Sex offender legislation moving through Albany

Original Article 03/17/2011 By Michael Cusenza Two bills – both addressing the employment of sex offenders – are moving through the state Legislature this month as lawmakers ramp up protection efforts after recent borough cases revealed holes in the system. Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) last week introduced legislation that will make it easier for organizations that work with children to do more complete background checks on employees and volunteers to eliminate potential sex offenders. Megan's Law enables some background checks, but is limited to Level 2 and 3 sex offenses committed after Jan. 26, 1996. "This bill is going to close a critical gap in state laws," Hevesi told the Chronicle. The law would allow youth service organizations to obtain sex offender background checks that include Level 1 offenses and convictions that occurred prior to 1996, free of charge from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services. Hevesi said the case of [name withheld], a Little League coach from Springfield Gardens who was charged in February with first- and second-degree criminal sexual acts, including the use of a child in a sexual performance, highlighted the gap. It was later learned that [name withheld] was charged in 1989 with promoting sexual performance by a child under the age of 16. The laws on the books failed the state's kids twice, Hevesi asserted, because not only were the prior crimes unknown to little league organizers, but [name withheld] was allowed to plead to a far lesser charge 20 years ago. Hevesi said he hopes to have the bill passed in the next two months, and plans on "introducing legislation in the coming weeks to make certain child sex offenders cannot plea their way out of accountability." Additionally this month, state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) announced that the Senate passed the Sex Offender Registry Act, which would amend the Labor Law to prevent registered sex offenders from working with children ages 16 and under, directly and unsupervised. The bill is now in the Assembly, where Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) is a sponsor. Earlier this year, a convicted sex offender was dismissed from volunteering at St. Mel's School in Flushing after parents discovered he was a Level 1 offender who served six months in prison for sexually abusing a boy. [name withheld]'s past came to light after he allegedly tried to contact a student through Facebook.

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