Last week’s sentencing of a 29 year old Broomfield High School teacher and wrestling coach to life in prison with the possibility of parole in ten years for having sex with a 17 year old student and exchanging thousands of sexually explicit texts with her has enraged many Coloradoans. Travis Masse was also sentenced to a concurrent three years for attempting to persuade another underage student to send him nude photographs of herself (Broomfield Enterprise). Because the 17 year old admitted that she was not forced to have sex, many believe the sentence is overly harsh, and they blame the Colorado Sex Offender Lifetime Supervision Act of 1998.
The Supervision Act defines a sex offense as including all class 2, 3, or 4 felony sex offenses except specified sex offenses involving exploitation of children, and defines sex offender as anyone who is convicted of or pleads guilty or nolo contendere to a sex offense or who is otherwise sentenced as a sex offender. This act requires the court to sentence sex offenders to incarceration for an indeterminate term of at least the minimum of the range for the level of the offense committed, and a maximum of the offender’s natural life, or probation for an indeterminate term of at least ten years for a class 4 felony or 20 years for a class 2 or 3 felony up to a maximum of the offender’s natural life (Colorado General Assembly).
While the wrestling coach’s sentence may seem harsh under the Supervision Act, more often than not sentencing has been too lenient as a result of this law. For instance, on July 27th Michael Sipili, a 22 year old former football player for the University of Colorado, was allowed to plead guilty to a crime he did not commit in order to avoid prison under the Supervision Act. Sipili, who is accused of raping a 22 year old woman last year, pled guilty to felony exploitation of children and misdemeanor third-degree assault. A 22 year old woman is not a child; how then was he allowed to plead guilty to felony exploitation of children? Both prosecutors and defense attorneys admitted that there was no factual basis for the charge. While the crime he pled guilty to is actually considered more serious than the crime he was originally charged with, it does not carry an indeterminate sentence, so it is the preferable charge.
Similarly, a Broomfield realtor who was recently convicted of two sex assault felonies for raping a 20 year old woman who was babysitting his children received a sentence of 30 days in jail and probation, precisely because the judge did not want to subject the man to an indeterminate sentence that could keep him in prison for life. So attorneys and judges are finding creative ways to work around the Supervision Act, and as a result, those who are guilty of sex offenses are able to avoid prison time altogether.
It is time to take another look at the Colorado Sex Offender Lifetime Supervision Act. It is obviously not having the intended effect, and as a result, some offenders are receiving sentences that are too harsh while many others are receiving little to no punishment at all. And in all cases, victims are certainly not being heard. Contact your state representatives and tell them that you want them to reexamine the Supervision Act.