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December 12, 2009

Eight years in state prison for failure to register as a sex offender

This local story from Ohio, headlined "Sex offender gets 8 years for not registering," reports on the longest prison terms I can recall seeing for merely failing to register as a sex offender.  The story provides only these sketchy details:

A 41-year-old Akron man was sentenced to eight years in prison late Thursday after being found guilty of failing to register as a sex offender. Summit County Common Pleas Judge Lynne Callahan found Clifford Godfrey guilty of failing to register as a sex offender and failing to register a change of address.

The Summit County Prosecutor's office said Godfrey was released from prison on May 14 after serving a term for corruption of a minor.  Upon release, he registered the address where he would be living with the department of corrections.

Under Ohio law, a sex offender must also register his address with the Sheriff's department office. Prosecutors said he did not do this.  A certified letter was sent to the address he provided the department of corrections, but the letter was returned because Godfrey did not live there, prosecutors said.

Godfrey was arrested and sent to Oriana House, but prosecutors said he left there as well. He was arrested a second time for not registering a change of address.

I suspect there may have been some additional aggravating factors involved in this case that might explain why such a long sentence was imposed for just the failure to register.  But I am also wondering whether the recently discovered crimes of long-registered sex offenders Phillip Garrido and Anthony Sowell may be influencing sentencing judges to go even tougher on sex offenders who do not keep up on their registration requirements.

December 12, 2009 at 06:09 PM | Permalink


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Must be an election year. ;)

Posted by: JC | Dec 12, 2009 6:53:56 PM

JC --

Actually it's not an election year. We did have an election here in Virginia a month ago, however, in which the former Republican AG crushed the Democratic candidate by 59-41. (Both candidates support the death penalty). This was in a state that Obama carried last year by 7 points.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 12, 2009 7:38:15 PM

Can you say disproportionate?

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitations and Corrections has data showing next to those on death row, sex offenders have the lowest recidivism rate in the state. I guess 8 years for what wasn't even a crime 10 years ago is now proportional.

Posted by: K | Dec 12, 2009 8:06:36 PM

Wasn't it Sorden (36 Cal.4th 65) where the defendant moved, registered the new address and forgot to register on his birthday a week or so later? He was sentenced to 25-to-life on the felony failure to register as his third strike. If memory serves, there were no other additional aggravating factors such as suspicion of current offending. It was simply a matter of law.

Posted by: George | Dec 13, 2009 1:14:20 AM

"We did have an election here in Virginia a month ago, however, in which the former Republican AG crushed the Democratic candidate by 59-41."

And I give my best wishes to Governor-Elect McDonnell. I disagree with him on many issues, but I hope that he will serve Virginia well and that Virginia will prosper under his leadership.

Posted by: JC | Dec 13, 2009 2:13:43 AM

Doug, I have seen sentences for failing to register that are a lot longer than that, when attached to an habitual felon indictment. Which illustrates why the questions of STevens and Scalia in Johnson v US are so important. Failure to Register is a recidivist offense, having a prior conviction as a vital component. If it is a substantive felony, it can trigger habitual felon. If it is something other than a crime, but is still punishable, it can't trigger a three strike law.

bruce cunningham

Posted by: bruce cunningham | Dec 13, 2009 10:51:42 AM

I was wrong (again) and it was not Sorden.

It was Gonzalez and that 27 year sentence was overturned.

Gonzalez v. Duncan, 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 26516 (9th Cir. Dec. 30, 2008)

25-Life sentence for failure to register

8th Amendment
Gonzalez was convicted of failure to register as a sex offender, and because of his prior felony convictions, was sentenced under California’s 3-Strikes law. The ninth circuit held that the sentence was “grossly disproportionate to the offense” under the 8th Amendment and granted his Habeas petition.

Posted by: George | Dec 13, 2009 12:19:41 PM

I hope they have a lot of money in that state to throw away on incarcerating this human being. What are the costs per day? Anyone from Ohio out there know the costs?

Posted by: mpb | Dec 13, 2009 4:57:32 PM

From an anonymous defense attorney in Bell County, Texas: How about State of Texas vs. Maurice Al Lomas, Cause No. 59109, 27th Judicial District Court of Bell County, Texas... sentenced to 99 years in prison for failure to register as a sex offender.

Story: http://www.kdhnews.com/news/story.aspx?s=11579&q=Maurice+Lomas

Posted by: Anonymous | Dec 13, 2009 10:08:11 PM

sounds to me like that state govt is retarded if the DOC isn't smart enough to forward the registration to the local sheriff where he's going to be serving his probation...and i am assuming he's going to have some. If he didnt' he be one of the few who managed that trick!

sorry this is a Made up ILLEGAL charge based on an ILLEGAL law.

