Sunday, September 30, 2007

CA - I Sent the Wrong Man to Jail: Why Governor Schwarzenegger Should Sign SB 756

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March of 1995 began like any other month for me. The days were filled with chasing soon to be five year-old triplets, washing hundreds of pounds of laundry, kissing skinned knees and picking up toys, until the phone rang. Captain Mike Gauldin, the detective who worked my case after a man broke into my apartment when I was a twenty-two year-old college student and raped me at knifepoint in Burlington, N.C. wanted to come see me with Rob Johnson, then the assistant D.A. of Alamance County.

They arrived before lunch and we sat on the deck enjoying the spring sunshine. We talked about the weather, the kids, current events, and then quickly the topic changed. Ronald Cotton, the man sent away for life for attacking me, wanted a DNA test. They needed new blood drawn because my sample from the eleven year-old rape kit had deteriorated.

I had already sat through two trials and I was furious, but I didn't hesitate. "Let's go to the lab right now," I responded. Within hours Mike Gauldin and Rob Johnson were headed to the SBI labs with my vial of blood. I knew the tests would show what I had known all along: that Ronald Cotton was a monster. It was Ronald Cotton who threatened to kill me, who had chased me through the rain that night while I fled for my life. And it was Ronald Cotton who I saw every night in my nightmares, who I prayed God would have killed, and who I hated each and every day of the last eleven years.

But when Mike Gauldin and Rob Johnson stood in my kitchen in June of 1995, they told me we were wrong. It was not Ronald's DNA found in the rape kit, in fact, it was a man named Bobby Poole, a serial rapist who had attacked and raped over a half dozen other women that summer of 1984.

With the delivery of the DNA results came an overwhelming shame and guilt. My mind began to question everything I had believed in. I pulled away from the world as I knew it; I had no answers. Over four thousand days of a man's life were gone and nothing I could do would ever change that. Eleven birthdays, eleven Christmas mornings—gone. I placed the burden on my shoulders and began the slow process of moving through my days.

By the spring of 1997, the psychological toll forced me to act. In a small church no more then a few miles from where I had been brutally raped, I met Ronald and struggled for words I could say to him. How completely inadequate "I'm sorry" seemed. As Ronald and his new wife, Robbin, came into the room I began to cry and shake. "Ronald, if I spent the rest of my life telling you how sorry I am it wouldn't be enough," I said. Ronald immediately took my hands and replied, "I forgive you. I want you to be happy and live a good life. Don't look over your shoulders thinking I will be there because I won't."

For the first time, I looked into Ronald Cotton's eyes and saw a compassionate man who gave me a gift of healing by forgiving me. I also saw a victim of a flawed system. If California's Senate Bill 756 can help fix that system by putting better practices and procedures into place for eyewitness identification, we reduce the risk of wrongful convictions and mistakes like the one I made. A mistake I never saw coming.

TX - Sending offenders to the shadows?

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The police chief, who said he has long studied this issue, is adamantly opposed to what he calls a "feel-good ordinance."

This is obviously a true statement because he knows the facts.

The mayor on the other hand sounds like the typical politician, full of fecal matter.


In one North Texas town, the police chief goes on record as opposing more stringent restrictions on where sex offenders can live within the city limits.

That in itself is a great news story.

The newly elected mayor of the city, who ran on a platform to make it harder for pedophiles to reside there, says he is determined -- even if he has to mount a petition drive -- to continue his crusade to "protect the children of our community."

That produces interesting headlines.

That a police chief and the mayor are at odds over a criminal justice matter naturally makes for a good fight, but the bigger questions are: Who will win this battle? And, more important, who ought to win it?

The place is Mansfield, once a sleepy hamlet in southern Tarrant County and now one of the fastest-growing cities in the state.

Let me say upfront that I think many cities have gone overboard in passing laws to continue punishing "sex offenders" after, in many cases, they already have served their time.

"Sex offender" and "pedophile" are not synonymous, and those who tend to use the terms interchangeably often are demagogues intent on playing on the public's emotions for their own benefit.

But before I tell you more of what I think on this issue, let me tell you what Mayor Barton Scott and Police Chief Steve Noonkester have to say.

The mayor's proposed ordinance, which would have banned convicted sex offenders from living near where children congregate, was defeated on a 4-3 City Council vote in August. Scott originally had proposed keeping sex offender residences at least 2,500 feet away from churches, schools, playgrounds and such, meaning that they most likely would be relegated to "remote, rural areas of the community."

He told me last week that next month he will pursue a petition drive to force a referendum on the issue which, if passed, also would prohibit sex offenders from putting Halloween decorations in their yards to "lure kids to their doorstep to meet and give out candy."

