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7 years after reprimand, Wisconsin man charged with sex assault

One of the most controversial aspects of sex offenses is the concern that a convicted sex offender released after completing a sentence may reoffend, which is the reason we have sex offender registries. The problem is that no one can predict whether a sex offender will commit another crime, and to assume so is unfair to the convict, who has already served a sentence for his offense.

But some sex offenders do reoffend, and when this happens, the community usually looks for someone to blame for allowing the new crime to happen. A Manitowoc, Wisconsin, bankruptcy lawyer who was disciplined seven years ago for an Internet crime involving a child is facing new charges of sexual assault. The new charges have led some to question whether the 2004 reprimand was enough punishment.

The man faces three felony counts of sexual assault of an underage girl and one felony count of using a computer to facilitate sex with her. Other charges include child enticement and failing to provide up-to-date information to the sex offender registry on where he's living.

Although he's listed on the State Bar of Wisconsin's website as an attorney in good standing, the crime he's accused of committing is very similar to the one for which he was reprimanded seven years ago. Back then, he used a computer in his Milwaukee law office to arrange a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl. The girl was actually an undercover sheriff's deputy. After pleading guilty he was sentenced to four years of probation and reprimanded by the state Supreme Court, but was allowed to keep his law license.

The director of the Supreme Court's Office of Lawyer Regulation maintains that the reprimand in the first case was sufficient. He says the recent allegations would likely have come up even if the lawyer had been disbarred. Because unlike the 2004 case, the current case doesn't accuse the lawyer of using his law license to commit a crime.

The bottom line is that sentencing and disciplinary measures should not be doled out to sex offenders in a cookie-cutter fashion, because every defendant -- and for that matter, every case -- is different.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Seven years after discipline in similar case, lawyer accused of sexually assaulting girl," Cary Spivak, March 26, 2012

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