« "Smart Answers to Recidivism" | Main | The same old debates about a new federal sentencing bill »

December 26, 2009

"Md. girl's death sharpens criticism of sex offender laws"

The title of this post is the headline of this new local article reporting on the unsurprising response to the latest brutal high-profile crime by a registered sex offender in Maryland.  Here are excerpts:

Not even a full day after police found the body of an 11-year-old girl who was kidnapped, authorities say, by a registered sex offender, the Salisbury tragedy was spotlighted by Maryland activists who consider the state's child protection laws inadequate.

Jerry Norton, who heads Citizens for Jessica's Law in Maryland, a group that for years has fought to fortify laws against pedophiles, was calling lawmakers Saturday, underscoring his position....

Police said the girl had been taken from her bedroom Tuesday night by a registered sex offender, Thomas James Leggs Jr., who has been held since Wednesday in the abduction. Leggs briefly dated the girl's aunt, who had custody of her and her two siblings....

Leggs, 30, is listed in the Maryland registry because of a third-degree sex offense conviction in 1998. In Delaware, he is listed as a "high-risk" sex offender in connection with the rape of a minor in 2001.

Norton is flabbergasted that a man who raped a minor could be free so soon and associating with children. "What . . . is he doing back out on the street, and what is he doing having contact with this child?" he said. "I think the problem is with these guys going through a revolving door."

State Sen. Nancy Jacobs (R-Harford) co-sponsored Maryland's version of Jessica's Law, a bill passed in 2006 that set sentencing guidelines for child sex offenders. It's named for Jessica Lunsford, a 9-year-old Florida girl who was kidnapped, sexually abused and killed by a convicted child sex offender.

At the urging of activists such as Norton, Jacobs and other legislators have tried unsuccessfully to tighten the law to prevent offenders from getting parole. She thought Sarah's case would "absolutely" inspire legislators to reinforce the law. "I've already had e-mails from people asking about it," Jacobs said. "It's about how far can we go, and I'm in favor as going as far as we can."

Jacobs also said the case exposes weaknesses in how Maryland communicates with other states about child sex offenders. If Leggs was considered "high risk" in Delaware, she thinks he should have been in Maryland, too.

Del. Mike D. Smigiel Sr. (R-Cecil), who, heading into the 2010 legislative session, has pre-filed three bills that would tighten child sex offender laws, said he has been "seething" over the Salisbury case.

He's considering such options as civil incarceration, cracking down on plea bargains and allowing wiretapping of suspected child sex offenders. "We have very strict laws in Maryland, but I think more has to be done," he said. "These child predators are incorrigible. We have to find ways to deal with this threat to our community."

December 26, 2009 at 09:50 PM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e20120a780a883970b

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference "Md. girl's death sharpens criticism of sex offender laws":

Comments

And not one of these laws already on the books or that anyone can come up with can or will be able to prevent things like these from happening. Instead they make them MORE LIKELY to happen because the cast the net wider and add more names uselessly to the registries and therefore take away attention from the truly dangerous high-risk offenders. More teens who have consensual sex on the registries, more teens who conensually sext each other on the registries, more romeo and julliet cases where the guy was a little over 18 and the girl was a little under 18 by their relationship was consensual on the registries = less attention paid to the REAL THREATS - the guys like these who prey on little children. And, the politicians see this as ways to grab more votes. A little bit of smoke, a few mirrors and a bunch of hot air later, and they sound tough on crime. One day, someone is going to step up and decide to be SMART on crime. Then, and only then, will our children actually be safe!!!

Posted by: George | Dec 27, 2009 12:02:47 AM

This story graphically rebuts the dumb, "Smart Answers to Recidivism" NY Times commentary below.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 27, 2009 2:26:26 AM

America's evil secret.

If there is any "class" or "catagory" of people who commit sex crimes, and who defy justice, it is the clergy of the Catholic Church.

