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Lawsuit: California breaks the law on sex offender website

This post is a continuation of "Registrants sue CA DOJ — Demand improvements to, or end of, Megan's Law Website"

11-10-15 California:

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - California is breaking the law by failing to include updates about sex offenders on its Megan’s Law website, leading some offenders to be targeted by vigilantes, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

The suit filed by two offenders says the California Department of Justice has not updated the sex offender registry to include the dates offenders were convicted and released from prison. That has been required under state law since 2010.

The information is important so citizens can better gauge if an offender is an immediate threat, said Janice Bellucci, president of the advocacy group California Reform Sex Offender Laws. The website includes a current photo and home address for offenders, no matter how old the crime.

“Most people jump to the conclusion that it must have happened recently,” she said. “We have people who have been on the registry for 50 years or more.”

The law says the department must have the date of conviction and the date of release before it can post either detail. It also must say if the offender was later imprisoned for any other felony, or say it doesn’t know of any subsequent incarcerations.

“The statute requires all three items before any date can be posted,” department spokeswoman Kristin Ford said in an email, but there is no requirement that local law enforcement tell the department when an offender is released.

The information is lacking in 92 percent of Megan’s Law profiles, the suit says. It asks a judge to order the state to update the website immediately or take it down entirely.

The suit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court says the lack of information can lead to vigilante violence, as was the case recently in Shasta County, according to the sheriff’s department there.

Roy Anthony Matagora, 62, of Shasta Lake was shot twice and wounded as he opened his door in mid-September. The suspects heard he was a sex offender and confirmed it on the Megan’s Law website, the sheriff’s department said in announcing two arrests.

However, his conviction was in 1997, 18 years ago, according to the lawsuit.

Another sex offender, Frank Lindsay, 62, of Grover Beach was released in 1982, 33 years ago. The lawsuit says he was attacked in his home in 2010 by a stranger whose goal was to kill a sex offender and who had previously attacked another offender.

The suit lists five other offenders it contends were attacked, and some killed, because of incomplete information on the website.

“He was taking the law into his own hands,” Lindsay said of his attacker. “Unfortunately when you have a current photo and the rest of the information is blank it makes it seems like it happened yesterday.” ..Source.. by DON THOMPSON

Man accused in sex offender shooting


A Redding man was arrested Monday and a Redding woman detained and questioned in connection with the shooting over the weekend of a Shasta County man because he is a registered sex offender.

Timothy Joseph Gould, 28, was arrested and Tanna Nicole Curran, 25, was detained and questioned Monday on Eureka Way in Redding, according to the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office.

Gould is accused of shooting Roy Anthony Matagora, 62, after he and Curran found out he was registered as a sex offender, sheriff’s officials said.

Curran had become an acquaintance of Matagora’s over the past week and she had been borrowing the man’s vehicle. But Curran had found out Matagora was a registered sex offender, officials said.

Some time on Saturday, Matagora was at a home in the 5100 block of Main Street in Shasta Lake. When Gould knocked on the door of the home Matagora opened the door and Gould allegedly shot him in the hand and calf with a .45-caliber handgun, sheriff’s officials said.

“It appears the motive behind the shooting was due to Matagora being disliked because he is a registered sex offender,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release.

Gould was arrested and booked into the Shasta County Jail on suspicion of attempted murder, while Curran was released, officials said. by

Man gets 13 years in prison for robbing gas station, attacking sex offender


A registered sex offender who was attacked in Grover Beach by a schizophrenic last year forgave his assailant at a sentencing Monday and said he would visit him in prison.

David Jordan Griffin, 25, was sentenced to 13 years in prison after pleading no contest to robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and burglary charges in connection with a two-day crime spree last year that targeted two men who were on the state’s sex-crime website.

Griffin’s sentence, handed down by Judge Hugh Mullin in San Luis Obispo Superior Court, included a conviction for an attack with a sledgehammer April 22, 2010, on 58-year-old Frank Lindsay. Griffin tracked down Lindsay from the Megan’s Law sex offender list.

