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RI, Tent city leader arrested and charged twice

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posted on Aug, 4 2009 @ 11:33 PM

Published: August 4, 2009
The leader of a homeless encampment in Providence, R.I., was arrested Friday night on a charge that he had failed to register as a convicted sex offender. He spent a night in prison before a supporter posted his bail Saturday afternoon, but he was arrested again on Tuesday afternoon — again for failing to register.

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Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times
John Freitas was first convicted as a sex offender in 1978.

This Land: Living in Tents, and by the Rules, Under a Bridge (July 31, 2009) The leader, John Freitas, 55, has emerged as a public figure in Rhode Island since early April, when he established a tent city for the homeless under an abandoned bridge in downtown Providence. He has been featured in several newspaper accounts about the camp, including a This Land column that appeared on the front page of The New York Times on Friday, and has been interviewed on local talk-radio programs.

Mr. Freitas told The Times last month that his past as a convicted sex offender in Massachusetts, with his last conviction dating back more than 20 years, is well known among those in the camp. He also said that he had diligently notified the authorities in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts of his whereabouts, but was under the belief that the requirement that he register had lapsed. This belief was bolstered, he said, because he had often spoken with police officials visiting the encampment and had been so public as the camp’s leader.

According to the Web site for the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board, Mr. Freitas was convicted of rape and abuse of a child, in 1978, and of indecent assault on a child in 1978, 1986 and 1987. Mr. Freitas said that after serving several years in prison, he has had a clean record and has held several jobs, including as a supervisor at a wire factory. But a layoff, combined with health issues, led ultimately to homelessness, he said, first in shelters and then in tent cities.

After being told by state officials that the Providence encampment — which did not include children — would have to break up, in part for safety reasons, Mr. Freitas moved the group on July 26 to a spot underneath another bridge, in East Providence. The police in that community were frequent visitors to the encampment, taking photographs and sometimes checking identifications of the camp’s 40 or so denizens, including that of Mr. Freitas.

Finally, on Friday night, the Providence and East Providence police arrested Mr. Freitas on a charge of failing to register as a Level 3 offender. His lawyer, Arthur Parise, said Tuesday morning that Mr. Freitas had provided him with many documents that “would indicate his requirement to register has in fact lapsed.”

“To my mind, he’s complied with everything he’s supposed to do,” Mr. Parise said. But he added that he was still investigating, and the court documents filed so far by law enforcement authorities were not detailed beyond stating the alleged violation.

A few hours after Mr. Parise explained his position, Mr. Freitas was arrested again at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Providence for failing to register as a sex offender.

After his client’s re-arrest, Mr. Parise said there was clearly a disagreement about the nature of Mr. Freitas’s case. “Is he required to register or not?” he said. “My position is that he isn’t, and their position is that he is.”

Charles McDonald, a spokesman for the Sex Offender Registry Board in Massachusetts, said that a requirement for a Level 3 offender lasts either for 20 years or for life, depending on the conviction.

Michael Healey, a spokesman for the Rhode Island attorney general’s office, said Mr. Freitas has “a lifetime duty to register” and was fully aware of that duty.

Well, the guy is a scumbag for molesting kids, not gonna stick up for him but what the hell is with this registration thing? My question here is about tent cities.

Are they allowed to be constructed and lived in on county property? Is it legal to do this?

posted on Aug, 5 2009 @ 12:07 AM
After what he did to those children I would prefer he would have been struck by lightning, arrest doesn't seem that bad.

posted on Aug, 5 2009 @ 12:15 AM
I don't think it is legal, but these are human beings who need a place to stay. Often the homeless shelters are filled to capacity, hence the 'tent cities'.They are in other cities as well. Too many people losing jobs and what-not. It's so sad.

posted on Aug, 5 2009 @ 01:52 AM
Mkay, the guy's horribad, but maybe he's one of those guys that gets themselves castrated (neutered, perhaps, somewhere near 20 years ago) in order to never do it again. If that's not paying your dues, I'm sure he did while he was in prison. LOL

As for the tent cities: Well, let's just say, for the sake of argument, that you had a choice and more to the point, a say in what happens to homeless people...people who in some way have found themselves unable and without the capacity or ability to remain a productive member of "society". What would you do with them? At least in a tent city, you don't have to look directly into their eyes and feel guilty for passing them by (or not).

Would you rather they exist on our street corners and back alleys?

Does NO ONE have an ounce of compassion left?!? Can anyone even define it?!? "NO. I wouldn't want them on the street corner, but I just don't want them in tent cities either." To even bring up the question of the legality of tent cities in an issue like this (when so many other lives are at stake) is an indication of just how far we've come as a species, and is accepting that last quote as commonplace happenstance. Are we deluding ourselves into thinking these people are happy in their little tents, scrounging for food and panhandling on a daily basis, giving up any ounce of dignity they might once have had, simply for the chance to survive?

Seems to me, there's a much bigger issue here than a 20 years ex-sex offender registering themselves. Do a quick search on "Tent Cities" to see what I mean. Guess it just tells us that no matter how poor you are, freedom is but an illusion.

EDIT: Syntax

[edit on 5-8-2009 by lagnar]

posted on Aug, 5 2009 @ 02:14 AM
reply to post by Helious

Makes me wonder how they want him to register. Is like.. going to put 'The red tent in the corner" on his application?

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