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Bill would erase parole for some sex offenders

March 14, 2007|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS - Anguished stories of abuse and death were aired Tuesday at a state bill hearing on eliminating parole for certain sex offenders.

The bill would force people at least 18 years old whose sex-crime victims were younger than 13 to serve all of their mandatory minimum sentences.

Maryland hasn't been immune from the "worst of the worst" sex-abuse cases, Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, testified, recalling the 2000 sexual assault and death of 9-year-old Christopher Ausherman in Frederick, Md.

Shank is sponsoring the House version of the bill, which is titled "Jessica's Law" after a 9-year-old Florida girl raped and killed in 2005. Sen. Nancy Jacobs, R-Cecil/Harford, has introduced the same bill in the state Senate.

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During a special legislative session last year, Maryland lawmakers tightened sex-offense penalties, but only after the bill was weakened, critics said Tuesday. The new law imposed a 25-year sentence for the first-degree rape of a child, but it allowed the possibility of parole, Shank said.

Among those testifying at Tuesday's hearing before the House Judiciary Committee was Marc Klaas, whose 12-year-old daughter, Polly, was kidnapped and murdered in California in 1993.

The man convicted of killing her had repeatedly been convicted of other crimes, but was regularly "regurgitated" back into society, Marc Klaas said.

Several women testified about debilitating trauma they went through as sexual abuse victims. One woman wept as she recalled being raped as a teenager and her friend being raped and murdered.

About two dozen witnesses pleaded for stronger penalties for sex offenders.

Washington County Assistant State's Attorney John Dunlap said prosecutors can "fight the good fight" on robbery and theft cases, "but when it comes to (crimes against) children, we ask for your help."

The only person to testify against Shank's bill was Brian Denton, the district public defender in Prince George's County, Md., who said sex offenders already receive lengthy sentences.

He said parole can be an incentive to keep inmates from attacking correctional officers - a twist on an argument Shank has used to defend the death penalty.

Shank asked Denton if he had data showing that sex offenders attack correctional officers. Denton replied that people with no hope of getting out of prison, regardless of their crimes, attack officers.

On the Web at http://mlis.state.md.us/2007rs/billfile/hb0930.htm

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