In an e-mail message, Scott said: "My ordinance proposal will require that their pictures and crimes be broadcast on the local cable channel, their pictures and crimes be published in a local newspaper on a semiannual basis and that when a pedophile moves into a neighborhood, nearby residents receive a generic postcard from the police department alerting [them] to the potential danger."

The police chief, who said he has long studied this issue, is adamantly opposed to what he calls a "feel-good ordinance."

Noonkester, citing a litany of opinions by law enforcement officials, academicians and criminal justice experts, insists that such ordinances do not prevent sex offenses and instead tend to drive the offenders underground, making it more difficult to keep an eye on them.

Putting signs in their yards and driving them away from their chief support group -- their families -- only makes matters worse, the chief said.

Noting that some of the offenders in his city discharged their sentences 20 years ago, Noonkester said, "There comes a time when people have paid their debt to society."

The mayor argues that his ordinance would grandfather in all the people now living in Mansfield, and it would be tailored to fit true pedophiles: those targeting children 13 and younger.

In his campaign for the ordinance, Scott has used the tragic death of an Arlington child several years ago to warn the people in his community what could happen there.

"You failed to mention that the offender lived in Irving and drove to Arlington to abduct the victim," the chief retorted in an e-mail to the mayor. "You failed to mention that he was a friend of the live-in babysitter, you failed to mention that he had been in the apartment before, so you failed to mention that he would have been in the 90 percent to 95 percent group who knows his victim or is a family member."

Noonkester said such ordinances create a domino effect: When one city prohibits sex offenders from living there, nearby communities feel they must pass similar laws to keep them from moving in.

That causes many sex offenders to stop registering, as required by state law.

The mayor insists that technology is such that law enforcement should be able to track any offender.

Scott, a public school teacher and father of a 2-year-old daughter, said he owes it to his child and all the children of his community to fulfill his election promise to see that Mansfield has a strong sex offender ordinance. Therefore, he will proceed with gathering the necessary signatures to force the council to pass the proposal or call a referendum.

The mayor will need about 930 valid signatures (30 percent of the number who voted in the last regular election) to force the referendum -- which, if called, probably would be scheduled for May.

Meanwhile, the police chief and a majority of the council remain convinced that this is an unnecessary exercise in hysteria, primarily being waged for political gain rather than the true safety of the community.

I agree with them.

FL - Police officer investigated for sexual misconduct

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And yet another pervert cop from Florida. More Corruption here.


The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating allegations of sexual misconduct by an officer of the Blountstown Police Department.

Charles Bender, a resident of Jackson County, has been placed on administrative leave from the police department pending the outcome of the FDLE investigation, according to BPD Chief Glenn Kimbrel.

Kimbrel said that Bender, who has been serving with BPD for about a year and a half, was placed on leave Sept. 21.

"There was some information that surfaced Sept. 20 that caused me to contact FDLE and request them to investigate," said Kimbrel. "I contacted them on Sept. 21 and they came here on Sept. 25. I'm assisting them with the investigation. An allegation of this sort is very disturbing. When something like this surfaces, involving a person in a position of trust, it is very disturbing. And I can assure the public that if an officer who works for me has done something like that, he or she will be dealt whatever the law dictates."

ME - Maine Court puts needed halt on sex offender hysteria

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Internet registries can punish sex offenders but may do little to protect children.

Pillory was the name of a punishment device used in Colonial times. Usually made from two hinged boards with holes cut for the head and hands, this technical upgrade to the stocks was used to expose convicts to public scorn.

In his novel, "The Scarlet Letter," Nathaniel Hawthorne described one of the machines, and said, "There can be no outrage, methinks ... more flagrant than to forbid the culprit to hide his face for shame."

In our times, "pillory" has become a verb meaning "to lay open to ridicule, public shame and abuse." It is a word that could be used to describe what happens to a person whose name and photograph appears on an Internet sex offender registry.

In an important ruling this week, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court opened Maine's sex offender registry law to legal challenge. This opinion should force the public and all levels of government to reconsider the effectiveness of online registries as a weapon against sexual violence.


The unanimous court found that restrictions on where a sex offender can live and work flow from public notification. That makes the registry a form of punishment that should be imposed selectively as part of a criminal sentence, and not applied indiscriminately through civil law.

The Legislature's Criminal Justice Committee will meet next month to review the law in light of the court's opinion. The lawmakers should realize what two of the judges found: Amendments to the Sex Offender Registry and Notification Act made over the last seven years have turned a reasonable law- enforcement tool into a vindictive weapon against one class of criminal.

