Lawmaker hopes to expand Megan’s Law to include crimes that predate it


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — One local lawmaker is pushing for sexual predators found guilty of crimes decades ago to be treated the same way as those convicted more recently.

The push comes after convicted child molester Richard Gardner moved to Cranston at the beginning of the month. Since his crime pre-dates Megan’s Law, which led to the creation of the sex offender registry, residents weren’t notified of his arrival or address.

Rep. Robert Craven Sr., D-North Kingstown, said when he learned Gardner had moved to Cranston, he knew he had to try to change the law.

“It’s about time that the legislature stepped in and did everything it could do to maximize the protection of the public,” Craven said.

Gardner, 52, who was convicted of sexually assaulting children in Warwick and Massachusetts in the late 1980s, was released from prison last October.

Even though police were not allowed to publically release his address, the information got out, sparking several meetings and protests in his neighborhood. There were also at least two instances of vandalism at Gardner’s New York Avenue home.

Craven said he wants to both change and expand Megan’s Law as far as he can.

“We have to make certain that the law that the police are being required to enforce is the maximum amount of protection we can have without going over the line and violating the individuals constitutional rights,” he said.

Craven said he’ll research how far he can go in an effort to avoid potential lawsuits. He plans to introduce legislation next session.

Eyewitness News reached out to the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) about Craven’s plan but we’ve yet to hear back.

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