Free-Range Kids

Intellectually Disabled 33-Year-Old Man Lands on the Sex Offender Registry After Trivial Incident

"Residence restrictions do not decrease and are not a deterrent for sexual recidivism."


Carol Nesteikis' son Adam is 33. He is developmentally disabled and lives in Illinois with his mother and her husband, both retired, who still have to remind him to brush his teeth and shower. He stopped wetting his bed at age 16.

Ten years ago, when a neighbor—a young man with a troubled past, who had molested Adam—told him to pull down his pants in front of a girl, Adam complied. The girl then told her parents.

Both the neighbor and Adam were charged with 19 felonies. Adam took a plea deal and has been on the sex offender registry for seven years. He has three more to go.

That's all according to Nesteikis, who recounted her story for Persuasion. I had heard her speak a few years ago at a conference in St. Louis organized by Women Against Registry. It is a story that makes clear how cruel and pointless the public sex offense registry is.

As a registrant, Adam is not allowed to leave his home between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. He lost his part-time restaurant job of wiping tables, which he had loved. And because he is banned from parks for the rest of his life, he can no longer participate in his other passion, the Special Olympics.

In her article, Nesteikis quotes a 2015 report from the Department of Justice itself that concluded: "Residence restrictions do not decrease and are not a deterrent for sexual recidivism. In addition, research has shown no significant decreases in sex crime rates following the implementation of residence restrictions."

This research even suggests "that residence restrictions may actually increase offender risk by undermining offender stability and the ability of the offender to obtain housing, work, and family support." 

And yet, there are 900,000 people on the registry.

These days Adam spends most of his time playing with fidget spinners and talking to Alexa. His verbal and social skills are dwindling.

Nesteikis and a handful of other parents with mentally disabled children on the registry started Legal Reform for People Intellectually and Developmentally Disabled (LRIDD), a nonprofit dedicated to reforming the irrational sex offense laws.

"Unfortunately, Adam's case is all too common," says Jude Harrison, an LRIDD activist in Virginia whose autistic son endured three years in prison. The group got three bills passed into law this year: HB659HB134 and SB 133 .

"These address some of the issues people with intellectual and development disabilities face within the criminal justice system," Harrison tells Reason, including one that allows the court to defer or dismiss a case if it's clear it was caused or directly impacted by the defendant's disability. "Hopefully, other states will follow suit."

In Illinois, Nestiekis has applied for a gubernatorial pardon for her son. She is doing it on her own as the couple's savings, meant to provide care for Adam when they are no longer here, were spent on legal fees and complying with the registry requirements. (They had to move.)

In the meantime, every year the police come by and make sure Adam is still abiding by his restrictions. One year, they knocked on everyone's door in the apartment complex to tell them they're living near a sex offender. But they're really just living near a man in his thirties who misses the Special Olympics and his job wiping tables.

NEXT: From the Archives: November 2020

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  1. that allows the court to defer or dismiss a case if it’s clear it was caused or directly impacted by the defendant’s disability.

    Two thoughts:

    1. Isn’t that already within the court’s purview, sans any specific law? Is mens rea not a thing?

    2. Barring 1, it certainly is within the purview of prosecutors to recognize when such prosecutions are inappropriate. They fight for their precious prosecutorial discretion, would that there were people willing to hold them accountable for how they use it.

    1. 1. Isn’t that already within the court’s purview, sans any specific law? Is mens rea not a thing?

      Mens rea only applies to our betters, not us peasants. See: Clinton, Hillary.

      2. Barring 1, it certainly is within the purview of prosecutors to recognize when such prosecutions are inappropriate.

      That would require prosecutors to actually care about justice more than their precious win rate. The prosecutor in this case probably just saw a slam dunk win that he could crow about getting a “dangerous sex offender” off the streets come re-election time or when running for higher office later. Actual justice be damned.

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    2. 1. Yeah; so what?
      2. Prosecutors get promotions based on convictions, not on refusing to prosecute.

