The names of nearly 570 level 1 Cowlitz County sex offenders originally scheduled to be released Wednesday won’t be released for at least two weeks, the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday.
The records are complete and the sheriff’s office is ready to release them to Curtis Hart of Kelso, Sheriff Mark Nelson said. But at least five offenders have filed for court injunctions to block the release and their cases this week were scheduled for Oct. 3. Four of them are referred to anonymously as “John Doe.”
The sheriff’s office doesn’t know who those John Does are, so it can’t release any of the offenders’ names because it does not know who among them are seeking the injunctions.
“If we knew which names specifically were withheld, we’d release the rest of them,” Nelson said. “We were prepared to release the information.”
Vancouver attorney Elijah Marchbanks, who is representing some of the John Does, has not returned repeated calls for comment.
Hart requested the names of the sex offenders last month and said he will post some of them on the Internet. He has said he believes “sex predators deserve scorn” and can’t be reformed.
Hart said the sheriff’s office explanation for the delay “is fair” and said the department should have been told the real names of the John Does so that he could receive the rest of his request.
He plans to continue fighting for the records.
“I want my info,” Hart said over Facebook Messenger. “It’s my right to have public information. They are basically un-registering these guys by withholding their names.”
Hart has become known as a vigilante for conducting stings meant to lure potential sex offenders. His efforts have resulted in at least three subjects arrested and charged, but police asked him to stop because of the potential for violence when Hart and his “Punisher Squad” confront targets who have shown up expecting to have sex with minors.
The sheriff’s office has received a flood of calls from level 1 sex offenders concerned about Hart’s records request, and several have told The Daily News anonymously that they fear retaliation if their names and information are disclosed.
The names of Level 2 and 3 offenders, who are considered higher risk, are routinely published by law enforcement. But level 1 offenders are treated as “low risk” and are exempt from being reported on law enforcement public databases. However, the state Supreme Court has ruled that the information is still a public record.
“The county has no dog in this fight,” Cowlitz County Prosecutor Ryan Jurvakainen said. “This is between (those seeking injunctions) and the courts.”
The requests for permanent injunction are set to be heard Oct. 3, which is the earliest the names could be released to Hart.
For now, Nelson said, the records are “just going to sit on the shelf for a few days.”