Tuesday, January 16, 2001

Sexual predator label disputed

Courts may force new evaluations

The Associated Press

        CLEVELAND — An Ohio appeals court decision, which likely will end up before the Ohio Supreme Court, could force courts to evaluate sexual offenders before the inmate can be labeled a sexual predator at parole.

        After 16 years in prison and several counseling programs, Gerald W. Krueger insists he is not a threat, despite a judge's 1999 decision that he is a sexual predator.

        Under a 1997 Ohio law, people convicted of certain sex crimes are automatically classified as sexual predators, habitual sex offenders or sexually oriented offenders. Upon release from prison, they must register with law enforcement, who may alert neighbors.

        Cuyahoga County Prosecutor William Mason wants to make sure that if Mr. Krueger is released, he is labeled a sexual predator. But the Dec. 19 ruling of the 8th Ohio District Court of Appeals could allow Mr. Krueger, 56, to avoid the sexual predator label, affecting how convicted sexual offenders are classified in Ohio.

        Mr. Mason said he will appeal Mr. Krueger's case to the Ohio Supreme Court. “I'd rather take the conservative route, have someone labeled a sexual predator and err on the side of public safety rather than have that person out there with the public not knowing,” Mr. Mason said.

        Ohio's sexual-predator law was modeled after New Jersey's Megan's Law, which was enacted after 7-year-old Megan Kanka was raped and murdered by a convicted sex offender living across the street.

        People convicted or sentenced before the Ohio law took effect must be given a hearing before being labeled. Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Kathleen A. Sutula classified Mr. Krueger as a sexual predator in May 1999, and the county public defender's office appealed.

        In a 2-1 decision, Appellate Judges Anne L. Kilbane and Diane J. Karpinski found insufficient evidence to prove Mr. Krueger is a risk to the community, and they vacated Judge Sutula's ruling. The appeals court found that Judge Sutula relied on a 16-year-old psychiatric report diagnosing Mr. Krueger as a pedophile. The opinion suggested that Judge Sutula should have had Mr. Krueger reassessed by a psychiatrist to determine whether he is likely to commit another sex offense.

        In a dissent, Appellate Judge Michael J. Corrigan wrote that state law doesn't require that defendants be reassessed.

        In 1984, Mr. Krueger was living with his then-girlfriend and her two daughters, ages 6 and 12. He confessed to having sexual contact with the 12-year-old and to having the 6-year-old touch him inappropriately. He pleaded guilty to rape in October 1984 and was sentenced to life in prison. He completed sexual-offender programs in prison and is eligible to apply for parole in November.


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- Sexual predator label disputed