Idaho publisher harassed after newspaper prints sex offenders' names.
October 25, 2000
TWIN FALLS, Idaho (AP) _ Three weeks ago, someone slipped into
the home of Times-News publisher Stephen Hartgen with a gun and an
unspoken warning about the newspaper's decision to print the names
of sex offenders.
Hartgen wasn't home, but his wife saw the gunman and fled with
the couple's daughter to a neighbor's home to call police.
Left behind was an envelope containing a clipping from The
Times-News listing registered sex offenders living in the
newspaper's eight-county circulation area. Also inside was a copy
of a 1998 editorial explaining the paper's decision to become the
first in Idaho to publish offenders' names, addresses and
Investigators are trying to track down the intruder.
Hartgen has refused to discuss the incident, and the staff of
the 23,000-circulation paper has been told not to speak to
reporters about it.
The list of sex offenders, with photos and addresses, remains
on the newspaper's Web site, magicvalley.com.
The federal version of Megan's Law, signed by President Clinton
in 1996, requires states to notify communities about convicted sex
offenders living in the area. It leaves the details to local
authorities; at least 23 states post registries on the Internet.
Complaints and threats when the registries are published appear
to be rare. The editor of the Calaveras Ledger-Dispatch in Angels
Camp, Calif., received a threat in 1998 after the paper printed the
Information on Idaho's sex offenders is available from the
State Police to anyone who asks.
The Times-News has printed a list three times since 1998 on its
own initiative, acknowledging in editorials that sex offenders
might be harassed, that vigilantes might force them out of their
neighborhoods or worse. It said that "publishing this information
can have unintended consequences."
Copyright © 2000 AP.