When the COVID-19 pandemic began, corrections institutions around the country made the call to release thousands of non-violent offenders to prevent the spread of the virus behind bars. The community, it was said, would never be in danger.
But Inside Edition has learned that among those released inmates are convicted sex offenders, and you might be surprised to see where we found some of them.
In California, seven violent sex offenders were freed early during the pandemic, a move vehemently opposed by the Orange County District Attorney. In Manhattan’s Upper West Side, 18 sex offenders, including several child rapists, were moved from homeless shelters into a boutique hotel because of COVID-19 fears.
Outside Rochester, New York, several sex offenders were moved from jail to a Holiday Inn.
“I was pretty shocked,” said Police Chief Patrick Phelan. “They were released into my neighborhood, and I wasn’t notified. And I was concerned for my family so I can imagine everybody else was, too.”
After intense outrage, the Department of Corrections moved the sex offenders out of the Holiday Inn. But where did they end up?
Inside Edition found one of them, Jose Luis Fletcha, living in an apartment building in Rochester. He is a level 3 of offender, deemed the highest risk to reoffend. In Flecha’s case, he was convicted of raping two children. We observed him in his new neighborhood, running errands, hauling furniture and working at a shuttered house in Rochester.
Inside Edition producer Charlie McLravy tried to speak with him.
“Do you believe you’re a danger to the community, sir?” McLravy asked.
“Leave me alone,” Flecha replied.
Another one of the sex offenders, a convicted rapist and murderer named Larry Maurice Nicholson, was set free in March — something Monmouth County New Jersey Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni tried to stop.
“We are arguing that Larry Nicholson poses a risk to the community,” Gramiccioni said.
By law, Nicholson is required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. But once out, Nicholson went off the grid, failing to register. Inside Edition tracked him down to a house in Asbury Park, New Jersey, where he routinely strolls the neighborhood.
“I’m with Inside Edition. I’d like to know why you haven’t registered as a sex offender?” McLravy asked him.
“Uh, I did register,” Nicholson responded.
“You’re not on the registry,” McLravy said.
Nicholson replied that he was registered in Asbury Park. That’s not true.
“Some people feel you might still be a danger to the community. What do you have to say about that?” McLravy asked.
“I have nothing to say to you,” Nicholson said.
After we alerted local authorities, Nicholson was charged for failing to register as a sex offender. He was later released pending a grand jury review.