The Journal News

Prosecutors want sex offenders kept in custody

(Original publication: February 8, 2005)

Last week a Westchester County grand jury indicted Eddie Cordero Sr. in the abduction and rape of a 12-year-old Yonkers girl.

Before his latest arrest, Cordero already had served three years in prison and been released for the sexual abuse of a 10-year-old girl from Peekskill.

Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro cited this attack yesterday at the Capitol when she joined Assembly Republicans in urging that convicted sex offenders continue to be confined even after their prison terms have been served.

"Pedophiles are repeat offenders, and they will commit their crime again," Pirro said. "I would ask anybody in the Assembly who is not in support of this to speak to the 12-year-old girl my office is currently dealing with."

Assembly Republicans joined with Pirro, a potential candidate for attorney general next year, in urging the passage of legislation that would keep "dangerous sex offenders" such as Cordero locked up indefinitely if they posed a threat to society, instead of letting the predators free after they served their prison terms.

Under the proposed legislation, offenders with a history of sexual attacks on children would face a panel of prosecutors and undergo a mental-health evaluation. If found to be a threat, they either would be confined in a separate secure mental-health facility, or a facility within a prison designated for the offenders while receiving treatment.

In 2003, the Senate passed legislation, 59 to 2, that would legalize civil confinement. And Gov. George Pataki has said he would sign the legislation if it reached him. But the bill has never passed the Democrat-controlled Assembly.

Assembly Democrats want stronger punishment for first-time offenders, said Cisa Moyo, a spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan.

"We are willing to look at the legislation, but we believe these type of crimes deserve harsher sentences," she said. "We want tougher penalties up front."

The measure has been opposed in the past by the state Civil Liberties Union, which had concerns about giving the government too much power to restrain people.

"Our legal system recognizes individual freedom as a founding principle and places significant and essential restraints upon the government's power to detail and imprison people," the NYCLU said in a memo opposing the bill. "This principle cannot be compromised, as proposed by this bill, without doing grave harm to the principle of individual liberty."

Assembly Minority Leader Charles Nesbitt, R-Orleans County, said New York has made great strides in cracking down on sex offenders over the past 10 years. In 1996, the Legislature mandated that the state set up a list of sex offenders released from prison that includes their current addresses that the public can view. In 1998, lawmakers eliminated parole for those convicted of violent sex crimes.