MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

September 29, 2013

Some off sex offender registry

At least 17 removed from registry in area after ruling requires changes

By Thad Ayers
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Jewell Antwine is finally getting some relief after 20 years of anxiety.

Antwine, 50, is one of approximately 300 people whose names have been removed from Oklahoma’s Sex Offender Registry since a June state Supreme Court ruling, according to Department of Corrections records.

“It’s a big relief,” the Boynton man said. “I don't worry about it no more. I used to worry about it all the time — would I get in trouble where I lived.”

Nearly 7,400 convicted sex offenders’ names appear on the DOC’s registry. That is down from approximately 7,700 listed when the state’s highest civil court ruled amendments to the Sexual Offender Registration Act couldn’t be applied retroactively.

Antwine, whose name was removed in July from the registry, was convicted in 1993 of two rape charges in Creek County and was required to register as a sex offender, according to Oklahoma statutes.

He had to register his address with law enforcement, adhere to restrictions on where he could live and check in on a regular basis. Records indicate Antwine had not violated parole in that 20-year span.

“I don't have to worry about where I have to stay and stuff,” he said.

At least 16 convicted sex offenders, including Antwine, have been removed from the registry in Muskogee, McIntosh, Cherokee and Wagoner counties, according to DOC records. Those four counties have a combined total of 451 registered offenders as of Friday.

Many of these people have been removed voluntarily by DOC since the June 25 ruling, but some have required individual offenders to contact DOC, either individually or through an attorney.

The court decision that allowed the removal of sex offenders from the registry stemmed from James Starkey’s case. Starkey pleaded no contest to sexual assault charges in Texas in 1998 and moved to Oklahoma later that year.

He was required to register as a sex offender for 10 years. Subsequent legislative amendments in 2004 and 2007 required he remain on the registry for life. That was ruled unconstitutional, and Starkey’s name was removed thereafter.

Sorting through the people in the registry, however, has been a “very time-consuming process,” said DOC spokesman Jerry Massie.

“What you’re having to do is look at what the length of registration was at the time of conviction,” Massie said. “And there’s been several other rulings, or one or two other rulings, that have added to another level of review that have to take place.”

A Sept. 17 ruling on two cases in Oklahoma stated registered offenders also have equal protection under the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, said Muskogee County Assistant District Attorney Tim King. People in those cases came to Oklahoma from another state and had been convicted in years prior to the 1989 enactment of the state’s sex offender law.

“It was an equal protection violation,” King said. “When he came into the state he was treated different in the state.”

Those people had to abide by Oklahoma’s sex offender laws and, as in the Starkey case, would end up having to register for an extended period of time, King said.

Another issue presented by the Starkey ruling is that some people currently in jails or prisons for failing to register as a sex offender may not need to be incarcerated, Massie said.

“This person was not required to register at the time when they were incarcerated,” Massie said. “This is part of the difficulty in making the changes. Obviously, that would be a somewhat higher priority, someone who is actually incarcerated for something they wouldn’t be in.”

King said this also is forcing the district attorney’s office to re-examine cases.

“We’re looking at our cases to see who it applies to,” he said. “And obviously, people who are incarcerated are looking at their own cases.”

The changes in sex offender registration should also make Oklahoma’s Legislature evaluate the intentions of the law, King said.

“I think it will make the Legislature look at it from a legislation aspect,” King said. “Are our measures simply intended to inform the public and keep it safe? Or are we really ostracizing them?

“That rises to a different level to inform the public.”

Reach Thad Ayers at (918) 684-2903 or tayers@muskogeephoenix.com.