US Supreme Court splits over sex offenders’ usage of internet

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In a split decision Thursday from a case where a Bremerton man was arrested as part of a child sex internet sting, the state Supreme Court upheld the power of probation officers, rather than judges, to decide how to limit the internet use of sex offenders.

The court’s 6-3 ruling upheld the conditions facing Christopher R. Johnson, 42, when he was released from prison.

He was arrested in 2017 as part of a “net nanny” sting targeting adults who responded to online personal ads from detectives posing as children looking for sex.

Johnson maintained he believed the person with whom he was communicating and tried to meet was actually an adult, not a 13-year-old girl the undercover detectives posting the Craigslist messages represented themselves as.

A jury convicted Johnson of attempted second-degree rape of a child, attempted commercial sexual abuse of a minor and communication with a minor of immoral purposes.

Judge Kevin Hull sentenced him to 10 years to life in prison.

The Supreme Court’s ruling, which has the force of state law, focused on part of the restrictions Johnson and other sex offenders face upon their release from prison, that is, Hull’s order that Johnson not use the World Wide Web except “through approved filters” as decided by his community corrections officer, Washington state’s version of probation officers.

At his sentencing hearing, Johnson’s attorney, Tim Kelly, noted that access to the internet was vital to navigating society, from selling a car to applying for a job.

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