October 21, 2011

Prosecutor wants to make sure names stay on registry

10-21-2011 Kansas:

When Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd considers the case of Kelvin K. Suter, he shakes his head.

In 1982, a Clay County jury found Suter guilty of first-degree sexual abuse. He was later placed on Missouri’s sex offender registry.

But his name, and those of thousands of other offenders, were removed from the registry in 2006. The Missouri Supreme Court said then that the state constitution did not allow for laws to be enforced retroactively, so only sex offenders convicted after the state’s Megan’s Law took effect in January 1995 had to register.

After a subsequent high court ruling three years later, Suter should have registered again. He did not.

But he did commit another offense.

A Platte County judge last month sentenced Suter, 47, to 30 years in prison after he confessed to sexually assaulting an 8-year-old girl and to possessing child pornography. He videotaped the attack. He also was convicted of failing to register.

Zahnd said the state constitution needs to be changed.

“I clearly think had he (Suter) not been dropped off the list, there is a much greater chance that he would have been registered as a sex offender,” he said. “Who knows? Had he been properly registered, that at least would have given the parents of this victim a chance to know that a sex offender was living in their midst.”

Zahnd said he wants to make sure that no changes in laws or legal interpretations ever again cause offenders’ names to fall off the list. He’s calling on state lawmakers to place a constitutional amendment before voters to prevent the removal of sex offenders’ names.

If his idea goes that far, it surely will reignite the simmering debate over sex offenders’ rights.

Gary Brunk, with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri, said people can be on the sex offender registry for acts that range from the unpardonable (raping a child, for example) to objectionable (public urination).

Amending the state constitution just to keep some offenders on the registry is “a particularly bad idea,” Brunk said.

“Applying the same broad brush to everyone on the registry is a mentally lazy shortcut and lacks judicial balance,” he said.

Suter is one of two offenders in Platte County convicted this year of committing a sex crime after their names were removed from the registry.

In May, William Chris O’Tool was sentenced to life in prison for sodomizing a 5-year-old girl. He had been convicted in Iowa for a crime similar to forcible rape. ..Source.. by GLENN E. RICE PUBLIC SAFETY

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