New York’s highest court says accusations can be considered for registration purposes even when the defendant was acquitted.
In New York a defendant can be forced to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life based on accusations a jury rejected. So the state’s highest court ruled last week in a case that illustrates how fear and loathing of sex offenders lead to results that would be recognized as unjust and illogical in any other context.
__________’s 13-year-old niece, identified in court documents as A.B., accused him of raping her during a Thanksgiving Day visit to her grandmother’s home in Brooklyn, where her uncle lived, when she was 11. _____ denied any inappropriate behavior, and his mother said A.B. had spent the whole evening watching TV in the living room with her.
The girl’s older brother said she had described a sexual assault to him, but it differed in key details from the account she gave police. A.B. told her brother _____ had tried to engage in vaginal intercourse with her but couldn’t because his penis “wouldn’t fit.” By contrast, she told police _____ had penetrative sex with her for about 10 minutes. A detective testified that _____ had admitted touching, kissing, and performing oral sex on A.B., but he had no recording or written statement to corroborate the confession, which _____ denied making.
The jurors struggled to make sense of these conflicting accounts. Since there was no physical evidence, the case came down to a question of whether to believe A.B. or _____ . During three days of deliberations, the jurors sent the judge three notes indicating that they were deadlocked. Each time he told them to keep deliberating.
Finally the jurors emerged with a verdict that seemed to split the difference between those inclined to believe _____ and those inclined to believe A.B. They found _____ guilty of second-degree sexual abuse, a misdemeanor, based on the allegation that he kissed A.B.’s breasts, but not guilty of three felonies: first-degree rape, based on the allegation of penetrative sex, and two counts of a first-degree sexual act, based on allegations that he performed oral sex on the girl and forced her to perform oral sex on him.
During a post-trial hearing, the judge nevertheless assumed that _____ had committed the felonies and therefore assigned him to risk level two under New York’s Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA), which triggers lifetime registration. Had the judge considered just the crime of which _____ was convicted, he would have been assigned to risk level one, which requires registration for 20 years.*
The Court of Appeals believes the victim (even when the jury doesn’t) [appellatesquawk.wordpress.com 4/29/18]