Chapter 3. Fulton County

(October ’08 – July ’09)

This chapter should actually be entitled, “DeKalb County” because technically I was registered with them; however, unbeknownst to them, I was actually living in Fulton County.

By October rumors of the company being sold became reality and I could no longer stand being in the motel room dealing with bedbugs.  I packed everything and quietly moved to Alpharetta.  When I say, “quietly” I meant without reporting to the DeKalb Sheriff’s Sexual Offender’s Department, I moved, and gratefully so because I knew I could not tell them where I moved because it violated their law regarding where I could live because of the distance from a daycare and community recreation facility which had a pool.  It was in December, while headed home on the bus I got the expected phone call from them asking where I was staying after they had attempted to do a residence verification, I immediately stated, “I lost my job and am now homeless.”  The investigator advised me I could have had a warrant issued and been arrested and needed to see them, so we set an appointment for me to do so.

By this time, I was settled living with Samantha and her children, A.J. and Lexi.  They knew we were getting married the next year, but Samantha and I had put off our plan to marry in October for varying reasons.  Her son, A.J., had special needs so I took it upon myself to meet his bus at the end of the school day and spend the afternoon caring for him and help him with his homework.

Lexi had her own key but Samantha felt better because now there would be an adult in the home while she worked and would not be there for several additional hours, presented a problem had anyone suspected her leaving her children alone.  Lexi was mature enough to handle her brother’s needs; however, any child service agency would not have been as understanding because of their ages.  My mother thought nothing of leaving us alone in the 60’s but the new millennium was not as innocent a time as today, so I could imagine the fear Samantha experienced daily while working, going through the obvious stress a single mother would have to deal with, so she gave the strictest rule never answer the door and to be absolutely quiet until she arrived, so my being there would alleviate those concerns.  However, my concerns would be heightened because I was living where I could not and if discovered could face jail-time, or worse, prison-time if discovered and what was more of a concern was for Samantha’s “harboring” me, after I studied Georgia’s law regarding residency!

It was ironic the company which bought-out my former employer’s location was literally within five miles from where I now lived and although they knew it, I could not get a job with them.  Had I, things might have been different, certainly easier than waiting for the first of the year before I could apply for unemployment benefits; however, God had a plan in place.

On the eve of the new year, 2009, Samantha and I mutually agreed to end our engagement.  Our friendship was excellent; however, we began having concerns if what we’d plan was rushed, negating better judgment.  In my case, God showed me He had answered my prayer requesting “a friend” but never did I ask Him for a “wife”.  There is a difference.  It appeared I would have trouble finding work and still provide the adult presence she wanted, rather needed for the remaining school year, so we made an agreement I would finish my book, “If You Send Me, I Will Go” for which this book is the sequel.  Samantha was an author and self-published her book and currently a contract writer for a large corporation agreed to help me finish my own project which began fifteen years ago!  So, my days were spent putting the finishing touches on a book which eventually grew to 540 pages.  As others would comment later, “Wow, such a big book.”  I would respond, “I had a lot to say.”

My relation with DeKalb County had me traversing there twice a week, at their discretion to report my whereabouts.  The law was challenged in federal court for the State of Georgia imprisoning a man for a year because he could not give an address.  The ruling stated, “The law, as it now stood, does not tell an individual how they could comply with the law, which in most cases caused the initial problem of compliance.”  Therefore, as long as they wanted to play the game of telling me where I could not live, I would be willing to play not telling them where I did.  They would have to find out on their own.

I’ll insert what was written in one of the major newspapers in Georgia:

Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2008

Ga. Supreme Court strikes down sex offender rule

By GREG BLUESTEINAssociated Press Writer

ATLANTA — Georgia’s top court dealt another blow Tuesday to the state’s tough sex offender rules, ruling a provision that requires an automatic life prison sentence for sex offenders who repeatedly fail to register is “cruel and unusual punishment.”

