The Texas Office of Violent Sex Offender Management (OVSOM), which supervises civilly committed Texas sex offenders, has been the subject of multiple controversies in recent months. These included secretly housing civilly committed sex offenders (CCSOs) in residential neighborhoods in Austin and Houston, contract mismanagement, missing records, administrative errors and officials who never set foot in their offices. This led to the resignation of the agency's former director and counsel general and the chairman of the agency's oversight board. New revelations that two CCSOs were banished from the state by court order and went on to commit new sex offenses in other states is calling into question the past actions of the controversial agency, which continues to be the focus of three separate investigations.
Since the inception of the civil commitment program in 1999, 300 sex offenders have been civilly committed. Half of them were returned to prison for violations of the program's onerous and inflexible rules. Most of the others are incarcerated in various jails and closed halfway houses throughout the state. None have ever been released from a program theoretically created to treat sex offenders who suffer from "a behavioral abnormality." Some legal and mental health experts question whether the program treats CCSOs or merely, and unconstitutionally, extends their incarceration indefinitely.
Constitutional or not, it is clear that, in August 2004, judges in the county where all Texas civil commitment proceedings are held ordered CCSOs Lloyd Wilson, 44, and Melvin Cody Whipple, 58, to move out-of-state. Both men had just completed serving sentences for sex offenses against children. Both were ordered to "leave the State of Texas within 72 hours of release" and "not to visit or reside in the State of Texas." They were also declared "sexually violent predators" and required to check in every 90 days with the special prison prosecution unit that co-signed the orders, to enroll in sex offender treatment programs and register sex offenders. Montgomery County District Judge Putnam Reiter ordered Wilson to reside in Virginia while Montgomery County District Judge Lee Alworth ordered Whipple to live in Bluff, Utah.
The orders likely violated the prohibition against banishment from the state found in Article I, Section 20 of the Texas Constitution. Reiter and Alworth cannot recall the cases, but said Wilson and Whipple likely agreed to the orders. Denton attorney and banishment expert Richard Gladden said the right cannot be waived so the orders would still be unconstitutional.
In July 2005, Wilson was arrested for rape, abduction and producing child pornography for taking a 16-year-old girl to his home, sexually assaulting her and photographing her with his cell phone. He is serving a 30-year sentence in Virginia. The prosecutor in his case said she was unaware of the Texas civil commitment. Virginia's CCSOs are not permitted to move out of state.
Whipple was arrested in May 2008 for fondling an 11-year-old boy after showing him pornography. He was given a 1-to-15-year sentence for attempted aggravated sexual abuse of a child and remains imprisoned in Utah, according to an internal OVSOM memo. Utah prison officials said they had no knowledge of his Texas civil commitment. OVSOM director Marsha McLane said her office was unaware of Wilson and Whipple until a discrepancy in the imprisoned CCSO count was recently discovered. These cases disprove the OVSOM's claim that no Texas CCSO has ever committed another sex offense.
As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.
Already a subscriber? Login