I-Team 8’s story on sex offenders gets statewide attention

(WISH Photo)

COLUMBUS, Ind. (WISH) — The Indiana Sheriffs’ Association meeting, recently held in Columbus, is the rare opportunity for all of Indiana’s sheriffs to be in one place.

Marion County Sheriff John Layton took the opportunity to make a call to action after an I-Team 8 investigation into where sex offenders live.

“Something we’ve been working on very hard lately is the sexual violent offender registry,” Layton told the association. “We’re rolling up our sleeves to get some things done on this.”

Sheriff John Layton has already ordered his deputies to fan out across Marion County, notifying some sex offenders they are now under criminal investigation for living within 1,000 feet of a school, day care or park. After I-Team 8’s story, Layton is suggesting all of Indiana’s sheriffs look at the law and interpret for their own county, as he did.

“So many of these laws need to be changed. One of the main ones is the 1,000-foot rule,” Layton said.

Not all sex offenders are banned by the 1,000-foot rule. The law targets sexually violent predators such as rapists and offenders against children, like child molesters. I-Team 8 rode along with Deputy Jeff Simmons, who confirms they are getting more calls since the I-Team 8 investigation. He says it’s a good thing. It is important for people to be aware because, as Deputy Simmons says, sex offenders move around a lot. If they were convicted prior to Zachary’s Law in 2006 they were allowed to live there. Sheriff Layton says in his county, that’s no longer the case.

We rode along with Deputy Simmons to notify an offender in Beech Grove. He is a 26-year-old sex offender against children, convicted of child molesting.

“As of this date you may be criminally charged by the prosecutor’s office for violation of Indiana code. OK, you understand that?” Simmons told the man.

The offender, Justin Taylor replied, “Sorta.”

The law is complicated by lawyers, appeals and case law. Sheriff Layton is now looking at a different case law that doesn’t consider conviction date. It’s complicated for deputies and offenders.

“Probation’s been OK with it,” Taylor said. “My probation officer even got out a map and did the little (gestures a circle) to make sure, and there’s a parole officer. These are all government workers.”

The sex offender compliance unit, however, says he’s in violation because he lives 868 feet from Central Elementary School in Beech Grove.

As I-Team 8 previously reported, the sheriff’s department had been following 2009 state case law that determined if a sex offender was convicted before July 2006, the 1,000-foot rule wouldn’t apply. Now they are following Sewell vs. the State of Indiana, which says if the offender moves after the law went into effect in 2006, they are bound by the 1,000-foot rule.

“Every year there seems to be a squeaky wheel,” Layton told the sheriffs gathered in Columbus. “This one has risen to the top with them. It is the whisper and talk at lunch type of thing, so I am glad.”

There are now other sheriffs considering following Layton’s lead on the law.

“They’re as confused as we are,” Layton said. “They’re asking us how we do it. We simply say, ‘As a law enforcement officer and sheriff of this county, this is what I believe.’”

Layton is working closely with Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry’s office to determine if charges will be filed and if the offenders will be forced to move. Some offenders moved immediately, not willing to risk a criminal charge.

Marion County deputies are notifying dozens of offenders per day that they are in violation. Taylor has already moved.

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