CITY HALL -- Minors will no longer be able to live under the same roof as sex offenders who have committed violent sexual crimes thanks to a bill from Island Assemblyman Charles Fall (D-North Shore) that made it out of the State Legislature before the 2019 legislative session ended Friday.
Previously, no local law existed restricting where sex offenders could live once they were off supervision, which meant they could technically live with minors once their supervision ended.
“It’s all about protecting our kids making sure they’re safe and the way the law was written was, it almost gave people that were sex offenders and had family members who were children access to the kids,” Fall said. “Under this law, those sex offenders will not have unsupervised visits with kids even if its family members, and I think that was a major loophole that we saw and now its closed.”
ADVANCE STORY REVEALED LOOPHOLE
Fall’s legislation, which was co-sponsored by fellow borough Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D-Mid-Island) and more than two dozen other state lawmakers, follows a story by the Advance which detailed how, amid a custody battle, an Island minor was able to live with a sex offender who was the child’s grandfather.
The grandfather had previously molested a 12-year-old girl he knew on numerous occasions in 2005 and served in state prison from 2009 until he was granted parole in 2011 and later went on the New York State Sex Offender Registry as a level 1 offender.
When the grandfather went on the sex offender registry in 2011, he initially was not supposed to have any contact with children under 18 years old unless under the supervision of another adult. But once his supervision ended in 2013, those stipulations went away.
Amid a custody battle, Staten Island’s Family Court allowed his grandchild to live with him.
After several months of living together, he showed a picture of his genitals to his grandchild and was arrested and charged with acting in a manner injurious to a child younger than 17, a misdemeanor offense.
Because the grandfather was off supervision, he was technically able to live wherever he pleased because once a sex offender, of any level, is no longer under any form of supervision, parole or probation, the Sex Offender Registry Act (SORA) does not say where they can or cannot live.
Currently, courts decide on what is in the best interest of a child which is the standard when it comes to most judgments involving children.
Fall’s legislation will amend the domestic relations law and Family Court Act to ensure minors are not placed in the custody of sex offenders who have committed rape in the first or second degree, sexual conduct against a child in the first degree, or predatory sexual assault against a child.
It would also prevent sex offenders from having unsupervised visits with a person who has been convicted of a felony sex offense in New York or another jurisdiction.
Fall said prior to the state legislature’s passage of his bill, 13 states had similar restrictions on where sex offenders could live.
“I think the biggest point here is that loophole ... was open for so long,” he said. “Think about how many kids were at risk as a result of this.”
Fall applauded State Sen. Diane Savino (D-North Shore) for helping get the legislation out of the Senate and other Island Republican lawmakers like Assembly members Nicole Malliotakis (R-East Shore/South Brooklyn) and Michael Reilly (R-South Shore) for voting in favor of the bill.
The North Shore assemblyman said Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign the bill into law.
The legislation also details when a child should be considered at “significant risk” as a way to prevent repeat offenses, allowing courts to place more discretion and take into consideration what the child wants if the child is of a sufficient “age and capacity to reason.”
The bill would also force courts, law enforcement, child protective services, medical facilities and the sex offender registry staff to work together to prevent sex offenders off supervision from going on to commit additional acts against their victims.