Sex offender waives preliminary hearing in Missouri rape case

Saturday, June 28, 2003

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A convicted sexual predator freed by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year won't be able to rely on testimony from mental health experts to free him if he's convicted of the most recent rape charges against him, a prosecutor said Friday.

Michael Crane was freed from a Kansas sexual predator program after doctors at a state hospital declared him "no longer a threat." He had been held in the program after his formal sentence ended because officials were convinced he was a threat to society.

Barely 18 months after his release, he is facing five felony charges in the March rape of a woman at a Kansas City, Mo., apartment complex. If he's convicted, mental health experts likely won't get a chance to declare him cured again, said Jackson County prosecutor Mike Sanders.

"If he's guilty, we'll seek multiple life sentences," Sanders said, meaning the arguments that freed him in Kansas wouldn't again come into play.

Crane, 41, of Blue Springs, waived a preliminary hearing Friday morning and is scheduled to be arraigned July 15.

He is charged with kidnapping, three counts of forcible sodomy and one count of forcible rape for the March 22 attack of a woman in her vehicle at a Kansas City apartment complex. He also is charged with misdemeanor assault.

The Kansas sexual predator law, which the legislature approved 1994, was the model for about 20 other states that created similar statutes. It allows indefinite confinement of violent sex offenders beyond their prison term if they suffer from mental abnormalities that make them likely to commit similar crimes in the future.

The high court ruled in January 2002 that inmates could only be held after their sentences end if the state can prove they have "serious difficulty controlling their behavior."

Ruled no longer a threat

Doctors at Larned State Hospital, where Crane had been held in the Kansas sexual predator program, determined that Crane was no longer a threat. He was released from the state's program three days after the Supreme Court's ruling.

"If I were a doctor in Larned and testified in 2002, I would reflect back and look at my notes and see how I made that mistake," Sanders said.

Crane was convicted in 1994 in Johnson County, Kan., for a 1993 attack on a Leawood video store clerk. He eventually pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of aggravated sexual battery and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Crane is one of only two people who have been released from the Kansas sexual predator program. Since its inception, 89 offenders have been committed to that program.

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