Tuesday, April 5, 2011

NJ - Richard Kanka, father behind Megan's Law, will announce N.J. Senate run in 14th District

Original Article

Give me a break! Making a name for himself based on his dead child?

04/05/2011

By Matt Fair

HAMILTON — Richard Kanka, who championed a sex-offender notification law named after his late daughter Megan, will announce today his bid for a state senate seat in the 14th district, according to two sources familiar with his plan.

Kanka, a Republican, is seeking to face Democratic incumbent Sen. Linda Greenstein in the November election. He has scheduled an afternoon press conference at the Golden Dawn Diner in Hamilton to announce his election plans.

Kanka, who was elected to the Hamilton school board in April 2009, is the father of Megan Kanka, who was raped and murdered when she was 7 years old by a convicted sex offender in the township nearly 17 years ago.

Kanka and his wife Maureen advocated for Megan’s Law in memory of their daughter to require convicted sex offenders to register with local police, and for neighbors to be notified.

After taking effect in New Jersey in 1994, similar laws have been passed in more than 30 states across the country. A federal version has also been proposed.

The name recognition Kanka would bring to the race automatically makes him a formidable candidate, said Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University.

Mr. Kanka, by virtue of the tragedy that befell his family, has a leg up as a new district-wide candidate by virtue of the fact that people know his name,” he said. “His name recognition is one less hurdle that he’ll have to overcome.”

Still, Dworkin said the newly redrawn 14th legislative district remains a hotbed of competitive races.

It’s still a swing district,” he said. “Even though you lose South Brunswick and pick up East Windsor it’s still a swing district, and that’s because Hamilton is the giant municipality in the middle of it and Hamilton could vote Democrat or Republican any given year.”

While Kanka is a native son of Hamilton, Dworkin pointed out that another township Republican, former council president Tom Goodwin, lost a senate race against Greenstein in November.

I welcome Mr. Kanka or anyone else who wants to run in the race and I look forward to a spirited discussion of the issues,” Greenstein said yesterday. She noted she had worked with the Kankas on extensions of Megan’s Law when she served on the Assembly judiciary committee.

We had many meetings with the Kankas and I worked extensively to make sure we have a good law in our state,” she said. “He’s a very nice man.”


OH - Court Vacates Conviction of Megan's Law Registrant for Failing to Comply with Adam Walsh Act Requirements

Original Article

04/05/2011

The Supreme Court of Ohio ruled today (PDF) that, pursuant to its earlier decision in State v. Bodyke (PDF), a person who was judicially classified as a sexually oriented offender and ordered to register with law enforcement once a year under the pre-2008 version of Ohio’s sex offender law (Megan’s Law) is not subject to prosecution under a more restrictive registration requirement imposed by the Ohio Adam Walsh Act (AWA) effective Jan 1, 2008.

Applying that analysis to a Hamilton County case, the Court vacated the conviction and eight-year prison sentence of [name withheld] for failure to comply with an every-90-days registration requirement improperly applied to him under the AWA. The Court’s 7-0 decision was authored by Justice Paul E. Pfeifer.

In this case, [name withheld] was convicted on three counts of rape in 1981. While he was serving his prison term for those offenses, he was classified by a judge as a sexually oriented (low-level) offender under Megan’s Law. The judge advised [name withheld] that, pursuant to his Megan’s Law offender classification, he would be required to register with law enforcement in his county of residence once a year for ten years following his release from prison, and if he violated that requirement he would be subject to prosecution for a fifth-degree felony. After [name withheld] was released from prison, the General Assembly enacted the AWA, which repealed or amended many provisions of Megan’s Law effective Jan. 1, 2008.

In late 2007 [name withheld] received a letter from the state attorney general advising him that he had been reclassified under the AWA as a Tier III (most dangerous) sex offender and that, effective Jan. 1, 2008, he would be required to register and update his current address with law enforcement every 90 days for the rest of his life. He was also advised that, under the AWA, failure of a Tier III offender to comply with the quarterly registration requirement was punishable as a first-degree felony.

In July 2008, [name withheld] was indicted by a Hamilton County grand jury on two first-degree felony counts of failing to comply with his every-90-days registration requirement under the AWA. One count was later dismissed. He was found guilty on the remaining count and sentenced to a prison term of eight years plus five years of post-release control.

[name withheld] appealed, arguing that because failure to comply with his sex offender registration requirement was punishable as a fifth-degree felony at the time of his original classification, the trial court should have charged and sentenced him for a fifth-degree felony under the Megan’s Law version of the statute. The 1st District Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s judgment and sentence, holding that because [name withheld]’s registration violation took place after Jan. 1, 2008, charging him under the AWA version of the statute was not a retroactive application of that law. [name withheld] sought and was granted Supreme Court review of the 1st District’s ruling.

