Joe Nelson Writes Two Articles on California Attorney Janice Bellucci and RSO Frank Lindsey on Why They Work to Reform the Laws Against RSO’s, What Being on a Public List Can Lead to (becoming the target of a vigilante attack) and the Ordinance Lawsuits They’ve Filed Against CA Cities After the 4th District Court of Appeal’s Decision in January
Two great articles!
1- Sex-crimes convict says registration has ruined his career,
endangered his life,
October 11, 2014
Lindsay lives a relatively quiet life in the San Luis
ObispoCounty city of
years he’s kept out of trouble, but his one conviction in 1979 for lewd and
lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14 continues to haunt him: He is
required to register as a sex offender in California for the rest of his life, which
has permanently branded him. He is limited in where he can live and where he
can go due to restrictive state and local laws, which Lindsay said have also
endangered his life.
stopped burning witches a long time ago, but this is very similar to that,”
said Lindsay, 62, who co-authored a book titled “We’re All In This Together”
about his challenges and experiences as a registered sex offender.
Lindsay is the public face of a crusade to reform sex-offender laws throughout California. He and Santa
Maria-based attorney Janice Bellucci have forced dozens of cities, through
litigation, to repeal or revise ordinances restricting the movement of
registers sex offenders in the community in the wake of an appellate court
ruling that determined ordinances in OrangeCounty and the city of Irvine cannot be more
stringent than state law.
is president of California Reform Sex Offender Laws, an affiliate of the
national organization. Lindsay serves on the nonprofit’s board of directors.
“I, as a
registrant, can’t travel anywhere without being in fear of being in violation
of some city’s ordinance,” Lindsay said. “It makes it virtually impossible for
me to go anywhere in the state and be comfortable knowing I’m not going to be
arrested for some city’s obscure law on where I’m supposed to be.”
battle for the civil rights of convicted sex offenders, Bellucci and Lindsay
are also trying to get California’s
lifetime registration requirement for sex offenders changed to a
tiered-registry system like those in 46 other states, which allow some
offenders to be removed from the registry over time, depending on the severity
of their offense.
2010, a man trolling the Megan’s Law database, later identified by police as
24-year-old David Jordan Griffin, obtained the home addresses of Lindsay and
another sex offender off the Megan’s Law website and paid a visit to their
homes, according to Lindsay and published news reports.
said he returned home to find Griffin
standing in his dining room, a framing hammer in one hand and a 3-pound sledge
hammer in the other.
Griffin attacked Lindsay, who backed out
his front door and tumbled backward over a stair railing during the struggle.
Lindsay said he shielded Griffin’s blows with
his hand until a neighbor came to his aid and scared Griffin off.
later the same day after he robbed a Chevron gas station and led police on a
foot pursuit before a pursuing officer shot him in the leg. Both Lindsay and
the other unnamed sex offender identified Griffin
as their assailant, according to Lindsay and published news reports.
convicted sex offender deserves a second chance at life, it is Lindsay, said
Bellucci, who read Lindsay’s book and was so moved by his story that she became
a staunch advocate for the rights of sex offenders, forming the California
chapter of Reform Sex Offender Laws three years ago and asking Lindsay to serve
on its board of directors.
a clean record for 35 years now; it doesn’t seem to make any difference because
he keeps being punished,” Bellucci said.
Bernardino County Supervisor Gary Ovitt, a strong supporter of strict laws
governing the residency and movement of convicted sex offenders and who was
pivotal in the shaping and evolving of his county’s sex offender ordinance,
said the various laws in place in California,
including Megan’s Law, are beneficial despite their unintended consequences,
which he said should also be addressed.
we still need to have Megan’s Law and have that information online to protect
families and children,” said Ovitt. “And if a person uses that information for
illegal purposes, that person should be prosecuted.”
like Lindsay’s, Ovitt said he was open to re-examining the lifetime
someone has gone three decades without offending, I think we need to look at
that again,” Ovitt said. “Perhaps they should not be subject to the same, rigid
structure that we place on other predators.”
2- SPECIAL REPORT: Pair seeks repeal of sex-offender laws in California, October 11, 2014
crusading civil rights attorney and a registered sex offender have partnered in
a legal battle that has prompted dozens of California cities to repeal or revise what
the pair believe are unconstitutional ordinances restricting the activities of
March, Santa Maria attorney Janice Bellucci and
Frank Lindsay, a 62-year-old water-treatment specialist from GroverBeach
and registered sex offender for 35 years, have filed 18 lawsuits in federal
court challenging ordinances in cities from Stockton
down to National City.
