North Tonawanda sex offender James A. McKinney will be freed from prison and allowed to remain on parole, but his whereabouts will be kept secret for the time being, a judge has ruled.
State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. last week refused a state attempt to have McKinney committed indefinitely to a mental institution because of violations of the parole rules he was ordered to follow.
In a nonjury trial held in March 2009 under the state's civil confinement law, McKinney, 53, was found to have a mental abnormality that makes him likely to commit more sex crimes.
He pleaded guilty in 2002 to having sex with four girls under the age of 14, one in Niagara Falls in 1998 and the others in North Tonawanda in 2000 and 2001.
McKinney was flagged for civil confinement as his seven-year prison term was expiring.
Kloch could have committed McKinney in 2009, but instead the judge placed him on a parole regimen called SIST, for Strict and Intensive Supervision and Treatment.
McKinney's parole officer, Suzanne Mattingly, testified last week that McKinney had "an apparent lack of desire to be on parole or be on SIST."
His bad attitude about following the 68 SIST rules led to several violations, Mattingly testified.
But McKinney was imprisoned as a parole violator after being terminated from a sex offender counseling program in the fall of 2009.
His prison term is to expire Friday. Kloch ordered that McKinney should be placed back on SIST and live at an address that parole officials must approve in advance.
But Kloch said McKinney will have to stay in prison until a home is approved. He said this time he will not order a residence for McKinney himself.
"I did that last time, and it didn't turn out too well," the judge said.
The housing of McKinney and other sex offenders became a political football in the summer of 2009, after The Buffalo News reported that Kloch was going to let McKinney live with his mother in North Tonawanda.
He ended up being shuttled between the Midtown Inn, a Niagara Falls apartment house, and the B-Cozy Motel in North Tonawanda. Both eventually were judged unsuitable because both were close enough to schools that local buffer zone laws were violated.
Kloch said that once a place is found, "I want no other release of the location of his residence."
Assistant Attorney General Wendy Whiting pointed out that McKinney's whereabouts can't be kept secret forever, because he will have to register his address, which will be posted on the state sex offender website.
Defense attorney John Nuchereno said the conditions of SIST are unrealistically harsh. McKinney is supposed to stay away from anyone under 18.
One of the conditions of SIST is that McKinney should find a job. But he's not allowed to use a computer, because he could access pornography, nor visit a library, because children are likely to be there.
Nuchereno asked Kloch to let McKinney hunt for jobs online. The defense attorney added, "He'd like two things to make life normal: He'd like a fishing license, and he'd like, if they still exist, to go into a traditional bookstore."
Kloch said if McKinney buys into the SIST treatment program, he expects Mattingly "would meet reasonable requests reasonably."
But he told Nuchereno he can seek a court order if McKinney is cooperative and his parole officer is not.
Kloch warned McKinney: "You have to comply rigidly with every condition, every assignment. If it were me, I'd be courteous and kind, even if you hated every minute of it. But you shouldn't hate it. This is the path you created for yourself."