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Among state's worst, Saratoga sex offender's request denied

Among state's worst, Saratoga sex offender's request denied

He lives in Central New York Psychiatric Center, near Utica
Among state's worst, Saratoga sex offender's request denied
Central New York Psychiatric Center.
Photographer: Courtesy Google Maps

BALLSTON SPA — A former Saratoga County man has asked a judge to lower his sex offender risk level, even as he remains civilly confined among the state's worst such offenders.

After legal arguments presented in Saratoga County Court, the judge has refused his request.

Andrew Pratt, 54, is a Level 3 sex offender, according to the state sex offender database. Level 3 offenders are believed to be at the highest risk to commit further sex crimes. 

He lives in the Central New York Psychiatric Center, near Utica, where many of the state's civilly confined sex offenders are housed. Pratt was the first sex offender from Saratoga County to be civilly confined a decade ago.

At Friday's hearing, prosecutor Michele Schettino told Judge James A. Murphy III that it "defies logic" that Pratt would be categorized anything other than a Level 3 sex offender. State assessments — as recently as October 2016 — indicate he isn't ready for release, even after a decade in civil confinement, she said.

"He remains a high risk to the community and a threat to public safety," Schettino said. "That is precisely why he remains incarcerated."

Pratt was confined after three sex abuse convictions in a 15-year period, two of which resulted in prison time. The case that qualified him for civil confinement involved a 9-year-old girl. He's been in custody for the past 16 years.

Sex offender risk levels are used to track offenders who are not in custody and those who have completed sentences for sex-related crimes. The registry allows the public to know where sex offenders live. The three levels come with different notification requirements. Level 3 is the highest. 

Civil confinement, an option introduced a decade ago, allows the worst of the worst sex offenders to be held beyond their prison release dates, if judged to have a mental abnormality that makes them exceptionally dangerous to the public.

Pratt's attorney, Andrew Blumenberg, argued that Pratt should have his risk level lowered to 2. He argued that, while Pratt is a recovering alcoholic, he said he hasn't had a drink since 1988. Pratt also has now been in sex offender treatment for a decade, an indication that he accepts responsibility for his crimes.

Risk levels are guided by scoring, and credit for those two factors — treatment and staying sober — would make him a Level 2 offender, Blumenberg argued.

Schettino, however, countered that Pratt has been forced into both treatment and sobriety. He is unable to drink because he has been incarcerated, and the sex offender treatment is a requirement of civil confinement. 

In a hearing that extended the court day until just before 6 p.m. Friday, after other cases went long, Murphy sided with Schettino and rejected both defense arguments.

"There appears to be no basis to modify risk assessment level," Murphy said after citing a list of supporting reasons for his decision.

A total of 317 offenders were civilly confined as of August, according to state documents. Each case is reviewed annually.

Since the program's inception, 91 people who were ordered held were later released by courts under strict and intensive supervision, according to an Office of Mental Health report issued in February.

Another Saratoga County offender, John Regan, is currently under consideration for civil confinement and remains in custody.

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