Hams and the Law: FCC revokes KB7ILD, finds sex offender ineligible to hold radio license.
The ARRL reports that the FCC has reversed a previous determination by an Administrative Law Judge that had allowed David Titus KB7ILD of Seattle to renew his license in 2009 in the wake of a sex offense conviction. From the ARRL article:
“We find that the ALJ erred in holding that the Enforcement Bureau failed to meet its burden of demonstrating that Titus is currently unqualified to remain a Commission licensee,” the Decision said, “inasmuch as the ALJ failed to consider relevant convictions for sex offenses and failed to give appropriate deference to the judgment of local law enforcement authorities that Titus is a convicted sex offender who poses a high risk to the safety of the community.”
In January 2007 the FCC issued a show-cause Order and designated for hearing the issue of whether Titus was qualified to remain a licensee in light of a 1993 felony conviction for “communicating with a minor for immoral purposes.” The Communications Act provides that the FCC may revoke any license, if conditions come to its attention that would have warranted a denial of the licensee’s original application. The Commission has said in the past that felony convictions, “especially those involving sexual offenses involving children,” raise questions regarding a licensee’s character qualifications.
Titus’s General class license expired in 2009, and the FCC had deferred action on his renewal application while the revocation proceeding was still in play. The FCC also dismissed Titus’s 2010 reply to the Enforcement Bureau’s exceptions in the matter, because they were filed 5 days late. The FCC said Sippel should have given more weight to incidents in 2002 and 2004 that, while not resulting in conviction, “prompted the Seattle Police Department to raise Titus’s assessed risk level from moderate to high.”
This comes at an interesting time. Last week I served on a criminal court jury in Texas that convicted a man of seven various counts of sexual assault on a 14 year old girl. My guess is that he won’t see freedom for 13-16 years, given that we gave him a total of 24 years. But here is an interesting mental exercise to think about: If our Texas offender gets out of prison in his late 50s, how easy would it be for him to take the test and get an FCC license? As far as I know, though the FCC could perform any background check that it wishes per the Communications Act, it would be unlikely that it does. There are over 710,000 licensees (as of 2012) in the US. Given that one must act every ten years to renew their license, there are (my best guess) at least 71,000 amateur applications (renewals) that go through the FCC each year, probably more given upgrades, new licensees, and address changes. So how did the FCC find out about KB7ILD’s conviction? According to Footnote 66 in the FCC order on Titus:
66 Titus’s conviction was in 1993. He received his amateur radio license in 1989, when he was 14 years old. See Titus Exh. 1. His license was renewed in 1999.
He got his radio license in 1989. He was convicted in 1993, around the age of 18 it seems. He managed to get his first renewal in 1999, it was not until 2007 that he ran into a snag. He still applied for renewal in 2009 and it was approved by the Administrative Law Judge. He’s about 44 or 45 now. So how did the FCC find about about this particular man?
I found the original order from 2010. The only indication I found of any complaint in particular is that a local ham radio club had concerns. Probably valid concerns. I was president of a radio club in Michigan and we had liability insurance in case we had a member that caused us to be liable of something like a sex crime occurring on our property or at an event. Unfortunately it’s an old PDF document that won’t copy-paste well, so you can look on page 7 for the radio club’s take on this matter.
Or, my other guess would be his probation officer probably had concerns and contacted the FCC. His felony conviction in 1993 was “communication with a minor (11 year old boy) for immoral purposes.” Which just might ring alarm bells if he has a hobby that revolves around “communication” and a hobby that we are constantly trying to get more youth involved in. Titus also operated a ham radio repeater. This would be complicated if the conditions of his sex offender status prevented him from communicating with minors, what would keep a young ham operator from using his repeater?
When the man that we convicted last week finally is released to society, he will have many conditions on his freedom. And a stigma that goes with it. And he has earned every bit of it. And I wouldn’t want him on the air with us. In fact, since he would not be allowed to communicate with children unless they are approved by the state, I would bet that his parole officer would not even consider allowing him access to a microphone that would even remotely allow children to communicate with him. I wonder if this event with KB7ILD will be the first of many reports of licensed sexual predators to the FCC?
(Published from DFW, Texas)