234 sex offenders eligible for GPS monitor review

By John R. Ellement
Globe Staff / August 29, 2009

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Russell Cory wants out of his prison cell, and he wants to walk around Bristol County without being tracked by the state.

Cory is the Level 3 sex offender whose attorney convinced a majority of the state Supreme Judicial Court that a 2006 law mandating GPS monitoring of sex offenders is unconstitutional.

“The GPS bracelet shouldn’t have been in there in the first place,’’ said Theodore Riordan, Cory’s Quincy-based appellate attorney. “He just felt that justice was done and that he shouldn’t have been wearing it all along.’’

Cory is not alone. According to the office of the probation commissioner, 234 convicted sex offenders are wearing GPS bracelets as a result of a court order.

It is not clear how many offenders will be able to successfully argue that the SJC ruling also applies to them. Some prosecutors have said the ruling still allows judges to use their discretion and order the monitors.

The 2006 law said that anyone convicted of a sex crime who is placed on probation prior to 2006 must have a GPS attached.

In a 4-3 ruling Aug. 18, the SJC majority said the law was unconstitutional because it retroactively punished offenders.

The Probation Department, which is an arm of the court system, said in a statement that most of the 234 offenders may qualify to get rid of their GPS monitors.

“Although, perhaps the majority of the 234 cases were ordered on GPS pursuant to [the 2006 state law] requiring removal of the GPS device, there may be instances where GPS was ordered discretionarily and the condition of GPS will remain in effect. Until each case is reviewed in court, it is difficult to ascertain a precise number of offenders that will be removed from GPS due to the Cory decision,’’ the Probation Office said in its statement.

Laurie Myers, president of a Lowell-based victims rights group called Community Voices, said she is concerned about the safety of children in Massachusetts in the wake of the SJC ruling.

“Who is watching these guys?’’ she said. “The answer is nobody. You hold your breath, and you hope that another kid isn’t victimized. That’s all we can do in Massachusetts, because our hands are tied.’’

Myers said she hopes judges embrace the view that they still have the power to require the electronic monitoring, based on the information about an offender they learn in court.

“It’s a tool that could be used to keep the public safe,’’ she said, adding that studies show that sex offenders have a high rate of committing new crimes. “They are not like any other criminal. These guys need to be closely monitored and supervised.’’

William Leahy, chief counsel for the Committee on Public Counsel Services, said the public defender agency has instructed attorneys to push for the removal of the monitors where legally justified.

Cory is behind bars at the Bristol County House of Correction serving a 2 1/2-year sentence for violating probation, a sentence imposed earlier this year. In 1997, Cory admitted to committing sex crimes against a 5-year-old girl, according to court records. He has been imprisoned because he did not wear the required GPS device when he was out on probation.

But following the SJC case, Cory’s attorney has filed paperwork in Bristol Superior Court demanding a change in the sentence. Riordan, who is working with Fall River attorney Rene Brown on Cory’s case, said justice requires it.

“It could lead to his release,’’ Riordan said.

John Ellement can be reached at