By Jeff Todd

DENVER (CBS4)– A federal court judge in Denver has called the public sex offender registry in Colorado “cruel and unusual punishment.”

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation posts a list of registered sex offenders required under the law. It contains names, pictures, addresses, descriptions and more and readily available to anyone on the internet.

(credit: CBS)

But now, Federal Judge Richard Matsch has found that to be a violation of the U.S. Constitution. He wrote that the public has been given the “power to inflict punishments beyond those imposed through the court.”

Alison Ruttenberg, the attorney for the sex offenders, told CBS4’s Rick Sallinger they were often scarred for life because of all the public information available on the convicted criminals.

CBS4’s Rick Sallinger interviews Alison Ruttenberg, the attorney for the sex offenders (credit: CBS)

“Making them at risk for vigilantes’ action to have their houses burned down, beaten up or even killed that is cruel and unusual punishment,” Ruttenberg said.

“There’s not a single crime in Colorado that has been solved because of the sex offender registry. Sex offenders have probably the lowest recidivism rate of any felon and to single them out for this type of public ridicule and registration is irrational. It doesn’t do anything to keep our community safer,” she said.

(credit: CBS)

The judge found the posting of sex offender information to be a violation of two different amendments. The suit asked only for the three offenders’ information to be removed. It was not filed as a class action.

“While it might feel safer to have a registry and know where those sex offenders are, those are only offenders who have been caught and convicted and are required to be on the registry. There are still a lot of other sex offenders out there we don’t know about,” said Brie Franklin, the Executive Director of the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “Sometimes there’s a sense of false safety of being able to go out on a website and say, ‘now I know where everybody is.’ When in fact we don’t know where everybody is.”

CBS4’s Rick Sallinger interviews Brie Franklin, the Executive Director of the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault (credit: CBS)

Franklin says the registry isn’t perfect, but has concerns the law has been around for too long, and this ruling takes into account the impacts on criminals too much.

“I think we always need to keep in mind that victim’s should have rights too. The victims didn’t choose to have this happen to them. Offenders made a choice to commit a crime and this is part of that punishment,” Franklin said.

The Colorado Attorney General’s office says it hasn’t decided on if it will appeal the ruling. Ruttenberg says she thinks if it’s appealed it could one day be heard in front of the Supreme Court.

Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.

Comments (45)
  1. this is a very controversial topic- the sex offender registry doe snot protect anyone from harm- it is a lifetime of punishment even for the teen who was a little older than the girl or boy they may have been with- I cringed when I met a registered sex offender but the bottom line is that what I learned did not fit the sex offender as we may define here- even when a person has done time the time never ends and community never accepts therefor it is the scarlet letter of today

  2. ” they were often scarred for life because of all the public information available on the convicted criminals.”

    FFS, imagine the lifetime scars these animals inflicted on their victims.

    Why is it these days the perpetrators have become the victims?

  3. One hopes this judge has a few sex offenders living near her. That would poetic ‘justice.’

  4. Darren Davis says:

    Rapists and Child Rapists should be put to death. End of story. False accusers should receive the same punishment. Unfortunately we live in an insane world with insane Judges and politicians.

  5. Here’s how you solve the problem – put ALL criminals (on parole/probation) on a list! Then it’s fair, the sex offenders won’t be singled out and you will now know about those car thieves, burglars, drug dealers, etc. living in your area.

  6. Rule of law is lost on those who want to FEEL safe and want to pass ‘laws’ that clearly violate the Constitution. This is what happens when women are allowed to vote and hold office without being required to sacrifice, as men are. All the FEEL GOOD ‘laws’ multiply exponentially. Then comes the passive aggressive guilt and shame tactics, another female specialty.

  7. Crime severity needed to get on the list have been constantly defined down such that now there are so many on the list that it has become useless. In any good size city, look it up… your only choice to avoid being near someone on the list is to move to a rural area. Do I hear banjos?

  8. Bryan Mason says:

    Liberals protecting other liberals.

  9. Easily Solved……………put them to death on their original crime, no repeat dead offenders.

  10. Dear Judge Matsch and all over judicial progressives,

    You do know that you can only poke the bear so much before the bear pokes back, right?

  11. Lawyers, as a rule, are contemptible creatures

  12. some1talkin says:

    It’s about time. I’m not a sex offender, never will be but so I don’t have a dog in this fight except 10’s of thousands of people that have been singled out for a lifetime of abuse and shame. The registry is wrong and always has been. Finally, some common sense.

  13. I agree with the judge, online registries across the country should all be banned.

  14. Jeff Lucas says:

    The sex offender is scarred for life, and we are worried about that? How about the victims? And, “[s]ex offenders have probably the lowest recidivism rate of any felon”? Really? I have never heard that to be true. This is ridiculous. The judge will be overturned on appeal.

  15. Protecting rapists (Bill Clinton) and pedophiles is the Democrat Party MO. Nothing to see here.

  16. Fred Benson says:

    At some point the federal courts have got to start letting the American people govern themselves again. The people, through their elected legislatures, have the right to enact statutes to govern the nation. As it stands now, each federal judge sits as a veto over the laws and ordinances passed by the people’s legislatures. Although there is some check on the legislature for unconstitutional laws, the federal courts have extended this power to the point that any time a judge doesn’t like a law, it is stricken down. The fact is that every area of American life is now subject to federal court veto. We are loosing the freedom to govern ourselves.

