SEX OFFENDER HEARINGS TO BEGIN (Court restrictions that barred officials from posting information about some offenders are to be lifted as risk-assessments are made)

As many as 7,200 sex offenders in New York, for years, have eluded the scrutiny of Megan's Law, the measure that makes the whereabouts of sex offenders public.  They have lived in relative anonymity because a court order prevented law enforcement from releasing information about them.  The injunction also barred officials from posting information about the offenders on the state Internet-based Sex Offender Registry which is designed to help the public take steps for their own safety.  But in the coming months that court restriction will be lifted as offenders undergo risk-assessment hearings to determine the category in which they will be listed.  Level 3 are the most likely to reoffend, Level 2 are those moderately likely to reoffend and Level 1 are those least likely to reoffend.  The hearing were put on a fast track after the murder of Faye Cohn, a 29 year old mother of seven from Schenectady, who tried to use the law to decide whether she should date James Ross.  Ross is a convicted rapist and former Central Islip resident who police said killed Cohn in February, stabbing her in a jealous rage.  Cohn had searched the registry for Ross' name in the beginning of the relationship, but it wasn't listed.  Cohn's family, along with Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan's Law in Stony Brook, met in May with state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and in April with state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and called for a bipartisan probe of the death.  A news conference was also held where they pushed for the hearing for offenders be conducted so tragedies such a Cohn's murder are less likely to happen again.  Here we are many years later, and it took the brutal stabbing murder of Faye Cohn to get the state to do what they were supposed to do in the first place, Ahearn said.  Letters notifying offenders they have an opportunity to appear in court to challenge the risk levels assigned to them went out last week from state officials.

According to Ahearn, there are about 18,000 sex offenders registered in New York, including about 1,000 on Long Island.

(New York)