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Neighbor breaks in, beats sex offender

11-2-2006 Washington:

SHELTON, Wash. - A Mason County sex offender is recovering from a vigilante attack after a man broke into the offender's home and beat him with a stick. Deputies said it was a clear case of vigilantism and a case that could wind up jeopardizing the law that makes sex offender information available.

James Allen Ross is a Level 3 sex offender living in Mason County's Tahuya community. He has been convicted of child molestation and statutory rape. But two nights ago he became the victim when a stick-wielding neighbor broke into his house and started beating him. Mason County Sheriff, James Ross is a Level 3 sex offender.

"He comes through the door saying, 'you ain't nothing but a rapist or child molester and all you people should be killed,'", Ross said, who suffered a laceration above his left eye and a bump on the head. He said that since he moved into the neighborhood two months ago he's been the focus of a hate campaign. People have put up signs and posters pointing out his home.

Then Connie Smyrak, the alleged attacker's girlfrend and neighbor of Ross, went to his home to spend the night on his couch. She said all the posters pushed her boyfriend over the edge.

Sheriff's deputies arrested the 51-year-old attacker. But authorities say aside from the assault itself, they're concerned the attack could jeopardize sex offender registry information. For now the attacker is being held at the Mason County jail on $15,000 bail for the first-degree burglary charge.

Ross suffered a laceration above his left eye and a bump on the head. His injuries did not require hospitalization, police said. ..more.. : by PAUL AKER / KING 5 News

Attack on sex offender worries official

11-3-2006 Washington:

.The beating of a registered offender by an alleged vigilante Tuesday night could spur calls to protect sex offenders' privacy, making it more difficult for law enforcement to track predators, an inspector with the Mason County Sheriff's Office fears. A Tahuya man who is a neighbor of registered sex offender James Allen Ross, 58, is accused of forcing open Ross' door in the Maggle Lake area about 11:24 p.m. Tuesday while Ross was with a 56-year-old female guest, sheriff's Inspector B. Dean B yrd said. Ross was assaulted with fists and a stick.

Ross is a Level 3 sex offender who moved to Mason County from another jurisdiction in late September, Byrd said. Level 3 is the highest level that can be given to a sex offender in Washington, meaning that the convict is at a high risk of reoffending. "If too many of these incidents happen then that's going to spur sympathy for sex offenders and we'll lose the law," Byrd said. Dennis A. Clark, 51, remained at the Mason County Jail Thursday on suspicion of first-degree burglary and had his first court appearance Thursday. Clark's phone number in Tahuya is unlisted. A phone number for Ross was unavailable Thursday.

Clark had recently complained to Mason County sheriff's deputies about having a sex offender living in his neighborhood, Byrd said. During the alleged attack Tuesday night, the suspect called Ross a "rapist," according to the Mason County Sheriff's Office. Ross' criminal history includes convictions in 1978 for having sexual intercourse with a 15-year-old girl, who was a friend's family member, the Mason County sheriff's sex offender bulletin states. Ross also was convicted in 1986 of having sexual relations with a 10-year-old girl who was a family member of a woman he knew. In 1994, Ross was convicted of sexually assaulting and threatening to kill a 13-year-old girl.

During Tuesday night's attack, Ross suffered a cut above his left eye and a bump on the head, a news release from the sheriff's office states. Byrd said he wants to put the word out that the sheriff's office does not condone or support vigilantism. "It is very important to remember that even sex offenders have the right to equal protection under the law," Byrd said. Anyone who beats up a sex offender is "taking a bad guy and making a victim of him," Byrd added. Washington has good laws that allow law enforcement to post the names, photos and addresses of Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders on the Washington State Sex Offender Information Center Web site, Byrd said. In Mason County, deputies also go out and give information about sex offenders to residents who live near them, Byrd said.

"We actually go to neighborhoods and knock on doors," he said. The information center's Web site lists the street where Ross lives in Tahuya and identifies him as a Level 3 sex offender and shows a photo of him. Years ago in Mason County, there was another incident in which a sex offender was assaulted, Byrd said. An introductory page to the Web site contains an "acceptable use policy." The policy reads, in part: "The information presented on this Web site should not be used in any manner to injure, harass or commit a criminal act against any individual named in the registry, or residing at the reported address. Any such action could subject you to criminal prosecution."

Thurston County Chief Criminal Deputy Dan Kimball said he couldn't recall any similar cases such as Tuesday night's attack in Tahuya. Kimball agrees that vigilantism is wrong, and that a rash of continued incidents could jeopardize sex offender laws, which are set up to protect the public by notifying people when a possibly predatory sex offender is among them, he said. One state lawmaker disagrees that the attack could lead to a rollback of Washington's reporting laws for sex offenders. While "two wrongs don't make a right," state Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, said, the reporting laws that make the addresses and identities of Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders public are "the price you pay if you're a sex offender and that law is not going to change. "That is sacrosanct, the public is going to know where sex offenders live." ..more.. : by Jeremy Pawloski

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