Sex offender management scrutinized; Man’s release despite warnings underscores state panel’s task

This story was published on Oct. 28, 2003 on Page A1 in all editions of the Bangor Daily News

AUGUSTA – Before 23-year-old Darrell McCauley Jr. of Augusta was released from jail, a medical director for the Department of Behavioral and Developmental Services noted in two different memos that McCauley would reoffend and that his behavior “more than likely” would result in “grievous bodily injury or death.”

Despite this warning, McCauley moved into an apartment in a residential neighborhood in Augusta where he slipped away and assaulted a 7-year-old girl last month.

The memo had been received by officials from the DBDS, his probation officer and the associate commissioner of corrections.

McCauley was released in July to Employment Specialists of Maine, an agency that contracts with the state to oversee released prisoners. He moved into an apartment in a home supervised by that organization in a residential neighborhood at the corner of Cedar and Stone streets in Augusta, where he assaulted the girl.

The McCauley case alone highlights the issues facing the members of the legislative Commission to Improve Community Safety and Sex Offender Accountability.

With a mandate to present recommendations to improve the way the state deals with sex offenders by early next month, the commission may have a long road ahead of it.

Members currently are examining whether judges are handing down tough enough sentences for sex offenders and what can be done with offenders who have served their sentence and are set to be released, despite concerns of the threats they still pose to the state’s children.

Where does the money come from to supervise released sex offenders, and why are some offenders subject to the state’s neighborhood notification law while others are not?

McCauley’s convictions include an assault against his sister, a sexual assault against another woman, inappropriately touching and talking to an 11-year-old girl, sexual assault of a female client at the Augusta Mental Health Institute and physical assault of other corrections workers.

McCauley’s neighbors, however, were not notified under the sex offender law of McCauley’s residence because he did not qualify under Maine law as a sex offender. Officials say he wasn’t on the list of offenders because his original offense was against an adult woman and was a misdemeanor, and subsequent acts were treated as probation violations rather than separate sexual offenses.

On Sept. 29, police say, McCauley slipped away from the home, walked into the back yard, which abuts several family homes, and jumped onto a 7-year-old girl who was playing in her back yard. According to Rep. Julie O’Brien, R-Augusta, McCauley kissed and groped the girl before ESM staff pulled him off.

In a memo dated Oct. 4, 2002, Dr. James Fine, a medical director for the DBDS, predicted to regional director Holly Stover, team leader Bob Kennelly, regional supervisor Sandy Dutton, probation officer Roy Gutfinski and Associate Commissioner of Corrections Denise Lord that McCauley would reoffend.

“This man – who has committed multiple assaults, sexual and otherwise – is to be released from jail in a few days and the conditions of probation include that he will reside where ‘placed by the Department of Behavior and Developmental Services and Department of Corrections.’ Based on all available predictive data, this man will re-offend regardless of mental health interventions. It is more than likely that his behavior will result in grievous bodily injury or death.

“This man has demonstrated repeatedly that if he is not confined, that he will perpetrate sexual and violent attacks on others,” Fine wrote.

Just last week, during a public forum in Augusta to address concerns about McCauley’s presence in the residential neighborhood, O’Brien was slipped Fine’s memo.

“I felt sick when I read it,” the lawmaker said Monday. “I mean, at first I didn’t know what to think. I was astounded. I was stunned.”

And on Monday it was a pivotal and powerful part of her address at a public hearing in front of the Commission to Improve Community Safety and Sex Offender Accountability.

The commission has met twice and has about three more meetings scheduled before it likely will set forth a series of recommendations on how the state can better deal with the problem of safely integrating sex offenders in society while at the same time protecting residents.

It is a mission that has called forth small armies of those who feel that the state’s sex offender notification law wrongly labels offenders for life, as well as those who feel that the state continues to fail to protect its most innocent residents.

It’s a massive undertaking, but co-chair Sean Faircloth, D-Bangor, says legislators cannot be intimidated by the size of the task.

“I really think we can make positive changes,” he said. “Just because a problem is big does not mean you shouldn’t tackle it.”

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