Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Virginia State Police Sergeant M.C. Davis Agrees that Virginia Should Switch to a Three Tiered Risk Based Classification System "Let's Bring Some Positive Change to a Registry that is Necessary and Serves a Purpose"

I agree 100% with CJ. Ritchie’s goal (see article below) to get Virginia to change to a 3 Tiered Risk Based classification system AND that HB1366 is a hateful bill that needs to be stopped. 

But either he has painted himself or WSLS has as an advocate fighting to reform the Virginia Registry. 

He did not come to the Virginia House Courts of Justice Criminal Subcommittee in Richmond to argue why HB1366 should not pass out of Committee. 
·         February 3, 2015
·         January 29, 2015
·         January 20, 2015
·         January 17, 2015
·         January 1, 2015
·         December 4, 2014

Not one Virginia lawmaker has mentioned him or his advocacy when I’ve met with any of them and I have seen no literature from him at the GA building. 

Also if he is telling his story in an attempt to get reform of the Virginia registry, his story is not really a sympathetic one, most Legislators would say a 22 year old teacher and a 16 year old student is the kind of predatory behavior the registry exists for, his story is not going to help get the Virginia registry reformed. Yes the age gap isn't big but he was in a supervisory position! 

Some of you readers might disagree with me for saying this or even be angry, but it is 100% true.
If the situation that put someone on the registry isn’t sympathetic, DON’T repeat it to those in authority if you are asking for reasonable reform because all they are going to focus on is the abuse and crime that was committed! If a lawmaker asks, you tell them but don’t volunteer it unless it really is a true injustice and there are plenty of those examples out there. 

The best part of the below article is what VSP Sergeant Davis’ says about a new classification system for Virginia, an effort I’ve been fighting for, for 7 General Assembly sessions and that’s why I decided to post this article. 


Man labeled "violent sex offender" challenges registry system, February 9, 2015
By Aaron Martin

A man registered as a violent sex offender in Virginia hopes his case will shed light on the difference between the legal definition of "violent" and the public's perception of the word.  

C.J. Ritchie knows what his future holds."(I'm) a violent sex offender," he said. "I'm only 23-years-old and as the law stands that term will be with me for the rest of my life." 

It's a reality Ritchie is still wrapping his head around. His every movement is tracked by the Virginia State Police with an ankle monitor and a GPS device he keeps on his hip.

Here's is what led Ritchie to this point:

After only a few months as a Spanish teacher at Page County High School near Harrisonburg, Ritchie was arrested for taking indecent liberties with a child in November 2013. The child was a 16-year-old student at the school. 

Read the definition of the code under which Ritchie was charged. (The information contained in this link contains descriptions of sexual acts. Viewer discretion is advised.) 

"I have no memory of any of this," Ritchie said. "But the point is that it exists." 

Ritchie said he was taking medication at the time for mental health issues, which he believes impacted his judgement and memory. His defense attorney found a medical expert who agreed, however a judge ruled the expert could not testify. 

Ritchie eventually agreed to sign an Alford plea, meaning he maintains his innocence but admits there's enough evidence to convict him. 

"I did commit this offense," he said. "I might not remember it, but the point is I signed the Alford plea to avoid 10 years of incarceration and now I've got to deal with the sex offender registry and the terms of my probation." 

Only "violent sex-offenders" are required to register in the Commonwealth of Virginia. This link contains a list of offenses which require registry by a violent sex offender.  

What's different about Ritchie is how he's dealing with it.

He says he's reading more, mostly law books, so he can get a better understanding of the Virginia Sex Offender Registry. He says it's helped him develop C.J.'s Law, which would create a three-tier system to rank the danger of an offender on the registry.

"Let's bring some positive change to a registry that is necessary and serves a purpose," he said.

It's a change Virginia State Police Sergeant M.C. Davis says he wouldn't mind seeing. He's in charge of the Sex Offenders Investigative Unit in Southwest Virginia.

"Any system has room for improvement and could always benefit with some critical thinking," Davis said.

In Virginia, sex offenders are either labeled as a violent or non-violent. That's where Davis sees a disconnect between the public and the actual crime committed.

"There was no violence involved, it could have been a consensual encounter," he said. "But now he's categorized as a violent offender because it's a categorization, not a definition of the acts."

Ritchie's case is similar to Davis' hypothetical situation. Even though no violence occurred, he's labeled as a violent sex offender under the law. It's a branding that will stay with him for life.

But Ritchie's case may be falling on deaf ears in Richmond. While he's hoping to see changes to Virginia's registry that could change how sex offenders live their lives, the General Assembly is considering a bill on the other end of the spectrum.

HB 1366 was introduced by Delegate Jeff Campbell (R-Marion), who also represents Wytheville and Carroll County.

As it stands now, a registered sex offender must get permission from a school's superintendent and a circuit court judge to go on school property.

Campbell wants to take it a step further, requiring sex offenders to take out a newspaper ad publicizing a personal public hearing before being allowed on school property.

"All we're trying to do is provide greater transparency in the process so that the community can have the opportunity to have notice of something that might significantly affect their children's lives," Campbell said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia (ACLU) calls it a violation of civil rights.

"It's absolutely outrageous," said Claire GastaƱaga with the ACLU. "It's an invitation to a public stoning."

Campbell argues it's about safety.

The bill unanimously passed the House of Delegates in early February. Ritchie knows his will be an uphill battle; to make changes to the sex offender registry, especially coming from a sex offender. But it's a cause he's fighting for to help himself and other offenders.

"Do I think I'll get off the registry? My assumption now is no," Ritchie said. "I'm moving forwards as if I'll be on it forever."