A man convicted of engaging in a sexual act with a 12-year-old girl should not be barred from contact with his son and other young family members in part because “there is absolutely no evidence in the record indicating that defendant is a danger to underage boys,” a federal appeals court said December 28.
Randell David Lonjose had pled guilty to one count of the unlawful contact in Indian country after the FBI was notified by the Pueblo of Zuni that he had sexually assaulted an underage female. He was subsequently sentenced to just over four years in prison and three years of supervised release.
As part of a plea agreement, Lonjose waived his right to appeal his sentence, but after his supervised release was modified to include two special conditions, he appealed a special provision that would intrude “on his right to freely associate with his family” and that he contended lacked “compelling justification.”
Just before Lonjose was to complete his prison sentence in 2010, the special condition imposed was that he was not to have contact with children under the age of 18 without prior written permission of his parole officer. He contended the provision was “overly broad and infringe(ed) on his right to familial association with his 6-year-old son and other minor male relatives.”
A three-judge panel of the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals noted an earlier ruling that “conditions of supervised release must be ‘linked to the offense and be no broader than necessary to rehabilitate the defendant and protect the public.’” Where supervised release interferes with that right, “compelling circumstances must be present to justify the condition.”
Noting that Lonjose had previously had a sexual relationship with another 12-year-old girl, which resulted in the birth of his son, the facts relied upon by the lower court “do not present the compelling circumstances” that would limit his contact with his son and other young, male family members. The extent of the special condition “is an abuse of discretion,” the court said.
While Lonjose could have contact with his family if he got permission from his probation officer, “there is still an impermissible infringement of (his) ability to freely associate with his family,” the court noted.
The decision of the lower court was reversed and the case was remanded, with an instruction for further proceedings that would “reasonably” relate to Lonjose’s offense.