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Scott Chessman

Other Ohio Exonerations
On March 3, 2009, 33-year-old Scott Chessman, a convicted sex offender, was indicted by a grand jury in Montgomery County, Ohio on a charge of violating the sex offender registration law by failing to register his cell phone number.

Chessman went to trial in Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas and chose to have his case decided by a judge without a jury.

The prosecution presented evidence that in 2003, Chessman had pled guilty to rape and was sentenced to three years in prison. Upon his release, he was required to register his address and telephone number under the Ohio sex offender registration law. The law required him to report this information every 90 days.

The evidence showed that on December 18, 2008, Chessman’s sister bought him a cell phone. The phone was registered to Chessman at his sister’s address. The phone required payment of money for use and $2 was deducted daily as an operating cost whether the phone was used or not. Chessman’s sister initially paid $10, which meant that after 5 days, the phone would stop working unless more days were purchased.

On December 20, 2008—two days after the phone was purchased—Chessman was sent to jail for a parole violation. His parole officer arranged for him to enter the in-residence New Life Program at Volunteers of America (VOA) after his release from jail.

Chessman was released from the Montgomery County Jail on December 31, 2008. Before he was taken to the VOA, Chessman was taken to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department to fulfill his address verification requirement. In addition to verifying their addresses, offenders are required to verify that all of the registration information is current—including telephone numbers. Chessman completed the forms and signed the verification, but did not list the new cell phone number.

Although residents at the VOA were not allowed to have cell phones, Chessman smuggled the phone in with him. The $10 had long expired, leaving the phone non-functioning. Somehow, however, he got it working again. On February 6, 2009, a VOA employee caught Chessman talking on the phone beneath the covers of his bed. The phone was confiscated and given to Chessman’s parole officer, who turned it over to the sheriff’s office.

On May 1, 2009, the judge convicted Chessman of failing to notify a change in telephone number. Chessman was sentenced to three years in prison.

On July 9, 2010, the Court of Appeals of Ohio reversed the conviction and dismissed the case. The court ruled that the sex offender registration law carried no penalty for failing to report a change in telephone number. “Under Ohio law, where there is no penalty, there is no crime,” the appeals court ruled.

On July 14, 2010, Chessman was released from prison. In 2011, he filed a lawsuit seeking to be declared a wrongfully convicted person. The judge rejected his lawsuit and Chessman appealed. In June 2013, the Court of Appeals of Ohio reversed and declared Chessman a wrongfully convicted person.

On September 12, 2014, the state of Ohio agreed to pay Chessman $82,000 in compensation. He received $67,000 of that amount and the remainder was used to pay off unpaid child support obligations and court fees.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 6/4/2019
Last Updated: 2/24/2023
Most Serious Crime:Sex Offender Registration
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2009
Sentence:3 years
Age at the date of reported crime:33
Contributing Factors:
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No