By Phil Ray
38 local residents set to be added to sex offender list
HOLLIDAYSBURG - There could be a court challenge to the implementation of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act if local people who accepted plea agreements without registration requirements are now mandated to register with police as sexual offenders, an Altoona defense attorney said Wednesday.
- It should be challenged, and the judges who took an oath to uphold the Constitution and people's rights need to start doing so. This is clearly an ex post facto law, which is unconstitutional.
Thirty-eight local residents are scheduled to be added to Blair County's list of 85 sexual offenders when the new federal registration system becomes effective in Pennsylvania, Blair County probation officials said.
Tom Shea, director of the Blair County Adult Parole and Probation Office, said the Adam Walsh provisions will go into effect on Dec. 20.
Shea has been working with the Blair County district attorney's staff, the public defender's staff, the county prison and state police in preparing for the implementation of the new act.
Compliance is mandatory if Pennsylvania is to continue to receive federal money for certain programs.
Attorney Thomas M. Dickey said that he has been approached by at least three previous clients who are concerned they may be among those who will now be required to register.
Dickey said he is hoping that he will not have to launch a court challenge to the new law.
He is hoping that some agreement can be reached with prosecutors that would permit those individuals to withdraw their initial guilty pleas and enter pleas to charges not requiring registration.
The original pleas did not require registration for the offenses his clients pleaded to and to make them now register as sex offenders "is not what they bargained for," Dickey said.
He said other defense attorneys are closely watching the situation.
Blair County Probation Officer William Decker, who supervises sex offenders on probation, said a review of county records determined that 38 people who previously did not have to register with police will now have to do so under the new law.
Shea and his staff initially thought they would be required to review records back to 1953 to determine if there were people convicted of offenses like corruption of a minors who would now have to register.
It would have required the review of thousands of criminal records.
The requirement has now been relaxed in Pennsylvania, and Shea said that Blair County is about 90 percent ready to implement the new requirements that will be put into place to track sexual offenders in Pennsylvania and nationwide.