He was told that his best bet was to take the plea, and of course, not knowing anything about this, he did. Sadly many are told to take the plea and once this is done, it is a done deal. You have admitted guilt and the punishments are harsh and hard to fight. Even when the girlfriend showed up in court to beg the judge not to prosecute him, that she loved him, nothing was ever forced, and that she planned on marrying him one day, it did not matter. They sentenced him to 7-15 years in prison and 25 years on the Sex Offender Registry.
Francie fell apart at the seams, in disbelief and feeling alone in this, not knowing anything about this law so she started researching and was introduced to RSOL, a national site for the Reform Sex Offender Laws. That is when she decided not to waste any more energy on her sadness and depression and use that energy in a positive way: to form a support group, to fight against these laws, to work at reforming them, and to let people know they are not alone (many people are dealing with this). To her surprise, she found a lot more people dealing with this than she ever imagined.
She began the Michigan contact for RSOL. She started her group with a notice in the paper about the meeting. She expected a few people to show, but she was pleasantly surprised to have 15 attend. Their stories were sad and real, and they all instantly bonded. The attendance continued to grow as more and more people were seeking help, support and information. There are now close to 100 members. Not all attend meetings because of logistics, but they all are in the fight for reform. There are people that write MCFJ from all over the country.
While Francie’s son remained in prison, the Romeo and Juliet law was introduced and passed, and when he was released from prison he was eligible to petition to be removed from the registry under the Romeo and Juliet Law. After appearing before two judges, he was finally granted removal. He was the first to be removed from the list under that law in Oakland County thanks to one of our amazing members, Attorney Cheryl Carpenter. Even though Francie’s son no longer had to register, the group continued to grow. There have been articles written and news stories done. It is a slow process but it is starting to get out there and noticed.
Francie continued to work towards the group’s goals and with people/families dealing with this, as her son continued to struggle with the effects of being in prison and on parole, and being separated from society for so long at such a young age.
In 2016 a second chapter of MCFJ began in Ann Arbor, and in 2017 a third chapter in Kalamazoo. It is our goal to have these support groups available all over Michigan to help the thousands of families negatively affected by laws which shame and punish instead of rehabilitating and restoring.