September 17, 2010

Lead plaintiff removed from sex offender registry

9-17-2010 Georgia:

The lead plaintiff in a high-profile federal lawsuit that sought to overturn Georgia’s sex offender law is no longer required to register as a sex offender.

A recent court order relieved ___ of the requirement, which severely restricts where offenders can live or work.

“I’m so glad this is over,” she said Friday. “It’s been a torment, a struggle. … I am so relieved that this horrible roller coaster is finally ending.”

Georgia's registered sex offenders cannot live within 1,000 feet of child care centers, schools, school bus stops, swimming pools and other places where children congregate. It places similar, though less severe, restrictions as to where they can work.

In 2008, ___ had to obtain a court order to prevent her from being removed from her home on Thanksgiving because deputies had determined she was living within 1,000 of a church with a child care center.

Lawyers for the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta said they picked ___ as the lead plaintiff in the 2006 federal suit to show that the sweeping registry law was too onerous.

“This is someone who was not a threat to anyone and did not deserve the public humiliation of being placed on the state’s sex offender registry for 12 years,” Sarah Geraghty, a Southern Center senior attorney.

___ was convicted of sodomy, then a felony, for having consensual oral sex 12 years ago with a fellow high school sophomore on school property. She had just turned 17; he was three weeks short of his 16th birthday.

If ___ had committed the same act today, she would not have to register as a sex offender. The Legislature has since passed the so-called “Romeo & Juliet” statute, which makes such an offense for teenagers of like ages a misdemeanor.

___, who lives in Thomson, was released from the registry because of a law enacted this past session of the General Assembly.

It allows certain designated sex offenders, such as those who were convicted of offenses now considered misdemeanors, to petition a Superior Court judge to gain their release from the registry.

Other exceptions are allowed for offenders convicted of kidnapping or false imprisonment of a minor and whose crimes did not involve a sexual offense, and disabled or incapacitated individuals, such as elderly offenders living in a hospice.

All those applying for exceptions must convince the judge they do not pose a substantial risk of committing any dangerous sex offenses in the future. In ___’s case, McDuffie County Judge Roger Dunaway Jr. made such a finding.

The federal lawsuit is still pending before Senior U.S. District Court Judge Clarence Cooper in Atlanta. Its primary challenge is against the residency restriction that requires sex offenders to live more than 1,000 feet away from school bus stops. ..Source.. by Bill Rankin, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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