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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 photographs.

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,

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 names.

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.