YMCA bans man from road race for being registered sex offender

Mystic — The Ocean Community YMCA banned a Groton man from running in its popular Tarzan Brown road race last weekend after it discovered he was listed on the state’s sexual offender registry.

The man, Jeffrey Roy, had run in previous editions of the race but this year when he preregistered for the race, his name was flagged as being on the registry for his role, along with two other men, in the 2006 sexual assault of an intoxicated 14-year-old girl at his mother’s home in Mystic.

The YMCA’s decision to ban him led his father, Jim, a well-known local runner who headed the successful effort to erect the John Kelley statue on West Main Street, to cancel his membership at the YMCA and criticize YMCA officials for their decision. Other runners and friends sent letters and emails to YMCA officials asking them to reverse their decision before last Sunday's race.

Jim Roy, who has run in almost all of the previous 40 Tarzan Brown races and had registered for the event, skipped the afternoon race and instead ran the course with his son and about 20 friends in the morning. He stressed in an email to running friends that it was not being done as protest and he did not want them to boycott the race.

In an email to running friends, Jim Roy wrote that the YMCA’s decision to reject his son’s entry was the result “of a VERY sad incident (which happened over a decade ago) when he was 16 and his female partner was 14.... Since the conviction Jeff has gone through all of the required systems of reform and has reentered society as a productive member of the local community. In particular his commitment to running has been essential to getting him back on his feet.”

He added that despite their letters, calls and meeting with YMCA officials, the YMCA would not reverse its decision.

“Sadly, what should have been easily remedied turned into a train wreck,” he wrote.

In his letter to the YMCA canceling his membership, Roy pointed out his fond memories of the YMCA’s Mystic branch and its precursor, the Mystic Community Center, dating back to the 1970s.

“Considering the core values of the Y, your ruling feels discriminatory. We have long been among the Y’s strongest advocates, but no longer.”

In a statement released Wednesday, YMCA Executive Director and CEO Maureen Fitzgerald explained the YMCA’s decision, saying, “At the Ocean Community YMCA safety is our primary concern. As such, a Y does not allow registered sex offenders to participate in our programs or have access to our facilities. All preregistered race registrants and members of the Y are checked against the data base at the time of the registration or application for membership.”

In past years, the younger Roy had registered just before the start of the race. This year, his father signed him up early, which allowed the YMCA to discover he was on the registry.

Among the letters of support for Roy to the YMCA was one from Tom Sullivan of Groton. He wrote that while he could compile a long list of valid reasons why Roy should be allowed to run, he said, “they pale in comparison to the most important reason which goes along hand-in-hand with the principles of the YMCA. Jeff has overcome obstacles and is a productive (and safe!) member of our society. He is a good person and does not pose any risk whatsoever. Denying him the opportunity to run could be a crushing setback for a young man that has worked so hard to get to where he is. Please do the right thing and allow Jeff to participate in this fantastic community event. He deserves to run and he does not deserve to be knocked down again.”

Another runner, Steve Fagin of Ledyard, who is part-time copy editor at The Day, wrote, “I understand and respect your concern about runner safety, but feel it is misplaced with regard to Jeff, whom I have known for years and seen him grow into a respectable, hard-working young man. He made a mistake as a 16-year-old, paid a price and learned his lesson. Since turning his life around Jeff has competed in numerous races without any problems, and can’t imagine how this issue should now disqualify him.”

He added that his review of YMCA code of conduct appears to give officials discretion on such matters.

Beth Shluger, the CEO and executive director of the Hartford Marathon Foundation, which runs more than 40 races a year with more than 43,000 runners, said Wednesday that she had never heard of a runner being banned from a race for being on the sexual offender registry and her organization does not screen participants to see if they are on it.

“We’ve never done anything like that but I understand the Y has its reasons,” she said, adding that “Jim Roy is a stand-up guy in the community.”

Jeffrey Roy, who was 16 at the time of the June 27, 2006, incident, originally was charged with second-degree sexual assault but later pleaded guilty to the lesser offense of risk of injury to a minor.

Police and prosecutors said that another man bought a bottle of vodka that the group later drank and drove the girl to Roy’s home. Roy admitted to having sex with the girl in his basement bedroom after drinking vodka and playing video games with her. The girl’s blood alcohol level was 0.13 percent, above the 0.08 percent legal limit for driving, and she had marijuana in her system. Police were able to collect evidence such as used condoms, empty liquor bottles and the girl's clothes. She told police she was so intoxicated that she did not remember the incident.

A third person, who was 18 at the time, also had sex with the girl that night.

When police responded to the North Stonington Road home that night they found the girl passed out, naked and wrapped in a bloody blanket in the backyard. They had responded to a report of a disturbance after the girl’s father and boyfriend had gone there looking for her. The girl needed stitches to close a cut on her ankle that Roy said occurred when she cut it on his metal bed frame.

Roy was sentenced in November of 2007 to five years in prison, suspended after time served, and 10 years of probation. He served 11 weeks in prison. He had to register as a sex offender for 10 years, a term that expires in November 2017, just a few days after next year’s Tarzan Brown Race.

Jim Roy maintains that, today, his son would not have been charged in connection with the incident because shortly after it occurred, the state legislature changed the law regarding consent so that now children over age 13 may consent to sexual activity so long as the person is not 3 or more years older. At the time, the girl was 14 and Roy 16.

The second-degree sexual assault statute, under which he originally was charged, though, also allows someone to be charged if the victim was helpless.

In 2012, Jeffrey Roy was found guilty of violation of probation for using drugs and sentenced to 18 months in prison. One of his conditions of probation was not using drugs or alcohol. He also was convicted of second-degree breach of peace and second-degree criminal mischief in connection with a 2013 incident in Groton and received a suspended prison term.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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