Sunday, February 22, 2004
Escaped sex offender enjoys legal loophole 16, 2004: "ST. LOUIS, Missouri (AP) -- A convicted sex offender says he broke out of a sexual-predator unit in 2001 knowing that a legal loophole would prevent Missouri authorities from charging him with escape.

Thomas Ingrassia, 47, said he used the library at the Sexually Violent Predator Unit in Farmington to brush up on the law before he cut through a fence.

'Missouri's so quick to make up laws without researching whether it's proper,' Ingrassia said in Friday's St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 'They're idiots.'

Under the civil commitment programs in Missouri and 15 other states, sex offenders who complete their prison sentences can be held indefinitely in a mental hospital if they are deemed likely to commit new sex crimes.

But when Missouri enacted the program in 1998, it did not specify that escaping from a civil facility was a crime.

As a result, authorities could pursue Ingrassia only on a charge of felony property damage, for cutting the fence. The crime carries up to seven years in prison.

He was captured in October in Florida, where he had remarried and taken an alias.

'If he hadn't tore the fence up when he got out, there'd be nothing to charge him with,' St. Francois County Sheriff Daniel Bullock said. 'When one of my officers who works in the sex predator unit told us he couldn't be charged, we were just flabbergasted.'

Ingrassia was convicted of four sexual attacks in the St. Louis area in the 1970s. He entered the civil commitment program in 1999, two years after completing parole, because he was accused of stalking."

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