Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Court Doesn't Require Sex Offender to Register; STATE to STATE the Offenses He Was Convicted of in Texas Are Not Specified as Crimes in Georgia, the Panel Said

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Court Doesn't Require Sex Offender to Register; STATE to STATE the Offenses He Was Convicted of in Texas Are Not Specified as Crimes in Georgia, the Panel Said

Article excerpt

Byline: TERESA STEPZINSKI

A Coffee County man convicted of sexual assault as a clergyman in Texas doesn't have to register as a sex offender now that he lives in Georgia, the state's appellate court has ruled.

The Georgia Court of Appeals has granted an appeal from Shaun Sharma, a 45-year-old Douglas hotelier who challenged a state law requiring those convicted of sex offenses in other states to register upon moving to Georgia.

Sharma doesn't meet Georgia's definition of a dangerous sexual offender and therefore doesn't have to register because the offenses he was convicted of in Texas aren't specified as crimes in Georgia, a three-judge panel of the appellate court ruled Nov. 24.

"I think it's a fair decision. It's the right decision," Sharma told the Times-Union in a telephone interview Monday.

Despite the favorable ruling, Sharma has concerns.

"My biggest concern is, always was, respect for the privacy of my family and business. My business has been hurt from the first time this came out in the newspaper," Sharma said.

District Attorney Rick Currie doesn't plan to appeal the ruling, which highlights a loophole in Georgia's sex offender registration law.

"If you're required to register as a sex offender in another state, you should be required to register as a sex offender here, too," Currie said.

The law requires registration if the person meets the state's definition of a dangerous sexual offender, which the appellate ruled didn't happen in Sharma's case.

Currie, president of the District Attorneys' Association of Georgia, hopes the General Assembly will look at expanding the provisions of the law determining who must register.

As it stands now, it's doubtful an appeal of the ruling would be successful, he said.

In granting Sharma's appeal, the court ruled Chief Judge Dwayne Gillis of the Waycross Judicial Circuit "erred by finding that Sharma has been convicted of committing a dangerous sexual offense as that term is defined" by Georgia law.

Monday, Sharma's photograph, personal information and Texas conviction data remained posted online on both the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Coffee County Sheriff's Office sex offender registry Web sites. …

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