A violent sexual predator released from prison into a quiet Fort Collins neighborhood does not face restrictions from the justice system aside from regular registration, authorities said at a Wednesday night meeting held at a local chapel.
The predator, Jason Matthew Ballard, returned to his hometown after having completed his seven-year prison sentence for raping a drunk teenage girl at a 1998 party here, authorities said. His crime squeaked by the passage date of legislation that would have put him under constant scrutiny after his release.
Instead he is only required to check in with local law-enforcement agencies – here, the Fort Collins Police Service (FCPS) – for the rest of his life.
"The offender has the right to live where he wants to," said Fort Collins Police Service Capt. Don Vagge. When a resident asked whether Ballard could walk around near schools, Vagge replied: "There are no specific restrictions on the offender except that he must register quarterly."
A woman who identified herself as Ballard's mother answered his phone but said Ballard was unavailable and declined to comment further.
During the 6:30 p.m. community meeting at First United Methodist Church, invited residents from within a quarter-mile radius of Ballard's new residence pored over handouts in the Bible-lined pews. A panel of authorities took turns at the pastor's lectern, preaching public safety along with facts and statistics about sex criminals.
Most sex crimes go unreported and sex offenders who do not face restrictions tend to repeat more, said Jill McFadden, program administrator for the Colorado Sex Offender Management Board. In addition, most victims know their attackers. In Fort Collins, there are 201 registered sex offenders and one violent sexual predator.
Before the party on July 17, 1998, Ballard did not know his victim, officials said. The girl reported the rape a couple of days later and in 1999, a Larimer County jury convicted Ballard and a judge sentenced him to seven years in prison.
Upon his release this month, his parole board designated him as a violent sexual predator based on the four factors: his age at the time of the assault, his behavior in prison, his relationship with the victim and psychological tests.
"This person has completed his sentence. He's gone through the process," Larimer County District Attorney Larry Abrahamson said. "This is the first time we've (had such a meeting in Larimer County); the second one in the state of Colorado that's been conducted."
A community notification bulletin describes Ballard, 26, as 6 feet tall with brown hair, blue eyes and tattoos of a skull and a panther on his arms, a woman on his stomach and a mushroom on his back.
A neighbor who said he lives across the street from the sex offender described the street as quiet and out-of-the-way.
"You hear about it all the time, but you never expect it on your street," Robert Haerter said as he left the meeting. The street used to be home to mostly senior citizens, the grandfather said, but now, "I'll have to mull it over and come to some conclusion."
FCPS officials discouraged those in attendance from giving out detailed information about the offender. However, the agency is required by law to release the information to the public upon request.
"I (used to be) very comfortable leaving the front door unlocked during the day," said Laura Dart, a mother at the meeting. "But not anymore."
For more information, call FCPS at 221-6540 or visit www.sor.state.co.us.