Latrobe man seeks early end to probation
A Latrobe man wants his four-year probation sentence to end a year early to avoid being classified as a sexual offender under a new version of Megan's Law that goes into effect next week in Pennsylvania.
The attorney for Jordan Japalucci, 26, told Westmoreland County Judge Al Bell on Thursday that his client did not bargain for the additional part of his sentence, which would be implemented on Dec. 20.
That's when the state's version of the federal Adam Walsh Act will take effect and retroactively classify people as sex offenders, even though the crimes for which they were convicted were not previously covered under Megan's Law.
“Megan's Law, in the real world, the brand, this stamp, is punishment worse than jail time. This new law is like a scarlet letter,” defense attorney Al Lindsay said.
Japalucci pleaded guilty on Dec. 3, 2008, to a misdemeanor count of corruption of minors. He was accused of transporting his 14-year-old girlfriend across state lines, to Florida. During the trip, police said, they had sexual relations. Japalucci was 20 at the time of his arrest.
Prosecutors dismissed more serious sex charges. Japalucci testified on Thursday that he accepted the plea bargain to avoid a felony conviction and the stigma of being labeled a Megan's Law offender. At the time, his misdemeanor count was not considered a Megan's Law violation.
“I told my lawyer, ‘I don't want any Megan's Law or felonies,'” Japalucci testified.
Megan's Law offenses require defendants to register their whereabouts with state police and in some cases it prevents them from living near places where children congregate, such as schools.
In return for his plea, Japalucci was sentenced to nearly a year in prison, which he has served, and four years of probation. His probation runs through Dec. 12, 2013.
He was not subjected to Megan's Law registration, but that will change next week.
Japalucci testified that the new registration requirement could cost him his job and might force him to move. He lives a few blocks from Latrobe Elementary School.
Assistant District Attorney Judy Petrush said that under the new law, corruption of minors is an offense that requires registration. Japalucci, if he is still on probation for that charge, will have to register as a sex offender, she said.
She said Japalucci should not have his probation cut short because of the change.
“The law is pretty clear. The court cannot modify a plea bargain,” she said.
Bell said he would take the issue under advisement and ordered the lawyers to submit legal arguments by Dec. 17.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.