Schumer-backed bills based on Blainey case pass Senate Judiciary Committee
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer has announced that the Senate Judiciary has passed two Schumer-backed bills that will make it easier for U.S. Marshals to aid in the hunt for dangerous parolees that go missing.
The legislation would give U.S. Marshals additional subpoena powers to help them quickly gather information about missing sex offenders, and to expressly authorize them to assist local law enforcement in manhunts, removing a key disincentive for coordination and assistance at the federal level.
Schumer's support for the bills came after Robert Blainey, a Level 3 sex offender who was free on parole, allegedly raped and murdered a woman after he stopped checking in with his parole officer.
"This is an important step forward towards empowering law enforcement to hunt and track down missing sex offenders before they can commit more crime," said Schumer. "When local law enforcement asks for help from the federal government, the U.S. Marshals should come as quickly as possible to join the chase, without having to worry about legal jurisdiction. And once they get there, they should have every power they need to get the information to track down missing criminals and get them off our streets."
Robert Blainey was convicted of raping three different women in the 1980s. He raped an 8 year old girl in 1984, and was only out of prison from that crime for four months when he raped two additional women in 1988. He was sentenced to 12 ½ to 25 years, but state procedure meant that Blainey would be released after serving just two-thirds of his sentencing range. He was freed in 2009, and began reporting to his parole officer every three months, as required by federal and state law.
When Blainey missed a parole meeting in October, local authorities put out an alert to schools to be on the lookout for the convicted sex offender, and released several photos to help people identify him and help law enforcement track him down. The photo was an older picture of Mr. Blainey that showed him significantly younger, bald, and without facial hair. In reality, his face was much thinner, he had a full head of hair and a goatee, making him nearly impossible to identify based on the available photo. Tragically, before he could be captured by law enforcement, Blainey allegedly raped and murdered Davis Motel owner Linda Turner.
Last week, Schumer announced his support for new legislation that would help the U.S. Marshals give their full support to local law enforcement when dangerous sex offenders go missing. S. 1792, the Strengthening of Sex Offenders and Missing Children Act of 2011 introduced by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) would give U.S. Marshals who are asked by local law enforcement to aid in the search for missing sex offenders the express authority to do that.
The bill, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, would tear down possible legal barriers that sometimes makes the U.S. Marshals hesitate before joining searches until potential legal ramifications are weighed and considered. As the recent case showed, every effort should be enlisted to track down missing sex offenders as quickly as possible, and this legislation would help bring federal officials into the fold more quickly.
Schumer is also pushing for full Senate passage of S. 671, the Finding Fugitive Sex Offenders Act of 2011, which gives the U.S. Marshals Service new administrative subpoena authority to investigate sex offenders who bypass registration requirements and go missing. Under the bill, introduced by Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the U.S. Marshals would be able to subpoena documents and family members that could help determine the whereabouts of the missing criminal. Schumer is calling for the swift passage of both bills, which enjoy bipartisan support in the Senate.
In order to ensure that the public and local law enforcement agencies have up-to-date file photos for Level III sex offenders, as well as levels I and II, that can be quickly and easily disseminated, Schumer is continuing to press the Department of Justice to use its authority under the Sex Offender Registry and Notification Act to require the most dangerous sex offenders have their picture taken at every in-person registration meeting. Currently, members of law enforcement who serve as check-in points can use their discretion and can choose when to take a new photo.
Under Schumer's plan, Level III sex offenders would have a new picture taken and placed on file four times a year, at each of their quarterly meetings. This would ensure that every level of law enforcement has access to more current photos that should help speed up the manhunt and sufficiently warn the public to the potential threat.