BLOOMINGTON — A Normal man whose sexual abuse case is at the center of a legal debate over whether sex offenders should have access to the internet was back in court Monday, after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review his case.
Mark Minnis, 24, is charged with failing to report a previously disclosed Facebook account to Bloomington police in 2014 as part of his registration obligation as a sex offender. He was placed on the registry after his 2010 conviction on misdemeanor charges of having sex with a 14-year-old girl when he was 16.
The charge was dismissed by McLean County Judge Robert Freitag who ruled that the Illinois law was unconstitutional based on his view that the requirements related to social media are overly broad.
The Illinois Supreme Court reversed Freitag's decison in a 2016 decision that recognized free speech rights and that the right to publish comments anonymously extends to the internet, but concluded those rights are not absolute.
The case was returned to McLean County after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case.
On Monday, Freitag approved Minnis' request for a public defender to assist him with the case that is now set for a Jan. 22 status hearing.
Minnis' case is on the national radar for lawyers watching cases involving similar First Amendment reviews related to sex offenders. State and federal courts are in the process of considering appeals of how sex offender laws are applied in many states.
For example, a ruling in June by 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 balance between protecting the public from predators in their community and honoring the First Amendment rights of sex offenders was weighed by the high court in the decision that will likely be cited by the defense in the Minnis case.
The Illinois Attorney General argued in the Minnis case that the internet must be closely monitored to ensure it's not used improperly by convicted sex offenders.