If we wish to repress sex offenders then let us go to one of the main balliwick of sex offenders. Not that I wish to impugne all sex offenders or all Catholic priests. So, why are not these convicted priests, and those priests who have been held to be onerous pedophiles by the church (but not the criminal courts), not housed in the same place as the other sex offenders who are not in custody? The non priests are segregated and forced to live under bridges in states like Florida. Sheltering these special Catholic folks in nice little chateaus out there in the quiet parts of America is an evil aspect of American sentencing law and policy. These geeks are allowed to leave states like Maryland and go to states like Delaware with impunity. Then, when they offend in Delaware, they are sent on to Arizona or other place by the Catholic Church.

Moral to the story: Keep your kids out of the choir.
Other than the sex offender registry keep a watch out for the Parish Priest.

Posted by: mpb | Dec 27, 2009 3:02:54 AM

I hope my last missive got some outrage and attention.
Not all registered sex offenders need to live under the bridges in Florida and not all Catholic Priests are sex offenders. The 17 year old guy who has sex with the 16 year old neighbor can be a convicted sex offender in some states and yet does he need to be cast under the bridge?

I still submit however, that you folks out there who wish to protect your kids and yourselves from sex offenders ought to keep a watch on the righteous ones among you.

Posted by: mpb | Dec 27, 2009 3:44:37 AM


mph:

There was nothing righteous about Thomas James Leggs JR. Most citizens fear the type of sex offenders who kidnapp innocent girls from their bedrooms and rape and murder them.

Your harangue about Catholic Church is tired and not productive.

Posted by: mjs | Dec 27, 2009 1:03:13 PM

The rate of pedophilia is about 1% among the priesthood. That is the rate for the general male population.

The sole error of the church? Cover up to enable the lawyer gotcha, and defunding of a competing source of authority to central government, a wholly owned subsidiary of the criminal cult enterprise.

The lawyer stole the doctrines and the methods of the Church Inquisition. Now, the lawyer is using these to plunder the church. The members of the congregation are encouraged to bring self-help to the cult criminals. They have no legitimacy, they are just thieves, using a rigged legal system. Many are Catholics. They should be ex-communicated and shunned. That goes for the judges in these bogus cases.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 27, 2009 3:02:15 PM

The sexual molestation of children by priests. Yet another example of the failure of the criminal law. They allow over 90% of serious crime to go unanswered. Whey they do get a hold of a person, it is the wrong guy in over 20% of the cases.

The criminal law is run by self-dealing incompetent dumbasses (a very specific lawyer term of art, not an epithet). The lawyer should be excluded from all benches, all legislative seats, and all responsible policy positions in the executive, preferably by an amendment.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 27, 2009 3:52:34 PM

I am a wife of a sex offender...my husband is not a child sex offender but no one ever takes that in consideration. When Sarah was missing, I got a knock on the door at 230 a.m. while my husband was at work. Yes..it was state police looking for my husband to question him on his whereabouts on the night Sarah was abducted. I was told they were knocking on everyone's door who was on the sex offender registry....didn't matter their conviction. I agree...these laws only make it tougher on law enforcement to keep in contact with the ones who are most likely to re-offend. My husband spent 20 years in jail, has been on parole the last ten years and not one violation nor re-offense or new crime of any kind. Yet they wasted a precious 20 minutes questioning me over and over again.

Posted by: Dee Kennedy | Dec 27, 2009 5:31:30 PM

We wish we could be there and save the child from a tragic fate and feel so helpless because we could not, and if we would risk our lives to save her, why not sacrifice the Bill of Rights? Someone commented elsewhere that other sex offenders must have known what was going to happen, and therefore they are responsible too. I doubt there are sex offender terrorists cells, though these crimes could be terrorism. They seem suicidal like suicide bomber crimes. If only there were cells and they could be Dexterized. I actually gave that some serious thought before dismissing it.

Instead, let's look at the premises. The "George" above argues the Internet registries are too diluted. I argue they are not effective at all. More important, this battle between the left and the right is like two parents fighting over their children in a divorce, and it is the conservatives making wild accusations. (See Polito, AG clash over Jessica’s Law).

