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January 26, 2014

"Sex offender fights registry by registering his registerers"

The title of this post is the headline of this interesting Washington Post article discussing an efforts of, and challenges facing, one registered sex offender seeking to showcase the realities of being a registered person.  Here are excerpts:

If nothing else, Dennis Sobin is not your typical ex-con.

At first glance, he looks like the model returning citizen: After serving more than a decade in prison, Sobin, 70, returned to the District, started a gallery for prison art and ran for mayor. His nonprofit organizations have received grants from George Soros’s Open Society Institute and the National Endowment for the Arts and, in 2010, he appeared on the cover of the Washington City Paper .

But Sobin is also sex offender. A former pornographer who’s appeared on “The Sally Jesse Raphael Show” and “Geraldo,” Sobin was convicted of sexual performance using a minor in 1992 in Florida. So, every 90 days, Sobin must report to D.C.’s Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA), and his photo appears on D.C.’s public registry.

Sobin thinks it’s unfair. So, for his latest act, Sobin has decided to protest his treatment by creating his own online data base and registering the people who monitor him at the sex offender registry. Now, in an unusual case that will be heard on Tuesday, a D.C. Superior Court judge will decide whether a court employee can file a civil protection order to prevent Sobin from posting her photo on his anti-registry registry, www.idiotsregistry.info, and distributing her photograph on fliers.

“Here at www.IdiotsRegistry.info you will find the names of politicians and public figures who have encouraged the creation of, or have refused to denounce, government registration websites that target citizens for harassment,” Sobin’s site reads. “In the tradition of Nazi registration of Jews and Gypsies and the Salem lists of alleged witches, modern government registries are unfair and un-American.”

Stephanie Gray, who works for CSOSA, is asking the court to force Sobin to remove her picture from the site. Sobin, who was under Gray’s supervision until she got another position at the agency, did not mince words when criticizing Gray. “Face of Evil: ‘Registry Specialist’ Stephanie Gray shoots icy stare,” Sobin posted under a photo of Gray. “Gray requested and received a transfer due to the guilt she felt in her loathsome job.”

Sobin said his action was inspired by Supreme Court rulings which hold that sex offender registries are not punitive and do not constitute double jeopardy. “If it’s not punishment to be on a list, we thought we’d put the people who do the registering on a list,” he said.

Gray took another view. “He writes derogatory information about me,” Gray wrote in her request for a protection order. “I have been move[d] from the Sex Offender Registry and he continues to trash the bldg. where I am with pictures he has taken of me without me knowing.”

Should Sobin prevail,“It would send a message to all sex offenders in the District of Columbia,” according to a petition filed by Gray’s attorneys which accused Sobin of stalking. “Convicted criminals required to report to CSOSA could harass them with impunity under the guise of protected political speech.” Gray, through her attorneys, declined comment, as did CSOSA.

Sobin has found an ally: the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed an amicus brief on his behalf. “We think there are some significant First Amendment issues,” said Art Spitzer, legal director of ACLU’s D.C. office, who pointed out that Gray is not alleging physical harm. “Domestic violence laws are supposed to protect people from crimes, but not hurt feelings. . . . People are allowed to embarrass each other and make each other feel bad when making a political point.”...

Should Sobin win, Gray’s civil protection request will be denied, but D.C.’s sex offender registry will not be affected. But, Sobin said, he’ll have struck a blow for free speech and shown the flawed logic behind the registry — even if there’s collateral damage.

“Ms. Gray happens to be a very sensitive, compassionate individual who is on the registration list,” Sobin said. “It’s a war. . . . They’re involved in this registration thing and unless they move themselves out, we’re going to oppose them.”

January 26, 2014 at 10:33 AM | Permalink

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Comments

I don't see the basis of the lawsuit. From the facts stated here, it doesn't appear that there's much of a basis to order this guy to take down the pictures.

