Order vacating man’s removal from sex offender registry affirmed

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A trial court that vacated its prior order removing a man’s name from the Indiana Sex Offender Registry was correct in doing so because the Indiana Attorney General’s Office had not been notified of the offender’s request to be taken off the registry, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

The panel affirmed the Madison Circuit Court in Trent Dean McPhearson v. State of Indiana, 19A-MI-3035.

Trent McPhearson had been required to register as a sex offender in Maine after he pleaded guilty there to gross sexual assault in 1998. After he was released from prison in 2003, he was required to register as a sex offender for life in Maine and in Indiana, where he resided after his release.

That changed in 2015, when Maine ruled that offenders such as McPherarson had been subjected to ex post facto laws because the registration requirement became law after the offense for which McPherarson was convicted.

After McPhearson was removed from Maine SOR in 2015, he petitioned in 2018 for removal from the Indiana Sex Offender Registry. He served only the Madison County prosecuting attorney and, without objection from the local prosecutor’s office in Anderson, the trial court granted McPhearson’s petition.

About a month later, in May 2018, a deputy attorney general appeared on behalf of the Indiana Department of Correction with a motion to intervene. The AG’s office noted the DOC had not been notified of McPhearson’s petition, as required by law, until it was granted, thus moving to vacate the trial court’s order removing McPhearson from the Indiana registry. The trial court agreed, vacating its prior removal order and later denying McPhearson’s subsequent petition for removal.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed, finding the trial court did not err either in granting the AG’s motion to intervene or in vacating its removal order. It also found that McPhearson committed a crime in another jurisdiction equivalent to sexual battery in Indiana.

“In other words, McPhearson is required to register in Indiana not based on his previous obligation to register in Maine — which no longer exists — but rather because he was convicted of a crime in Maine that is substantially equivalent to a sexual offense proscribed under Indiana law. And he was always required to register as a sexual offender in Indiana on that basis alone, irrespective of his registration status in Maine. As such, McPhearson cannot rely on the Maine appellate courts’ decision that removed him from Maine’s sex offender registry to say that his requirement to register for life in Indiana automatically violates ex post facto principles,” Judge John Baker wrote for the panel.

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