Iowa sex offender shares his viewpoint

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 31, 2006

Editor’s note: This is the sixth in a seven-part series.

By Joseph Marks, staff writer

At 30 years old, Brian King leads a much calmer life than he did 10 years ago when he was young and living in Waterloo, Iowa. He works as a mechanic and is one course shy of completing a degree in diesel technology from Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo.

He hasn’t been charged with more than a speeding ticket in nine years, according to Iowa and Minnesota court records, and said he wants nothing more than to hold down a job and be a vital member of society.

King made a series of mistakes 10 years ago that changed his life and followed him from Waterloo to Shell Rock, Iowa, and then to Albert Lea, where he moved about six months ago.

He was charged with and pleaded guilty to two acts of indecent exposure, requiring him to register as a sex offender in Iowa and in any state he moved to for the next 10 years.

&8220;I did something wrong,&8221; said King, in an interview last Saturday, &8220;and I deserve to be punished. It was a stupid thing to do but it was nothing sexual or deviant. It didn’t get me off, it was just a stupid joke.&8221;

King’s name was one of five on a list of registered sex offenders from Iowa who currently live in Albert Lea, available on the Web site www12.familywatchdog.us. The list was presented at an Albert Lea City Council meeting Jan. 23 and posted on a local online forum.

He is one of 42 registered sex or predatory offenders living in Albert Lea, according to detective Frank Kohl. The names and pictures of only five of those offenders are available to the public because their crimes were committed in Iowa. Of the five Iowa offenders in Albert Lea, King is the only one whose crimes did not involve physical contact with the victim, accordingto the national sex offender registry Web site.

Kohl said he believes there are other registered offenders in the city whose only charge is indecent exposure but said he could not be certain.

Other registered sex offenders in the city whose names are publicly available declined to be interviewed by the Tribune.

In July of 2004, Iowa began posting the names and pictures of all registered sex offenders whose crimes were committed in the state on its registry Web site.

Minnesota, by contrast, assigns one of three risk levels to offenders who have served prison time and only releases names and pictures of offenders in the two categories judged most likely to re-offend, said Liz Bogut, communications director for the Minnesota Department of Corrections. The Minnesota registry includes &8220;predatory offenders&8221; whose crimes may not have been sexual in nature, Bogut said. Offenders who have not served prison time are not assigned a risk level.

After the January meeting anxiety about predatory offenders spread through the community. Local parent Ted Paulson and Power 96 DJ Ron Hunter circulated a petition that led the City Council to form a committee to draft an ordinance, one aimed at restricting certain offenders from living in close proximity to schools, child-care centers or parks.

During this same period, King said, a flier was circulated in his neighborhood with his picture and a list of his offenses. He said his landlord, who was aware of the charges, contacted him when a number of neighbors called her with their concerns.

&8220;I wondered if it would come up when I moved,&8221; King said. &8220;I was hoping it wouldn’t. It’s not that I’m trying to run away. I’m trying to get by and live my life. I work, I hold down a job, I went to college. I haven’t been in a bit of trouble since then.&8221;

Kohl said he is aware of recent cases in the city of fliers circulated near the homes of

known offenders.

&8220;My question,&8221; King said, &8220;is when these people were 18,19, 20 or 21 did they do stupid things? And most of them probably did. They probably mooned someone or did something similar to what I did and they didn’t get caught. But I did.&8221;

Ten years ago

While driving on the freeway in Black Hawk County, Iowa, in January of 1997, King pulled alongside a car full of young women driving in the other lane. He put his car in cruise control, unzipped his pants, sidled up and exposed himself frontally to the women in the other car. He was 20 years old at the time. The women weren’t under 18.

&8220;I did it and drove away,&8221; said King. &8220;It was just a stupid joke.&8221;

One of the women called the police and reported King’s license plate number. A few days later, law enforcement officers called King and told him about the girl’s complaint.

The way law enforcement officers treated him when they spoke to him about the act made him angry and resentful. On May 17, 1997, just five days before pleading guilty to indecent exposure in the first case, King exposed himself again, this time to a 17-year-old girl while driving on Interstate 380 in Buchanan County, Iowa. Once again he was caught.

According to court documents in the Buchanan County case, &8220;He admitted he had done the act and could not explain why he had done it. He mentioned it was an &8216;impulse’&8221;

King was sentenced to 60 days in jail with work release for the Black Hawk County offense on July 22, 1997, according to court documents. Three days later he was sentenced to 30 days of work release for the Buchanan County offense and required to attend sex offender treatment classes.

King had to register as a sex offender in Iowa, where registration is mandatory when convicted of indecent exposure, said Gordon Miller, public service executive with the Iowa Department of Public Safety in Des Moines. Either crime would have landed him on the registry, he said.

King claims these are the only two times he exposed himself to a stranger. Court records show he has never been charged with another offense. King said he has never committed a sexual offense where he had physical contact with anyone. That claim is backed up by court records in Iowa and Minnesota.

As of Jan. 1, 2006, 885 of Iowa’s roughly 6,000 registered sex offenders had never been convicted of an offense that involved physical contact with the victim, Miller said.

A no-contact indecent exposure charge would not require someone to register as a sex offender in Minnesota, according to Bogut, but Kohl noted a fifth-degree criminal sex charge pleaded down to indecent exposure would require a Minnesota offender to register.

Treatment

As part of his sentence, King was required to attend a sex offender treatment program. According to Ken Kolthoff, division manager for field services for Iowa’s first judicial district which includes Buchanan County, a sex offender treatment program is mandatory for all people convicted of sex offenses in the district regardless of severity.

