GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — When Target 8 began researching the fight to change Michigan’s sex offender registry, we wanted to revisit a West Michigan man who landed on the registry because of a decision he made as a teenager.
In 1999, when Rick McQuillin was 17, he had sex one time with a 15-year-old girl on a summer afternoon at her home near Rockford.
Months later, her parents found out she was pregnant and went to police.
According to the police report, the girl said she told McQuillin she didn’t want to have sex, but he proceeded anyway.
McQuillin – who said the baby turned out not to be his – disputed that the girl said, “no.”
Still, he ultimately pled to attempted felony third-degree criminal sexual conduct.
His sentence – probation but no jail time – was nothing compared to the punishment that lay ahead – lifetime registration as a sex offender.
Target 8 first talked to McQuillin in 2011.
When we discovered recently that he is no longer on Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry, Target 8 thought he might have successfully petitioned to be removed from it.
But then Target 8 found his name on another sex registry – Ohio’s.
McQuillin had moved to a small town in northwestern Ohio to care for his ailing parents.
Now, he’s listed as a “sexual predator” on that state’s registry.
McQuillin, now 38, has not re-offended since that afternoon encounter as a teenager in 1999.
“It sucks,” said McQuillin, referring to the life on the registry. “It follows me everywhere I go. Every time I move to a different town, I’ve got to register. Every time I move to a different house, got to register that. New jobs, got to register. New phone number, got to register that. Can’t have social media… I’ve had threats of being beat up because of (the registry).”
McQuillin is grateful to have a steady job in Ohio because the registry has made it tough to find employment in the past.
He says he missed out on raising his two sons from prior relationships in part because he could not attend any school events due to his placement on the registry.
“I think about my sons every day, and it hurts every day,” said McQuillin.
McQuillin said he hopes sharing his story will help prompt registry reform.
In Michigan, there are more than 40,000 people on the sex offender registry – the fourth largest registry in the nation.
It’s been four years since the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled parts of Michigan’s sex offender registry unconstitutional.
In May, a federal judge in Michigan gave the state legislature 90 days to re-write the law to bring it into compliance.
PDF: Federal ruling
But state legislators failed to take any action.
“It’s a politically sensitive issue right now,” said Miriam Aukerman, senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union in Michigan. “There’s a lot of misinformation about people with past sexual offenses. There’s a lot of very understandable anger about the harm that these individuals have caused.”
But Aukerman said there’s zero evidence Michigan’s sex offender registry makes anyone safer.
In fact, she believes it’s doing the opposite.
“We want to protect our kids, protect ourselves, protect our families and protect our communities. And the research shows that registries don’t do that. If we don’t want (these people) to re-offend, we can’t sabotage everything that would make that person successful. We can’t stigmatize that person, take away their chances for housing, employment and family relationships.”
On Wednesday, Aukerman argued on behalf of registrants before U.S. District Judge Robert H. Cleland in Port Huron.
The ACLU is asking Cleland to order the registry unenforceable – effectively removing thousands of people from it – unless lawmakers re-write the law to make it constitutional within a certain amount of time.
It’s not clear when Cleland will render his decision, which could come anytime.
Michigan State Police, which oversees the registry, referred Target 8 to the Attorney General’s office for comment.
The Attorney General’s office said it had no one available to talk about the issues surrounding the registry.
Previously, federal judges have ruled the “school zone exclusions” are unconstitutionally vague because the law offers no guidance on how to measure the distance.
Registrants cannot be within 1,000 feet of a school.
“It is unclear whether SORA’s exclusion zones should be measured from only the real property on which educational instruction, sports, or other recreational activities take place – excluding the parking lot, administrative buildings, and other real property used for other purposes – or whether the zone should be measured from the school property line even when some of the real property is not used for one of the stated purposes,” wrote Cleland in a 2015 decision.
PDF: 2015 decision
“Accordingly, due to SORA’s vagueness, registrants are forced to choose between limiting where they reside, work, and loiter to a greater extent than is required by law or risk violating SORA,” wrote Cleland.
A federal court decision also declared unconstitutional “the retroactive application of SORA’s 2006 and 2011 amendments.”
“We conclude that Michigan’s SORA imposes punishment,” wrote the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in a January 2016 opinion. “While many (certainly not all) sex offenses involved abominable, almost unspeakable, conduct that deserves severe legal penalties, punishment may never be retroactively imposed or increased.”