While [name withheld]’s appeal was pending, the Supreme Court of Ohio issued its decision in Bodyke. In that decision, announced June 3, 2010, the Court voided as unconstitutional the provisions of the AWA that: 1) authorized the state attorney general to reclassify sex offenders who had previously been classified by a judge under Megan’s Law; and 2) imposed on some prior offenders AWA registration requirements that were more restrictive than the Megan’s Law registration requirements that had been imposed on them by a judge. Bodyke did not address the retroactivity question upon which the 1st District decided [name withheld]’s appeal, but instead found the challenged provisions of the AWA were unconstitutional because they violated the separation of powers between the legislative and judicial branches of government.

Writing for a unanimous Court in today’s decision, Justice Pfeifer noted that “(i)n Bodyke this Court held that R.C. 2950.031 and 2950.032, the reclassification provisions in the AWA, were unconstitutional and severed them from the AWA. This court specifically addressed what that severance meant for offenders like [name withheld], who had originally been classified under Megan’s Law and were then reclassified under the AWA: ‘R.C. 2950.031 and 2950.032 may not be applied to offenders previously adjudicated by judges under Megan’s Law, and the classifications and community-notification and registration orders imposed previously by judges are reinstated.’”

Thus, pursuant to Bodyke, [name withheld]’s original classification under Megan’s Law and the associated community-notification and registration order were reinstated. Therefore, the current version of R.C. 2950.06, which requires Tier III sexual offenders to register every 90 days, does not apply to [name withheld].”

Because it was clear from the record that [name withheld]’s failure-to-register conviction was based on an AWA registration requirement that was not applicable to him, Justice Pfeifer wrote: “(W)e reverse the judgment of the court of appeals and vacate [name withheld]’s conviction for a violation of the 90-day address-verification requirement of R.C. 2509.06. [name withheld] remained accountable for the yearly reporting requirement under Megan’s Law; whether he met that requirement is not a part of this case.”


NE - Nebraska lawmakers eye rewrite of sex registry law

Original Article

04/04/2011

By GRANT SCHULTE

LINCOLN (AP) — Nebraska lawmakers are considering giving greater authority to judges to decide which sex offenders belong on the state's public registry.

The Legislature's Judiciary Committee on Tuesday will hear that and another proposal to change a 2009 measure that placed all names on the registry, regardless of an offender's risk level.

One proposed amendment would remove designated low-risk offenders from the registry, if they committed the crime before the 2009 law took effect and if they have not reoffended.

Another would return Nebraska to the system used before the 2009 measure became law. Judges would decide whether an offender would be on the registry. Offenders would have five working days to notify their county's sheriff of their address and employment, instead of the current three-day maximum.

The proposal would allow sex offenders who are not listed for life to seek a judge's order's to remove them from the registry, if they have no other pending criminal charges and can show they are at low risk to reoffend.

"We had a system in place where we had experts looking at the files" before the 2009 law, said Omaha Sen. Brad Ashford said, who is scheduled to present both proposals to the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. "That, to me, gave me comfort that the public was being protected. Now, that's gone."

More than 3,000 offenders were registered in Nebraska as of December 2009, the most recent data posted by the State Patrol. Current law requires a 15-year stint on the registry for misdemeanor sex offenses, 25 years for an offense with a possible prison term of more than a year, and life for the most severe sex crimes or offenders with past convictions.

The 2009 law was passed to align the state with the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, a federal measure signed into law in 2006.

Under previous Nebraska law, the only names released to the public were the offenders deemed the greatest risk. The names of low-risk offenders were available only to law enforcement, and mid-level offenders were accessible only to school officials and other need-to-know organizations.

Ashford, who heads the Judiciary Committee, said his proposals would focus greater attention on the most serious offenders.

Several registered offenders told the Judiciary Committee last month that the mandatory registration for misdemeanor offenses had cost them job opportunities after they were rehabilitated. Some said their spouses and children had suffered harassment.

"I'm not saying these offenses are not serious," Ashford said. "But with less chance of reoffending, the impact of these people's lives we're hearing is pretty incredible."

The Nebraska State Patrol maintains the registry and checks for compliance. Spokeswoman Deb Collins said the patrol will provide information to the committee Tuesday but will remain neutral on the amendment proposals.

Ashford acknowledged that an all-inclusive list reduces the chances of an offender slipping through the cracks. But he said current law unfairly targets those who pose little threat to society.

"There's a big difference between a sexual relationship between a 19-year-old and a 15-year-old, and someone who has a pattern of sex offenses as a predator," Ashford said.

Including all offenders on the registry without considering the severity of their crime pulls attention away from those who are most likely to reoffend, said Kirk Newring, a clinical psychologist at Nebraska Wesleyan University who specializes in sex offender issues.

"If the sheriff is going to do an address verification, I'd rather they focus on people who are most likely to reoffend," Newring said. "If they can only go to 10 addresses a day, let's make sure they can do the ones with the most dangerous offenders."