Indiana lawmakers consider changes to sex crime laws - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Indiana lawmakers consider changes to sex crime laws

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George Odongo was convicted of criminal deviate conduct. George Odongo was convicted of criminal deviate conduct.
State Representatives Matt Pierce and Greg Steuerwald are sponsoring bills to help rewrite Indiana's criminal code. State Representatives Matt Pierce and Greg Steuerwald are sponsoring bills to help rewrite Indiana's criminal code.
INDIANAPOLIS -

Indiana lawmakers are responding to a 13 Investigates report. They're looking at who the state calls a predator.

This time next year, a sex crime dating back to 1977 that automatically labels offenders "violent predators" could be off the books.

13 Investigates shows us why they want better laws to fit the crime.

Criminal Deviate Conduct. It's a sex crime. But what does it mean?

Indiana law says it's causing another person to perform or submit to deviate sexual conduct by force or threat, including threats with a deadly weapon.

Some Indiana lawmakers say it sounds an awful lot like rape and now they want to repeal or erase criminal deviate conduct from the books and consolidate it into the rape statute.

"We kind of looked at what other states did. We concluded it was best to combine all of those into a single crime," explained State Representative Matt Pierce of Bloomington.

The Indiana Department of Correction reports 24 offenders were convicted of criminal deviate conduct between January and November of 2012. All of them are now labeled "Sexually Violent Predators"

Under the proposal, no criminal deviate conduct would mean only those convicted under the rape statute would carry the violent sexual predator label.

State Representatives Matt Pierce and Greg Steuerwald are sponsoring bills to help rewrite Indiana's criminal code. The goal they say is to identify the most serious offenders and deal with them appropriately.

That includes who should be on Indiana's sex offender registry.

"We want to make sure that the people who are not supposed to be on the registry are not. We don't want them wasting effort policing people that should not be on the registry," said Steuerwald.

It has real life implications for former Purdue University student George Odongo, who was profiled by 13 Investigates last December.

"What happened?" 13 Investigates asked Odongo during a sit down interview.

"I don't know, I'm still trying to figure it out," he said dressed in an orange jail issued uniform.

George Odongo was convicted of criminal deviate conduct. After a night of drinking a young woman said he grabbed and fondled her, and forced his hand down her pants as they walked around campus.

Odongo spent four years in prison.

Now both he and his victim are speaking out against Indiana law.

At issue: the Criminal Deviate Conduct charge lawmakers want to repeal. Under the statute anyone who is convicted is automatically labeled a predator - a Sexually Violent Predator - whether the label fits or not.

"It's crazy. It's crazy. 'Cause everywhere you go people will see you as a sexual predator and you're not a predator," Odongo told us from behind bars at a Wisconsin Detention Facility.

"It's hard for me to think of him as a violent predator," said Odongo's 22-year-old victim last fall. She told 13 Investigates she has forgiven Odongo for what happened and doesn't think he should face continual punishment.

Representative Steuerwald says lawmakers are taking a closer look at who Indiana is calling a predator and ways to address questionable cases.

"We're going to work with the Department of Correction to come up with a system by which people can at least petition the court to be removed from the registry, and give them the means to do that. Right now there are no means," said Steuerwald who watched Odongo's story.

"I completely think that they need to look at it. I don't agree with the label personally. So I think if it would change someone's life it's always worth taking a second look at," said Odongo's victim.

Both pieces of legislation have passed the Indiana House and are now in the Senate.

Representative Pierce says if there are any unintended consequences that come with the changes. Indiana prosecutors and judges will get to weigh in before any new legislation goes into effect in 2014.

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