Schenectady County

Schenectady County re-evaluates sex offender risk

Persons guilty of possessing child pornography could receive higher sex offender risk-level status u
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Persons guilty of possessing child pornography could receive higher sex offender risk-level status under a policy now in place at the Schenectady County District Attorney’s office, an official said this week.

Assistant Schenectady County District Attorney Andra Ackerman cited studies out in recent years that show those convicted of possessing child pornography are more dangerous than some previously thought.

Ackerman said she intends to use those studies to argue for higher risk levels for such offenders. Risk levels are determined at hearings before a judge when a convict is released to the community.

Ackerman made the comments after convicted sex offender Steven Ahders was arrested again, accused of molesting a 6-year-old child. Ahders previously served time in federal prison on a child pornography possession conviction.

Ahders’ hearing came before the change, and he was given a Level 1 classification, applied to those considered the lowest risk to reoffend.

Ackerman said she made the change some time ago, but similar cases have yet to come to hearings, meaning the change has yet to be tested locally.

“Based on those studies, our office is doing everything we can to include these in [sex offender] hearings,” Ackerman said. “That could significantly change the assessment.”

She intends to request Level 3s, the highest level, based on the type and number of photographs they possessed.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons study, out in 2000, showed three-fourths of those charged with child pornography possession later reported sexual contact crimes.

Ahders knew the child in the current case after meeting the child’s mother through personal ads two years ago, Ackerman has said. The child disclosed late last year abuse that Ackerman described as “horrific” and “the worst of the worst.” He faces up to 25-years-to-life if convicted.

It was unclear whether the mother thought to check Ahders’ status. But, had she checked the state’s online sex offender registry, she would have seen nothing. Ahders, as a Level 1, was by law not included online.

Only by calling the state registry phone number, 800-262-3257, can information on Level 1s be found. Callers need the person’s name and some other identifying information, like date of birth or address.

Level 2s and Level 3s can be searched online at http://criminaljustice.state.ny.us/ and do not require a phone call.

Asked about state risk levels and child pornography crimes, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Spina Jr. said he advocates a similar criteria.

Spina’s office served 75 search warrants related to child pornography last year in the federal courts’ Northern District.

Spina said he believes the public should be made better aware of someone convicted of such crimes.

“The public needs to know that so parents can take care of their kids,” he said.

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