STEUBENVILLE - Ma'Lik Richmond was classified as a Tier II sex offender Friday morning and must register with the local county sheriff every six months for the next 20 years.
Visiting Judge Thomas Lipps announced his decision at the conclusion of an approximately 90-minute hearing at the Jefferson County Juvenile Justice Center that saw defense attorney Walter Madison and state Public Defender Brooke Burns call a psychologist to the witness stand.
Richmond and Trent Mays, 17, of Bloomingdale were found guilty in March by Lipps for the rape of a juvenile female from Weirton last August.
Mays was classified as a Tier II sex offender at a June hearing before Lipps. The Richmond hearing was delayed after Madison filed several motions, including a challenge to the constitutionality of the juvenile sex offender classification system.
Dr. Tiffany Dent testified that a 2005 study addressed the psychological impact on juveniles who are required to register as sex offenders.
"The study found registered juvenile sex offenders do not pursue a career when an employer might find out they are a registered sex offender. The juveniles also suffer from social isolation," Dent cited.
"According to what was written in the Department of Youth Services report, Ma'Lik is taking to the treatment plan," Dent said.
She later testified under cross examination that she does not agree juveniles should be classified as sex offenders.
"There is no research to show it makes a difference," Dent testified.
Burns said the DYS treatment notes show, "Ma'Lik has been doing very well. He is very remorseful and is doing a good job helping other juveniles. He is moving toward a successful rehabilitation. If the court issues a classification, it should be the lowest tier."
But Lipps cited the 1996 Megan's Law and the 2008 Adam Walsh Act before announcing his decision to classify the 17-year-old Richmond as a Tier II sex offender.
"I have read the assessments and there is more remorse now than when he went he first went to the DYS. He is thinking about the victim and how his actions affected her. He is not going backwards but is going forward," Lipps stated.
Lipps also said he will not oppose transferring Richmond to the Paint Creek Lighthouse Youth Center, a privately run facility for juvenile sex offenders near Chillicothe.
Richmond is currently at the Cuyahoga Hill Department of Youth Services near Cleveland.
"If the DYS and Paint Creek agree to the transfer, I will not oppose it," said Lipps.
After reading the page long explanation of duties to register as a juvenile offender registrant, Lipps signed the document and asked Richmond, his parents and his guardians to also sign the document.