A judge in Nassau County has assigned the most restrictive sex offender level to a man who the Attorney General’s office has said is probably innocent.
Nassau County Judge Teresa Corrigan (See Profile) designated Ronald Bower a sexually violent offender and found him at a high risk to recidivate. The “Level 3″ designation means Bower, who has been approved for parole but is awaiting release, will face the most onerous restrictions allowed under the Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA).
Bower was serving an 18-to-54-year sentence for sex crimes in Nassau County and Queens when the state Board of Parole recently voted to release him after 23 years (NYLJ, March 3).
The board seemingly relied heavily on a letter from Thomas Schellhammer, the head of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s conviction review unit, stating that an investigation by his bureau strongly suggested that Bower is innocent.
Prosecutors in Nassau County and Queens said they were unaware that the attorney general was advocating for Bower and asked the parole board to reconsider. Then Schneiderman’s office, which has insisted that it had reached out to the Nassau and Queens district attorneys, joined in the prosecutors’ petition to the parole board (NYLJ, March 11).
Corrigan said in The People v. Bower, 79000-1991, parole board’s decision to release Bower “was based on incomplete and/or misleading information and is of no value to the defendant’s request” for a lower risk level.
“What became clear at the hearing … is that the parole board was not aware that the district attorney’s office had no knowledge of the statement of Assistant Attorney General [Schellhammer] and played no part, because they were not asked, in the post conviction review conducted by the attorney general,” Corrigan wrote.
Bower, represented by Jeremy Goldberg, chief of the appeals bureau with the Legal Aid Society of Nassau, is slated for a risk assessment hearing Thursday in Queens.
Assistant District Attorney Joseph LaRocca argued for the prosecution at the Nassau County SORA hearing.