Loophole in state law creates haven for sex offenders in North Carolina
A loophole in North Carolina law allowed a convicted child rapist from New York to live in Denver and not register as a sex offender with local law enforcement.
Frank Finster, 53, whom a judge described as a “monster,” lived near Campground Road and is accused of repeatedly sexually abusing two young girls – an offense for which he served time in a New York prison – before moving to Denver.
And Finster is not alone in being able to bypass the sex offender registry.
Records show that a Malcolm Clyde Campbell of Palm Beach County, FL was convicted of lewd, lascivious acts with a child under 16 while living in Florida in 1994. His most recent address in 2006 was on Blades Trail in Denver. Campbell served no prison time while in Florida.
Campbell is not registered in North Carolina as a sex offender because statutes do not require him to do so. He is only registered in Florida and the national registry.
Campbell voluntarily made contact with local law enforcement when he moved to Lincoln County. County officials then got the approval from the Attorney General’s office in Raleigh; Campbell did not need to register as a sex offenderr. He could not be reached for comment.
Under state law, sex offenders who were convicted or released from prison before 1996 and moved to North Carolina before December 2006 are not required to register in the state.
A loophole in the requirements for the North Carolina Sex Offender registration allowed Finster , Campbell and others like him to live in Lincoln County without having to register as offenders.
Finster was convicted of felony sexual assault in New York in 1988, and moved to North Carolina prior to 2006. One of his victims claimed he decided to move to North Carolina because of weaknesses in its laws pertaining to sex offenders, according to published reports.
Finster is now in the Lincoln County Jail on numerous charges that he abused two young girls while he lived here. He was recently extradited from a New York prison after being convicted earlier this year of abusing the girls when they lived in New York.
How many more like Frank Finsters or Malcolm Campbells moved to Lincoln County before 2006 to escape having to register as sex offenders?
There’s really no way of knowing.
“North Carolina is trying to be stricter with its sex offender laws because offenders look for less strict states,” said Jennifer Mathewson, who handles sex offender registration for the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.
No Notification Laws
Another problem with the sex offender registration laws is that law enforcement agencies in New York were not required to inform North Carolina that Finster was moving here. And North Carolina is not required to notify officials in other states when offenders leave here and move elsewhere.
It’s up to the offender to inform law enforcement of any change of address.
“In this case, the prosecutors did talk because the girls are in North Carolina,” said Kara Wilson, an assistant district attorney who prosecuted Finster in New York. But the prosecutors didn’t talk until after Finster was extradited to North Carolina.
news@norman has identified one other sex offender who formerly lived in Denver but never registered here.
Dean Coleman Brown, 41, lived in Denver in 2005, and was convicted four years earlier of a lewd and lacivious act on a child in Duval County, FL.
He was sentenced in Texas last month to life in prison for Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child.
Brown was charged with sexually abusing a female child under the age of 14 on more than one occasion. Brown allegedly committed these acts over a period of approximately one year beginning in July of 2009. Brown had been previously convicted of possession of cocaine and failure to comply with sex offender registration in Harris County, Texas.
Lawmakers in Raleigh have worked to update state statutes in compliance with federal sex offender registration laws. As of now, the state is still working to come into compliance with the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), the federal guidelines for registering as a sex offender.
“The loopholes in the state statutes came to light in Raleigh,” said Rep. Tim Moore of Kings Mountain. Moore co-sponsored previous sex offender laws and recently got the House to pass the latest bill, H772, that would bring North Carolina into compliance with SORNA guidelines.
The bill is currently in committee in the Senate.
“I wish there was a better way to deal with the registry,” said Lincoln County’s Mathewson. “If we kept them all locked up in one building we’d know where they’re at.”
Bill Would Close Loopholes
If SORNA were to be adopted in North Carolina, it would increase registration periods for certain offenders, and require registrants to provide additional information to the sheriff (description of their car, plate numbers).
It would also make people like Finster register as sex offenders when they move to Lincoln County, regardless of when they were convicted.
“If a sex offender applies for a driver’s license, we want to make sure the DMV is flagged to inform the offender of their obligation to register,” said Rep. Moore.
Another benefit to SORNA would be that it would require state agencies to share information and records of sex offenders when they move to different states.
SORNA laws still leave it up to the offender to register upon moving to a new location or when a name change occurs. Nothing in the SORNA bill addresses former offenders who now live in the state and moved here prior to 2006.
“The bill would establish three tiers to define the severity of sexual offenses and registration requirements. A person convicted of a Tier-1 offense (sexual battery), will be made to register for 30 years (but could petition for removal after 10 years); a Tier-2 offense (statutory rape) would require a mandatory 30-year registration; and a Tier-3 offense (first-degree rape) will be required to register as a sex offender for life.
The bill also would punish repeat offenders more effectively and create a more unified database to track these individuals and help ensure they don’t cause more harm to others. It would also prevent people like Frank Finster from living in Denver - in secret.