Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Murders of Gary Blanton and Jerry Ray blamed on Sex Offender Registry

OPINION: Press Release

Cambridge, MA-- Reform Sex Offender Laws (RSOL) condemns in the strongest terms the recent murders of Gary Blanton and Jerry Ray by self-proclaimed vigilante Patrick Drum. According to Paul Shannon, Director of RSOL, "Washington State’s Sex Offender registry does not protect the public and in fact provides a taxpayer-financed tool for vigilantes wishing to commit murder and other horrendous acts of vigilantism.”

“Gary Blanton is not a rapist. He was only 17 years of age himself when he engaged in consensual sexual contact with a17-year-old girl he was dating,” Shannon said. The girl’s parents filed charges, however, citing that she could not give legal consent due to a handicapping condition. Gary’s death leaves his young wife Leslie alone to raise their sons Gary, Jr. and Skylar, both under the age of three.

“What is most troubling,” says Shannon, “is that this is not the first incident where a person’s name being listed on the public sex offender registry has led to his murder.” In 2005, two men who were on the Washington State Sex Offender Registry were shot and killed in Bellingham by a vigilante who gained access to their home by posing as a law enforcement officer. Authorities investigating that shooting called it “one of the nation's most serious cases of vigilantism aimed at sex offenders.” (Seattle Times, August 30, 2005)

The two men murdered in 2005 (Hank Eisses and Victor Vasques) were a “success story,” according to Kit Bail, the Department of Corrections field supervisor for Whatcom County. In an interview at the time, Bail said, “These guys were doing fine. They were employed. They were living according to the conditions.” She went on to state that the killings should “not be the basis on which we change the laws on registration, but if it is a vigilante act, it gives one pause.”

Examining the 2005 murders, John La Fond, an attorney who had opposed Washington’s public registration law on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union, uncovered dozens of assaults and harassment incidents against sex offenders, including one case in 1993 where the house lived in by the family of a registrant was burned down just as he was moving back home. It is too late to save the four individuals who died in these carefully planned vigilante attacks, Shannon acknowledges, but he wonders, “How many must die before Washington acts?”

Shannon asks, “What has the state of Washington done during the intervening seven years to prevent this from happening again? RSOL is not aware of any action taken subsequent to the 2005 murders that would ameliorate the risk to registrants and their families. If they were concerned then, why was no action taken? And what will they do now that two more have been murdered at the hands of a vigilante?”

RSOL believes that the ultimate solution is that access to home addresses of registrants should be available only to law enforcement rather than the general public. While this dramatic change in policy would require legislative action, RSOL calls on Governor Gregoire to immediately issue an emergency order removing home addresses from the sex offender website. In addition, the Sex Offender Policy Board must commit itself to assuring the safety and well being not only of the men and women on its sex offender registry but also the family members of those registrants. Shannon says, “These people on the registry, and especially children such as Skylar and Gary Jr., are citizens entitled to equal protection the same as any other. They do not deserve to be made deliberate and helpless targets for vigilantes.”

June 18, 2012
Contact: Paul Shannon