Convicted Sex Offender Tells His Story as the Governor Tries to Get New Laws Passed - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Convicted Sex Offender Tells His Story as the Governor Tries to Get New Laws Passed

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Governor Jindal calls them "monsters." Now, he's sponsoring a package of bills that would punish convicted sex offenders for the rest of their lives, and that includes some who have already paid their debt to society. We talked with one man who says he has a different side of the story to tell.

Governor Jindal says cracking down on sexual predators is one of his top priorities. One man we spoke with says not all sex offenders are a constant threat to society and not all of them deserve the same punishment. "I know some folks think it's great. You can go online today and see where these monsters live block-by-block, but I look forward to the day when you can go online and see that they all live in one place, in Angola, far away from our kids," the governor says.

We found a man who is considered a sex offender by law. He asked to have his identity protected, so we'll call him "Sam." Sam says he is not a monster and should not be behind bars. "When I was 18, I did not research the law to find out if it was okay if I slept with a 14-year-old. I did not know that. That's why at the time, I made a stupid decision," he says. Sam says he was in love with his 14-year-old girlfriend. He met her at church. They dated. Then, he says his feelings for her got out of hand. "Before I know it, I got arrested and everything and then I caught the charge. Immature. I take full responsibility and I should have known better, but sometimes you put yourself in a situation and it's hard to go back sometimes."

Sam served five years probation, with counseling and psychological evaluations. Eventually, a local judge determined Sam was not a threat to society and waived his charges. That was about 12 years ago. "Then, all of a sudden, they came with a letter saying I have to register as a sex offender." The state Legislature passed new laws in 2004 to disregard court-appointed waivers and force people like Sam to re-visit their past. "When does my life move on? When do I escape the shadow of my mistakes?" he asks.

This session, Governor Jindal is backing bills to double the distance a sex offender can live from schools and churches, to make all offenders register for life, even if they've been pardoned for their crime, and to increase minimum sentences by five times. "They're painting everyone in the system with a wide brush and pretty much trying to cover everybody, instead of dealing with people on an individual basis," Sam says. Sam is in his last year of bible college and wants to one day lead a church. He is happily married and wants to move past his teenage mistake. "How can that one thing determine the rest of my life?"

A state Senate committee voted on Jindal's sex offender bills last week and unanimously passed them on to the Senate floor, without much debate. The full Senate will vote on the bills sometime Tuesday afternoon.

Reporter:  Caroline Moses, WAFB 9NEWS

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