The Sublette County Journal
Volume 4, Number 45 - 6/29/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
6 Registered Sex Offenders Remain in Sublette County
County Attorney Dale Aronson confirmed Tuesday that Sublette County currently has six resident, registered sex offenders. These individuals are in addition to the Jeramie McGuire and Jason Hooper, both of whom recently moved to Sublette County.
Although the County Attorney has known of these individuals living here, none has had a notification hearing with a district judge as yet.
Wyoming's sex offender notification law was enacted on July 1, 1999. As per the statute, the County Attorney must file an application for a notification hearing with the district court if a resident sexual offender is an "aggravated sex offender" or a "recidivist" - or repeat sex offender.
For sex offenders who don't fall into one of these two categories, discretion is left up to the county attorney as to whether or not to request a notification hearing with the district court. The statute states that if, "based upon a review of the risk of reoffense factors specified in W.S. 7-19-303(d), it appears that public protection requires notification be provided to persons in addition to those authorized to receive criminal history record information...," the County Attorney may request a hearing.
At the hearing, the County Attorney will present the judge with information concerning the sex offenders' criminal history, the attorney's assessment of the risk of reoffense, and his recommendation as to the level of notification required.
The district judge makes the final decision. If the judge determines the risk of reoffense to be low, information concerning the offender will not be shared with the public. If the risk of reoffense is determined to be moderate, "notification shall be provided to residential neighbors within at least seven hundred fifty feet of the offender's residence, organizations in the community, including schools, religious and youth organizations..."
If the risk of reoffense is determined to be high, notification will be made to community organizations, and also through a public registry, such as printing the person's name, photo, and address in local newspapers as was done for Jason Hooper.
Mr. Hooper moved to Daniels Trailer Court south of Big Piney in January, but it wasn't until April that local law enforcement was alerted to his presence when his aunt called the Sheriff to report a fight between Mr. Hooper and his father. If the aunt hadn't called, no one would have known of the threat posed by this individual.
Once his presence was discovered, the County Attorney moved quickly to schedule a notification hearing with the district court. Similarly, Mr. Aronson has filed for a hearing for Mr. Hooper's half brother, Mr. McGuire.
But what about the six remaining sex offenders? Concerning these offenders, Mr. Aronson says, "I plan, at this time, to request hearings on all six offenders and let the district judge make a decision." Further, Mr. Aronson says his intent all along, since the notification law was enacted last July, has been to request notification hearings for each of these six resident sex offenders.
So why the delay? Mr. Hooper's presence was discovered in April, and the County Attorney was able to schedule a hearing in June, just two months later.
Mr. Aronson responds that on the other six sex offenders, he doesn't have the information he needs to request a hearing and make a recommendation. He says he's requested the required criminal history information on all six sex offenders from the Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), but "That information has not always been forthcoming. There's no sense in asking for a hearing if I have no information to present the judge." He continues, "I think that DCI is doing the best they can on it. It's just a question of moving the paper."
However, according to Jim Wilson who's in charge of the criminal history division at DCI, his division works as fast as it can on these requests. To his knowledge, he hasn't had any complaints from county attorneys around the state concerning delays in getting sexual offender information from DCI. More specifically, Mr. Wilson says DCI has responded promptly to every request for information it has received from Mr. Aronson. The information has been provided.
Further, Mr. Wilson says that if the offense was committed in Sublette County, most of the information the county attorney would need is located in the case file in the Clerk of District Court's office in the courthouse.
Mr. Wilson did say that one of the "holes" in the whole process is getting information from other states. If the offense did not occur in Wyoming, case history would have to be attained from somewhere else, and this can take time.
This could explain part of Mr. Aronson's problem in attaining information. According to Clerk of District Court Marilyn Jensen, who has seen the list of sex offenders residing in the county, none of the offenses occurred here. Thus, Mr. Aronson would have to go out of state for the required information.
On the other hand, both Mr. Hooper and Mr. McGuire's offenses occurred in Oregon, yet the County Attorney was able to move quickly on these individuals.
When asked how he was able to get the required information and schedule a hearing for Jason Hooper, Mr. Aronson responded that he judged Hooper to be a serious risk and that he determined Hooper was an urgent case. Of the other six sex offenders, he said, "There are some that do not have that urgency. Some that I'm still waiting for information on." Mr. Aronson says there's "quite a spectrum of sex offenses" and "I can recognize what is urgent and what is not."
"You can second guess how fast you think this process ought to go," Mr. Aronson concluded, "but we're having better luck than the other counties so far."
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