BLOOMINGTON — Charges filed in 2018 were dismissed Friday against a 26-year-old Normal man after he pleaded guilty to a new charge involving a 2014 offense, ending his long-running legal challenge of the constitutionality of the state’s sex offender registration rules.
Mark Minnis was 16 when he engaged in sexual activity with a 14-year-old classmate. He served 12 months on probation, and registered as a sex offender until 2018 when the state did not object to his request to end reporting requirements.
About two weeks later, police arrested Minnis again, this time accusing him of failing to list a Facebook page on his registration form. Minnis said he believed he had met the requirement by listing the email address associated with the social media page.
Minnis accepted a plea offer Friday that dismisses the 2018 felony case; instead, he pleaded guilty to filing a false police report that omitted the social media information. The state also dismissed one count of the 2014 case.
Minnis was placed on Second Chance probation, a program that allows defendants to have a conviction removed from their record if they complete two years of probation. Minnis must abstain from drugs and alcohol and complete 30 hours of community service.
Minnis’ case became part of a national legal debate on the free speech rights of sex offenders. In June 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a North Carolina law barring sex offenders from social media websites that allow minors to have accounts. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the Minnis case.
In July 2015, a McLean County judge dismissed the charge against Minnis, ruling Illinois' law was unconstitutional in its broad requirements related to social media. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed that ruling in 2016 and sent the case back to McLean County.
At a hearing in March seeking dismissal of charges accusing him of failure to update information about his social media page, Minnis described the impact the criminal charges had on his life.
After high school, Minnis attended culinary school and found work at several local restaurants.
“It was hard to keep jobs,” said Minnis, after news coverage of his arrest on the registration charge. Neighbors also learned he was a sex offender, said Minnis.
Defense lawyer Stephanie Wong argued at the time the state’s decision to refile the 2014 charge against Minnis in June 2018 and its continued prosecution of the second case was “vindictive, capricious and arbitrary.”
In support of her argument, Wong pointed to Minnis’ June 2018 successful petition to end his registration. The law permitting such petitions is designed to allow juveniles who complete probation to be removed from the sex offender list two years after their probation ends. Minnis petition was granted without objection from the state, said Wong.
Assistant State’s Attorney Ashley Scarborough argued the state refiled the charges after the decision by the Illinois Supreme Court. Minnis had the option of seeking removal from the list and ending his reporting requirements after 2013. The prosecutor denied Wong’s allegation that the state’s refiling came in response to Minnis’ removal from the sex offender list.