Articles Posted in Sex Offenders Registry

In a move that has sent shock waves to the Michigan criminal law community, a U.S. District Court is giving Michigan lawmakers 90 days to change the states sex offender registry law. This ruling comes nearly three years after the law was ruled unconstitutional by a federal appeals court. The ACLU and the University of Michigan Clinical Law Program filed a class-action lawsuit last June asked the appeals court to apply their ruling to all Michigan registrants. That decision was a significant factor in the future of the law. To discuss the issue in greater detail, we have spoken to top criminal lawyers in the state of Michigan. 10896969-300x201

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates, and his firm is known as the top defense team for Criminal Sexual Conduct (CSC) offenses across the state of Michigan. When asked what this ruling will mean registrants in the state of Michigan, Grabel stated, “There have been a lot of debates about whether or not the rulings should apply to only plaintiffs named in the lawsuit or if there should be a widespread effect. Our state has been reluctant to follow the ruling of the appeals court. The U.S. District Court made a courageous decision, and the next 90 days may dictate the next 90 years for SORA in our state.”

William Amadeo is a partner at McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, Michigan and a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates. Amadeo, who has built a stellar reputation in Washtenaw, Macomb and Shiawassee County was quoted as saying, “The current SORA statute is over-inclusive. It’s an absolute disgrace where the Michigan law stands. If you have an overzealous prosecutor that cares more about their statistics as opposed to justice, they will use the current registry as an unfair bargaining chip. Many times young people are placed on the registry because they had consensual sex with someone under the age of 16 without understanding the law or having knowledge of their sexual partner’s age. Sadly, Michigan, unlike most other states, does not recognize a mistake of age defense and where the law currently stands, the young and naïve can end up on SORA. That is tragic and needs to change.

With the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanagh to the United States Supreme Court and the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford being displayed across our television screens and Google, we have to ask ourselves, as a society, is there a line in the sand when it comes to the accusation of rape? While the words of Dr. Ford garnered praise from many across the country, others have been disturbed that the allegations made against Justice Kavanagh are over from 36 years ago. While there is a political divide on this issue, the topic of rape (CSC) allegations and the punishment of forcing a defendant to register as a sex offender (SORA) have presented a major dilemma in the state of Michigan as our state has the toughest penalties for this offense. To gain insight on the topic, we asked top criminal lawyers their thoughts. iStock_000000341623_Large-2-300x200

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and has developed a team that is known as the strongest criminal defense firm in the state of Michigan. When asked about the issue of SORA and how the effects are within the state of Michigan, Grabel stated, “About a year ago, the United States Supreme Court ruled on the severity of the issue in the state of Michigan. Many in the legislature wanted to actually expand SORA to make it retroactive. There is no question that SORA is over-inclusive. It’s not fair that an 18-year-old kid that has consensual sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend is going to face prison time and be labeled as a sex offender because he or she will be placed on the same list as a 50-year-old pedophile that is trying to prey on children. While the intent of the legislature may be to protect society, they have actually created more victims with the current legislation.”

Matthew McManus is the Managing Member of Ann Arbor Legal in Ann Arbor, Michigan and his firm has started to garner a great deal of national attention for their results in criminal law. When asked about SORA, McManus stated, “The statute of limitations being expanded certainly changed the game. Now, somebody can say they were raped decades ago and can be convicted with no physical evidence and even have their bond pulled when a plea deal is made. The rules of evidence are extremely relaxed on this issue and it seems that the law favors the prosecution when the case begins. While we have to respect that the prosecution has a job to protect society there also has to be some limitations. It’s terrifying that someone could be charged with a crime from decades ago with little substantiation. When we look at the United States Supreme Court confirmation of Brett Kavanagh, we have to look at it from two different aspects. The first is that if Dr. Ford is telling the truth than Justice Kavanagh is someone that we probably do not want on the bench as one of the 9 most powerful jurists in the world. Alternatively, the allegation is 36 years old. Can we really charge someone with an allegation from that long ago? If this were Michigan, Justice Kavanagh could be facing the potential of being on the registry. I’m not sure how to feel about that?”

Some offenders who are convicted of sex crimes truly do commit horrendous acts; others may be found guilty regardless of whether they committed the crime based on testimony or weak evidence rather than scientific or “concrete” evidence. Even more, some may commit an offense that compared to others is relatively minor, such as indecent exposure. Unfortunately, the majority of residents in Michigan and other states think of those who are on the sex offender registry as “predators,” monsters who prey on others for sexual purposes at every opportunity. iStock_000000341623_Large-2-300x200

There are three tiers on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry which essentially categorizes those convicted of sex crimes into those who were convicted of less serious crimes to those convicted of the most severe sex offenses. Tier I is the least serious, with Tier III reserved for the most violent or serious offenders. Depending on the severity of the crime, a person may be classified a Tier II offender, which means his or her name will remain on the sex offender registry for 25 years, accessible on the Internet by all who are interested. In the case of someone classified a Tier III offender, anyone can find that person on the public sex offender registry for a life time. Information including address, name, place of employment, vehicle information, criminal offense, and photo of the offender may be available for anyone who wishes to access.

