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Tim Zerillo Quoted in Article on Changes to Sex Offender Registry in the Kennebec Journal

Tim Zerillo of Zerillo Law, LLC was quoted in today's Kennebec Journal in an article by Betty Adams on recent legislative changes to Maine's Sex Offender Registry.


Changes to offender registry not seen as enough
Some defense attorneys sought more
By Betty Adams badams@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA -- The latest legislative session brought more changes to the state's Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act -- but not enough, some defense attorneys say.

Public Law Chapter 570 says registered sex offenders convicted between 1982 and 1999 will be allowed to verify their registration information more often by mail instead of in person, and more of them will be eligible to apply to be relieved of registration requirements.

The law went into effect March 30.

The changes were aimed at bringing provisions into line with a recent Maine Supreme Court decision regarding Eric Letalien, convicted in 1996 of gross sexual assault against a 13-year-old girl.

At that time, Letalien was classified as a 15-year sex offender registrant and permitted to apply for a waiver of registration after being on it for five years.

The supreme court ruled that Letalien could not be retroactively forced to become a lifetime registrant -- something that required him to reregister in person every 90 days for the rest of his life. The court ruling said he also could not be blocked from an option to apply for a registration waiver.

Walter McKee, past president of the Maine Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and chairman of its Legislative Committee, said the most recent law changes could have gone further.

"As much as it would have been preferable to just delete the retroactivity outright, in a small way, this makes the system a little more fair and makes registration a little less onerous," McKee said.

Timothy Zerillo, a Portland lawyer and president of the association, concurred.

"It's a good half-measure in the sense that it gets rid of some of the retroactivity, but it's only a half measure," Zerillo said.

Another lawyer, Jim Mitchell, who represents a number of clients who challenged the constitutionality of the state's sex offender registration law, said the changes will have little effect on those cases.

"It looks as though it leaves us where we were under the old law in terms of our clients," Mitchell said. "It appears to me that (legislators) made the minimum required changes to try to conform to the law court's decision in Letalien."

Fourteen of those plaintiffs, all known as John Doe, were removed from the registry under the law change last September.

"It doesn't appear that the new law is going to help the ones who couldn't get off the registry to begin with," Mitchell said.

The provisions of Public Law 570 are complicated, and Laura Yustak Smith, an assistant attorney general, said the department is preparing letters to current registrants listing their obligations under the law.

She said the new law changes the verification procedure "to bring it into line with what we believe is constitutional. It tracks the Alaska law, which was found to be constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court."

Smith distinguishes between registration and Web publication of information.

"Registration is filling out the paperwork, verifying your address, notifying of changes in school and place of work," Smith said. "The Web site maintained by the State Bureau of Identification is the legislatively mandated means of publicizing certain information maintained by the registry. That Internet site is just one piece and is a means of communicating certain information to the public."

Maine currently has two tiers of sex offender registrants. Matt Ruel, director of the State Bureau of Identification, which maintains the sex offender registry, said Friday there are 3,070 people on the registry -- 80 percent of them lifetime registrants.

Since a law change in September 2009 allowed certain individuals to apply for a waiver, 371 people have been removed from the registry, Ruel said. Under the new law, people convicted between 1982 and 1999 who meet certain criteria can seek a waiver. He said the bureau so far has received several requests for applications for removal under the new law.

Text of the law is available on the Web at http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/display_ps.asp?paper=HP1305&PID=undefined&snum=124

Betty Adams -- 621-5631

badams@centralmaine.com

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