SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. – A jury convicted Joseph Wheeler of unlawful imprisonment in 2004, but he believes that his conviction makes him a kidnapper, not a sex offender. On Monday, the Spokane County Sheriff's Office put out a press release acknowledging that Wheeler had moved to Spokane Valley. The Sheriff's office put out the release to alert the neighborhood that Wheeler had moved, but the office did acknowledge that currently he is not wanted by police
On December 6th, 2002 Wheeler was out for a night of drinking with some friends. He passed the Maple Street Bridge and it was there where he got into an incident with a 16-year-old boy who Wheeler held against his will. Wheeler was almost 23 at the time and he spent 10 years in prison for the crime.
"I just went there and minded my own business," Wheeler said. "Crossed my T's and dotted my I's and came out a better person then when I went in."
Wheeler got out eight months ago and when he was released he signed papers he thought listed him as a kidnapper.
"When I went to sign the papers I asked the detective, I said 'What am I registering for?' He said you're registering as a kidnapper, that's what you are." Wheeler said. "I said 'There's no sex offense?' He said there's no sex offense whatsoever."
It turns out sex offenders and kidnappers both have to register after a new law passed in 1997. It's up to the law enforcement agency to list the sex offender/kidnapper on their registry. For this specific case they determined that Wheeler was a level 3 sex offender.
"I'm not a sex offender, I'm a kidnapper," Wheeler said. "There was no sex offense involved."
Here is more on the specific state law regarding Wheeler's conviction: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=9A.44.130