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In re Bethea

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

October 3, 2017

IN THE MATTER OF: ANTHONY RAYSHON BETHEA

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 20 September 2017.

         Appeal by petitioner from order entered 31 October 2016 by Judge Carl R. Fox in Chatham County No. 04 CRS 5254-58; 50399 Superior Court.

          Appellate Defender Glenn Gerding, by Assistant Appellate Defender James R. Grant, for petitioner-appellant.

          Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney General William P. Hart, Jr. for the State.

          TYSON, JUDGE.

         Anthony Rayshon Bethea ("Petitioner") appeals from the trial court's denial of his petition to be removed from the North Carolina Sex Offender Registry. We affirm the trial court's order.

         I. Background

         On 13 September 2004, Petitioner pled guilty to six counts of felony sexual activity with a student in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-27.7(b), upon which the court sentenced Petitioner. This sexual activity with a student offense to which Petitioner pled guilty is now codified under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-27.32 (2015).

         Following his convictions, Petitioner registered as a sex offender on 14 October 2004 under the North Carolina Sex Offender and Public Protection Registration Program ("the Registry Program"). See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-208.7, et. seq (2015) (establishing the North Carolina Sex Offender and Public Protection Registration Program).

         Under the version of the Registry Program in effect at the time of his 2004 convictions, Petitioner's requirement to be registered as a sex offender was to automatically terminate after ten years had elapsed, if he did not commit any further offenses requiring registration. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-208.12A (2004).

         Statutory amendments in 2006 to the Registry Program affected Petitioner's registration status. First, section 14-208.7 was amended to provide that registration of convicted sex offenders could continue beyond ten years, even when the registrant had not re-offended. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-208.7(5a) (2007) (providing that the registration requirement "shall be maintained for a period of at least ten years following the date of initial county registration").

         Second, the provision of section 14-208.7, which provided for automatic termination of registration, was removed. Section 14-208.12A was added to the Registry Program. The current version of section 14-208.12A provides that persons wishing to terminate their registration requirement must petition the superior court for relief.

(a) Ten years from the date of initial county registration, a person required to register under this Part may petition the superior court to terminate the 30-year registration requirement if the person has not been convicted of a subsequent offense requiring registration under this Article.
. . .
(a1) The court may grant the relief if:
(1) The petitioner demonstrates to the court that he or she has not been arrested for any crime that would require registration under this Article since completing the sentence,
(2) The requested relief complies with the provisions of the federal Jacob Wetterling Act, as amended, and any other federal standards applicable to the termination of a registration requirement or required to be met as a condition for the receipt of federal funds by the State, and
(3) The court is otherwise satisfied that the petitioner is not a current or potential threat to public safety.

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-208.12A (2015), amended by N.C. Sess. Laws 2017-158, § 22 (adding a provision to section 14-208.12A(a) irrelevant to this appeal).

         In 2006, Congress enacted the Adam Walsh Act, also known as the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act ("SORNA"). See 42 U.S.C. § 16901, et seq. The Adam Walsh Act replaced the Jacob Wetterling Act, the prior federal law addressing sex offender registration. This Court has held "[t]he Adam Walsh Act now provides the 'federal standards applicable to the termination of a registration requirement [under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-208.12A(a1)(2)]' and covers substantially the same subject matter as the Jacob Wetterling Act." In re Hamilton, 220 N.C.App. 350, 356, 725 S.E.2d 393, 398 (2012).

         SORNA establishes rules governing sex offender registration and conditions state receipt of certain federal funds on a state's implementation of those rules. See 42 U.S.C. ยงยง 16915, 16925. ...


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