STOP SEX OFFENDERS | IL: Londrigan says sex offenders who fail to register not vigorously prosecuted.
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Londrigan says sex offenders who fail to register not vigorously prosecuted.

October 20, 2000

Convicted sex offenders who fail to register as required by law are not vigorously prosecuted in Sangamon County, Democrat state's attorney candidate Tom Londrigan Jr. said Thursday.

State's Attorney John Schmidt, a Republican, maintained that violations of the sex offender registration law are aggressively prosecuted.

Speaking at a forum on children's issues at St. John's Hospital, Londrigan said sex offenders are not vigorously prosecuted for failing to report address changes as required. Violating the law can result in a sentence of up to three years in prison.

"I think the policy of the state's attorney has been to recommend probation when (offenders) don't report an address change," Londrigan said. "When you punish with probation, you take the teeth out of the legislation."

Since 1998 - Schmidt took over the office in June 1999, when Patrick Kelley resigned to become a circuit judge - there have been 48 cases involving violations of the sex offender registration law, Londrigan said. Of those, 46 received probation and two were sentenced to state prison.

"The large majority are not sentenced to the Department of Corrections," Londrigan said. "I don't think sentencing to probation qualifies as vigorous prosecution."

"We prosecute them aggressively," Schmidt countered. "Some go to (county) jail. Some go to prison. The legislature provides that probation is an option."

Prosecuting such cases presents a number of problems, Schmidt said, including having to prove where often-transient people are living.

"Every case stands and falls on its own merits," Schmidt said.

Although he says there needs to be more aggressive prosecution, Londrigan wouldn't guarantee that if elected, he would push for prison terms for anyone who violates the sex offender registration law.

"You look at them on a case-by-case basis, of course," Londrigan said. "But you're also charged with enforcing the law as it is written. For some reason, the state's attorney has decided that this is not an offense (for which) they think there should be prison time. I disagree."

Schmidt said his office has good record enforcing sex offense laws. Of the sexually dangerous persons incarcerated at the Big Muddy facility in southern Illinois, 25 percent are from Sangamon County, he noted.

He said the office also has run a sting operation to snare sex offenders who use the Internet to find potential victims.

Copyright 2000 State Journal-Register, by Doug Finke.