A Dawson County man and 20 others were removed from the Georgia sex offender registry following a Georgia Supreme Court ruling.
In May, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled on a Chatham County case of a man who pleaded guilty to aggravated sodomy in 1995. He was given a 10-year sentence with the first two years to be served in prison.
In February 2013, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles granted him a pardon, saying he was a “law-abiding citizen and … fully rehabilitated,” according to the Supreme Court of Georgia’s summary of the case.
After the pardon, the man moved from Savannah to Charlotte, North Carolina. The Chatham County Sheriff’s Office charged him with failure to register as a sex offender.
The Supreme Court of Georgia ruled the pardon restored his rights and removes all disabilities of his conviction, including the requirement for him to register as a sex offender.
In July 2015, the Department of Community Supervision took over supervision of sex offenders granted parole. The special conditions of supervision include living in a residence approved by the community supervision officer and registering their information each year with the department. Parolees also cannot be employed at a child care facility, church or school or a location within 1,000 feet of those establishments.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation issued a memorandum June 21 regarding the ruling and other similar cases. A search returned 58 registered sex offenders with a pardon on their record, according to the memorandum.
Of those 58 cases, 22 registered sex offenders “received a pardon for the offense requiring registration,” according to the memorandum.
One offender of the 22 was incarcerated for a second child molestation conviction.
One man on the list of those removed because of the court ruling lists Dawson County as his county of residence. According to information obtained from the GBI, the man was convicted in 1997 for child molestation and was pardoned in 2006.
The offenses listed in the table of pardoned sex offenders include statutory rape, enticing a child for indecent purposes, aggravated child molestation, sexual exploitation of children, sexual assault against a person in custody, sodomy and aggravated sodomy.
The majority of those on the list were convicted before 2000.
Information was sent to the requisite sheriff’s offices and the offenders regarding their removal from the registry.
“I don’t know enough about these particular cases to know why these gentlemen were given pardons. I did read in one case where he was granted a pardon because of his good community service after he had served his time,” said Steve Collins, founder and executive director of Adults Protecting Children in Flowery Branch. “I think the thing that we have to keep in mind is that those who are serial pedophiles are master manipulators, and they can convince people very easily that they’ve changed, that they no longer are a risk to children. It’s very difficult to know whether that’s actually true or not.”
Adults Protecting Children is a nonprofit focused on training adults to “prevent, recognize and react” to child sexual abuse, according to its website.
Collins said he believes it is possible for sex offenders to not repeat their criminal activities with the proper therapy, but it is hard to tell if the treatment has worked until they have the opportunity to prove themselves.
“If the therapy was not successful, then we have put kids at risk and we have created a scary situation for the victims of that particular individual,” Collins said.
There are now separate applications from the State Board of Pardons and Paroles based on if the offense required being on the sex offender registry.
For pardon-seekers who have been required to register, they must complete all sentences for offenses requiring registration 10 years prior to applying. They must also undergo a psychosexual evaluation, submit to a polygraph and provide a copy of their most recent risk level evaluation from the Sexual Offender Registration Review Board.
In addition, pardon applicants must “have lived a law-abiding life during the 10 years prior to applying … cannot have any pending charges … (and) all fines and restitution must be paid in full,” according to the state pardon website.
Collins said he also believes the sex offender registry can sometimes be a “false sense of security” based on what is known about child sexual abuse.
“The majority of kids that are abused are abused by people who don’t show up on the sex offender registry,” he said. “They are people in a position of trust and a position of authority, and the majority of people that abuse kids have not been arrested. I would not want the public to see (the registry) as their primary line of protection for children.”
Collins said it is important that the agencies serving children have child protection policies and provide proper supervision.