Registry law hits harder

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A crime that rarely resulted in incarceration in the past now brings long prison sentences.

Laws  Special
Special
Laws

A bill passed last year by the General Assembly increases the penalty for failure to register as a sex offender. Other provisions of the new law are under legal challenge.

This month, an Augusta man was sentenced to 30 years in prison for not registering a new address within 72 hours of moving.

The Richmond County Superior Court case against Billy Joe Laws was a negotiated plea, said Assistant District Attorney John Markwalter.

Mr. Laws' punishment could have been worse - a life sentence - because it was the second time he had violated a provision of the registry law.

In court documents, Mr. Laws wrote that he didn't register a new address because he didn't have an address - he had lost his home and was living on the streets.

"Many people on the registry are trying very hard to comply," but the new law is making compliance extremely difficult, said Sara J. Totonchi, the public policy director of the Southern Center for Human Rights.

The Atlanta center filed suit last summer challenging the law's provision that prohibits sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of any place where children might gather, including bus stops.

That provision has been blocked by a federal court order, and the lawsuit is pending.

In addition to restricting where sex offenders can live, the new law increases punishment for sex crimes.

It also increases the punishment for failure to register. A first offense that had been a misdemeanor punishable by no more than a year in jail is now a felony punishable by 10 to 30 years in prison. Any subsequent offense is punishable by a life sentence.

In Richmond County, the crime rarely resulted in prison sentences; only five of 28 recent convictions netted prison terms.

Mr. Laws, 45, was convicted of aggravated child molestation in 1987 in Baldwin County. He served 18 years in prison.

The first person sentenced in Richmond County under the new law was Ronnie L. White, 22.

He was sentenced to three years in prison and seven years' probation in December.

Mr. White's underlying crime was sexual battery of a 14-year-old girl when he was 18.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.

Comments (17) Add comment
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sassygalady30
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sassygalady30 02/13/07 - 05:59 am
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one mr. law is a lier he had

one mr. law is a lier he had somewhere to live till he did something in the home of my friend n was kicked out then he was on the run then 2 days later i seen him on the news as wanted but was to late he was already on the run ....i hope he gets the 30 years he gets hes a pieece of scum trash and whatever else u call him i hope he rotes n jail n he gets whats coming to him...why do they wait so long to put these ppl on the news wanted by then there long gone i dont get it they should be on tv the min they fail to do whatever it is they have to do what happen to protecting our children??/well mr law u have a address now n i hope u do for a long TIME

icanusethat
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icanusethat 02/13/07 - 06:22 am
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he should be lock up in a

he should be lock up in a place all by there self to realy see y they do these things.they need a prison just for them

gadawg6
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gadawg6 02/13/07 - 07:46 am
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why does everybody say that

why does everybody say that criminals still have rights. their victims didn't have rights when these idiots sexually assaulted them. especially children. if they wanted rights they should obey the law like everyone else. these human rights activists for criminals are a big part of the problem in todays society. take away the tvs and newspapers in prison as well as the cantine and make them eat only scraps. thats what they deserve.

Rose
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Rose 02/13/07 - 09:44 am
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Back in the early 1990's a 12

Back in the early 1990's a 12 yr old girl was almost raped by someone she and her friends trusted. The old man plea bargained and pled guilty to a lesser charge of sexual battery and got just 30 days in jail. A few yrs later he did it to another girl and got 1 year at the deversion center. He had to sleep there 365 nights, but the rest of the time he ran his car business and whatever else he did. He was never on the sex offenders list. I think he paid someone off. Laws have changed now.

Rambler
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Rambler 02/13/07 - 11:01 am
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I wonder why the paper did

I wonder why the paper did not tell us who the Judge was.

ZMan
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ZMan 02/13/07 - 11:05 am
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Links: *

Links:
* http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=2796316 <-- MUST SEE VIDEO!!
* http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/crimoff.htm
* http://sexoffenderinfo.pbwiki.com
* http://sexoffenderissues.blogspot.com/

* If the sex offender laws are kept, why discriminate? If sex offenders must suffer for life and be on GPS, so should ANYONE with a criminal record. If this is not done, then it is discrimination. Anyone with a criminal record should be on a registry on the internet for the whole world to see, and be on GPS for life. DUI offenders should not be able to live XX feet from an alcohol store and should have their license revoked. Drug dealers should not be able to live XX feet from anywhere children congregate, so they cannot sell our kids drugs. Murderers should not be able to life XX feet from ANYONE, since they may kill again. DUI offenders kill more people than any other crime (I believe), and I'm sure the entire public would love to know if a murderer, thief, drug dealer, etc lives in their neighborhood. If all this was on the internet for all to see, I'm sure everyone would NOT leave their house at all. These people are everywhere. Why are sex offenders being "scape goated"? EVERYON

so_solutions
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so_solutions 02/13/07 - 12:35 pm
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Politicians want you to

Politicians want you to believe in the stranger danger myth. Fact: according to the U.S. Dept. of Justice, The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, and other experts, in about 90 percent of cases, children are abused by a family member or someone trusted by the family and first time offenders make up 95 percent of all cases. In his new book, Failure to Protect - America's Sexual Predator Laws and the Rise of the Preventative State, Eric S. Janus, Vice-Dean, William Mitchell College of Law; outlines why the current laws actually are doing more harm than good, and are counter productive. In speaking about laws regulating sex offenders, he states, "We are in a vicious cycle of bad policy, and need to find a way out if we want to fight sexual violence more effectively". Citizens need to demand a National Sex Offender Public Policy Forum to address this issue. Then state and local governments can formulate workable, cost effective laws. In lieu of fostering a fearful witch-hunt mentality for votes, our elected officials should step up to this societal challenge. Learn more at, http://tinyurl.com/2mhe98

treysmom
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treysmom 02/13/07 - 12:38 pm
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Don't forget the people who

Don't forget the people who have the tendency to beat the crap out of someone. Assault with High Aggravated Nature, or someone who has the tendency to Burglarize wouldn't you want THOSE people on display as well. A crime is a crime is a crime we as a parent, a neighborhood should be more aware of what our children are doing.

ForHim
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ForHim 02/13/07 - 12:47 pm
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so solutions: you are correct

so solutions: you are correct that many of the crimes are comitted by family members or friends. But stranger danger is not a myth. It accounts for the other percentage that are not family members/friends and should be treated with great concern. We should always continue to teach our children about stranger danger.

so_solutions
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so_solutions 02/13/07 - 01:10 pm
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It is important to note, many

It is important to note, many so-called experts, report 500,000 cases of child sexual abuse each year. However, the U.S. government says there were 74,348 cases reported in 2004. Lets add in the 117,645 cases that are classified as "Unknown" that totals 191,993 cases. Even if we factor in a 100% increase to the reported cases and still add in the unknown cases, we come up with 266,341 cases. Far short of the 500,000 reported by the "experts". All known empirical evidence, indicates, a child is in greater danger from a family member, relative, acquaintance, or someone trusted by the parents and victim. Statistics show that there is a greater chance of a child being killed or injured by a family friend, or drunk driver, than being sexually abused by a stranger. It does happen, just not as often as the politicians want you to believe. A large majority on the Registry have paid their debt to society. and are on the Registry by law, meaning they are not breaking any laws. Currently, law enforcement spends precious resources tracking these low risk offenders, instead of absconders, high-risk, and predators. If the registries were working, why are we seeing an 8% increase each year?

so_solutions
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so_solutions 02/13/07 - 01:38 pm
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Overwhelming evidence and

Overwhelming evidence and statistics, as provided by the U.S. Department of Justice, state correctional studies, local law enforcement, and treatment experts, show that residency restrictions or safety (proximity) zones have not proven to enhance public. According to the Jacob Wetterling Foundation, most sex offenders live in an area due to its proximity to their family or therapy provider. Chasing them away from therapist and family support network is not in the best interest of public safety. Why are they the only class of citizens who are demonized by the media, politicians, and citizens based on the actions of a few? Sex offenses are as varied as the people who commit them. It is irresponsible to cast a broad net and classify all sex offenders equally. Categorizing all offenders, the same is a miscarriage of justice and impacts society adversely by wasting law enforcement resources on low risk offenders in place of a concentrated effort to track high-risk offenders and predators. Please remember, the victims and offenders of unreported intra-familial offenses, who do not receive therapy, create opportunities for more offenses and victims. This does not create a safer society.

