Upon release, LaFond said, offenders should be granted some freedom, but their activities should be closely monitored by case workers with expertise in sexual assaults. These workers would have a light case load and would monitor the offender to make sure he is abiding by restrictions. The restrictions placed on the offender would gradually lighten — or tighten — depending on how well he progresses and abides by the rules. However, the offender would always be closely monitored.
"It's a common-sense, middle-of-the road approach," LaFond said. "It's just a matter of figuring out how to best use your resources."
Crane’s Legal Luck
It's debatable whether LaFond's approach would have prevented Michael Crane's alleged attack on a Kansas City woman. His recent arrest frustrated Kansas law enforcement officials and victims' rights advocates who tried to prevent his release through "Stephanie's Law."
The law is named for Stephanie Schmidt, 19, who was raped and killed in 1993. Her attacker, Don Gideon, offered her a ride home from the restaurant where they both worked. Authorities had not notified Gideon's employer about his criminal record, and Stephanie did not know he had served time for rape.
Gideon is now serving a life sentence for Stephanie's murder.
After Stephanie was killed, her parents, Gene and Peggy Schmidt, helped get sex offender registry laws passed in Kansas and lobbied for the passage of Kansas' violent sex predator law. "Stephanie's Law" was designed to enable law enforcement officials to keep sex offenders in custody indefinitely, even after they served their sentences, to receive treatment.
Crane had served his time for a 1994 sex attack when prosecutors tried to have him confined indefinitely. They wanted him to receive treatment in a sex predator program until doctors determined he was no longer a threat. In 1998, a jury ruled that he was a violent sex offender and should be confined.
An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court followed, and the high court both upheld and struck down Kansas' sex predator law. In January 2002, the Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement officials can hold sex offenders after they have completed their sentences — but only if they can prove that the prisoners cannot control themselves.
In Crane's case, the prosecution's own experts had determined he was no longer a threat to others. Crane was released shortly afterward.
A decade after his daughter's slaying, Gene Schmidt says the original intent of the sex predator law was to make sure that Crane and other sex offenders like him would always be closely monitored. But, he said, that didn't happen in Crane's case.
"We had originally done research on 'one strike, you're out' legislation," Schmidt said. "I suppose it could do some good … I tell you, though, the guy who killed Stephanie — he never should have been let out [in the first place]."
Crane now faces kidnapping, rape, misdemeanor assault and multiple sodomy charges in the Kansas City, Mo., case. If he is convicted, prosecutors say they will seek multiple life sentences.