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'ROMEO AND JULIET' LAW SHEDS MAN'S SEX OFFENDER STATUS

A 28-year-old man has shed his sex offender status under a new "Romeo and Juliet" law intended to allow certain people convicted of teenage sexual activity to separate themselves from the state's registered sex offenders.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Anthony Croce of St. Petersburg is the only person so far to qualify for removal from Florida's registry of sex offenders under the law named after William Shakespeare's star-crossed teen lovers.

Underage sex is still a crime in Florida, but the law, which went into effect in July, allows a judge to remove the sex offender designation in certain cases.

The victim in the case must be between 14 and 17, a willing participant in the sexual activity and no more than four years younger than the offender.

The offense must be the only sex crime on the offender's record.

Croce was 17 when he started having sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend, but her mother pressed charges after he turned 18. Croce pleaded no contest to lewd and lascivious behavior, which required him to register as a sex offender.

Authorities said very few people will qualify for removal under the law.

A review of 900 sex offenders in two Florida counties found only three who might qualify, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

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