After a conviction for oral sex with a 17-year-old foster child under his care, Mike Grandinetti served as an assistant to the Miss Rio Linda Pageant, where he was photographed with teenage girls.
If pageant officials and parents had checked the state’s sex offender registry, Grandinetti’s name would not have appeared. A judge granted Grandinetti a reprieve from registration under a 2006 state Supreme Court decision that allowed judges to exempt offenders who committed certain child sex crimes.
In April, the state’s highest court reversed itself, requiring registration for those offenses, including some cases that had already been adjudicated, including Grandinetti’s. Local law enforcement officials are now discussing whether to require hundreds of past offenders granted a judicial reprieve to register under the new ruling. While registration increases community awareness, it also can limit where offenders live and their ability to find employment.
The state Department of Justice this month sent a letter to law enforcement agencies advising them to consult with district attorneys before making past offenders register if they had been given a judicial exemption. The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office plans to examine this week how to handle the cases, said Rob Gold, assistant chief deputy district attorney.
While the state Legislature has required registration for most sex crimes, it has given judges the ability to decide in cases where an adult offender had nonforcible sexual intercourse with a minor victim. One reason such discretion exists is to spare a young adult from lifetime registration for having consensual sex with an underage person.
In 2006, the state Supreme Court extended judicial discretion to offenders who engaged in other sexual acts, deciding it was unfair to penalize adults who had oral sex with minors worse than those who had full intercourse.
But the court this year reversed itself on crimes not involving intercourse, saying that judges had too broadly applied the 2006 ruling, People v. Hofsheier, to older defendants who had sexual activity with minors far younger than themselves and other cases that did not involve minors.
The court left intact discretionary registration for nonforcible intercourse with minors, reasoning that intercourse with a minor might result in a child, and forcing the offender to register as a sex offender may damage that parent’s ability to provide financial support.
In 2007, Grandinetti was charged with two crimes – oral copulation and penetration with a foreign object, both with a minor. Grandinetti was 48 and living with his girlfriend, who provided foster care to the 17-year-old girl and two boys of their own. His case illustrates the complexity of the registration considerations that law enforcement officials are considering.
In Grandinetti’s case, the District Attorney’s Office agreed to drop the penetration charge and recommend a sentence that included no prison time, in exchange for a plea of no contest to the other charge. Prosecutors wanted Grandinetti to register as a sex offender to stop him from working with at-risk children, Gold said, noting that they believed Grandinetti had taken advantage of his position as a foster parent.
But Grandinetti’s attorney asked Sacramento Superior Court Judge Gary Ransom to waive registration so he could continue his job working for a since-closed charter school called Juveniles at Risk. Grandinetti says he does not think he should have been required to register for what he considers a one-time mistake. He said he has never had another conviction.
Ransom decided not to require Grandinetti to register as a sex offender. Ransom did not explain his ruling during the hearing, according to a transcript, and recently declined through a spokesman to comment on the case. He sentenced Grandinetti to a year in jail and allowed him to serve the sentence on work release while employed by Juveniles at Risk.
Charlea Moore, an Elverta resident who knows Grandinetti through volunteer activities, said he belongs on the registry. She said she would have asked Grandinetti not to participate in children’s activities at a town fair and a Rio Linda centennial celebration had she known about his background.
Grandinetti said he is now unemployed and believes he is unable to get a job because of his conviction, even without being registered on the Megan’s Law list. He said he stays at home, raising his three boys and participating in volunteer activities, including those involving children. He said he has been careful not to take positions in which he would have authority over children.
He may have a strong legal argument should prosecutors ask him to register on the sex offender list, because exemption from registration was part of his plea agreement.
Grandinetti said Friday that he pleaded guilty to one charge in part because his attorney told him he would not have to register if he accepted the plea deal. The Department of Justice bulletin noted that part of the state Supreme Court decision said defendants who received a plea bargain based on the earlier court ruling may not have to register now.
He said he has not disclosed his background to those activity organizers, including those at the Miss Rio Linda Pageant. In one instance, Grandinetti appeared in a picture with five teenage contestants that was posted on Facebook and published in a community newspaper.
Grandinetti said he was in a difficult position when he was asked to be photographed with the girls. He was in the last year of probation, which included a requirement to “not be in the presence of any minor under the age of 18 without a responsible adult present as approved by the probation officer,” according to his court file.
“I knew I was somewhere I wasn’t supposed to be,” he said. “I didn’t want to say, ‘I’m on probation.’”
Lee Seale, the county’s chief probation officer, reviewed the photo at The Sacramento Bee’s request.
“There is nothing in our records to suggest we were aware of the facts you present below regarding his apparent involvement in a beauty pageant,” Seale said. “Had we been made aware of it, yes, we would have investigated the matter and if it were true that it involved minors, yes, we would have brought a violation of probation. It would have likely resulted in further time in custody.”