Salt Lake mayoral candidate Rocky Anderson says he is tough on crime.
But opponent Stuart Reid asks: How can a man who advocated repealing the state's minimum-mandatory sentences for sex offenders lead the city's crime-fighting efforts?The latest Reid charge, and Anderson response, come as the two men prepare for the final campaign weekend before Tuesday's municipal elections across the state.
Anderson decided to be proactive regarding the new Reid allegation, hinted at in a new Reid TV commercial.
Anderson himself brought the issue up before a live radio debate audience Thursday night. And several Anderson supporters in the KCPW audience came to the microphones at the Westminster College auditorium to ask Anderson follow-up questions so Anderson could talk further on the matter.
"This is an issue," said Reid. "You are saying you are going to be tough on crime, yet you fought for removal of the minimum sentence requirements for these violent crimes," including child molestation.
The issue is not a new one, in fact it was raised against Anderson when he ran in 1996 for the 2nd Congressional District.
In 1994, Anderson, a local attorney, was appointed to the Restorative Justice Subcommittee of the Utah Sentencing Commission, a group of citizens, judges and corrections officials charged with reviewing state criminal justice procedures and making recommendations to Gov. Mike Leavitt and legislators.
In December of that year, after much study, the subcommittee -- with Anderson making the motion -- voted unanimously to recommended that minimum mandatory sentencing for sex offenses be repealed. The motion read: "The present system of criminal justice too often does not provide justice to victims, it is far too expensive for all taxpayers, it is destructive to the families of offenders and it is ineffective in rehabilitating offenders, reducing recidivism or deterring criminal activity."
Among other recommendations, the subcommittee said that some sex offenders should be treated in the community, where they could work to earn money to pay court-ordered restitution to their victims.
Anderson points out that Pete Haun, then the chairman of the state Parole Board and now executive director of the Department of Corrections in Republican Leavitt's administration, seconded the motion. Judges and others on the committee voted in favor. The Sentencing Commission also adopted the repeal policy.
On the final day of the 1995 Legislature, a bill repealing the mandatory sentencing, sponsored by Senate President Lane Beattie, R-West Bountiful, passed with only a few dissenting votes.
But controversy then exploded. Following a public outcry, many House members claimed they didn't know what they were voting on that last legislative night. A special session called by Leavitt a month later delayed implementation of the repeal.
After a year of very public study over the issue, lawmakers and Leavitt agreed mandatory sentencing was wrong-headed. It didn't help rehabilitate the offenders and wasn't cost-effective. The repeal stood after the 1996 Legislature gave the Parole Board the authority to keep sex offenders under supervision for years, even for life if it was determined they could molest or rape again.
Reid said Thursday night he understands the history of the issue but still opposes it.
"I've spent thousands of hours counseling people harmed" by child molestation and other sex offenses, Reid said. (Reid was a chaplain in the U.S. Army.)
"These are violent criminals" prone to commit their crimes again if they are let out of prison. "They should be treated, but treated in prison," not treated in a community setting where they could molest or rape again, Reid said.
Anderson said people from all walks of life, Republicans and Democrats, studied the issue for a long time and all, including Leavitt and the Republican-controlled Legislature, ("some of the most conservative people you can find") agreed that minimum mandatory sentences weren't working, weren't fair for victims, their families, the taxpayer and those convicted of the crimes.
It is wrong to bring up the issue at the last minute of the campaign "when you haven't mentioned it before, never brought it up in any" of the 45-odd debates and public appearances the two men have had in the six-month mayoral campaign, Anderson said.
"You want them (sex offenders) released. I believe these are violent crimes and people who rape and molest need to be in jail," Reid said.
Anderson said he has "over a long time been a great advocate for women who have been raped and abused" and resents the implications of what Reid is now saying.
Anderson's discussion of the issue didn't satisfy Reid, who called a press conference today challenging Anderson to openly discuss his record on crime-related issues.
"Mr. Anderson seems to feel that if there is an issue he does not want to discuss, then it must be irrelevant," he said.