August 14, 2008

OH- Richland County judge finds Ohio sex offender law unconstitutional

In part I disagree with the judge, notice my comments below regarding the law is only applicable to those convicted after the law was enacted. That makes the law discriminatory between offenders. Offenders convicted before law enacted are entitled to a judicial classification decision based on facts of the crime, those after are not entitled to any classification based on the facts of the crime.

8-13-2008 Ohio:

MANSFIELD — William Sigler is pleased by a local court ruling restoring his sexual offender classification to the level of “least serious.”

Sigler, 29, claimed the Adam Walsh Act, signed by President Bush in July 2006, unfairly grouped him as a sexual predator — someone who repeatedly or deliberately set out to find victims.

Richland County Common Pleas Judge James DeWeese found in favor of the Mansfield man’s appeal Monday, ruling that retroactive reclassifications are unconstitutional in the state of Ohio.

According to James Mayer III, Sigler’s latest attorney, DeWeese is one of the state’s first judges to issue a ruling among hundreds of appeals filed since the Ohio Attorney General’s office reclassified all sexual offenders.

Under the mandate of the Adam Walsh Act, states must fully comply by July 2009 or face a 10 percent cut to their share of federal grant funds used to fight crime — funding that suffered a 67-percent cut in 2007.

Mayer believes other defense attorneys across Ohio will use DeWeese’s ruling in arguing for their own clients.

-Accordingly, this is only applicable to one case, and could be reversed on appeal, if appealed.

Sigler pleaded guilty to attempted rape through a plea bargain agreement in May 2000 and was sentenced to six years in prison. His guilty plea stemmed from a November 2006 incident in which he forced a 14-year-old girl to perform oral sex at gunpoint. A pre-sentence report indicated that two other women said Sigler forced them to have sexual relations with him. DeWeese called him a “sexually oriented offender” and said he would not be a good candidate for successful counseling.

A reader just pointed out to me that these facts are in error. i.e., it is impossible to plea in the year 2000 to an incident that allegedly occurred in the year 2006. Obviously the reporter has his facts messed up. Additionally, if you read the decision there is no mention of any incident but the 2000 one, and no mention of any gun. So much for relying on the media! UPDATE: That article has been republished and without what is colored GREEN above.

In 2000, DeWeese used details of the case and attorneys’ recommendations to determine Sigler's classification as a sex offender upon his release from prison.

That classification was dismissed under the Walsh Act, and Sigler was reclassified from Tier I, the least serious category, to Tier III, the most serious.

In reclassifying him under the new law, the Ohio attorney general considered only the level of crime he pleaded to, rather than actual details, Mayer said.

-The key, conceptually is, the Adam Walsh Act (AWA) forces everyone to look at the offender AT THE POINT OF THE CRIME, and does so for the rest of the life of the offender. The AWA classification process (groups statutes offenders were convicted of into tier levels, it does not look at the offender at all [see below]) is vindictive in nature and ignores everything the state may have done in rehabilitating the offender since the crime. i.e., incarceration period, therapy, etc.

The retroactive reclassification to Tier III meant Sigler would have to register with the sheriff’s department every 90 days for the rest of his life, instead of once a year for 10 years — or face felony charges. It also meant the Richland County Sheriff’s Department would mail notification cards to every address within a mile of Sigler’s residence.

Sigler’s name would be added to a national sex offender registry under the Walsh Act, but that portion of the law was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge in Florida last April. Currently, Sigler is identified as a sex offender on a registry kept by the Richland County Sheriff’s office and the state of Ohio.

After his reclassification appeared online early in 2008, coworkers and neighbors looked at him much differently, Sigler said.

“When people started thinking I was a ‘predator,’ they had a problem talking with me,” Sigler said.

The Mansfield resident said he’d been up front with co-workers.

“I had no secrets. I told everybody. I said, ‘I’d rather you hear it from me than from someone else, or on the Internet,’ ” Sigler said.

The reclassification made people think he lied about the seriousness of his offense, he said.

