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High court won't hear sex offender case

High court won't hear sex offender case

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BLOOMINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court has declined a request to review a McLean County case involving the issue of whether registered sex offenders should have access to social media.

Attorneys for Mark Minnis asked the Supreme Court to review a ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court related to charges filed in 2014 for his alleged failure to report a previously disclosed Facebook account on a sex offender registration filing. Minnis, now 24, was convicted in 2010 of misdemeanor sexual abuse for having sex with a 13-year-old girl when he was 16.

McLean County Judge Robert Freitag dismissed the charge against Minnis on the grounds that it was unconstitutional. The breadth of the information a sex offender is required to report is much too broad, Freitag ruled.

Freitag's decision was reversed in 2016 by the state Supreme Court in a decision that recognized the right to "publish and distribute writings while remaining anonymous" extends to the internet but that right is "not absolute."

As is its practice, the U.S. Supreme Court did not offer a reason for declining to review the Minnis case.

What comes next in the Minnis case has yet to be determined, according to his defense lawyer Stephanie Wong.

"We are still exploring options," said Wong.

A June 19 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court related to the First Amendment rights of another sex offender may have an impact on the McLean County case and others like it across the country.

In an 8-0 ruling, the high court struck down a North Carolina law that bars sex offenders from accessing social media websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, that allow minors to have accounts. The case against Lester Packingham was filed after police viewed his Facebook posting thanking God for the dismissal of a traffic ticket.

In an opinion penned by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court ruled that everyone should "have access to places where they can speak and listen, and then, after reflection, speak and listen once more."

It is anticipated that the Packingham decision with its determination that sex offenders do not lose their rights to free speech with their conviction will be cited by Minnis' attorneys when the case comes back to Illinois for a resolution. The appellate defender appointed to represent Minnis may ask the state Supreme Court to reconsider its reversal of Freitag's ruling in light of the North Carolina case.

The case also could be returned to McLean County where Wong said she would represent Minnis.

In arguments before the Illinois Supreme Court, an assistant attorney general cautioned that sex offenders must be closely monitored on the internet where interactions may be more casual.


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