The Georgia Supreme Court’s 6-1 decision threw out the life sentence given to Cedric Bradshaw, a 25-year-old who was arrested for failing to register as an offender after he said he spent weeks trying to find a place that didn’t violate the law’s residential restrictions.

It’s the latest ruling that chips away at the law, which bans sex offenders from living, working or loitering within 1,000 feet of just about anywhere children gather. That includes schools, churches, parks, gyms, swimming pools or one of the state’s 150,000 school bus stops.

But critics say the law treats some offenders too harshly and warn it could force others to abscond from the registry.

Bradshaw’s challenge focused on a provision in the law that required a life sentence for sex offenders who failed twice to register as an offender. It applies to all sex offenders, from child predators to those convicted of statutory rape.

Bradshaw, who is on the registry after he was convicted of statutory rape, was arrested after police discovered he was living with a girlfriend when he had registered at a family friend’s address. Since it was the second time he failed to register as a sex offender in Georgia, he was sentenced to the only punishment allowed by law: life in prison.

Prosecutors said they were following the letter of the law – and by extension, the will of the public. But Bradshaw’s lawyers called the punishment “grossly disproportionate” because the state is the only one that imposes a life sentence for failing to register.

In a strongly written ruling penned by Justice Robert Benham, the court concluded that the penalty is “so harsh in comparison to the crime for which it was imposed that it is unconstitutional.”

It also noted that more violent crimes, such as voluntary manslaughter and aggravated assault, call for lesser punishments than life in prison.

The decision did, however, uphold Bradshaw’s conviction for failing to register a second time and sent his case back to the trial court for a new sentence.

Justice George Carley, the lone dissenter, warned that repeat sex offenders pose a threat to society and said the decision is a “monumental abuse of this court’s authority to determine constitutionality of legislation.”

Bradshaw’s attorney, Robert Persse, applauded the ruling as a move to strike down a “penalty provision that was far in excess of the crime it was designed to punish.”

The court’s ruling is one of a growing number of cases that target Georgia’s sex offender law, which sponsors declared one of the nation’s strictest when it was adopted in 2006.

The Georgia Supreme Court struck down an earlier version of the law in November 2007, ruling it failed to protect the property rights of sex offenders. Legislators retooled the measure, but other provisions are now in the critics’ crosshairs.

The Georgia court last month declared a part of the law unconstitutional because it fails to tell homeless offenders how they can comply.

And federal judges are considering a lawsuit that claims a provision banning sex offenders from volunteering at churches is illegal and another that challenges a part of the law that would evict offenders who live near churches and school bus stops.

(End of Article)

I complained having to come into their office, twice a week constituted an unreasonable hardship due to being unemployed and the cost of commuting, plus the time to do so which took from the necessary hours to find perspective employers and conduct interviews.  They acquiesced and had me reporting weekly, which suited me fine, because it got me out of the house for at least four hours.  I always requested an early morning reporting which meant catching a bus about 6:30a.m., then taking two trans, followed by another bus in order to get there by 8:30, hopefully not waiting too long, to reverse the commute and arrive back in Alpharetta by Noon, giving me ample time to be there when A.J.’s bus arrived at 2:30.  Whenever asked, by the authorities, where I was sleeping, my response would be, “wherever I could.”  This was all they needed to know and it would be all I would offer.