Afterward, he was barred from Starbucks, since juveniles might be found there.

“My (probation officers) said I couldn’t (go there) — on the basis that I was just sitting there, hanging out. Well, that is what you do, when you’re enjoying your $7 latte,” Sigler said.

In his ruling Monday, DeWeese said it is appropriate to use the new classifications for people convicted in new cases, but it violates the Ohio Constitution to retroactively change a sentence a court previously decided.

-Here I completely disagree with the judge, here is why: The new AWA system of classification is NOT A SYSTEM OF CLASSIFICATION AT ALL because it considers nothing. It does not look at the person at all, it ONLY looks at the STATUTE the person was charged with (or convicted of, depends on how Ohio interpreted that part of AWA). There is no consideration of the factors of the crime itself, hence it is not a classification system of the offender, it is a system of catergorizing STATUTES into tier levels. Accordingly, those convicted before AWA are entitled to a PROPER classification, and those convicted after ARE NOT and will be viewed by the public, that way, for the rest of their lives; that is discrimination between offenders. Further, said another way, offenders before AWA are entitled to a judicial determination of their classification, and those convicted after AWA are only entitled to an administrative determination of their classification. i.e., by some clerk in the state Attorney General's office.

In his ruling, the judge noted the Walsh Act has resulted in more than half of the county’s sex offenders being reclassified as Tier III offenders.

Sigler said his classification is a crucial issue.

Tier I, he explained, “means usually that you’ve made one mistake in your life. You made a bad choice. You chose to do something wrong, and you’re paying for it."

Those labeled Tier II are considered habitual offenders, but not necessarily predators.

“It has been a heck of a struggle for him,” Mayer said of his client. “He was distraught to open that letter, seven, eight years later saying that they were going to reclassify him. He wanted to fight it, right from the start.”

The Ohio attorney general may appeal, Mayer said.

“I don’t think we’re going to know how this will play out for some time. But I do feel strongly that Judge DeWeese got it right.”

DeWeese, who could have sentenced Sigler to anywhere from two to eight years in prison, meted out nearly the maximum penalty in 2000. Still, Sigler said Wednesday he’d hoped DeWeese would be assigned his appeal, since he’d heard the original case.

“I am just very pleased with the results of the judge’s findings,” he said. ..News Source.. by LINDA MARTZ


Anonymous said...

Anyone who has seen tier assessment forms knows they do not accurately determine the danger of a reoccurrence. An offender can be convicted of rape and murder and if that was his only conviction he would be a tier 1 using an assessment form. This is ridiculous. AWA corrects this, making any violent sexual offense is a tier 3. Mr. Sigler at gunpoint forced a 14 year old to perform oral sex on him. In no way shape or form should Mr. Sigler be considered a tier 1. His offense combined sexual penetration and the threat of death. The fact that he is being required to register and be posted on sex offender websites is not punishment and therefore not punitive in nature. Posting is for community notification and the safety of the community itself. The flaw with AWA is it is using an increased rate of registration instead of longer prison terms. Mr. Sigler should have received 25 years in prison and mandatory sex offender counseling. When he was releases then he could be a lower tier but with lifetime registration.

Anonymous said...

If the public is so concerned about the safety of the people, then why is there not a public notification list that has drunk drivers, murderers, thieves, etc. listed on it. I admit, sexual crimes are heinous in nature, but so are many other crimes. Wouldn't it be nice to know if you were living beside someone who has a history of domestic violence? The only thing the registered sex offender list does is single out one type of crime and punishes those people for their entire life. I believe everyone should be allowed a second chance. I plead out to a lesser sentence to avoid a trial and the possibility of a longer sentence. I am innocent. But with society today, I was guilty before I entered the courtroom. By taking the deal, I was just thankful that my registration, and this nightmare would be somewhat over with in ten years. When I was in prison, they changed my terms and now I must register for life. My nightmare will never end. All I am asking is to be restored to my "original" deal that the court and I agreed to. I am not allowed to change the terms, neither should the State of Ohio.