By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Critics of a measure that would allow sex offenders to choose the court-ordered treatment program they wish to attend are outraged to learn that a family member of the sponsor of the amendment attended one of the treatment programs in question.
Sen. Joyce Foster, D-Denver, admitted to the Denver Post Monday that her brother-in-law, Julian Newman, is a registered sex offender who attended the very program that was the impetus for her amendment to House Bill 1364.
Fox 31 reported yesterday that Newman, while he was a doctor and therapist in Wisconsin, admitted to having sex with patients even though he knew it was against the law.
The Fox 31 report by Julie Hayden also said that Newman forced an inmate at Kenosha County Jail to have sex with him by threatening to refuse to renew medical prescriptions if she did not, a lawyer for the victim said. Hayden also wrote that Newman admitted to doing the same thing to other victims for more than a decade.
Newman eventually pled guilty to sexual exploitation by a therapist, lost his medical license and moved to Denver, Fox 31’s Hayden reported.
Foster’s amendment to HB 1364 would allow sex offenders to choose from three programs selected by their probation or parole officer. The bill itself would extend the life of the Sex Offender Management Board for another five years.
Taking aim at THE
Foster took aim at the Teaching Humane Existence Program (THE), criticizing the program for allegedly threatening clients with prison time for not meeting obligations of the program. She said she received “hundreds” of complaints about the program, according to Denver Post reporter Tim Hoover.
Foster originally answered “no” when asked by the Post whether her brother-in-law had gone through the THE program. But on Monday she admitted that Newman had gone through the program.
Critics of allowing sex offenders to choose their treatment program are asking Gov. Bill Ritter, a Democrat and former district attorney, to veto the legislation. They feel they have been bolstered by Foster’s admission.
“The only responsible thing that she should have done if she was hearing negative things about THE, or any treatment program É she should be calling up the treatment program, maybe even the probation officer, and saying, ‘I’m getting this disturbing information,’ and find out whether or not in fact the information from her sex-offender relative is accurate or some kind of splitting going on,” said Greig Veeder, executive director of THE.
Veeder explains “splitting” as behavior in which clients split family members from the “people and the messages and the lessons that are involved in the treatment and probation.”
“Splitting is almost as frequent as breathing,” he said.
No decision yet from Ritter
A spokesman for Ritter said the governor has not made a decision yet on what he is going to do with HB 1364.
“The governor has more than 200 bills to consider between now and the June 11 deadline to take action on legislation from the session that ended last week,” said Evan Dreyer, Ritter’s spokesman. “He understands the concerns around the amendment. He is listening to all sides and giving the bill a careful review.”
Veeder and other critics of the legislation point out that Foster’s amendment was introduced on the floor without consideration in committee, meaning it received no public comment. In addition to the controversy surrounding Foster’s involvement with the legislation, critics believe the measure would encourage sex offenders to choose the most lenient program.
Foster did not return multiple requests yesterday by the Denver Daily News seeking comment. Calls to her home office and e-mails were not returned. The Legislature is adjourned for the year.
Luis Toro, director of Colorado Ethics Watch, said Foster won’t face any legal repercussions due to her action, noting that a conflict of interest in Colorado is only illegal when business interests are at stake, such as if a lawmaker’s business might be financially impacted by legislation.
Toro said it could almost be construed that Foster was bringing in her “wisdom and knowledge” from life experience in introducing the amendment. He says Foster is likely already paying a price by having personal information brought into the public light.
“If it were up to me, our conflict of interest rules would definitely be stronger, but it’s hard for me to come up with a rule that would address this situation,” said Toro. “I think this is more of a common-sense situation where she has already paid the price because this kind of embarrassing information has come out.”