State reluctantly implements ‘harsh’ sex offender law

Full implementation of a 6-year-old Nevada law may soon cause a dramatic increase in the number of registered sex offenders — raising questions about whether the intended punishment fits the crime.

One state lawmaker suggested dumping part of the “terrible, overly harsh law” as it applies to juvenile offenders.

Congress approved the Adam Walsh Act in 2006 as a guideline for state laws on sex crimes. The statute was intended to toughen punishment for sex offenders, including making their photos, names and addresses available to the general public.

Nevada legislators adopted most provisions of the federal law in 2007, reacting in part to concern the state could lose federal grants for law enforcement.

Now, thanks to a Nevada Supreme Court decision in October, the state will likely expand the sex offender roll from the current 3,000 names by requiring anyone convicted of a felony sex crime or crimes involving children since 1956 to register.

No one knows how many more offenders will be added to the list, but the expansion has raised concerns that people who were convicted long ago but who have never re-offended will be publicly humiliated, lumped in with serial rapists.

Of particular concern are people whose youthful indiscretions will suddenly become a scarlet letter haunting their adult lives.

NO PUBLIC DANGER

Experts in and out of Nevada say the law here, and in the 16 other states that adopted similar versions of the Walsh Act, unfairly labels children who messed up as sexual deviants.

For decades Nevada’s approach to dealing with juvenile sex offenders was to treat them more like patients than prisoners, an approach backed by research that shows many children and teens who sexually abuse someone can be treated, and are unlikely to re-offend.

Keeping with that approach, most sex offenders younger than 21 were not required to register as a sex offender. Judges were allowed to determine, after sentencing and monitoring, whether a juvenile offender posed any public danger. A judge could order the offender to register on reaching adulthood.

Clark County Family Court Judge Bill Voy said few juvenile offenders who have appeared before him over the years needed to register.

But the Walsh Act leaves no room for judicial discretion. Sex offenders who are 14 or older at the time of the offense must register under blanket classifications for the crime committed, with no regard for changes in behavior.

Clark County already is seeing effects of the Supreme Court decision. Since October, Voy has ordered four now-adults to register for offenses they committed as juveniles, and for offenses he had previously determined they would not repeat.

Voy said he has to follow the law, even though it doesn’t seem right.

“Now they’re in college; they’re married,” Voy said. “Now they have to register as a sex offender.”

FEW PREDATORY JUVENILES

Most who study and work with young sex offenders see them differently than adults who have preyed on children or committed violent sexual assaults. Most agree the adults should be punished, and that it’s appropriate for the public to know their whereabouts.

But studies show children usually commit an act against someone they know and seldom are repeat offenders, particularly if they get help.

Reasons why children and teens sexually assault vary: Often they have been victims themselves. Many are going through puberty, a confusing time for just about anyone, and act out what they have seen in pornography. Very few cases include predatory juveniles.

Human Rights Watch, a Philadelphia-based advocacy group, reported in May that national recidivism rates for juvenile sex offenders range between 4 percent and 10 percent. In some categories it is as low as 1 percent.

By comparison, the recidivism rate for all crimes regardless of age is about 40 percent.

The report examined more than 500 cases in Nevada and 19 other states.

“Many of the children didn’t really understand what they were doing was a sexual offense; they didn’t understand boundaries,” report author and analyst Nicole Pittman said by phone Friday.

Good public policies should protect the community but also be equitable.

Under the new law, the court system will continue to offer rehabilitation services for juvenile sex offenders, but experts say registries can create pre­carious situations for registrants and their families, as well as spread unnecessary fear among the public.

REGISTERING CREATES STIGMA

The Human Rights Watch report cites the case of an adult man who was required to register as a sex offender for touching a 12-year-old girl’s chest when he also was 12. The registry in his unidentified state didn’t include a conviction date, and many people assumed his offense was recent, and that he was a child predator. A neighbor once beat the man’s brother because they looked alike.

Registering also creates a stigma that can cause registrants to become a danger to themselves, said Susan Roske, with the juvenile division of the Clark County public defender’s office, which sought to have the juvenile portion of the Walsh Act in Nevada overturned.

“I imagine we will be seeing some suicides,” Roske said.