What's more, Stop Chid Predators is a major player, and who is behind that? Cary Katz. Some say there are connections with the Randy "Duke" Cunningham scandal.

I'm not so sure protection of children is the ultimate goal. More likely, it is the conservatives aiming arrows at any liberal Achilles heel in the hopes something hits the mark, at least in part. More likely still... is what? Data mining profit? Whatever it is, it probably isn't what it appears to be.

Are rational and effective laws possible in this divorce-like drama? It's time to follow the money.

Posted by: George | Dec 27, 2009 6:42:46 PM

while i think nazi acting idiots who make statements like this one should be shot!

"Jacobs said. "It's about how far can we go, and I'm in favor as going as far as we can."

im going to have to go with norton here!

"Leggs, 30, is listed in the Maryland registry because of a third-degree sex offense conviction in 1998. In Delaware, he is listed as a "high-risk" sex offender in connection with the rape of a minor in 2001."

What the hell was he doing out? His first conviciton in 1998 is bad enough but he had a SECOND one in 2001 what the hell is he doing out in less than 8 friggin years. assuming he got out in 2009 for all we know he's been out for years!

Posted by: rodsmith3510 | Dec 28, 2009 1:30:38 AM

really loved this part!

"He's considering such options as civil incarceration, cracking down on plea bargains and allowing wiretapping of suspected child sex offenders. "We have very strict laws in Maryland, but I think more has to be done," he said. "These child predators are incorrigible. We have to find ways to deal with this threat to our community."

hmm let's take em in order

Civil comittment - Legally Unconstitutional after the fact. No matter what the chickes on the courts right now are saying. If they are sane enough to go to trial and be convicted and serve their time...you CAN'T decide they are nuts days before it's time for them to go home.

cracking down on blea bargains! i'm suprised you can even STILL get them in sex offence cases anyway the state hasn't HONERED ONE in OVER A DECADE! I think they should be tossed in all cases. Make the state work for those convictions like the good ole days!

Allowiong wiretapping...LOL another UNCONSTITUTIONA ACT. When done on someone NOT on PAROLE/PROBATION. probably illegal for them too. If you think they are comitting a crime...See a judge...PROVE IT and get a WARRANT!

Posted by: rodsmith3510 | Dec 28, 2009 1:35:49 AM

Stop Child Predators — If your cat was a member of the Democratic Party, it would hiss the moment the people behind this group entered the room. Cary Katz, Chairman and President – Founder/CEO College Loan Corporation is a major Republican donor. Board member Viet Dinh was on the Board of Directors of Murdoch’s News Corporation, although he’s better known for his key role in producing the USA Patriot Act. One blogger investigating the group complained: “The Stop Child Predators Partnership doesn’t actually seem to do anything.” The group’s focus seems to be on developing stronger legislation for child predator crime prosecutions and sentencing, with suggested legislation for online safety as well. Insufficient information to tell if there is any telecommunications industry money in the group.

Source

Another question to ask if there is any GPS or registry software profit involved, along with any other fear for profit money.

Posted by: Research | Dec 28, 2009 11:40:22 AM

some Republican state representative: "Allowing wiretapping of sex offenders"

me: please tell me that he had entered a contest about who can propose the biggest waste of law enforcement time and tax payer money as possible without being laughed out of office and this is not a serious proposal.

Posted by: virginia | Dec 28, 2009 12:15:21 PM

Ginny --

Democratic President: We can provide health insurance to 30,000,000 additional people and it won't cost any more money.

