BATH

Following an incident this summer where a man allegedly exposed himself to a 13- year-old in Bath, state Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, has submitted a bill to increase the penalties for that type of crime.

Police arrested Bath resident Jeremy Collier in July. Police allege Collier exposed himself and masturbated in front of two teenage girls. Collier was released on bail with the condition that he have no contact with persons under the age of 16. He has since pleaded not guilty.

Because the alleged victim was 13, the charge “was only a misdemeanor,” Vitelli said.

According to Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry, exposing oneself to a person under 14 is a class D crime, a misdemeanor, with a possible sentence of up to a year in jail. Exposing oneself to someone under the age of 12, however, is a class C crime with a possible sentence of up to five years in jail.

Vitelli’s bill would make it so indecent exposure to a person under 14 is a class C crime, in order to deter similar behavior. It would also increase penalties for repeat offenders and ensure that the sex registry holds those convicted of repeat offenses for a sufficient time, according to a press release.

While Merry hasn’t seen the draft language for Vitelli’s bill, he said he supports increasing the class of the crime for repeated offenses.

“My position is that if a person has been previously convicted of indecent conduct, and the child/victim is under the age of 14, then it should be a class C crime,” he said.

Vitelli said she submitted the bill after being contacted by the mother of the girl involved in the alleged July incident, who said her daughter and her friend were both traumatized.

“We decided, with the mother’s encouragement, to change the law so that (exposing oneself to) anybody under 14, which still seems somewhat arbitrary, would rise to a class C,” said Vitelli.

“We want to send a clear message that this is just not OK, at whatever age,” she added. “This is not something we should tolerate.”

The Arrowsic legislator noted that this type of problematic behavior would not change solely through punishment and that more was needed to address it.

“This kind of behavior is not easy to change,” said Vitelli. “So I recognize that this is not a cure, if you will. This isn’t the magic bullet that’s going to solve this issue. But it seemed important, under the circumstances, to do something that would elevate this to a behavior that is more serious and is clearly not going to be tolerated.”

Merry pointed out that making it a class C crime could make it easier for the courts to force individuals convicted of indecent exposure to seek help.

“Also, being convicted of a class C crime can allow the court to put the person on a longer period of probation, which could include more intensive conditions around treatment, counseling or being around children,” said Merry.

The bill will go before the Legislative Council on Thursday, where it will be decided whether it will be considered by the Legislature in its second session.

What’s next?

• Vitelli’s bill will go before the Legislative Council on Thursday, where it will be decided whether it will be considered by the Legislature in its second session.



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