Bellucci has settled 15 of the lawsuits, while 38 other cities have avoided
litigation by agreeing to repeal their ordinances. Six other cities have
voluntarily suspended enforcement of their ordinances, while ordinances in
another 18 cities are still under review.
I look at it is that I’m protecting the Constitution of the United States as well as the state of California,” said
Bellucci, president of California Reform Sex Offender Laws, a nonprofit she
launched three years ago as an affiliate to the national Reform Sex Offender
Bellucci believes she’s fighting for the rights of oppressed sex offenders,
others say she’s endangering the state’s youth.
“As an elected
official and as a mother, I’m concerned about the health and safety of our
young people who don’t have a voice,” said Carson Councilwoman Lulu
is one city sued by Bellucci that plans to fight the lawsuit.
did not make the choice to be molested,” Davis-Holmes said. “I personally think
we need to do more to protect those who cannot protect themselves,”
flurry of lawsuits was prompted by a 4th District Court of Appeal’s decision in
January that found sex offender ordinances in Orange County and the city of
Irvine cannot impose restrictions more stringent than state law, which only
restricts sex offenders who are on parole and whose victims were under the age
of 14 from visiting public parks without the express permission of their parole
addition to the suits she filed with Lindsay, Bellucci has filed two lawsuits
on her own, challenging ordinances in CanyonLake
and Commerce. Those complaints do not name Lindsay as a plaintiff because
ordinances in those cities do not apply to sex offenders whose convictions are
as old as Lindsay’s.
the state Supreme Court declined a petition by the Orange County District
Attorney’s Office to review the appellate court ruling, leaving it intact.
court ruling, coupled with the spate of litigation initiated by Bellucci, could
have a major impact on the lives of California’s
107,913 registered sex offenders, roughly 14 percent of the nation’s 774,600,
as cities and counties are forced to either repeal their ordinances or make
them uniform with state law.
had a tremendous chilling effect on all registered sex offenders within the
state of California
and their families,” Bellucci said of the ordinances.
by the appellate court ruling, Bellucci and Lindsay decided it was time to act.
They focused on cities or counties they felt had the most onerous sex-Offender
their list was Pomona.
ordinance ban sex offenders from public parks, but it essentially banned them
from any public place where a child may be present: libraries, swimming pools,
movie theaters, arcades, cybercafes, community centers, businesses with
children’s play structures, train stations and bus stops, among other places.
sued the city in March, and the city quickly settled, adopting a revised,
less-restrictive ordinance on July 7.
and Lindsay went on to file lawsuits against 18 other cities, including South Lake Tahoe, National City,
Adelanto, Hesperia and Victorville, among others. Most recently, they have sued
South Pasadena, CanyonLake
most cities have settled or agreed to review local laws in light of the court’s
ruling, cases against the cities of Carson, National City, Victorville, South
Pasadena, CanyonLake and Commerce are
Carson, which the pair sued in federal
court in April, initially agreed to settle the suit by revising its ordinance,
but the City Council ultimately rejected the settlement, prompting Bellucci to
file a second lawsuit against the city on Oct. 1, alleging fraud and breach of
contract. The lawsuit was filed in Superior Court instead of federal court
because it is not a civil rights case.
City Attorney William Wynder said the settlement was contingent upon City
Council approval, and he believes the city can effectively defend itself
against the lawsuits. He said the state’s Jessica’s Law, adopted in 2006, gives
leeway to cities and counties to adopt their own, more stringent sex-offender
true, but it applies only to residency restrictions for sex offenders, not
their presence in the community, Bellucci said.
Law prohibits sex offenders on parole from living within 2,000 feet of a public
school or park, but many cities have adopted ordinances expanding those
restrictions, creating “child safety zones” that prohibit sex offenders from
being anywhere in the community where a child may be present. And that,
Bellucci said, is what the 4th District Court of Appeal has determined
Wynder argues Carson doesn’t even have to honor
the appellate court’s ruling because the city is within the 2nd Appellate
District in Los Angeles,
and each district can interpret the law however it sees fit.
Carson has a
much more progressive appellate district, and we are hopeful we will have a
more favorable hearing,” Wynder said. “We realize it’s an uphill battle. We
realize there are problems. But sometimes doing what is right requires you to
stand up and buck the trend.”
has been the strongest opponent of the lawsuit, declaring war on Bellucci and
Lindsay at a Sept. 2 City Council meeting and saying the city needed to rally
support from other communities.
