Fake Megan’s Law Notice Distributed
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ It’s exactly what opponents of Megan’s Law feared would happen: Someone slipped official-looking but bogus fliers into neighborhood mailboxes last week falsely accusing a high school guidance counselor of being a child sex offender.
Prosecutors were searching for the culprit and immediately sent out letters informing residents of the hoax _ the first of its kind since Megan’s Law took effect in 1995.
Some neighbors recognized the fliers as fake and called police: The masthead belonged to the fictitious ``Department of Sexual and Predatory Crimes.″
The counselor, Arthur Goldsworthy, has worked at Bridgewater-Raritan High School since 1959. Prosecutors say his record is clean.
Goldsworthy, 63, said Thursday he has no idea who targeted him.
``That’s the most upsetting thing about it,″ he said Goldsworthy.
The fliers began appearing March 12 warning that Goldsworthy was a ``serious potential threat″ to young children.
Prosecutor Stephen B. Rubin said he has no estimate of how many of the bogus notices went out. He said charges against those responsible could range from harassment to obstruction of justice.
Community notifications of local sex offenders began in 1995 but was quickly stopped because of court challenges. The law passed several tests, and notification resumed in January.
The state public defender’s office is challenging the law saying community notification amounts to extra punishment and is open to abuse.
The bogus flier is ``an example of how easily Megan’s Law can be abused in a way the state Supreme Court never intended,″ said agency spokesman Bill Heine.
Despite the hoax, supporters of the law defended community notification as providing useful information to parents.
``We should not judge Megan’s Law by this single abuse,″ said Attorney General Peter Verniero.
Goldsworthy said he was particularly upset with The Courier-News of Bridgewater, which first reported the hoax on Thursday after he had asked the paper to not print the story.
The newspaper’s editor, Richard A. Leonard, said the incident was newsworthy because it appears to be the first bogus notice under Megan’s Law and the article dispelled rumors about Goldsworthy.
Megan’s Law requires that released sex offenders register with local police and that community organizations and neighbors be notified when an offender is deemed to pose a risk of recidivism.
The law is named for 7-year-old Megan Kanka, who was raped and murdered in 1994 by a convicted sex offender who lived across the street. Versions of New Jersey’s law have since been adopted in more than 40 states.