      1. Prosecutors take an oath to seek justice. Do you think they upheld that oath in this case?

    3. Excellent point, Cyto! The propensity for prosecutors to abuse and maximize their “discretion” at every opportunity is why we must all band together and DEMAND our laws be so narrowly tailored and focused that this unbridled “discretion” is eliminated. Give them power and they will use it. The only way to fix this is legislatively. Prosecutors won’t ever stop abusing discretion of their own volition. This must be remedied by statutes being narrowly tailored to fit very specific circumstances.

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  2. Sex offender registries or registries of any kind for people not in state custody (jail, prison, parole, probation) are unconstitutional.

    13th Amendment:
    Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.[….]

    After punishment has concluded with the state, the government cannot tell you were to live or cant live and that you must update some personal information or face arrest.

    If we want sex offenders to get life in prison, give them life in prison. It is unconstitutional to harass sex offenders the rest of their lives when their sentence is completed.

    1. The 13A allows slavery of a duly convicted party during a punishment.

    2. You assume that punishment is limited to the duration of custody. While that is a reasonable moral position, there is nothing in the Constitution that requires it.

      It is immoral to harass sex offenders for the rest of their lives over trivial issues like the example above but it is not unconstitutional because the “sentence” included the lifetime of harassment.

      1. Not for those that never had that part of their “sentence”.

        Not only should Sex Registries be struck down for including ex-post facto punishments, 8th Amendment violations of protections against cruel AND unusual punishments, but also for there being zero constitutional authority for government to harass people when they are not in state custody under a conviction.

        States dont have plenary powers either.

        1. “Not only should Sex Registries be struck down for including ex-post facto punishments….”

          All punishments are “ex-post facto” (after the fact). It would clearly be unconstitutional to punish someone for something that has not yet occurred.

          The phrase actually refers to the prohibition of enacting laws “after the fact,” after the prohibited activity has already occurred. That obviously is not the case here.

          1. 34 USC 20913(d)

            (d)Initial registration of sex offenders unable to comply with subsection (b)
            The Attorney General shall have the authority to specify the applicability of the requirements of this subchapter to sex offenders convicted before the enactment of this chapter or its implementation in a particular jurisdiction, and to prescribe rules for the registration of any such sex offenders and for other categories of sex offenders who are unable to comply with subsection (b).

        2. That is a separate issue that talks about retroactive punishments. In those cases, I completely agree that they are unconstitutional. (I have no evidence that applies to the example above.)

          To your larger point, however, it is entirely legal and constitutional to sentence you to 1 year of confinement in prison plus a lifetime ban on certain financial dealings (if for example you were convicted of a financial crime) or 1 year of confinement plus 3 years of supervised release (that is, probation). The constitution does not require that punishment is restricted to incarceration. As long as they don’t cross the “cruel and unusual” line, legislatures have considerable flexibility to make the punishment fit the crime. Being locked up is not always appropriate.

          Your comment about states not having plenary powers, however, is wrong. But we’ve had that argument before.

          1. re: state plenary powers, here is a recent example. Start with the fourth paragraph (which begins “But that’s just fine…”).

          2. Here is an article explaining feds can’t pass a ban on female genital mutilation but states could and sometimes do. Chief among the reasons is the federal government’s lack of a plenary power. The article contrasts that lack in passing to the states’ plenary powers.

      2. There is ex post facto which for some reason has a definition related to punishment. (Actually, we know that reason. It is because that’s what Britain legally defined it as).

        There is also a prohibition against changing a contract.

        ALL things are criminal or a contract.

        The sentiment that ex post facto laws are against natural right is so strong in the United States, that few, if any, of the State constitutions have failed to proscribe them. The federal constitution indeed interdicts them in criminal cases only; but they are equally unjust in civil as in criminal cases, and the omission of a caution which would have been right, does not justify the doing what is wrong. Nor ought it to be presumed that the legislature meant to use a phrase in an unjustifiable sense, if by rules of construction it can be ever strained to what is just.

        — Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Isaac McPherson, August 13, 1813

    3. That depends on how you define “punishment”

      If registration and residence requirements are themselves punishments, then ipso facto the punishment has not concluded

      Also, if someone is sentenced to life in prison, then immediately granted parole, they are still “on parole” for the rest of their life, granting an easy out to any reforms that might pass to correct the problems you describe

      1. Even if these sex registries were not violations of the 8A and there is some power of government to harass people not in state custody for the rest of their lives, these laws punish ex-cons in an ex post facto manner.

        Quite a few sex offenders were sentenced before these sex registry laws came out or their crime statutes were changed to be included under sex registries, so registries were NEVER part of their sentence.

        1. Furthermore, the idea that these crimes somehow involve commerce is absurd and that’s where the federal law is codified, the commerce clause!

          The really scary issue is courts have given government carte blanche to do this to anyone if aligns with “public safety.” Well hell everything aligns with that!

      2. No sane person would think having to show up 4 times a year at a police station is not punishment. That doesn’t include any changes made between those 4 appointments.

    4. Turns out they do get life in prison; just that they have to provide their own prison.

      1. We probably all read Scarlet Letter in school.

        If the sex offenses are that bad, keep these perverts in prison for life.

        Otherwise, they are a permanent criminal class. They cant even start new somewhere else because they must register.

    5. Life without the possibility of parole would be a much more honest and forthright approach.

    6. Supreme Court already ruled, incorrectly IMHO, that the registry laws are not punishment, but an administrative task, akin to filing tax returns or notifying a drivers license office of an address change.

      Because it’s an administrative task, it’s allowed. They say. Wrongly.

  3. Hey! Yet another Biden crime bill cluaterfuck.

    Hatch-Biden Bill Cracking Down on Sexual Predators to be Signed into Law Today

    WASHINGTON, DC – A hard-fought, bipartisan bill designed to crack down on sexual predators will become law later today in a White House signing ceremony. The “Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act,” sponsored by Senators Joe Biden (D-DE) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), will now make it easier for local law enforcement and parents to track sex offenders and to prevent repeat offenses.

    1. I see that senile old jackass Joe Biden’s name as sponsor to the A.W.A. Sadly these laws are so hot button with a rabid public neither party dares to resist them in any way.

  4. A lifetime of punishment for someone who doesn’t even understand what they did, yet, when some smug unfunny Hollywood celebrity lies to get an interview and then drops their pants in front of their unsuspecting victim, it is art.

    We live in an age where insanity is rewarded.

    1. Classic comedy:
      What is the difference between Mardi Gras and Hollywood?
      In Hollywood, women get real jewels for showing fake breasts; at Mardi Gras, women get fake jewels for showing real breasts.

    2. “Mr. Towns, you behave as if stupidity were a virtue. Why is that?”
      -Heinrich Dorfmann

    3. I don’t see how a judge could allow this guy to plead guilty, when he’s that mentally disabled.

      Hopefully the judge will eventually feel bad enough to feed himself to a wood chipper.

  5. Can’t we please think of the prosecutors with stats to pad?

    1. Brings a tear to my eye imagining the pain they endure because of mediocre stats. “Think of the prosecutors”, sniff, sniff.

  6. I’m sure everybody up and down the chain feels terrible about this outcome, but the law is the law and their hands are tied, they have no discretion in how they deal with this. I’m also sure that everybody up and down the chain would expect some “professional courtesy” if they were to find themselves similarly entangled with the law in a minor matter.

    1. The law can be changed or repealed as easily as it was created.

    2. “The law is the law” is a horsesh!t lame excuse. Many criminal charges have been denied by prosecutors or thrown out by judges. Saying “the law is the law” especially about a mentally disabled person is sickening. Try again.

    3. LOL @ no discretion. Like a cop can write you a ticket or let you off with a warning….

  7. Ten years ago, when a neighbor—a young man with a troubled past, who had molested Adam—told him to pull down his pants in front of a girl, Adam complied.

