Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Get Ready to Get Pissed

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: as cynical as I am about government, I can’t possibly keep up with reality. Last week an appeals court says the government can seize your property without even charging you with a crime, and this week Ohio has a law that allows people to be declared sex offenders without being charged with a crime. Read that again: without even being charged with a crime. And now they want to add people to the public sex offender registry based on that law as well:

An Ohio legislative panel yesterday rubber-stamped an unprecedented process that would allow sex offenders to be publicly identified and tracked even if they’ve never been charged with a crime.

No one in attendance voiced opposition to rules submitted by Attorney General Jim Petro’s office to the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review, consisting of members of the Ohio House and Senate.

Not one legislator opposed it. And it was already bad enough in Ohio. Get this:

A recently enacted law allows county prosecutors, the state attorney general, or, as a last resort, alleged victims to ask judges to civilly declare someone to be a sex offender even when there has been no criminal verdict or successful lawsuit.

And here’s now the new rule would take that even further:

The rules spell out how the untried process would work. It would largely treat a person placed on the civil registry the same way a convicted sex offender is treated under Ohio’s so-called Megan’s Law.

The person’s name, address, and photograph would be placed on a new Internet database and the person would be subjected to the same registration and community notification requirements and restrictions on where he could live.

A civilly declared offender, however, could petition the court to have the person’s name removed from the new list after six years if there have been no new problems and the judge believes the person is unlikely to abuse again.

I’m just dumbfounded. How could this pass without one single legislator saying no? This is absolutely outrageous. I’m so incensed that I can’t even attempt to be reasonable or eloquent about this. They should impeach every legislator who voted for that law, and I mean now. And after they’re impeached, the state should start a public Fucking Idiot Registry and put their names on it, then broadcast it every hour on the hour on every TV channel for the rest of their lives. In fact, they should pay someone to follow them around everywhere they go, holding a big sign above their head declaring:

Tried to destroy lives without due process.


  1. #1 NonyNony
    September 1, 2006

    Our legislators in Ohio are afraid. Sex offenders aren’t an easy target to defend – even those who haven’t been convicted – maybe even ESPECIALLY those who haven’t been convicted in this “Nancy-Grace-says-he’s-guilty-so-he-must-be” world we live in now.

    I’m sure that the legislators who think this is a bad idea are afraid of losing their seats in an election year – which with our local papers in Ohio opposition to this would turn into “Assemblyman so-and-so supports suspected sex offenders”, rather than it being what it really is – another whack at the “innocent-until-proven-guilty” standard of American justice. Like so much else here in Ohio, the legislators are hoping that the Courts will save their consciences by striking stuff like this down later.

    So, bascially, they’re a bunch of weenies.

  2. #2 Miguelito
    September 1, 2006

    I like your plan better. It will create more jobs because of the sign holders. We can also put creationists on the list and swell the numbers.

  3. #3 Dave S.
    September 1, 2006

    OK…now this is just unbelievably stupid. Can they be serious? I thought the witch-hunts for child molesters in daycares back in the 80’s were travesties. This law paves the way for more and worse.

    I’m especially appalled by this tidbit:

    …or, as a last resort, alleged victims to ask judges to civilly declare someone to be a sex offender even when there has been no criminal verdict or successful lawsuit.

    So what’s exactly to prevent someone with a simple beef against another or a scorned lover or angry (ex)spouse to have someone put on this list?? Wouldn’t they need evidence you say? If they had evidence, then they’d be able to bring charges! Looks like all they need is to file a lawsuit first, baseless or not.

    Oh gee, and they could (provided more unsubstantiated allegations aren’t brought up) petition to get their name removed after 6 years. Too bad their life would probably been ruined already by then.

  4. #4 Mumon
    September 1, 2006

    There is one sure way to defeat this law: to have everyone declare themselves to be “sex offenders,” and to petition courts to have their own names added to the list.

    Or another way: I just won’t friggin’ go to Ohio.

  5. #5 jason kuznicki
    September 1, 2006

    I like Mumon’s idea. Massive civil disobedience to re-establish the principle of “innocent until proven guilty.”

  6. #6 Justin
    September 1, 2006

    No, no, the best way to deal with this is to register each and every legislator as a sex offender. Then, they could spend the next 6 years trying to convince everybody that it wasn’t children they were molesting, but the f$(%ing Constitution.

  7. #7 Jason I.
    September 1, 2006

    So basically, the Catholic Church came up with this insane scheme to infringe on the rights of everyone as a way to avoid having more of their child-molester priests prosecuted. Well, as long as the Church says it’s ok, then I have no problem with it. Brings to mind some lyrics I heard as a kid that apparently people nowadays take all too literally:

    “Go ahead and hate your neighbor,
    Go ahead and cheat a friend.
    Do it in the name of Heaven,
    You can justify it in the end.”

