Justices uphold predator status
Bedford man said designation unconstitutional
A Bedford man convicted several years ago of sexual offenses against a child has lost his appeal to a judge’s decision classifying him as a sexually violent predator, which means he must register with police for the rest of his life.
Duane Joseph Hann Sr., 42, was sentenced in 2011 to a prison term of 10 to 25 years, followed by 10 years’ probation.
Hann’s sentencing was initially delayed so that Pennsylvania’s Sexual Offenders Assessment Board could determine if he met the criteria as a sexually violent predator.
The board recommended the SVP classification, and after Hann was sentenced to prison, Bedford County Judge Thomas S. Ling found him to be a sexually violent predator under the former Megan’s Law.
Pennsylvania now has a new registration law called the Sexual Offenders Registration and Notification Act, which also classifies Hann as a sexually violent predator.
But defense attorneys challenged the SORNA classification system because, in some cases, it imposed additional registration requirements on individuals who had been classified under Megan’s Law.
In a 2017 case, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that the registration requirements under the new act were unconstitutional because they were “punitive” and part of an offender’s sentence. To increase the punishment after a defendant was already sentenced was in violation of the bar against ex-post facto sentences in both the U.S. and Pennsylvania constitutions, according to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Although Hann did not appeal his original sentence, he filed a petition in 2018 contending his SVP designation was illegal.
However, in a March 26 opinion, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed its position, pointing out that the SVP designation did not represent punishment, although it recognized SVP requirements imposed “affirmative disabilities and restraints upon SVPs,” but instead reflected the Legislature’s will to protect the public through counseling and public notification for those “who have been found to be dangerously mentally ill.”
In an opinion issued Tuesday, the Superior Court panel that included judges Jacqueline O. Shogan, Maria McLaughlin and Kate Ford Elliott applied the most recent Supreme Court decision upholding the SVP designation.
It stated: “We conclude that because an SVP adjudication is not criminal punishment, (Hann’s) designation as an SVP under SORNA does not constitute reversible error.”
Hann was arrested in 2010 and charged with two criminal informations that included multiple counts of rape of a child and one count of aggravated indecent assault of a child.
His attorney, Christian A. Kerstetter of Hollidaysburg, asked the Superior Court to determine if Hann’s sexually violent predator designation was illegally imposed.
Hann is incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Somerset.
The opinion concerning the legality of the SVP designation followed a decision two weeks ago by the Supreme Court in which it ordered Blair County Judge Daniel J. Milliron to hold an SVP hearing in a case involving a sexual offender against a teenage girl.