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Former teacher won't be removed from sex offender list

Judge denies request by Robert Merle Haines to have his name removed from registry

July 28, 2010|By DON AINES

A former Boonsboro Middle School teacher whose 2006 child sex abuse case resulted in a change in the Maryland Sex Offender Registration Act tried unsuccessfully last week in Washington County Circuit Court to have his name removed from the state's list of sexual offenders.

Robert Merle Haines Jr., 51, had requested the court issue a declaratory judgment to remove his name from the registry. Circuit Judge John H. McDowell denied the motion Friday, a few hours after the hearing.

An Anne Arundel County Circuit Court ruling had given Haines permission last year to proceed in his motion as John Doe. In it, he named the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services as the defendant, according to McDowell's opinion. The venue for the case was moved to Washington County in December 2009, the judge wrote.

Deputy State's Attorney Joseph Michael confirmed that John Doe was, in fact, Haines, who had entered a guilty plea to custodial child abuse on June 19, 2006. McDowell sentenced Haines to 10 years in prison, suspending 5 1/2 years, court records show.

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Haines was paroled Dec. 31, 2008, court records show.

Though the charges against Haines were filed in 2005, the case involved the molestation of a middle school student during the 1983-84 school year, Assistant State's Attorney Gina Cirincion said.

Maryland State Police began investigating Haines after the victim contacted them in 2005, Cirincion said at the time of the plea agreement.

When originally sentenced, Haines was ordered to register as a sex offender, court records said. That later was changed because the registration law did not cover offenses committed before 1995, the year it was enacted, McDowell wrote.

However, in 2008, the victim testified before the Maryland House Judiciary Committee to have the registration law made retroactive for crimes committed before 1995, an amendment that was passed by the General Assembly, according to published reports. Haines was told by his probation officer in October 2009 that he was required to register as a sex offender, McDowell wrote.

Haines' motion argued that the old custodial child abuse statute was not covered by the registration law, that the order modifying his sentence barred him from being registered as a sex offender, and that registration as a sex offender is a consequence of a guilty plea and he should have been informed of that in order for the plea to have been "voluntary, intelligent, and knowingly made."

McDowell wrote in his opinion that the custodial child abuse statute did exist at the time Haines committed the offense in the 1980s. The statue was later renumbered, and then repealed and replaced with another, and that "the texts of the statutes are nearly identical," the judge wrote.

When the law was amended in 2009 to apply to qualifying offenses committed prior to 1995, "The amended language ... states unequivocally that the requirement shall be applied retroactively and without regard to any other provision of law," McDowell wrote. "Accordingly, the Court finds that its November 1, 2006, order cannot bar the legislative mandate requiring Doe to register under the current version of the Maryland Sex Offender Registration Act," he wrote.

Haines' guilty plea remains valid because the requirement to register is a "collateral consequence" of his conviction and "does not in itself mandate that the plea be declared invalid," according to McDowell's opinion. The judge added that the courts were not required until 2008 to inform defendants pleading guilty to a sex offense that registration was mandatory.

The registration requirement "is not punitive, but merely a remedial measure intended to protect the public," McDowell wrote.

After an investigation by the school and the Board of Education in the 1980s, Haines was allowed to resign, Cirincion said.

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