Stricter sex offender laws remain a challenge
December 28, 2009 - 5:14pm
Kate Ryan, wtop.com
DOVER, Del. - Thomas Leggs Jr., the 30-year-old man charged with kidnapping a Maryland girl whose body was found on Christmas Day, is a registered sex offender in two states: Maryland and Delaware.
His record as a sex offender dates back to 1998 and includes the rape of a minor in Delaware in 2001. He is currently being held without bond for the kidnapping of 11-year-old Sarah Haley Foxwell of Wicomico County. Her body was found near the Delaware line.
There are plenty of questions, including why laws against child sex offenders aren’t tougher.
Md. State Sen. Nancy Jacobs, a Republican from Carroll County, says despite a 25-year mandatory minimum for people who commit first degree sex offenses involving children, there’s a loophole.
“The loophole is they get ‘dimunition credits,’ which are considered good-time credits for good behavior in jail. So, truth in sentencing? Twenty five years is not 25 five years for these guys – it’s 17 years.”
Jacobs says that has been a source of frustration. She worked to get that mandatory minimum under “Jessica’s Law” in place in the state. And she’s been pushing hard to get those “diminution credits” removed, so that “25 years means 25 years.”
But Jacobs says that remains a problem.
“Because judges don’t like to give mandatory minimum sentences – they want discretion.”
She also wants to toughen the laws against sex offenders in the case of a third-degree sex offense. Right now, a five-year mandatory minimum can be reduced to around three years with ‘good time’ credit.
"And a good part of the problem, as I see it, are the judges. They’re not giving these child rapists enough time in jail. It’s criminal as far as I’m concerned. These guys should be put away and locked up forever.
“They should not be seeing the light of day.”
Jacobs says another barrier is the state’s $2 billion budget shortfall.
“Right now? They’d rather build roads than prisons.”
Still, she sees the Foxwell case as underscoring the need to toughen laws related to sex offenders. The Maryland General Assembly session gets underway next month.
(Copyright 2009 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)