Rose
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Rose 02/13/07 - 02:50 pm
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Public views change too. Back

Public views change too. Back in the mid 1960's A 16 yr old cousin of mine married her 22 yr old sweetheart. She graduated from high school, and her husband was her guardian. They are still together and still married. If that were to happen today, her husband would go to jail and be on a sex offenders list.Times change and laws change.

Adam1
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Adam1 02/13/07 - 09:52 pm
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I would rather execute these

I would rather execute these vermin who prey on children. But since that's not the law, I like the registry as an alternative extended persecution. However, taking this case based solely on this infration, I think 30 years is a bit harsh failing to register in 72 hours (especially if he was truely homeless at the time). I also have a problem with the registry for young offenders where an 18 year old gets statuary rape for having sex with a willing 16 year old. The law needs to have a provision for younger offenders, maybe with a sliding scale. I mean seriously, how can it be fair when two kids experiment with sex, get caught, and the older one goes to jail and is forever branded a sexual offender. The reason I suggest a sliding scale is because there is a definite difference between 15-17, 15-18 and 15-20 (or older) couplings. One last thought, non-traditional sex (i.e. other than hetero missionary) between two consenting people is none of the governments business.

so_solutions
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so_solutions 02/13/07 - 11:03 pm
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Using the DOJ Bureau of

Using the DOJ Bureau of Statistics, a U.S. Dept. of Justice study, shows over the past 16 years, sex offenses have declined around 35%. From 1998 to 2001, Georgia saw a 280% increase in its Sex Offender Registry, Alabama a 659% increase, and Washington a 993% increase, because "crimes" like public urination being classified as a sex offense and state and local government receive federal dollars for maintaining registries. DOJ and other studies done since 1994, shows sex offenders commit another crime, of any kind, at a rate of just 13%, while those convicted of property theft reoffend at an average of 75%. People convicted of drunk driving reoffend at a rate of 51%; a convicted murderer will reoffend at a rate of 41%. Ex-convicts with a non-sex offense charge are 87% more likely to commit a sex offense than a sex offender in therapy. The average cost of incarceration is $22,000 per year per inmate, factor in welfare to the offender's family, the cost jumps to $48,000 per offender per year. The cost for treatment and community monitoring is less than $5,000 per year per offender. It is more fiscally responsible to treat low risk offenders different, and it preserves tax revenue.

sassygalady30
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sassygalady30 02/13/07 - 11:13 pm
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why give um a prison of there

why give um a prison of there own???????/they need to be where bubba is so the get whats coming to there sick asses

gadawg6
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gadawg6 02/14/07 - 08:24 am
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i think they should all

i think they should all die!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

so_solutions
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so_solutions 02/14/07 - 10:49 am
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The study by the Alaska

The study by the Alaska Judicial Council of nearly 2,000 Alaska ex-convicts found that 3 percent of sex offenders committed another sex crime within three years of release. The report says sex offenders were arrested again for other crimes - including vehicle theft, drunk driving, drug offenses and other violent crimes - 39 percent of the time, while people convicted of property crimes were most likely to go back to jail for any crime at a rate of 67 percent. I ask all readers to think about this. In his This I Believe commentary, aired in 1951, Edward R. Murrow said; "We hardly need to be reminded that we are living in an age of confusion, a lot of us have traded in our beliefs for bitterness and cynicism or for a heavy package of despair, or even a quivering portion of hysteria... There is a mental fear, which provokes others of us to see the images of witches in a neighbor's yard and stampedes us to burn down their house". Our grandchildren will live in a totalitarian state because freedom cannot survive fear, myths and confusion. Benjamin Franklin said it best, "those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety".

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