She is on a committee of lawmakers, advocates and experts that advise the Nevada Legislature about sex offender registration issues. She wants the panel to recommend a bill to eliminate juvenile registration during the 2015 legislative session.

Even the state Supreme Court, in its 4-3 ruling against a lawsuit brought by Roske, said Nevada’s law is constitutional but questioned whether it was best for juveniles.

“It does not appear from the legislative history that the Nevada Legislature ever considered the impact of this bill on juveniles or public safety,” the court majority wrote. “The body’s motivation for passing the bill appears to be compliance with the Walsh Act and avoidance of the reduction in grant monies that would come with noncompliance.”

That got the attention of state Sen. Tick Segerblom, chairman of the committee Roske is on. Segerblom was in the Assembly when both chambers un­animously passed the Walsh Act provisions in 2007. Because state budget cycles last two years, he said, loss of funding forced a too-quick decision.

The state hasn’t lost any federal money because it delayed fully implementing the act for six years, he said.

“It really is a terrible, overly harsh law,” said Segerblom, D-Las Vegas. “We just have to, as legislators, focus on the bigger picture and what’s best for everybody.”

During a meeting Friday, Segerblom and other committee members discussed asking lawmakers to change state law back to the way it was, letting judges decide if a juvenile should register. But with a year until the next legislative session, Segerblom asked committee chairman Keith Munro what could be done to put off implementation of the Walsh Act.

“That’s not really a question I can address,” Munro, who is Nevada’s assistant attorney general, said via a satellite feed in Reno.

In the meantime, it’s unclear when this round of new names might show up on the searchable public website.

Voy is working with John Paglini, a Las Vegas psychologist who often testifies in sex crime cases, on a study aimed at showing how Clark County’s juvenile sex offenders respond to court-ordered treatment. Those numbers haven’t been tracked before now. They will review 1,000 cases dating to 1979 and evaluate what worked, and how often juveniles re-offended.

“It’s a very bold project,” Paglini said. “If we can understand these dynamics and reduce the recidivism rate toward the community, then I think in the end this works out beautifully.”

The results of the study should be complete by the time lawmakers meet in 2015.

ADDED COSTS

In addition to overlooking the impact on juvenile offenders, the Legislature didn’t seem to consider the added cost of getting more offenders registered and compliant with the law.

“They’ve never formally tried to figure out the actual cost,” said Maggie McLetchie, a lawyer who worked for the American Civil Liberties Union when it sued the state over the Walsh Act.

McLetchie’s calculations showed implementation would cost millions. By comparison, losing the federal grant would have been less than $200,000.

The responsibility for getting offenders registered falls to multiple agencies, including local law enforcement and the state Division of Parole and Probation.

Sgt. Brian Zana, of Parole and Probation, said juvenile offenders may not add as much work as some think. Many already register with law enforcement because schools, churches or other organizations where there are other children must know about young offenders nearby. But that registration is not made public on the state website.

Another provision of the Walsh Act taking effect in Nevada bars sex offenders from knowingly being within 1,000 feet of a place designed primarily for children.

That portion of the law won’t be retroactively applied to the new class of offenders who already live near sites such as schools, but it will come into play if the offender moves.

Depending on the crime, offenders must check in with police or probation officers more often and must register for 15 years, 25 years or for life.

In trying to strike a balance between public safety and fairness, Nevadans aren’t alone in questioning some aspects of the Walsh Act.

There’s no national consensus on how state lawmakers should deal with juvenile registration, said Katie Gotch, spokeswoman for the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers. But most agree the Walsh Act goes too far, she said.

“A lot of times laws are based on fear and are a knee-jerk reaction to a high-profile case,” Gotch said.

