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Push to reform military sex offender registration gains bipartisan support

Posted at 5:51 PM, Feb 03, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-04 07:01:24-05

Two influential Republican U.S. Senators have added their names to a growing bipartisan list in Congress pushing the Department of Defense to add military sex offenders to registries while they are still in prison. The Department’s current practice allows convicted sex criminals to “self-register” after they are released, when they become the responsibility of civilian authorities.

“Quite frankly, I find it inexcusable that these loopholes were not identified and fixed a long time ago,” said Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina in a statement. Burr serves as Chairman of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He has pledged to introduce legislation to address the problem.

An investigation by Scripps News reviewed more than 1,300 military convictions for sex offenses and found nearly one in five military offenders were not publicly registered. The report, published in November, examined military sex offenses dating back to 2004 for most service branches. It revealed multiple military sex offenders who failed to register and went on to find new civilian victims.

In a Jan. 29 letter to defense officials, the department’s inspector general reported that 13 percent of military sex offenders remained “non-compliant” during one fiscal quarter of 2013, even when the military properly informed civilian authorities of their pending release.

Sen. Thom Tillis, a Republican from North Carolina who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, says the problem needs to be corrected.  

“The same federal law (The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act) that requires other jurisdictions and agencies to report convicted sex offenders for inclusion on a national list of sex offenders simply does not require the military as an institution to do the same,” his office noted in a statement. It called the loophole “an obvious oversight in the original federal law as it was passed.

Rep. Jackie Speier, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, has said she intends to introduce legislation “in the coming weeks” requiring registration of military sex offenders before they return to civilian life. Rep. Patrick Meehan, a Pennsylvania Republican, will co-sponsor the bill and described it as an important step forward in protecting communities from sex offenders.

“By ensuring the Pentagon makes the information available to civilian law enforcement when a convicted sex offender leaves its prisons, we can better ensure offenders are on the federal registry and do not fall through the cracks,” said Meehan.

Earlier this week, Scripps reported that convicted Army rapist Basil Kingsberry registered as a sex offender in Georgia after living under the radar for nearly ten years. Kingsberry was released from military prison at Fort Leavenworth in 2005 and remained off the sex offender registry until Scripps revealed the problem to law enforcement authorities in three states.

If you have a tip or an update about a military sex offender, email mark.greenblatt@scripps.com. You can also follow updates to this story on Twitter @greenblattmark