Sex offender’s conviction and 30-year sentence overturned by high court

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The Georgia Supreme Court has overturned the conviction and 30-year sentence given to a Macon man accused of failing to register as a sex offender.

In 2004, Prentiss Ashon Jackson pleaded guilty to statutory rape and, as required, he registered his Warner Robins residence with the sex offender registry, according to a case summary prepared by a court spokeswoman.

Here’s what happened from there, according to the summary:

Under state law, if Jackson planned to move, he had to register his new address within the 72 hours leading up to the change, notifying the sheriff in Houston County. If he planned to move to a new county, he was required to notify that sheriff as well.

In June 2011, Houston County authorities were unable to contact Jackson at his Warner Robins address, and they later learned that he’d moved in with his girlfriend in Macon. Having not registered the new address with authorities, Jackson was arrested Jan. 2, 2012.

Jackson was later convicted of failure to register and sentenced to 30 years, six of them in prison.

In Monday’s unanimous Supreme Court opinion, the high court ruled that the indictment used to convict Jackson of failure to register was defective because it failed to inform him of the “essential elements” of the crime for which he was charged.

The indictment referred to the entire 14-page section of law pertaining to requirements a convicted sex offender must follow. An indictment must include more than simply alleging that someone violated a certain statute, the judges ruled.

The indictment didn’t list what specific action or inaction by Jackson that resulted in the alleged violation, according to the ruling.

“Such an indictment would not provide the accused with due process of law in that it would not notify the accused of what factual allegations he must defend in court,” the opinion said in part. … “Likewise, it would not allege sufficient facts from which a trial jury could determine guilt if those facts are shown at trial.”

Amy Leigh Womack: 478-744-4398, @awomackmacon