Thursday, February 18, 2010

Law Aims to Close Sex Offender Loophole

By Conor Greene

In light of a news report that a registered sex offender is running a karate school in Glendale, a state Senator has introduced legislation that would prohibit convicted sexual abusers from working with children in any capacity.

This week, Fox 5 New York broadcasted an undercover investigation into Edwin Rodriguez, owner of Gem Shotokan Karate on Myrtle Avenue. The outlet reported that, nine years ago, Rodriguez served six months in jail after being found guilty of sexually abusing an 11-year-old girl. He was also sentenced to five years probation, which ended more than three years ago, and must register his home address with authorities.

However, while current state law prohibits Rodriguez from holding certain jobs such as teaching or even selling ice-cream, there is nothing that legally prevents him from running the karate school. When approached by Fox 5, Rodriguez claimed he only helps his wife out with the school and only teaches children while supervised.

“I don’t know what to tell you… you know it was just circumstances that happened you know I made a mistake in the past and I’m definitely not a child molester, I’m definitely not a pedophile,” Rodriguez told the station. “You know I can see why everyone would be concerned about this… I can assure you… as I stand right here in front of God that it’s nothing really to be concerned about in terms of what transpired before and what’s going on now.”

In response, state Senator Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) this week introduced legislation to prevent sex offenders from working or volunteering with children. The senator notes that prospective teachers and school bus drivers must undergo background checks, and being on the sex offender registry disqualifies them from those jobs. However, most other jobs that require substantial contact with children do not carry these protections.

“It’s outrageous that a man who committed such a horrendous assault on a young girl could have daily and close contact with other children,” said Padavan. “We cannot wait until this predator strikes again. New York State needs to close this loophole immediately to keep sex offenders away from children.”

According to Parents for Megan’s Law, the typical pedophile commits an average of 280sexual crimes during their lifetime. Rapists repeat their offenses at rates up to 35percent, while offenders who molest young boys repeat their crimes up to 40 percent of the time.

Similar legislation that would ban sex offenders from working with children was introduced in the state Senate twice in recent years, but has not made it to the Senate floor for a vote since Democrats gained the majority in Albany, according to Padavan. The state Assembly has never acted on the legislation, he added.

Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan’s Law, told Fox 5 that it is especially disturbing that Rodriguez put himself in a position where he is around children, instead of avoiding any controversy all together. “We are deeply concerned because this is a guy who targeted a minor and he’s put himself in a position in the community where everybody thinks he’s the pied piper… which makes him really dangerous,” she said.

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