Contact reporter Adam Kealoha Causey at acausey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0401. Follow on Twitter @akcausey.

ad-high_impact_4
News
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss React to Dennis Hof's Death
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss speak about their friend and prominent brothel owner Dennis Hof's death at Dennis Hof's Love Ranch. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada brothel owner Dennis Hof has died
Nevada brothel owner and Republican candidate for Nevada State Assembly District 36, Dennis Hof has died. He was 72. Nye County Sherriff's office confirmed. Hof owned Dennis Hof's Love Ranch brothel, located in Crystal, Nevada.
Las Vegas police investigate suspicious package at shopping center
Las Vegas police evacuated a southeast valley shopping center at Flamingo and Sandhill roads early Tuesday morning while they investigated reports of a suspicious package. (Max Michor/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Las Vegas Metro hosts the K-9 Trials
The Las Vegas Metro K-9 Trials returns to the Orleans Arena to benefit the Friends For Las Vegas Police K-9 group.
Kingman residents love their little town
Residents of Kingman, Ariz. talk about how they ended up living in the Route 66 town, and what they love about their quiet community. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Service at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Twelve unclaimed veterans are honored at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City in Oct. 9, 2018. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas house prices reach highest level in 11 years
Las Vegas house prices are rising But so is the amount of available homes on the market Still, properties priced below $300,000 are selling fast And September was the first time since June 2007 that the median house price reached the $300,000 mark Las Vegas home prices have been rising at one of the fastest rates in the country over the past year Recent data show the market is now less affordable than the national average
National Night Out
About 100 Summerlin residents gathered at Park Centre Dr. in Summerlin on Tuesday for National Night Out. Lt. Joshua Bitsko with Las Vegas Metro, played with 3-year-old David who was dressed as a police officer. Face painting, fire truck tours and more kept kids busy as parents roamed behind them. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rural homeless issue comes to a head in Pahrump
On Sept. 12, Pahrump sheriff deputies told residents of a homeless encampment on private property that they had 15 minutes to vacate and grab their belongings. That decision might face some legal consequences. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance blood drive on October 1
A blood drive was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center on the one year anniversary of the Oct. 1 shooting. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance Lights memorial unveiled at St. Rose hospital
A dedication ceremony was held at St. Rose to unveil a memorial and to read the names of those who died on October 1, a year ago. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October Blood Drive Remembrance Wall
(Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October Blood Drive
Vitalent hosts a blood drive at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, the first anniversary of the Las Vegas shootings. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October sunrise remembrance ceremony in Las Vegas
Myanda Smith, sister of Las Vegas shooting victim Neysa Tonks, speaks at the sunrise remembrance ceremony at the Clark County Government Center in downtown Las Vegas, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (Chitose Suzuki/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
‪Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks to crowd at Oct. 1 sunrise remembrance ceremony ‬
‪Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks to the crowd at the Oct. 1 sunrise remembrance ceremony ‬at the Clark County Government Center in downtown Las Vegas, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Father of Route 91 Harvest festival shooting victim talks about college scholarship in his daughter's memory
Chris Davis, father of a Route 91 Harvest festival shooting victim, Neysa Tonks, talks about a college scholarship in his daughter's memory to assist the children of those who died in the shooting. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Oct. 1 survivor Malinda Baldridge talks about life after the shooting
Malinda Baldridge of Reno attended the Route 91 Harvest festival with her daughter, Breanna, 17, and was shot twice in the leg when the gunman fired on the crowd.
Route 91 survivor talks about lack of progress in gun legislation
Heather Gooze, a Route 91 survivor, talks about lack of progress in gun legislation since the Oct 1. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas/Review-Journal) @reviewjournal
Review held in death of man after encounter with Las Vegas police
The mother of Tashii Brown, who died after an encounter with Las Vegas police on the Strip, not satisfied after public review of evidence. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County Museum opening "How We Mourned: Selected Artifacts from the October 1 Memorials"
The Clark County Museum is opening an exhibit "How We Mourned: Selected Artifacts from the October 1 Memorials" of items left to honor the victims killed in the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Memorial service for former RJ lawyer Mark Hinueber
