Sex Offenders Facing Increased Vigilantism
The stigma that comes with being charged with a sex crime can make it difficult for the accused in many aspects. Many of these crimes have received high publicity, meaning many jurors are already familiar with the case before hearing any of the details. While an experienced criminal defense attorney can help in the courtroom, many accused sex offenders are finding that they are facing potentially dangerous situations in the community.
Vigilantism is on the rise against sex offenders, even those who have not been convicted of any crimes. Several examples of attacks on sex offenders have made news. A recent case in California highlights the challenges for the court.
William Lynch was arrested and charged with assault after beating Jerold Lindner at a nursing home. Lynch had accused Lindner, a Jesuit minister, of abusing him and his brother during camping trips in 1975. In 2002, Lynch and his brother received $625,000 in a settlement with the Jesuits of California Province because of the abuse.
Lindner was not ever convicted of any crimes related to the abuse, because the statute of limitations had already expired. Lynch found out where Lindner currently lived and attacked him, requiring that Lindner receive medical attention.
Lynch has pledged to aggressively fight the charges against him. If the matter goes to trial, the court will need to decide if the evidence of the abuse will be heard by the jury. While the abuse does not provide Lynch with a legal reason for his actions, it may lead the jury to feel sympathetic for Lynch.
The impact of this case could cause others to follow in Lynch's footsteps. Finding out where a sex offender lives is relatively easy, due to sex offender registration requirements. Users of smart phones can even download an app which will provide data on nearby sex offenders using GPS and registration records.
With so much information available to the public, offenders may find themselves as easy targets. Those who wish to harm the offender may find that the courts will be reluctant to punish them for their attacks. In some situations, this could lead to someone who is wrongly accused of a sex crime being violently beaten or killed.
When sex offender notifications are released, often the law enforcement agency specifically encourages the community not to take the law into their own hands. Those accused of the crimes are afforded an opportunity to present a defense in the courtroom. If that opportunity is taken away from them, the system will not work properly.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chris LoConto
Chris started the firm in 1998 with one goal, to provide excellent representation to all of his clients. Attorney LoConto has been an attorney for over 13 years. He is licensed to practice in the state court as well as the Federal District Court and the United States Court of Appeals.
Upon graduation, the Office of the District Attorney for the Middle District employed Chris for five years where he worked as an assistant district attorney. He tried cases and practiced before all of the court in central Massachusetts.
Chris is a member of the Worcester County Bar Association and has taught seminars on the issues of sex offender registration and commitment. He also has been a member of the Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, the American Association for Justice, and the American Bar Association. He is CPCS certified to handle matters in the District and Superior Courts of Massachusetts.
Copyright Patrick K. Burke, Attorney at Law
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.