Lawmakers should especially reconsider their decision to make the mandatory registration retroactive, applying it in some cases to people who have lived quiet, law-abiding lives for years since completing their sentences.

This is not about being nice to sex offenders or ignoring the often-lifelong damage caused by their crimes. It is about justice and public safety.

Maine's online registry, and others like it in almost every state, does little to protect children and others from abuse because it can drive offenders underground, making them harder to track. Most sex crimes against children are committed within households, and a public registry does not provide information that would protect many of those victims. In fact, it could give their parents a false sense of security.

The main purpose of the online registries appears to be punitive. While the criminal justice system imposes punishment, the state should also focus attention on education and other areas that could prevent crime.

Maine passed its notification law in 1995. At that time, it required people convicted of gross sexual assault when the victim was under the age of 16 to register as part of their sentence. By law, the information was given to "certain police agencies and to members of the public who the department determines appropriate to ensure public safety."


Subsequent amendments to the law have been driven by federal programs that tie changes to the registry to access to federal crime-fighting dollars.

In 2001, the law was made retroactive for people sentenced for crimes committed as far back as 1992. Registrants had to report every 90 days to a local police station for fingerprinting.

A 2003 amendment put the information online, including the registrant's address, place of employment and photograph. In 2005, the registry was made retroactive to crimes committed as far back as 1982.

Stephen Marshall, a deranged Nova Scotia man, used the state's Web site to target the two Maine registrants he murdered on Easter Sunday 2006.

Shortly after those killings, a man known in court papers as "John Doe" challenged his order to register.

He had been convicted of unlawful sexual contact with a 12- year-old relative more than 20 years earlier, and had no subsequent sexual offenses. Doe said his wife would leave him to protect her children if his name and address appeared on the registry. He was also afraid he would lose his job and his neighbors would force him to move away.

All of this would be imposed without any evidence other than his conviction that he would pose a threat to another child.

His case was dismissed because a pair of court decisions, one from the U.S. Supreme Court and one from Maine's, appeared to have settled the issue in favor of the registry.

But in its ruling this week, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court said the registration law had been so drastically changed through its amendments, it has become something entirely different. The opinion sends the Doe case back to the Superior Court.


In the meantime, lawmakers should consider what the registry has become over the last 12 years. Rogues' galleries on the Internet perpetuate myths about sex abuse, and do little to protect victims from the real dangers.

If public notification is a form of punishment it should be viewed that way and made part of a sentence.

Lawmakers should also consider if it isn't a type of punishment, like the pillory, that we put aside long ago.

FL - School Police Officer Accused Of Attempted Sexual Assault

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JUPITER -- Authorities said a Palm Beach County school police officer is accused of handcuffing a woman and attempting to sexually assault her.

Officer Todd Dockswell, 35, was arrested Saturday on suspicion of attempted sexual battery and false imprisonment.

The woman is not being identified. She told authorities that Dockswell, a family friend, attacked her on Aug. 17 by allegedly handcuffing and groping her until she screamed, according to a police report.

Police said Dockswell later sent messages to the woman apologizing for hurting her. Investigators said it did not happen on any school campus.

Dockswell works for the School District of Palm Beach County Police Department. He could not be reached for comment. A school district official said Dockswell has been a police officer in several elementary schools since July 2000 and has no previous complaints.

Dockswell was released from the Palm Beach County Jail Saturday after posting $25,000 bail.

FL - Police Officer Resigns Amid Sexual Assault, Exposure Allegations

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ALTAMONTE SPRINGS -- An Altamonte Springs police officer resigned in the wake of two investigations, one accusing him of having sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl.

A family member turned the officer in and said he has a problem with exposing himself. He's accused of exposing himself more than a dozen times.

Officer William Hayden resigned after a dozen people alleged he exposed himself in front of a group of people. Eyewitness News has also learned the former officer is under investigation for possibly touching a 14-year-old girl.

Last month, Hayden’s mother-in-law filed a report with the Apopka Police Department. She complained that Hayden had problems with exposing himself since 2001.

The case was forwarded to the State Attorney’s Office and they did not file charges because there was not enough evidence. However, the Altamonte Springs Police Department opened an internal investigation and found at least a dozen witnesses who stated Hayden exposed himself on several occasions.

During the internal investigation, a witness revealed that Hayden had inappropriate sexual activity with a teenager. Altamonte investigators forwarded that to the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office.

Hayden is in the process of getting a divorce. In the Internal Affairs report, he denied all allegations and said family members are retaliating against him.

MS - Teen testifies in police chief's sex trial

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MENDENHALL — In tears through much of the three hours of her testimony, a teenage girl Tuesday described in graphic and disturbing detail what she says she thought was a passionate love affair she was having with this town's chief of police.

