Thursday, April 4, 2013

IA - ‘Romeo and Juliet’ sex offenders could see shorter parole sentences under legislation advancing in Iowa House

Original Article


By Jason Noble

Teenagers convicted of sex crimes for engaging in consensual relationships with younger teens could have their lifetime parole lifted under legislation advancing in the Iowa House.

The bill is being pushed by a Davenport man who was convicted of lascivious acts with a child following what he describes as a short, consensual relationship with a 13-year-old high school freshman while he was an 18-year-old high school senior in 2008.

The conviction has placed [name withheld], who appeared before lawmakers in a series of hearings on Wednesday, on lifetime parole, requiring him to check in regularly with a parole officer, limiting his contact with his own son and effectively banning him even from family functions in which children are present.

I’m wanting to move on with my life and I’m wanting to raise my son,” said [name withheld]  who’s now 23. “That’s the main cause for me being up here – to raise my child.”

Under Senate File 385 (PDF), [name withheld] and offenders with similar backgrounds could receive an early discharge from lifetime parole, removing the restrictions on their movements and interactions with children. It also could allow their removal from the state sex offender registry.

The process would run through the courts system, giving judges discretion to allow or deny the discharge and offering victims an opportunity to testify. To be eligible, offenders would have to complete sex offender treatment and be rated as a low risk to reoffend.

Democrats and Republicans alike were largely in favor of the change. Bill handler Joel Fry, R-Osceola, described it as a necessary correction to aspects of current law that burden young offenders for life.

This bill is an (attempt) to try and rectify some legislation that took place a number of years ago that cast a very wide net,” Fry said. “Many people have gotten trapped under this law, and there are not able to be with children today and not able to get certain occupations or jobs because of that.”

The measure won approval in both a House public safety subcommittee and the full Public Safety Committee on Wednesday. It’s already passed the Senate, meaning approval on the House floor could move it to Gov. Terry Branstad to be signed into law.

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