GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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April 17, 2012

State crime bill talks remain stalled

BOSTON — House Speaker Robert DeLeo's point man in talks with the Senate over omnibus crime and key sentencing legislation is raising the prospect that the two sides could fail to reach agreement and suggested that they consider passing a narrow bill that could win support.

In a Friday meeting with five other lawmakers negotiating the bill, Rep. Eugene O'Flaherty, D-Chelsea wondered whether the Senate would be open to jettisoning the bulk of its proposal — including changes to wiretapping, restraining order, drug and sentencing policies — in favor of a plan that would crack down on habitual felons.

"It would be a terrible shame to allow the session to expire without having dealt with habitual recidivist issues," O'Flaherty said at an afternoon meeting of the conference committee.

O'Flaherty pointed out that issues related to habitual offenders — most notably the shooting death of a Woburn police officer by a career criminal out on parole in 2010 — is "what originally brought us all to the table."

That proposal would require that offenders who commit their third serious felony face the maximum possible sentence without the possibility of parole.

That provision has also been a prime focal point for state Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr of Gloucester, who is on the joint conference panel negotiating a bill between the two chambers.

The so-called "three strikes" provision of the bill has also drawn intense Cape Ann interest due to a case involving Gloucester and former Manchester resident Starr Lloyd III, the twice-convicted Level 3 sex offender who is charged with open and gross lewdness in the presence of a 12-year-old girl in Gloucester, yet is free on $3,000 bail, with a Superior Court arraignment set for Salem on May 11.

Gov. Deval Patrick has also called for a bill that not only cracks down on repeat offenders but softens penalties for nonviolent drug offenders, a proposal he said would free up jail space and ensure that lower-level offenders get access to programs and treatment rather than let out on the street without support.

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