originally posted 6/2012
In July of 2003, I was serving my country as part of the PA Nat’l Guard. I was also a college student. During that summer, I did active duty at a nearby military training school instead of getting a summer job. Many college students serving in the national guard/reserves did the same thing. So, there was a group of about 10 younger soldiers all essentially working at this post over the summer.
For the 4th of July, the whole group of us went to a party organized by one of the medics stationed there regularly. The party was held around the York, PA area. We were all underage (21 drinking age) except for 3 people. Those guys bought the alcohol. There was a fair mix of males and females. Through the night, there was a attraction between me and another female soldier. Honestly, I did want to engage in some type of sexual interaction with her. We were both soldiers, both drinking, and both having a good time. I didn’t see anything wrong with it as long as it was consensual.
As the night wound down, we all found places to sleep. The guy who owned the house told me I could sleep on a mattress that everyone had been walking over all night. The mattress was filthy and covered in beer, so I found my way into a bedroom which had a king size bed. There, 2 girls and another guy were sleeping. I lay on the edge of this bed next to the girl I was talking to all night. Although we were not talking, her body language seemed to indicate to me that it was OK to go a little further. I undid her pants and put my hand down there for about 10 seconds until she suddenly woke up, jumped off the bed, and left the room. I didn’t know where she went, but I figured it was either not OK or she was sick from drinking so much. I went out of the room and lay down on the mattress and shortly fell asleep. I was later awoken by people yelling and pouring drinks on me to wake me up. Everyone in the house was trying to ask me what I did and what happened. It was obvious to me at that moment that the girl was not happy with me doing what I had done.
We left the house and went back to the post. The next day, I was interviewed and asked questions by various officers on that post. I was eventually issued an Article 15 and made to return home. My personal unit commander told me that he was going to reverse the punishment because he felt the unit commander who charged me did not properly advise me of military court martial rights. Personally, I was just taking my lumps and trying to move on.
My commander repealed the punishment. A few weeks later I was called by a York Co. detective, charged, and released on bail, and to make a long story short, eventually served 22 months in prison for this crime and a few other charges I picked up while going to school with the thought that I might do 5 years in prison for a sex offense.
When I got out of jail, I registered as instructed. During the plea negotiations, my attorney told me I’d have to serve 10 years on the registry, but because it wasn’t a violent offense, I wouldn’t be a lifetime offender. Although not excited about it, I felt it was better than lifetime. However, when I registered, I was made aware that the charge of Agg. Indecent Assault, whether on a minor or not, carried a lifetime registration. Obviously, I was in shock.
I’ve been registered now for 7 years. I’ve been fully compliant ever since except in 2010 when the pipes froze in my apartment and forced me to temporarily move. Not immediately reporting this (I reported in less than 10 days) ended up getting me arrested for failure to register. I never left the town or the state, and I was on probation in full compliance the entire time. In fact, I had just seen my PO the day prior to the arrest. I NARROWLY avoided a 5 year mandatory sentence for failure to register. It cost me thousands of dollars.
Despite all this craziness, I’ve actually done quite well for myself. I own a successful home business. I’m married to a beautiful woman who loves me unconditionally. I’m active in the community and active at my church. I’m at zero risk of re-offending because I was really never at risk of offending in the first place. I felt I had consent with a girl who was the exact same age as me from the start.
Maybe I should have taken the case to trial, but my ignorance of the law made me sign a plea bargain out of ignorance. A few attorneys have told me that if I sought an appeal for false conviction, the charge would become an open charge again and I could essentially do time on it if convicted again. Quite frankly, that is insane so I’ve never sought an appeal.
Now, I see that PA is updating registration requirements and I’ll be forced to register quarterly. I’ve decided to join the fight because I have been able to live an OK life despite being registered, but you never know when they’ll try to make life even tougher with more restrictions. Also, I’d like to help people struggling with this by giving them some pointers.
If anyone has any feedback on perhaps how I could get the registration changed, please do contact me somehow.