Noting concern for the safety of local youths, Anne Arundel County police have begun distributing fliers warning Linthicum-area residents that a man who served more than 20 years in a Texas prison for child sexual abuse had recently moved into the community.
It is the first time the police have taken this step. "We're not trying to [encourage] paranoia ... or make people lock their children in their houses, but we feel it's the right of the people to know and protect their children," police spokesman Sgt. Shawn Urbas said in explaining the move.
He characterized Mallory Vernon Nicholson, 57, of the 6500 block of Harrison Ave. as dangerous given his 1982 convictions on two counts aggravated sexual abuse of a child. His victims, both boys, were ages 7 and 9 at the time.
Other convicted sex offenders live in the county, but Urbas said police took the step of going door-to-door with the fliers because Nicholson has been classified by the Maryland Sex Offender Registry as a "sexually violent predator" who may be a risk for committing another offense. The registry, a database kept by the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, is available on the Internet.
Police officials said their action was within the law.
But Nicholson, now married, said by phone yesterday that he was wrongly convicted and should be given a second chance at a normal life.
"I've always voiced my innocence from the very beginning. I have never physically hurt or verbally abused a child in my life," said Nicholson, who served 21 years in prison before his release last year. "My only intention ... is to live my life and be peaceful as God allows."
Nicholson, who in his words "lost a lot" during his more than two decades behind bars, added that the fliers are sabotaging any chance he has at starting over. He said he moved to Anne Arundel about three months ago.
"I don't think it's fair. It seems like I'm being retried ... for a crime I never committed," he said.
Anne Arundel Police Chief P. Thomas Shanahan defended his decision to distribute the information, saying, "My greater concern is for the community and not his [Nicholson's] personal feelings."
Shanahan said yesterday that he is "cynical" about Nicholson's chances at rehabilitation.
Tuesday, police began handing out several hundred fliers to residents living around Nicholson's north county home, Urbas said.
The photocopied sheets include Nicholson's personal information - his photo, name, age and address - and basic information about his criminal record. Fliers were also left at community recreation centers and other facilities frequented by children, Urbas said.
Now that neighbors know of his whereabouts and past convictions, Nicholson says he is relying on faith and hoping that his neighbors will not view him with anger or disdain.
"I have to turn all of this over to the Lord," he said. "I still trust people and I hope that they don't hold any hostility toward me."
A news release issued Wednesday by Anne Arundel County police said that Nicholson was living in the Dallas area in 1982 when he was convicted on two counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child.
Because of his classification as a "sexually violent predator" - considered the most serious of all sex-offender classifications - Nicholson is required to check in with a designated Maryland agency every 90 days.
Anne Arundel police learned of Nicholson's move to the county when notified by the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation.
Urbas said this is the first time that county police have made such a comprehensive attempt to warn the public about a convicted sex offender living nearby, adding that police are only required by law to inform the school superintendent if such a person moves in.
"We take it very seriously," Urbas said. "If we had another one [move in], we'd do the same thing."