“I forgive you, David,” Lindsay said in court, directing his comments to Griffin. “You will get better.”

Griffin came after Lindsay with the hammer after breaking into his home. Lindsay fought against him and escaped serious injury.

Lindsay and Griffin’s mother, Lea Ann Heath of Shelter Cove, also have made peace, they’ve said, and she has apologized to Lindsay for the incident.

The same day as his attack on Lindsay, Griffin went to the home of another man on the Megan’s Law sex offender list and tried to break down his door unsuccessfully while swearing at him.

A day later, on April 23, Griffin carried a machete into a Chevron at 1284 Grand Ave. and stole money and lottery tickets.

While attempting to flee, Griffin backed a car toward police, one of whom shot him in the leg.

Griffin has no prior criminal record, and his mental illness “significantly reduced his culpability for the crime,” his probation report states.

“My son was never a bad guy, never aggressive,” Heath said. “But six months before this happened, he started showing signs of paranoia. He bought into conspiracy theories.”

Heath said she didn’t know the extent of her son’s illness and encouraged him to live with his uncles in Grover Beach to have male role models and look for work in a more populated area than their isolated hometown in Humboldt County, where he was unemployed.

Griffin’s attorney, Gael G. Mueller, said that her client was seriously ill. She hopes he gets proper psychiatric treatment in prison.

“He was diagnosed as actively schizophrenic and paranoid,” Mueller said. “I see these events as all part of one episode where his brain was telling him all sorts of bizarre things.”

Mueller called Lindsay an “amazing guy” for going out of his way to meet with her client and to try to help him.

Lindsay said outside court Monday that he’ll be there for Griffin “wherever and whenever” he needs him.

Lindsay added that he has visited Griffin in County Jail several times.

“It wasn’t easy for either one of us,” Lindsay said. “When he first saw me he was definitely alarmed and had hatred in his eyes. I think it took us both awhile to get to a place where we were comfortable.”

Lindsay said leading up to the attack, one of his biggest fears was being targeted as a sex offender — a lewd act with a child under 14 that didn’t involve intercourse and which he committed more than 30 years ago.

But regardless of his efforts to keep his name off the Megan’s Law website, his fears became a reality.

“I stepped out of bounds, but I have completed my sentence conditions and probation to the court’s wishes,” Lindsay said. “I pleaded no contest with the understanding the case would be dismissed. I don’t think it’s right that I’m a potential target (on the Megan’s Law list).” by Nick Wilson

What’s In a Date?

11-11-15 California:

For registered sex offenders in California, quite a lot.

When Frank Lindsay walked into his home to find a young man wielding two hammers—one in each hand—in his dining room, he assumed he had disrupted a robbery. It wasn’t until the man called him a “pervert” that Lindsay realized he was the target of a planned attack.

“Then I knew for sure,” Lindsay said. “This wasn’t a robbery in progress. This was about me being a registrant. This person was there to do to me as much damage as he could.”

Lindsay is on California’s sex offender registry for a crime he committed in 1979, when he was 26 years old. That was more than 30 years before he was attacked, in 2010, in his Grover Beach, California home.

But the attacker, who had already tried to break into the home of another registered sex offender in the neighborhood, had no way of knowing how old Lindsay’s crime was, or that his record had been clean in the three decades since he was released from jail.

That’s because Lindsay’s profile on the state’s sex offender registry, like the profiles of most of California’s registered sex offenders, did not include a date of conviction or release.

“What he saw was a bunch of men with current photographs, and there’s no date of offense,” Lindsay said. “So he thought ‘This must have just happened.’ And he was appalled that there were all these sex offenders out on the loose.”

While the photographs and addresses on California’s public sex offender registry are updated annually, fields marked “year of last conviction” and “year of last release” are almost always left blank.

“At least 90 percent of the time there’s no date,” said Janice Bellucci, an attorney and president of the group California Reform Sex Offender Laws. Bellucci filed a lawsuit Tuesday in a Los Angeles County Superior Court, accusing the California Department of Justice of failing to comply with a state law requiring the agency to include the dates of conviction and release.

