FCC Reverses ALJ’s Decision, Revokes Convicted Sex Offender’s Amateur Radio License
The FCC has reversed the decision of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who ruled in 2010 that David Titus, KB7ILD, of Seattle, Washington, could keep his Amateur Radio license in the wake of his conviction for a sex-related crime 17 years earlier. In his March 9, 2010, Initial Decision, ALJ Richard L. Sippel determined that Titus “has been a law-abiding member of his community for many years” and, based on evidence that Titus and witnesses on his behalf had presented, ordered that Titus’s amateur license not be revoked. Sippel also ruled that the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau had failed to meet the burden of proof necessary for revocation. He determined that Titus had shown remorse and been rehabilitated, and that the Enforcement Bureau had presented no credible evidence to indicate that Titus should be categorized as a high-risk sex offender. In a November 5 Decision in the proceeding (EB Docket 07-13), the FCC reversed Sippel’s decision.
“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.”
“After a review of the record and the relevant case law, we find that the ALJ committed several errors in reaching his ultimate finding that [the Enforcement Bureau] did not meet its burden of proving that Titus lacks the requisite character qualifications to be an FCC license,” the Commission concluded. “In particular, we hold that the ALJ erred in failing to consider Titus’s two juvenile convictions and failed to give adequate weight to the State of Washington’s determination that Titus is a high-risk sex offender.” The FCC pointed out that Titus was confined for more than 1 year for each of his juvenile offenses, and they demonstrate that Titus’s “single adult felony conviction was not an isolated offense and is therefore all the more egregious and disqualifying.”
The FCC said that given “known risks of Amateur Radios in the hands of sex offenders, such misconduct is prima facie disqualifying, and has resulted in the loss of licenses in past cases.”
“In focusing on the impact of Titus’s misconduct on his qualifications to hold an Amateur Radio license,” the FCC concluded, “we would be remiss in our responsibilities as a licensing authority if we continue to authorize Titus to hold an Amateur Radio license that could be used to put him in contact with children.”