President Obama has signed a bill into law to close a legal loophole that enabled military sex offenders to evade registering with civilian law enforcement.
The measure requires the Department of Defense to register offenders directly with an FBI database available to civilian law enforcement agencies and the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website prior to an offender’s release from a military prison.
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., cited findings from a Scripps News investigation when he urged his colleagues to adopt the provision as an amendment to the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act.
The nine-month Scripps News investigation Burr referred to found hundreds of convicted military sex offenders who did not appear on registries created to alert the public and prevent repeat crimes. Of 1,312 cases, at least 242 were not on any public U.S. sex offender registry.
“Differences in state laws and military reporting procedures enable some criminals to totally evade reporting and detection,” Burr said on the Senate floor in April, shortly before a vote. “A recent Scripps News report revealed grim examples of the consequences of these cracks in the system.”
Burr cited the case of Matt Carr, a former member of the U.S. Air Force who spent seven years in a military prison following a court martial conviction for the indecent assault of seven women. Carr posed as a gynecologist to gain access to his victims. Scripps News discovered he got out of military prison, never registered, and found a new civilian victim in Wisconsin.
Burr also told fellow senators about former Marine Derrick Coston. On separate occasions while serving as a chief warrant officer, he engaged in bizarre activity with three 12-year-old babysitters. He instructed them to wear his wife’s shoes and walk on his nude or partially nude body, then he rubbed their feet against his genitals.
Coston was sentenced to five years in military prison following a conviction for conduct unbecoming an officer -- an offense that doesn’t easily translate to civilian crimes or require registration in most states, including Arizona, where Scripps found Coston.
"I am proud that this incredibly important piece of legislation has now been signed into law,” said Senator Burr. “This simple fix helps prevent sex offenders from eluding law enforcement and targeting further victims. I thank my colleagues for their swiftness in action.”