|That man banged some dude's wife! I think he's one of dem dar "secks O-fendurs."|
At least the man is suing the state. The law was abolished in the 1980s, yet this man was forced to register for cheating on his wife.
W.Va. State Police sued over sex offender listing
Logan man told to register because of 1976 adultery
By Travis Crum
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Logan County man is suing the West Virginia State Police, claiming he was required to register as a sex offender for a crime abolished in the 1980s.
Criss Alan Heston of Logan appeared on the registry next to alleged sexual predators and pedophiles about six weeks after the State Police was ordered to remove him, the lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit, filed in Kanawha County Circuit Court, seeks damages for humiliation Heston says he suffered during his time on the registry. It also requests the State Police to revaluate how troopers are trained to maintain and understand sex offender laws.
According to the lawsuit, Heston was indicted on June 1975 on a charge of felony forcible intercourse with a female without consent in Marion County.
Robert Kuenzel, Heston's attorney, said the charge arose after Heston had sex with another man's wife near Eldora.
"He had a relationship with a married lady," Kuenzel said, "and the bottom line is, her husband found out and pushed the button."
After prosecutors went through the evidence, they allowed Heston to plead no contest on Oct. 27, 1976, to the lesser charge of misdemeanor sexual misconduct -- or adultery. He spent eight days in jail.
Sometime in the 1980s, the West Virginia Legislature abolished the crime of adultery, according to the lawsuit.
Heston lived the next 35 years in West Virginia without any problems and moved to Logan County, where he lived and worked, Kuenzel said. Heston even earned top security clearance to operate Ham radios for the U.S. Coast Guard, he said.
On Aug. 30, 2010, though, Heston received a letter from State Police Sgt. J.E. Skidmore requiring him to register as a sex offender or face imprisonment.
"Our records indicate that you were convicted of 1 Count of Sexual Misconduct on October 27, 1976, thus subjecting you to registration as a sex offender for life," Skidmore wrote in the letter.
Heston responded to the letter and registered as ordered.
Kuenzel said that, soon after, Heston's image, age, height, weight and home address were posted to the websites of the State Police and countless watchdog groups.
"Here you got a guy whose who now has been branded a child molester for life," Kuenzel said.
The Legislature enacted the Sexual Offender Registration Act in 1998. The act enumerates 11 offenses in which a person must register.
"His is not even a crime anymore," Kuenzel said.
Kuenzel said Heston filed action in Marion County Circuit Court, requesting to be removed from the registry. Circuit Court Judge Michael Aloi ordered that Heston be removed from the list on Dec. 2, 2011. Aloi sent a copy of his order to Trooper Skidmore to ensure Heston would be removed immediately.
According to the lawsuit, Heston was not removed until a month later.
"This is another one of those cases where they [State Police] needed some better training on the law," Kuenzel said. "I think they were negligent in what they've done."
Kuenzel cited a recent state Supreme Court ruling, West Virginia vs. Judge, as reason for the State Police to review its own procedures regarding the registry.
In that case, a Tyler County man was arrested for failing to register as a sex offender following an unrelated jail sentence. The Supreme Court ruled that a person can be arrested, "only upon being convicted of a 'qualifying offense.'"
"I think they were negligent in their training," Kuenzel said, "and this is coming from a guy who was a state policeman for 10 years. I like the organization. They are very professional, very upstanding. In this case, they dropped the ball."
Heston's image can be found on at least five sex offender websites, according to an Internet search of his name. Heston's image also appeared in print publications without retraction.