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Victim from Washington County lobbies to close loophole in Md. sex-offender registry

February 20, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS - Worried that a teacher who sexually abused her 25 years ago will escape a sex offender registry, a Washington County woman urged lawmakers to eliminate a legal loophole.

The woman testified Tuesday in the House Judiciary Committee, pushing for passage of a bill for certain sex offenders to register for a database.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, the bill's sponsor, said it only applies to offenders who committed crimes before Oct. 1, 1995, but who were convicted on or after that day.

When the state's sex offender registry was created in 1995, it didn't include prior convictions. The Maryland General Assembly later agreed to retroactive registration, but certain offenders, who weren't incarcerated at the time, were left out, Shank said.

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As a result, Robert Merle Haines Jr., a former Boonsboro Middle School social studies teacher, wouldn't have to register as a sex offender, according to the woman.

Although she testified before the Judiciary Committee, The Herald-Mail agreed not to name her since she was a victim of a sex crime.

The woman said in an interview after the hearing that Haines sexually attacked her during the 1983-84 school year.

She didn't explain full details of the attack until 2005.

At first, the crime was thought to be "indecent exposure and inappropriate touching," The Herald-Mail reported when Haines was charged.

After the woman spoke out in 2005, other former students came forward with their own allegations against Haines.

The woman told the committee Tuesday that she testified not as a woman afraid for herself, but as a mother of two, worried for the safety of children.

She was accompanied by JoAnne Nave, a former Boonsboro High School teacher who is now at Washington County Technical High School.

Nave said she went to the hearing as a friend, not to represent the school district.

She described to the committee what the woman went through as a student 25 years ago.

"When she was a child, she wasn't able to tell her story ...," Nave said. "She found the courage as a mom to come forward."

Haines, 48, of Annapolis, was charged in 2005 with second-degree rape and four counts of third-degree sex offense.

He pleaded guilty in 2006 to one count of sexual child abuse. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with 5 1/2 years suspended.

Nave said Haines is scheduled to be released in December.

The woman said Haines' sentence was supposed to include registering as a sex offender, until someone realized the law didn't force him to because of the loophole.

To read the bill:

Go to http://mlis.state.md.us/2008rs/billfile/hb0761.htm

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