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Wilkerson v. State

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, First Division

October 3, 2017

JENETTE WILKERSON, Respondent,
v.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Randolph County The Honorable Cynthia A. Suter, Judge

          Before: Gary D. Witt, P. J., Alok Ahuja and Edward R. Ardini, Jr., JJ.

          Alok Ahuja, Judge

         Respondent Jenette Wilkerson pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct involving a child in 2010. In 2015, she filed a petition in the Circuit Court of Randolph County, seeking to be removed from the State's sex-offender registry. The circuit court granted Wilkerson relief. The State appeals, arguing that Wilkerson was obligated to register as a sex offender under federal law, and therefore was not entitled to be removed from the State registry. We reverse.

         Factual Background

         In February 2010, Wilkerson engaged in consensual sexual intercourse with a thirteen-year-old boy. She was eighteen years old at the time. Wilkerson was initially charged with statutory rape; however, as part of a plea agreement, the State amended the charge to the class D felony of sexual misconduct involving a child in violation of § 566.083, RSMo Cum. Supp. 2009. Wilkerson pleaded guilty on August 24, 2010, and was sentenced to three years' imprisonment. Since her release, Wilkerson has registered as a sex offender with the Missouri sex-offender registry.

         On October 22, 2015, Wilkerson filed a petition in the circuit court pursuant to §§ 589.400.8 and .9, [1] seeking to be released from sex-offender registration requirements. In her petition, Wilkerson admitted that she "engag[ed] in sexual misconduct with a minor age thirteen (13) years of age." Her petition alleged that she was eighteen years old at the time of the offense; that the incident did not involve any force or threat of force; and that there was no evidence the victim suffered any physical or emotional harm. Wilkerson's petition alleged that she had complied with the sex-offender registration requirements; had no subsequent arrests or incidents involving sexual offenses; had been consistently employed; and did not present a danger to others.

         The circuit court held an evidentiary hearing on Wilkerson's petition. During her testimony, Wilkerson admitted that in February 2010 she engaged in consensual sexual intercourse with a thirteen-year-old boy when she was eighteen years of age.

         The State argued that Wilkerson qualified as a "sex offender" under the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, 34 U.S.C. § 20911 et seq. ("SORNA"), and was accordingly subject to an independent federal obligation to register.[2] Because she was subject to SORNAs registration requirements, the State argued that Wilkerson was not entitled to removal from the Missouri sex-offender registry.

         On July 14, 2016, the circuit court entered judgment for Wilkerson, ordering that she be "removed from the Missouri sexual offender registration requirements of § 589.400.1." The judgment found that "[m]ore than two years have elapsed since the time [Wilkerson] was ordered to register"; that Wilkerson was eighteen at the time of the offense, and her victim was thirteen; that "[t]here was no threat of force, coercion or use of physical force or a weapon during any encounter and the victim showed no evidence of physical or emotional harm from the events"; and that Wilkerson "has observed the rules and guidelines set forth in the Sex Offender Supervision Agreement, and is and has been in compliance with all provisions thereof." The judgment explicitly stated that "[t]he Court makes no finding if [Wilkerson] is required to register on the Federal Sexual Offender Registry."

         The State appeals.

         Standard of Review

         The judgment of the trial court will be upheld on appeal, unless "it is not supported by substantial evidence, is against the weight of the evidence, or erroneously declares or applies the law." Doe v. Isom, 429 S.W.3d 436, 439 (Mo. App. E.D. 2014) (citing Murphy v. Carron, 536 S.W.2d 30, 32 (Mo. banc 1976)).

         Analysis

         The State argues that Wilkerson was not entitled to be removed from the Missouri sex offender registry because she was subject to an independent duty to register as a sex ...


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