Monitor Could Bar Offender from Community, Leader Says

By Tom Alex
Des Moines Register
February 24, 2006

Leon, Ia. - A Davis City man's hope for reinstatement in his religious community could be damaged if he is forced to wear an electronic monitor under Iowa's sex-offender registry law, a church leader testified Thursday.

Scott Smith, 36, refuses to wear the device as ordered by the Department of Corrections. Smith was a leader in the Brotherhood of Christ when he was charged in 2003 with sexual abuse and indecent contact with two teenage girls.

Brotherhood of Christ believers once claimed the Soviet Union would unleash a weapon to wipe out the Kansas City, Mo., area and everything else within 50 miles. Police have said about 50 members live with the church's leader, Ron Livingston, on about 520 acres east of Lamoni.

Livingston testified that Smith, whose wife and children remain members of the mostly self-sufficient community that has turned its back on modern conveniences, has been told he might be allowed back into the fold if he follows the group's requirements.

Livingston told Judge Sherm Phipps that electricity can cause people to disobey God and religion and it should not be used in daily life.

The ban on electricity is "not a metaphor, it's believed literally," he said. "Normally, expulsion is permanent. . . . expulsion is difficult to overcome."

Smith faced 10 years in prison on the sex abuse charges but was put on probation for five years. He was sentenced to one year on the indecent-contact charge but was released after 210 days on work release and put on two years' probation.

State lawmakers last year approved a package of get-tough laws aimed at child molesters that includes electronic monitoring for hundreds of offenders on parole or probation.

Phipps will decide whether Smith should be forced to wear the device.

Smith lives in a home without electricity, telephone or running water on land adjacent to church property. His family visits him there.

Livingston said the court-ordered electronic monitor in the home could adversely influence Smith's children and take away from the teachings of the community.

Jeanne Beardsley, a social worker who has worked with Smith and his victims, said it's unlikely he will commit similar crimes.

"There's always potential to re-offend. He's now at the low-risk level," she said. "Scott is opportunistic. He didn't seek out victims."

Beardsley said that there was no evidence of violence or substance abuse and that Smith accepted his victims' versions of what happened and showed empathy. He paid for their counseling, she said.

Beardsley said that while an electronic monitor might be "highly appropriate" for a rapist or other violent offender, it could be detract from Smith's treatment.

As for the law that requires electronic monitoring, Beardsley said: "I don't believe treatment people were consulted."


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