  17. Oh look, another Bergblattstein, imagine my shock.

  18. Maybe they should have thought about the ramifications before, oh, raping someone?

  19. Here we go again…legislating from the bench. Judicial activists…tearing down America!

  20. Feels weird saying it, but a fed judge made the right call.

    If these people are so dangerous, keep them in the slammer. Also, there is a story practically every week of some poor soul who was branded a sexual monster because of sexting or hooking up with a girl.

  21. Chances are the Judge is a pervert.

  22. Rick Bailey says:

    If sex offenders are really that dangerous then maybe they should just stay in prison. But that’s just me thinking logically.

    1. I think it should be automatic castration. I am not so sure about statuatory rape..consensual…sometimes the boy is 18 and the girl 16..are they put on these list also?

  23. Seems those new marijuana laws are really working with the Colorado Judiciary as well….

  24. SO, I wonder if one of these monsters attacks the judge or the lawyers loved one, they will change their mind

  25. Brian Hast says:

    Government registries for anything should be illegal. First it’s sex offenders, then it’s gun owners, then it’s people reading DrudgeReport… Done sacrifice freedoms to Big Brother.

    1. so you are equating gun owners and drudge readers with sex offenders? seems that’s quite a leap. Listing criminals is the same as listing gun owners and sex offender?

    2. Your kidding right? I wouldn’t mind living by a lawful gun owner since I am one myself. You want a sex perv living next door or wouldn’t mind as long as he lived by someone else’s house just not yours? If thats the case you must be a lib.

  26. Paul Woomer says:

    The judge’s brother is a pedo. that’s why he is ok with it.

    1. John Butts says:

      Is that a fact his brother is a pedo?? If that’s the case then it won’t stay….

  27. Jim Higgins says:

    The “judge” would sing a different tune if one of his children was hit by a sex offender. He lives in a liberal bubble.

  28. Jerry Walton says:

    So we have another Federal Judge with their head up their backside. Want to bet he’s an Obama appointee?

    1. Jerry Walton says:

      Whoops. My bad. The guy was nominated by Nixon back in 71. So it’s not that his liberal. It’s that he’s senile.

      1. These judges are not always the same political affiliation as the President. They do favors for someone who asks that this certain judge be put in place. And sometimes over time they just change their minds about things. And living in Denver where so many liberals live it may be easier to lean left to keep it easy on themselves. You know gutless and not standing for anything because someone might call you a name. Snowflakes. Just saying. I want to know where these people are.

      2. Excuses excuses, Jerry. Perhaps it’s time to pull your head out of your backside, Mr. Quick To Judge?

    2. Rightists are the most ignorant, and the most lazy. It took me all of about 30 seconds to find out that Judge Matsch was nominated by President Richard M. Nixon on January 31, 1974.

  29. Everyone should know where a violent rapist and/or pedophile live. This lawyer claims these people don’t commit their crimes again…um lady, maybe it is because everyone knows who they are and stays away.

    If I’m moving then I want to know if some sick, disgusting pedo or rapist lives there and I’ll choose somewhere else to go. Putting their names up is free speech. You know what your problem is? Defending these creeps in the first place. Go defend someone who is NOT a pedo or rapist. You know false allegations happen so go defend them, but don’t stick up for the pervs when they have actually done something. What is wrong with you??

    1. most sex offenders abuse someone they know personally, usually a family member

      1. I guess that makes it okay then, in your mind.

    2. Kiru Mondi says:

      I’d be more inclined to know where convicted murderers live, but we don’t have such a registry. I used to have a pitchfork too until I researched and found that I was being played by elected representatives. They claim this keeps my family safer, yet ALL the evidence says it doesn’t and in some cases where it makes these offenders homeless, actually makes us unsafe.

    3. Knowing where the offender lives so that you can search elsewhere for housing sounds great, until your $400,000 home loses $40,000 in value because an offender moved next door to you because the only place s/he could find to live was with parents. With the level of offense needed to get onto the list being constantly defined lower, someone sexting with an individual they met on an adults only site who lies about being over 18 can drop the property values on 20 houses by a total of $ 1million. And that cost falls on the neighbors, not on the offender. The offender might also be on the autism spectrum and between autism and being on the list, guess who is going to support them – you through your taxes. … but maybe you will be lucky and your neighbor’s kid won’t do anything stupid.

    4. I wish it were Constitutional to execute the ignorant.

      Considering 68% of abusers are immediate family members, you are as likely to be an abuser as any of those “pedos” you are whining about.

    5. Hao De says:

      obviously in colorado, kiddie diddlers’ “rights” exceed those of the little kids’ not to be molested.

    6. Why don’t we put people on a list and ban them because they might be a “danger”?Hello, Japanese-American internment happened that way.
      So, because the accusation of “public safety” is thrown out, it’s OK to violate others rights? The story even says not a single crime has been solved.
      You may call lawyers contemptible, but know what’s worse? Saying “public safety” while violating people’s rights you deem “lesser”

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