Judges would have the ability to sentence someone convicted of statutory rape to the sex offender registry under a new bill that passed the Tennessee House of Representatives today.
The bill comes as a result of a Channel 4 I-Team investigation that exposed people convicted of sex crimes able to avoid the sex offender registry.
We also found case after case of older men and women, having sex with young teenagers and even children, not on the registry.
It stems from a provision in the statutory rape law to protect people who fall under what's often called the "Romeo and Juliet" clause.
It refers to an older teenager who has sex with his younger, teenage girlfriend.
The Channel 4 I-Team found men, in their 40s, having sex with young teenagers, and in one case a 9-year-old, who were initially charged with rape and aggravated statutory rape - crimes that certainly would have gotten them on the registry.
But these men pleaded down to statutory rape, which meant they avoided the registry.
Offenders are only required to register if they have been convicted of statutory rape more than once.
But men like Mario Barahona, initially charged with raping a 13-year-old, pleaded down to statutory rape, are not on the registry.
Neither is Lamont Hurt, who was initially charged with the rape of a 9-year-old girl and even admitted to sexual relations with her. He pleaded down to statutory rape, and is not on the registry.
Rep. Debra Maggart, R-Hendersonville, introduced a bill that would give judges the discretion to review the details of a person's case if they plead to statutory rape, and still require that person to register for the sex offender registry if they feel the person is a threat to children.
"It can now give judges the ability to take that information that they have - and still be able to let the public know about the danger a defendant may have to the public," Maggart said.
The bill passed the House unanimously.
Copyright 2012 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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