Sex offender: ‘I’ve got a big scarlet letter’

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A Lewiston man on the state’s sex offender registry says he’s more afraid about someone finding out he’s on the registry, period, than someone using it to target him.

Two days after a Canadian man used the Maine Sex Offender Registry to look up the profiles of 34 convicts online and kill two of them, police said they’d heard from only a few offenders worried about their own safety.

In Lewiston, police had one complaint. In Auburn, none.

The Web site has more than 2,200 registered sex offenders; 111 of them live in Lewiston.

Portland has 119.

The weekend double-homicide is bringing attention to the Web site, already the most popular run by the state of Maine.

Visitors who add their own name and address instantly have access to each offender’s street address and work details. Police say that’s how Stephen Marshall, a 20-year-old Canadian, found Joseph Gray of Milo and William Elliot of Corinth. Marshall committed suicide later.

Maine State Police will go in front of the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee next Tuesday to discuss what about the registry, if anything, ought to be done differently.

“Everybody is wondering just how concerned we ought to be over this,” said state Sen. John Nutting, D-Leeds.

A Lewiston businessman hopes to use the attention to argue against some people, like himself, being on it. He pled guilty to sexual contact with a minor in 1991 and has been on the registry since it expanded to cover old crimes last fall.

“I’m more concerned about being outed. I’ve got a big scarlet letter, I run a business,” he said on Tuesday, on condition of anonymity. “I’ve built a public life for myself. I’ve built a reputation. That’s going to be awful difficult to do when the phone stops ringing.”

He’s never been harassed because of the online post, acknowledging few people probably realize he’s there.

“While (Marshall’s) family grieves, and my sympathies are with them, he’s probably not the only unstable guy out there,” he said.

Public Safety Commissioner Michael Cantara said a “small handful” of people on the registry or their friends have contacted his office, anxious about personal safety.

Cantara said there’s no evidence anyone else is in danger. Police notified the 32 other people who Marshall searched out. None live in Lewiston or western Maine.

“What happened this weekend was an aberration,” he said.

Since the site went online in December 2003, Cantara doesn’t believe it’s been used to target people before.

Nutting can foresee his committee asking whether’s it possible for people who’ve clicked on multiple offender profiles in one day to be flagged for concern.

“I think who’s on the list and who isn’t on is going to be discussed,” Nutting added. “I know in talking with some other senators, we’ve become aware of a few cases in the last six months, very few, it may be inappropriate that they’re listed.”

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