State law allowed convicted sex offender to be removed from state registry
Posted June 25, 2014 7:25 p.m. EDT
Updated June 26, 2014 11:15 a.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — A Harnett County man convicted twice of sex crimes involving children was not a registered sex offender when he was arrested this year in a case that led authorities to an alleged child pornography operation.
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said Wednesday that’s because state law changed in 2001, four years after Bailey Joe Mills was first arrested on a charge of indecent liberties with a child.
Mills, 33, of 184 Nichole Drive in Sanford, was convicted of the crime in 1997 and placed on the state Sex Offender Registry for 10 years – the maximum under state law at the time.
In 2000, he was arrested and convicted on a second charge of indecent liberties with a child and ordered onto the registry for another 10 years.
The law changed beginning in October 2001, mandating that repeat sex offenders remain on the registry for life. Then, in 2006, a new law went into effect requiring convicted first-time offenders to remain on the registry for at least 30 years.
But in 2011, after being in the statewide database for 14 years, Mills petitioned, as outlined under the 2006 state law, to be removed from the registry.
A judge granted that request, finding that Mills was not a current or potential threat to public safety.
Fast-forward to January 2014, when Mills was arrested for allegedly propositioning a 13-year-old girl for sex. After his arrest, Harnett County sheriff’s detectives eventually uncovered evidence of a child porn operation.
Investigators say Mills was running the operation under the guise of an unregistered day care to attract young children to his home. Detectives say he found men online willing to pay to have sex with the children – 10 victims between ages 1 and 14 years old.
Four other people are also charged in connection with the alleged operation, and Mills now faces more than a dozen other charges, including five counts each of statutory rape and statutory sexual offense and first-degree rape of a child.
“Cases like these show why the sex offender list can be so important, that, potentially, it can save a child,” Cooper said.
“The sex offender registry needs to be as tough as possible,” he added. “We have changed the law so that the situation will be corrected in the future. We pushed for that change in the law. We need to make it as tough as possible.”