    One Tin Soldier (The Legend of Billy Jack)
    by Lambert-Potter

  8. #8 Ed Brayton
    September 1, 2006

    I looked up the actual text of the law. Here’s what it does:

    In a case of possible molestation where the statute of limitations has run out, either for a criminal or civil trial, the law allows the prosecutor, the attorney general, or an alleged victim, to petition a judge to have the alleged perpetrator declared a sex offender. And the legal standard is the same as it is in a civil trial, the “preponderance of the evidence.” So it sets a much lower standard than the one in a criminal trial (beyond a reasonable doubt). The legislature did this rather than simply eliminating the statute of limitations and allowing criminal charges to be brought at any time, with a trial conforming to normal due process standards rather than to this lower standard. It truly is an outrage.

  9. #9 SLC
    September 1, 2006

    The problem as I see it is the proliferation of cable talk shows which feature so called victims’ rights advocates. Thus we see clowns like Wendy Murphy, Gloria Allred, Nancy Grace, Mark Klass, Stacy Honowitz, etc. going on such shows and declaring potential defendents guilty who haven’t even been charged yet, let alone people whose trials have not yet been held. This is in addition to the internet chat rooms and message boards which, at least generally, do not include the direct participation of these clowns (although their “expert opinions” are ofter quoted). A couple of blatant examples of this phenomena are as follows.

    1. Nancy Grace has declared that John Mark Karr should be charged with child abuse because, given his record, he must have engaged in such conduct in the past. The fact that no victim has been identified is apparently of no consequence.

    2. Wendy Murphy has declared the Duke students acccused of rape guilty as charged, despite the, at best, shakey story of the accuser and apparent alibi of one of the accused. This is nothing new for her; she declared Kobe Bryant guilty of rape, stating that the injuries allegedly sustained by the accuser were among the most serious in her experience. The fact that the accuser had sex with another individual subsequent to the Bryant encounter and prior to the rape exam less then 24 hours later, despite these “serious injuries” was of little concern.

    This conduct is most often seen in high profile cases such as O. J. Simpson, Scott Peterson, Michael Jackson, Jon Benet Ramsey, etc. I think that serious consideration might have to be given to modifying the 1st Amendment to prevent such pre-trial antics. The examples of Great Britain and Canada which prohibit pre-trial publicity come to mind. Of course libertarians like the blogmaster will object. However, the 1st amendment was passed long before the communications technology of today existed.

  10. #10 Stogoe
    September 1, 2006

    So now, in Ohio, the “I saw Goody Proctor with the Devil” standard of evidence is in play for sex offenders? Son of a…

  11. #11 Tiax
    September 1, 2006

    A civilly declared offender, however, could petition the court to have the person’s name removed from the new list after six years if there have been no new problems and the judge believes the person is unlikely to abuse again.

    That’s the worst part. They’ve never been convincted the first time, and yet if they were to do something, it’d be ‘again’. I can’t imagine this is constitutional. Unless, of course, an ‘except in Ohio’ got pinned on the end of the fifth amendment since last time I read it.

  12. #12 Bill from Dover
    September 1, 2006

    The concept was offered by Roman Catholic bishops as an alternative to opening a one-time window for the filing of civil lawsuits alleging child sexual abuse that occurred as long as 35 years ago.

    In other words, brought to you by those fine, fine catholic butt-fuckers. Whoda ever guessed? I am quickly coming to the realization that if the whole world were a cesspool and somebody pulled the plug, Ohio would be the first to go down the drain.

  13. #13 cserpent
    September 1, 2006

    So, what’s to stop someone like… oh say Ken Blackhole from paying someone to claim that someone like… oh say his opponent Ted Strickland molested her years ago so Strickland would be declared a sex offender and eliminated from any chance of winning the governor’s office? Or for that matter what’s to stop any politician from using this as a ‘nuclear’ option to beat a superior opponent?

  14. #14 Jeff Chamberlain
    September 1, 2006

    I parsed the statute and here’s what I think it says:

    Ohio permits either or both criminal or civil legal actions for child sexual abuse. The civil action is for assault or battery, which means unwanted, inappropriate touching and is a recognized civil cause of action in other contexts. For example, if someone beats you up you can sue them for damages irrespective of whether they are also charged with (or convicted of) a criminal offense.

