Sex Offender Registry - UPDATED

July 5, 2010

I've written a couple articles concerning the lack of a published CNMI Sex Registry (see CNMI Legal Notes and Legal News) questioned whether it was conforming to federal law. I also wrote to some federal officials and others making inquiries.

The DPS officer in charge of the registry, Jason Tarkong, said that the Attorney General's Office was charged with reviewing the registry before it could be published, and he stated that the CNMI is out of compliance. I believe that he is correct.  Since 2008 the DPS appears to have been waiting for the OAG to act on the CNMI sex offender registry.

The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, known as SORNA, is title I of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, Public Law 109248, that was enacted on July 27, 2006. The USDOJ states that "SORNA (46 U.S.C. 16901 et seq.) establishes minimum national standards for sex offender registration and notification in the jurisdictions to which it applies." Every state and territory is required under the law to publish a sex offender registry.

According to KSPN 2 News:
Attorney General Ed Buckingham says now that he's aware of the issue...he has his office working diligently on the matter. DPS says the CNMI is the only place in the United States not in compliance with the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act or – SORNA, as it's commonly referred to. But Buckingham says this is simply not true. After attending an AG conference in the mainland the issue was brought up, and he says out of all the fifty states and territories, only Pennsylvania is in compliance.
My research on SORNA and state and territory compliance tells me that Buckingham may be partially correct.  As of January 2010, Ohio is in compliance; Pennsylvania is not.  As of May 2010 Florida, Delaware and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation have come into compliance with SORNA.

Florida is the state where Adam Walsh lived and was killed.  The law is named after him.

However, while it is true that most states have not met the requirements of SORNA, every state has published online sex offender registries or searches. The CNMI does not.

The National Conference of State Legislatures reported:
Currently, one state (Ohio) is in compliance with the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), the Title I portion of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006. The Department of Justice announced Ohio’s compliance in September 2009; the remaining states have until July 27, 2010 to substantially implement SORNA to be in compliance, although a request for a one-year extension may be submitted. Failure to substantially implement SORNA will result in a 10 percent reduction in a state’s allotted Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) funding.
Although most states were not in compliance with all of the requirements of SORNA, almost all of them have met at least some requirements and have requested a one or two year extension to avoid loss of funding.  An April 2009 state compliance survey revealed that barriers to compliance included:
• The need for additional staff
• Background check logistics
• No recourse for the offender to get off the registry
• SORNA’s definition of “substantial compliance”
• Conflicts with state constitutions or state laws
• Updating offender information
• Transforming from a risk-based to a conviction-based assessment
• Increased verification requirements
• Overly restrictive compliance standards
Additionally, it was reported by NCSL that cost issues were a major reason for not implementing the law.  It appears that the barrier in the CNMI is getting approval from the OAG.

Almost every state has introduced or passed legislation to bring their state in compliance. All states were required to submit registration law to be audited by the SMART Office (Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking) by April 2009.  The survey reveals that almost every state that replied had done that.  States that are out of compliance are also required to seek extensions.

Some states are not in compliance with SORNA juvenile registries because of the questions of records being expunged and other legal questions.  States and territories that do not comply with SORNA will lose federal funding.

On May 14, 2010 supplemental SORNA guidelines were posted on the Federal Register. From the Register:
Jurisdictions'' in the relevant sense are the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the five principal U.S. territories, and Indian tribes that satisfy certain criteria. 42 U.S.C. 16911(10). SORNA directs the Attorney General to issue guidelines and regulations to interpret and implement SORNA. See id. 16912(b).

To this end, the Attorney General issued the National Guidelines for Sex Offender Registration and Notification, 73 FR 38030, on July 2, 2008. The SORNA standards are administered by the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (``SMART Office''), which assists all jurisdictions in their SORNA implementation efforts and determines whether jurisdictions have successfully completed these efforts. See 42 U.S.C. 16945; 73 FR at 38044, 3804748.

Since the publication of the SORNA Guidelines, issues have arisen in SORNA implementation that require that some aspects of the Guidelines be augmented or modified. Consequently, the Department of Justice is proposing these supplemental guidelines, which do the following: 
(1) Allow jurisdictions, in their discretion, to exempt information concerning sex offenders required to register on the basis of juvenile delinquency adjudications from public Web site posting.
(2) Require jurisdictions to exempt sex offenders' email addresses and other Internet identifiers from public Web site posting, pursuant to the KIDS Act, 42 U.S.C. 16915a.
(3) Require jurisdictions to have sex offenders report
international travel 21 days in advance of such travel and to submit information concerning such travel to the appropriate Federal agencies and databases.
(4) Clarify the means to be utilized to ensure consistent interjurisdictional information sharing and tracking of sex offenders. (5) Expand required registration information to include the forms signed by sex offenders acknowledging that they were advised of their registration obligations.
(6) Provide additional information concerning the review process for determining that jurisdictions have substantially implemented the SORNA requirements in their programs and continue to comply with these requirements.
(7) Afford jurisdictions greater latitude regarding the registration of sex offenders who have fully exited the justice system but later reenter through a new (nonsexoffense) criminal conviction by providing that jurisdictions may limit such registration to cases in which the new conviction is for a felony.
(8) Provide, for Indian tribes that are newly recognized by the Federal government following the enactment of SORNA, authorization and time frames for such tribes to elect whether to become SORNA registration jurisdictions and to implement SORNA.
Sexual Abuser Given Light Sentence
In May 2009 Dickson Cosmes was on probation for rape when he took a "friend" to Tank Beach where he forced him to strip down, beat him with a stick, and threatened to kill him. The convicted sexual offender,  24–year–old Dickson Cosmes, pleaded guilty to assault with a dangerous weapon on July 2nd.