I would have a profound life changing experience living as a family unit.  Never before had I lived with a woman, with children, who believed, too, I would become their stepfather.  The most difficult aspect was disciplining which was very seldom.  Being responsible for them taught me some things about myself, which I did not like.  I saw a lot of my mother and father in who I am and I did not like it immensely.  While having one of our many heart-to-hearts Samantha shared her own experience and with the wisdom of many years doing what she was doing, being a real loving “Mom”, she told me this was an opportunity to change not what occurred in my own childhood, which could never be, but change who I am today making better decisions.  There was no rule I had to “do” as was done, but “do” what made me feel better and interact with her and her children, in a manner based in love and not the arbitrary behaviors which controlled my early years still affecting my latter life!  Although having this experience and coming to grips this family which I loved so dearly would not be the one, it would change my heart and desire and I wanted to reverse the vow taken almost 40 years ago, I now wanted not only a wife but at least one child of my own!  Opening up new concerns because of my age, now over 50, would it be fair to a child to have such an aged father, who would not be there physically perhaps even in their teens, if not by death, then by the inability physically to run, jump and play ball?  Now, looking forward to receiving my retirement from IBM, could it be complimented with having to be serious about working again, to support a family?  I never thought I would ever fall into living an Abrahamic life.  Surely, God had been given my life at forty, and surely we, He and I, as in the first book’s title to go wherever He led me, just as Abraham did, but would there now be an “Isaac” or in the vernacular of my African American roots with naming our daughters strange sounding names, “Iseeka” (hmm, I sort of like what it implies:  “I-Seek-A?”) in my new life.

We spent time going to a church we both loved attending.  Our meeting was the result of a question regarding church attendance, and searched several together and found one we enjoyed who’s contemporary service, come as you are, suited us very well, even the children enjoyed it.  We went to parks and the Atlanta Aquarium and on Saturday evenings, when the Sabbath ended, I would treat everyone, even those visiting to fast-food dinner, of their choice, using my unemployment checks.  Sure, it would go against reasonable thinking to spend so carelessly not knowing when I would find work, already giving Samantha one-third for my room and board, to help her, too; but, I did not care.  It made me feel what a real father would feel, “I’m providing something good for my family.”  I liked having gone out, most cases, alone, getting what they wanted, and enjoyed them being sated, although separate from me because I could not get into the child fare of entertainment, would download a movie and watch it while eating, on my laptop.  I truly loved this existence.

My only regret with my staying there would be a few bedbugs made the trip and begin showing themselves!  Certainly, not the amount I experienced in DeKalb, but it was disturbing none-the-less, but Samantha’s characteristic of taking everything in stride always amazed me.  One day her son dropped her laptop, and I certainly would understand what could be considered a “near death” experience being addicted to our pc’s, made me respect her all the more.  He could feel disappointment and was enough punishment for him whereas if it were me dropping it as a child, feelings of disappointment would have been the beginning for I am sure a whipping would have been in order followed by punishment, and if I had any savings, they would have been taken as a measure of handling the matter.  Samantha, goes down in my book the quintessential mother.  I wished she were mine!  We took measures to rid the bugs, but does one ever completely does so, since they are so difficult to eradicate?

March 2009 would forever be a special month.  My book was printed and I received the first fifty, which took three boxes to contain.  They were heavy, almost two pounds apiece and to see the end result of a project, destroyed once accidentally and restarted while being locked up in federal prison ten years later, was finally in my hands.  This was my “baby” and I was so pleased even though I was able to find—still, grammar and spelling errors which escaped my eye after reading it through at least four times.

Samantha was pleased when she received the first autographed copy, and from that moment, her suggestion of developing a website to promote it, as well as what I believed my mission in life had now evolved, helping those addicted, the sex offender, and their family, friends and loved ones came into being:  roymartinministries.com was birthed the same month and went live on the Internet.  (Note:  In 2013, after being released from prison which is detailed later, the website evolved into roymartinministries.wordpress.com) Developing the website helped start and finish another dream of writing a daily devotional for those addicted.  I had never been able to locate one and was given the idea while in federal prison and read Oswald Chambers, “My Utmost His Highest” inspired me.  I began writing two years before, with my god-daughter, Vikki, as an aid and incentive to keep her from her own addiction which eventually landed her a state prison term, but I encouraged her to write anyway and her son, Quincy, just a breath away from the system at age 14, contributed to the production of, “The Addict’s Devotional”, which is available on my website.

The website garnered considerable attention more from the sex offender side, as I wrote blogs speaking against the archaic and unfair, unconstitutional laws affecting me and thousands of others and their families across this nation.  I was interviewed on Internet Radio to explain how I had to live a covert life because of the State of Georgia’s laws making it impossible to find suitable housing.

