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Bill to close sex offender registry loophole expected to die in Illinois House committee

Illinois Watchdog.Org

Thursday, April 12, 2018  |  Article  |  By Greg Bishop

Legal System (27) , Sexual assault, Sex Crime (96) Madigan, Michael--State House, 22 , Turner, Arthur--State House, 9 , Wojcicki Jimenez, Sara -- State House, 99
Friday is the deadline for bills to move out of Illinois statehouse committees, or the bills will die this session. One measure has overwhelming support, but isn't moving.

House Bill 816 gives a judge discretion to require someone convicted of battery to register as a sex offender, if the crime was sexually motivated.

The measure has 87 House sponsors from both parties, including House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago. It also has backing from police and prosecutors.

“We think that if a person commits an offense that was all but a sexual offense, and it was battery and not a sexual offense, then sure let’s put that person on the registry,” Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police Executive Director Ed Wojcicki said.

Other groups supporting the measure include the Illinois State’s Attorneys Association, the Illinois Probation and Court Services Association, Mothers On a Mission to Stop Violence, Illinois Campus Law Enforcement Administration's Association and police departments from around the state.

Despite that support, the bill was not brought up for consideration in a committee this week and isn’t expected to move.

The bill has attracted some opposition. Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault is against it.

“A conviction for battery is not a conviction for a sex offense,” ICASA Executive Director Polly Poskin said in an email.

House Bill 816 is also known as Stephanie's Law, named for Tina Estopare's daughter, who was assaulted by a neighbor several years ago. The neighbor pleaded down to battery and didn’t have to register as a sex offender.

“[Stephanie’s Law] is important because there’s a glitch in the sex offender registry,” Wojcicki said.

Estopare, who’s been working on the bill for more than four years, said the fact her bill has so many sponsors should be enough to get the measure out of committee.

“Eighty-seven co-sponsors, and one person can just say ‘nope, done,' unfair,” Estopare said. “Totally unfair.”

The chairman of the House Judiciary Criminal Committee that controls the bill, state Rep. Arthur Turner, D-Chicago, declined to comment on why the measure has stalled.

The chief sponsor, state Rep. Natalie Manley, said she’ll file an extension in hopes of getting to the floor for a full vote.

Estopare said that's not good enough.

“Illinois is hiding the crime, they’re hiding the perpetrator,” Estopare said. “These predators have a society that enables them to get away with their abuse.”

She said neighbors deserve to know there’s a predator in their neighborhood and schools should know if someone applying to be a chaperone for school kids has such a conviction.

Wojcicki said law enforcement officials work hard to get such criminals off the streets.

“The chiefs are out trying to get these guys all the time,” Wojcicki said. “We don’t understand why [the bill is] not being called and we want it to be called.”

If the bill does die this session as is expected, Manley said she’ll push for it next year.

“Should my constituents elect me in 2019, I fully intend to move forward and file it every year that I’m here until perhaps we get some consideration on the bill itself,” said Manley, D-Joliet.

Dozens of other bills stuck in House and Senate committees that aren’t moved by this Friday, or are not granted a deadline extension, won’t be considered by the full General Assembly.