Upstate pedophile can't leave prison til he lands proper housing

ALBANY — An upstate pedophile who told cops he molested hundreds of kids over four decades could have his expected release from prison delayed because of a lack of housing options.

The Daily News reported Tuesday that child sex assault survivors were livid that Louis VanWie was set to be released from prison as early as Dec. 29 after having served 20 years of his maximum 30-year sentence for sexually assaulting two young girls.

But the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision in a statement now says that "suitable housing has not yet been located for this individual and he cannot be released before that is done."

Because VanWie still has 10 years left on his original sentence, the state is not improperly keeping him locked up if he is not released at the earliest date he is eligible, officials said.

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"When making housing decisions for every sex offender being released to the community, DOCCS seeks to enhance public safety and facilitate the successful return of offenders to their home communities by considering risk levels, laws, vulnerable populations, locations of other sex offenders, and accessibility to an inmate's support system," the statement said.

Though he pleaded guilty in court to attacking two girls, VanWie upon his arrest in 1997 told police his victims totaled over 300. Police said they received more than 100 calls from victims after his arrest became public, though many could not bring a case against him because the legal time frame to do so had expired.

VanWie, now 74, has been denied parole five different times but is facing release because he meets the legal criteria of a conditional release after serving two thirds of his maximum sentence, state officials said.

Some of VanWie’s victims have called on the state to reverse course and find a way to keep him locked up. They suggested he should be civilly confined, a process that allows the state to keep inmates set to be released from prison locked up in a mental hospital if they are deemed by psychiatrists to possess mental abnormalities that puts themselves and the community at risk.

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Sources say VanWie was screened, but not found to have such a mental abnormality.

Ben Rosen, a spokesman for the state mental health agency that oversees the civil confinement program, said by law he couldn't comment specifically on VanWie.

But he said “all incarcerated sex offenders are screened under this program to evaluate their risk for re-offense and for potential civil management proceedings.”

Gary Greenberg, an upstate investor who said he was attacked by VanWie as a 7-year-old in 1966 while visiting his father at a Cohoes hospital, said he is prepared to sue to try and keep the convicted pedophile in prison or locked up in a mental hospital.

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“VanWie is the worst of the worst,” Greenberg said. “Government must protect its citizens--not let child abusers out of prison who abused and destroyed so many lives.”

He said Gov. Cuomo and state prison and mental health officials will be responsible if VanWie gets out and commits more crimes against children.

A 2014 decision by the state’s top court made it more difficult to civilly confine inmates upon their release from prison. The Court of Appeals decision found that the state cannot solely use the fact that someone is diagnosed with an antisocial personality disorder as proof of a mental abnormality that requires civil confinement.

As of Monday 366 individuals were civilly confined in New York State, Rosen said.

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Greenberg said the VanWie case is a perfect example of why Cuomo and the Legislature need to enact a law in early 2017 that would make it easier for child sex abuse victims to bring civil and criminal cases against their attackers.

“If we already had the Child Victims Act, the hundreds of VanWie victims would have been able to have their day in court and he would have been locked up for good,” he said.

Different versions of the Child Victims Act would either extend or eliminate the time limit that a child abuse victim can bring a case against his or her attacker. Under current law, a person has until their 23rd birthday.

Efforts to change the law which have been championed by the Daily News would also provide a one-year window to revive old cases, and treat public and private institutions the same. Currently, someone abused at a school or other public institution must file a notice of intent to sue within 90 days of the incident.

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Senate Republicans and some legislative Democrats have opposed the idea of a one-year window to revive old cases. Instead, they support a different bill that would extend the current statute of limitation on child sex abuse cases by five years. It would also treat public and private institutions the same.

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