The youth swim coach caught trying to lure what he thought was a teenager online won't have to register as a sex offender.
The youth swim coach caught trying to lure what he thought was a teenager online won't have to register as a sex offender — one of at least three men nabbed by investigators in Plymouth County stings who have been able to skirt the registry.
In all three cases, a judge found there was enough evidence to convict the men, but opted to continue the cases without findings — and then dismiss the charges in the next few years if they don't get into trouble again.
And because the men haven't been convicted of a crime, they don't register as sex offenders with the state.
“That is disappointing,” Plymouth County Sheriff Joseph McDonald, whose department hosts the county's online investigative unit that nabbed the suspects. “We need to educate the judiciary.”
The cases of Giovanni Lepore, 26, of Revere, a YMCA swim coach; Matthew J. Coelho, 23, of Hudson; and Dennis Puskas of Boston — all caught by the county's online investigative unit since 2005 — were continued without a finding and will be dropped as long as the suspects don't get arrested again in upcoming years.
But even those who did plead guilty and are forced to register as sex offenders could ask a judge to exempt them from registering if they didn't get a prison or jail sentence. Under law, those convicted of enticement for sexual intercourse — as well as several other sex-related crimes — could petition the court and ask not to be required to register.
The other types of convictions are indecent assault and battery on a person age 14 or over, incestuous marriage or intercourse, possession of child pornography, open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior, and enticing away a person for prostitution.
Charles McDonald, spokesman for the state's Sex Offender Registry, said it is up to judges to decide whether to grant a request not to register.
Charles McDonald said those who received a sentence of incarceration — even if it is suspended — are not eligible.
The Plymouth County Sheriff's Department High-tech Evidence Analysis Team, or HEAT, has worked extensively with Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz, state police and other agencies to target online predators.
Last year, law enforcement stings netted dozens of suspects, including Sean Dodgson, who was a Plymouth selectman at the time. Dodgson resigned under pressure and is awaiting trial in superior court.
Only a handful of those caught served jail time. Most received probation or suspended sentences.
The Plymouth County sheriff said even though many of the suspects got suspended sentences or probation he considers the effort successful.
“I'm disappointed the sentences were not more severe, but this is a start,” he said. “We're sending the message that we are out there.”
The sheriff said attitudes about online crime — and sexual enticement online — need to change. “We are raising public awareness,” he said.
In the case of Lepore, the Revere man was a YMCA swim coach when he was arrested last year at his home after sending images of himself performing a sexual act via a Web cam to what he thought was a 13-year-old girl. He then made arrangements to meet with the “girl” in Plymouth County, but authorities decided to arrest him at his home before the meeting after learning he was a youth swim coach.
In Lepore's case, prosecutors sought tough penalties: a 2 1/2-year jail sentence with one year to serve, registration as a sex offender, counseling, no Internet use outside of work and school, no direct contact with children, 200 hours of community service and random sweeps of his computer for explicit materials.
District Court Judge Gregor Baler accepted some of those recommendations — including barring Lepore from using a Web cam — but also gave Lepore a big break.
However, if the plea triggered a deportation hearing, the judge ruled that Lepore would be allowed to withdraw his plea and go to trial.
In the case of Matthew Coelho, 22, of Hudson, prosecutors requested a 2 1/2-year jail sentence with one year to serve, registration as a sex offender, no Internet use, random home visits, random searches of the computer and no possession of pornography or obscene materials.
Again, the judge accepted some recommendations, but not the most serious, by prosecutors. The judge continued the case without a finding until 2010, ordered counseling, the forfeiture of the man's computer, 100 hours of community service, and ordered him to stay away from children under age 18. Coelho was also forbidden to have a home computer and could not possess any obscene or pornographic material.
It was a similar scenario with Puskas, whose probation continues until 2012. The judge in that case ordered Puskas to provide a DNA sample, undergo mental health examinations and sex offender evaluations, have no contact with those under age 17, wear a GPS monitor and provide probation officials with all computer passwords. Internet use was limited to school and work, and probation officials are allowed to conduct random sweeps of computers for sexually explicit material.
Maureen Boyle of The Enterprise (Brockton, Mass.) can be reached at email@example.com.