Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Action Item: SB1074 Robby's Rule Passed out of Courts of Justice and onto Senate Finance Committee Yesterday Morning

The two Virginia Senate versions of Robby’s Rule were rolled together and passed out of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee yesterday morning. Bill: Add to Virginia's sex offender registry, January 19, 2015

Senator McDougle told the Committee that SB1074 is not the expensive version of Robby’s Rule that was proposed last year so this year’s version(s) will NOT have the posted information confirmed by the Virginia State Police but yet it would be listed by the VSP for the public to view. Senator McDougle pointed out that the bill is “fairly limited” that this Supplemental Registry “will be a central depository of old court records from across the state and put it in one place”. 
A bill with almost no fiscal impact that will hurt innocent Virginians isn’t worth the savings of the earlier version that had a cost of $1.69 million but would have been verified by the VSP as accurate.  

While I was  making an example of mis-identifications by the public from old, unverified information being listed on this public Supplemental Registry (my full statement to the Committee is below) Co-Chair and acting Chairman Obenshain stopped me and said, “I would caution you for personalizing this, it undermines the effectiveness of your statement” Then another Committee member said, “what if a reporter walks into the room and they hear Senator Norment (I never said Senator Norment, I said “the mis-identified Mr. Norment” and “a Thomas Norment”) is convicted of a sex crime. So I agreed to insert my name for the rest of the statement if it made the Committee members more comfortable. 

Senator Obenshain and I think it was Senator Edwards actually supported what my argument against Robby’s Rule is, but they didn't see that. That people will hear about or read a name on the VSP Supplemental Registry with no picture, no address, no other identifying information and an innocent person with the same name would be smeared as a “Sex Offender”. 

This was exactly my point…. A name is not enough to go and incorrect assumptions will be made by the public but the members of the Committee were too busy being concerned with telling me to stop using the example of “the misidentified Mr. Norment” to absorb the irony of their outrage I was smearing an innocent Senator. 

Rob Buswell (of Robby’s Rule) doesn’t care that old and confusing information will be placed on a VSP list of “Sex offenders, his goal is to get his abusers pre-1994 conviction listed on line and a bill with his name passed into law, if that means no fiscal impact of $1.69 million and unverified information of people who may have died or moved out of state he’s fine with that. He has one goal and he wants it no matter what the human cost is, this is what happens when Legislators propose bills for citizens who have an axe-to-grind. The collateral damage that will occur if either the Senate or the House version HB1353 of Robby’s Rule becomes law in Virginia is incalculable. 

Why doesn’t Mr. Buswell ask for any pre-1994 convictions of people who are already listed on the Regular VSP Sex Offender Registry to be added to their existing post?

  1. I would not oppose such a proposal.
  2. No innocent Virginians who share a similar name with someone convicted 3 decades ago will be confused or misidentified.
  3. And no one that has remained crime free for more than 20 years would be retroactively added to a VSP Sex Offender list, denying them due process and up-ending the successful re-entry that they made decades ago?

To understand what the hul·la·ba·loo in yesterdays’ Committee was about and to read the valid concerns about this proposal below is my statement against SB1074 (and SB934 that was rolled into it). 
On a side note, Camille Cooper of PROTECT spoke in support of Roby’s Rule.

I ask that everyone Email or call your one Virginia Senator TODAY and ask them to vote “No” on SB1074! 

Thank you.

Mary Devoy

One claim by proponents is…… this is already public information….. and it is!  

Anyone can obtain records of conviction. But THIS proposal makes them available for public consumption and THAT is very different. 

Per this version (McDougle) of the “Supplemental Registry” a Commonwealth’s Attorney is NOT submitting a request to the VSP to add someone to the list……..the list is just created…..which could very likely include the information of people who have died or moved out of Virginia. 

The public will consume this information but NOT research it 

The original conviction was most likely a misdemeanor in 1980 or 1990, but TODAY it is a felony so when the public clicks on the statute they will read about a FEONY including numerous additional sections since the original conviction but ALL the public will absorb is FELONY…..making the information meaningless but appearing to be significant. 

Since this bill is taking us back to the 1980’s…..I’m going to reference a movie-plot from 1984….The Terminator. 

The only tid-bit of information The Terminator had for his target was a name, much like this “Supplemental Registry”. The Terminator searched the White Pages noting every Sarah Conner listed with the goal to eliminate all of them………if the name matched…..good enough! 

This “Supplemental Registry” would list the name of someone from 20 or 30 years ago and the jurisdiction their conviction occurred in. Today they may have a different name and they may live 100 miles from that jurisdiction…. BUT the public doesn’t know that.  

How many Thomas Norment’s are in Virginia?               Per the Internet White Pages I found 4.
How many Ryan McDougle’s                                             I found 3.
How many Janet Howell’s                                                   I found 7.
How many John Edward’s                                                  I found at least 100.
How many Thomas Garrett’s                                            I found 41. 

Similar names will undoubtedly equal…….mistaken identities……….And the collateral damage would be significant 

If this proposal becomes law “The Terminator” will be Employers, Landlords and Neighbors.  

Let’s say one of the 4 Thomas Norment’s I found had a 1982 conviction and is listed on the new VSP “Supplemental Registry”.  A few months pass and a different Thomas Norment who has never been convicted of a crime notices co-workers don’t chat with him anymore, he is denied a promotion or perhaps he loses his job for no real reason and then every application he submits never get an interview. He’s suddenly unemployable for no reason. His neighbors no longer look him in the eye, the organizations he’s volunteered with for years aren’t calling him, maybe his landlord refuses to renew his lease and every application for a new rental is denied one after another. What has happened?  

He learns another Thomas Norment was listed on the VSP Supplemental Sex Offender Registry a while back. 

The misidentified Norment calls the VSP and tells them he’s being confused for this other Norment…..the VSP tells him don’t worry….. that’s not you. 

The misidentified Mr. Norment has no recourse to clear his name, to end the confusion; he is now a public pariah along with anyone else who shares the same name. 

Theses examples of losing a job, being unemployable, losing a rental, being homeless and people shunning you are NOT  “what ifs”, they are the reality of being public listed on a VSP Registry but with this proposal there will be confusion, mistaken identities and a presumption of guilt. 

Lives, careers and reputations will be ruined.

And  Finally……creating a public “list” of convictions prior to the creation of a States Sex Offender Registry has been done before in other states………..AND many courts have ruled against these legislative mandates for denying their citizens due process and violating ex post facto.  

If a “Supplemental Registry” of pre-1994 convictions becomes law….the same result could occur in Virginia.  

These Virginians have paid their debt to society……decades ago, they have not re-offended….if they have they are on our “Regular” VSP Registry today 

When does forgiveness and second-chances finally begin in Virginia 

When do we stop grinding the axe of vengeance and disgust…. to allow these Virginians to move past their one mistake from more than 20 years ago and that we already held them accountable for 

When is enough………. finally enough? 


Note: For anyone wondering about House Courts of Justice members with common names: 

How many Ben Cline’s are in Virginia?                                  Per the Internet White Pages I found 5.
How many Robert Bell’s                                                         I found at least 100.
How many Todd Gilbert’s?                                                       I found 6.