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Riley Yates Of The Morning Call / Published: October 27, 2017
Jason Davies admitted raping a woman in Wilson after breaking into her home. He’s seeking to prevent having to register as a sexual offender, mentioning a recent state Supreme Court judgment. (Harry Fisher / The Morning Call)
Jason A. Davies awakened into the Wilson home of a woman he had never met and raped her, then threatening to kill her if she screamed.
He faces custody Friday in Northampton County Court under a plea agreement that recommends six to 12 years in prison. However, when he’s one day released, should he be required to register as a sex offender?
That’s a question that until lately had a simple answer: Since 1995, Pennsylvania has Megan’s Law, which attempts to protect communities by requiring sex offenders to register with the state authorities, or face arrest if they fail to achieve that.
However a July decision by the state Supreme Court has jeopardized that after bedrock certainty, also instances including Davies’ are currently testing the law’s reach, under which criminals have their photographs, addresses and other identifying data printed on a state-run website.
The judgment found that Pennsylvania’s most recent model of the registry — the 2012 Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act — was so harsh that, despite its predecessors, it had become a kind of punishment, rather than just a tool to teach and inform people.
Because of this, the legislation commonly called SORNA can not be implemented looking backward, to instances that predated its enactment, the court said. Doing this violates the U.S. and Pennsylvania constitutions, each of which prohibit after-the-fact punishments, composed Justice Kevin Dougherty.
SORNA significantly enlarged the nation’s registry, raising the number of offenses that are considered sex crimes and lengthening the amount of time most criminals must register. The court’s judgment found that by increasing the decades of enrollment, mandating regular in-house looks before state authorities, and placing more info concerning a criminal online, the prerequisites had became punitive.
After SORNA had been accepted, a practically unanimous Legislature disagreed, insisting the beefed-up rules weren’t intended as punishment. By imposing the requirements retroactively, SORNA forced a raft of ex-convicts to enroll for the first time — even years after their cases were determined — or to enroll for longer than they otherwise could have.
Because of this summer’s judgment, the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association estimates that 10,000 of the 22,000 names on the registry may be removed.
State authorities say the decision could affect more than 17,000 registrants, such as more than 1,000 that have been classified as sexually violent predators, ” a designation awarded to individuals deemed the greatest risk to offend again.
It’ll take future court cases to reveal precisely how expansive the judgment proves to be. But defense lawyers are pressing that problem, flooding courthouses with appeals arguing that anyone whose offense predated SORNA — which took effect Dec. 20, 2012 — shouldn’t longer need to enroll.
The defense attorneys say SORNA substituted the nation’s previous version of Megan’s Law, which the old law cannot be resurrected without action by the Legislature.
That’s the stance taken by the attorney for Davies, the Wilson rapist. Davies’ offense dates to 2004, long before SORNA, however he was not captured until 11 decades later.
“SORNA essentially did away with all the previous Megan’s legislation and I think the Supreme Court did away with SORNA,” said Davies’ attorney, Philip Lauer.
That’s an alarm that Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed has appeared. The court’s judgment was made in the Cumberland County case of Jose M. Muniz, who had been convicted of molesting a 12-year-old girl. Freed is currently asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take the query and overturn the decision.
In hindsight in Harrisburg this past month, Freed cautioned that if the high court does not accept the scenario, “thousands of sexual criminals may well not face penalties for failing to enroll and thousands of sex offenders could be removed from the registry.
“The Muniz case has the capacity to influence each and every sex offender convicted before Dec. 20, 2012,” he said.
The district lawyers association is working with lawmakers on possible legislative fixes — such as the re-enactment of the prior Megan’s Law regime, which has withstood constitutional challenges.
In the meantime, offenders are submitting appeals arguing they should not be required to enroll. Others are trying to get convictions for failing to register as a sexual offender thrown outside.
One of the rulings this month in already pending instances:
* The state Supreme Court struck down the enrollment requirements of Edmund L. Haenig, an former Bethlehem police officer who had been sentenced in 1996 to two1/2 to 12 years in a Lehigh County sex case. At the time, the charges didn’t require one to register as a sexual offender. However, together with SORNA’s enactment, Haenig, that lives in West Reading, was struck with a 15-year mandate.
* The nation Superior Court vacated the certainty of Shawn Christopher Williams, a 41-year-old Easton guy who had been serving 33 months to a decade in state prison after being found guilty in 2016 of neglecting to enroll. Williams insisted he had been under no mandate when he had been sentenced in 1998 for sexually attacking a 17-year-old girl, for he spent ten years. His attorney, James Brose, argued that forcing Williams to enroll years afterwards was unconstitutional.
Given that the Superior Court’s judgment, prosecutors a week officially withdrew the failing-to-register charges, Brose said. Because of this, Williams was released Oct. 20 from Dallas State Prison in Luzerne County after spending 20 months behind bars, in accordance with Department of Corrections records.
From the Wilson rape situation, Northampton County prosecutors assert Davies ought to be required to enroll for life as a sexual offender.
With SORNA, what ought to matter is that the date of Davies’ certainty, rather than the date of the offense, said Assistant District Attorney Rebecca Kuliksaid Davies pleaded guilty to rape last year, once the legislation was already in place, and its particular requirements therefore should employ to him, ” she said.
If not, Kulik said, Davies ought to be required to enroll under the old law. Under it, rape was still a fee that attracted a life mandate.
“Surely as a policy decision, I don’t think the Supreme Court supposed to let each sex offender convicted before December 2012 off the hook,” Kulik said.
About April 30, 2004, Davies broke to his victim’s home early in the morning, stirring her into her bedroom, based on testimony. He grabbed her by the hair and pulled her T-shirt on her head to keep her face coated, and cautioned her that he knew where she lived, authorities said.
Afterward, police gathered evidence but had just a vague description of the attacker to operate from. But since the statute of limitations neared, the investigation intensified following a DNA sample obtained from Davies from 2014 child-sex situation in New Jersey coordinated a sample in the Wilson rape.
That resulted in the arrest of Davies, who is 42 and was living in Middletown, N.Y., at the time. Even the New Jersey case remains unresolved.
Not only do prosecutors state Davies ought to be required to enroll, but they also are requesting Judge Samuel Murray to classify him as a sexually violent predator, a designation that brings improved reporting and counselling requirements.
On Tuesday in Easton, Murray heard testimony by a psychologist, Paula Brust, that reasoned Davies is unable to control his impulses.
Brust called Davies’ offense “heinous.”
Assistant District Attorney Tatum Wilson, that prosecuted Davies, said he is a good example of why sex offender registries exist.
“We will need to know where he is,” Wilson explained. “Individuals have the right to know where this predator is”
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