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Convicted Sex Offenders to Stay In the Public Eye

Their names were set to evaporate into wisps of smoke, free from public scrutiny to commit more heinous acts against our children. But not any longer. Local pols in the State Senate and the Assembly joined together last week to continue and strengthen Megan’s Law, keeping registered sex offenders on publicly available lists for the foreseeable future. The vote, which was barreled through the Senate and the Assembly at a record place, and was signed into law by Governor George Pataki an hour after the vote was ratified on Thursday, happened just two days before the names of several convicted sex offenders would expected to be dropped off the list. Before the vote, the names of several Level 1, or low risk, and Level 2, or moderate risk, sex offenders who have been on the list for ten years would have been dropped on January 21, said officials. “We’ve pushed for years to strengthen Megan’s Law, and today I am proud that we are taking yet another step forward in our fight to keep New York’s children and families safe,” said Governor Pataki in a statement. “This new legislation will ensure that all sex offenders remain on the registry, most for life, and continue to give every parent and family the right to know exactly where sex offenders live.” Before last week’s legislation was established, Level 1 and Level 2 sex offenders who have been on the New York State Sex Offender Registry for ten years would be pulled off the list. Level 3 sex offenders, or those deemed “high risk,” would have the ability to petition to have their name taken off of the registry in 2009. The new law demands that the names of Level 3 convicted sex offenders will remain on the Sex Offender Registry for life. Level 2 convicted sex offenders will also remain on registry for life, but could petition a court to be removed from the registry after 30 years, according to the new legislation. Level 1 sex offenders would remain on the registry for 20 years. Currently in Brooklyn there are over 640 Level 3 registered sex offenders, according to the registry. Those that keep the registry noted that several of the offenders have been listed two or three times because they have used aliases. Local pols hailed the vote, believing that strengthening Megan’s law would keep the borough’s children safer. “Megan’s Law was truly one of the ground breaking criminal justice measures in the history of New York State, but as we approach the tenth anniversary, we were faced with the horrifying reality that thousands of convicted sex offenders were about to drop from the registry,” said Bay Ridge State Senator Marty Golden. “To keep our children safe and to keep communities throughout New York State secure, I worked with my colleagues in the State Legislature so as to not allow these dangerous offenders to blend back into society as result of our failure to act. “We have taken the right step to keeping our neighborhoods better informed and we have protected the most vulnerable members of our communities — our children,” he said. Assemblymember Helene Weinstein added, “The action taken last week is an important step in increasing public safety,” and the Assembly “remains prepared to respond to likely Congressional action that would require New York’s law to conform with revised federal standards.” “This legislation seeks to provide New Yorkers with the information they need to better protect their families,” said Assemblymember Joe Lentol “It strengthens New York’s sexual predator laws even more.” Still, there were other local legislators who voted against extending Megan’s Law. State Senator Velmanette Montgomery of Fort Greene was one of three state senators who voted against extending the registry. “Make no mistake about it, I share my colleagues’ revulsion for individuals who sexually violate others, especially when the victims of these insidious sex crimes are children and young adults,” said Montgomery. “But the Senate proposal for a sex offender registry, while seeking to protect the public, would require all offenders to register for life. In fact, this legislation places them in the same high-risk registry pool, as those who are violent sexual predators.” “The punishment should fit the crime,” she said. “But clearly the proposed scheme for sex offender registration does not. The crimes that may lead an individual to become registered as a Level 1 offender are often minimal offenses. The types of conduct that could lead to a Level 1 designation include, but are not limited to, acts of consensual sex between teenagers when one is 21 years of age or older and the other is under age 17, acts of lewdness like flashing, as well as misdemeanor crimes of sexual misconduct and forcible touching, involving squeezing, grabbing or pinching.” “The severity of the crimes committed by Level 1 offenders and Level 2 or Level 3 offenders are not the same,” she continued. “Therefore, their offenses should not be subject to the same stringent registration requirements.” Montgomery said that during the course of that 20 year period following a misdemeanor conviction of sexual misconduct an offender “could be denied public housing, a college loan, professional licensure and other opportunities that are open to all other citizens.” While gratified that both the Senate and the Assembly agreed on Megan’s law, Pataki hopes that this is just the beginning of more rigorous legislation against sexual predators. “This is a significant accomplishment, but there is much more work to be done,” said Pataki. “We still need to work together to pass new laws that would further toughen Megan’s Law, protect our children and families by civilly confining dangerous sexual predators, toughen sentences for those who molest and rape children, end the statute of limitations on rape, and require every criminal to submit a DNA sample to the State’s DNA Databank.”

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