And if Sobin knowingly made porn with an underage person, he's a disgusting human being.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 26, 2014 11:43:35 AM

Ironically, I knew Dennis Sobin when I was an inmate with him at FCI - Petersburg, Virginia (the old prison, which is now a Low security prison, not the newly build FCI, which is now about 10 years old). When we were in The Hole together, crica 2004, Dennis let me read his copy of "The Last Don", a bit of sarcastic fiction about the New York Mafia families. Dennis is an intelligent and well-read man. While he served his child porn sentence in Florida state prison, he landed in Federal prison for bankruptcy fraud, involving a fair small amount of money. Dennis always felt that he had been selectively prosecuted by the Feds because of his outspoken activism and writings against law enforcement and prison authorities. When Dennis was incarcerated in Florida, he discovered that the prison official he was assigned to work for as a clerk was illiterate. Dennis basically did the man's job for him. That Clerk job gave Dennis access to a word processor, which he used to secretly write a book. After Dennis was released from Federal prison, he re-married and became active with the ACLU and other organizations seeking reforms within the criminal justice system. Hard to believe that Dennis in now 70 years old. But much of American society will never forgive or give a second chance to anyone with a child porn conviction.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Jan 26, 2014 12:04:12 PM

I found this account of his conviction:

http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/NudistHallofShame/Sobin.html

A vague reference about "convicted of sexual performance using a minor" isn't really that helpful in that regard. This does not necessarily justify a registry twenty years later but it did seem useful to know.

Posted by: Joe | Jan 26, 2014 12:18:33 PM

Thanks Joe for that.

Sick bastard.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 26, 2014 1:05:08 PM

To this particular registrar: What goes around can come around. You should have thought about this before you decided to take a job in enforcing registration compliance by those who served their time.

Posted by: william r. delzell | Jan 26, 2014 1:06:40 PM

Federalist:

I generally like your posts when you don't shoot from the hip. Whether Dennis made porn knowingly or unknowingly with a minor (pre-18 YO) is irrelevant in the eyes of "The Law". Playboy posted pictures in the 1950's of Norma Jean, aka Marilyn Monroe when she was in her teens. I have heard that many older generation adult movie stars lied about their age before the feds got involved.

Generally, I like to know specifics (i.e., actual age and circumstances) before I pass judgement (stereotype) on someone, unlike current SO laws.

If there is no slander or libel, he can do anything he likes.

BTW, do you know how many girls under 18 get pregnant every year to add perspective.

Posted by: albeed | Jan 26, 2014 2:33:52 PM

Federalist: In real life, in biology, in 10,000 years of human history, just not in the Lawyer Twilight Zone in which we are all stuck, 14 is adult. If you reply, the 14 year olds you know are not mature enough, that is because they have been intentionally infantilized, to keep thme from competing from the lawyer client, the union member. You should meet kids from the Midwest agricultural areas, as I have. Running combines until midnight, raising gigantic hogs, and yes getting pregnant in high school (25%).

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 26, 2014 3:42:38 PM

What a novel idea, to publish such a registry. What a hoot!

Posted by: Oswaldo | Jan 26, 2014 9:56:56 PM

Such a registry was suggested in the Comments section quite some time ago, a registry of people who propose or support registries.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 27, 2014 12:16:32 AM

Jim Gormley and albeed --

Does it make any difference to you that the "stars" of the lovely Mr. Sobin's "movie" were eight years old (the male "lead") and six years old (the female "lead")?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 27, 2014 1:35:37 AM

Well, it seems as if Sobin's lawsuit has actually achieved its intended result. The fact that the sex offender registry is not supposed to be "punitive" but "regulatory" is the main reason for the lawsuit in the first place. If the registry were only regulatory, than the "victim" would not feel threatened or scared for her life.

In other words, Sobin has effectively thrown out the "regulatory" aspect argument of the registry onto it's ear, while exposing it for the punitive aspect that the Supreme Court of the United States has only likened to "no more intrusive than filling out a Price Club application."

