The week of April 8th to April 14th of 2018 has been declared “Nation Crime Victim’s Rights Week,” and while discussions about crime victims are commonplace, this recognized memorial week provides a greater platform for the victims’ rights group to promote their advocacy. There is, however, a narrative that has been neglected this week—the victimization of registered citizens and their loved ones by virtue of the public registry and the laws they inspire.
In 2012, Patrick Drum of Port Angeles, WA used the sex offender registry as a personal hitlist, ambushing two people in their own homes and planned to murder at least two others before getting caught by the police. Days later, the widow of one of the victims, Leslie Blanton, a mother of two children, had to pick up the pieces of her life. She lost a loving husband and father to her children. Over the next few months, Leslie would have to endure a media blitz, harassment by neighbors, and even online movements to free her husband’s killer because some hailed career criminal Patrick Drum a “hero.” It also gave Drum a platform to espouse his views. He proclaimed to the courts that “This country was founded on vigilantism,” and while the court ignored ramblings of Drum in sentencing him to two life sentences without parole, the media repeated Drum’s statements to the cheers of the online vigilantes.
Even in this narrative, Paul Ray was largely forgotten. He was in his own home when his son, Jerry, was ambushed by Patrick Drum. Paul watched his own son die in his own house. Paul, who was already quite old, relied on his son to help him around the house. But Leslie made for a more compelling story to the story as a grieving widow with children. In the months following his son’s murder, Paul Ray was in the background and hardly discussed.
Patrick Drum was not the only vigilante who would target registered citizens using the public registry; during a previous stint in prison, Drum met Michael Anthony Mullen, who also used the registry to murder two registered citizens in Washington back in 2005. Mullen disguised himself as an FBI agent to ambush two registered persons he found on the public registry. According to Drum, the two men planned a killing spree while in prison but Mullen died before the plan could be implemented.
Less than a year later, Jeremy and Christine Moody made headlines across the country for murdering Charles Parker, a registered person, and his wife, Gretchen, after pulling the man’s name from the registry. The Moodys were Neo-Nazi skinheads who wrote a self-published book proclaiming, among other things, that the entire families of registered citizens should be slaughtered to “purify the bloodline.” They went by the last name Mengele, a nod to Josef Mengele, the infamous Nazi doctor who performed medical experiments at Auschwitz and sending thousands of women and children to the gas chambers. Yet, these two were declared “heroes” in the eyes many people. Little time was spent by the media discussing Charles and Gretchen Parker since the stars of the story were a Neo-Nazi duo who showed no remorse and bragged about their crimes in court.
Not every vigilante story involves murder, but in every news article, the victims are overlooked other than the shining of the spotlight on the label carried by the victims.
In 2016, just days after his own release from jail for probation violations stemming from burglary charges, Alaska resident Jason Vukovich attacked three registered citizens. Vukovich, who claimed to be an “avenging angel,” carried a notebook with a list of nine names that he planned to target. Vukovich said he collected the names from acquaintances. He said they told him the people were “pedophiles.” Three of those named in the notebook, Charles Albee, Andres Barbosa and Wesley Demarest, were assaulted in their homes by Vukovich. Vukovich knocked Demarest unconscious with a hammer and robbed the victims during his crime spree. Only when faced with a lengthy sentence did Vukovich change his narrative, presumably in hopes of receiving a lenient sentence. As sentencing day drew near, Vukovich told the media, “There is no place for vigilante justice in an ordered society and I want to deter others that find themselves in a similar position as I found myself in the summer of 2016.”
The victims of Vukovich’s crimes received little acknowledgement from the media, same Wesley Demarest, whose bruised faced was used repeatedly in the media to show the brutality behind the attack. Of course, media outlets and independent websites used the pictures and the comments by the victim as mere window dressing for the narrative on Vukovich’s attack.
Perhaps individuals like Patrick Drum and Jason Vukovich received some kind of punishment for attacking registered citizens, but there is no accountability whatsoever when the perpetrator has the backing of the government. The ongoing saga of the homeless registered citizen camps in Miami is a prime example. For over a decade, Miami-Dade County has forced registered citizens into homelessness through the “Lauren Book Child Safety Ordinance,” the county’s 2500 foot residency restriction laws. The ordinance is named after the daughter of South Florida’s arguably most powerful lobbyist, Ron Book. There has never been a more blatant example of the abuse of registry laws than in Miami, but even in the face of public scrutiny, the emphasis has been on the Books rather than on those registered humans the Books have forced into homelessness.
While the registrant camps have been a source of international embarrassment for the area, the county continues to justify the ordinance, and Book uses the constant media attention to espouse his vengeful views. In report after report, the Books have attacked camp residents as the cause of their own homeless problems while denying that the laws they created played any role in the homeless crisis. The media repeatedly focuses on the Books, and their words merely serve to incite and inflame the ignorant populace. Even the “Untouchable” documentary, a film largely approved by those in the registry reform movement, placed the spotlight largely on the Book family, with those in opposition to the Books, along with those suffering under the laws espoused by and named after Lauren Book, largely pushed into the background. Many voices of the Anti-Registry Movement were silenced in the very film that was at least partly intended to speak about the registered citizens who continue to lack a voice.
It is not often registered citizens get the opportunity to speak out, but when registered citizens do get a chance to speak out, they are often identified by the label rather than their identities. Last month, I was featured in a Dayton Daily News article discussing the struggles I face on the registry, and while the article was mostly great, the headline of the article read, “Sex offender says Ohio’s registry ‘destroys lives,’ should be abolished.” It is as if my name is not Derek Logue, but “sex offender.” I am described as an adjective, not a noun. I am titled by an action committed in the last millennium. The media is aware using the label invites the worst comments. The reporter interviewing me for the news article acknowledged this fact, asking if I was aware the first few comments in the article were going to be negative and possibly threatening in nature. People are aware the label largely excuses the worst atrocities committed by Americans against those shamed on the public registry, especially if the registered citizen is male. (By contrast, articles regarding female registrants tend to be more sympathetic in tone, such as Vice.com’s October 2017 article, “The Sex Offender Registry Leaves Female Sex Offenders Open to Abuse,” another article in which I was quoted.)
How much discussion was there during National Crime Victims’ Week was devoted to discussing the victimization of America’s registered citizens? I am not aware of any discussions of the perils and pitfalls of the public sex offense registry. If America is expected to celebrate a week of victimhood, then it must include all types of victimization, even those for which Americans lack sympathy. When registered citizens are murdered in cold blood or forced into homelessness or poverty, the focus should be on the wrongfulness of these atrocities instead of the arbitrary label of the victim. It is time Americans recognize that people can become victims of bad public policy as well as by individual criminals.
By Derek W. Logue of OnceFallen.com