Judge says sex offender's right to due process trumps public safety

SALEM, Mass. — In a recent ruling, a Superior Court judge said that concerns for public safety cannot trump a sex offender's right to due process, FOX25 Investigates has learned.

On Aug. 16, Salem Superior Court judge Timothy Feeley, found the Sex Offender Registry Board violated one sex offender’s constitutional right to due process. His status as a level two sex offender was published on the internet on the same day he was classified, before he could file an appeal.

In a harshly worded injunction, the judge ordered SORB to pull the sex offenders information down from the internet until the sex offender could get a court hearing appealing his sex offender classification.

It’s a move that effectively hides the offender’s whereabouts from the public, even though he has already been convicted, and even though the SORB has already declared him a level two sex offender.

“Public safety concerns cannot trump required due process protections for sex offenders,” Judge Feeley wrote in his 25-page decision.

The ruling is giving sex offenders more time to file an appeal after being classified by SORB. During that time, even though the sex offender has been classified, the public would not be able to access that information online. Effectively, this could slow the public's ability to find out where level two and three sex offenders are located.

“The judge got the law wrong. And because the judge got the law wrong, the judge got the results wrong. And now we have a situation where a dangerous sex offender who has been deemed dangerous, is walking around free. Nobody knows,” said Victim's Rights Advocate Wendy Murphy:

A level two sex offender has a moderate risk of re-offending. A level three sex offender has a high risk of re-offending. In both cases, the degree of dangerous posed to the public is substantial enough that the sex offender’s information is posted publicly.

The SORB gave FOX25 Investigates a statement, saying "The SORB's top priority is advancing its public safety mission by working to inform the public about sex offenders. As always, the SORB will abide by court decisions imposed on it and will work to balance the requirements of those decisions with its public safety mission.”