Derek W. Logue of OnceFallen.com
On Monday, I received a message from Hank, a fellow activist, regarding Nebraska’s LB 60, a law that if passes will force any registered citizen dating someone with children to send notification letters to the non-custodial parents of the children to warm them of their status before moving in together. It is a humiliating act which would obviously hinder efforts for registered citizens to date, marry, and strive for pro-social identities. It was introduced by Senator Brett Lindstrom, a former third-string QB for the Cornhuskers and serving his first term in legislature and who is in the Banking subcommittee. I was invited to speak before the Nebraska legislature, so the next day I hopped on the bus to Nebraska, a place I have never been to before.
Nebraska is a large state but one with a small population; there are about 1.8 million residents, most living in Omaha or Lincoln, and 5174 registered citizens. It is known for about three things—corn, cows and the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Unlike most states, Nebraska lacks a House and Senate; instead, Nebraska has a unilateral legislature. This means that we really only have one shot at convincing the legislature not to pass bills like LB 60.
When I arrived, I was met by a small group of people who were strategizing for speaking the next day before the Unilateral Legislature’s Judiciary committee. Only four of us were expected to speak, including me, someone from the University of Nebraska-Omaha (UNO), and two from the Nebraskans Unafraid group. One of the speakers was Jeromy Wilson, the father of a newborn who will be potentially impacted by LB 60. Considering the size of the state, I was surprised to meet even this many folks interested in changing sex offender laws.
Thursday was a busy day. I had taken the time on the bus to write my speech, and polished it up before leaving for Lincoln. Hank and I spent around $70 just on copies of all the research exhibits we were taking to the legislature. We arrived at the statehouse about an hour before the meeting to find our seats and coordinate with the others showing up to either speak or listen in. The Judiciary subcommittee has eight members, but I remember seeing only five, maybe six of them. Amazingly, the room was packed and most of the people in the audience were there for LB 60. There was a group of people there to watch, and as of this writing, I’m still unsure if they were there with the victim’s rights group that came to testify or if they were simply students from the nearby University of Nebraska. (Or, they may have been invited by the victim’s group). Whatever the case, the seats were quickly filled. Thankfully, LB 60 would be the first bill to go up for debate that day.
The bill was introduced, and the proponents of the bill were allowed to speak first. There were three speakers supporting the bill, including Senator Lindstrom and two victim advocates. This was followed by opponent testimony. We had decided the best course of action would be to get the facts up first and have Jeromy speak last for emotional impact. The UNO student speaking on behalf of Professor Lisa Sample (who wrote the 2013 NE recidivism study) went first, and I testified second. (See statement below). After my statement was read, I was questioned by Senator Steve Halloran, who likened opposing the bill to “playing Russian Roulette.” I thought it was very inappropriate so I had switched from guns to fishing, using Craig Hallenstein’s allegory of catching plenty of dolphins when trying to catch tuna. I also pointed out that 95% of sex crime arrests are of those with no prior record so LB 60 fails there. In retrospect, I should have mentioned that LB 60 isn’t Russian Roulette but an execution since 100% of registrants regardless of risk will be impacted by the bill. A member of the Nebraskans Unafraid group spoke next, and finally Jeromy testified with baby in hand.
I expected the opposing testimony to end, but four more people decided to testify in opposition at the last moment, doubling the total of opposing testimonies to eight. Having eight people testify against legislation in Nebraska of all places is indeed impressive. From what I gather, those who support this bill expected only Jeromy and maybe the professor from UNO to show up but not a group of eight, and were completely caught off guard. Their testimonies relied on the same fear tactics and bogus stats that we had thoroughly debunked numerous times over the years, and it left them with no defense.
There is one more person to mention. His name is Ernie Chambers, and he is the longest sitting member of the Nebraska legislature. He is a man with a colorful history, ad made national headlines a few years ago for “suing God” to prove a point about the inanity of Nebraska’s civil laws. He stands out among the members of the committee because he comes to work dressed in a sweatshirt and jeans. He is quite the legend in his state; even the legislative room in which LB 60 was heard is named after him. He doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him, and apparently, the other senators know it is better to let Ernie do what he wants. (He sounds like my kind of guy, quite frankly.)
