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Man ruled a 'sexually violent predator'

May 08, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A Franklin County man has been designated a sexually violent predator, which will trigger community notification procedures required under Pennsylvania's version of Megan's Law.

Shawn Paul Lesher, 22, no fixed address, will be subject to registration with the Pennsylvania State Police, community notification and sex offender counseling for life, according to state law. Common Pleas Court Judge Carol Van Horn issued the ruling Friday.

Franklin County District Attorney John F. Nelson said three or four people have received the sexually violent predator designation in the county, but none had yet fallen under the Megan's Law community notification provision because they are still in prison.

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"It's not until they get paroled that state police would get them in their system," Nelson said. He said all the designations have come in the past year or so, although the current state Megan's Law is about three years old.

Nelson said his office previously was unsuccessful in getting judges to make the designation.

Cpl. John Rosenberger of the Pennsylvania State Police station in Chambersburg said the county once had two men listed as sexually violent predators, but both successfully challenged the designations in court. Each had been convicted of offenses in other states that qualified them for community notification when they moved to Pennsylvania, he said.

Community notification requires police to inform neighbors, schools, day-care services, colleges and certain other institutions and county agencies when a sexually violent predator moves into an area, according to Rosenberger.

It also requires them to check in with state police every 90 days and to notify authorities whenever they move, he said.

The first Megan's Law in Pennsylvania was ruled unconstitutional, according to Nelson. The current law only applies to those convicted of eligible offenses after July 8, 2000.

Lesher pleaded guilty on April 1, 2002, to aggravated indecent assault in a 2001 case involving a 15-year-old girl, according to court records. Chambersburg police charged him with that second-degree felony, as well as sexual assault and attempted sexual assault, charges that were dropped as part of the plea agreement.

The aggravated indecent assault conviction resulted in his being ordered to undergo an assessment by the Pennsylvania Sexual Offenders Assessment Board.

At a May 20, 2002, hearing before Van Horn, Dr. Stephen Overcash, a member of the assessment board, testified that Lesher met the criteria of a sexually violent predator. Lesher's attorney requested an assessment by another expert, psychologist Dr. Lawrence Donner, and the hearing was reconvened on April 7 of this year.

Overcash concluded Lesher's behavioral traits were "consistent with an antisocial personality disorder ... that correlate positively to a risk for predatory behavior," according to Van Horn's ruling.

Donner also concluded that Lesher had a personality disorder, but said sexual offender treatment while in prison and on parole "would certainly lower the likelihood of his reoffending."

Van Horn in her ruling, however, noted that Lesher was found delinquent as a juvenile of indecent assault against a 5-year-old boy. She wrote that both doctors agreed he had not "significantly benefited" from treatment during his incarceration for that offense.

Van Horn ordered the district attorney's office to schedule Lesher for sentencing in the near future. The maximum sentence for aggravated indecent assault is 10 years.

In another case, a Megan's Law hearing scheduled for Monday was continued to June 4 for Luke J. Feitner, 29, of 5842 Tick Ridge Road, Waynesboro.

Feitner pleaded no contest Jan. 8 to aggravated indecent assault involving a 6-year-old girl, according to court records. He will not be scheduled for sentencing until the hearing is held.

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