Convicted of sex crimes as a man, felon no longer deemed threat because of gender change
Tom Cullen, Storm Lake Times
Jan. 16, 2020
The Iowa Attorney General’s Office is no longer seeking the commitment of a former Midwest Christian Services student convicted of myriad sex crimes because the individual now identifies as a woman.
Court records show the state dismissed the application on Jan. 9. Attorney general spokesman Lynn Hicks wouldn’t comment on the reason for the dismissal other than to say “an offender’s hormone levels are an important part of substantiating an offender’s likelihood of recidivism.”
In November, the Storm Lake Times reported that Joseph Matthew Smith, a 23-year-old convicted of molesting a fellow MCS student in 2014, was “undergoing medical treatment that is needed prior to (Smith) potentially undergoing gender reassignment surgery.”
Smith has received treatment for gender reassignment over the past two years at Newton Correctional Facility. She first expressed a desire to “get started on transgender classification” in October 2017 and started using female pronouns.
Smith has expressed a preference to identify as Josie, according to court documents.
“We don’t believe we have evidence sufficient to prove Josie Smith has a significant chance of reoffending,” Hicks said late last week.
An Iowa Department of Corrections spokesman said Smith was transferred on Saturday to the Sioux City Residential Treatment Facility for transitional release. He did not say when Smith will be released.
Hicks cautioned the public not to overreact to Smith’s upcoming release. Smith will be subject to sex-offender registration requirements for the rest of her life, Hicks said, which includes regular meetings with a probation officer and a listing on an attorney general clearinghouse.
“Josie Smith will be subject to strict sex-offender reporting required of those who commit the crimes she did,” Hicks said. “She’ll be subject to supervision for the rest of her life.”
Hicks said the attorney general's office has never encountered a case exactly like Smith’s.
A preliminary report prepared by the state’s expert, Dr. Jeffrey Davis, says Smith molested as many as 15 victims, ranging from ages 1 to 13, before being sentenced to prison in December 2015.
The report found the likelihood of re-offending within five years of release exceeded 20% because victims were of both genders, and because Smith was under age 25 and never had a long-term relationship.
“Mr. Smith has not had an intimate relationship,” the report says. “His sexual encounters appear to have primarily involved molestation, including his own molestation by multiple perpetrators, or his victimization of others.”
The report says Smith was molested repeatedly as a child in Louisiana, starting at age 7.
The report recommended Smith be confined at the Cherokee Civil Commitment Unit for Sex Offenders (CCUSO) in Cherokee for an indefinite period. But it was premised upon Smith having the sex drive of a man.
Dr. Tracy Thomas, a forensic psychologist and former clinical director of CCUSO, said the statute that outlines civil commitment requires the state to “essentially prove an offender has a chance offending greater than 51% for the rest of his life.” That becomes harder to prove when an offender significantly lowers his testosterone levels, which has a significantly higher impact on sex drive than estrogen.
Thomas said there are no women confined at CCUSO.
“From an evaluator’s standpoint, our recommendation is based on whether someone is more than likely to re-offend,” Thomas said on Monday. “Between 5% and 15% of sex offenders re-offend, so it takes an extraordinarily high burden to prove someone has a 51% chance.”