- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 13, 2006

RICHMOND — Sex offenders would have to obtain a judge’s permission to enter school or day care center property if the General Assembly passes legislation endorsed yesterday by the Virginia State Crime Commission.

Delegate Rob B. Bell III, Albemarle Republican, originally proposed prohibiting sex offenders from working or volunteering at schools and day care facilities.

The House of Delegates passed that bill unanimously, but the Senate referred it to the commission.

The commission revised the measure to ban sex offenders from setting foot on campus for any reason, except to vote, unless they obtain permission from a circuit court judge.

Sen. Thomas K. Norment Jr., James City County Republican, suggested that the measure went too far.

“We want to be as hard and onerous on these perverts as we can, but at some point practicality butts up against this,” Mr. Norment said. “At some point we’ve got to say uncle.”

Under Mr. Bell’s proposal, a parent convicted of a sex offense would have to obtain court approval to drop off his child at school or attend a parent-teacher conference. Students convicted of sex offenses would be exempt from the requirement.

Steven Benjamin, counsel to the commission, said that requiring a parent to petition the court is unrealistic because people typically are averse to going to court. He also said the measure could hurt children by discouraging parental involvement.

Delegate Kenneth R. Melvin, Portsmouth Democrat, questioned whether sex offenders — parents included — should be allowed on school property for any reason.

“They see other children running around,” Mr. Melvin said. “Aren’t we trying to separate these people from children?”

The commission also wrestled with the issue of sex offenders in nursing homes and assisted-living centers.

The panel recommended that facilities be required to sign up for notification from state police when sex offenders move into the area, and that they check incoming residents’ names against the state’s sex-offender registry.

Two other proposals were postponed. One would toughen punishment for sex offenders who lie about their records to get jobs in nursing homes or assisted-living facilities.

The other would require managers of such facilities to inform new residents about the sex-offender registry.

G. Stewart Petoe, director of legal affairs for the commission, said federal and state studies show seven registered sex offenders living in Virginia nursing homes and 16 in assisted-living facilities.

Mary Lynne Bailey, vice president of the Virginia Healthcare Association, said many of those offenders may be harmless because of their medical conditions, but federal privacy laws would prohibit disclosure of that information to other nursing-home or assisted-living residents.

“Unnecessarily scaring people is not an answer to the problem,” she said.

On another matter, the commission endorsed legislation modifying the capital murder statute’s “triggerman rule,” which limits the death penalty to the person who carries out the killing.

The bill, sponsored by Delegate C. Todd Gilbert, Shenandoah County Republican, would expand the capital murder law to include accomplices who share the triggerman’s intent to kill.

That could include anyone who orders a killing or helps plan one.

Mike McGinty, president of the Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys, told of a case in which a teenage robber handed a gun to his little brother and told him, “You aren’t my brother unless you shoot” a convenience store clerk. Because of the triggerman rule, only the little brother was eligible for the death penalty.

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