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TN US District Court Case May Be Pivotal for Registrants

A case filed in US District Court, Nashville, TN last week has the potential to be a pivotal point in changing the registry, not only for John Doe who is filing the suit, but for all registrants.

Plaintiff John Doe has filed suit against Mark Gwyn, Director of Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) and William E. Haslam, Governor of Tennessee.  In a nutshell, the complaint focuses on  registration laws being illegally applied retroactively to Plaintiff John Doe, whose offense dates back to 1994.  Since that time, registry laws,restrictions and revisions have morphed into a threatening monster with a far reaching grasp.

Due to the seemingly never ending revisions in state laws, people like John Doe who years ago had never been required to be on the public registry are now not only on the public registry but many who were never violent, are now listed as “violent against children”. Sounds like defamation to me.  And if John Doe wins this case, shouldn’t everyone whose status on the registry is listed as “violent” when they are not, have their status changed immediately? Or would the state of TN rather deal with the myriad of ensuing law suits that would be sure to follow?

While the majority of this lawsuit deals with John Doe’s retroactive situation, there’s plenty of issues in it that relate to all registrants, here are just a few.

The first one is what I like to refer to as “The Greenway Effect.

Registrants are excluded from job opportunities in many major cities like Nashville and Knoxville because of Greenway locations, those exclusionary areas where registrants dare not go..

The registry rules are “clear as mud” on the boundaries that registrants are informed about on most sex offender registry law directives, 1000 ft, from schools, playgrounds, public parks, athletic fields, and recreational centers that are used by the general public. (The assumption I guess is that A) registrants always carry a handy tape measure in their pockets to make certain they are in compliance and B) that registrants are not considered part of the general public !)  But Greenways, those nifty little sidewalks or paths that all of our tax dollars help pay for, that parallel parks, shopping centers and restaurant districts, that provide entrances and exits at various points along those venues, are also off limits to registrants. Who knew?  And, because the Greenways  themselves are off limits (even though they aren’t listed anywhere in the directive), everything within 1000 ft of them is also off limits to registrants. Well, sort of. The waters are a bit muddier here. Like every place else, the Greenways are off limits “unless” the registrant has a specific reason to be there.

So, here’s the rub-

You can’t WORK within 1000 ft of the Greenways, so if it’s a restaurant job or a retail position you’re applying for, No, Nada, Not gonna happen!.

But wouldn’t work be a legitimate reason for being within 1000 ft of a greenway?

Registrants can eat at restaurant ! They can shop at retail stores.  But they can’t work at any of them if they are too close to a Greenway.

How does that make any sort of sense?  What does an outside Greenway have to do with a registrant working inside? Nothing. Nothing at all.

According to this type of governmental logic, it’s a wonder that registrants are able to work at any jobs because, and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, one usually has to walk on some kind of public pathway or sidewalk to get to most jobs. Streets, paths, sidewalks are everywhere and that’s all Greenways are, they are paths and sidewalks, alternatives to the street.

Registrants are not given maps of Exclusionary Zones.  Oh no, that would make their lives too easy. Instead, every time they are offered a job or locate housing they must contact the registry to find out whether or not the address for job or home is in the Exclusionary Zone, some zone on some master map that apparently only those who are in charge of the registry have access to. In some states, entire towns and counties seem to be Exclusionary Zones. Why doesn’t the registry want registrants to have access to these zoning maps? Is it so they can trip up registrants when they venture more than the allotted 1000 ft and send them back to prison or is it to keep registrants from finding jobs and housing? There’s got to be some reason, but so far, those in charge of the registry aren’t willing to share it.

Loss of job opportunities due to distance restrictions, travel restrictions, speech restrictions, hindrance of maintaining normal family relationships and being publicly identified and falsely labeled as violent are all mentioned in this lawsuit.

Also included in the suit is the unreasonable task of registrants having to take time off from work and their daily lives to register in person.  As the rules have changed, registrants who formerly registered once a year by mail are now subject to quarterly in person registration because they are now considered “violent offenders” and that’s how often “violent offenders” have to register. Makes no matter that they have never been nor are they now “violent”, that’s the way the rules have changed. In person, violent offenders!

John Doe was convicted in 1994, 9 years before the The TN Sex Offender and Violent Sex Offender Registration Verification and Tracking Act went into effect, and 20 years before the Act’s most recent revision.  During that time, the Act was revised in 1996, 1997, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007,2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014 and 2015. Except for a few years here and there, we are talking about new restrictive revisions almost EVER YEAR!  These revisions are cruel and punitive. Their sole purpose seems to be to make the lives of registrants as difficult as possible, to keep them from gaining employment, securing housing and maintaining family and supportive relationships.  In general, every year there are new restrictions that isolate registrants and purposefully make them pariahs in society.

