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Maldonado calls for limit on sex offenders' access to IDs

By KELLY NIX

Published: March 20, 2009

STATE SEN. Abel Maldonado said he’ll consider proposing a bill that would prevent registered sex offenders from working in liquor stores and other businesses where they can check IDs and have access to customers’ personal information.

“Allowing registered sex offenders to view a person’s driver’s license, thereby allowing them to obtain important contact information like the person’s address, is extremely dangerous,” Maldonado said.

Maldonado made the comments to The Pine Cone after learning that registered sex offender and liquor store worker Thomas Pollacci, 49, was charged with three felony counts of rape stemming from an April 2008 incident. Pollacci’s family owns Ron’s Liquors in Pacific Grove, and he has worked there for years.

“Sex offenders simply should not be privy to this sensitive information,” Maldonado said. “While the deadline to introduce new legislation for this year has passed, I will certainly consider introducing a bill next year to end this dangerous practice.”

Pollacci, who was charged in February, turned himself in to Seaside police, posted bail and is set to be arraigned Tuesday in a Salinas courtroom.

This year, Maldonado introduced SB 496, a bill that would prohibit registered sex offenders from obtaining a real estate license.

Under current law, registered sex offenders who are real estate agents are granted full access to a family’s home, including keys that could allow a predator to access a home at night or when adults are not around, a loophole Maldonado said needs to be closed. 

And allowing those convicted of sex crimes to work in jobs where they have access to personal details also puts the public at risk, he said.

'Keep an open mind'

Pollacci was charged by the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office with forcible rape of a woman too mentally and developmentally disabled to give legal consent and who was unconscious at the time.

But on Tuesday, the Salinas law firm representing Pollacci issued a press release stating Pollacci and his accuser knew each other.

“The complaining witness and Tom Pollacci have known each other for many years and had a relationship,” according to attorney Tom Worthington. “And based on our investigation, there is no reason to believe that she was in any way developmentally disabled.”

Worthington wrote that Pollacci voluntarily provided police a sample of his DNA in July 2008. He said Pollacci, who is being represented by Worthington’s legal partner, Andrew Liu, will plead not guilty to the charges when he is arraigned March 24.

Meanwhile, a woman who has not revealed her name launched an Internet campaign to boycott Ron’s Liquors, the Pacific Grove store Pollacci’s family owns and he has managed. The woman was interviewed by KSBW this week.
“We demand that the Pollacci family sell the business,” according to the email. “And we also demand that Tom Pollacci stay out of Pacific Grove.”

Another Pacific Grove resident defended the owners of Ron’s Liquors. Jeanie Anton, who said she has known the Pollaccis for decades, told The Pine Cone she would not support a boycott of the store.

“I have known the Pollacci family for as long as I have been in Pacific Grove, around 40 years, and the whole family should not be punished for the misdeeds of one family member,” Anton said. “Yes, Tom Pollacci should stay out of P.G., but please don’t chastise the whole family. His parents and siblings are very nice people.”

Another resident, who also wanted to remain anonymous, sent out a mass email message expressing her concerns that Pollacci has access to customers’ personal information while working at the store.

“Women are showing their IDs to him when they go into Ron’s Liquor to buy alcohol and such,” according to the email message “And that is very dangerous.”

Worthington said Pollacci doesn’t currently work at the Lighthouse Avenue liquor store. The attorney also urged the public to keep an open mind “until they have heard evidence instead of basing their opinions on vicious rumors.”
“Our client has cooperated fully with the investigation,” he said. “[Pollacci] surrendered as soon as he learned of the warrant.”

Pacific Grove police told The Pine Cone Pollacci is a registered sex offender but did not say what he had done to require him to register. For more than 50 years, California has required sex offenders to register with their local law enforcement agencies.