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Altoona man contests offender label

HOLLIDAYSBURG — An Altoona man who has completed treatment for sexual offenders is objecting to the state’s request for him to be identified as a sexually violent predator.

Travis Michael McMaster, 36, is at low risk of reoffending, licensed social worker Melissa Hale told Blair County Judge Daniel J. Milliron during a Tuesday court hearing.

McMaster maintains contact with Project Point of Light, the agency that provided him with treatment for sexual offenders, Hale said.

He also has a relapse prevention program and has found it to be effective, Hale said.

McMaster was arrested in March 2017 based on the results of an eight-month investigation that began in 2016 after Facebook reported that a 14-year-old girl uploaded two photos of herself that were deemed to be child pornography.

The girl told investigators that she was sending the photos to Derick Colver who had a profile indicating he was a teenager.

Facebook records linked Covler to McMaster and showed him to be in contact with as many as 600 computer users believed to be female minors.

McMaster, who pleaded guilty in October 2018 to unlawful contact with a minor, was sentenced in October 2019 to 15 days in the county prison, followed by 15 days on house arrest, followed by five years’ probation. While out of jail on bail awaiting sentencing, McMaster enrolled in the treatment program for sexual offenders.

Based on his conviction, McMaster is listed on the state’s website of sex offenders and for 25 years. He has regularly registered his address and related information with state police.

The request for McMaster to be classified as a sexually violent predator reflects an evaluation by the state Sexual Offenders Assessment Board, which has to be presented to a county judge for review.

In support of the recommendation, state Deputy Attorney General David Drumheller called upon Corrine Scheuneman to explain that the SVP designation reflects a mental health abnormality that factored into McMaster’s behavior leading to his criminal charges.

On McMaster’s behalf, defense attorney Dan Kiss attempted to get Scheuneman to acknowledge that McMaster’s behavior may have reflected his client’s autism and not a mental health abnormality.

Scheuneman disagreed and said McMaster’s autism could have been used in support of the SVP recommendation.

Drumheller also asked Hale if her conclusion that McMaster is at low risk of reoffending reflected an SVP assessment evaluation, as set forth in state law. Hale acknowledged that it didn’t.

Milliron, who has the task of deciding if McMaster should be classified as a sexually violent predator, said he would await a transcript of the court hearing before ruling.

The judge also told Drumheller and Kiss to provide him with any recent relevant court rulings because he hadn’t presided over an SVP hearing for about five years.

Pennsylvania counties had SVP hearings on hold during a lengthy appeals process that ended in March 2020 when the state Supreme Court found the state’s way of bestowing SVP designations to be lawful.

While that ruling permitted SVP hearings to resume, it didn’t happen immediately because the COVID-19 pandemic wrecked havoc with court schedules.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 814-946-7456.

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