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D.A. Fitzpatrick supports unsealing juvenile records involving sex crimes

Juvenile records are automatically sealed in New York state, so they don't prejudice a prosecutor or judge, but state Sen. John DeFrancisco is proposing an exception. He wants those records be available to court officials if they involve sex crimes.

Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick is all for the idea, suggesting that juvenile sex crimes should be treated differently than other crimes.

"Somebody that's in a bar fight that gets arrested, nine times out of ten, they've learned their lesson and that's the last time we'll see them," Fitzpatrick says. "The person that's attracted to juveniles, and needs that to run their sexual engine, that person is extremely likely to chronically re-offend. That's why that should be a distinct set of crimes that we consider."

The proposal comes in the wake of the David Renz murder case. Renz is accused of killing a librarian and sexually abusing a 10-year-old girl in the town of Clay in March, two months after he was released following a federal child pornography arrest. He had juvenile records implicating him in a prior sex crime, but those records were sealed.

"We would very much like to know what a person did before they were 16 to advise a judge and make a decision on what we do on a case. I've been advocating for this for years, and am sad that it took the Renz case to get people to consider it. But I applaud Sen. DeFransisco for his efforts," said Fitzpatrick.

The proposed legislation would allow prosecutors or court officers to request family court officials to review juvenile records of an adult arrested on sex charges. If there is a sex crime case in those records, they would be unsealed.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.