Innocence Is No Defense Against Virginia's Sex Offender Registry


Five years ago, at the urging of his parents, who worried that he could be tried as an adult and receive a long prison sentence,15-year-old Edgar Coker Jr. pleaded guilty to raping a 14-year-old friend. Two months later, the girl admitted that the sex was consensual and that she had lied to avoid trouble with her father. The Washington Post reports that Coker nevertheless ended up serving 17 months in juvenile detention and is still listed as a violent sex offender by the state of Virginia:

Last month, Coker, now 20, was arrested during a Friday night football game at the Orange, Va., high school he graduated from after his release from juvenile prison. Unless they have permission from the school, convicted violent sex offenders are not permitted on school grounds. But Coker had received such permission, and he attended school there for more than a year before graduation….

The family has moved several times, twice because of complaints from neighbors who learned that Edgar Coker Jr. was on the registry. Once, a neighborhood girl made a false sexual allegation against one of his brothers, and someone else left this note on their door when they lived in Stafford County: "We don't want a rapist living in our neighborhood."

Seeking to remove this stigma, Coker's family argues that his legal representation was inadequate. But as the Post notes, "Undoing what's been done is difficult. Coker's attorneys are aware of very few instances of a person's name being removed from the state's sex-offender registry."

I discuss the wide net cast by sex offender registries in the July issue of Reason.

[via Radley Balko's Twitter feed]