Sex offender oversight caught early locally

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ Staff Writer

Only one local case was affected by a statewide oversight that led to approximately 100 convicted sex offenders receiving parole periods shorter than they should have.

The state Corrections Department has identified more than 100 cases in which sex offenders weren’t given the proper amount of probation or parole time after their prison sentences.

The department found cases across the state in which offenders — all apparently still in custody — were sentenced to less than the five to 20 years of probation or parole time the law requires.

Personnel at the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s office reviewed 150 cases after learning of the issue at a meeting of the New Mexico District Attorneys Association on Wednesday, 9th Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler said.

The review unearthed one case from May 2004 in which a plea agreement was reached and the offender was sentenced to two years of parole upon completion of his prison sentence, well under the five-year minimum, according to Chandler.

The case will have to be reopened for a judge to review, but there shouldn’t be any negative effect, Chandler said.

“We were fortunate to only have one case, considering many districts had dozens,” Chandler said.

The law, enacted during a special session in February 2004, slipped under the radar of many in the judicial system who were unaware it had been enacted, Chandler said.

Staff in the 9th Judicial District have been observing the statute in sentencing sex offenders since late 2004, Chandler said.

He believes there weren’t more problems locally because he was made aware of the statute when he took office, and as a result none of the subsequent cases were sentenced incorrectly.

Statewide, the matter was caught soon enough to prevent problems, Chandler said.

“Not one single sex offender has been released early because the mistakes were caught so quickly,” he said, explaining judicial staff throughout the state came together to correct the problem quickly.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report