Man of mischief

Politics and other mistakes
By AL DIAMON  |  July 2, 2008

Let’s see if I can fill a whole column by making jokes about violent sex offenders.

Question Why did the violent sex offender cross the road?

Answer To get to the other side — where there was a park full of little kids he could ogle, follow, abduct, and violate.

No laughs? This might be more difficult than I thought.

Which leaves me in much the same position as state government when it comes to dealing with rapists and child molesters. Developing comedy routines about creeps like that is about as easy as coming up with effective ways to keep the public safe from these monsters once they get out of prison.

Which is why they shouldn’t get out. Lock them up for life. End of problem.

I’m not kidding. Although, I’d be kidding myself if I thought there was any chance the weenies in the Legislature would approve mandatory sentences like that.

I can hear a heckler in the back of the room shouting out that Maine already has protection against weirdos on the loose. It has a sex-offender registry. Anyone who’s been convicted of a sex crime since 1982 has to have his or her photo, address, and other information posted on the Web, where law enforcement and private citizens can access it. The profiles of the most dangerous freaks are updated every 90 days.

Yeah, I know all about that. But here’s the punch line. Maine’s registry is unconstitutional.

That’s not me trying to be funny. That’s the noted non-comedian Valerie Stanfill, who does her stand-up routine in state District Court (“All rise”), where she’s a judge with a grudge. On June 2, she did what District Court judges rarely do: She declared a law passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor to be in violation of the state and federal constitutions. The statute in question is the Maine Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act of 1999.

Stanfill threw out charges that a sex offender named Eric Letalien had failed to update his registration, because, she said, the law applies retroactively in ways that are overly punitive. That makes the registration act an “ex post facto” law, which is prohibited by the Constitution.

In 1996, when Letalien was 19, he was convicted of gross sexual assault for having sex with a 13-year-old girl. The act was consensual, but because of the victim’s age, it was classified as a “sexually violent offense.” He was sentenced to 20 months in prison.

Under the statute in effect at the time, Letalien wasn’t required to register as a sex offender. Even if he had been, he could have asked a judge for a waiver of the requirement after five years. But then, the Legislature changed the rules. The waiver provision was eliminated. And starting in 2003, Letalien was forced to register and to update his registration every 90 days. For the rest of his life. No probation. No parole.

In 2007, Letalien, now 32, missed one of those updates and was arrested. In court, he testified that since registering, he’d been fired from jobs, had personal relationships destroyed, been harassed by a neighbor, been stopped by police while visiting his daughter’s school, and was afraid to go out in public. An assessment performed by a psychologist found Letalien presented the “lowest possible risk” of committing another sex crime. His lawyer argued the law he was accused of violating should be overturned.

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  Topics: Talking Politics , U.S. Government, U.S. State Government, Criminal Sentencing and Punishment,  More more >
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