Sue Hecht (D., 3rd) has introduced legislation, referred
to as "Christopher Laws." These laws are designed to protect
Maryland's children from sexual predators.
They were written in response to the death of Christopher
Ausherman a 9-year-old Frederick boy who was killed by Elmer
Spencer, Jr. after an extremely flawed system allowed him
(Spencer) out on the streets. The flaws, unfortunately,
were not exposed until after the death of the boy.
While Ms. Hecht introduced legislation last year to correct
these flaws, the proposals were sent to a state task force
charged with reviewing the matter and making recommendations
that are at the core of Ms. Hecht's legislation.
State Senator Tim Ferguson has introduced his own set of
bills he has dubbed "Christopher's Laws" as well. His focal
point is somewhat different than Ms. Hecht's, focusing more
on the sentencing end of the matter, instead of reviewing
the process as a whole as do Ms. Hecht's.
Hopefully, the end result will be a set of bills that accomplishes
the most to protect our children from the likes of Elmer
Ms. Hecht's bills, which are the most well-rounded of those
introduced, address numerous issues.
HB 876 will identify child sexual abuse as a crime of violence.
As a result, offenders of this felony would be given half
of the "good conduct" credits they currently receive. Currently,
child sexual abusers receive "good conduct" credits to the
rate of 10 per month, beginning at the start of incarceration.
This will cut that to 5.
Further, this bill requires that child sexual abusers serve
at least half of their sentence before becoming eligible
for parole. Also they cannot receive "street credit" from
The Maryland Parole Commission if they violate parole and
are sent back to jail.
HB 1147 applies to offenders who meet the definition of
a sexually violent predator. This new law will allow the
court to impose a sentence of life without parole, even
if the convicted predator isn't a repeat offender.
HB 854 will strip repeat violent offenders of the ability
to earn special project and work task credits once they
are re-incarcerated for violating mandatory sentencing.
HB 1284 will force an offender who is released from prison
and who must register as a sex offender, to undergo a psychological
evaluation. The evaluation will become a condition of probation
along with the condition that they undergo any necessary
treatment. Failure to comply will result in re-incarceration.
This bill also reduces from 7 days to 48 hours the length
of time a sex offender has to register in their community.
If these had been in place, Spencer just might have been
tracked and been able to be stopped before he killed the
Ausherman boy. Actually, he should never have been released
to begin with. Thankfully, Ms. Hecht's legislation will
close the loopholes that allowed this tragedy to occur by
preventing repeat violent offenders from being able to easily
leave the criminal justice system, as happened in Spencer's
We have 74 registered sexual predators registered in Frederick
County at this time. Obtaining the list of these offenders
isn't as easy as one might think as one can contact several
offices before finding out that one must contact the Sheriff's
Office and request a copy be sent. In an ideal world, once
a predator has moved into you neighborhood, you will be
Eventually, Maryland will institute a uniform web site which
one can access to find out if a sexual offender has moved
into your neighborhood. Frederick County is saving money
by not creating it's own site, choosing to wait until the
state's is up and running.
One thing should be that no matter what, citizens should
be able to find out easily and without impediment who (and
for what kind of crime they were convicted) lives near them
if it puts their safety in potential jeopardy.
Four years ago, Alex Mooney and Joe Bartlett ran on what
was dubiously called a "pro-family," "pro-life" type platform.
That same year, they were instrumental in organizing a now
infamous "Hecht No!" rally to bash Delegate Hecht for being
out of step with their philosophy.
In turn, they imply Ms. Hecht is somehow "anti-family" and
"anti-life". One can only say the "Christopher Law" bills
Ms. Hecht introduced are extremely pro-family and pro-life
as they are geared to protecting people from violence.
Will the Frederick frat boys be able to overcome their petty
partisan politics to support this important legislation
or will the lives of children be reduced to a cry of "Hecht
No!" on the floor of our State House chambers?
One can only look at the type of legislation these two introduce
to grasp how out of their league the frat boys are.
What's more important? Protecting our children as Ms. Hecht
wants to do? Or, are deer whistles more important? After
all Mr. Bartlett championed that cause.
Maybe protecting the individual rights of those who break
the law is most important. At last report the police still
consider running a red light a crime. So do the countless
people who are injured or killed by the people who run red
Maybe next session the frat boys can introduce legislation
requiring light runners to put some kind of whistle on their
car to warn safe drivers they are coming.
Do we really want them to have a next session? Shudder the