During the 9:00 a.m. hour of the July 16 "MSNBC News Live," Richard Pompelio, a lawyer with the New Jersey Crime Victims' Law Center, appeared as a guest for a segment on a New Jersey appellate court’s recent decision that cities cannot implement their own laws regarding child sex offenders. After asking Pompelio to describe Megan’s Law -- which requires law enforcement personnel to provide information about a child sex offender to the community in which the offender lives -- "MSNBC News Live" host Contessa Brewer worried:
The question that always comes up when you have these community hearings where law enforcement gather the neighbors and they say "look, we just wanna let you know that there's a sex offender moving in so that you can keep an eye on your children and stay safe." The neighbors say "why, why is he moving into my neighborhood.?" But they've served their time, they’ve done their, they've done the punishment so don’t they deserve a chance to come out and try to live a good life?
What Brewer must have forgotten is that the inspiration for Megan’s Law was the brutal 1994 rape and murder of seven-year-old Megan Kanka by Jesse Timmendequas, a twice-convicted sex offender who happened to live across the street from Megan.
Pompelio responded to Brewer’s question by noting a difference between serving time and still being sick with an incurable sexual perversion:
The response by the courts, and it’s in this decision, is these tier three most dangerous people are predators. They’re never cured whether they’ve served their time or not. They’re just as dangerous as when they went in. That’s the reality.
A transcript of the segment, which aired at 9:14 a.m. on July 16, follows:
CONTESSA BREWER, host: When sex offenders try to move into neighborhoods families often take action trying to stop them. In New Jersey, some towns have passed ordinances banning sex offenders from living near schools or parks but a state appeals court says towns can’t make up their own rules on where sex offenders can live. Richard Pompelio is a lawyer with the New Jersey Crime Victims’ Law Center. Richard, good to see you today.
RICHARD POMPELIO, New Jersey Crime Victims’ Law Center: Thank you.
BREWER: Okay, so I know that the court said that Megan’s Law, well publicized law in New Jersey, should be what determines how to deal with sexual offenders. What does Megan’s Law say about sex offenders?
POMPELIO: Um, it talks about registration and notification. Megan’s Law offender has to register and certain people within an area where he lives have to be notified. That’s pretty much the extent of what Megan’s Law does. It only regulates, again registration, notification and when the person can get of Megan’s Law. Has really nothing at all to do with where or where they cannot live.
BREWER: Okay but the appellate court said that these local ordinances, these towns that say in our town a sex offender can’t live X number of yards from a school or from a park where children are. The court said that those local laws interfere with and frustrate the purposes and operations of the statewide scheme.
POMPELIO: Yeah, that’s what they said and I think the appellate division did not want fifty some, five hundred some municipalities having separate ordinances. It might be chaos. So they used what I think courts do often and that is saying it’s preempted and that’s what they did here.
BREWER: The question that always comes up when you have these community hearings where law enforcement gather the neighbors and they say “look, we just wanna let you know that there’s a sex offender moving in so that you can keep an eye on your children and stay safe.” The neighbors say “why, why is he moving into my neighborhood.?” But they’ve served their time, they’ve done their, they’ve done the punishment so don’t they deserve a chance to come out and try to live a good life?
POMPELIO: The response by the courts, and it’s in this decision, is these tier three most dangerous people are predators. They’re never cured whether they’ve served their time or not. They’re just as dangerous as when they went in. That’s the reality.
BREWER: Does it leave New Jersey families frustrated then that you could have these sexual offenders, these predators living close to playgrounds?
POMPELIO: Absolutely. I mean I think, I think what the municipalities have done is they’ve reacted to the upset of their local citizens and said “well, this is how we’re gonna protect you.” Whether that’s the best way to do it, I don’t know.
BREWER: Okay, so what’s next? Are you going to see then the New Jersey legislature coming together and saying if not at the town level, then it must be the state level?
POMPELIO: That’s really an interesting question for New Jersey. It’s been done in other states. It’s been done in Illinois, Iowa -- Illinois, Iowa and Georgia. But in New Jersey you have something like eleven hundred and forty seven people per square mile so if you try to legislate on a broad statewide basis, you’re gonna get entire towns in New Jersey where a sex offender can’t live. Okay, if you say a sex offender can’t live within a thousand feet of a school, playground, uh any place where children gather-
POMPELIO: Yeah. It’s gonna -- it’s really not gonna work.
BREWER: Rich, it’s good to see ya. Thank you for coming into the studio.
POMPELIO: Thank you.