I’ve already got my letters in the works for both the TBI Director as well as the Governor of TN,.  It doesn’t matter if you live in TN or not, these rulings have trickle down effects, when one state makes changes, that sets a precedent and that’s all we need for other states to follow suit. Letters from the public can make a difference.  If they are smart, those in TN government will realize that Registrants who have served their time are now standing up for their Constitutional Rights. They are hiring lawyers.  Good Lawyers. Registrants are no longer cowering in the dark, allowing themselves to be made to feel like outcasts in society. No longer allowing their rights to be trampled on.

Everyone makes mistakes.  When you’ve paid the price for your mistake, that’s were it should end, you should be able to get on with your life and not have to deal with a never-ending barrage of revisions and retroactive rules.

Thank you John Doe and the attorneys that you’ve hired.  We hope you win big time, for yourself and for the rest of us!

8 thoughts on “TN US District Court Case May Be Pivotal for Registrants

  • Ben Franstook

    I was sentenced to 8 years at 30% 7 suspended as probation and 15 on the registry. I want to make it clear that at no time despite questions was CSL ever mentioned to me as part of my sentence by Jason Gichner ( my public defender). I completed my criminal sentence in 2015. I thought that I would be able to leave Tennessee and go home imagine my surprise when I was informed that I could not leave because of CSL. After my release in 2015 I was denied the right to go to my own mother’s funeral in another state because I had not given two weeks notice. I was told it’s only a memorial service. Anyone who believes that the conditions of CSL or anything other than punitive are only fooling themselves.

  • Did you all set this case up yet? I haven’t heard about anything changing except more residency restrictions. Now it’s 2000 feet. All senate commitee members and house members voted yes on it!! So nothing is changing in Tennessee. I don’t know legal words or even how to start a lawsuit etc.. I don’t have much money. Who will fight for our love ones on the registry and our families?

      • Vicki, we got the letter stating that my husband has to move out by July 1st 2019. The supervisor over His PO said they don’t know if the law was grandfathered in or not. We tried to see the lawyer he had ten years ago. He was in court so we left a note and the copy of new law the Dept of Corrections received in the mail. The PO Supervisor says they hadn’t gotten any specific directives yet. So, until then they aren’t throwing anybody out. Also, since hubby is still on probation this law may not affect us if it’s retroactive, But again they don’t know.

        This was devastating! Having to tell our son that his daddy will have to move, can’t live here or stay over night. Our son was crying so hard. People don’t know the pain a child goes through, but when you see him cry and the devastation you can see how heart breaking and mad he is ;(

        This is so inhumane to our family. We were approved long ago by the court and by the District Attorney. Now ten years later we’re dealing with this draconian law. We don’t know how to fight this.

  • Randall Thomas

    Well to start off I’m a sex offender in Tennessee. My offense happened when I was 17 in 1987. I was convicted in December 1989.I received a 10 year sentence and was told by Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz that she was going to make an example of me. A kid with no kind of juvenile record at all, so I went to prison, got out October 1996.I served 6 years,10 months and 10 days. There was no registry when I was sentenced but was made to register anyway.I did get a felon in possession of a firearm charge in 2010. Received 3 years 8 months for that one and just got completely finished with it in September 2018. It doesn’t add up. So now I’m out; no more paper. Thenfailed to report new phone number in a timely manner. So, now facing violation of registration and haven’t been home 90 days. It’s a battle every day. The sheriff’s cars drive by my business daily and by there laws say they can anytime of day.I hope the lawsuit wins big. I’m dealing with a crime from my teens and I’m about to turn 50. Can’t even see my kids because of the Feds and no charges are against my children. Free country my ass.

    • Is the law retroactive? Do you know any states where families can stay together and where they do fair hearings before they decide on this stuff? It’s not fair!

      • California has abolished the 1000 foot rule and not one Incident has happened. This is just one more law made up by hysterical people using emotion and not facts to make decisions. If you own a vehicle, what difference would 1000 feet make? Such drama over nothing. Hard to believe laws are passed in this country with no evidence to support them but ruin the lives of so many.

        • Jim, even without a car, 1000 feet is nothing. It’s 1000 feet here. I live 1004 feet from a school (I moved in with my grandmother, because my dad was only 200 feet away). I am currently able to walk two feet, look out the window, and see my old school. I talk to old teachers on their way to school in their car sometimes, if I’m out getting the mail or paper or something. I can EASILY walk twice that distance, even in the crap health I’m in. 1000 feet is nothing. 2000 feet is nothing. It never really keeps anyone that far away from schools unless it’s 10 or 20 times that. It’s JUST fear-mongering, and planning for slavery via return to prison.


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