A registered sex offender claims in a federal lawsuit that a Suffolk County group charged with monitoring offenders violated his rights when former police officers visited his home and “interrogated” him.
The suit by the Suffolk resident, who served time for rape and sodomy in the late 1990s, says he was “the target of two harassing investigations” in 2013 and 2014 by Parents For Megan’s Law, a Ronkonkoma-based nonprofit.
The plaintiff, identified as “John Jones,” complied because he feared criminal penalties, but the monitoring efforts — allowed under the county’s 2013 Community Protection Act — “far exceed” state sex offender registration requirements, according to the suit.
The former officers twice showed up at the offender’s home “without a warrant, and absent any suspicion” that he was not complying with the state requirements, the suit said. They parked out front, “interrogated” him about his address and car, and “followed closely behind” as he retrieved his driver’s license from the vehicle.
Jones — a Level I offender, the lowest-risk category — claims he no longer attends his children’s school events, and he and his family “live in constant anxiety.”
A federal judge recently denied motions by the defendants, the county and nonprofit, to dismiss the 2015 suit, ruling that Parents For Megan’s Law is a “state actor” and can be held liable for constitutional violations.
U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert, in her Feb. 16 ruling, said Suffolk police “created the appearance of joint action” with the nonprofit by sending letters to sex offenders requiring them to provide information, such as identification to the nonprofit.
Mineola attorney Michael Miranda, who represents the nonprofit, said Seybert’s determination “does not mean that the court has decided the case or vindicated the plaintiff’s view.”
County spokesman Justin Meyers said the county and the group acted reasonably.
Erin Beth Harrist, a New York Civil Liberties Union attorney representing the plaintiff, said the ruling “is an indication that this type of forced compliance with these investigations is not OK.”
The nonprofit pays former officers to do regular checks on more than 1,000 Suffolk sex offenders. Officials say the monitoring has reduced recidivism and alerted police to inaccurate addresses.
Suffolk’s three-year, $2.7 million contract with the nonprofit expires in April and renewal talks are underway.