Failure to Register as Sex Offender Lands Man in Prison for Longer than Original Sentence


By Ned Meiners

SACRAMENTO, CA  – Local resident Donnell Cox was sentenced Monday to two years in California State Prison here in Sacramento County Superior Court for charges resulting from a crime he was convicted of more than a quarter-century ago.

Cox, 57, failed to sign up for the sex offender registry, a felony in California that carries a sentence ranging from 16 months to three years—interestingly, he will be serving a sentence considerably longer than his original sentence.

About 25 years ago, in 1994, Cox was convicted of sexual assault and battery. His original sentence was 93 days in custody and four years of parole. As a condition of his conviction under California Penal Code section  290.018(a), Cox is required to register as a sex offender every year within five days of his birthday.

Until recently California was one of only four states that required mandatory lifetime registration of all convicted sex offenders. As of January, 1 2021, individuals on the registry are eligible to petition the court for their removal, but it is at the court’s discretion and many less severe infractions remain on the books.

In August of 2020, Cox let his registration lapse which triggered a parole violation.

In the ensuing years after 1994 Cox had been convicted of several charges, including receiving stolen property and possession of a controlled substance. At today’s hearing, Deputy District Attorney Frederick Gotha stated, “He’s got a criminal history involving many, many drug offenses.”

Cox has also previously served time for the same sex offender registry violation for which he was sentenced today. However, at no time has Cox ever been charged with another crime that is sexual in nature.

That did not stop Sacramento Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Goodman from sentencing him under California’s sex offender statute, noting, “You are pleading to an offense that carries 16 months to two or three years in state prison. You will get the midterm of two years.”

In a Kafkaesque aside, Judge Goodman inquired whether or not the violation itself could warrant further inclusion on the sex offender register. “I have an odd question: Does this offense itself also require him to register?”

Prosecutor Frederick Gotha responded that since he was already registered, further registration was not necessary.

Additionally, Cox will pay mandatory restitution of $300. After sentencing, Judge Goodman stated that, due to the defendant’s history of substance abuse, he will be referred to counseling and treatment while incarcerated.

Ned Meiners is a Legal Studies student at City College San Francisco. Originally from Maine, he currently resides on Bernal Hill in San Francisco.

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