A man has been released from prison after serving two consecutive sentences of 3 1/3 to 10 years following his conviction for rape and robbery. At the age of fifteen, he was convicted of being one of a large group of youths who committed a series of violent assaults, including a brutal gang rape of a female jogger.
The man is presently challenging a recommendation to the court that he be assessed a risk level three, which requires the highest level of notification.
In addition to the man’s numerous written submissions, six witnesses testified on behalf of the man.
The first witness was the Imam of the Mosque. The Imam testified that while in prison, the man participated in a nonreligious sex offender counseling program, and graduated from two modules of a religious-based Islamic Therapeutic Program relating to violent behavior awareness and substance abuse awareness.
A Roman Catholic priest, the man’s second witness, also testified that he has known the man since he was fourteen years old, and knows his mother to be an active member of her community. Even though the witness knew that the man had a high rate of truancy, and was suspended from school for possessing a knife, the priest described him as a typical, normal kid who exhibited no signs for potential trouble prior to his arrest.
A writer, counselor and workshop facilitator was the man’s third witness. She testified that she met the man when he was released on bail after his arrest, and formed a group to support the mothers of those arrested and charged. She further testified that the man works in construction, lives with his mother, and adheres to all the conditions of his parole.
The fourth witness was an attorney. He testified that he acted as the man’s big brother when he was about ten years old. He testified that the man received his high school diploma and a community college associate’s degree while in prison. He further stated that the man has been admitted to college and plans to enroll and obtain his bachelor’s degree.
A retired family criminal court probation officer was the fifth witness who met the man after his release from prison. He testified that the man has an extensive support system which includes his mother, the witnesses who testified at the hearing, and members of the community.
The man’s last witness was his psychiatrist. His doctor testified regarding his psychiatric evaluation of the man. He stated that prior to the man’s imprisonment; he met with him for three informal psychotherapy sessions to discuss the possibility of his imprisonment.
Sources revealed that the doctor recently conducted a 1 1/2 to 2 hour interview and mental status examination of the man. The doctor also interviewed various members of the man’s community and his prison environment.
The man’s prison youth division counselor who ran the sex crimes offender unit described him to the psychiatrist as a religiously devout individual who obeyed all the rules and attended all the prescribed programs and treatments despite consistently maintaining his innocence. The doctor further explained that he found that the man has a larger support network than the average person, consisting of his family, the religious community, and the general community. He also determined that the man has never been drug or alcohol dependent. The doctor further testified that the man has consistently maintained his innocence.
The doctor stated, however, that he evaluated the man as if he had done it, as if he were guilty of the crime, and evaluated him as he would any other person who was considered to be guilty. His personal opinion is that the man is innocent. The doctor’s professional opinion is that the risk of the man committing a violent or sexual crime is minimal to nonexistent.
Sources revealed that there are three designated risk levels and the board is required to develop guidelines and procedures to assess the risk of a repeat offense by a sex offender, and the threat posed to the public safety based upon certain factors set forth by the legislature.
The board then created an objective risk assessment instrument to be utilized in arriving at an offender’s presumptive risk level. The instrument considers fifteen risk factors in four areas. The seven current offense factors are use of violence, sexual contact with victim, number of victims, duration of offense conduct with victim, age of victim, other victim characteristics and relationship between the offender and victim. The four criminal history factors are age at first sex crime, number and nature of prior crimes, recency of prior felony or sex crime and drug or alcohol abuse. The two post-offense behavior factors are acceptance of responsibility and conduct while confined or under supervision. The two release environment factors are supervision and living or employment situation.
Based on records, the risk assessment instrument assigns a numerical value to the existence of certain situations regarding each specified factor. The values are totaled to arrive at the offender’s presumptive risk level. Where the total score is 70 points or less, the offender is presumptively level one. When it is more than 70 points but less than 110 points, he is presumptively level two. If 110 points or more, he is presumptively level three. The board’s guidelines also set forth four overrides that automatically result in a presumptive risk level three irrespective of the aggregate score of the risk factors.
Afterward, the board found the man to be a presumptive risk level three based on the existence of the override that serious physical injury was inflicted on the victim. The man does not argue the board’s findings that the victim suffered serious physical injury. Moreover, a jury found that the man and his accomplices committed a violent assault and brutal rape.
The man claims that his exemplary prison record, his post-offense behavior, and his release environment are such that the court should conclude that a level three designation is unwarranted. Witnesses have described the man’s greater level of maturity and deep commitment to his religious beliefs since the time of the crime. The extensive community support network available to the man also appears to be very significant. Additionally, the fact that the man is pursuing his education and has made efforts to continue his employment, are certainly positive actions.
An evaluation of the man’s expert psychiatric testimony also does not convince the court that, despite the brutal nature of the crime, departure from the presumptive risk level three assessment is warranted. The court is also troubled by the psychiatrist’s personal belief that the man is innocent, despite his conviction and the evidence on which the jury relied.
Moreover, the court is hesitant to rely on the psychiatrist’s expert opinion that the man poses a low risk of re-offending since the criminal court is unable to determine to what extent the doctor’s personal belief in the man’s innocence may have influenced his professional opinion.
For that reason, the psychiatrist’s professional opinion gives the court no confidence that there is no more than a low or moderate risk of a repeat offense.
Furthermore, the court decided to consider the man as a sexually violent predator and evaluated him as a risk level three sex offender.
It is never easy to prove yourself to others especially if you did something terribly wrong before. If you want to appeal your conviction, you can seek legal help from the New York City Criminal Lawyer. Further, you can also avail of the expertise of the NYC Sex Crime Attorney. At Stephen Bilkis and Associates, you can ask for the legal representative that is best for your law suit.