More sex offenders coming off state’s registry

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LEWISTON — The growing list of sex offenders whose names have been removed from the state’s public registry includes dozens who were convicted of crimes against children or violent sex crimes and others who have multiple convictions.

Of the 370 who have so far successfully petitioned the State’s Bureau of Identification to have their names pulled from the public registry, 120 were convicted of the highest class of felony sex crimes, 167 were convicted of crimes involving minor children and one released from the registry was also convicted of attempted murder.

The list of those released from the registry was obtained by the Sun Journal under Maine’s open access and freedom of information laws shows some of those removed from the registry committed multiple sex crimes or crimes against multiple victims.

One recently removed registrant was convicted of sexually assaulting multiple children under the age of 6; another was convicted of raping, kidnapping, robbing and assaulting an 81-year-old.

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All have met the criteria set forth in Maine law as it was changed by the state Legislature in 2009. Under those changes, those who were convicted between 1982 and 1992, who were released from jail before Sept. 1, 1998, and who have not re-offended since their release can petition to be removed from the registry. They must also not have more than one Class A sex offense conviction and must have been compliant with other registry requirements.

On Thursday, state lawmakers passed legislation further amending the registry law in an attempt to comply with a Maine Supreme Judicial Court finding that gave the Legislature until April 1, 2010, to make changes to the law, which it deemed “unconstitutional” because of its “post facto” components.

In simple terms, the court said the Legislature couldn’t force those convicted and punished before the registry was created to comply with it. Forcing those offenders to register was deemed double punishment for the same crime and unconstitutional.

Lawmakers have argued that the registry was created not as another form of punishment but as a way to protect public safety.

The bill passed Thursday further expands the number of sex offenders eligible to petition the state for removal from the registry by allowing those convicted between 1982 and 1999 to ask, if they meet the criteria, to have their names removed from the registry. It also loosens the requirements for those on the registry, allowing many to register by mail every 90 days or in person at their local police department every five years.

The new law still requires some to register for life and allows for retroactive registration for the most serious crimes, according to a summary of the bill on the Legislature’s Web site. The bill is crafted after an Alaskan state law that withstood a U.S. Supreme Court challenge.

Expanding the eligibility to include those convicted up to 1999 would mean as many 2,000 more sex offenders would become eligible to be removed from the list, said Matthew Ruel, director of the Maine State Bureau of Identification. Once an offender’s name is removed from the registry, they no longer have to meet other requirements such as registering with local police.

Ruel, a civilian employee of the Maine State Police, said law enforcement officials around Maine have voiced strong concerns over allowing more convicted sex offenders off the registry.

Most on the registry have multiple offenses and many have multiple sex-related convictions, Ruel said. “The vast majority were crimes against kids under the age of 14.”

Ruel said the list of people coming off the registry was “growing every day.” More than 709 have petitioned to be removed from the registry. So far, 89 have been denied.

sthistle@sunjournal.com

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