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April 09, 2018

Sex Offenders Have Right To Possess Porn, Vermont Court Rules

MONTPELIER, Vt.—The Vermont State Supreme Court on Friday ruled that the state may not ban a convicted sex offender on probation from possessing or viewing porn, or other erotic material, simply because he has been found guilty of a sex crime, according to a report in Vermont’s Rutland Herald newspaper. The state would have to show that use of pornography is related to the crime committed by the convicted offender in order to restrict him from engaging in activities that would otherwise be perfectly legal, such as viewing porn, or patronizing “sex shops” and “topless bars,” according to the court’s 18-page opinion published on Friday. The opinion may be read in its entirety at this link.  The ruling came in the case of former University of Vermont student Yetha Lumumba, who was convicted of sexual assault in 2012 after he allegedly forced a female UVM student to perform oral sex on him, the court document recounted. Lumumba, a native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo who emigrated to the United States in 2004, remains in prison—not actually on probation—and reportedly now faces deportation. He also has a second sex offense conviction, with that sentence served concurrently with the 2012 conviction. His contention that the ban on pornography was improper came as part of his appeal on the 2012 sex assault conviction. At Lumumba’s sentencing hearing, a probation officer told the court that the porn ban is “a standard condition we have” for sex offenders because, “we see it as a step to, you know, possibly reoffending,” the court document said. But the Vermont Supreme Court decided that the state had offered no evidence linking pornography use to Lumumba’s crime, nor that barring him from access to porn and other erotic material would aid in his rehabilitation. The court held that in cases where it could be shown that a convict’s rehabilitation would be helped by keeping him away from porn, such a ban could be lawfully applied. The Vermont court’s ruling came down just days after a federal appeals court ruled that a district court judge must review whether a law in South Dakota banning prison inmates from possessing porn passes constitutional muster. Under the current law, South Dakota prison officials have not only seized porn, but any image containing nudity, including images of artworks by 15th-century Sistene Chapel muralist and master sculptor Michaelangelo.

 
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