This is just more political grandstanding to make themselves look "tough" on crime while actually doing nothing except trampling constitutional rights.
By Derek Gilliam
Florida lawmakers are likely to consider ways to toughen laws against suspected violent sex offenders in the wake of Donald Smith’s arrest in 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle’s abduction and death.
Convicted of sex crimes, Smith was released from prison less than a month before the arrest in the Perrywinkle case.
Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford recommended several changes Wednesday when he met with top-level legislators in Jacksonville.
State Senate President Don Gaetz and Speaker of the House Will Weatherford visited the Sheriff’s Office and said both the House and the Senate plan to introduce bills next March to toughen the law.
State Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, and Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, also spoke about what should be done to close loopholes in current law.
Rutherford said police should be involved during the evaluation process when convicted or suspected sex offenders’ commitment to a mental hospital is possible. He said police reports about the person’s behavior the day of arrest should be used during those evaluations.
He said the charging documents from the State Attorney’s Offices are used, but prosecutors write those documents based on what they think can be proved in a court of law.
“Sometimes there are issues inside [the police reports] that never make it into a charging document,” he said. “… If you are only looking at the state attorney’s charging document, you are going to lose a lot of valuable information about this individual’s behavior on the street at the time they are arrested.”
He pointed out that police reports told a much different story from charging documents concerning Smith. A juvenile victim wasn’t allowed to testify by her parents after an attempted abduction by Smith, and he was allowed to plead to a lesser charge.
Rutherford also advocated for changes that would allow police to search homes during address verification of sex offenders; longer sentences for sexual offenses; and vehicle registration, including any vehicle that a sex offender would be able to access.
- If they are not on probation / parole, then you need a warrant to do this!
Currently, when someone is committed following a prison sentence, probation runs while receiving treatment. Rutherford said that shouldn’t be the case.
LAWMAKERS WEIGH INBradley said a bill he plans to sponsor will address that issue and others Rutherford advocated at the meeting.
Gibson called it troublesome that sex offenders aren’t treated in prison, and only receive treatment if civilly committed.
- It may be true that they don't get treatment in prison (some do), but saying they don't get treatment unless committed is simply false! Treatment is usually mandatory once the offender gets out of prison, committed or not.
“There’s something wrong, I think, in that scenario,” she said. “When we have them, we should be able to start treatment sooner rather than later.”
Adkins noted that people with mental illness can be civilly committed without being convicted, but then let out of the hospital later. She called it a loophole.
Rutherford agreed and said that’s a reason why he wants police included in the evaluation process of civil commitment.
“Show me a bank robber, that’s what bank robbers do. Show me a sexual predator, that’s what they are,” Rutherford said. “I think you can change what people do. I’m not sure you can change who people are.”
- So I guess you are saying that once you are an ignorant or corrupt politician, you will always be an ignorant or corrupt politician? That is simply not true, and it's not true for what you mentioned above as well.
Weatherford said, “Obviously, there are some loopholes with the law that are allowing people to get out that have problems.” He said lawmakers have an obligation to protect the people, especially children.
- You will NEVER be able to predict who will or won't re-offend, so stop trying!
Gaetz said he has never seen evidence that a “serial, violent sexual predator” has been cured.
“I think the sheriff hit it right on the head when he said ‘This is who they are,’ ” Gaetz said.
- Well that is your opinion which we disagree with.