June 20, 2015

State Rep. Batinick makes emotional pitch for “Stephanie’s Law”

6-20-15 Illinois:

PRINGFIELD, IL - State Rep. Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield) has teamed up with State Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood) to expand the state’s Sex Offender Registry. Batinick has introduced House Bill 2548, known as “Stephanie’s Law,” which would give judges the discretionary authority to require that individuals convicted of battery register as sex offenders if it is determined that the individual's intent was sexual.

“As a father, I feel it’s imperative that we do everything we can to protect all citizens from sexual predators. Stephanie’s Law would close a loophole in the current statute and give our judges additional discretion in placing those who commit sexually motivated batteries on the Sex Offender Registry,” said Batinick.

Stephanie’s Law would amend the Sex Offender Registry Statute allowing a judge to order a criminal defendant to register as a sex offender for a 10-year period if the offender’s intent was to commit the crime for purposes of sexual gratification. Prosecutors would be required to offer proof of this motivation at trial. In the event that a conviction is found, the judge would have the full discretion to add the convicted criminal to the registry.

Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow said: “This amendment will give prosecutors and judges an additional tool to keep people safe. Kendall County State’s Attorney Eric Weis commented: "Requiring offenders to register is just one more safeguard to prevent others from becoming future victims." DuPage State’s Attorney Robert Berlin responded: "This new legislation will provide us with yet another tool in our chest to hold those found guilty of sexually motivated crimes accountable for their actions." ..Source..

Suburban woman pushes for change to sex offender law

A Plainfield woman has been pushing for a change to Illinois' sex offender law after a man accused of inappropriately touching a teen girl was convicted of battery and did not have to register.

But legal experts say the attempt could be an overreach.

"How can there not be a law for this?" said Plainfield resident Tina Estopare, who is leading the charge to change the law. "How can you charge someone with battery for touching a child and not have to register as a sex offender?"

State Rep. Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield), introduced legislation that would give judges the option of requiring those convicted of battery to be placed on the sex offender registry, if the judge decides the misdemeanor was sexually motivated.

Estopare took up the issue after Clinton J. Kuchta, formerly of Plainfield, was convicted of battery in 2013 but was not placed on the registry because that is not required for that offense. Prosecutors did not pursue other charges because they did not believe they could secure a conviction, law enforcement officials said.

Kuchta was sentenced to 364 days in Will County jail, and received a conditional discharge after serving 120 days, according to Will County court records. Kuchta declined comment.

After his release, Estopare said Kuchta moved back in next to the victim, which exacerbated the trauma.

The bill, which has 22 sponsors, was never called this session. The legislation stalled this year but could be considered in 2016, Batinick said.

The victim has since filed a lawsuit against Kuchta in connection to the incident. Attorney Richard Ryan, who represents Kuchta in that lawsuit, questioned the merits of such a law change.

Having a judge decide to put someone on the registry who has not been convicted of a sex crime "goes a little bit too far," Ryan said.

While empathizing with the victim's situation, sex offender registry critics said Batinick's bill would have been overreach, and that a bevy of sex crime charges already exist to punish such offenders.

This so stupid. But consider the source... a crazy lady with an agenda to push because the victim was a family member. Karma will bite that family some day when one if its members gets charged with a simple crime & they get tossed on the registry if she's successful at getting this piece...

The issue lies not with the facts of the Kuchta case, but with how judges might use this discretionary authority in the future, according to Catherine Carpenter, a professor at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles who has written about registries and their issues.

"The problem is, when you put this law into effect, the reach is beyond this one actor," Carpenter said.

Crimes requiring sex offender registration have ballooned since such laws first went on the books in the 1990s, according to Carpenter.

Things such as streaking and public urination now require sex offender registration in some states, a scarlet letter that can ruin lives and does little to protect the public from the monstrous child predators for which the original laws were designed, she said.

Julie Biehl, a Northwestern University law professor and director of the school's Children and Family Justice Center, called the legislation an overreach.

"Putting someone on the sex offender registry for a battery is not proportional to the charge," she said.

Biehl questioned why Kuchta was not charged with a sex crime that would have required registration, such as criminal sex abuse, another misdemeanor.

During the 2013 sentencing, Will County Judge Bennett Braun called Kuchta fortunate, according to court transcripts. At the bench trial's conclusion, Braun said the evidence appeared to support a felony aggravated criminal sexual abuse charge.

"Mr. Kuchta, in a sad way you are the luckiest man sitting in this courthouse today," Braun said in court transcripts that were entered in the victim's lawsuit against Kuchta.

Will County State's Attorney's Office spokesman Charles Pelkie said prosecutors opted to charge Kuchta with misdemeanor battery because they didn't feel the case was strong enough to go forward with felony charges.

"There was some serious concern that, at the felony level…the defendant would've walked away without any conviction," Pelkie said.

Batinick said he hopes to learn more about the issue over the summer by meeting with victims and prosecutors.

"I'd rather get this right than get it checked off a list," he said. "It's a tough situation."

Kuchta's victim, now an adult who just finished her first year of college, said she underwent years of therapy after the incident.

"After two years, I started getting back on my feet," said the woman, who is not being identified because she is a sex crime victim. "But as of today, I just feel like I'm more cautious. I definitely look at men a lot differently."

Estopare, who started the law change campaign because the victim is a relative, hopes the bill can be tweaked and gain some traction in January.

She said she is frustrated that Kuchta's record only indicates a battery conviction.

"No one knows what he did," she said. ..Source.. by Geoff Ziezulewicz

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