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Politicians Beware: Sex Crimes May Soon Be Off-Limits 

click to enlarge street02_barber_100.jpg

Don't call it the Ed Barber bill.

"I don't want to go that far, no," says Delegate Riley Ingram, a Republican who represents Hopewell in the General Assembly. He's introduced legislation to restrict convicted sex offenders from holding public office.

Barber, former chairman of the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors, pleaded guilty in June to two counts of misdemeanor sexual battery against his stepdaughter. He voluntarily resigned his seat on the board amid scandal.

Ingram's bill seeks to close a loophole.

The bill requires all public officials to step down if convicted of sex crimes and if they are required to register on the state's Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry. Felony convictions of any type already require officials to give up office.

"Just like Chuck Richardson — and I knew Chuck — there was a bill put in at that time and made into law that if you were convicted of dealing drugs, you would have to give up your public office," Ingram says. "This puts [sex] crimes against minors into the same provision so that they would have to give up their office."

In 1987, Richardson, then a Richmond city councilman, was arrested and later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor drug charge. Subsequent changes in the law now require abdication of office for misdemeanor drug convictions.

Ingram had said publicly after Barber's conviction that he wanted a bill restricting sex offenders from holding office. But asked whether Barber the served as sole inspiration for the bill, Ingram was noncommittal.

"It's very possible, yes," he says without committing. "That's one example — and there may be one or two other cases out there. I do feel like this should be on the books so there's no question. If you put yourself out there for public office, people hold you to a higher standard." S

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