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Living with 290

Living with 290: SWAT Team at the door

In 2009 I sent several emails (thinking that I would remain anonymous) to someone under the age of 18. The emails did not contain anything even remotely obscene, threatening or overtly sexual. But since this person’s parent decided the email was “inappropriate” she contacted the police who initiated an investigation which included; firstly, identifying me through my computer’s IP address; secondly, the surreptitious placing of a gps tracking device on my vehicle; and thirdly, after assuming this person’s identity online, unsuccessfully attempting – for six weeks – to lure me into an illicit meeting.

After 2 months of this nonsense the police finally decided to arrest me using a S.W.A.T. team – a dozen men dressed up like ninjas with assault rifles. I was taken into custody and charged with dozens of assorted felonies and misdemeanors including stalking, contacting a minor with the intent to commit a sexual offense, unlawful contact with a minor, etc. I was charged with so many crimes (over 30 separate counts of multiple offenses – all of which were totally unfounded) that trying to post bail became an impossibility.

I sat in jail for seven weeks before getting to meet with a public defender for the first time. During that time my local newspaper ran multiple, titillating front page stories about my arrest and most of my friends bolted. Even my own family had a tough time believing that I wasn’t some kind of monster. After all, at that time they still believed the police had integrity and would never file unfounded charges against someone or ever tell a lie. We learned a lot about police and prosecutors in the months to come.

My public defender had eighty other cases to work on beside mine so you can guess how much attention I got from him. I was able to meet with him roughly once a month for approximately 15 minutes each time. My case dragged on through the months with the prosecutor dragging his heels regarding turning over any evidence they claimed to have against me (each time I appeared in court my local newspaper was quick to run another front page article). When I was finally brought to a preliminary hearing over 30 charges were dismissed by the judge as having no merit (although strangely there was no front page article in the newspaper reporting this).

Ultimately I fell victim to pressure from both the prosecutor and my public defender to take accept a plea agreement. My public defender laid out a horrible scenario for me – either plead no contest to a single misdemeanor count of PC647.6 (Annoy/Molest a minor), register as a sex offender for life, and get out of jail that very day or risk losing at trial – which he promised me would happen, and go to prison.

After getting out of prison, he informed me, I would not only still have to register for life, I would also be fitted with a GPS ankle monitor for the rest of my life. I remember thinking… “How can these be the only choices?” So I agreed to plead “no contest” to a single misdemeanor count of PC647.6. I was released that day after spending 495 days in the county jail. The next day the local newspaper ran a front page article headlined: “[My Name] Pleads No Contest To Child Molesting!”

When I was released I realized I had lost my home, my job, my car, my freedom, my friends, my dignity, my reputation…. I was also horrified to learn that the punishment was to continue though. I have a 5 year grant of probation to complete and I soon realized that the probation department was not there to help me re-enter society but to keep up the harassment I endured from inmates and jail staff as well while I was in jail.

Most recently there were no fewer than ten officers/agents comprised of personnel from three different county sheriff departments, the department of justice and the U.S. Marshals at my home to conduct a 3-county “sweep” of sex offenders. They were at my home for three hours, searching, asking questions, milling around in my front yard smoking cigarettes in full view of my neighbors. All of this for simply typing some questionable words on the computer to an underage person.

And because of California’s one-size-fits-all registry system I am grouped in the same category as someone who kidnaps and rapes a child from a darkened parking lot. I’m learning to cope as well as I can with my new life. At first the feeling was akin to waking up in the hospital after a bad accident and realizing you no longer had any legs. The adjustment is just as difficult and traumatizing. I’m hoping against hope for some positive changes to occur this year regarding the registry system.

I thank God I found this website and would like to thank Janice Bellucci once again for her selfless service to this cause. Sometimes knowing that there really is someone out there who can empathize with my plight is what gets me through the day.

Thank you for reading this.

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  1. Cool RSO guy

    Thanks for Sharing!!
    Stay COURAGE!

  2. Robin Banks

    Thank you for reading. And you’re welcome. Let’s pray that we see some positive changes this year not only in the state’s registry system but in the public’s perception of registered citizens.

  3. Michael

    If only Michael Jackson had had a public defender representing him, he’d still be alive today.

    He’d have to serve 25 – life in prison the, no doubt be civilly committed as an SVP. But eventually he’d be released and have to “register” for the rest of his life.
    But he’d still be alive.

    If you can call that “living”.

  4. Q

    Makes one wonder who THE REAL CRIMINALS are.

    • Q

      Also; all that because of false beliefs not grounded in any kind of fact, other than the twisted imaginings of some very sick, un American and dangerous people.

  5. MatthewLL

    Your story is heartbreaking and I am truly sorry to hear how you were and are being treated. There may be an alternative place to live than California for you. It is not widely published but not all states require registration for your offense. I am happy to share some information and links if you would like. Feel free to email me: washingtonvoices@gmail.com. Even if you have to register in some other states, they all do not require you to be published on there web site. It was not clear to me whether your picture is on California’s public list.

    We are all hopeful that California will change their Megan’s law, but don’t wait for that. If you can better yourself outside the state, you should consider it. Not all states use Gestapo tactics in monitoring registrants. California is not a state I could live in, but I do have other places I can go which will not require me to register.

    BTW I live in Washington and am not on the public list, though I pled to a misdemeanor offense. I remain in my state because of supportive family and thanks to not being publicly outed.

    Good luck and stay strong. Please help CA RSOL where you can.

    Matt

    • Robin Banks

      Thank you..

      I would like to move elsewhere but if I’m ever to even be considered for a certificate of rehabilitation I have to have been a resident of California for the 10 years immediately preceding my petition. Otherwise I’d probably have already left the country by now.

  6. Tired of hiding

    This is the INSANE COUNTRY we live in the U-S-A which will create criminals just to divert attention from what is really going on behind the curtain…which is slowly opening to reveal just how deceptive and manipulative the United States government actually is!

    Peoples lives ruined…families torn apart…and in your case as so many (I dare say the vast majority of those of us forced to register) there was no victim and therefore, no actual “crime”.

    Clearly sex offender registration is a farce and a lie used to manipulate the masses by politicians (most of whom should actually be on sex offender lists). Remember that you are not alone in this cruel punishment.

    Stay strong and remain defiant. They can label us anything BUT they do not win unless WE accept that label ourselves – NEVER DO THAT!

  7. Double A

    We all make mistakes. Some are more severe than others. The biggest problem in California is that they treat all sex offenders equally. The punishment truly does not fit the crime.

    I was also put through the wringer by the media from KTLA to the Huffington Post. If anyone Googles my name all the news stories pop up. I remember going up the elevator at the court house and one of the deputies said I saw you on the news. Even worse, during processing at county jail my face shows up on the Channel 11 news. Fortunately I was sitting in the special handling section with my back to the 30 other inmates. Thank God it was in the morning because if it would have aired in the evening it would have made a bad situation worse.

    The thing that upset me the most about the media is they never came to talk to me about my side of the story. I keep thinking about contacting them because a lot of the information they have about my case is incorrect. Once my appeal is complete I will probably contact them to get the story straight or create my own website with all the evidence and transcripts so anyone who needs more information can see for themselves that the person I dated was a liar.

    Someone told me don’t make excuses because your enemies won’t believe them and your friends don’t need them. The only reason I need to put my story out there is mainly for those on the fence. But like my cousin told me if they can’t handle the b.s. from the past that’s their problem.

    After I did my year in prison I was also subjected to the compliance checks. The first time my nephew was over and we were watching football. It was funny because while we waited outside you could hear the officers cheering for their team. I was lucky I had only 3 police compliance checks with 6 to 10 officers at each visitation. The best part was there were no visits for the last 6 months of my year probation. Plus each visit lasted no more than 15 minutes. When my P.O.s did visits they just knocked on the door and asked to see my GPS and then would leave.

    Enough about me, you are lucky to have only spent a year and a few months in jail. I’m sorry you lost all your property. If your friends bolted then they weren’t really your friends. Since you didn’t go to prison you have a better chance of cleaning your record. If they end up making the registry a tiered system you will hopefully be off the list after 10 years. You should also contact the California Innocence Project in San Diego. Maybe they can help you out. It could have been worse.

    Last thing, my first cellmate at Wasco was doing 49 to life. I was afraid to tell him I only had 10 months to do but he was a good guy. My first cellmate at M.C.J. took a deal for 25 years. His bail was 2.2 million. I’m sure you’re nothing like those guys. But it could have been worse.

    Keep your head up. Good luck. Hopefully things will improve for you and all registrants.

    • Ron

      I don’t think the innocence project can help those that took a plea as that is an admittance of guilt. I think they mainly only help those that have never admitted guilt or have DNA evidence that can prove a false confession.

      • Double A

        Oh got it. I was not aware of that.

        The story that made me aware of the Innocence Project was of the high school football player Brian Banks. He took a plea deal for rape. According to a website he was facing close to 40 years but took the deal for 5 years of prison and 5 years of probation. The victim received close to 2 million dollars from the district. After his release the victim in his case contacted him. She apologized saying she was put up to it by her mom. He recorded that conversation. In the end the California Innocence Project helped Mr. Banks get exonerated.

        I’m not on the California Innocence Project staff or some law expert. I’m far from it. I don’t know all the details and I don’t know all the general information. But I don’t think it would hurt to see if they can do anything for people who feel wronged by the justice system.

        • Ron

          Recording someone without their knowledge is a Felony in California. So I’m not sure how he would have been able to use that. Guess I’ll look into the details of that case if it’s available online. I find learning real case law far more interesting than watching CSI TV shows.

        • Ron

          You are correct about the secretly recorded video tape being used to get his conviction overturned. But I was unable to find out how the recording was legally obtained and used in court. Does anyone have additional info on this or know a link to the actual court transcripts? It’s not important, I’m just curious about how an exception to CA law can be made. I am glad to see that sometimes justice does prevail.

    • Robin Banks

      Double A – thanks for your reply. I can see that you’re familiar with being demonized, personally, in the press. In my case it wouldn’t matter if all the charges had been dropped. I live in a small community so the damage was done with the first news report. Also, I have been exempted from the public website but as I said before, the small size of my community means that everyone is aware that I’m registered regardless.

      I just appreciate that anyone is reading my story and having any empathy with me. I absolutely should not have done what I did. I understand that now. What I needed was therapy (which i’ve been undergoing for the past 4 years) I did not need jail and public humiliation.

      • Double A

        It’s great that you are not on the website. But it’s unfortunate you have to register. I’ve read and agreed with many of your posts on this website. From what I’ve read in my opinion you are a very intelligent person. I’m sure you will figure out how to make lemons into lemonade.

        It maybe strange to think, but there might be some benefit from your horrible experience for not just you but other low risk offenders. If Janice never read Frank’s book on his experience, life as a registrant would be so much worse for all of us. I’m sure you will figure something out. Maybe you already have….

        • Robin Banks

          Double A –

          Thank you for the compliment. Until I went through this experience I, along with apparently 99% of the populace, just assumed that anyone on the sex offender registry was a predatory child molester – a dangerous and psychopathic individual with incurable and insatiable sexual perversions. I know how wrong I was now, and how uneducated I was about the registry. I was unaware of how easily someone can find himself a registered citizen.

          Sadly.. it seems when I try to educate anyone about this I see eyes glaze over and no one wants to hear it…

  8. George Washington

    This is a perfect example of how overzealous cops and prosecutors overreach in arresting and charging people. The SWAT team is illustrative of this. They felt they had to send a SWAT team to arrest someone for some racy emails. Pathetic. Unfortunately your type of case, an offense committed over the internet, is considered “low hanging fruit” to cops and D.A.s. They don’t have to do much work for a conviction because as opposed to cases that result in a he-said/she-said scenario internet cases are well documented and they can play these types of cases up in the media for their own sense of self-importance.

    I’m sorry but I don’t think the registry should be for people who write emails. That is ridiculous!

  9. SC

    Robin, Thank you for sharing your story. I especially enjoyed the high quality wordsmithing. I’m going to steal this from you:

    “I’m learning to cope as well as I can with my new life. At first the feeling was akin to waking up in the hospital after a bad accident and realizing you no longer had any legs.”

    It exactly expresses my feelings. After 25 years, I’m getting along OK with my new prosthetics.

  10. Robin Banks

    Thanks for the support and the comments everyone.

    I have to say that another unfortunate by-product of this whole depressing business is the healthy distrust I have now developed for anyone having anything whatsoever to do with law enforcement – be they Sheriffs, District Attorneys, Probation Officers or Meter Maids. I used to think the police were our friends. I’ve learned the hard way that law enforcement agents are to be avoided AT ALL COSTS.

    I will never again, in my entire life, place even the slightest trust in any official representing any law enforcement agency.

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