EDITORIAL: Online sex registry better than not

Michael Mullen, a Washington state resident, recently extracted vengeance for his childhood molestation on two men he had never met prior to the time he impersonated an FBI agent and killed both. Mullen admitted to the crime and will face a quick trial.  He even asked, “Can I have a speedy trial?” at a preliminary hearing. Mullen’s guilt or innocence in this case is not the disputable point. It was the means he used to find the two men he killed that could raise eyebrows for some.

Mullen accessed the Whatcom County sheriff’s sex offender Web site, and from there selected at least one, if not both, of his random victims. The concern becomes that this Web site, like all sex offender Web sites, is financed and maintained by local and state authorities. In essence, Whatcom County and the state of Washington are indicted in this crime, as they provided the tool for the lawless murdering of two men. However, these Web sites serve an important safety function as well within society.

Jim Petro writes on the Electronic Sex Offenders Registry and Notification (http://www.esorn.ag.state.oh.us) that “The information provided on this Web site is beneficial to all Ohioans. Sharing the information among law enforcement officials and agencies will help protect all Ohioans from dangerous sex offenders throughout the state.”

The Web site is easy to navigate and allows users to choose from five different searches, including first name, last name, school district, county and zip code. From there, a user is only a mouse-click away from being able to track how many sex offenders in his or her ZIP code either live and/or work in the same ZIP code (Note: 44243, KSU’s zip code has no registered offenders, but 44240, one of Kent’s main zip codes has 35, including one in the Allerton Apartments). So, as just a quick search of the page shows, even the most computer illiterate soccer mom could analyze the safety of her neighborhood.

Yet, the accessibility of this Web site and the content contained on it are two different issues. The real question still lies in the gruesome acts of Michael Mullen, who used a similar Web site such as http://www.esorn.com to assist in his crimes. The pragmatics of this situation are murky at best, but it is this editorial board’s opinion that such Web sites serve a greater societal good than potential risk. Obviously Victor Vaazquez and Hank Eisses, Mullen’s two victims, might disagree, but the state only has the responsibility to protect its citizenry to a certain extent. If the citizenry put themselves in a place of risk (and committing any crime, as these two deceased men indeed did, puts oneself at risk), the government can only do so much to ensure safety. This being said, it should be reiterated that Mullen deserves hard and swift justice that allows the state to make a statement about its feelings on vigilante justice.

The current sexual offenders registry and notification of each state is still a work in progress. Ohio has recently added further classifications to its growing list, bringing the total to seven different ways that an offender can be classified. The Internet accessibility is a recently new development as well. Thus, one can only hope that as further policy is initiated, thoughtfulness of all the dynamics of these situations is administered and the best decisions are made for society as a whole.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.