    And that scumbag neighbor is getting a taste of his own medicine in a maximum security prison, right?

    In Illinois, Nestiekis has applied for a gubernatorial pardon for her son. She is doing it on her own as the couple’s savings, meant to provide care for Adam when they are no longer here, were spent on legal fees and complying with the registry requirements. (They had to move.)

    Ah, who am I kidding. That scumbag neighbor is probably still living in the same house walking around a free man.

    Reason #1,528,898 why I hate everyone and everything.

    1. when I was a kid in grade school, if a guy pulled down his pants or got “pantsed” by a crowd of other guys, and some girl saw it, most times she’d laugh and just walk away.

  8. there are lots of things wrong with the list but as always there are people who need to be on a list and Since this person is so easily convinced to do things then maybe he needs to stay on the list as well.

    1. The “list” didn’t exist prior to the 1990’s so what is your argument for those offenses committed prior to the 90’s when people did their time and then got their life and liberty back after prison and probation?

      1. Oh, but states who have adopted Adam Walsh Act standards apply the law retroactively to anyone ever convicted. Period.

        1. Adam Walsh wasn’t even sexually assaulted.

    2. If they are so fucking dangerous why are they out of prison?!?!?

      1. Telling a kid to pull his pants down around a girl could be a sign of authority. So of course he could still be walking around; some police don’t want to touch a person who could be carrying anything.

  9. One year, they knocked on everyone’s door in the apartment complex to tell them they’re living near a sex offender.

    If you check the registries, you’ll probably find you’re living near a sex offender.

    1. Ya because America has more than the whole world combine by putting every little thing on them!

      1. In some States you don’t even have to be convicted. In some States you don’t even have to committ a sex crime to land on it.

  10. 21st century lepers. Every society must have it’s outcasts and scapegoats; it provides a sense of exculpation everyone else, and the gods are appeased.

  11. When the almighty sex offender registry was implemented, the “crime” this mentally disabled man was put on it for was NOT part of the reason for its creation. The sex offender registry, aka “Schindler’s List”, has become a monster that is now unstoppable because every “I love victim hood” liberal as well as every “forgiveness and redemption in Jesus” conservative has become reliant on it. Yet…. prior to the 1990’s, no one was concerning themselves with other people’s past transgressions. Enter the SOR and everyone starts losing brain cells relying on it. Yet the people committing new sexual crimes are those who are NOT on it and have little to no previous criminal history. Image that, eh?

    1. RIGHT, about 95% of sex crimes are by first time offenders…I have never heard of a story of the registry saving a single life.

    2. Prevention could be nine-tenths of the law.

      I think you have a case where when in doubt, use the list knowing that the appeals process exists. fellow

      The mental fellow is nothing but a name on a piece of paper to a bureaucrat. This being the epitome of republicanism: there is no bias — only legal impartiality.

      On a serious note, such a list has to be filled out by someone — shouldn’t it rightly be the judge of the court case itself?

  12. The pro-registry crowd uses the child molester as their poster boy for the registry. What did people do about child molesters who had done their time living in their midst AND MINDING THEIR OWN BUSINESS prior to all the gov’t watch lists?

    1. GREAT question! In reality sex offenders are the LEAST likely to commit another crime, with the exception of murderers.

  13. As usual, America overreacts, casts a wide net, and moves with no reason but political. When the average American hears sex offenders they think rapist, or child molester, but in reality, they make a small minority. It’s mostly minor crimes like Romeo and Juliet, exposure, or misdemeanors.


  15. Seems like they had a shitty lawyer.

  16. Leave a dog in charge of other, younger dogs and there may be a lot of licking and sexual exploration.

    If you ask me, a former sexual offender thinks like a dog because he was raised in close proximity to the most active creatures in domesticated society. In this case, animism has something to say about available personality.

    If the girl hadn’t been careful, she would had gone barking all the way home about the rather strange incident.

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