Mark Hinueber, the Review-Journal's former lawyer and defender of the First Amendment, died in Las Vegas on Aug. 23. Hinueber, who was 66, worked at the RJ and other newspapers for 42 years. On Saturday, his friends and family gathered for a memorial service.
Army veteran honored in Henderson event
Army Sgt. Adam Poppenhouse was honored by fellow veterans in an event hosted by a One Hero at a Time at the Henderson Events Center.
Michelle Obama and Keegan-Michael Key urge Nevadans to vote
Former first lady Michelle Obama and comedian Keegan-Michael Key urged Nevadans to vote at Chaparral High School in Las Vegas Sunday, Sep. 23, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
1 dead, 1 wounded in North Las Vegas standoff
A woman was hospitalized with serious injuries on Thursday morning after being shot inside a North Las Vegas house. Police responded about 11 p.m. to a shooting at a home on the 5600 block of Tropic Breeze Street, near Ann Road and Bruce Street. The wounded woman, police believe, was shot by a man, who later barricaded himself inside the house. SWAT was called to assist, and when officers entered the house, they discovered the man dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Las Vegas Teen Makes Clothing Resale His Side Hustle
Las Vegas resident Reanu Elises, 18, started buying and selling streetwear online when he was a high school junior. Like many other young adults, the world of online resale applications like Depop and Mercari have made selling clothing online for a profit easy. Now, Elises spends his free time at thrift shops looking for rare and vintage clothing he can list on his on his shop. Now in his freshman year at UNLV as a business marketing major, Elises hopes to open a shop of his own one day and start his own clothing brand. He estimates that he's made about $1000 from just thrifted finds in the past year, which he'll use to buy more thrift clothing and help pay for expenses in college. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Fruition Vineyards Encourages Young Entrepreneurs to "Buy, Flip, Dream"
Once a month, young adults gather at Fruition Vineyards on South Maryland Parkway near UNLV to dig through a stack of rare, vintage and designer clothing that's marked down well below it's resale value. Shop founder Valerie Julian began the vent, dubbed "Fruition Vineyards" in August after running her streetwear shop since 2005. The event gives young entrepreneurs the opportunity to "buy, flip, dream" according to Jean. Meaning that they're encouraged to buy the clothing for sale and find a way to resell it for a profit, then reinvest that into whatever dream they pursue: college, a hobby or their own resale business. Shoppers lined up starting an hour before noon on the last Saturday in April for the opportunity and spoke about what they hoped to do with their finds and profits. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Local man goes under cover searching for answers to homelessness
Licensed mental health therapist Sheldon Jacobs spent 48 hours under cover posing as a homeless man in an attempt to gain perspective on the complex issue.
Social Work UNLV Lecturer's Calling
Ivet Aldaba-Valera was the first person in her family to graduate from both high school and college. The 33-year-old UNLV lecturer is now pursuing her Ph. D in public policy at the school and has used her degree in social work to engage with the young Latino and Latina community of Las Vegas. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Gold Point townsperson talks about why he choose to live in a ghost town
Gold Point townsperson Walt Kremin talks about the ghost town in Nevada he calls home. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Crime
Family members of murder victims talk about their loss
Family members of murder victims talk about their loss. Susan Nash, 52, was killed in a shooting along with her daughter and one of her three sons on Sunday night. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Sayegh Cold Case Turns 40
Review held in death of man after encounter with Las Vegas police
The mother of Tashii Brown, who died after an encounter with Las Vegas police on the Strip, not satisfied after public review of evidence. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vehicle of Interest in January Homicide
Las Vegas police released footage Friday of a “vehicle of interest” from a deadly shooting in January. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Hostage escapes clutches of robber before shooting
Metropolitan Police Department footage shows a man wearing a motorcycle helmet, identified by police as 27-year-old Mario B. Trejo, with one arm wrapped around a woman’s neck and held a handgun to her head.
Sunset Park Vigil
A small group of people gathered in Sunset Park to remember the three children recently killed in the area.
Henderson police bodycam footage of officer-involved shooting
Henderson police released body-worn camera footage of an officer-involved shooting in a grocery store parking lot at 2667 Windmill Parkway on Aug. 12, 2018. (Henderson Police Department)
Metro Asst. Sheriff Brett Zimmerman on Aug. 8 officer-involved shooting
Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman met with media Monday to discuss the details of the 14th officer-involved shooting of the year. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nye County detectives pursue suspects
A swarm of Nye County deputies, at the request of Las Vegas police, surrounded a hotel room in Pahrump last week to take two fugitives into custody. (Nye County Sheriff's Office)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
ad-infeed_1
ads_infeed_2
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like