In Superior Court on Friday, Judge David Wiseman sentenced Cosmes to four years behind bars without parole. Four years does not seem like a strong enough sentence for a violent criminal with a history of serious criminal acts.

From the Saipan Tribune:
Superior Court Associate Judge David A. Wiseman sentenced Dickson T. Cosmes to 10 years in prison, all suspended except for four years, for assault with a dangerous weapon, with no possibility of parole.

Cosmes was given credit for the time he had already served in jail.

After serving his sentence, Cosmes, 25, will be placed on four years probation.

He was also required to pay a $500 fine, $100 court fees, plus probation fee, and to perform 100 hours of community service.

The Office of the Attorney General had charged Cosmes with assault with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery, and kidnapping.

Cosmes, represented by assistant public defender Michael Brown, agreed to a plea bargain, pleading guilty to assault with a dangerous weapon. The remaining charges were dismissed.

Police said Cosmes beat up the OPM staff with a piece of lumber, forced him to strip naked, and threatened to kill him. The attack occurred on May 22 or 23, 2009. At the time, police said, Cosmes was on probation for raping an alien worker inside her apartment.

At yesterday's hearing, the prosecution noted that the victim had a stroke in the past week or so. In view of the medical condition of the victim, Wiseman reluctantly accepted the plea agreement.
This registered sex offender had committed previous violent crimes.  He was convicted in 2001 for brutally raping a Chinese woman:
According to court records, in June 2001, Cosmes, who was then 16 years old, beat up and raped a Chinese woman who was showering inside her apartment. The defendant also took the victim's $20 cash.

In December 2001, Cosmes pleaded guilty to rape. Then Superior Court Presiding Judge Edward Manibusan sentenced Cosmes to five years in prison and placed him on 10 years of probation.

In 2001, the then juvenile was also charged with robbery, aggravated assault and battery, assault and battery, and disturbing the peace.
Did the judge have to accept the plea agreement? Why not sentence him to 25 years in prison and set an example of what happens to repeat offenders? I wonder what the victim thinks of the sentence.


Anonymous said...

While some are quick to blame the OAG for the failure of the CNMI to enact implementing legislation, that is actually the job of the legislature, where it has been sitting for a couple of years.

The OAG won't approve anything if there is no law authorizing them to do so. Everywhere else has an implementing law.

Judiciary and Government Operations Committee??!!

Wendy said...

Anonymous 2:52

Thanks! I wondered about that. Certainly, it appears that every state has had to pass legislation. Then again, every state already has a registry of sex offenders or a place to search names online. The CNMI certainly could do that while continuing to be reach compliance with SORNA.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure of this, but there is probably a law on the books that says there shoujl be a registry. However, like so many things in the CNMI, it has been overlooked. Again, I am not sure, but it is very possible. Let's face it, they could pass a law today and repeal it tomorrow. They do it all the time.
Nevertheless, there has been pressure put on the AG's office by the Newspapers, News, Blogs (thank you Wendy and "Isa Dr.") and other individuals.
What is going to be there excuse when a six year old goes missing and the neighboor who has a history is implecated? I guess the parents just "should have known"

Anonymous said...

It goes with saying that nobody wants to see a friend or relative included in the Sex Offender Registry.It is just not the "island way" or some other similar bs! The list should be prominently published in a public place, updated regularly and the Superior Court Judges should put repeat offenders behind bars for as long as possible.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Wendy,
I believe that justice does not prevail in this small island where family connection is of great importance. I was a victim of another crime "burglary" for almost 6 months now. The alleged suspect which my neighbor said was the one trying to break-in my house was also the person who pawned my items to the pawnshop. I reported it to the police and they reposessed some of my items from the pawnshop. Up to this day, there was no development on my case knowing that the suspect was a repeat offender or ex-convict. I am a bit hesitant to pursue my case because I am afraid that the suspect will do something against me and my family as a retaliation. It is scary to live in a place where you see the suspect everyday freely walking and comfortably living in your neighborhood. I wonder who will be next victim. This is one true example that family connection is very powerful in this place.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 3:00

This is extremely disturbing. I would ask the federal ombudsman for advice on this.

I know of other cases involving assault and battery where the victims named the assailants to the DPS and they were not arrested. You are right; it is scary.

The Saipan Blogger said...

If the police don't do something, people will resort to vigilante justice.

Anonymous said...

Hi Wendy,

Thanks you for listening to my concern (Anonymous 3:00). Much as I want to pursue my case, I chose to remain silent and just wait for the police to act on my case for the main reason of the safety of my family. I do not know how long will it take. But at the back of my mind and in my heart I wish that they will be put in jail and serve their punishment. I want my stolen things back because I bought it with my hard earned money. I know I'm not the only victim of burglary that up to now is waiting for the update on our case. I even tried to call the "HOTLINE" but waited long on the line before somebody answer the phone and then was told that my case belongs to the investigator already and they have nothing to do with it. I thought anonymous calls are accepted as long as you have valid information about the crimes. I did not call for the reward but all I want is to have my stolen things back. That's why I tried to share this with your blog so everybody will be warn and take good care of themselves and their belongings.

Anonymous said...

anon 4:57 pm

I feel for you and I totally understand the situation. But as you have said, justice will not prevail because of the family connection.

You will notice that justice is served to the victim if the suspect is an alien, or if the victim is a local. Sad but true!