I got involved in a project writing every state senator a personal letter requesting them to rethink their laws regarding an individual’s right to worship and serve God according to their conscience.  The current law forbade sex offenders from volunteering at church or singing in the choir!  It mandated once services were over they had to be off the property or chance being arrested.  I do not know if my work directly affected the repeal of that law, but prior to my leaving several months later, the law was changed.

Here’s an article again published in a major newspaper regarding this issue:

Georgia’s sex offender law blocks religious redemption

Published 11.19.08

By Scott Henry

PERSONA NON GRATA: Omar Howard’s parole officer told him he shouldn’t give testimony during church services.

Lori Collins, an ordained minister from Henry County who found religion in prison, is no longer allowed to work with church groups that perform prison outreach.

Andrew Norton of Cobb County has been told he can’t sing in his church choir or help set up for church events. Steven Lee Williams of Polk County is forbidden from playing drums at services.

Churches frequently invite College Park’s Omar Howard to offer testimony about how God rescued him from a life of violent crime. Eventually, he hopes to join the ministry. For the time being, however, Howard risks a mandatory 10-year term if he so much as performs a Bible reading before a congregation.

This past Thursday, lawyers with the Southern Center for Human Rights argued in federal court that a new law unconstitutionally criminalizes religious practice by making it illegal for people on Georgia’s sex offender registry to volunteer at a church. A judge’s ruling is expected within weeks.

It was the latest challenge to a controversial law that targets registered sex offenders with wide-ranging restrictions and stiff punishments. Initially authored by state House Majority Leader Jerry Keen, R-St. Simons, and adopted in 2006, the law was overhauled by the Legislature this year after large chunks of it had been thrown out by various courts.

Even so, the chipping away continues. Last month, the state Supreme Court struck down a provision to send homeless sex offenders to prison for being unable to register a valid address with their county sheriff’s office. The plaintiff in that suit, William James Santos, had spent a year in a Hall County jail and was facing a life sentence for failing to register his address – even though he didn’t have an address.

If you think aspects of the sex offender law seem to defy common sense, welcome to the club.

“My parole officer doesn’t understand it,” says Howard, the would-be minister. “He told me it’s safer just to stay away from church.”

Howard, 34, admits he used to be a rough character. He spent 14 years behind bars for voluntary manslaughter, armed robbery and false imprisonment of a minor during a 1993 home invasion. That last charge landed him on the sex offender registry despite not having been convicted of a sex crime.

During his long incarceration, Howard got religion; he led Bible study and became a chaplain’s aide. “My goal is to do full-time ministry,” he says. “That was the only hope I had that got me through my time.”

After entering probation last year, he devoted much of his time talking at churches about his experiences in an effort to warn at-risk young men away from the thug life. He’s even spoken at the invitation of the Georgia Department of Corrections and the State Board of Pardons and Paroles.

But as of July 1, when the newest incarnation of the sex offender law went into effect, Howard had to give up most of his church-related activities. The law offers no guidance as to what constitutes volunteering; His parole officer has told him to no longer sing in the choir or take part in revivals, seminars or prayer vigils. Howard still accepts invitations to visit churches, but he’s limited to sitting in the congregation. Offering testimony is off-limits.

In a court brief, Howard complains that the law “interferes with my religious freedom and prohibits me from expressing my strongly held religious beliefs.” He adds that none of his previous church activities involved being around minors unsupervised.

Also testifying, Andrea Shelton, founder and president of Heartbound Ministries, a prison outreach program, told Judge Clarence Cooper that “religion makes recidivism less likely” for all convicts. Shelton explained that most churches routinely perform background checks on would-be volunteers before giving them positions of responsibility. The chance that a church would give a registered sex offender free access to children is fairly slim, she said.

