Free-Range Kids

Disabled Man on Sex Offender Registry for Prank Gone Wrong Will Get a New Hearing

"Once you have the Scarlet Letter, it doesn't go away until you're gone."

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An intellectually disabled young man placed on the sex offender registry for doing his friend's bidding has been granted a new hearing. The Illinois Prison Review Board will review his case, most likely sometime this summer. His mother is asking, on his behalf, for executive clemency.

He deserves it.

Adam is 34 years old and still must be reminded to brush his teeth and shave. He was 16 before he stopped wetting the bed. Before he landed on the registry, his greatest pleasures in life were the Special Olympics, scuba diving (a sport he learned from an organization serving people with disabilities), and his part-time job wiping tables and cleaning the bathroom at a local restaurant.

When he was 26, the young man next door invited him over. Carol Nesteikis, Adam's mom, wrote about that young man—whom she gives the pseudonym "Reuben"—in Persuasion:

We embraced Reuben, a child dealing with many psychological and behavioral problems, like one of our own. We had him to our house often and took him on camping trips. By the time Adam and Reuben entered their twenties, the neighbors had adopted Reuben and were also caring for his young niece.

But unbeknownst to us, Reuben—now a young adult—was re-enacting the sexual abuse he had been subjected to as a boy, and was molesting both my son and his niece. My heart breaks for this little girl, who has endured so much trauma. One day, Reuben told my son that it would fun if Adam unzipped his pants and exposed himself to the 5-year-old girl. Adam did. He had no understanding of what he had done, nor did he touch her.

When the girl told her parents what had transpired, they called the police. Reuben and Adam were both charged with 19 felonies. Adam's parents fought for a year to have the charges dropped, but finally agreed to a deal: Adam would plead guilty to one misdemeanor, wear an ankle monitor for two years of probation, and be on the Sex Offender Registry for 10 years.

He is in his ninth year on the Registry now. Doesn't that make the prison review almost moot? I asked Nesteikis

Absolutely not.

"Him coming off the registry doesn't mean that we aren't still stuck following all the rules and regulations," she said. "He still has to follow the residential restrictions." In Illinois, that means he can't live within 500 feet of "schools and day cares and churches with bible classes or anything like that." He is forbidden to step foot in a park. And his parents, in their late 60s, know that someday he will probably have to be cared for by his sister, who moved to Florida. Even if Adam is removed from the registry in Illinois, his conviction means he would have to go back on it in Florida.

"I think even the judges and attorneys think that once you're off the registry, those other requirements end," said Nesteikis, who co-founded Legal Reform for People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (LRIDD). "Our attorneys said, 'Well, at least after 10 years, you're all done.' But that's not true. Once you have the Scarlet Letter [of a sex offense], it doesn't go away until you're gone."

That's why Nesteikis is so hopeful the Review Board will expunge Adam's conviction. Only that would allow him to resume his former life—or as much as can be salvaged. His mom isn't sure he can recover from nine years "of being in pretty much solitary confinement." Before the conviction, she says, "He was very social. He would visit with the neighbors—they know him very well." Two of those former neighbors are set to testify at the hearing, as is retired Cook County Assistant States Attorney Scott Cassidy, a family friend.

Adam "doesn't know what the registry is, or what it means to have a record or conviction," said his mom. But he does know that something is coming up—something big, that just might allow him to go back to his beloved job and the Special Olympics.

NEXT: 40 Years a Prisoner

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  1. These monsters want to rob some prosecutor of that easy win?

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  2. Fuck the state.

    1. They’ll put you on a list if you do that.

        1. Only if powered by solar, wind, or unicorn farts.

        2. gets you on the specialer list

        3. With an attitude like yours, YOU’RE THE ONE WHO NEEDS TO BE FED THROUGH THE WOOD CHIPPER!

  3. “Adam is 34-years-old and still must be reminded to brush his teeth and shave

    With the lockdowns and working from home I needed to be reminded too.

    1. “Oh look, mommy… a redneck with green teeth!”