Senator Chambers entered the room late, and before he had stepped inside, Ernie had seen a fussing baby and stopped to comfort the child. That baby was Jeromy’s daughter, and that moment was captured by Julie Cornell from KETV and posted the photo on her FB page. After Senator Chambers played the role of the “Baby Whisperer,” he was in the Chambers room to listen to our testimony. After Jeromy finished his testimony, Ernie mentioned how great of an advocate the baby was, getting some chuckles from the audience. But the most amazing part of the day came at the end of the testimony on the bill. Senator Lindstrom came up to answer questions about the bill and Senator Chambers wasted little time picking apart the bill. Senator Chambers got Lindstrom to admit that the case that prompted this bill was not about sexual abuse of children, and watching Lindstrom squirm and attempt to dodge questions was truly entertaining. Senator Krist also questioned Lindstrom about the problem of shifting the burden of proof to the registrant, an issue which Senator Krist found problematic.
When the hearing for LB 60 ended, the room cleared out, showing LB 60 was the biggest issue of the session. Based upon all that I had seen and heard that day, I would be surprised if LB 60 passes the subcommittee. However, given the responses Lindstrom gave during the questioning it is possible that Lindstrom will modify the language in hopes of getting support of those who seemed reluctant to support this legislation. Still, I have a feeling this may be the last we see of LB 60, but if it pops up again, I’m certain the existing Nebraska group will be ready.
Below is the full copy of my written testimony for the legislature; I had also included copies of the supplementary exhibits for the legislature, which aren’t attached here, so instead I’m providing the links below]:
“My name is Derek Logue, anti-registry movement activist and founder of the legal information website OnceFallen.com. I am also a registered citizen who has experienced many forms of discrimination under color of law. I come here today to oppose two specific proposals in this legislation.
The first problem I have regards the written notice requirement, an act that seems to be more about humiliation than public safety. The US Supreme Court ruled in US v United Foods, 533 US 405, 410 (2001) that the government may not force individuals to express views taken by the government; in Wooley v. Maynard, 430 US 705 (1977), SCOTUS ruled the government cannot force a citizen to display a message that is offensive to the individual’s moral convictions; and in West Virginia State Board of Education v Barnette, 319 US 624 (1943), SCOTUS ruled the government cannot force individuals to engage in forms of expression contrary to the individual’s personal beliefs. First Amendment rights are among the most cherished of rights, and that right includes the right not to be forced to disseminate a government message that is intended to shame and humiliate every registrant who has the audacity to try to engage in normal adult relationships.
The second offensive point to LB 60 is the presumption of imminent danger that every registered citizen presents. Under this law, those who share the label of “registered sex offender” are assumed guilty until innocence can be proven. I have experienced firsthand the difficulty of disproving a negative even with a low burden of proof in a court of law. I had also been tasked with appearing on an episode of the former HLN TV show Dr. Drew On Call [8/13/13] to defend a man who gained custody of his daughter. Despite available evidence the man may actually be innocent, the assumption from most of the TV panel was the child as in immediate danger, and no amount of rational research convinced them to abandon their personal biases. Historically, the state has been tasked with having to prove guilt because the burden of proof puts the burdened party at a disadvantage. How can anyone expect a registered citizen to meet such a burden when the courts, the media, the victim industry, and the legislators are all too willing to believe the most outrageous myths about them and assign group risk to individuals?
The myth most often used is the high recidivism myth. Dozens of federal, state, and independent university studies have consistently shown a pattern of extremely low sexual re-offense rates of those forced to register as “sex offenders.” [See Exhibit A: Once Fallen Recidivism Chart, http://www.oncefallen.com/recidivismchart.html]. Of note is the federal studies published by the US Department of Justice, one in 2003, and one in 2014, the first finding that 5.3% were rearrested after 3 years for an alleged sex offense, while the latter study found a 5.6% re-arrest after 5 years. These studies range from 2 years to 10 years.
The fact that the five-year study was only able to find a 0.3% re-arrest rate between the third and fifth year is in line with numerous studies that have found most re-offense occurs within the first three years of release. The 2015 recidivism study published by the Wisconsin Dept. of Corrections [Exhibit B] found sexual recidivism rates between 6% and 7.7% fifteen years after release; more importantly, the Wisconsin study found that half of the recidivists in the 15 year period re-offended in the first two years of release, and three quarters re-offended within 5 years.
With all due respect to the work of Karl Hanson, I’d like to point out that the Hanson studies are of Canadian “sex offenders,” and Canada does not cast their nets nearly as wide as their American counterparts. The studies on my Recidivism chart are all American studies, which all show consistently low re-offense rates. But since Senator Lindstrom insists on quoting Karl Hanson, I’d like to present some of Dr. Hanson’s own quotes from his written testimony in California’s Doe v. Harris case [Exhibit C, https://www.eff.org/document/declaration-r-karl-hanson].
