Applause for Tampa’s, Mr.________ and his win in two Florida courts.
One guy, living as a transient on the streets of Tampa since his prison release, representing himself, stands up against the state of Florida and has managed to mystify them with the flaws in their laws.
I won’t dwell on Mr. _______ offenses; you can read the full story on this website. He did his time, spent 12 years in prison for his convicted sexual offenses. When he was released from prison, the state of Florida assumed he would fulfill their requirement that he register as a “sexual offender”. But there is a flaw in Florida’s law and this guy found it. More Applause.
A Judge in Hillsborough Circuit Court and a panel of three judges in Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeal agreed with Mr. _______ in that he “hasn’t been released from the sanctions imposed on him during his 2004 court case, which included prison and paying a $10,000 fine”. Until that fine is paid, Mr. _______, according to Florida’s own laws, “doesn’t fit the definition of a sexual offender”. How odd is it that the sentencing judge in Mr. ______ 2004 case referred to his sexual offenses as “heinous” and “egregious”, but here we are, 16 years later, with different judges telling the man he “doesn’t fit the definition of sexual offender” because he has yet to pay his $10,000 fine. Seems it’s “always about the Benjamins” when it comes to the Registry.
In simple terms, Mr. ______ seems to have called Florida out on their use or in this case, misuse, of three simple words “or, a and the”, when interpreting the state’s sex offender laws. Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren called it a “massive loophole” in Florida law that needs to be fixed in the next legislative session. (Notice, when “the little guy” finds a loophole in a law it “needs to be fixed right away”, but when politicians find loopholes in the law, especially if it benefits their jobs or their wallets, there’s never a rush to “fix” them.) Mr. Warren expects that other defendants will try to use the rulings to bypass registering after prison and of course, why shouldn’t they? No one wants or deserves to end up on a one-size-fits-all, forever and ever registry, in Florida.
Florida’s Attorney General Ashley Moody weighed in with “the question of great public importance” this issue has for victims of sexual assault. Other victim advocacy groups support Moody including the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association which has requested time to file briefs in support of her, all in an effort to force Mr. ______ to register as a “sexual offender”.
Mr. ______ determination is inspiring. Released from prison in 2016, he refused to register quarterly as a “sex offender” and then began his court fight against being labeled. Whether he educated himself or received assistance in researching Florida law, we should applaud him for his tenacity. Too many of us sit back, some out of fear, others out of apathy, hoping, praying or expecting that someone else will do something to change the punitive registry laws. Here’s a guy living on the streets who decided to take a chance and do something, to stand up for himself and against a label. And, so far, it’s paid off.
Florida legislators wrote the law for their state. Perhaps, in their hurry to push this “sex offender” law through, as often is the case, especially in an election year, they just happened to forget to dot all their I’s and cross all their T’s. That’s on you Florida, not on Mr. ________.
So, while this case will probably work its way up to the Florida Supreme Court, Mr. _______ remains un-registered. Applause.
Mr. Warren will continue to contend that “we require sexual offenders to register so that moms and dads can see if any live on their streets.” A word Mr. Warren…. some of those “Ex-Offenders” are moms and dads too!
And then there’s Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who worries that “from a community standpoint, this means you’re going to have “a bunch of sex offenders” not registering, that this is a public safety issue”.
My dear sheriff, chickens come in flocks, geese in a gaggle and grapes in a bunch. “Sex offenders”, a politically incorrect and offensive term by the way, do not come in bunches. And with everything that’s happening in the public eye right now, it seems that the police are the “public safety issue”.