Dozens of sex offenders registered in Brookhaven

Published 10:00 pm Saturday, July 30, 2016

Q: How does a person get put on the sex offender registry? How long does a person stay on the list?

A: Any person convicted of a qualifying sex crime, even in cases of a plea deal, are required by state law to register on the Mississippi Sex Offender Registry, District 14 Attorney General Dee Bates said.

But what does “qualifying sex crime” mean?

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The Mississippi Department of Public Safety is the agency responsible for maintaining the list and handing registration, Bates said. The criminal offenses requiring registration as a sex offender are enumerated in Mississippi Code 54-33-25, he said.

According to that code, “Any person having a permanent or temporary residence or who is employed or attending school in this state who has been adjudicated delinquent for a registerable sex offense listed in this paragraph that involved use of force against the victim shall register as a sex offender with the responsible agency and shall personally appear at a Mississippi Department of Public Safety Driver’s License Station within three business days of registering with the responsible agency.”

Anyone guilty of an incident relating to rape and assault with intent to ravish (Section 97-3-71), relating to sexual battery (Section 97-3-95), relating to statutory rape (Section 97-3-65) or conspiracy to commit, accessory to the commission of, or attempt to commit any offense listed in this paragraph is required to register as a sex offender, the statute said.

So that means if you live, work or go to school in Mississippi, and you’ve been convicted of a sex crime relating to rape and assault or sexual battery, you must register as a sex offender.

“If you plea to that statute, then you’re going on the sex offenders list,” Bates said.

Convicted sex offenders must give their name, current address and a DNA sample to the Mississippi Department of Public Safety and may also be required to give “any other information as deemed necessary.”

Registrants are required to reregister to the list annually if they are under electronic monitoring, like probation. If an offender is not being monitored every day, they are required to reregister every 90 days.

Registered sex offenders are not allowed to live within 3,000 feet of an elementary or secondary school, childcare facility, residential child-caring agency, children’s group care home or any park or recreational facility for the use of people under the age of 18.

But not all individuals guilty of a sex crime are required to register for the list, Bates said.

That is apparent in a case involving a former Lincoln County employee.

In August 2010, Timothy K. Miller, a former jailer employed by the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, was indicted for the offense of unlawful sexual penetration of a female incarcerated offender.

Miller pleaded guilty to the sex crime in November of that year and was sentenced to five years of probation under the Mississippi Department of Corrections and ordered to pay $5,000 in court costs and $300 to the state crime lab. Under the sentencing, he was not allowed to work for or have contact with any person being held in any type of correctional or law enforcement facility.

At the time of the incident, Miller was in violation of the jail’s protocol.

Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing said the protocol in 2010 was the same as it is now. Female jailers tend to matters on the first floor with the female inmates. If for some reason a female jailer isn’t available, two male jailers will handle the situation so there is another person to serve as a witness.

“That was already in place,” Rushing said. “We have female jailers on staff that handle anything dealing with females. If for some reason one of them isn’t available, there is supposed to be two males (so one can be a witness). That was already in place and we try to reinforce it to them all the time.”

In addition, there were cameras in various locations in the jail when the incident occurred, Rushing said.

“We had some then. We’ve added more since then. As we can afford to, we’ve added them as much as possible,” Rushing said.

Currently, there are 16 full-time and four part-time jailers covering four rotating shifts, Rushing said. Females hold six of those full-time spots. There is also one part-time female jailer.

Despite pleading guilty to the sex crime, Miller was not required to register for the Mississippi Sex Offenders Registry.

Lincoln County Circuit Clerk Dustin Bairfield said Miller was not required to apply to the registry because he pleaded guilty to a sex crime under Section 97-3-104 of the Mississippi Code of 1972. The section did not require it, he said.

There are other cases where a defendant who is charged with a sex crime that would require them to register for the sex offenders list pleads guilty to a lesser crime, preventing them from being put on the list, Bates said. These cases are common, he said.

In other instances where an offender pleads guilty to a lesser crime Bates said, “You could have a 19-year-old having sex with a 16-year-old. The 16-year-old couldn’t consent. It’s very hard to get a conviction in that situation.”

“Juries think that’s too much punishment for a child,” Bates went on to say. “That’s not what we would think of as a predator. That’s a conflict with that particular statue.”

In those situations, Bates said it’s common to accept a plea for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. A misdemeanor has a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and one year in jail.

Once an individual is registered as a sex offender, his name stays on the registry for life.

The list for the Brookhaven zip code of 39601 includes the names 67 men and one woman. At least five individuals on the list are noted as deceased.

The sex offender registry can be found online at Searches can be made by an individual’s name or by geographical location. A community notification system is available for residents or business owners to request to be notified by email when a sex offender registers a home, work or school address that is near an address of interest to that person.

Aaron Paden and Donna Campbell contributed to this story.