Permitting Howard, who volunteered at Heartbound in the past, to continue work with churches will allow others to “see that redemption is possible,” added Shelton, her voice choking with tears. “Rehabilitation rarely takes place without redemption.”

Ironically, Rep. Keen, whose law criminalizes religious volunteerism for sex offenders, is the former head of the Georgia Christian Coalition.

Collins, the Henry County woman, also took the witness stand to explain that, although she’s ordained, her parole officer told her she can’t even lead an adult prayer group in her home. Said Collins, who served three years in prison for sleeping with an underage boy: “I don’t know what I can and cannot do.”

That’s the problem with the law, argued Southern Center attorney Gerry Weber: It’s too vague.

“The law prevents ‘volunteering,’ but doesn’t define what that is,” Weber told the judge. “Law enforcement is making up the rules as it goes along.”

The result is that enforcement is likely to vary greatly, depending on how each county’s sheriff interprets the volunteering provision. In one Georgia county, a sex offender was prosecuted for playing the piano during services, Weber said.

It’s no surprise that the revamped law lacks well-articulated guidelines for determining what behavior is illegal. Keen was never much interested in clarity or even enforceability. Back in 2006, he indicated that his goal was to make life so difficult, costly and perilous for sex offenders that they’d be forced to leave Georgia. Speaking at a Senate hearing, he said, “Candidly, senators, they will in many cases have to move to another state.”

Certainly, Keen’s law has succeeded in harrassing Wendy Whitaker, a Columbia County woman who was the subject of a CL cover story in July 2006 when she was ordered to leave her house because it was within 1,000 feet of a church-based child-care facility. That provision eventually was struck down.

Whitaker, lead plaintiff in the Southern Center constitutional challenge, was back in court last week. trying to keep her home. She’d moved back after the state Supreme Court struck down the law late last year, ruling the restrictions made it practically impossible for sex offenders to remain in their homes.

This time, Cooper ruled her lawyers failed to establish that the restrictions barring her from occupying her home rose to the level of banishment from the county. The judge appeared to be swayed by the argument that other sex offenders had managed to find some form of housing in Columbia County.

On the witness stand, Whitaker indicated that if she and her husband are forced to rent a place to live, in addition to paying their home mortgage, they’ll likely face foreclosure. “It will be bad for us,” she said.

(End of Article)

I did get some attention, I’m sure of it, as a direct result of the mailing to the state legislators.  Other than one out of the eighty-eight sent me a letter, I received a phone call from the DeKalb County Sex Offender Unit questioning my actual location where I resided, stating, “We believe you are living with a woman who has children!”  I panicked.  I simply replied, “I know where I am and it is not where you think I am.”  She responded, “Just know, you’re being investigated, and we’re coming to get you.”  I hung up from the call now going into paranoia mode.  I immediately checked the streets, taking a closer look for anything not appearing normal.  Having been addicted to crack cocaine, I know how to deal with paranoia.  I immediately left the house retreating through a wooded area in the back and went to the main road.  Interestingly enough, I could see the intersection for our street and saw a Fulton County Sheriff’s car turning into the development.  I went the opposite direction.  I walked until I could mingle with the lunchtime workers moving about at the different eateries and sat down to make some phone calls.  I called but not reaching anyone got a friend’s recording message whose personal thought encouraged me.  I called another long-time New York friend, Maxine Allen, Don’s wife, our friendship well over 30 years, told her what was happening and broke down and cried.  Although I appear big, solid and fearless, I am not beyond feelings and in my later years, have found expressing them easier.  She encouraged me and we had prayer.  My main concern, I needed to be there for Samantha.  I needed to be able to help her to at least the end of the school year, another month away.  I later reached her and in her way which always amazes me, stated, “Well Roy, what did you think?  You are putting yourself out there challenging them.  Did you not think something would happen?  Stop worrying.  God knew this before you are experiencing it.  Remember, God’s got this!”  That was enough for me to return home.  My moment of living in fear was over, and my faith reestablished knowing in Whom I trust.  They, the officials, could do nothing to me God had not okayed.  I almost expected to see the Sheriff’s car in the driveway when I got home, or at the very least patrolling the area, and if so, so be it.  I would not run now.

