Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Michael E. Washington - Repeat Sex Offender - Searching for victims at arcade

A sex offender convicted more than 20 years ago of raping a 12-year-old girl pleaded guilty to violating the state's sex-offender registry laws by being within 300 feet of children at an arcade at Hanes Mall.

Michael E. Washington, 46, of Greensboro entered an Alford plea yesterday in Forsyth Superior Court to a charge of being a sex offender on child premises. An Alford plea allows a defendant to plead guilty but not acknowledge any wrongdoing.

Washington was accused of being in the arcade, which is in the back of the food court at Hanes Mall, Assistant District Attorney Jim O'Neill said yesterday. The arcade is called the "Kids Zone."
Several people complained to mall security on Feb. 21 that they saw Washington walking around in the arcade, talking on his cell phone and taking pictures with his cell phone. He was there for several hours, he said.
Mall security was able to get Washington's plate number when he left the mall and turned the information over to the Winston-Salem Police Department. Police checked his criminal record and found he was a registered sex offender. Washington was charged when he came back to the mall several days later, O'Neill said.

Last year, state legislators toughened the laws on sex offenders, saying they had to stay at least 300 feet from places where children regularly gather.
Washington was convicted of raping a 12-year-old girl in Georgia in 1983 and was required to register as a sex offender. Last year, he was accused of masturbating in front of teenage girls at the central library in Greensboro. He was convicted of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor.
"When you look at his pattern, it's unnerving that this guy is walking around out here, and in the state's opinion, this guy is a predator," O'Neill said yesterday.

Judge Michael Helms sentenced Washington to 8 to 10 months in prison, but Washington has served most of that time while awaiting trial. After the hearing, O'Neill said that state legislators need to increase the penalties for these kinds of violations.

Travis Simpson, Washington's attorney, said his client thought he was only banned from parks, day-care centers, schools and playgrounds. He did not intend to break the law, he said.

"No one told him that he can't go to the food court or the arcade," Simpson said.

"25% of all sex offenders re-offend within 15 years"
.........Sarah Tofte

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