      1. I’m confused. How is that related to Comstock and the Corn Laws?

  4. Adam would plead guilty to one misdemeanor, wear an ankle monitor for two years of probation, and be on the Sex Offender Registry for 10 years.

    Adam “doesn’t know what the registry is, or what it means to have a record or conviction,” said his mom.

    If Adam “doesn’t know what the registry is, or what it means to have a record or conviction,” then how could the court accept a plea from him? Has anyone tried to explain it to him? If they could, should they?

    1. They would have accepted it from his legal guardians, via the lawyer.

    2. “We couldn’t take the risk of a trial—we knew our son would not make it if he was sent to prison. In 2013, we accepted the deal. When Adam appeared before the judge, she was required to make sure my son voluntarily agreed to plead guilty and that he understood the consequences of doing so. But my son didn’t comprehend any of the questions the judge asked him. Adam’s lawyer stood next to him and told him what to say.”
      from https://www.persuasion.community/p/my-son-is-no-sex-offender

  5. “Bailiff, whack his pee-pee!”
    “Oh wait…”

  6. Wait a minute — this was all on the testimony of a 5 year old?! How could that have stood up if it ever went to trial?

    What was his lawyer thinking? Oh, well, this dummy would probably get into trouble eventually anyway; pleading guilty to this will probably keep him out of worse trouble.

    1. A 5 year old who presumably showed physical signs of sexual trauma? Why wouldn’t it have stood up?

  7. Who were the douchebag prosecutors who ran with this in the first place? This is why we can never have anything nice.

  8. If he can learn to scuba and be successful at work he should have been taught the basics on sexual decency and what is and is not appropriate and legal. How do we know he has since learned that??

    I sympathize with the family and even with the perpetrator. Even if he didn’t know what he was doing is wrong, it was still done. There is still a victim with residual effects. And I wouldn’t want there to be more in the future.

    1. It’s not as easy a teach as you think compared to something mechanical like scuba. Usually we don’t learn “sexual decency” as a set of steps equivalent to scuba diving. Instead as children we get corrected numerous times as we violate these rules we don’t understand, and just pick it up by example. It’s not a series of steps to do, but a class of things to not do, and if you tried to formulate detailed rules on exactly what not to do, you’d find it very hard to state in a way that covers any but a few cases. This is an unusual situation in that someone the mental age of a young child is in a household that’s technically not his own. If it had been a normal child at the same mental age, and with relatives in his own household, we’d think nothing of it.

      As to the “victim with residual effects”, I don’t think that’s ever been proven in cases of mere exposure. Similarly, pornography has never been shown to be harmful; it’s just been assumed in statutes deeming it “harmful to minors”.

      1. As to the “victim with residual effects”, I don’t think that’s ever been proven in cases of mere exposure. Similarly, pornography has never been shown to be harmful; it’s just been assumed in statutes deeming it “harmful to minors”.

        Really? Maybe not to your satisfaction, but I don’t think the attempt has never been made. It’s been convincing enough to everyone else, though.

        If you want experiment results on children, see if you can find the Frankfurt School or University of Munich sexual exposure experiments from decades ago. The Germans don’t seem to have the same ethical standards as the rest of the west wrt experimenting on people that lack agency.

        1. Not everyone else. To me, the idea that being exposed as a child to the sight of adult genitals is necessarily traumatic is absurd.

    2. “He doesn’t understand sex and he dislikes being touched, hugged, or kissed.”
      from https://www.persuasion.community/p/my-son-is-no-sex-offender

  9. I am confused. 19 felony counts for exposing yourself in front of a 5 year old? There must be a lot more to this story than we are being told.

    Meanwhile, any man can simply walk into a locker room or changing area for women, expose himself, claim he’s transgender and it’s all perfectly legal.

    1. Piling on charges is SOP for prosecutors. Since Adam and ‘Reuben’ were both physically adult, the presumption would be that they were co-perpetrators. Even if they don’t get convictions on all charges, they add to the financial burden of the defendant by forcing the attorney to waste time rebutting them.

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