The state Supreme Court has decided that a Sedgwick County man who molested a rottweiler won’t have to register as a sex offender.
The state’s highest court overturned both Sedgwick County District Court Judge Joseph Bribiesca and the Kansas Court of Appeals, who had ruled Joshua Coman would have to register as a sex offender after his second conviction for sodomy involving a dog.
In his appeal, Coman argued that Kansas’s registration law did not apply to him because he was convicted of a misdemeanor that wasn’t on the list of felony offenses for which registration is required.
He also challenged the constitutionality of the law itself, which equates bestiality and adult homosexual acts.
In Kansas law, sodomy is defined as oral or anal sex, or sex with animals. Criminal sodomy is defined as “[s]odomy between persons who are 16 or more years of age and members of the same sex, or between a person and an animal.”
“The statutory provision under which Coman was convicted proscribes consensual homosexual conduct, as well as bestiality,” Justice Lee A. Johnson wrote in the Supreme Court opinion, which was released on Friday.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that laws banning homosexual acts between consenting adults are unconstitutional, but the justices declined to rule on Coman’s constitutional challenge.
They ruled he didn’t have legal status to challenge the law because he wasn’t convicted for homosexual acts, but for having sexual contact with an animal.
In 2008, a former roommate of Coman’s “discovered Coman in her garage with the dog in a compromising position,” the court record said. Police were called and Coman admitted to having penetrated the female rottweiler with his finger, the court record said.
At the time, he was on probation after being prosecuted on a similar incident in Reno County the year before.
Coman pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six months in jail.
But the question of whether he would have to register as a sex offender came down to interpretation of the way the law is worded. The statute lists several crimes where sex-offender registration is required, including felony sodomy. Misdemeanor sodomy is not on the list.
Prosecutors had argued that a “catch all” provision in the law would allow a judge to require offender registration of anyone convicted of a “sexually motivated” crime.
The Supreme Court justices disagreed, concluding that the Legislature excluded misdemeanor sodomy on purpose.
“When the Legislature directly addressed misdemeanor criminal sodomy, it made registration dependent upon the age of the participants, rather than upon the sexual motivation of the defendant,” Johnson wrote. “Why carve out a registration requirement where the victim is age 16 or 17, if the catch-all provision is intended to pull in all sexually motivated defendants anyway?”