- Associated Press - Thursday, November 12, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The sex-offender label given a man convicted after a “consensual” sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl when he was 21 does not amount to cruel and unusual punishment, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The court’s 5-2 decision rejected the arguments by Travis Blankenship that the label is unconstitutional because the classification is a significantly harsher punishment than the offense warranted. Blankenship is required to register with authorities every six months for 25 years.

Blankenship pleaded guilty in Clark County Court to unlawful sexual conduct with a minor in 2012, served 12 days in jail and was classified as a second-degree sex offender. The sexual relationship began after the two met on a social media site.

The girl confirmed the relationship was consensual, and a psychologist who analyzed Blankenship before sentencing said he wasn’t a sex offender, according to court records.

After Blankenship contacted the girl before sentencing in violation of court orders, the psychologist re-evaluated him but didn’t alter his original recommendation, records show.

Nothing in the law supports Blankenship’s argument that his guilt should be reduced because the maturity level of a 21-year-old is similar to that of a juvenile, wrote Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger for the majority.

“A child under 16 is simply not legally capable of consent to sexual conduct with an adult,” she wrote. Lanzinger also said that Blankenship’s registration requirements, while burdensome, don’t rise to the level of a constitutional violation. Blankenship’s attorney declined comment.

Dissenting Justice William O’Neill called the registration label another example of a “one-size-fits-all mentality” that eliminates a judge’s discretion to make a decision based on the facts of the case.

O’Neill said the registration requirements are useful in cases of “classic sex offenders” who the public needs protection from. But Blankenship does not fit that model, he said.

“For offenders like Blankenship, these registration requirements guarantee an unnecessarily long term of public humiliation only,” O’Neill said. “And they effectively destroy any hope of leading a successful and productive life from that point forward.”

Justice Paul Pfeifer also dissented.

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Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.

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