The fact is that being placed on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry can be life-changing, and not in a positive way. Those who are registered must inform authorities of every address or employment change. Neighbors are alerted to the fact a sex offender lives in their neighborhood or community. You can imagine the social stigma those who are placed on the sex offender registry face, regardless of the underlying circumstances that led to a person being on the registry. People are quick to jump to conclusions, thinking someone who is listed on the registry must have committed a horrendous crime and is a serious threat to everyone who lives in the neighborhood. It’s a stigma that never goes away, even for those lucky enough to escape listing after a quarter of a century.

Anyone who is a registered sex offender knows the negative impact it has on your life.  Most sex offenders are shunned by society, have problems finding employment or housing, and face other tough issues.  Whether you’ve been required to register for 15 years or a lifetime, any time at all spend on the Sex Offender Registry, or SORA, is too much time.  Is there a way to get off the list?  Perhaps.  We’ve included what you need to know below.

First of all, who’s eligible to petition for removal from SORA?

There are basically four scenarios in which someone who has been convicted and is currently on the sex offender registry can petition for removal from SORA through the trial court.

These include:

Romeo & Juliet (consent cases)
Juvenile offenders (determination)
SORA registrants convicted of crimes that no longer require registration
Tier I and Tier III offenders no longer considered a threat to public safety

It is important to note that when filing a petition to have your name removed from SORA, you get only one opportunity to get it right.  For this reason, it’s recommended you consult a qualified attorney.
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On Wednesday August 6, 45-year-old Bruce Scherzer of Bay city was arraigned on five felony charges in connection with the alleged sexual assault of a girl who is younger than 13, according to news reports at sad-silhouette-1080946-m

The girl reported the two incidents, which allegedly took place in July, to staff at the Nathan Weidner Children’s Advocacy Center. She claimed that Scherzer had touched her private area, and had her touch his private area at a Bangor Township residence, and claimed that he had sex with her on two different occasions.

Scherzer is charged with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a person younger than 13, an offense that if convicted could leave him facing up to life in prison. The mandatory minimum sentence for a conviction of first-degree CSC with someone younger than 13 is 25 years. Scherzer is also charged with three counts of second-degree CSC with a person younger than 13, a 15-year felony.

Scherzer, a married father of four children, requested that Bay County District Judge Mark E. Janer appoint him an attorney, as he could not afford to hire a lawyer himself. His bond was set at $200,000 as requested by the prosecutor, who said Scherzer had been convicted on a conspiracy to commit armed robbery charge back in the mid-90’s.

Protecting a defendant’s freedom and reputation can be extremely tough in sexual assault cases, particularly when children are involved. As all Michigan sex crime attorneys are aware, too many innocent people are found guilty of crimes of this nature. Children are easily influenced by adults, who may coerce them into making up stories or saying things that are not factual. While children are sexually abused in our country every day, there are unfortunately many cases in which innocent individuals sit behind bars today.

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Last week, 54-year-old Cameron Thor, an acting coach in Los Angeles who has appeared in several movies and gave teens acting lessons, was charged with 14 counts of sexual assault against a minor and kidnapping, according to an article at Deadline|Hollywood. The charges are in connection with a 13-year-old girl whom Thor gave acting lessons to in 2008, when the alleged sexual assault took place. film-clapper-4-975857-m

Thor’s arraignment was originally scheduled for Thursday June 5, but was postponed to June 19. Thor gave acting lessons in the Carter Thor Studio in Studio City, CA. The District Attorney in the case claims that the 13-year-old girl was given marijuana by Thor before he sexually assaulted her. Thor, perhaps best known for a bit part in Jurassic Park, allegedly raped the girl in a secluded area in Los Angeles’ tony Agoura Hills section. The sexual assaults are said to have taken place over a time span of 11 months, beginning in April of 2008 and continuing until March of 2009, according to the NY Daily News.

At last report, Thor was in jail on a $2.6 million bail.

When penetration is involved, those accused face extremely serious criminal penalties if found guilty. In California, statutory rape will leave the accused individual facing up to 5 years in prison if charged as a felony offense. Statutory rape is considered a “wobbler” offense in the state, which means it may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. The law is very different in Michigan, where statutory rape is typically charged as third-degree criminal sexual conduct and punished by a maximum of 15 years in prison.

First-degree criminal sexual conduct is the most serious sex offense charge in Michigan, and will leave the defendant facing up to life in prison if convicted. In addition, the majority of offenders are required to register on Michigan’s sex offender registry, which means their information can be viewed by anyone who chooses to search the website including friends, co-workers, potential employers, and others.