San BernardinoCounty, which Bellucci and Lindsay have
not sued, also has no intention of repealing or amending its ordinance, which
not only imposes strict residency and presence restrictions for sex offenders,
but also prohibits them from having their porch lights on between 5 p.m. and
midnight on Halloween night, passing out candy to children or decorating their
going to stand strong for the children. I think their rights are far more worth
salvaging than those of individuals who abuse them and ruin their lives,” said
San Bernardino County Supervisor Gary Ovitt, who played a pivotal role in the
shaping and evolving of the county’s sex-offender ordinance over the years.
spokesman David Wert said the county is awaiting a state Supreme Court decision
on pending cases challenging sex-offender residency restrictions under
biggest challenge Bellucci and Lindsay face is the public perception of the
danger posed by sex offenders to the communities in which they reside.
to popular belief that sex offenders are “bogeymen” lurking in the shadows and
preying on children while they’re at their most vulnerable, studies and
statistics prove otherwise, they say.
percent of sex crimes are committed by individuals who have never previously
been convicted of a sex crime, and about 93 percent of sex offenses against
children are committed in private locations by persons known to the victim, not
by strangers, according to a report released this year by the California Sex
Offender Management Board, a group composed of law enforcement and mental
health professionals who recommend new policies and practices in the oversight
and treatment of sex offenders.
only 1.8 percent of registered sex offenders return to prison for new sex
crimes, according to a 2013 report by the California Department of Corrections
the mythology that everyone seems to believe is absolutely false,” said Thomas
Tobin, a clinical psychologist and vice chairman of the Sex Offender Management
Board. “I think the single biggest misperception is that those who commit sex
offenses against children, and more or less adults, is that they’re strangers
who jump out from behind bushes. It’s absolutely false to believe that stranger
danger is where the risk lies.”
stressed he was not speaking on behalf of the Sex Offender Management Board and
that his opinions are his own.
Offender Management Board’s report also found no evidence suggesting that
sex-offender registries reduce the frequency of sex crimes.
says the focus for government and law enforcement should be on the treatment of
potential sex offenders rather than further stigmatizing those who have already
paid their debt to society.
should be pointing our fingers at our lawmakers and demanding they do something
that works instead of making life miserable for more than half a million
people. People’s lives are destroyed because of this. It’s ongoing punishment,”
problem in California,
Lindsay said, is that the state has no system in place for identifying and
tracking individuals with a propensity to sexually abuse children.
to Prevention Project Dunkelfeld, launched in Berlin, Germany,
in 2005 as a confidential treatment program for at-risk sex offenders. Because Germany
has no mandatory reporting laws, those either at risk for committing a sex
crime or who have already acted on their impulses can seek treatment without
the fear of being reported to police and being prosecuted.
gone to several countries now throughout Europe
and has been successful in curbing child sexual abuse, and there’s been no talk
of it in this country. Why?” Lindsay said.
agrees that such a program could have a significant impact on those afflicted
with undesirable sexual impulses.
first, much work needs to be done to abate the stigma, societal fears and
misperceptions associated with sex offenders and those with a proclivity for
sex crimes, Tobin said.
support is critical, but few politicians want to go to bat for such a cause as
it is considered political poison, he said.
has been unwilling to invest in human sexuality research,” Tobin said. “Certain
types of agencies and politicians won’t even consider it.”
is what burns Lindsay the most.
elected officials take an oath of office to protect the Constitution of the U.S. and the state of California, and they’re not doing it,”
Lindsay said. “The Constitution is being trampled upon when it comes to sex
offenders. Who’s next to go on this list?”
Ordinance supporters unswayed
of strict laws governing where sex offenders can live and be present in the
community are steadfast and unswayed by statistics.
1.8 percent (of convicted sex offenders) have molested another child? I think
that 1.8 percent is too many,” said Davis-Holmes, the Carson councilwoman.
San BernardinoCounty’s Ovitt joins Davis-Holmes in her
they have forfeited their right to be around children, given their atrocities,”
Ovitt said. “If the ordinance impacts one child in a positive way, it’s well
strongly believe that close monitoring of sex offenders is an effective
deterrent to re-offending.
the best ways to ensure they are not re-offending is for them to know we are
coming to make contact with them,” said Jim Black, a retired San Bernardino police officer and former
sheriff’s deputy who now coordinates the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s
Department’s sex offender compliance program.
year the department conducts a countywide compliance check to ensure registered
sex offenders are living at the addresses listed on the state sex-offender
the reasons our county is in 98 percent compliance is because we do these
compliance checks,” Black said.
5,879 registered sex offenders living in San BernardinoCounty,
2,586 of which the Sheriff’s Department is responsible for monitoring, Black
believe sex-offender ordinances provide a false sense of security, as Bellucci
and Lindsay argue.
learned that sex offenders can’t be cured,” Black said. “Not re-offending can
be curbed by monitoring.”
Davis-Holmes, it’s quite simple.
to be able to send my kid to the park without being worried there are sex
offenders around,” she said.