SALEM — A Level 3 sex offender from Salisbury was sentenced Thursday to 2½ to 3 years in state prison after admitting that he failed to reregister as a sex offender for about two weeks back in 2017.
Richard J. Cloutier Jr., 56, was homeless at the time and because of that, he was required to report to police every 30 days.
But in January 2017, he failed to do so, he admitted Thursday — though he did, a prosecutor acknowledged, call the Salisbury Police Department to say he was stranded in Georgia.
That was one of the reasons the district attorney’s office agreed to reduce the charge of failing to register to a first offense, even though Cloutier has a past conviction for that charge in 2008. If the charge remained as a subsequent offense, Cloutier would have faced at least five years in prison and up to life.
Cloutier, a Newburyport native with a long history of sex offenses, checked in with Salisbury police in December 2016, prosecutor Karen Hopwood told Salem Superior Court Judge James Lang during the hearing Thursday.
He was due to report again Jan. 16, but did not appear, Hopwood said.
It turns out he had gone to Florida with a girlfriend, his attorney, Hilary McCamic, told a judge. Then, he became stranded in Georgia, she said.
McCamic declined to elaborate on the circumstances of how he became stranded.
Hopwood said Cloutier ended up staying in a Brunswick, Georgia, homeless shelter for a period of time and applied for a voter identification card, indicating to authorities that he was now a resident of that state.
But during that time, Hopwood said, Cloutier did call the business line of the Salisbury Police Department and spoke to a dispatcher about his whereabouts.
Still, he did not make any attempt to register as a sex offender while in Georgia. He was arrested Feb. 1, 2017, after getting off a bus in Massachusetts.
Cloutier’s history of sex offenses dates back to 1991, when he was found guilty of indecent assault and battery.
McCamic told the judge that her client struggled over the years but has strong support from his family.
“I know he does not want to end up back in this situation again,” McCamic said.
“I thought long and hard and came to the conclusion that I’ve learned a valuable lesson,” Cloutier, who has spent more than 900 days in custody awaiting trial in the case, told Lang. “I will take the steps and measures to assure this never happens again.”
Lang said the case was not typical of most failure-to-register cases in which a defendant is actively seeking to elude authorities. “Mr. Cloutier reached out to the Salisbury police,” said the judge, who credited him for doing so as well as crediting the prosecutor for reducing the charge.
With credit for the 919 days he’s been in custody awaiting trial, Cloutier will be eligible to seek parole almost immediately, though it’s not clear if he will be granted parole given his past convictions.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis.