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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