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Md. Republicans try to redirect sex-offender debate

The Republican minority in Maryland's House of Delegates stalled a package of bills to tighten sex offender laws Tuesday, saying the toughest measures that Republicans had proposed had been watered down or left out completely from a package negotiated by House Judiciary Chairman Joseph F. Vallario Jr. (D-Prince George's).

Republicans used a procedural move to delay votes on seven sex-offender bills until Wednesday, and said they would introduce amendments then that would attempt to reconstitute a bill sponsored by Republican Dels. Steven R. Schuh (Anne Arundel) and Michael D. Smiegel Sr. (Cecil). That bill would have required mandatory 20-year minimum sentences for sexual assaults on children that do not involve weapons. The bill was not voted on in Vallario's committee. Another Republican amendment would seek to spell out clearly in state codes how many feet convicted sex offenders must remain from schools, parks and day-care centers, said Del. Richard A. Sossi (R-Queen Anne's). One of the bills passed by Judiciary leaves that perimeter up to judges on a case-by-case basis.

photo.jpgTo put an exclamation point on the delay, Republicans appeared outside the State House with Mark Lunsford, father of Jessica Lunsford, the 9-year-old raped and killed by a Florida man in 2005, who sparked the federal Jessica's Law. Lunsford flew to Maryland on Monday to testify Tuesday on behalf of some of the toughest sex-offender laws being considered by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

At the news conference, Lunsford said Maryland's second-degree mandatory minimum of five years in prison is way behind that in Florida, which has mandatory 25-year sentences for many child sex offenses, and in Texas, where repeated sex offenses against children under the age of 12 can make predators eligible for the death penalty.

"The message to sexual predators [in Maryland] is, 'Hey, don't have a weapon, and don't have anybody with you when you do it, and we'll only give you five years.' Are we crazy? Should we be telling them this kind of message? ... How about 25 years to life to start with? Let's start with that. It's time to get strict. Let them challenge the laws that we write. Let us write them as tough as we can, and let them challenge us."

Republicans' reinvigorated focus on lengthier sentences comes at a turning point in the General Assembly's attempts to respond to the Christmastime killing of 11-year-old Sarah Haley Foxwell on the Eastern Shore. The House is likely vote Wednesday and Friday on the package that includes most of the provisions sought by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D).

On Tuesday, the focus was shifting to the Senate, where O'Malley's staff and Democratic leaders in the House said they are hopeful that they can convince Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery), chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, to pass similar legislation before the session concludes April 12.

Since taking office, O'Malley's staff has not always had success in the Senate committee. It did not vote on two previous O'Malley sex offender bills after advocates for the poor and homeless raised concerns about proposed requirements that homeless offenders re-register every time they cross county lines.

Frosh says he expects that his committee will approve harsh new penalties against sex offenders, but said he is again concerned about unanticipated consequences and whether the proposals working their way toward approval in the House would go too far.

Advocates for victims of sexual assault also say the House package fails to require the state's Child Protective Services or other authorities to investigate when social workers believe a parent or caregiver might be allowing a sex offender regular access to a child. Police say Foxwell was killed by her mother's former boyfriend.

By Aaron C. Davis  |  March 16, 2010; 1:58 PM ET
Categories:  Aaron C. Davis  
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Typical Democrats, putting the interests of child molesters and rapists above the best interests of our children. Yet another reason to hate liberals.

Posted by: savethepcbs | March 16, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Of course, Mark Lunsford's OWN SON should be spending 25 years to life for MOLESTING A CHILD HIMSELF.

Joshua Lunsford, Mark's son, was convicted of molesting a 14 year old girl as an adult. However, because of his status as Mark Lunsford's son (and Jessica Lunsford's sister), he did NOT have to register as sex offender. If he would have had to register (like over 99% of those convicted of the same felony), then he would have had to register as a LEVEL 2 SEX OFFENDER.

Go to this site,, then enter "JOSHUA LUSNSFORD" in the search box. You can also see Mark Lunsford's son's FELONY ARREST WARRANT for SEXUAL MOLESTATION here:

This is hypocricy at it's finest. Fully 40% of ALL Maryland sex offenders have committed sex offenses at the same level or LESS than that of Mark Lunsford's son, Joshua, Lunsford, CONVICTED CHILD MOLESTER.

REPORTERS: PLEASE do due diligence when you report such events!!

Posted by: JackMate | March 16, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

So Delegate Michael Smigiel (R) is now so concerned about punishing sex offenders. But as a private lawyer, he has represented such sex offenders. (He is not a public defender who has to take on any indigent client sent his way by the courts.)

I remember when a private attorney who defended sex offenders ran against former Eastern Shore Rep. Wayne Gilchrest and that fact was a major campaign issue. If Delegate Smigiel is running again this year, his hypocrrical actions on this important issue should be brought to the voters' attention.

Posted by: shoreman1 | March 18, 2010 8:25 AM | Report abuse

This should not be made a "Republican versus Democrat" issue. This is a human issue, a people issue that cuts across all ideologies, ethnicities, and age groups. This is about doing what works to protect children from violent sexual predators, and the current system does not work for a myriad of reasons. First and foremost is that, according to the Justice Department, over 90% of sexual offenses against children are committed by friends and family, someone who already has a connection to the child. Mark Lunsford's daughter fits this profile, but he is lobbying for sweeping all-inclusive laws and restrictions that do nothing to protect anyone. The emphasis is put on the registry which, again according to the Justice Department, consists overwhelmingly of non-violent, juvenile, misdemeanor, non-contact, consensual offenders. You can pass every law proposed to keep these people away from everything that moves, and you will not have stopped one child from being sexually assaulted.

Posted by: shelomith_stow | March 18, 2010 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Please read the article in the St. Pete Times that came out about a month ago that was written about the Lunsford Act 5 years later. It tells the story of Mark lunsfords 'magical disappearance of $400,000 in the Jessica L. fund. This man is a crook and a creep, far more dangerous than many who are on the sex offender registration list. Please do not let him influence in the name of his daughter Jessica's unfortunate and horrible death. He is only doing harm and is self serving in every way. Also read up on his son, Joshua's being kept off the offender list by Mark's bully pulpit.

Posted by: care2 | March 19, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

“It's time to get strict. Let them challenge the laws that we write. Let us write them as tough as we can, and let them challenge us."

This quote from Mark Lunsford is typical, a shoot at the hip, fear-mongering solution to the sex offender problem… which is going to cause more problems, be extremely expensive and make it exceptionally difficult for law enforcement officers to do their jobs properly.

Here is a quote from the Justice Policy Institute about the style of Mr. Lunsford approach to decision making…

“There is too much anger, hatred, and fear in our society today. We are socially paralyzed by the “monsters in the dark” we create as a way to hurt and discriminate against other."

"These negative, primal human emotions have caused people to push lawmakers to the brink of extremism in passing laws, especially those relating to “protecting our children,” that make no sense and never allow a person to pay their debt to society and move on to a productive lifestyle."

"Public safety policy is served by rational, reasoned debate—not fanaticism and extremism driven by fear.”


Posted by: Tusau | March 22, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse

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