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Sex offender accused of boy’s rape in library

/ Source: The Associated Press

A convicted sex offender who was released from prison over prosecutors' objections has been charged with raping a 6-year-old at a public library while the boy's mother used a computer nearby.

Corey Saunders was arrested outside a homeless shelter Wednesday evening shortly after a librarian saw them together, became suspicious and notified the mother, authorities said.

Already, the case has reignited debate over a state law allowing sexually dangerous predators to be locked up indefinitely even after they complete their prison terms.

Authorities allege Saunders lured the boy into a secluded corner of the library and raped him. New Bedford police Lt. Jeff Silva said the boy did not scream because he was paralyzed by fear; Saunders demanded the boy's address and threatened to rape him again, Silva said.

"I think what shocked us the most is how bold this was," Silva said. "It was 5 p.m. in a very busy library. What kind of monster attacks a kid? How is this guy out on the streets?"

Saunders, 26, was convicted in 2001 of indecent assault and battery and attempted rape on a child for attacking a 7-year-old boy in a foster home where he was placed. He was released about a year ago by a judge even though prosecutors and three psychologists said he was likely to strike again.

Bristol Superior Court Judge Richard Moses denied a motion by the district attorney's office to keep Saunders in custody under what is called a civil commitment. The law, which mirrors those in several other states and federal court, allows authorities to postpone releasing sex offenders who are deemed still dangerous when their prison terms end, and move them to mental hospitals instead.

Opponents object that such laws unfairly keep inmates incarcerated longer their sentences, essentially punishing them to ease the public's fear that they'll attack again. A federal judge in North Carolina agreed in September that the federal version was unconstitutional, though the matter has not been resolved in the courts.

Moses cited Saunders' low IQ, his history of being sexually abused as a child and his lack of sexual offenses in prison as reasons to let him out. Also, a psychologist for the defense said Saunders was not likely to attack again.

The judge is not allowed to comment on a pending case.

Saunders was being held without bail. He is charged with rape of a child by force, indecent assault and battery on a child under 14 and enticing a child.

His attorney, public defender Lee Fortier, did not immediately return a call seeking comment Friday.