Grassroots initiative would imprison for life first-time, violent sex offenders
Chelsea Fanara believes it is her duty and her right to protect her children from sex offenders.
The 24-year-old Malden resident and mother of two is collecting signatures to support Initiative 921, a proposal that would mandate life sentences without parole for first-time violent sex offenders.
The one-strike initiative, also known as Dylan’s law, was filed by Tracy Oetting, a resident of Skykomish, Wash. who is fed up with seeing sex offenders released from jail only to offend again.
“If you know they’re going to reoffend, why not do the right thing and pass a one-strike law?” Oetting said.
Critics of the initiative argue the proposal is too broad and not all first-time sex offenders deserve a life sentence.
Pullman lawyer Steve Martonick pointed to the crime of indecent liberties with forcible compulsion, one that would garner a mandatory life sentence if the initiative passes. Under existing Washington law, a man who fondles a woman in a bar without her permission can be charged with the crime. It’s a reprehensible act, he said, but not one deserving of a life sentence.
“That’s patently ridiculous for indecent liberties,” Martonick said. “That includes a lot of offenses.”
A life sentence already is an option for some violent sex offenses in Washington, but sentences are determined based on a scoring system that includes numerous factors, including whether or not the conviction is the person’s first. Fanara said that doesn’t go far enough when violent predators are set free and commit the same crimes again.
The initiative is named for Dylan Groene, a 9-year-old Coeur d’Alene boy who allegedly was murdered by Joseph Duncan III, a parolee from the Washington prison system.
In a case that captured national attention last year, Duncan allegedly kidnapped Dylan and his 8-year-old sister, Shasta, after killing their mother, brother, and their mother’s boyfriend. Shasta Groene was found with Duncan about seven weeks after she was reported missing. Dylan Groene’s body later was recovered in a remote wooded area in Montana.
Fanara heard about the case in the news and wanted to do something to make sure nothing like it happens again.
“If we had had this law in Washington before the Groene case, children’s lives could have been saved,” Fanara said.
As a mother, she is concerned about statistics that say one in six children will be raped or molested before they turn 18.
“I have two kids. Those odds aren’t good,” Fanara said.
Oetting has tried twice before to get a one-strike initiative on the ballot in Washington. Both times she failed to get the required 250,000 signatures. If she fails this time, she’s giving up, she said.
Oetting doesn’t know how many signatures she has raised this time around. She has until July 7 to get all those she needs. She hopes to hire a professional organization to circulate the petitions. A statewide yard sale Saturday served as a fundraiser. Steven Groene, father of Dylan and Shasta Groene, attended one of the yard sales in Kirkland, Wash. to support the initiative.
Fanara is disappointed by the reception she has received in Whitman County so far. She believes people who oppose the initiative aren’t well-informed about what Oetting is trying to do.
“A lot of people think it’s the 17-year-old and the 20-year-old, or the drunk peeing in public who has to register as a sex offender,” she said. “We’re focusing on violent sex offenders who prey on children.”
Martonick said the law, particularly as it relates to indecent liberties, isn’t as narrowly-tailored as Oetting and Fanara say it is.
“A life sentence for basically ass-grabbing is ridiculous,” Martonick said.
For more information about the initiative, visit www.citizensforaonestrikelaw.org or contact Fanara at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
"Dylan’s law effort pushes on"
More coverage on "Dylan's Law" from Michelle Dupler in today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Posted by Unknown at 6:04 PM