Capitol Alert

Sex offenders sue California, claim Megan's Law website puts them in danger

A screengrab of the Megan’s Law website maintained by the California Department of Justice on November 11, 2015.
A screengrab of the Megan’s Law website maintained by the California Department of Justice on November 11, 2015.

Two registered sex offenders are suing California for alleged lax management of an online sex offender database, saying a lack of timely information prompted vigilantes to attack them for past crimes.

A measure commonly known as Megan’s Law sought to inform people about the presence of sex offenders by having the state publish publicly available information about their offenses and whereabouts. A website managed by the California Department of Justice includes a tool to search for sex offenders by name or location.

While the site warns against vigilantism, stating that “anyone who uses this information to commit a crime or to harass an offender or his or her family is subject to criminal prosecution and civil liability,” plaintiffs in the lawsuit say they have been targeted because of the state’s negligence in updating the website to include their dates of conviction and release as required as of 2010 by a 2006 law.

That lack of information has exposed registered offenders to “physical harm, loss of employment, underemployment, lack of adequate housing and other deprivations of rights,” charges a lawsuit filed by the organization California Reform Sex Offender Laws in Los Angeles Superior Court. The complaint alleges that 92 percent of the profiles on the Megan’s Law site lack dates of conviction or release.

According to the complaint, plaintiff Roy Matagora was shot in September by someone who had viewed his profile. The online profile for Matagora lists three offenses involving a minor under 18 and a rape offense but does not include information about when he was convicted or released.

An assailant broke into the home of the other plaintiff, Frank Lindsay, in 2010 and tried to kill him with a sledgehammer after finding his information online, the lawsuit alleges. Lindsay’s profile notes “lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 years of age” and registers that he was convicted and released in 1979, but the lawsuit alleges that the information about his conviction and release wasn’t available until 2012.

Lindsay also had the lease for his business denied because of issues with the website, the lawsuit alleges. The complaint lists four other registered sex offenders who were slain in what the complaint characterizes as reprisal killings.

To remedy the alleged shortfall, the lawsuit asks that the court compel the Department of Justice to update the website.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert