Judge tells man arrested in Aspen that sex offender registry is not punishment
A California man did not suffer cruel and unusual punishment or lack of due process after Aspen police charged him a year ago with failing to register as a sex offender.
That was the decision Wednesday by District Judge Chris Seldin, who dismissed a motion filed by Michael Webber, 55, asking that his case — which also includes a public indecency charge — be dismissed.
Webber was arrested in May 2017 after an Aspen police officer found him walking naked in downtown Aspen with white powder caked under his nose and complaining of seeing snakes. Webber was “extremely agitated,” according to a police report.
After the officer ran Webber’s name through a law enforcement database, he discovered Webber was a registered sex offender in Santa Monica, California. Webber was later charged with public indecency and failure to register as a sex offender, which is required under Colorado law if a person spends 14 consecutive days out of 30 in the state.
Police discovered through Webber’s Facebook postings that he’d been in town for longer than 14 consecutive days.
Webber pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual battery and was ordered to serve a year in the Marin County Jail in February 2007, according to a story from the Marin Independent Journal. He allegedly raped a 40-year-old woman Oct. 24, 2005, after going on a date with her in San Francisco, the story states.
On Wednesday, Webber testified that after an article about his arrest appeared in The Aspen Times, friends he had made in town began to shun him.
He was uninvited from a local fundraiser and his ticket money was refunded, Webber said. Another friend filed a restraining order against him, while a third who was going to rent him a condo did not return his phone calls, he said. Finally, another person came up to him at a local restaurant in January and asked if the Bluetooth device around his neck was a tracking device.
He also said he’d struggled with the registration rules in California and in Texas, where his son lives, prior to first coming to Aspen in 2016.
Arnold Mordkin, Webber’s attorney, said the request that he register in Colorado is cruel and unusual punishment and that his initial offense occurred 13 years ago.
“When does it stop?” Mordkin asked. “When he dies?”
Prosecutor Don Nottingham said case law in Colorado is clear that the sex-offender registry is not punitive.
Seldin agreed, saying that Colorado appellate courts “have spoken and spoken quite regularly on the issue” and uniformly found that the state sex-offender registry is a civil proceeding and does not constitute punishment. Therefore, it cannot violate the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution forbidding cruel and unusual punishment, Seldin said.
Webber, who said he spent most of last winter in Aspen but planned to head back to California today, is due back in court Aug. 6.
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