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Jeffrey Brown

Other Indiana Exonerations
On May 6, 2009, the sheriff’s department in Noble County, Indiana, opened an investigation into whether Jeffrey Brown had failed to register as a sex offender.

Brown was then 45 years old and had been convicted in 1996 of sexual battery and criminal confinement against a 31-year-old woman in neighboring Kosciusko County. He received a 20-year sentence and was released in February 2009. As Brown prepared for his release, a clerk in the prison system informed him that his paperwork designated him as a lifetime registrant in the state’s sexual-offender registry. Another prison employee told Brown that he was required to register as a sex offender.

Upon his release, Brown registered in Noble County. He then moved and asked the sheriff’s department for an extension in updating his registration. Prior to Brown’s request being acted upon, he was arrested on an unrelated matter and did not complete his registration. That triggered the sheriff’s department investigation, which led to his arrest on June 16, 2009, on a charge of failure to register as a sex offender.

Brown pled guilty to the charge in Noble County Superior Court on October 11, 2011, and received a sentence of six months in prison. Again, as he awaited release, prison officials instructed Brown about his need to register as a sex offender.

The Noble County Sheriff’s Department opened a new investigation into Brown in the summer of 2015. Deputy Kyle Hartman said in an affidavit filed on September 1, 2015, that he had been reviewing Brown’s registration when he learned that Brown had failed to register his Facebook account and failed to notify the sheriff’s department in a timely fashion about a change in his address. Brown was arrested that day and charged with four counts of failing to comply with Indiana’s laws on sexual-offender registration. He pled guilty to two counts on January 14, 2016, and the other two counts were dismissed. Brown received probation.

During the time of Brown’s incarceration for the confinement and battery convictions, the Indiana legislature made several amendments to its Sex Offender Registration Act. The first, effective July 1, 1996, required a defendant convicted of sexual battery to register if the victim was under the age of 18. The second, effective July 1, 1997, required registration regardless of the victim’s age.

In 2009, the Indiana Supreme Court threw out the conviction of a man named Richard Wallace, who argued that he had no obligation to register, because the amendments weren’t in place at the time the crime was committed. The court said requiring Wallace to register would have violated the state’s ban on ex post facto laws. The Wallace ruling was narrowly written, and in the immediate years after the ruling the state took the position that it would wait for requests rather than proactively look for persons wrongfully convicted and forced to register under a misapplication of the law.

On March 2, 2016, Brown wrote to a sheriff’s deputy in Noble County and said that he did not think he needed to register as a sex offender. By then, Indiana had changed its interpretation of the Wallace ruling and begun advising persons convicted of sex crimes and other offenses that they no longer needed to register.

On March 8, 2016, Brown moved in a single motion to vacate both convictions for failure to register. The Noble County District Attorney’s office joined in the petition, and a judge granted the motion that same day. The charges were dismissed.

Brown later filed a compensation claim with the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. On August 19, 2022, the institute declared Brown to be innocent of these charges, and he received $11,781 in compensation.

Separately, he filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana against the sheriff’s department and the Indiana Department of Correction, claiming their misconduct led to his wrongful conviction. A judge dismissed the lawsuit in 2020.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 10/4/2022
Last Updated: 7/18/2023
Most Serious Crime:Sex Offender Registration
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2009
Sentence:6 months
Age at the date of reported crime:45
Contributing Factors:Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No