A D.C. Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday that a convicted sex offender can distribute and post photos of court employees online to protest the city’s sex offender registry.
Dennis Sobin, a former pornographer who served more than a decade in prison for a sexual performance using a minor, posted the photos of employees from D.C.’s Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) on idiotsregistry.info saying that sex-offender registries are unfair. A court employee filed for a civil protection order, accused him of stalking and asked the court to have Sobin to remove her photo.
But Judge Todd E. Edelman said that Sobin’s actions were protected by the First Amendment.
“Mr. Sobin’s conduct could be criticized,” said Edelman. “I think it’s unlikely to be effective. I think that criticizing lower-level court employees is puzzling. But that’s not my place to say.”
The unusual case garnered the attention of the ACLU, which filed a brief on Sobin’s behalf. Tuesday’s hearing also drew interest from other sex offenders and anti-registry activists.
“I’m very happy the judge understood and abided by the U.S. Constitution that gives citizens the right to protest, even in a personal sort of way,” Sobin said.
Sobin, 70, thought the decision could inspire similar protests elsewhere.
“The judge’s opinion will be used as ammunition around the country,” he said.
Stephanie Gray, the CSOSA employee who sought the protection order, and her attorneys declined comment.
Vicki L. Henry, president of Indiana’s Women Against Registry, welcomed the decision, saying people are not aware how much sex offender registries damage families.
“There’s no empirical evidence supporting these registries,” said Henry, whose son is a sex offender, outside the courtroom. “We need to promote prevention.”
Derek W. Logue, a sex offender from Ohio who was there to support Sobin, said that registries prevent criminals from moving forward.
“I’m 37,” Logue said. “They’re still judging me on what I did when I was 22.”