Friday, February 26, 2016

Matt Maciarello Statement In Changes To Sex Offender Laws

In addition to the cases that we prosecute, prosecutors from our office regularly testify on bills in Annapolis that we believe will enhance public safety and benefit the justice system.  This month Sgt. Dave Owens from the Wicomico Bureau of Investigation (W.B.I.) and I testified before both the House of Delegates and the Senate on HB 218 and SB 235. These bills would allow the court to admit evidence that a defendant committed prior child sex offenses or other sexual assaults under certain, limited, circumstances.
Federal Prosecutors have been allowed to introduce such evidence since Congress passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.  Representative Susan Molinari testified during the hearings that led to the passage of that act that the sex offender’s “history of similar acts tends to be exceptionally probative because it shows an unusual disposition of the defendant” and that “knowledge that the defendant committed rapes on other occasions would be critical in assessing the relative plausibility of [a victim’s claims] and [would help] decide cases that would otherwise become unresolvable swearing matches.”  The Maryland proposal--while similar to the Federal Rule--does afford the accused protections that the Federal rule does not, such as a 30 day notice provision and a mandatory hearing (outside of the jury’s presence) that determines that the prior sex act occurred (by clear and convincing evidence) and that the probative value is not substantially outweighed by the prejudicial effect.  

Thomas Leggs was convicted of a 3rd Degree Sex Offense in 1998.  He was again convicted of Child Rape in 2001.  In 2004, he was again charged with a 3rd Degree Sex Offense against a minor.  The attorneys for Leggs filed a motion in the 2004 case that prevented the jury from hearing of his prior sex offenses. (Under the Federal Rules, the fact that Leggs committed two prior sex offenses against children may have been admitted into evidence).  Leggs was acquitted of 3rd Degree Sex Offense against a minor in the 2004 case.  In 2009, as most are aware, he committed crimes for which he was convicted of 1st Degree Murder, 1st Degree Sex Offense and Kidnapping.  Leggs is an example of the type of sex offender that has a peculiar disposition to commit such crimes again, and again, and again.   11 other states, including Florida, Colorado and California have rules like the one now proposed in the Maryland General Assembly. 

It is my hope that Annapolis will see that this bill levels a playing field that is now tilted too far in favor of repeat sex offenders.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This bill designed to protect children and people will get watered down just like all the public safety bills do and become basically worthless. That's just the way the democrats roll. This democrat controlled state sees itself as protecting special interest first so they get re elected and the law biding citizens come in second.