Posted by: rodsmith3510 | Dec 13, 2009 11:19:50 PM

Georgia's courts have handed out several sentences for failure to register that are 8 years or longer. The information is available at http://www.dcor.state.ga.us/
under the offender query. - defense attorney.

Posted by: adam | Dec 14, 2009 8:10:02 AM


According to the director of the ODR&C, as of December 11, 2009, it costs Ohio $25,239.75 per year to imprison Mr. Godfrey.

What I like is that even though Ohio is going to spend over $200k keeping Godfrey locked up there is no objective proof his incarceration will make us safer. In fact, there is no objective proof that registration itself makes us safer. What a waste. The flip side is that it makes the Nancy Grace followers happy.

Posted by: k | Dec 14, 2009 8:47:15 AM

I think this example illustrates the real reason for the registration statutes--"another bite at the apple" for the State. The thought is that because of that pesky Constitution, we can't just lock 'em up again for the prior offense, but if we can trip 'em up with some new, complicated registration statute, we can by gawd lock 'em up for that.

Posted by: Mark # 1 | Dec 14, 2009 10:40:34 AM

my boyfriend is on prc (post release control) he has recently been incarcirated for some violations out of zanesville ohio. His original charge is for unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. His po is trying to violate him for failure to register. I was wondering what degree of felony would that be and how long would he be facing in prison if convicted???

Posted by: annoyomous | May 20, 2011 11:14:24 AM

To the last poster. Same situation here and they're trying to add more charges. I think there's something really wrong with cuyahoga and summit counties.

Posted by: tracy | Jan 24, 2012 8:22:27 PM

I dont think it matters where an offender lives. Chances are, if he is out chasing kids, he wont be home any ways. Also, the registry just induces panic. It states that anyone who sees anyone on the registry acting suspicious, to report it. But I myself will report ANY suspicious act by anyone, even if they are not on the list.So, what is the system saying, if a person is suspicous acting and they are not on the list, dont call authorities? Many people will view the very presence of an offender as "Suspicious". Even if the person in question is not doing anything.

Posted by: Zachary D. Irby | Jun 20, 2014 4:15:32 PM

My bf has to register at the home he is living at right Does he after register at my home if he comes over from time to and hang out or is this something the county brought up

Posted by: Stephanie | Oct 26, 2014 12:45:24 AM

Im on the register for a crime I didnt commit. yeah I took a plea deal but i was facing 5 years in prison for sexual battery. oh by the way, my "victim" was my SISTER! My mentally retarded sister! Are you serious? She said I had rubbed her inner thigh, that was a crime. Well idk about anyone else but the reason I took the plea deal is, you're almost guranteed to be convicted of a sex crime even with no dna. All that is needed is "compelling testimony" and 9 times out of 10 the judge or jury IS going to side with the state and "victim" I am a tier 3 and I HAVE to register for 15 years (minus 5 for keeping a clean record) so my issue here is, posting my PICTURE, NAME, ADDRESS etc. on the internet for all to see puts my life in danger. It's a federal hit list. Gives the public at large the necessary tools to find me and KILL ME!!! And no matter what the courts and law makers say, it IS 100% UNDENIABLY UNCONSTITUTIONAL!!! Of course they will say its an "administrative" tool and it makes the public safe. LIES!!!

Posted by: sexy offender | Feb 17, 2017 5:39:13 PM

In Texas a guy was sentenced to 85 years for his 3rd failure to register conviction. His sentence was upheld. The mandatory minimum he faced was 25 years, but the jury gave him 6 decades longer than that. https://law.justia.com/cases/texas/court-of-criminal-appeals/2017/pd-1283-15-0.html

Imagine if a person was convicted of a crime that carried a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, was sentenced to prison time followed by probation, and ended up facing a 25 years to life sentence after violating probation a 3rd time. That's what this is rather analogous to, if you view sex offender registration as similar to probation.

Posted by: Lou | Apr 26, 2018 6:21:40 PM

Most sex crimes in California don't fall under the "serious and violent" list of crimes for the 3 strikes law. Only the most serious sex offenses like rape or lewd acts with a child under 14 with an actor at least 10 years older are on that list.

In addition, California requires a person to have not one but two "serious or violent" priors in order to trigger 3 strikes.

Therefore, a person with one rape conviction wouldn't be subject to 3 strikes if they're convicted of failure to register twice. Or even if they're convicted of failure to register 5 times.

They'd only be subject to 3 strikes if they have 2 rape convictions. Or alternately a rape conviction and a conviction for something like armed robbery. Then they'd be subject to the 3 strikes law on their first failure to register conviction.

Posted by: Lou | Apr 26, 2018 11:36:01 PM

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