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Questions remain about judge's ruling on Colorado's sex offender registry

Denver federal judge ruled list unconstitutional

Questions remain about judges ruling...

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - A week has passed since a federal judge in Denver ruled the state's sex offender registry is unconstitutional, but questions remain about what that really means -- and what changes or impacts may result.

"I hope it doesn't make it harder for us to see the registry and know where the sex offenders are," said Julia Bogart-Ortiz, of Colorado Springs.  "But if they're not violent offenders and they've served their time, they shouldn't have to stay on it for a long time."

The judge made his ruling after three sex offenders challenged the law requiring convicted offenders to be listed on a registry maintained by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

According to the judge, the registry violated the plaintiffs' rights and represented cruel and unusual punishment because it extended punishment beyond prison or jail time and probation.

"It makes you wonder why sex offenders are on a registry but not people convicted of other crimes like murder," said Warren Arcila, of Colorado Springs.

The judge also said the registry served more to punish the plaintiffs for past crimes than as a public safety measure and that it negatively affected the plaintiffs' ability to live and work, as well as put them in danger of attacks or verbal abuse.

However, according to a statement released Wednesday by Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, the ruling doesn't challenge the state's Sex Offender Registration Act, nor does it declare the entire act unconstitutional; the ruling pertains only to the case of the three plaintiffs.

"My office is working with our clients to determine how to best proceed," Coffman said, on the possibility of an appeal.

As of Wednesday, Sept. 6, two of the three plaintiffs remain on the registry.  The third plaintiff doesn't appear because he committed his crime as a juvenile.

The three plaintiffs also are entitled to compensation and attorney fees, though the specific amounts are not available.

KRDO NewsChannel 13 spoke by phone Wednesday with the plaintiffs' attorney.  She declined to be named or speak on camera because she said she has received death threats from people who oppose the ruling.

"My case is the first one to get this far," she said.  "But there have been dozens of others filed in the past week.  I'm filing two new cases myself.  We're waiting to see if the state appeals or asks for a stay.  It'll probably take a year for my clients to be removed from the registry."

The attorney said six other states have changed their sex offender registry laws.

"Michigan struck down its law," she said.  "Ohio did away with its law for juvenile offenders."

California canceled a plan to remove sex offenders from its registry after 10 to 20 years because of the expense involved in processing an expected 40,000 requests.

Colorado has around 18,000 registered sex offenders, including 10,000 who have served their sentences.

Some observers say the current registry does not track an unknown number of unregistered offenders who pose a greater threat to the public.

Still, the possibility of taking offenders off the registry is hard for some people to accept.

"I was raped as a child," said Tanya Kilbane, of Colorado Springs.  "It was by a babysitter who was never punished.  Because of that, I have a really hard time with men.  That will never leave me, and that's why I always want to know where these sex offenders are."

Mark Sadler, of Colorado Springs, is one of many considering both sides of the issue.

"I have a friend who's on that registry," he said.  "I don't believe he's a sick person like a lot of others out there.  In some states, you get put on a registry if you urinate in public or are arrested for soliciting a prostitute.  You have to look at each case individually, not treat them all the same."

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