"The criticism would be, 'Why are you taking them down, when the literal language of the statute says they should be up?' However, I do think it's appropriate to take another look at that."
State attorney general
256 sex convicts
removed from site
Issues about certain felony
cases prompt the deletion from
the state's Internet registry
Names, addresses and photographs of 256 convicted sex offenders have been removed from the state's online Megan's Law registry while the attorney general's office reviews their cases to determine if their personal information should be posted on the Internet.
The move prompted criticism that the state moved too quickly to post information online.
"In its apparent rush to post the registry, hundreds of people whom the Legislature never intended to include had their information and photographs posted on the Internet," said Lois Perrin, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii. "When dealing with peoples' lives, we have the right to expect the government to be more careful."
Attorney General Mark Bennett said yesterday his office removed the names of offenders convicted of two Class C felony sexual assaults, the least serious of Hawaii's three felony crime categories.
Under a law enacted Monday, such offenders can be listed in the online database, but Bennett said he wants to review the cases to see how many involve two Class C convictions stemming from the same incident.
Bennett said he does not believe it was the Legislature's intent to post information online for those convicted of two Class C offenses from a single incident.
"It's appropriate, if there are ones that fit that category, to take a look and see if they should be moved to a different category," Bennett said.
Such offenders would be treated the same as those convicted of a single Class C felony. Their personal information would be available to the public at police stations and the attorney general's Criminal Justice Data Center but not online, Bennett said.
A review is expected to take about a week, Bennett said, adding that he did not know how many would ultimately remain offline.
Perrin said the ACLU, which had opposed the new registry provisions as the proposal advanced in the Legislature, received "numerous" telephone calls yesterday from people who viewed their information online Tuesday and felt they should not have been placed in the Internet database.
Although the names had been removed by yesterday morning, the ACLU criticized the state for not being more cautious.
"With an error like this, hundreds of people have already suffered some damage," Perrin said. "Quite simply, the bell cannot be un-rung."
The online database includes a telephone number for people to call if they believe the information is incorrect or has been wrongly posted.
Bennett said removing the names was his decision and not the result of any calls to his office.
He said he noticed the listings of the multiple Class C offenders while searching the Web site on Tuesday, and at that point asked staff members whether any distinction had been made as to whether their convictions were from a single incident.
"When I received the answer 'no' -- because the statute doesn't appear to require that -- that's when I decided to review that," he said, adding that the names were removed yesterday morning during site maintenance.
He defended the listing of all the names, noting the new law, as written, does not specify that those with two Class C convictions from the same incident be kept offline.
"The criticism would be, 'Why are you taking them down, when the literal language of the statute says they should be up?'" he said. "However, I do think it's appropriate to take another look at that."
Bennett said he expects the Legislature to consider a proposal next year that would clarify the law's intent.