EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

February 13, 2013

Finegold backs tougher sex offender laws

BOSTON — With anecdotal evidence suggesting computer crimes on the rise and children facing increased risks on the Internet, a bill introduced in the Senate this session would expand the state’s asset forfeiture laws to allow prosecutors to go after the computers, cell phones, cars and homes of child predators convicted on child pornography and enticement charges.

The effort to update the law in the mold of 22 other states follows what prosecutors described as “among the worst cases of child abuse ever prosecuted” when referring to the case of John Burbine, a Wakefield resident and Level One sex offender accused of raping 13 children who he and his wife babysat in their home.

The Burbine case has also spawned calls from lawmakers for reforms of the Sex Offender Registry Board.

Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, and Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian are teaming up to push an expansion of the state’s asset forfeiture laws to include criminal convictions on child pornography and enticement cases, hoping to divert any revenue collected to computer crime investigation and prosecution.

“As a parent you want to do everything you can to protect your children. Like most kids, my kids are on their iPad, their iTouches and it’s scary out there. I think we need to give the law enforcement people, the district attorney and attorney general the tools they need to prevent these heinous crimes,” Finegold said yesterday, sitting down in his office with Koutoujian to discuss the bill he has filed this session.

Under state law, prosecutors can seek judicial approval to seize the assets of defendants convicted on controlled substance or human trafficking offenses, but not child pornography. The bill would extend the current law to include those types of cases, generating a modest revenue stream to help fund what Koutoujian described as underfunded and understaffed computer crimes units.

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