Current Issues

A letter of gratitude

By Allen . . . I had been involved with child pornography since I was eleven years old. This persisted into my early twenties. I realized I had crossed a line at some point and had tried to stop several times, but I was never successful on my own, and I was too afraid to go to anyone for help. I expect that’s a familiar situation for many.

Early in 2019, shortly after my 22nd birthday, events took place which finally convinced me to seek therapy. After several months of working with my therapist, I decided that I wanted to speak publicly about my experiences in the hopes of raising awareness among the people I felt needed it most — teenagers and their parents. But before I could do that, I had to make sure that I was straight with the law. I made the decision to contact the Austin Police Department and inform them of everything I’d been involved with for the past eleven years.

In my defense, I didn’t know any better at the time.

They interrogated me for about 90 minutes but ultimately let me go. I think this was only because they had no evidence other than my word and didn’t feel like they had enough to bring charges against me at that time. Leaving the police department, I felt free in a way that I hadn’t since I was a child. It seemed like I was entering a new chapter of my life.

Two weeks later I was arrested on charges of possession of child pornography. I would spend the next four months in jail before being released on bond. For much of that time I believed, as I’m sure you reading this might, that it was my confession which resulted in my arrest. But actually, no; police in a neighboring jurisdiction had launched an investigation into me because of a complaint they had received earlier in the year which I had known nothing about. In a supreme twist of irony, I had confessed to the police mere weeks before I would have been arrested anyway.

I told my attorney I would refuse to sign any plea which included the sex offender’s registry. Not for a year, or a day, or an hour. I did not trust that once I was on it, I’d ever be removed. I was under pretrial supervision for nearly three years when they finally gave me an offer I could live with: a felony conviction, two years in prison suspended for four years’ probation, court ordered sex offender treatment, keystroke monitoring, but no registration. The offense I would be pleading to was one that did not trigger a duty to register. I took the deal.

I considered just doing the time in prison. At that point I had 131 days in county jail and nearly three years on an ankle monitor. I hoped they might give me some time off in light of that. But I ultimately decided to go ahead with the probation.

I regretted it as soon as I discovered that Travis County probation mirrored or exceeded many of the restrictions imposed by the Texas sex offender registry. I was told I could not continue living in my apartment complex because it had a pool. I had to stay 1,000 feet away from designated child safety zones at all times. I couldn’t continue to work as a janitor in a restaurant because the work might put me in contact with patrons, including children. I couldn’t use the internet or go anywhere or do anything without being in violation of my probation conditions.

I honestly felt like prison would have been easier. I reached out to an attorney who had been recommended to me through the NARSOL affiliated group Texas Voices for Reason and Justice and asked if he could help me voluntarily revoke my probation. That attorney was Charlie Baird.

Rather than revoke my probation, Mr. Baird began campaigning the DA’s office to terminate it altogether. It took several months and a signature from the First Assistant District Attorney, but the end result was that my felony conviction was overturned and replaced with a misdemeanor and 100 days in jail, which became time served due to the 131 days I already had. All of the conditions of my previous sentence were erased.

I never dared to believe an outcome like this was even possible. It’s such a weight gone. There are still challenges, but now I feel like I have the freedom to move on, pick up the pieces, and try to reconstruct my life.

I am so grateful and thankful to everyone who helped me along the way.

a guest writer

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