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Senator explains proposals to deal with child sex offenders

March 08, 2001

Senator explains proposals to deal with child sex offenders



By LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS - For the second time this week, a Maryland General Assembly committee Thursday listened to the story of the brutal rape and murder of 9-year-old Christopher Ausherman.

None of the Frederick, Md., boy's family members testified as was the case two days earlier.

There wasn't a throng of television cameras, as there had been when Del. Sue Hecht asked lawmakers to send pedophiles into treatment when their sentences are over.

But Sen. Timothy Ferguson, who explained his five proposals to deal with the problem of child sexual offenders, said he has something more important than media attention.

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He believes he has votes.

Ferguson, R-Frederick/Carroll, wants to keep pedophiles behind bars longer and he thinks that other members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee will agree with him, which would go a long way toward getting the legislation passed this session.

Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington, supports both ways of attacking the problem that led to Ausherman's Nov. 19 death.

A homeless man with a history of sex crimes was charged with Ausherman's rape and murder less than a week after being released from prison.

Ferguson's five bills would:

- Eliminate parole or good behavior credits for convicted child molesters.

- Allow prosecutors to seek sentences of life in prison without parole for repeat child molesters.

- Require the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to post sex offenders' names on the Internet. Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, filed a similar bill.

- Limit the revision of sentences for people convicted of violent or sexual crimes.

- Prevent prosecutors from plea bargaining violent sex offenses down to nonsexual crimes.

Douglas P. Stiegler, executive director of the Family Protection Lobby, testified that the state needs to help stop child sexual abuse by eliminating parole.

"The child gets no parole from the activity perpetrated against them," he said.

Prince George's County public defender Joe Niland testified against the bills on the grounds that he opposes mandatory sentences. Courts need to have flexibility because every case is different.

Ferguson said his bills don't require mandates.

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