“Contrary to the popular notion that sexual offenders remain at risk of re-offending through their lifespan, the longer offenders remain offence-free in the community, the less likely they are to re-offend sexually. Eventually, they are less likely to re-offend than a non-sexual offender is to commit an “out of the blue” sexual offence. Offenders whose are classified as low-risk by Static-99R pose no more risk of recidivism than do individuals who have never been arrested for a sex-related offense but have been arrested for some other crime. After 10-14 years in the community without committing a sex offense, medium-risk offenders pose no more risk of recidivism than individuals who have never been arrested for a sex-related offense but have been arrested for some other crime. After 17 years without a new arrest for a sex-related offense, high risk offenders pose no more risk of committing a new sex offense than do individuals who have never been arrested for a sex-related offense but have been arrested for some other crime. Based on my research, my colleagues and I recommend that rather than considering all sexual offenders as continuous, lifelong threats, society will be better served when legislation and policies consider the cost/benefit break point after which resources spent tracking and supervising low-risk sexual offenders are better re-directed toward the management of high-risk sexual offenders, crime prevention, and victim services.” [p.1-2].
“Research has long shown that the longer an ex-offender remains free of arrests or convictions the lower the chance he will reoffend. In fact, most detected recidivism occurs within three years of a previous arrest and almost always within five year.”[p.5]
Senator Lindstrom has posted studies on his Facebook page with inflated numbers in an attempt to justify passing this bill. In particular, he posted a link to a SMART Office report that quotes the debunked Prenty study, which was not an actual re-offense rate but an estimate based upon records of individuals released from civil commitment. Even the study’s authors have warned those numbers do not reflect recidivism as a whole across all offenders. [Prentky, R., Lee, A., Knight, R., & Cerce, D. (1997). “Recidivism rates among child molesters and rapists: A methodological analysis.”] The numerous studies listed in my recidivism chart are more reflective of the true rate than a dubious report by the so-called SMART Office, a bureaucratic agency whose sole reason to exist is to promote the controversial Adam Walsh Act, a law rejected by two-thirds of US States. Proper research comes from independent studies from agencies who lack a vested interest in the subject and uses current studies rather than studies devised during satanic day care panic of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
In regards to the claims of underreporting, the 2010 NCVS numbers found that half of suspected incidents of sexual assault were not reported; however, the NCVS also warns that the sample size is extremely small and may overestimate the non-reporting. The NCVS also includes the ambiguous “attempts,” which could be interpreted to mean any act that made one fear the threat of assault, even a dirty look. Karl Hanson also pointed out studies finding that over half of unreported incidents reported the incident was “not important enough” to report, leading him to opine, “Consequently, readers may wonder what counts as assault.” [Exhibit D: Sex Offender Mythbusters, Myth #7,http://www.oncefallen.com/SOMyths.html ]
If we were truly serious about reducing recidivism beyond the already low rates, then our focus should be based on evidence from independent resources instead of stats that merely reflect the confirmation biases of agencies and government workers with agendas. Those who actually study registered citizens find that re-offense is lower when a registrant has a stable home life, and that home life includes a stable job, residence, and perhaps most importantly, having a support network that includes a healthy relationship. “As former offenders are denied opportunities to reintegrate into society and stigmatized, they lose hope. Stigmatized offenders are more likely to recidivate than reintegrated offenders, as the resistance to recidivate diminishes among offenders who are ostracized. On the other hand, a ‘pro-social identity,’ including concrete recognition of their reform, is integral to reducing recidivism” (Hollida Wakefield, “The Vilification of Sex Offenders: Do Laws Targeting Sex Offenders Increase Recidivism and Sexual Violence?” Journal of Sex Offender Civil Commitment: Science and the Law, 2006, p.141-149). And I can think of no greater example of a pro-social identity than within the institutions of marriage and family. My 2016 study on registrant jobs and welfare found that 34.4% of registrants are married and just under 55% have kids of their own. [see http://oncefallen.com/jobsurvey2016] That means right at this very moment, many registered citizens are currently living in families and yet recidivism remains incredibly low, adding cementing the fact that laws like LB 60 are based on fear rather than fact.
In conclusion, LB 60 is a terrible piece of legislation that is promoted entirely through the same tired myths that have been debunked years ago. If this bill becomes law, it could have an immediate and negative impact for thousands of Nebraskan families. While it may be a noble cause to want to protect children from harm passing poorly designed legislation will harm more children than it purports to save. The evidence I have provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt that is only one right choice to me made today– the choice to reject LB 60.”
Derek W. Logue, Reform Advocate