That night was even worse.  I made certain I could not be seen in the house asleep, and kept my clothes on.  The law says, “Wherever you lay your head, sleeping, constitutes your home,” so I sat up, practically all night, in case I could be seen, until I eventually fell asleep and was thankful when I did awaken and found myself still there, on the living room couch where I made my bed.

When I needed to do my routine visit, I kept my set of keys in a hidden place outside, and my agreement with Samantha, if I did not call her before 2p.m., she should determine I was being detained and would have to plan to meet A.J.  I was more than grateful when everything proceeded normally and I could keep to my routine.

In May, during Mother’s Day weekend, I met Lexi’s father, a career soldier, a medic, who was headed for Iraq and wanted to spend time with his daughter before leaving for a year.  Samantha was going through a difficult time with his visit, and after sharing with me some of her feelings, I could see she was experiencing some emotional turmoil.  He had been her first love, and despite whatever transpired twelve years before, there were feelings.  I took the family that Saturday evening to the aquarium but he would have them the following day, taking them to breakfast.  I could imagine, for him, he was having some difficulty with my being there in the home, but these were the circumstances as it stood.  While they were away, I took time to pray seeking direction.  Although I had strong feelings for Samantha and her children, I recognized they were not mine.  I felt, I would be moving onto the next stage of my life but I did not know when or where and asked Him for help.  God would not leave me long in this quandary, and would supply the direction I needed to know at the right time.

A week or so after the kids were finishing school, I went to my usual Tuesday reporting and when I returned Samantha had left a note on my laptop, knowing this is where I’d first go when I let myself in.  I read its contents, sat for a moment reflecting, then got up to take a walk.  On that walk, I thanked Him for His leading in my life and the new direction I was headed, although still not certain exactly where that location was, but for sure, now I knew my time here, not only in this home had ended but believed my life in Georgia was coming to an end.

When I returned home, I wrote Samantha an email to reassure her this was an answer to prayer and God was again using her as a way of helping me and should not feel badly, at all.  She responded positively and happy we were both on the same wavelength.  We both acknowledged God bringing us together and we’d always remain friends, but life was now taking us in different directions.

The last weeks were spent as all previous with no difference in our behavior toward one another, or in front of the kids.  They would go visit their grandparents in June, and when they returned in July, “Mr. Roy” would be gone, but leaving behind a letter thanking them for sharing their lives with me and their mother, and I would always love them and ask about them.  During this time, I arranged to meet with Dr. Linda Carter, who prophesied God wanted me to come to Atlanta.  I had an opportunity, no, privilege meeting with her again, and presented her with a copy of my book, the whole purpose for my coming here, which God used her by giving me that word two years before.  When I gave her the book, there was a feeling of accomplishment, a feeling the task for which I came to do here was complete.

As always, when one finishes something, they “go home”.  As several times before, I called Don and told him I’m headed back and gave him the particulars and as all times previously, telling me I would be welcomed.  I took Samantha to a different Olive Garden, recapturing our first date together, giving us time for what would be our last dinner.

When Samantha took me to the same bus terminal I arrived a year and a half prior, I, being sentimental held her in a hug thanking her for being who she was, and praying in my heart she would not begin to cry for surely this big ‘ol man would break down, watched her get into car and with a wave drove off.

I maneuvered the luggage and realized my worst fears of not being able to travel as scheduled because the lines were too long for them to process my ticket; however, someone came to my aid, and since I’d already purchased mine on the Internet, was taken through a different door, given my boarding pass and immediately boarded, bags stowed, and moments later pulled away from the depot, now facing the window, sitting in a window seat watched the ATL skyline disappear not because it was cloudy at 1p.m. in the bright sunny afternoon, but because now it was time to cry.

Chapter 4

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