I wonder if there's anyone who actually believes this.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 28, 2009 12:59:54 PM

I agree with Jerry Norton in large part on his stance. However the state's child protection laws are more than adequate, IF FOLLOWED!
However he needs to be asking the right question ‘specifically.”
Specifically, is he a pedophile? Among former offenders they make up only about 1%, and the term is used much too loosely.
Specifically “who” gave Thomas James Leggs Jr. his freedom?
Specifically why did they do this?
Specifically how long did he serve?
Specifically while being listed as a "high-risk" sex offender in connection with the rape of a minor in 2001, was he compliant with area law enforcement?
Specifically, we should all be urging activists such as Norton, Jacobs and other legislators to only tighten the “enforcement” of existing law.
Specifically why is it when you closely examine the cases of Adam Walsh, Jessica Lunsford, Jacee Lee Dugard, and then throw into the mix the case of Anthony Sowell, you find the same failures in the same positions.
Absolutely it is failures of the persons who actually committed these crimes.
Specifically you find also total failure of enforcement by the very people who have told us “If it saves one child” “enforcement” of these laws will make everyone safe.
Specifically I believe to root out the “problem” we need for the people “responsible” for “enforcement” of these laws to only look at the man in the mirror.

Posted by: topper | Dec 28, 2009 1:36:35 PM

couldn't agree with you more topper. the case in calif is a perfect example. The guy was a multiple offender. Was on LIFETIME PAROLE being visited by p.o's monthly and god knows how often by local law enforcement...and he stil had 3 people enslaved in his backyard!

Make a 2nd ACTUAL SEX OFFENCE conviction a LIFE SENTENCE and make it REALLY REALLY A LIFE sentence and be done with it. I have no problem giving most people a 2nd chance but if you mess that one up....lock em up and LOSE the key!

Posted by: rodsmith3510 | Dec 28, 2009 1:54:56 PM

rodsmith, wouldn't LWOP for the first offense and civil commitment for anyone EVER convicted of a SEX OFFENSE be more certain?

Posted by: Anon | Dec 28, 2009 2:46:08 PM

"rodsmith, wouldn't LWOP for the first offense and civil commitment for anyone EVER convicted of a SEX OFFENSE be more certain?

Posted by: Anon | Dec 28, 2009 2:46:08 PM"

Certainly BUT it would be a MAJOR waste of time; money; resources; and prison space. Since every study i've seen in the last 10 years or so from U.S. DOJ and beyond show that 80-95% of all sex offenses are FIRST TIMERS. only 10-15% of them are REPEAT offenders. So HAMMER that group and stop worrying about the others and wasting BILLIONS AND BILLIONS AND BILLIONS of dollars and police manhours tracking them 24/7 for LIFE.

That fact is also bared out by the Sex Offender Registry less than 15% of those on it are ever convicted of a followup offense.

Posted by: rodsmith3510 | Dec 29, 2009 10:05:15 PM

i do have one question though if you gave ANYONE convicted of a sex offence LWOP....WHAT would you even need the so-called civil comitment for? Wouldn't they ALREADY be in prison?

Posted by: rodsmith3510 | Dec 29, 2009 10:06:31 PM

Wife of a Delaware SO, local to Salisbury MD, speaking from my own experience (with some information gleaned from paying attention).

In Delaware, where Leggs was a high-risk offender, the default punishment for any felony sex offense is 8 years in jail for each offense, served consecutively. One 8-year sentence is often suspended for probation following successful completion of a 2-year sexual deviance program that has a less than 1% recidivism rate.

Also, you are automatically Tier 3 (high-risk) if you've ever been convicted of another sex crime or a felony where the victim is a child. So Leggs could theoretically have gotten out of jail after 2 years if he was only convicted on one count, with a total sentence including probation ending in 2009 (8 years total).

The comment a PP made about the police wasting 20 minutes questioning her speaks volumes about how SORNA doesn't work. The list is crowded with non-violent offenders and coerced plea-takers. I'm not saying there shouldn't be a list, but there should definitely be a little more judgement put into who is on it.

Posted by: Karen | Jan 6, 2010 12:01:51 PM

I thought I would find this much earlier considering how good the information is.

Posted by: tiffany heart toggle necklace | May 30, 2011 5:19:07 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB