11Alive tracks down a sex offender that had failed to register to expose the loophole that let him get away with it.
ATLANTA — When a civilian is convicted of something as heinous as rape or child molestation, under the Adam Walsh Act, they are to be fingerprinted, have their DNA taken and name added to the sex offender registry before being released from prison. But in the military it’s an honor system – ironically for those who’ve already proven dishonorable.
When 11Alive’s Rebecca Lindstrom typed in the name Basil Kingsberry, he was nowhere to be found. According to court documents, Kingsberry is an army specialist convicted of rape and forcible sodomy while serving oversees. His crime legally requires him to register.
“This is a sex offender who has fallen between the cracks,” said Vernon Keenan, the Director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the agency responsible for maintaining the statewide registry.
When a sex offender is released from a military prison, the Department of Defense asks where they plan to go, then sends that community a letter. There’s little oversight to make sure that they do. Kingsberry told the military he was headed to Mississippi, but ended up in Georgia instead.
The GBI says the military’s paperwork was confusing and led them to believe his conviction had been set aside – or overturned.
“Two occasions we asked the military to provide us with further documentation regarding his offense and conviction,” explained Keenan. “We did not receive any additional paperwork from the military.”
As a result, the GBI told Kingsberry he did not need to register.
It’s a nationwide problem. In August, the Inspector General released a report, confirming the military was following the law, but noted, its inability to register sex offenders enabled them to evade registration. According to the military’s own data, approximately 40% of its inmates require sex offender registration. But the US Marshal Service says it found in a review of 193 people released in 2013, as many as 35 of them had failed to do so.
The Department of Defense isn’t breaking any laws. The military isn’t required or even able to register a sex offender, but there are some lawmakers who say it’s time for that to change.
California Congresswoman Jackie Speier is a member of the House Armed Services committee. She plans to introduce a bill that would treat military sex offenders the same as the rest of us.
“To require everyone before they’re released from military prison to be fingerprinted, to have their DNA taken and to be identified as a sexual predator,” said Speier.
And Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson has asked to co-sponsor it.
“We are producing victims, often children. I think we must have some clear cut guidelines to protect the public from sexual predators,” said Johnson.
Because Kingsberry isn’t the only one living under the radar. Just in Georgia, there’s Steven Lucas, who according to court records, was convicted of having sex with a 14-year old family member while serving at Moody Air Force base. We also learned about a man named Charles Caley who, according to the same military records, used sexually explicit pictures of children to “gratify his lust.”
“What has really distressed me is how willing the military has been not to hold people accountable who commit violent felonies,” said Speier.
The Department of Defense would not comment on pending legislation, but did issue a written statement regarding the IG’s report. In it a spokesperson Nate Christensen said:
The Department takes this issue very seriously and categorically does not condone the heinous behavior of convicted sexual offenders; that behavior simply has no place has no place in our military or society. While the Department fully complies with existing law requirements under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), we recognize that due to jurisdictional issues there are gaps in former military members actually reporting to the appropriate state sex offender registry post release from the Military Service or Military Prison.
That is why we are in the process of developing Department-wide policy and a partnership with the United States Marshals Service which will ensure that convicted sex-offenders fully comply with the law, as it is intended.
We went looking for Kingsberry, retracing his steps and talking with family. According to Kingsberry’s Facebook page he attended Chattahoochee Tech in Marietta — a rapist, among students, with no one the wiser.
He was convicted in Fulton County for soliciting an undercover officer for sex and in October, was arrested in South Carolina for assault and battery.
To get us to stop digging, Kingsberry gave us a call. Kingsberry didn’t want to talk on camera, but did promise to register. A few hours later, we found his name, where many say it should have been all along — on Georgia’s sex offender registry.
The GBI admits they had no idea Kingsberry was back in Georgia and law enforcement in DeKalb County says it wasn’t even looking for him. They were all grateful though for his phone call that day, asking if he could register.
The GBI says this is very much a public safety issue that needs a national solution. Keenan says in Georgia, the only government page with more public views than the sex offender registry – is the winning numbers from the lottery.