Joshua Hoe, former director of the University’s debate team, was convicted in October of sexually soliciting an alleged minor over the Internet. But Hoe isn’t the only person affiliated with the University who is on Michigan’s sexual offender registry.
There are 14 people associated with the University who are currently on the registry — a list anyone can access on the Internet to find information about a sex offender’s height, weight, current address and offense. The majority of offenders with University ties are alumni and current and former staff members who hold positions in janitorial work, bus driving and nursing, among others.
This year, Michigan’s registry contains 45,717 offenders — the fourth-highest number of offenders in the nation — according to Parents For Megan’s Law, a national victim’s rights advocacy group. Michigan’s registry includes 559 offenders in Washtenaw County and 85 in the city of Ann Arbor.
Some offenders on the list are affiliated with other universities like Wayne State University, which has 31 affiliated offenders, and Michigan State University, which has 19 affiliated offenders.
Hoe, an offender associated with the University of Michigan, will be on the Michigan Public Sex Offender Registry for life. Hoe also received a one-to-seven year prison sentence in early November. He was placed on the registry after pleading guilty to having sexual conversations with an investigator who posed as a 14-year-old girl on the Internet, according to a Nov. 17 AnnArbor.com article.
According to David Reid, University senior director of strategic communications, Hoe was immediately suspended from his University position upon his arrest and his employment has since ended.
The list — which is searchable by name, location and other criteria — is a product of the Michigan Sex Offenders Registration Act, a 1994 state law which requires persons convicted of certain crimes to register and prohibits certain offenders from working in school zones.
While each state regulates registered offenders differently, Michigan’s law exceeds federal standards set by the Jacob Wetterling Act — an act passed in 1994 that requires states to produce a registry with names of sex offenders who have committed acts against children.
Michigan’s online sex offender directory has been viewed more than 4 million times, according to its website.
One offender, a current University employee who requested anonymity but allowed his gender to be used, said the registry does not fairly portray the offenders on the list.
“Just because you’re on the list doesn’t mean you’re dangerous,” he said in a December interview.
He said his biggest fear of being on the list is that it will cause people to accuse him of crimes he didn’t commit. While acknowledging that the list may be useful for law enforcement, he said he doesn’t think the public is equipped to use the information appropriately.
“The general public doesn’t know what to do with it,” he said.
An August public opinion survey by the Center for Sex Offender Management, a project of the U.S. Department of Justice, found that state and federal officials have enacted a large number of sex offender laws in a short period of time. However, according to the study, “evidence regarding the impact and effectiveness of many of these laws and policies is limited.”
Proponents of the law argue that the registry protects people from sexual predators, but they also say that sex offender recidivism rates can be misleading because many sexual crimes go unreported.
Parents for Megan’s Law offers e-mail alerts that inform community members of new offenders. The group also lobbies to strengthen sex offender-related legislation.
“Most parents and community members believe that they are doing everything they can to protect children from sexual predators, but the disturbing reality is that registered sex offenders are obtaining employment and volunteer positions across the country where they can have unfettered access to children,” Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan’s Law, wrote in a statement on the group’s website.
Michigan sentencing guidelines require registration for a variety of offenses — including a third instance of obscene or indecent conduct or indecent exposure — and judges often have discretion in placing people on the list.
The offender interviewed by the Daily argued that the listing is a burden for those convicted of sexual crimes and pointed out that there are not specific lists for other crimes.
“Why don’t murderers have their own list?” he said. “Isn’t that pretty serious?”
When reviewing job applicants, University doesn’t automatically disqualify people with criminal histories, but they are certainly a factor, according to Reid.
“Each case is considered individually, based on factors that include the nature of the crime, the position applied for, how long ago the crime occurred and whether the individual has established a good work record since then,” Reid wrote in an e-mail interview.
The University employee on the registry said he feels lucky to have a job, and said that many offenders have faced much more discrimination than he has.
“I’ve seen news stories of people pounding signs on trees or trying to annoy them out of the neighborhood,” he said.
No other listed offenders affiliated with the University responded to requests for interviews with the Daily.
Currently, no University students are listed on the registry. Despite persistent rumors, people caught urinating in public are not likely to be placed on the registry, according to Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Diane Brown. She added that there is a difference between public urination and indecent exposure.
“Typically, urinating in public is exposing yourself to conduct urination,” Brown said. “Indecent exposure is exposing yourself for other purposes.”
LSA senior Daniel Kohn said he wouldn’t want to urinate in public and risk being seen.
“I just don’t want to be a sex offender,” Kohn said. “You can wait to go to the bathroom; it’s cold outside.”