Department officials could not be reached for comment. Most states with online registries include information on the date of offense, conviction or release.

Bellucci helped Lindsay amend his profile to reflect the date of release, as she has done for more than 100 individual registrants, she said. But there are more than 100,000 registered sex offenders in California, and the process to amend or correct a profile is expensive and time consuming. It also requires the help of an attorney, as registrants are not allowed to look at their profiles online.

The omission of a date, Bellucci said, gives the impression that all of the registrants are dangerous repeat offenders. She points to a man who was a minor when he was convicted of engaging in inappropriate behavior with child under 14. His profile doesn’t include a date.

“Well, he himself was 13,” she said. “Now he’s in his 30s, and he looks like a dirty old man.”

Justice Department studies show that around 5 percent of registered sex offenders commit another sex crime within the first three years after they’re released—a lower rate than just about any other category of former convicts. A recent California corrections department report found that almost 92 percent of the registered sex offenders in the state who returned to prison did so because of a parole violation, while only 0.8 percent were rearrested because they committed another sex crime.

“People think once they do it they’re going to keep doing it and that’s not the reality,” she said.

The lawsuit accuses state officials of “callous disregard and indifference for the rights and safety of individuals already punished and publicly shamed for their crimes.”

Lindsay, who escaped his attacker without serious injury, is a named plaintiff in the lawsuit, as is a Northern California man who was shot in September after his assailant saw his profile on the registry website. Like Lindsay, he survived the attack. But the lawsuit also includes detailed information about several California men who were murdered by neighbors or strangers who saw their profiles on the registry.

Lindsay’s assailant -- who is serving time for the assault -- was 25 years old at the time of the attack, around the same age as Lindsay when he pleaded no contest to committing “lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 years of age.”

“That’s not who I am now,” said Lindsay, who reached out to the man in the weeks after he was assaulted. “I wanted to show him that I’m not who he thought I was.” by Anat Rubin, The Marshall Project

Sex offenders sue California, claim Megan's Law website puts them in danger

11-11-15 California:

Two registered sex offenders are suing California for lax management of an online sex offender database, saying a lack of timely information prompted vigilantes to attack them for past crimes.

A measure commonly known as Megan’s Law sought to inform people about the presence of sex offenders by having the state publish publicly available information about their offenses and whereabouts. A website managed by the California Department of Justice includes a tool to search for sex offenders by name or location.

While the site warns against vigilantism, stating that “anyone who uses this information to commit a crime or to harass an offender or his or her family is subject to criminal prosecution and civil liability,” plaintiffs in the lawsuit say they have been targeted because of the state’s negligence in updating the website to include their dates of conviction and release as required as of 2010 by a 2006 law.

That lack of information has exposed registered offenders to “physical harm, loss of employment, underemployment, lack of adequate housing and other deprivations of rights,” charges a lawsuit filed by the organization California Reform Sex Offender Laws in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The complaint alleges that 92 percent of the profiles on the Megan’s Law site lack dates of conviction or release.

According to the complaint, plaintiff Roy Matagora was shot in September by someone who had viewed his profile. The online profile for Matagora lists three offenses involving a minor under 18 and a rape offense but does not include information about when he was convicted or released.

An assailant broke into the home of the other plaintiff, Frank Lindsay, in 2010 and tried to kill him with a sledge hammer after finding his information online, the lawsuit alleges. Lindsay’s profile notes “lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 years of age” and registers that he was convicted and released in 1979, but the lawsuit alleges that information wasn’t available until 2012.

Lindsay also had the lease for his business denied because of issues with the website, the lawsuit alleges. The complaint lists four other registered sex offenders who were slain in what the complaint characterizes as reprisal killings.

To remedy the alleged shortfall, the lawsuit asks that the court compel the Department of Justice to update the website.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment. ..Source.. by Jeremy B. White

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