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In re A.J.M.

Court of Appeal of Iowa

November 6, 2013

IN THE INTEREST OF A.J.M., Minor Child, STATE OF IOWA, Appellant.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Pottawattamie County, Charles D. Fagan, Judge.

The State of Iowa appeals the district court order waiving the requirement A.J.M. register as a sex offender.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Bruce Kempkes, Assistant Attorney General, Matthew Wilber, County Attorney, and Dawn Landon, Assistant County Attorney, for appellant.

Robert J. Metel, Council Bluffs, attorney for minor child.

Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.

BOWER, J.

The State of Iowa appeals the district court order waiving the requirement A.J.M. register as a sex offender pursuant to Iowa Code section 692A.103(3) (2011). Because we find the district court abused its discretion and protection of the public mandates A.J.M. register as a sex offender, we reverse and remand.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

In April 2011, following a delinquency petition, A.J.M. admitted to fourteen counts of sexual abuse over a period of more than two years. A.J.M. was placed at the Iowa State Training School for girls for the purpose of receiving rehabilitative services.

During her time at the training school, A.J.M. received excellent grades and finished her high school education. Her initial evaluation shortly after arriving at the training school reported a history of depression. The results of various assessment measures showed A.J.M. attempted to present "fake good" results by projecting an image she believed would demonstrate progress rather than presenting an accurate picture of her condition. Her initial psychological evaluation determined she was dishonest about portions of her offenses she believed were unknown to others, and she was found to be in denial about her past behaviors. Later evaluations determined A.J.M. was not making a good effort in meeting program expectations and was attempting to manipulate staff. A February 6, 2012 evaluation stated A.J.M. was unmotivated and did not believe her offenses warranted punishment. At that time A.J.M. also believed others were to blame for her actions. She was found to lack minimal levels of empathy. Her psychologist recommended she be placed on the sex offender registry.

Any progress A.J.M had displayed slowed or stopped after she completed her schooling. The final report prepared by the training school states A.J.M. was failing to follow through on program commitments and was adept at giving what she believed to be an expected appropriate response, but that someone talking to her "would have no idea how deviant her thought processes are."

A hearing on whether A.J.M. should be required to register as a sex offender was held on November 29, 2012. The juvenile court officer, Chris Girres, testified as did A.J.M. Girres expressed his frustrations with the lack of treatment programs for female offenders and stated his belief the program offered A.J.M. was inadequate. He assigned most of her failures in participating or putting forth adequate effort while in treatment to the inadequacy of the program itself. Girres further testified there was no proof A.J.M. understood the possible consequences of offending as an adult. He recommended A.J.M. not be required to register as a sex offender due to the hardship of housing restrictions. During his testimony Girres admitted he had conducted independent research on the internet regarding the effectiveness of registry requirements and expressed his belief that placing juveniles on the sex offender registry was never appropriate.

The district court agreed. Scolding the training school for inadequacies in the sex offender treatment program, the district court determined A.J.M.'s failure to show remorse and lack of treatment progress was entirely the fault of the training school. The district court then cited a recidivism statistic and found "[g]iven the system's failure, the Court chooses not to compound it by making [A.J.M.] register as a sex offender." The decision ...


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