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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Sex convict registry
draws a crowd

An error places one man
on the list whose conviction
was set aside pending trial

The state's expanded online sex offender registry was clogged yesterday with Hawaii residents curious about the safety of their neighborhoods.

The registry received 50 times the usual number of "hits" following Monday's news that the list jumped to 1,400 names from 74 after Gov. Linda Lingle signed a bill to clarify whose information can be immediately posted online. The Web site's popularity caused glitches for some visitors trying to search the database.

State of Hawaii But the site's glitches were not only technical. A Kalihi man whose 1993 sex assault conviction was set aside last year pending trial was mistakenly included in the expanded list, the state Attorney General's Office said.

"This is a rare happening, but we are taking immediate steps to correct it," said Bridget Holthus, special assistant to Attorney General Mark Bennett.

Villamor D. Yasay was expected to become the first person removed from the registry after authorities confirmed the status of his case, attorneys said yesterday. However, his information and photo were still online late last night.

The updated registry went online about noon Monday with Lingle's approval of Act 45, clarifying which offenders are to have information such as a photograph and home address listed online upon conviction. It also establishes criteria by which offenders can petition a court to be removed from the database after they serve their sentence. The law requires a court order for any offender to be removed from the list.

In the 24 hours after the registry was updated, the database registered more than 125,000 hits, Holthus said. Before the new law, the site averaged about 2,500 a day.

"It's definitely a dramatic increase," she said. "We're really happy that there's that much public interest and that people are really trying to use that information to protect their kids and protect their families."

But some visitors experienced slow loading times of Web pages while others received error messages stating that there were too many users accessing the database.

The Web site never shut down, but was slowed by the increased traffic, Holthus said.

The new law allowing the state to update the registry was the result of a constitutional amendment approved by voters last year that allowed the Legislature to determine which convicted offenders can be listed on the Internet registry without a public hearing.

Previously, the state Supreme Court had ruled that all sex offenders must be given a hearing to present their case as to why they should not be listed in the online registry.

Yasay, a registered sex offender since 1993, should have been removed from the registry last March, said his attorney, Victor Bakke.

Yasay, 41, was convicted in 1993 after pleading no contest to a charge of third-degree sex assault. A decade later he sought to withdraw the plea and go to trial after learning that the conviction put him at risk of being deported to his native Philippines, Bakke said.

Although he previously complied with all reporting requirements, Bakke said, his client stopped after the court accepted his withdrawal motion and set aside his conviction pending trial in July.

Bakke said he notified the Criminal Justice Data Center three times about his client's status, but was told his client could only be removed from the registry by a court decision finding him "not guilty."

On Monday -- the same day his personal information was posted online -- Yasay received a third notice telling him he was in violation of reporting requirements and could face arrest, Bakke said.

Bakke said he raised the issue yesterday, "because it came up on the Internet. At this point they had told me, 'No,' they wouldn't take it off, and he's already on the Internet so it's out there."

After an inquiry by the Star-Bulletin, the Attorney General's office said it confirmed Yasay's status and would remove him from the registry.

Holthus said that since his conviction in 1993, Yasay had complied with all reporting requirements. She said there had been no other complaints by anyone claiming that their information was improperly listed online.


The registry can be accessed at sexoffenders.hawaii.gov and through its previous address, pahoehoe.ehawaii.gov/sexoff



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