Convicted child rapist released early

June 30, 2009 3:54:53 PM PDT
A federal judge cited an error by correction officials in releasing a child rapist from prison.

His name is William Evans. 20 years ago he was convicted of beating, gagging and raping three children in the Lehigh Valley. Today, he is a free man.

And Lehigh County District Attorney James Martin says it is all because of legal technicality.

"That was done by way of a clerical error, for lack of a better term," he said.

The decision to release Evans came from U.S. District Judge Norma Shapiro. Her ruling was based on the Pennsylvania Department of Correction's improper documentation of Evans' release date as March of 2006. The documents were later changed to include the correct release date of March 2011.

Shapiro says doing that without a court hearing was a violation of Evans' right to due process. In her 22-page opinion, she states the D.O.C.'s "gross delay in seeking the state court's correction of Evans' [sentence] was fundamentally unfair, as was the court's decision to grant the amendment."

But Martin contends those documents were not amended. He says they were merely corrected to reflect the court's original decision.

"The United States District Court has misinterpreted and misapplied Pennsylvania law, and that's what I want to get corrected," he said.

Meantime, children's rights groups are concerned that the early release of a child rapist will discourage children and teenagers who are being abused now from seeking help.

"How many cases of heinous crimes don't make it into the paper, don't make it into the news and are out there, and maybe the people haven't even been caught?" said Carol Obando-Derstine of the Children's Coalition of the Lehigh Valley. "And that to me is the real issue here."

Evans is from Allentown, but there is no word where he is staying right now. Meantime the District Attorney is taking this case to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals where it is expected to be heard sometime this fall.

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