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The latest outrage

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By Optic Editorial Board

The nearly four-year-old Clayton Jay Quintana case has been, for many, one outrage after another. The latest is that even though he’s a convicted sex offender, and has to register as one, the law exempts him from having his name, photo and other information on the state’s sex offender website.

But before we expound upon that, let’s consider a couple of previous outrageous elements to this case. First, there were the charges themselves: In 2009, longtime teacher and coach Quintana was charged with 14 counts of criminal sexual penetration and one count of criminal sexual contact. Quintana, it was alleged, had sex with a high school student both at the school and at home from 2002 to 2007. According to the allegations, she was only 14 years old when it all began.

Perhaps not so surprisingly, he made the $100,000 bail and his lawyer proceeded to drag the case out, all the way into last year.

Then came the next outrage, when Quintana’s charges were reduced, for purposes of a plea bargain to avoid trial, to two counts of criminal sexual penetration of a minor by school personnel. The charges were fourth-degree felonies, but he would avoid jail time as part of the deal. In the mind of many, it was an affront to justice, but a bit of solace could be found in the fact that, despite his emotional plea not to have to register as a sex offender, the judge ordered it anyway.

That was last November. Now we find out that, though he had to register, his information doesn’t go online.

Apparently, and outrageously, the state Legislature, with a bill it passed in 2000, created a nonsensical two-tiered approach to registering sex offenders. Some convicted sex offenders are required to have their information posted on the website and others aren’t. Quintana and his charges fell into the latter category.

What’s worse is that those tiers don’t necessarily track with the seriousness of the crimes.

Under the state law, a school employee who is convicted of criminal sexual contact of a teenage child would have his or her information posted on the sex offender website. But a school employee convicted of criminal sexual penetration, as in Quintana’s case, doesn’t have his or her information posted on the website.

Therein lies the latest outrage.

We say, change the law, posthaste. We wish lawmakers could do so now, then make it retroactive to include Quintana, but we’re afraid that won’t be possible. Instead, we’re left shaking our heads, wondering if justice is a word ever really considered during the Quintana case. Not “the law” but “justice.”

Of course it was, by those who wanted to see him go to jail. But justice was also mocked. A high school teacher and coach, a trusted mentor for children, abused that trust to have his way with a vulnerable girl. Then he was able to walk away a free man.

Sure, he must register as a sex offender, but since his information is posted online, he gets to walk in the shadows.

It’s more than an outrage. It’s an indictment against New Mexico’s judicial system, and it needs to be fixed. We urge lawmakers’ immediate attention.