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man in hand cuffsA Michigan man has been charged with 35 crimes connected to the alleged sexual assault of four teenage girls between the ages of 13 and 15, according to a news article at  67-year-old Benny R. Grimes of Taylor has been charged with multiple counts of child sexual abusive activity, first- and second-degree sexual assault, and using a computer to commit a crime.  He remains in jail and has been denied bail.

On April 7 the Melvindale Police Department received a complaint regarding an incident which allegedly occurred in Taylor.  Grimes is accused of both sexually assaulting the girls in addition to videotaping and photographing the victims while they were engaged in sexual acts.  Grimes was arrested on April 8th, and is scheduled to appear in 23rd District Court on April 21 for a preliminary exam.

First-degree sexual assault, or criminal sexual conduct, is the most serious sex offense of all in the state of Michigan.  Individuals who are found guilty will face criminal penalties which include up to life in prison.  A felony offense, first-degree CSC involves penetration, and is a charge incurred when certain circumstances accompany the penetration, such as the fact that the victim or victims are between the ages of 13 and 16.  Continue reading

In 1996, Steven D. Young, a Bangor Township resident, pleaded no contest to a single count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a victim younger than 13 years of age.  He was sentenced to eight to 30 years in prison the following February, and paroled by the Michigan Department of Corrections in May of 2012.  Now, Young faces up to 15 years in prison for violating his parole after authorities discovered that Young maintains a Facebook page under another name, and runs an off-the-books tattoo parlor.

According to a news report at, an unnamed tipster informed the Bay City Public Safety Department about Young’s Facebook page, saying that Young was using the name Steve Wolcott and that he was becoming friends on the social media site with single mothers of young children.  Bay City police then contacted a Sex Offender Registry Coordinator at the Michigan State Police Tri-City Post.

Young had apparently posted a picture of himself giving another man a tattoo in a kitchen, which the tipster compared with a mug shot of Young.  The tipster then provided police with the picture from “Wolcott’s” Facebook page along with a mug shot of Young for comparison.  Police determined that Steve Wolcott was indeed Steven D. Young.

Derrick Conway, a 50-year-old Saginaw man, has been charged with sexually assaulting a mentally handicapped woman from April to June of this year, according to a news article at Conway, who was charged with five counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, underwent examination to determine if he is mentally fit to face trial. The defendant was found mentally competent according to a report from the Center for Forensic Psychiatry. stamp-of-finger-233433-m.jpg

The alleged victim is said to be in her early 20s. According to his arrest warrant Conway assaulted the victim who was determined to be mentally incapacitated or incapable, or physically helpless using coercion or force and/or caused personal injury. Conway’s defense lawyer, Philip Sturtz, requested an exam to determine whether his client is mentally fit. Following Saginaw County District Judge M.T. Thompson’s ruling on Monday that Conway is mentally fit to stand trial, his preliminary hearing was scheduled for December 19. A preliminary hearing is when it is determined whether probable cause exists for trial.

If convicted, Conway will face a maximum sentence of life in prison. He remains in jail on a $500,000 bond.

First-degree criminal sexual conduct is the most serious sex crime of all, leaving those accused facing life-changing penalties if convicted. Depending on the circumstances, individuals who are found guilty may be sentenced to up to life behind bars. All sex offenses are serious, and require the legal guidance and support of a capable Michigan sex crime defense attorney.

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On Thursday October 24, 30-year-old Carl Lee Dobbins was arrested in Marion, Indiana. Authorities had been in search of Dobbins, who allegedly failed to comply with the Michigan Sex Offender Registry. thumb-print-1-1231735-m.jpg

Dobbins was wanted on several violations according to the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office; there were three outstanding warrants in Michigan, including a bench warrant for failure to pay costs and fines required under Michigan sex offender laws, and failure to pay costs/fines to Kalamazoo Public Safety in connection with a traffic violation.

The defendant believed that if he fled to Indiana, Michigan authorities would not attempt to arrest him according to a news article at Indiana police found that Dobbins was wanted in Van Buren County, and informed him of the fact. However, he refused to return and was extradited back to Michigan after the Michigan State Police Extradition Team, sheriff’s investigators, and prosecutors determined to have him arrested in Indiana. He was arrested without incident in Indiana and jailed before being escorted to the Van Buren County Jail in Michigan by State Police.

Dobbins has been arraigned on the outstanding warrants, however no dates have been released regarding future court hearings.

Failing to register on the Michigan Public Sex Offender Registry is a serious offense, a separate crime from the underlying criminal offense which resulted in Dobbins being ordered to register. Individuals must report changes in contact information, residence, and employment to the registry; failure to do so will result in serious consequences. Depending on the underlying sex offense an individuals is convicted of, some are required to register every three months. Moving out of state and failing to register is a felony offense which may result in a four year prison sentence.

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