Tuesday, January 22, 2008

South Dakota man busted in park

Law Prevents Sex Offender From Re-Offending

Five years in prison for a life-long sex offender might not seem like much. But the state was actually able to take Keith Buller of rural Parker off the streets before he re-offended.

He was sentenced for violating a community safety zone. That's the law legislators passed in 2006 to keep sex offenders away from places where children spend time, like schools and parks. Without it, prosecutors say the state would just have to wait for Buller to continue his habit of exposing himself to children.

At the city park in Tea last May, a concerned mother took action before a convicted sex offended could do harm. 62- year-old Keith Buller had approached two children, ages 6 and 8, who were alone by the pond. "I think her senses just said something wasn't right," Lincoln County State's Attorney Tom Wollman says.

That mother called police, and when they arrived, officers learned Buller was in the act of committing a felony: a sex offender loitering in a community safety zone. "And he was actually in counseling, sex offender counseling, when he committed this offense," Wollman says.

Lincoln County State's Attorney Tom Wollman convicted Buller of the relatively new law, which is meant to keep sex offenders away from places where children spend time. Wollman saw Buller as a perfect example of why this law is in place. Buller's been convicted 10 times for things like exposing himself to children, soliciting lewd acts from children, and stalking.

"When you've got an individual with a criminal history for sex acts like this dating back to 1965, I think you almost have to say this individual is beyond rehabilitation," Wollman says.

Since the community safety zone violation is a felony and Buller has a criminal history, he's headed to prison for five years. Compare that to the maximum one year in jail for indecent exposure, which Buller was caught doing as recently as 2006. "This one really had some teeth in it, where the prior time we charged him with the misdemeanor, we got a jail sentence out of the deal," Wollman says.

As long as the community is pro-active in reporting suspicious behavior, Wollman believes the community safety zone law is effective in taking would-be reoffenders off the streets.

This is the first time someone was prosecuted in Lincoln County for violating the community safety zone.

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