A LOOPHOLE IN LAW SHIELDED SEX OFFENDER
Marc F. Gunning, 38, who was indicted on 28 counts of sex crimes, including 21 counts of sodomy, committed suicide in the Riverhead jail in May 2000. Gunning has easily gained the trust and adoration of his neighbors in Coram soon after he rented a room from a family in February 1999. He was trusted to babysit children and served as a big brother to local youths. None of their parents know that, in 1995, he was convicted of third degree sexual abuse or that he would strike again. He allegedly traumatized at least six boys, ages 8 to 14 years old, until he was arrested again in December 1999. Gunning moved into the home and brought boys to his room under the guise of teaching them martial arts, telling the boys he needed to balance their chi, or energy, and molesting them, describing his act as love. He only served 15 days in jail and year of probation for his 1995 conviction. Before the suicide, according to the mother of one of his alleged victims he wrote her a letter admitting and apologizing for the 1999 crimes. The mother now blames state legislators for allowing Gunning to attack again through a loophole in state law that shielded him from being registered as a sex offender. People convicted of third degree sexual abuse or sexual misconduct need not register as sex offenders, showing that New York's Megan's Law, which governs the sex offender registry, does not conform to guidelines. She called Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan's Law in Stony Brook, who clamored for changes. Two bills are pending in the Senate and Assembly to register people convicted of the exempt crimes.
(Coram, New York)