Non-Sex Offender Constricted By Child Predator Law
A non-sex offender is facing up to 16 years in prison for failing to register under Ohio’s Sex Offender Registry, according to a recent article in The Newark Advocate.
So, how did a person never convicted of any form of sex crime wind up facing 16 years imprisonment for not registering as a sex offender in his state?
It all started will a pending divorce.
In 1994, Danny Seals arrived at a salon in downtown Mount Vernon, Ohio to sign divorce papers. Instead of pulling out a pen to sign the divorce papers, he pulled out a handgun.
Two children were present when he wielded the gun, but were quickly released. Two other employees were released shortly after the children, and they then called 911. A four-hour police standoff ensued until Seals eventually surrendered. No shots were fired by Seals and no one was injured.
Seals pled guilty and was convicted of one count of kidnapping and four counts of abduction. He served his time in jail. When he was released in 1999, he was labeled as a sex offender—even though there was no sexual assault in the standoff.
Seals was placed in the Ohio Sex Offender Registry and required to follow all of the rules and restrictions that sex offenders face.
A decade later, it was discovered that Seals, now 49, failed to notify authorities of his change of address. He’s facing two second-degree felony charges for violating the registry rules. If convicted, he could be sentenced to 16 years behind bars.
That’s right—up to 16 years in prison because he didn’t follow the rules of a law he didn’t technically violate.
Who’s Considered A Sex Offender?
At the time of Seals’ release from prison, Megan’s Law ruled as federal law.
Megan’s law stated (among other regulations) that if a person was found guilty of abduction where the victim was younger than 18, he or she was to be classified a sexual offender.
Obviously, such child predator laws like Megan’s Law are meant to protect children and punish sexual predators; however, as you can see from Seals’ case, sometimes holes in the law can greatly—and unjustly—affect a person’s life.
As laws are enacted, they develop. Consequently, if Seals would be convicted of the same crime today, prosecutors would have to prove that the kidnapping or abduction was sexually motivated. Only then could he possibly be classified as a sexual offender.
According to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Seals in just one of more than 400 people in the state who have not been convicted of sexually offending a minor but are forced to register with the registry.
The Repercussions of Such Injustice
Seals told the newspaper that his private life has collapsed because of his status as a sex offender.
His stepchildren have been harassed in school, he’s lost most of his close friends and he’s been fired from more than 20 jobs in the last nine years because his bosses eventually discovered his court-ordered status.
“They see me on the Internet and it’s only a matter of days before I get fired,” Seals told the reporter. “The day that they find out, I already know.”
His car has also been vandalized, with people scratching the words “molester” and “predator” in the paint.
“The public is not aware of this,” Seals told the newspaper. “They just look at me and think I’m a monster.”
Assistant Ohio Public Defender Jay Macke told The Newark Advocate that the registry is intended to protect families and communities, but he acknowledged that the positive effects of the registry are being compromised by the inclusion of non-sex offenders like Seals.
“I don’t think anybody’s served by having the state distribute what is essentially misleading information,” Macke said.
Held Back From Moving Forward
Seals told the reporter that he actually supports the existence of the sex offender registry and restricting those guilty of sex crimes.
In fact, he said that he thought the sex offender laws should be stricter; however, he said only convicted sex offenders should be included on the registry.
For now, Seals told that newspaper that he just wanted to “disappear from the system” when his terms expire in April of 2009.
However, with pending charges of failing to register as a sex offender, he could be hit with an additional 15 years of registration requirements.
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