Recovering sex addict says law doesn't make sense
By SOPHIA VORAVONGsvoravong@journalandcourier.com
Since last summer, Robert Rawles estimates that he has spent about $3,000 renting a Lafayette motel room where he must sleep at night.
But Rawles, a convicted child molester, said that hardship pales in comparison to having to leave his 91-year-old mother, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, home alone.
"I'm already concerned when I leave for work. All night ... it's very easy for someone to break in here," he said. "Is it protecting children by me living in a motel at night? No."
Rawles is one of three convicted sex offenders against children in Tippecanoe County who are challenging a state law that took effect July 1, 2006, prohibiting them from living within 1,000 feet of a school, youth program center or public park.
One of their attorneys is hopeful that a recent Indiana Court of Appeals ruling -- which determined that a legal change to sex offender requirements violated one man's constitutional protection against retroactive laws -- will benefit his client.
In the appeals court case, legislation was amended to require Todd L. Jensen to register as a sexually violent predator two years after he was released from probation. But at the time of his sentence, the law required consultation with two experts to determine if someone was a predator who might be a repeat offender.
"It's not the same portion of the statute ... but I find this particularly interesting because they make note of the fact that legislators made a lot of changes to this statute in 2006," said Lafayette attorney Earl McCoy, who is representing one of the convicted sex offenders forced to move under the new law.
His associate, Chad Montgomery, is handling the third lawsuit filed in Tippecanoe County. Rawles' case was filed by attorney Kenneth Falk of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana.
"We believe the changes in statute affected our clients' rights to ex post facto laws," McCoy said.
Ex post facto law refers to the increase of a penalty or punishment after an offense is committed.
But Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Pat Harrington, who is named a defendant in the three lawsuits, said he does not agree. The appeals court ruling specifies that Jensen's retroactive lifetime registration requirement violated the Constitution "as applied to him," Harrington pointed out.
"I believe that the 1,000-feet rule is very safe as far as ex post facto," he said. "No court so far has disagreed with this. As prosecutor, I will be following the law."
Harrington said he also was told the Indiana attorney general's office plans to petition that the Jensen case be heard by the state Supreme Court.
Even Rawles, who is required to register for life as a sex offender, does not think the decision will affect his case. But he believes the law was a poor move by legislators.
"I feel like I've paid for my crime," said Rawles, who gets Depo-Provera contraceptive injections to lower his sex drive. "If I didn't work, I could stay here all day, I just can't sleep here. The law makes absolutely no sense.
"I'm a recovering sex addict. I've not been cured, but I feel I've got the addiction under control."
Tippecanoe Circuit Court Judge Don Daniel, who is presiding over one of the sex offender lawsuits, and Tippecanoe Superior Court 2 Judge Thomas Busch, who is hearing another case, said they have not yet read the Jensen ruling.
But both judges say the way the Indiana Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court rule often has strong bearing on their decisions.
"I'm always glad to have their guidance," Daniel said. "This is a new area of the law for all of us."
Lafayette resident Patricia Keaton, who lives on the city's south end, said she hopes the appeals court decision does not have an effect on local cases. She believes the legislation is meant to protect children, not the offenders.
"I'm a mother myself, and I can't imagine how the parents of children who have been molested feel," Keaton said. "But I feel, for those victims, that the law is just."
Sorry, but the sex addict needs to put mom in a nursing home. He doesn't seem too worried about her or else he would take her with him, or just move. This is just his excuse to get out of compliance with this law.
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