Search for Zhuo “Simon” Liu in California’s online database of registered sex offenders and you’ll see a snapshot of his offenses. You’ll learn that he was convicted of “rape in concert with force or violence” and “assault with intent to commit a specified sex offense.” You’ll also see his photo, his home address, and his birthdate, showing that he’s now 38.
But you won’t learn that Liu was labeled a sex offender for an assault that someone else committed. Or that Liu was 16 at the time, a recent Chinese immigrant who spoke little English. And there’s no mention of the good that he has done for his community since his release on parole in 2017. To the California Department of Justice, which publishes the database, Liu is just another one of the state’s 106,000 registered sex offenders, someone the public should fear and be warned of.
The restrictions and stigma of the sex offender label are “suffocating,” Liu told The Appeal. “People just assume I’m a monster.” On some days, he said, “I wake up in the morning and I look at this [GPS monitor] on my ankle, and it just sends a chill through my body that the system is doing this to me.”