In a courtroom packed at times with close to 100 people, the girl, half her blond hair tied back and a clutch of tissues in her hand, said she thought she was in love with the chief, who was 48 years old when the encounters allegedly took place earlier this year.

She was 14.

"It felt good," she testified. "It made me feel more mature."

The defense team for Police Chief Jimbo Sullivan, on the other hand, has said the allegations he had sex with the girl stem from an ongoing dispute with two of his police officers - one of whom happens to be the girl's father, whom they say the police chief had reprimanded not long before the allegations surfaced.

The girl was one of three witnesses before the prosecution wrapped up its case Tuesday afternoon after two days of testimony. Child psychologist Catherine Dixon and attorney general investigator Danny Welch were the other prosecution witnesses.

Jurors also heard testimony from defense witnesses.

Throughout the girl's testimony, Sullivan rarely moved. He said almost nothing all day and did not appear to show relief or disappointment as the testimony wore on.

Sullivan, chief of this town of 2,500 since 2005, faces four counts of sexual battery. Each count carries up to 30 years in prison.

His attorney, Jeff Reynolds, has pointed out no physical evidence connects his client to the girl. Reynolds made much of that Tuesday in questioning a DNA expert.

It was announced Tuesday that Sullivan would not testify.

The girl, who turned 15 over the summer, said she first met Sullivan two years ago in Jackson when her father was graduating from the police academy. Her father is now a part-time Mendenhall police officer.

The Clarion-Ledger does not identify those who allege sexual assault.

She next encountered him this past New Year's Eve outside the police station, she said. "He tried to kiss me, but I hesitated and I turned and he kissed me on my cheek," she testified. "But I turned back, and he kissed me on my lips."

The relationship took off from there, the girl said. They began to talk by phone every day, she said. Each would use *67 to block the phone number they were calling from; if someone else answered, they'd hang up, she said.

On Jan. 23, he called her and said he wanted to see her, she testified. Her parents were out of town, so he picked her up at her house in his patrol car, she said.

Sobbing, she said they went to a nearby camping area and had sex in the patrol car. He dropped her off later in her driveway, she said.

More sexual encounters followed, she said: Feb. 11 in his personal car, Feb. 18 or 28, again in his car, and March 13 at a vacant rental house owned by her father, she said.

She said her parents found out about the relationship, and they were with her when she reported it to the authorities.

Under cross-examination, Reynolds questioned the girl about three phone calls she made to Sullivan and secretly recorded at the behest of investigators.

On the tapes, the girl can be heard referencing "tap sessions," which she said are "quickie" sexual encounters.

But the chief never admits on the tapes the two had sex.

"You're a very good actor, aren't you?" Reynolds asked her.

"No, sir," she said.

Later Tuesday, the defense called Sullivan's wife, Gina, who testified he was with her during two of the supposed sexual encounters. Her father, Eugene Beasley, who was visiting from out of town in February, also testified Sullivan was at home during one alleged sexual encounter, Feb. 18 - which was Sullivan's 49th birthday and the couple's 29th wedding anniversary.

The defense also called the girl's father. Clearly angry, he often refused to answer questions unless they were correctly worded.

NY - NYPD captain accused of lewd conduct will retire

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An NYPD captain will retire after being accused by a female subordinate of dropping his drawers and masturbating in front of her, police brass said yesterday.

Capt. Michael DeBellis, the former commanding officer of the 42nd Precinct, will be suspended for a total of 46 days without pay and then forced to retire, police officials said.

DeBellis, 45, will be allowed to keep his police identification card and carry a weapon after he retires, sources said. That allows him to work in security in retirement, sources said.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily News, Police Officer Robin Hightower recounted how she endured a barrage of sexual overtures from DeBellis, including one instance where he allegedly masturbated in front of her.

She also told how she and the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau secretly taped DeBellis last October. In the sting, they allegedly caught DeBellis discussing the incident and proposing a rendezvous in an office at the precinct stationhouse in the Bronx.

Hightower's lawyer Eric Sanders of the law firm of Jeffrey Goldberg in Lake Success, L.I., had said DeBellis should be charged with public lewdness, a misdemeanor carrying a penalty of up to one year in prison.

A spokesman for the Bronx district attorney said the allegations did not justify the charge.

Hightower, 39, has filed a notice of intent to file a civil suit against the city alleging she was the victim of sexual harassment.

Are you being harassed online?

The following is some links you may find useful. In the Software section, is a couple programs you can use to save a web site to PDF or to your machine for evidence.


See also