Blair judge declines to impose predator designation
Milliron says he can’t conclude McMaster meets criteria without additional evidence
HOLLIDAYSBURG — A Blair County judge has declined to classify an Altoona man as a sexually violent predator, based on a court hearing in September and information in related reports.
Judge Daniel J. Milliron recently ruled that Travis Michael McMaster, 36, doesn’t meet the state’s definition of a sexually violent predator, which requires evidence of a mental abnormality or personality disorder making him likely to reoffend.
McMaster, who pleaded guilty in October 2018 to unlawful contact with a minor based on his solicitation of nude photos from teenage girls, advised Milliron in September that he remains involved in a relapse prevention effort available to those who complete a treatment program for sexual offenders.
“(The) people who have actually treated him and interacted with him did not diagnose or observe any mental abnormality that would make him likely to engage in sexually predatory behavior,” Milliron wrote in his recent ruling. “In fact, the testimony shows that the defendant appears to be at low risk to reoffend.”
When McMaster pleaded guilty, Milliron handed down a sentence of one month to 23.5 months’ incarceration, followed by five years probation.
That plea put McMaster on the state’s Megan’s Law website and requires him to regularly register his address and other information with state police for a 25 year period.
McMaster’s plea also required him to be evaluated by the state Sexual Offenders Assessment Board, which recommended that he be declared a sexually violent predator, a decision that rests with a county judge.
At McMaster’s court hearing in September, board member Corrine Scheuneman addressed the board’s recommendation. She spoke of reviewing several reports including ones filed by investigating officers who identified McMaster as the person who created a fake online identification so he could pose as a teenager and encourage teenage girls to send nude photos to him.
When Scheuneman testified, she referred to McMaster’s guise and his offenses involved contact with multiple victims, including two girls, ages 14 and 15, who were listed in the criminal charges.
At the September hearing, McMaster’s defense attorney Dan Kiss challenged the board’s recommendation and Scheuneman’s testimony.
Kiss proposed that other personality factors and mental health conditions could have influenced McMaster’s behavior at the time of the offense.
Scheuneman testified that based on how McMaster carried out the offense, she concluded that he has a sexually deviant interest in young adults. It could qualify as a mental abnormality making him likely to engage in predatory sex offenses, she testified.
Milliron acknowledged Scheuneman’s conclusion in his ruling as well as a conclusion by Melissa Hale, sex offender counselor at Project Point of Light, who said her records of McMaster’s treatment have no reference to a deviant interest.
Milliron suggested that Scheuneman’s position could have been explored through a review of counseling, psychiatric or psychological records. Without additional supporting evidence, the judge said he couldn’t conclude that McMaster meets the state’s definition of a sexually violent predator.
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 814-946-7456.