September 12, 2015

Oliver proposes change to sex offender registry

9-12-15 Missouri:

BLOOMFIELD, MO. -- It was 26 years ago that 11 year-old Jacob Wetterling was abducted. And, although Wetterling's body has never been found, his disappearance led to the establishment of the first federal law regarding registration of sex offenders.

Stoddard County Prosecuting Attorney Russ Oliver said that officials at both the state and county levels do a good job of maintaining the registry; but, he would like to see something added to it.

"I would like for there to be a tier system," Oliver remarked. "Having a tier system in place would help everyone."

Oliver went on to explain his idea as establishing categories for different types of offenders on the registry.

"Basically, what you would have is, say, Tier One would be for the worst kind of sex offenders. They would be the violent, aggressive predators on the registry," Oliver explained. "Tier Two would be less severe cases than Tier One, but would maintain the names of offenders that have preyed on their victims in a less severe way. Tier Three would be for your 'Romeo and Juliet' kind of cases."

Oliver explained "Romeo and Juliet" cases to mean situations where a minor female had a boyfriend that may be 18 or just a few years older, and charges were filed as a result of that age difference.

"There are a lot of stories like that out there," Oliver noted. "And I know there are some people in those kinds of situations that are desperate to get off the registry. There are ways for them to do that, but I'm not for removing an entire section of people from the registry altogether."

Oliver elaborated by saying a tier system would allow for people checking the registry to find out what type of offender someone might be.

"Basically, if you know your neighbor is on the registry, but you don't know what he was convicted of, if you go to the registry and see what tier he belongs to, that will let you know the type of individual you're dealing with," Oliver explained. "So, if your neighbor is a violent offender, you'll know by what tier he's in. If it's one of those 'Romeo and Juliet' cases, you'll know because of what tier he's in."

Oliver said that sex offender cases take top priority in his office.

"I took office on Jan. 1, 2011," Oliver said. "Everything from that point forward is my responsibility."

Oliver agreed that the number of registered offenders in Stoddard County is alarming.

According to an independent website "," Stoddard County has 124 registered sex offenders, and has an average of 41.5 sex offenders per 10,000 residents, compared to the national average of 41.5 per 10,000 residents.

Oliver agreed the number is high, but he doesn't necessarily feel it's an accurate portrayal of the communities in Stoddard County.

"What happens is, when an offender gets released by the Department of Corrections (DOC), they have to get a home-plan approved. Some of the offenders on the registry may have moved here after being released," Oliver explained. "Other offenders may have been able to avoid serving time and got probation in exchange for a plea deal. That's one thing about the registry: We don't have any control over the decisions that get made by the DOC."

Oliver pointed out that since being elected, he has handled 35 sex cases. In 17 of those cases, the defendant was sentenced to prison, 10 of the cases are still pending, and eight of the cases involved young defendants and minor victims, which resulted in probation.

"I take these kind of cases very seriously," Oliver remarked. "From the time an allegation is made, we get on it, investigate it, and pursue it diligently."

Oliver also explained that emerging technologies have, in some cases, made it easier to locate and prosecute sex offenders.

"Because of some of these peer-to-peer networks, like Limewire, or Frostwire, it's easier for law enforcement to locate some of these individuals," Oliver said. "But, in other ways, technology has made it more challenging."

Oliver was quick to acknowledge the abilities of local law enforcement officials -- particularly Dexter Police Detective Lieutenant Trevor Pulley.

"Trevor has a lot of technical knowledge and ability, and he's gotten some very good training," Oliver noted. "We're fortunate to have him here and working with us. He's able to do a lot in these types of cases."

Oliver said what is, perhaps, most difficult in trying such cases, is dealing with the victims.

"Being a father of three children, the biggest challenge for me is seeing the amount of emotional strain these children face in the court process," Oliver explained. "Many of the victims are ashamed, or they are worried about tearing their family apart."

Oliver noted that approximately 60 percent of sex cases involve a family member of the victim.

"When it's a young child, we do a video deposition as opposed to putting them in a full court room," Oliver said. "The idea is that they can feel more comfortable explaining what happened. It costs more time and money to do it that way, but it's worth it so justice can be served."

While Stoddard County may face the same law enforcement challenges as any other area, Oliver noted that sex cases will always be a priority.

"I can say, with 100 percent certainty, if you're an adult molesting a child under the age of 12, you will be going to prison for a very long time," Oliver remarked. "I don't like to bargain in these kinds of cases. I have so much empathy for the victims, and it's such a horrible experience for those children, I won't ease off on any of those cases." ..Source.. by JONATHON DAWE

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