Wednesday, 08 February 2023

Former county resident triggers effort to strengthen federal sex offender law

LAKE COUNTY – An effort is under way to strengthen a national sex offender registration law after a federal judge dismissed a case against a former Lake County resident based on a technicality.


Late last month Rep. Dennis Moore (D-Kansas) introduced HR 5475 to close a loophole in the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, also known as the Adam Walsh Act, which became law in 2006.


The act, named for the Florida child kidnapped and murdered in 1981, creates felony violations for federal sex law offenders who fail to register and for state sex law offenders who travel between states without registering.


Moore's new bill is in response to U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs' January decision to dismiss charges of violating the Walsh Act against Terry Lee Rich, 59, of Kansas City, Mo., formerly of Clearlake, where he was convicted of sex offenses in 1996.


Rich was indicted on federal charges last summer after he failed to register after moving to Missouri.


The dismissal of Rich's case, Sachs wrote in his decision, was based on the use of present verb tense in the statute, which says an offender who “travels”rather than “traveled” across state lines without notifying authorities is guilty of breaking the law.


Sachs said the wording led him to believe it was necessary to determine if Rich had traveled across state lines after the law was enacted in July 2006. Based on that criteria, Sachs ruled he could not find Rich had, in fact, made interstate trips, and therefore he had not violated the act.


Following his release from jail, Rich promptly disappeared, once again failing to register with law enforcement, according to a report from the Kansas City Star.


Rich has a string of convictions for sex crimes spanning nearly three decades, according to court records obtained by Lake County News.


In Oregon, he was convicted of child sexual abuse, attempted kidnapping and two counts of public indecency in 1971, 1978 and 1985, respectively, court documents relate.


Later, he moved to California, coming to Lake County. In 1996, he was convicted in Clearlake for two counts of annoying or molesting children who were 7 and 8 years old, according to court records.


Two years later, he was convicted in Santa Rosa of felony sexual battery on a child said to be 7 or 8 years old at the time of the offense.


Rich left California for Iowa in 2002, where court records indicate he was arrested that November for failing to register as a sex offender. He was arrested the following year for the same offense, and sentenced to five years in prison.


He didn't serve the full term, and was released from prison in February 2006, according to court records.


Moore's bill will make technical corrections to the bill, including adding retroactive language that will hold offenders responsible for registering with the proper authorities irrespective of the date of interstate travel.


“It’s unfortunate that this technical deficiency exists,” Moore said in a written statement. “Congress never intended to exclude any sex offenders from the registration requirements. I am confident that Congress will make the necessary change to ensure that all sex offenders comply with the law.”


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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