Indiana lawmakers reviewing "sexually violent predator" law
13 Investigates a former Purdue student's criminal case that may lead to a change in Indiana's predator law.
Indiana's sex offender registry is supposed to help communities keep track of predators.
But one state lawmaker is taking action after a 13 Investigates report found "one size fits all" sentencing is a bad fit, and even has the victim speaking up.
"It's hard for me to think of him as a violent predator."
The 23-year old woman behind the words is a victim who is now speaking out from the shadows on behalf of her attacker, George Odongo. She wants him freed from both federal custody and the stigma as a predator.
"I didn't think that it would get to the magnitude that it would," confided the victim, who told 13 Investigates she initially had no plans to make a report about the incident and says her roommate actually called police a day after seeing Odongo's composite on campus media sites.
They were both freshmen at Purdue, out partying the weekend before classes. She says Odongo, who had been drinking, grabbed her, fondled her and put his hands down her pants as they walked on campus and witnesses passed by.
"She walked away. She didn't, like, run away from him," a student witness told investigators in a taped statement about the incident.
Odongo served four years of an eight-year prison sentence for the crime.
It's what he's facing now that has special prosecutors, attorneys and lawmakers taking a closer look at who Indiana is calling a predator.
"You obviously think of somebody who is dangerous, somebody who can't be returned to society. You don't think of, even if you believe George is guilty, a young kid who on his first day in college made a mistake," said Odongo's trial lawyer, Daniel Moore of Lafayette.
State Representative Greg Steuerwald, (R-Avon) sits on the Criminal Code Evaluation Commission looking to reform Indiana's criminal code this January.
"We're trying to make sure the definitions fit the crime and the definitions fit who we want placed on the registry," he said.
Under Indiana law, Odongo will be put on Indiana's sex offender registry as a sexually violent predator. The state says anyone convicted of criminal deviate conduct automatically gets the label whether it fits or not.
Odongo, a native Kenyan, is also facing deportation any day. He's in immigration custody in Wisconsin.
"Sitting over here wasting time. Day in and day out the same routine. Just doing nothing. It kind of hurts," Odongo told 13 Investigates.
Viewers are reacting on WTHR.com. Diana said, "The sexual registry is for the WORST, not some drunken fool. The 'consequences' - spending four years in prison is enough. Even the woman he groped agrees. 'One size fits all' doesn't work."
Yet others see the predator label as a pre-emptive strike against possible future attacks.
Greg Elliott wrote: "What if that was your daughter? It was wrong and most people that do things like that progress into other things - rapists, serial killers, molesters. He did wrong. He knew the laws and he broke the laws. Sorry about his luck."
Indiana Special Prosecutor Sonja Leerkamp was on the committee that first reviewed Indiana's predator law and says it was aimed at pedophiles and serial rapists.
"Nobody wanted to appear to be soft on these offenders," explained Leerkamp.
The problem is, "one size fits all" puts lower level offenders like Odongo under the same strict registry requirements as serial rapists.
State Representative Steuerwald saw Odongo's story and says the committee is working on changes to the criminal deviate conduct law.
"What we're trying to do is work on some terminology that would be more fitting, make the list more accurate and keep people like the Purdue student who shouldn't be on there, off the list," said Steuerwald.
Steuerwald says his committee has met just within the last 24 hours to start working on the changes. He's expects the revisions to Indiana's criminal deviate conduct law to get a vote early next year.