Can a small-town sex assault victim force her attacker to move? A recent area case tested that

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Judge struggles to keep victim, sex offender apart in small town. Staff video

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The 64-year-old jogger who was attacked on the Little Miami Trail last year can’t understand why she has to keep seeing her attacker in the small town where they live just 1.7 miles apart.

“This is in my face every day of my life,” the victim said during a hearing two weeks ago in Warren County Common Pleas Court. “For me to go anywhere, I have to go by where he lives.”

“It’s a constant reminder of the sexual assault.”

The case illustrates the difficult balance the courts try to strike between protecting victims and packing an already crowded prison system with sex offenders. It also shows how chance encounters between offenders and victims are far more likely when both live in the same small town.

In July 2017, the victim, who was using the trail to practice for a triathlon, heard a “guttural sound” and was grabbed by Kyle Motz, a one-time convicted sex offender, who lunged from the brush pants down. She was able to break free and run back to her car.

RELATED: Sex offender avoid prison for attack on trail jogger

“I am sorry,” he reportedly said after she escaped him.

Motz was arrested three months later and served 119 days in jail while awaiting trial. In February, he pleaded guilty to gross sexual imposition and faced up to 18 months in prison.

Instead of sending Motz to prison, Warren County Judge Donald Oda II sentenced him to complete an in-patient treatment program and submit to electronic monitoring after returning to the community and being designated a Tier II sex offender.

In explaining his decision, Oda said he hoped Motz could control his behavior rather than coming out of prison “worse than when you went in.”

Motz’s lawyer, Timothy McKenna, also argued that a forensic evaluation showed Motz had mental problems best handled through therapy sessions attended while on probation.

Motz was back in Oda’s courtroom last week, as Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell requested that Motz be forced to move from a house owned by his family along U.S. 22 & Ohio 3.

Both Motz and the victim live in the Morrow area, which has a population of roughly 1,300 people.

Motz said he would speak to his family about finding a new place to live, but he also said he has already moved once to accommodate the court.

There are no allegations that Motz has violated any terms of his probation or was following or stalking the victim, according to the victim and probation officers overseeing Motz.

Sex offender registry

Motz is among more than 17,300 adult offenders listed in the Ohio sex offender registry, according to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

Under Ohio law, all sex offenders must register with law enforcement and remain on a state list anywhere from 15 years to a lifetime depending which tier they are on.

The law also limits where sex offenders can live. They are prohibited from living or loitering near schools, day care centers or anywhere children gather, as well as from the victim.

The law itself is controversial. Barb Wright, an advocate with Ohio Rational Sexual Offense Laws, said one of the problems is the criminal justice system is expected to keep track of more than 17,000 offenders — the vast majority, she says, who are unlikely to “re-offend.”

She pointed to research funded by the U.S. Department of Justice that calls for more research to determine whether registration was effective.

“Research to date has exhibited mixed results,” according to the conclusion of the Sex offender Management Assessment and Planning Initiative Research Brief published in July 2015.

“We need to do a better job of determining who is at risk,” Wright said, adding, “In this circumstance, if this guy is high risk, I don’t blame the victim. This is a scary offense when it occurs.”

Unintended consequences

During last week’s hearing, Oda told the victim he had received her letters about the problem and was “open to any and all solutions in this case.”

He assured her Motz was not “a direct risk” to her.

“I don’t know that I have a good option other than what we are doing now,” Oda said. “It is much better to have a bad situation that we are monitoring rather than a situation where Mr. Motz is driven underground or he absconds. Or worse case scenario, he re-offends.”

According to the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, research shows up to half the offenders subjected to community notification “experience unintended consequences such as job loss, housing instability, threats or harassment, vigilantism, or property damage. About 19 percent of adult sex offenders report that these negative consequences have affected other members their households.”

“Sexual offending is a significant, complex and disturbing problem,” according to the group.

Fornshell and Assistant County Prosecutor Carrie Heisele say the court has wide latitude for adjusting probation terms.

“The idea is, if a court can incarcerate you, the court can impose probationary terms that are very restrictive in nature,” he said.

The victim says fear of running into Motz has impacted her ability to go to the gym or to the grocery story.

“It’s not something as the victim that I feel I should be subjected to,” she said, noting she had returned to therapy since Motz returned to the Morrow area. “Right now, I still don’t have a way that I can feel comfortable.”

Motz was arrested based on a DNA match with clothing the victim was wearing at the time of the attack, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources investigative report shows. The DNA findings also matched a submission from a January 2014 rape investigation in Goshen, according to the report.

In July 2014, Motz was convicted of sexual imposition in Warren County.

Given the circumstances, Heisele said, forcing Motz to move is “a small thing we could request.”

Changes unlikely

Ohio’s sex offender law has undergone changes through the years, but none are expected before the current session winds up this month.

One proposed change in the registry law would add prohibitions for anyone convicted of criminal child enticement, classifying the crime as a Tier I sex offense when committed by a registered sex offender.

House Bill 374 had one hearing in the Criminal Justice Committee in November 2017, but no action has been taken since. The session is scheduled to end on Dec. 19.

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