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State supreme court rules for woman fighting sex offender status

12-11-2013 Massachusetts:

John DOE, Sex Offender Registry Board No. 205614 v Sex Offender Registry Board. (Must read actual court decision, well worth your time)

The state supreme court has ordered the Sex Offender Registry Board to reconsider whether a woman convicted on federal charges of sex trafficking of a child should be classified as a sex offender.

The woman, a former prostitute whose name was not released, ran an escort service from 2000 to 2002. Three years after she closed down the service, she was arrested on sex charges.

The woman testified that she started the business after serious physical assaults by pimps. She employed four minors, one of them a 14-year-old with an ID showing that she was 19. After she saw the girl's photo on a National Center for Missing and Exploited Children poster and learned her actual age, she had another employee inform the center where to find the girl.

She pleaded guilty to charges in connection with the 14-year-old and served 17 months in jail.

After her release, she was classified as a level 1 offender, the lowest of three categories. The hearing examiner who made that decision acknowledged the low danger posed by the woman and the low probability that she would commit further offenses.

She appealed on the grounds that the board refused to pay for an expert witness to testify about the lower rate of recidivism among woman and for refusing to consider evidence she offered. In a ruling issued Wednesday, the court ruled in favor of the woman, citing "compelling scientific evidence that female offenders generally pose a much lower risk of reoffense." The judges said the burden is on the sex offender registry to prove that its classification decisions are sound, which requires reviewing all available evidence.

The court pointed out that Doe had testified that she was a drug abuser when she became a prostitute, and that she encouraged women to leave their pimps and to work for her instead because she offered a safer working environment. She said she stopped using drugs after becoming pregnant in 2002. She went back to school and found work as a waitress, bartender and restaurant manager. ..Source.. by The Patriot Ledger

Mass. court overturns escort's sex offender label

The state’s highest court on Wednesday overturned the classification of a former escort service manager as a low-level sex offender, finding that the state’s Sex Offender Registry Board should have considered research showing women are less likely than men to commit new sex offenses.

The woman, who wasn’t identified in the court’s ruling, pleaded guilty in 2006 to federal charges stemming from her management of an escort service from 2000 to 2002, including one count of transporting a minor to engage in prostitution and one count of sex trafficking of children. She served 17 months in prison while awaiting trial before pleading guilty.

In 2008, the woman requested funds to hire an expert witness, arguing that the board’s guidelines didn’t encompass scientific research on female sex offenders. Her request was rejected by the board.

A hearing officer eventually found that she should be classified as a level one sex offender, the lowest level of offender, considered the least likely to reoffend and the least dangerous.

She appealed that decision, but a Superior Court judge upheld the board’s ruling. The Supreme Judicial Court granted the woman’s request for direct review.

In its ruling Wednesday, the SJC agreed with the woman that the hearing examiner abused his discretion by denying her request for funds for an expert witness who could testify on the subject of how infrequently female sex offenders commit new crimes when compared with men.

‘‘We conclude that it was arbitrary and capricious for (the board) to classify Doe’s risk of re-offense and degree of dangerousness without considering the substantial evidence presented at the hearing concerning the effect of gender on recidivism,’’ Justice Barbara Lenk wrote for the court.

The court sent the case back to the board.

Catherine Hinton, the woman’s lawyer, said the ruling means the board can now either grant the woman’s request for expert witness funds and a new hearing or relieve her of the requirement to register as a sex offender.

‘‘Our position is that she should not have to register as a sex offender at all,’’ Hinton said.

‘‘She was arrested nearly three years after she had voluntarily ceased the criminal conduct at issue. She had already addressed her substance abuse problems and had already left the prostitution business,’’ she said.

In a statement, the board said it will comply with the court’s order.

The court also said the board is required to ensure that its guidelines are based on ‘‘the available literature.’’

‘‘We do not purport to suggest a frequency with which the guidelines must be updated, but caution that guidelines that fail to heed growing scientific consensus in an area may undercut the individualized nature of the hearing to which a sex offender is entitled, an important due process right,’’ Lenk wrote. ..Source.. by DENISE LAVOIE

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