One little note here: Sobin is actually hoping that he receives a COUNTER-suit for exposing the victim in the first place, which most people would instinctively support. Yet, if that happens, that would highlight and justify the reason he sued in the FIRST place: that the sex offender registry results in punitive, not regulatory, results.

Posted by: Eric Knight | Jan 27, 2014 12:29:55 PM

no offense fed! you call him "sick bastard"

Well guess what I consider every man, woman and child in American that supports the illegal sex offender registry as much if not MORE of a "sick bastard"

I can only hope that when they get theirs! I'm here to see the killing!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jan 27, 2014 1:45:39 PM

Since the criminal regimes and the people who support them are such scumbags, I don't care at all what the guy did. He can be Charles Manson for all I care (oh wait, we don't care enough to Register murderers). I am going to support him.

He needs to add the home and work addresses of these people. And their neighbors should harass their children. Then they will have about 5% of the effects of the Sex Offender Registries. That will be a good start.

This is a war. There aren't going to be many winners (but I'm one of them :-) ).

Posted by: FRegistryTerrorists | Jan 27, 2014 6:28:19 PM

"Jim Gormley and albeed --

Does it make any difference to you that the "stars" of the lovely Mr. Sobin's "movie" were eight years old (the male "lead") and six years old (the female "lead")?"

If that is the case (I didn't google or search), it may change my personal opinion of Sobin but it has absolutely zero effect on my opinion of CURRENT SO laws. They are not narrowly tailored to the ages you specified so don't go there.

Posted by: albeed | Jan 27, 2014 6:28:29 PM

Amen, rodsmith. F those sick bastards.

Posted by: FRegistryTerrorists | Jan 27, 2014 6:31:37 PM

On a similar vein. Newspapers jump on the Mug Shot bandwagon. It is popular with their readers to show the mug shots of local folks recently arrested for any crime. There was a kid here in Florida who found some photos of the publishers and put them up on line as false mugshots, stating that the persons (real names) had been arrested for child abuse etc. The publishers got real ragged off and said that it was totally wrong for a website to post those images when the persons depicted had been falsely accused. The guy responded that the Mug Shot display every day were of people who had not been convicted and some were falsely accused.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Jan 28, 2014 2:00:38 PM

Liberty1st --

You can't possibly believe a fake mug shot of a person who HAS NOT been arrested is the equivalent of an actual mug shot of a person who HAS BEEN arrested, can you?

I mean, you get the difference, right?

Oh, OK, I'll explain it. The latter is the report of a fact, and the former is libel.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 28, 2014 10:49:16 PM

I think your the one who is confused bill. Especially if you think main stream media is not lieing though it's teeth 80% of the time. Just because they use a "REAL" mug shot then attach it to 80% bull shit they pulled out of their asses most of the time. Does not give them the high road.

Long past time someone called them on it.

Sorry but I'm long past the point that decades ago we needed a new constitutional amendment guaranteeing "Freedom FROM the Press"

Unless the individual is shown to committing a crime or an immoral act. Even then any reporting is to stick to FACT only! We can form our own friggin opinion.

Posted by: rodsmith | Jan 29, 2014 1:24:06 AM

Well, well, well. According to the story I just saw about this on the VC the judge got this one right and rejected the motion.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Jan 29, 2014 2:25:14 PM

I guess Megan's Law and the registry isn't having much of an impact in New Jersey:

http://www.nij.gov/topics/corrections/community/sex-offenders/Pages/evaluating-registration-laws.aspx

Posted by: Oswaldo | Jan 29, 2014 9:04:31 PM

Bill, I know I take the risk of getting slammed.... and this is a serious question....
What are laws which are not based on facts (or the truth) called?

Posted by: Oswaldo | Jan 31, 2014 5:01:42 PM

Oswaldo! LIES!

Posted by: rodsmith | Feb 1, 2014 2:31:22 AM

Thanks, Rod. When government is involved, I get a little confused.....
DA's office + high conviction rate = re-election.

Posted by: Oswaldo | Feb 5, 2014 2:08:54 PM

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