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Warwick Sex Offender’s Travel Cited as Residency Restriction Critics Rally

The US District Courthouse in Providence, RI.

Warwick, RI – RIACLU Executive Director Steven Brown says the state’s new 300/1,000 foot law requiring Level III sex offenders to move if they live within 1,000 feet of a school contributed to Byron Deweldon’s unregistered cross-country travels, but Warwick Police Chief Stephen McCartney attributes it to poor judgment.

Deweldon, a Level III sex offender, was living in Warwick on Namquid Drive, a short walk from John Brown Francis Elementary School, when he was informed the law required him to move. A day later on Sept. 19, according to US Attorney Peter Neronha’s office, Deweldon was on a cross-country trip including California, Florida, Maryland, Connecticut, Maine and Pennsylvania. He was arrested upon returning Oct. 16.

Byron Deweldon, 45, has been ordered detained in federal custody on a criminal complaint charging him with failing to register as a sex offender after travel to several states.
Byron Deweldon, 45, has been ordered detained in federal custody on a criminal complaint charging him with failing to register as a sex offender after travel to several states.

The  300/1,000 foot law, passed in June, made it a felony punishable by 5 years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine for a Level III sex offender to live within 1,000 feet of a school. The previous restriction, still in effect, makes it a felony for any sex offender to reside within 300 feet of a school.

Brown said the new restriction requires many Level III sex offenders to leave stable homes for much less certain conditions, making the job of local police tasked with keeping tabs on sex offenders more difficult.

In Deweldon’s case, the man was unlikely to find a more stable home for himself than with the support of his mother, with whom he lived, Brown said. The new restriction deprived Deweldon of that stability, meaning he might move more frequently and require the police to catch up with him each time.

“I think this, (Deweldon’s travels) may indicate that it’s not a good practice,” Brown said.

But McCartney said that when Warwick Police informed Deweldon about the law, they told him how he could avoid breaking it.

“I don’t think he used the best judgment in what his options were,” McCartney said. McCartney didn’t list Deweldon’s options during the recent interview.

Elsewhere in RI, the RIACLU says convicted Level III sex offenders have been subject to a destabilizing approach to enforcing the law.

In a letter sent to RI Attorney General Peter Kilmartin’s office, the RIACLU alleges that North Smithfield officers gave a Level III sex offender living within 1,000 feet of a school only one days’ notice to move from their home.

In Providence, sex offenders were given 30 days to move.

“Even so, when one of those offenders met with his probation officer a week later, he was required to sign an ‘acknowledgement form’ about the law that he had to move ‘immediately’ in order to comply,” the letter reads.

McCartney said Warwick officers have not told local sex offenders they were required to move within a day. He said he understands the situation the new restriction puts Level III sex offenders in.

“I mean, they’ve got to go somewhere and it makes it very difficult,” McCartney said.

“Requiring people to flee their homes in the face of felony charges will contribute to the likelihood of chaotic relocations and homelessness. The result of imposing these draconian compliance time requirements is to make it more, not less, difficult for police to keep track of offenders, and more difficult for those offenders to maintain jobs and treatment programs,” the RIACLU letter says.

Brown mentioned the state-side sexual assault victim support and advocate group Day One opposes all sex offender residency restrictions. Day One’s Executive Director Peg Langhammer said residency restrictions, however well-intentioned, can ultimately create an environment where offenders are more likely to re-offend, according to a report from the Providence Journal.

Reform Sex Offender Laws, Inc., a national civil rights and justice reform organization based in Cambridge, MA, with 27 affiliate organizations in 24 states, also opposes residency restrictions for sex offenders, citing its poor efficacy as a public safety tool.

Brown noted sex offenders’ proximity to schools has little to do with their choice of victims. According to, 73 percent of rapists know their victims.

McCartney said he’s not convinced the new restrictions are a bad idea. It’s only been a few months since the law was passed, he said.

“I think it’s way too early to tell,” McCartney explained.

The RIACLU letter asks Kilmartin to establish a uniform enforcement date for the restriction, no less than 60 days from Oct. 14. The letter is co-signed by Brown and the leadership of  post-incarceration service organization Open Doors, and homeless service organizations RI Coalition for the Homeless, House of Hope CDC, and the RI Homeless Advocacy Project.

Rob Borkowski
Author: Rob Borkowski

Rob has worked as reporter and editor for several publications, including The Kent County Daily Times and Coventry Courier, before working for Gatehouse in MA then moving home with Patch Media. Now he's publisher and editor of Contact him at [email protected] with tips, press releases, advertising inquiries, and concerns.

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