Feds say sex offender law has nabbed five Montana violators

By Matthew Brown
Billings, Montana (AP) 10-07

Five sex offenders have been charged in Montana under a year-old federal law that toughened registration requirements for offenders who relocate between states, U.S. Attorney Bill Mercer said September 26th.

The Adam Walsh Act – named for the murdered son of America’s Most Wanted host John Walsh – calls for up to 10 years in prison for some sex offenders who fail to register with local authorities. It was meant to provide uniformity among states with sometimes conflicting registration laws.

The law applies to offenders who relocate between states or between states and Indian reservations.

“We will use it and be vigorous in our enforcement of it,” Mercer said. “We have got to make sure all sex offenders are registered.”

In the past month, two guilty pleas have been entered in federal court in Montana under the statute. That included a case September 26th in which 34-year-old Thomas Dean Smith acknowledged he had failed to register after moving between Billings and the Fort Peck Reservation.

Smith, convicted in federal court of abusive sexual conduct in 1996, was arrested in 2003 and 2007 for failing to register as a sex offender, prosecutors said. Sentencing in the most recent case was set for Jan. 8 in U.S. District Court in Billings.

Of the other Montana cases, one was set for trial and two were pending, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Fehr said.

Nationally, 105 people have been charged under the law in the past year, she said. Five cases resulted in convictions, four resulted in the charges being dismissed and the rest were pending.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Marcia Hurd said several more cases of failure to register as a sex offender in Montana were under investigation. She added almost 1,600 people are listed in Montana’s sexual offender database.

Of those, as many as 200 are out of compliance at any given time, Hurd said, although not all would be subject to penalty under the federal law.