The New York Criminal Law Blog

Joel Grubert, Sex Offender, Arrested for Groping; Three Strikes?

It's a tough balance. The rights of the accused and the repeat offenders must be balanced against the need to protect future victims. Without protections for those that are accused, but not convicted, or protections for those that have served their time, we dissolve into an un-American authoritarian state.

Still, sometimes it seems that we're not doing enough. Joel Grubert, a 49-year-old sex offender, out on parole for child porn charges, was arrested again this weekend after he allegedly groped two young girls, ages 6 and 9, in a public library, reports the New York Daily News.

This is a man with a dark past, reports DNA Info. Joel Grubert, a.k.a. Marc Grubert, had eight arrests dating back to 1988. Six were related to sex abuse or possession of child pornography. In 2004, he was sentenced to serve 2 years and 4 months for possession of "a sexual performance by a child under 16 years of age."

With all of his prior offenses, why hasn't he been locked up permanently?

The problem has to do with the impossible task of predicting recidivism. Common belief is that sex offenders are more likely to do it again once released. The opposite is true. According to a study in The Wall Street Journal, sex offenders, in general, may actually have a lower rate of recidivism than the average criminal. Child molesters' rate of recidivism seems to be equally low.

That doesn't change the fact that repeat offenders that either can't or won't change still exist. Grubert is the prime example. Two or three arrests would seem to indicate habitual behavior, Grubert has eight, plus this weekend's run-in with the law.

The solution might be in a new Three Strikes Law for certain types of offenders. New York once had such a law, but it was overturned as unconstitutional back in 2010 because the setup called for judges to make the decision on whether or not to impose the life sentence for a third felony offense. The Supreme Court had previously ruled that the right to a jury trial required that jurors should be the ones inflicting such severe sentences.

While a reformulated -- and hopefully constitutional -- Three Strikes Law might do much to prevent repeat offenders from continuing to prey on societies' vulnerable, even that notion is debatable. Studies, in favor of the policy, and against it, are mixed. Though there isn't an easy answer to the problem, the status quo leaves much to be desired.

Related Resources: