Mother of sexual assault victim frustrated with sex offender registry loophole

By Greg Bishop 
Illinois News Network

In Illinois, prosecutors sometimes reach plea deals with people accused of sexual assault in which the accused pleads guilty to a lesser offense.

Such pleas often allow those who have committed sexual assault to avoid registering with the state as a sex offender.

Tina Estopare, the mother of a sexual assault victim, is looking to close this loophole with Stephanie’s Law, which is named after her daughter. The bill has more than 70 sponsors from both parties – more than it needs to pass the state House. However, the bill has remained stuck in rules committee for several months.




Estopare’s daughter says she was sexually assaulted in 2011 when she was 15, but her assailant was convicted only of battery counts. As such, he was not required to register as a sex offender.

Estopare has been working to close the loophole for nearly five years. She was able to get legislation filed in December of 2015 with the 99th General Assembly under Senate Bill 2201. That gained more than 30 sponsors from both parties but was never called for a floor vote before it died in committee in 2017.

House Bill 816 was filed earlier this year in the 100th General Assembly by state Rep. Natalie Manley, D-Joliet, and was moved to the Judiciary Committee in February. There it garnered support from Republicans and Democrats alike.

If the current measure is passed, the law would allow a judge the discretion to require someone convicted of battery to register as a sex offender if the crime was sexually motivated.

“The law should have been there for my daughter. And, since it is not, it needs to and has to be there for every child in the state of Illinois,” Estopare said.




Estopare said there are examples of similar cases in which the assailants escaped the requirement to register as a sex offender either by not being charged with sexual assault or by pleading down charges.

However, Manley didn’t move the bill for a hearing, and the bill hit a House rules deadline in late March. That caused the bill to be pushed pack to the Rules Committee.

Estopare said she’s upset, sad and frustrated the bill hasn’t moved.

“It’s really a shame,” she said. “I have shown not just our examples, [but] lots of other examples of how they’re slipping right through the cracks. We’ve got to close this loophole, and why it’s taken this long is very, very sad.”

Messages seeking comment from Manley were not immediately returned.

Rules committee member Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, said there are options available.

“One would be a motion to move this out of Rules Committee and sent it back to a substantive committee like Judiciary,” Demmer said. “Another way to do it, since we’re headed into a new legislative year, is to simply take the text of this bill and introduce it as a new bill.”




The General Assembly is adjourned until late January, but legislative days are limited until after the March Primary.

“Everyday that goes by, children get hurt. The perpetrators are allowed into our schools, into our park districts,” Estopare said.

Co-sponsor of Estopare’s bill, state Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield, said he’ll continue to push for passage.

“What we see happening is that cases that maybe should be tried on a crime that you would think would go to the sexual predator registry is pleaded down lower so that they’re not on that list,” Batinick said.

That’s why this bill is necessary, Batinick said. “This bill lets a judge decide whether this person belongs on the sex offender registry.”

But there’s a task force to evaluate other possible changes to the sex offender registry.




“I’m supportive of the task force, but I don’t want it to be a task force to nowhere,” Batinick said. “I want it to be a task force that gets something done, including addressing this issue.”

“People who commit heinous crimes of this nature can’t be around kids, can’t be coaching, can’t be in Boy Scouts, can’t be in our schools,” Batinick said. “We need to figure out a way to keep dangerous people away from our children.”

Estopare provided letters of support for her legislation from the Illinois State’s Attorneys Association, Illinois State Board of Education, Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police and other groups.

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