The session was held in downtown Manhattan only a few days after a young art student was raped on the G line platform at the 21st Street-Van Alst station in Long Island City, one of several attacks cited by elected officials and advocates who testifed at the forum. The GOP legislators convened the forum in an attempt to force Democratic lawmakers to allow a vote on their measure before the present legislative session adjourns on Thursday.Several of those who spoke before the Assembly Republican Task Force on Sex Crimes Against Children and Women forum this past Friday blamed Assemblyman Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan).Silver, Assembly speaker and Democratic majority leader, was accused of preventing a vote on the proposal."I'll say it even if you won't," said Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa, wearing his familiar red beret and red jacket. "The problem is the Sheldon Silver blockade.""Silver knows this thing would pass if he ever let it come to a vote," Sliwa said. "Even liberals vote differently when an issue involves their own children."The Republican minority in the Assembly proposes allowing courts to order sex offenders who have completed serving prison sentences held in what is termed civil confinement.Silver said he had called for "public hearings or public legislative roundtables on civil commitment legislation." Silver's office said nearly a dozen sex crime bills, including those to protect children and women, had passed the legislature since early April."Sexually based crimes are among the most repugnant in our society," Silver said. "No crime is more heinous and repulsive than one that steals the innocence - or life itself - from a child.""Civil confinement would allow courts to order the worst sex offenders to be held in a secure facility staffed by mental health professionals beyond their prison release date if, upon evaluation, there is significant reason to believe they may strike again," said Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan Jr."Legislation of this kind has already passed constitutional muster before the U.S. Supreme Court and is the law of the land in more than a dozen states and the District of Columbia," Donovan said.Paul J.Q. Lee of the Mott Street Block Association, thanked the Republican legislators "for allowing a liberal Democrat to speak."However, I am a bit uncomfortable by all the Sheldon Silver bashing," Lee said. "We live in Mr. Silver's district. Nevertheless, you have the support of the Chinatown community.""Several members of the GOP Task Force hastened to explain they did not mean to bash anyone and that if anyone did, it was out of frustration that the legislation they advocated has never come to a vote.Assemblyman Matthew Mirones (R-Staten Island) distributed copies of a letter he wrote to Silver, mentioning the rape of a young woman on the G subway line in Long Island City and an attack on an 88-year-old woman "in your own community." Mirones asked Silver to remove the bill on civil detention from its position where it is "bottled up in the Assembly Mental Health Committee" and to allow a vote.If a vote comes in this session of the Assembly (the Republican-majority state Senate has approved it), it must be by Thursday, when the legislature adjourns.Mirones also mentioned that as of April, there were more than 5,000 sex offenders registered in New York City, including 931 in Queens. For New York state, the total is more than 21,000.The chairman of the Assembly Republican Task Force on Sex crimes Against Children and Women is Dierdre "Dede" Scozzafava (R-Gouveneur).Reach contributing writer Phil Newman by e-mail at news@times
©2005 Community News Group
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