A former Annapolis alderman and mayoral candidate who spent a weekend in jail for groping a Naval Academy midshipman does not have to register as a sex offender, an Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge ruled Thursday.
Gil Cochran, the attorney for Samuel E. Shropshire, 63, had sought a dismissal of that requirement, arguing that it would affect Shropshire's ability to find employment.
Judge Paul F. Harris agreed, saying that Shropshire, who was found guilty of groping a 21-year-old male midshipman whom he mentored through a Naval Academy-sponsored program, had satisfied all the requirements of his sentence. The victim was an adult, and Shropshire had no other criminal record, Harris said.
"Mr. Shropshire has done everything this court has asked him to do," said Harris, who said he initially added the registration requirement to ensure public notice, but reconsidered when he weighed all the factors.
After Thursday's proceeding, Shropshire, who has maintained his innocence, called the ordeal a "nightmare" and said he was able to get through it with the support of his wife, his adult daughter and 15 or so midshipmen who support him. Shropshire did not address the court.
"I regret deeply the embarrassment this has caused the Naval Academy," Shropshire said after the hearing, his voice breaking and tears welling in his eyes. "Nobody was more proud to be a sponsor at the Naval Academy than I was."
Prosecutor William D. Roessler did not object to the judge's ruling.
Timing was key in the decision. A recent change in state law requires those convicted of any sex offense — even a relatively low-grade, fourth-degree sex offense such as Shropshire's — to register as a sex offender. Although Shropshire was initially convicted and sentenced to jail and probation, the judge recently granted Shropshire probation before judgment. The PBJ was granted just two days before the change in law went into effect.
Shropshire was convicted in December 2009 of second-degree assault and fourth-degree sex offense for twice grabbing the midshipman's genitals while driving him back to the Naval Academy.
In February, Shropshire was sentenced to a weekend in jail and two years of supervised probation. Cochran had asked for probation before judgment at that time, and the judge said he would agree to consider it in the future.
At a Sept. 29 hearing, Harris granted Shropshire a PBJ and changed his probation to unsupervised, but added the requirement that Shropshire register as a sex offender. Shropshire immediately registered, said Cochran, and now he will be removed from the registry.
Cochran said he plans to seek an expungement, which Shropshire will be eligible for if he stays out of trouble for the next three years.