Classes in the first judicial district are held weekly, Kolthoff said, and are composed of treatment and assessment components. He said offenders are usually required to attend classes regularly for two years and then attend therapy sessions less regularly for the remainder of their probation period. Iowa’s treatment programs for sex offenders are completely funded by the state, Kolthoff said.

&8220;They work on things like what the offender’s deviant or unhealthy cycles are and what led up to the offense,&8221; Kolthoff said. &8220;They work on relapse prevention and at not entering into that situation again, looking through the victim’s eyes and trying to work on empathy and understanding.&8221;

King described the treatment class as humiliating, saying he was offended to be placed in a class with child molesters and did not learn from the class because it was not geared toward his offense level.

&8220;I had to go to sex offender classes for six months with child molesters&8221; he said, &8220;people who’d molested their grandkids and neighbors’ kids. I didn’t even fit into that category. It was humiliating because I’m not that type of person. I’d never even fathom doing that.&8221;

Kolthoff said the assessment portion of sex offender treatment classes in Iowa’s first judicial district consists of three assessment tools: The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory; polygraph tests during which the offender is questioned about his complete sexual history; and a plethysmograph test, known colloquially as a &8220;peter meter,&8221; where a device is attached to the offender’s penis and it gauges the response while he looks at slides of adults and children of various ages.

It was the last test King found the most offensive.

&8220;I was offended to sit there and see that,&8221; he said. &8220;I walked out and told my probation officer, &8216;if you ever show me that again I’ll call my lawyer.’ They have no right to put me through that. They saw there was no reaction. That disgusted me. That’s not who I am. I’d never even think about that.&8221;

Two thousand feet

On July 1, 2002, a law passed by the Iowa Legislature took effect prohibiting anyone who had ever committed a sex offense against a minor from living within 2,000 feet of a school or child-care center. The law drew fire from the Iowa Civil Liberties Union, law enforcement and neighboring states, which were concerned the law would push Iowa’s offenders over the border.

Soon after the law was passed, the ICLU won a case filed on behalf of several Iowa registrants and an injunction was passed discontinuing the law, Miller said. That injunction was overturned last year when the Eighth District Court of Appeals ruled the law was constitutional and the restrictions took effect again in September of 2005.

When the 2,000-foot rule took effect King was 29 and living in a fourplex on Upton Avenue in Waterloo.

&8220;I never paid much attention to the registry until Sept. 1,&8221; he said, &8220;when they came up with this law. My name never came up, and it was never a problem until Sept. 1 and that’s when it just hit the fan.&8221;

Only small portions of Waterloo remained available to offenders, King said. Law enforcement didn’t create maps indicating where offenders could live. Miller confirmed maps for sex offenders were handled at the local level when the law took effect.

&8220;We referred registrants to local officials,&8221; he said, because there was no statewide geomap available. We had to leave it up to the local authorities to determine. I don’t think many maps were made available.&8221;

Even today, six months later, Miller said, it is difficult to determine how much of Iowa is available to live in.

&8220;One early statistic was as much as 75 percent of Iowa was out-of-bounds,&8221; he said. &8220;I can’t believe it’s that much because of the rural areas. If you’re talking about where housing is actually available, that may be realistic. In Des Moines proper, it’s estimated as much as 90 percent of the city is off-limits.&8221;

None of this mattered at first to King, who would have been grandfathered into the law because he lived at his apartment before it took effect. Everything changed, King said, when a neighbor came home drunk and burned down his apartment building in June of 2005.

After the fire, King lived with a family friend, an 84-year-old woman, but she became uncomfortable when she received phone calls because he was publicly registered at her address. In September of last year, he moved from the old woman’s house to an apartment in Shell Rock, Iowa. Within days, King said, the 2,000-foot rule went into effect and he was visited by local law enforcement.

&8220;The sheriff’s office said I had to move,&8221; he said. &8220;I said where can I move to and they said we don’t have a map yet. This was a couple of days after Sept. 1, and they pretty much said, &8216;It’s your problem. Deal with it.’

&8220;At that time I lived in Shell Rock and worked in Hampton, 45 minutes west, and there wasn’t a single town between Shell Rock and Hampton I could live. Every town I asked said the same thing. It’s your problem. It came down to moving to Minnesota because I could live wherever I wanted.&8221;

Six months ago, King moved to Albert Lea, hoping for a fresh start. He was disappointed last month, when fliers with his picture were circulated in his neighborhood and his landlord began receiving calls from neighbors.

&8220;People don’t do their research,&8221; he said. &8220;They hear sex offender and they instantly think child molester. That’s not the case. In Iowa there are so many cases like mine.&8221;

Down the road

King will move back to Iowa in a few weeks for a mechanic job in the Waterloo area. He said he will live with his parents at first, who live on a farm outside the city a long way from any schools or child-care centers.

&8220;I’m 30 years old,&8221; he said. &8220;I’ve worked hard to support myself, and I shouldn’t have to move in with my parents.&8221;

Eventually, King said, he hopes to find a small town without any schools or child-cares in the area. In about a year and a half, King’s 10-year registration period will end.

King’s past mistakes won’t drift away when his registry ends though. According to Miller, Iowa’s 2,000-foot rule has been interpreted to apply to offenders even after their registration period ends.

&8220;What good does it do then to be off the registry,&8221; King said. &8220;All I want to do is work and be a part of society and hold down a job. I’m trying to better my life.&8221;