    Both criminal and civil legal actions are subject to statutes of limitations, which are prescribed times after the events within which the case(s) must be brought. The normal statute of limitations for (civil) assault and battery on Ohio is 2 years after the event. The new statute provides that the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse is 12 years following when the child “reaches the ages of majority”. (I think this means 18 years old.)

    If an individual is precluded from bringing a civil action for assault and battery solely because the statute of limitations has expired, s/he (or the prosecuting attorney or the state attorney general) may bring a civil action for “declaratory judgment,” seeking a ruling from a court that the defendant “would” have been liable for assault and battery had a civil action been brought within the statute of limitations period. (Civil actions for “declaratory judgment” are recognized in most jurisdictions in other contexts. “Liable” is what happens if you lose a civil case. “Convicted” is what happens if you lose a criminal case.) The new statute is not specific, but presumably this civil action for decaratory judgment would be governed by the “due process” procedures which apply in civil lawsuits generally (with the possible exception of trial by jury, as the new statute says that it is “the court” which determines the case).

    Such a declaratory judgment action is determined by a “preponderance of evidence” standard of proof. This is the same standard used in almost all civil lawsuits, and means (something like) “51%” or “more likely than not.”

    If a defendant loses in such a declaratory judgment action, s/he is placed on the state’s civil sex offender registry. (The statute refers to a “civil” registry, which may not be the same registry used for individuals convicted of criminal child sex abuse offenses. I did not look this up. In addition — by implication but I did not look this up, either — a person found liable for assault or battery in a civil case of child sexual abuse would presumably also be listed on the state’s civil registry.)

    An individual who becomes listed on the state’s civil registry as a result of losing a declaratory judgment action can petition to be removed from that registry after 6 years, with success depending on whether s/he can prove by “clear and convincing evidence” that s/he has not been found “liable in damages” (i.e., lost a civil case) for later additional acts of child sex abuse, and has not been required to register under Ohio’s criminal registry statutes or the similar statutes of any other state, and is not “likely” to commit further child sexual abuse offenses. “Clear and convincing evidence” is more than “preponderance of evidence” but less than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard which applies in criminal cases.

  15. #15 meatbrain
    September 1, 2006

    ‘fuckingidiotregistry.com’ is available for registering. I am sooooo tempted.

    Unfortunately, I am contemplating a career change that likely would not be enhanced by running a site like this. But it’s a nice dream, and I hereby donate it to the public domain.

  16. #16 Bartholomew
    September 2, 2006

    We had a huge pedophile panic over here in the UK a few years ago – a girl was found murdered and the tabloids declared that a US-style “Megan’s Law” was what was needed. There followed some astonishing scenes: a council estate in Portsmouth set up a kind of vigilante committee that asked for names of people who looked suspicious and could be persecuted; people marched with semi-literate banners that declared “Pedophils out”; and a woman pediatrician had her home torched. One tabloid decided to “name and shame” some people convicted of sex offences – which was bad news for anyone with the same name, or with a similar features.

    A few months later the whole panic was satirised on a TV show called Brass Eye, which specialises in getting politicians and celebrities (including news presenters) to endorse bogus campaigns, just to show how easy it is to get such people to say and do incredibly stupid things in the name of a good cause. It was shocking – one MP was duped into making an announcement about pedophiles using “an area of the internet the size of Ireland”, while another, along with a news presenter, explained to us how pedophiles were using the eye of a cartoon dog on the internet to turn monitors into webcams with which to watch children. Incredible

  17. #17 Peter Z.
    September 2, 2006

    Speech fails me (and I can barely type)…


  18. #18 Ginger Yellow
    September 2, 2006

    The best bit of that Brass Eye was when they got a reasonably famous radio DJ to say, in all seriousness: Genetically, paedophiles have more genes in common with crabs than they do with you and me. Now that is scientific fact. There’s no real “evidence” for it but it is scientific fact.

  19. #19 ebohlman
    September 2, 2006

    The big problem with the “petition for removal” procedure is that an accused offender is unlikely to be able to convince a court that he’s “unlikely to commit further offenses” if he denies (“is in denial about”) that he committed an offense in the first place. Consider Gerald Amirault, who was paroled a few years back after serving a long sentence in the Fells Acres day-care case. He’s required to register, and the registry lists him as a category 3 offender, considered at the highest risk of recidivism. Why? Because he’s never admitted to committing the crimes he was convicted of. It’s really a catch-22.

    I thought the primary purpose of statutes of limitations was to determine how long evidence needed to be preserved. If the SOL has expired in a particular matter, that means that the evidence available for adjudicating the matter is going to be quite limited and the case is going to come down to he said/she said. This law seems to be an attempt to do an end run around the need for reliable evidence.

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