Convicted Hawaii Pedophile Charged with Striking Again: Prosecutor May Seek Law to Commit Dangerous Sexual Predators to Mental Institution

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BY JIM DOOLEY – Convicted pedophile and child pornographer Jay Abregana is in state custody on new charges of videotaping the sexual assault of a 12-year-old boy.

The arrest prompted Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro to say he may seek enactment of a law that would allow the state to commit dangerous sexual predators to a mental institution after they have completed prison sentences for their offenses.

Some 20 other states around the country have passed laws allowing civil commitment of sexual predators.

“I think it’s something we can look at,” Kaneshiro said by telephone today.

“The effectiveness of that kind of a program is that you take the sexual predators out of the community,” he said.

“A lot of sexual predators are incurable” and represent a constant menace to society, Kaneshiro said.

The U.S. Supreme Court this year upheld the legality of a federal “civil commitment” law that ironically was used unsuccessfully here in 2008 against Abregana, 40.

U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor ruled in that case that federal prosecutors had not proved that Abregana was a sexually dangerous predator who was likely to commit new offenses.

Abregana, whose twin brother is also a convicted sex offender, was convicted here in 2002 of sending child pornography through the mails. He was also convicted earlier of a misdemeanor state sex assault charge after he exposed himself to a 12-year-old boy in a Hilo movie theater.

Gillmor sentenced Abregana to serve 44 months in federal prison. He served part of that sentence at Butner Federal Correctional Institute in North Carolina, where many federal sex offenders are housed.

He was expelled from Butner’s sex treatment program for repeatedly engaging in oral sex with other inmates, according to court records.

Abregana completed his prison sentence at the Federal Detention Center here, then began a three-year supervised release term in late November 2004.

Abregana was sent back to prison in mid-2005 after he admitted having sex with a 17-year-old boy in a public restroom at Ala Moana Center. He also failed to report for drug testing and sex offender treatment.

Gillmor ordered Abregana to serve an additional 20 months behind bars for those infractions.

In November 2006, he was on supervised release again, but was revoked in April 2007 for a number of new violations, including use of a computer to make e-mail contact with three boys who were 10, 12 and 14 years old.

Abregana was not supposed to have access to a computer or to communicate

with minor children. He had created a profile on a site called buddiespace.com, claiming to be a 14-year-old and posting someone else’s photograph as his own.

In the e-mails, Abregana asked the boys about their interests, whether they had girlfriends and whether they would send him photographs of themselves, according to evidence presented to Gillmor.

In 2008, after Abregana had completed his maximum prison sentence and was due to be released back into society, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Attorney’s Office invoked the federal “Adam Walsh Act” that allows for the civil commitment of dangerous sexual predators to mental institutions.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence Tong argued to Gillmor that Abregana would have “serious difficulty refraining from” new crimes if he was released.

Abregana’s lawyer, Federal Deputy Public Defender Pamela Byrne, argued

that Abregana was not the violent, predatory “monster” that Congress had in mind when it passed the civil commitment law.

She told Gillmor lawmakers had not meant the “drastic, last-resort remedy of potentially lifelong ‘civil incarceration’ to apply to non-violent offenders who had engaged in consensual conduct with post-pubescent teenagers.”

Tong argued that evidence demonstrated that Abregana

had a serious mental disorder, hebephilia, which “involves the sexual arousal to adolescents.”

Abregana said in a 2007 letter to Gillmor that he was “humbly sorry, utterly

remorseful for my past actions.”

While in prison, he learned from therapists and counselors “that there is no cure for my actions or behaviors” but Abregana said he had learned how to handle what he called his “deviancies.”

“I’ve grown to understand and be more aware of high risk situations which will lead to immoral crimes,” he wrote.

“And I’m proud to say that I can now walk away from them even before I think about it,” Abregana said.

Tong and Byrne declined comment today on the new charges against Abregana.

He was indicted by an Oahu grand jury yesterday on two counts of videotaping the sex assault of his victim, two counts of first-degree sex assault and four counts of third-degree sex assault.

The assaults allegedly occurred late last month and early this month.

Prosecutors said Abregana met the victim at a video store at Ala Moana Center – the site of Abregana’s earlier sexual encounter with a 17-year-old.

He allegedly gave the victim gifts including a cell phone.

The victim allegedly told his mother about the sex assaults after she asked him where he had gotten the cell phone.

Abregana’s name, address, photograph and criminal history are publicly posted on the state’s sex offenders registry.

Abregana is being held in lieu of $200,000 bail and will be arraigned Monday.

The civil commitment programs enacted by other states have been assailed by critics as violations of the civil rights of offenders who have completed all the punishment and treatment programs available under criminal statutes.

Proponents tout civil commitment as a means to protect society from incorrigible predators.

Treatment afforded to the offenders in the state programs has had mixed results and various states have reported that the civil commitment system has been prohibitively expensive.

The federal civil commitment law can only be used against criminals convicted of federal sex offenses.

The law is named after the son of John Walsh, host of television’s “Most Wanted” show. Adam Walsh was kidnapped and murdered in Florida in 1981.

Hawaii Governor-elect Neil Abercrombie did not respond to a request for comment on whether a civil commitment law should be enacted here.

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