In a creative use of Colorado’s public nuisance laws, the Denver District Attorney’s office has confiscated the residence of a sex offender, sold it, and put the money in trust for the victim, resulting in the largest award to a single crime victim in the state’s history. Colorado’s public nuisance laws are frequently used in drug cases, where a person uses their home or vehicle in connection with a drug offense. The connection there is fairly obvious. If the state wins, the property is declared to be a public nuisance and forfeited. In this case, the sex offender, who is serving six years is prison, committed his offense against a 9-year-old girl, in his home. The state initiated the action and won. The money is being held in trust for her until she turns 18.

The house, in the 3800 block of Yates Street, was seized as a public nuisance after Alfred Kaufman, 73, was convicted of attempted sexual assault of the girl, who went to his home with her 5-year-old sister to play with his cats on April 3, 2003. The grandfatherly Kaufman was accused of luring the girls to his home with candy. He is serving a six-year prison sentence. “This is not only a great victory for the crime victim, but for the neighborhood,” Kimbrough said. “(Kaufman) will get out of prison someday, and this will ensure he can’t return to that neighborhood when he gets out.”

I do not see this as a victory at all. Where will Kaufman go? Doesn’t the state–and every neighborhood– have an interest in reducing recidivism? By taking away this man’s home, and whatever value he had in it, the state is decreasing the tools available to him to become a productive member of society upon his release. The award seems excessive to me. Law-and-order run amuk. What proportion of the home was used for illegal activity over what period of time? What were the victim’s damages? What evidence was presented that the home represented a future nuisance — in six years when the offender, who will then be 79, is released? The state’s action has all but assured that the taxpayers of Colorado will pay for this offender’s public assistance and medical costs from the time of his release until he dies. As a taxpayer, I’m hardly jumping up and down for joy.