By Lee Higgins
Two state lawmakers have introduced a bill that would prohibit high-risk sex offenders from living within 1,500 feet of their victims after The Journal News highlighted a case in Carmel, where a violent sex offender was permitted to move back next door to a girl he sexually assaulted.
Sen. Greg Ball, R-Patterson, and Assemblyman Edward Braunstein, D-Bayside, introduced the legislation after learning about Mario Caruso, who sexually assaulted two girls, ages 8 and 9, in 2003 on a neighboring property.
Despite an objection from the younger victim, Judge Albert Lorenzo permitted Caruso to move back next door to her in 2011, months after he finished serving jail time in the case.
“The goal is to make sure an incident like this can never happen again,” said Ball of the Caruso case that was featured in an article last month in The Journal News.
“Any victim of a sexual assault, many times they relive that in their minds again and again and to have to live in close proximity to the animal that attacked them is cruel and unusual punishment,” he said.
The younger victim, now 19, is suing Caruso for the assault and moving back next door. Her father, who is not being identified by the newspaper because his daughter is a sexual assault victim, supports the legislation.
“How do you allow a person who violated the trust of a family and more than one child to live next to the victim?” he asked. “I don’t understand it.”
The legislation would make it a felony for Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders, which are moderate and high-risk offenders, to live within 1,500 feet of a residence of a victim of their abuse. Ball said, “It’s a safety issue on both sides because of the tension associated with such a horrific offense.”
Caruso fought in court to return to his home after struggling to find a stable place to live after being released in late May 2011 after serving roughly 16 months in jail for the attacks. He had been ordered at sentencing to stay 1,500 feet from the girl who lives next door, but his lawyers argued that it was a burden because he was being kicked out of motels and was forced to sleep in a van in a law office parking lot.
Caruso’s lawyer, William Spain, couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.
In a statement, Braunstein said it was “outrageous” that Caruso, a Level 3 offender, was permitted to move back next door.
“Our legislation would ensure that victims of serious sexual crimes never have to bear the cost of moving, nor endure the emotional trauma caused by the abuser being allowed to reside in the vicinity of their home,” he said.
The legislation “makes sense,” said Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan’s Law and the Crime Victims Center, a nonprofit based in Stony Brook dedicated to preventing child sex abuse.
Sexual assault victims suffer for life, she said, with many struggling with depression and alcohol and drug abuse.
Asked about a sex offender’s right to return home after serving jail time, Ahearn said, “He gave up that right when he chose to commit a sex offense.” (ARTICLE)