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Lobbyist targets sex-offender rule

One of Florida's highest paid lobbyists has agreed to take on the case of Meadow Pointe County mothers upset about a kiddie porn viewer living on their street.

Miami lobbyist Ron Book said his daughter's sexual assault at the hands of her nanny inspired him to offer his services free to those residents struggling with what they consider a disreputable neighbor.

Two mothers in the Meadow Pointe neighborhood, Paula Pierceall and Vanessa Gray, want sentencing guidelines changed so that their recently paroled neighbor, Raymond Webb, wouldn't have been allowed back on their street.

Webb was snared in an FBI sting downloading photos of naked boys from the Internet. He spent more than a year in prison.

But on his release, federal rules didn't mandate he live more than 1,000 feet from schools, day cares and parks. In some cases, state guidelines require such a buffer between sex offenders and schools.

The mothers want state and federal requirements to jibe. Webb, who lives on Midnight Star Loop, within 1,000 feet of Sand Pine Elementary School, should not be allowed so close to children, they said.

"You perhaps reduce some of the temptations or urges," Gray said. "It's like sitting an alcoholic in the middle of a bar."

The controversy over Webb's residency has attracted the attention of state Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa, and U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Crystal River. Both vowed to enlist attorneys to research changing the law.

Last week a third major ally appeared in the form of Book. He's a Tallahassee power player and former aide to Democratic Gov. Bob Graham. His clients have included such big campaign donors as BellSouth and Florida Power and Light.

Book said he's keen to plug gaps in rules dealing with released sex offenders and predators. Book learned three years ago his daughter had been assaulted for several years by a trusted nanny. Even after the woman was locked away, she continued to write letters to his child.

While Webb's conviction didn't include illegal contact with kids, Book said sex offenders' recidivism rate makes him wary of living beside such people.

"I don't feel bad for any of these people," Book said. "It takes a crime against your family to turn you from a liberal to a conservative in the law enforcement arena."

Book, Crist and Brown-Waite all admit that applying state sentencing guidelines to federal sex offenders won't be easy. But should they succeed, it might not be enough to stop another Raymond Webb from living near a school.

State guidelines governing paroled sex offenders suggest the 1,000-foot buffer applies to producers of kiddie porn but not necessarily to viewers of such material.

But that's not a stumbling block for Crist. As the co-author of the state sex offender rules, he promised to consider a rewrite of the legislation.

"If there's a problem with the state law, we'll fit it," Crist said. "I'm willing to do the legislation. I've been on this for 12 years."

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