May 6, 2012

Oakland County blames Illinois law enforcement for sex offender arrest

5-6-2012 Michigan:

The Oakland County Prosecutor's Office says Illinois law enforcement authorities -- not a computer programming glitch in Pontiac -- are responsible for the improper arrest of a former Michigan man on charges that he failed to register in Chicago as a sex offender.

"I think Illinois made some assumptions that weren't valid," county Chief Assistant Prosecutor Paul Walton said Friday.

He was responding to a federal lawsuit filed Thursday that accused Oakland County authorities of miscoding sex offender conviction records for at least 10 years, making minor sex offenders look like predators.

The suit was filed on behalf of Jason Zdebski, 35, formerly of Plymouth, who was sentenced in 2003 to six months of probation in Oakland County after pleading no contest to exposing himself to an undercover State Police officer at a rest stop in Novi.

When he moved to Illinois in 2005, Chicago police told him he didn't need to register as a sex offender there because his Michigan case didn't involve a child.

Yet, authorities arrested him in 2010 for failing to register after concluding that he had molested a child in Michigan.

Zdebski's lawyer blamed the problem on a computer glitch at the Oakland County courthouse. But Walton said Illinois authorities incorrectly assumed that the numerical code appearing in Michigan criminal records was a statute number rather than a special code created by Michigan prosecutors to categorize criminal offenses. The PACC code -- which stands for Prosecuting Attorneys' Coordinating Council -- appears on Michigan sentencing records, not the criminal statute number.

Walton said Illinois authorities should have contacted Oakland County authorities to find out whether Zdebski had assaulted a child -- the procedure Walton's office follows.

Zdebski's lawyer, Jonathan Marko of Royal Oak, is trying to untangle the legal mess so the Illinois charge can be dropped.

A spokeswoman for the Illinois State Police wouldn't comment Friday on Zdebski's case, but said mistakes can happen because different states use different codes for sex crimes, making it difficult to decide who is violating Illinois sex offender registry law.

No matter the cause, Marko said his client was arrested for a crime he didn't commit.

"The system is busted and innocent people are going to jail," he said. ..Source.. by David Ashenfelter

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