look at it this way. They are taking the abuse and using it on the abuser to keep one from life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    • Rick
      October 8, 2016 at 3:13 pm

      Yea, we have terrorists, serial offenders of every variety, who can live wherever they want but have sex as a teenager with someones property, daughter or son now, and your finished for life. Can anyone explain how this is rational or meets the equal protection clause threshold. yea, we live in a most dysfunctional and discriminatory nation. Where the law is whatever they can get away with.

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