Friday, December 14, 2007

CA - Oakland hit with $10 million strip-search lawsuit

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Ten men have filed a $10 million federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Oakland in the latest complaint to accuse police officers of conducting invasive and illegal strip searches of them in public.

Police officers pulled down the men's pants and exposed their genitalia or buttocks on the street during incidents from 2003 to 2007, the plaintiffs said in the suit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

The searches occurred in public throughout the city, including in West and East Oakland and in the city's Temescal neighborhood, according to the suit.

"Plaintiffs suffered severe and extreme emotional distress, fear, terror, anxiety, humiliation and loss of their sense of security, dignity and pride as United States citizens," said the suit, filed by Oakland attorneys John Burris and Michael Haddad, who have now filed seven similar lawsuits on behalf of about 30 men.

"This is pretty shocking and disgusting behavior," Burris said Thursday.

Alex Katz, spokesman for Oakland City Attorney John Russo, declined to comment Thursday, saying city officials had not had a chance to review the complaint.

Named as plaintiffs are John Smith, Robert Davis, Meheret Aneteneh, Kirby Bradshaw, Spencer Lucas, Jamel Parrish, Yusef Morris, Elbert Owens, Raheem Hill and Sherman Dunn.

"It's an ongoing problem for the community as well as the Oakland Police Department," Haddad said of the searches. "They haven't really put any remedy in place, and that's what we're trying to force them to do."

Haddad said careful "pat down" searches are allowable on the street, while more invasive searches can be done at the jail.

The department formerly allowed officers to publicly strip-search people being arrested for drugs or weapons violations even if there was no suspicion they were concealing something, Haddad said.

But the department amended the policy in 2004, allowing officers to strip-search suspects only if there was a reasonable suspicion that they were hiding something - such as drugs - or would destroy or ingest it unless it was immediately recovered.

Burris and Haddad said they believe the new policy is unconstitutional.

Five of the suits have been consolidated before U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel in San Francisco, who is also expected to hear the two newer complaints, Burris said.

In court papers filed this year in response to some of the earlier suits, Deputy City Attorney Kandis Westmore wrote that the Police Department's strip-search policy does not violate the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches.

The city's policy amended in 2004 reflects "a conscious effort to prevent any even constitutionally-questionable searches from taking place," Westmore wrote, adding that the city disagreed with assertions by the plaintiffs that any strip-search in the field was automatically unconstitutional.

OH - HB 111 - Child Neglect for Sex Offender to live in the same residence????????

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So now, sex offenders cannot even live with their own kids, if this passes!


As Introduced

127th General Assembly
Regular Session
H. B. No. 111

Representative Collier
Cosponsors: Representatives Patton, McGregor, J.

To amend section 2151.03 of the Revised Code to expand the definition of neglected child to include a child whose parent, guardian, or custodian knowingly allows a sexually oriented offender or juvenile delinquent who committed a sexually oriented offense to reside in the same residence as that child.

Section 1. That section 2151.03 of the Revised Code be amended to read as follows:
Sec. 2151.03. (A) As used in this chapter, "neglected child" includes any child:
(1) Who is abandoned by the child's parents, guardian, or custodian;
(2) Who lacks adequate parental care because of the faults or habits of the child's parents, guardian, or custodian;
(3) Whose parents, guardian, or custodian neglects the child or refuses to provide proper or necessary subsistence, education, medical or surgical care or treatment, or other care necessary for the child's health, morals, or well being;
(4) Whose parents, guardian, or custodian neglects the child or refuses to provide the special care made necessary by the child's mental condition;
(5) Whose parents, legal guardian, or custodian have has placed or attempted to place the child in violation of sections 5103.16 and 5103.17 of the Revised Code;
(6) Who, because of the omission of the child's parents, guardian, or custodian, suffers physical or mental injury that harms or threatens to harm the child's health or welfare;
(7) Who is subjected to out-of-home care child neglect;
(8) Whose parents, guardian, or custodian knowingly allows a person who has been convicted of, has pleaded guilty to, or has been adjudicated a delinquent child for, committing a sexually oriented offense, as defined in section 2950.01 of the Revised Code, to reside in the same residence as the child.
(B) Nothing in this chapter shall be construed as subjecting a parent, guardian, or custodian of a child to criminal liability when, solely in the practice of religious beliefs, the parent, guardian, or custodian fails to provide adequate medical or surgical care or treatment for the child. This division does not abrogate or limit any person's responsibility under section 2151.421 of the Revised Code to report child abuse that is known or reasonably suspected or believed to have occurred, child neglect that is known or reasonably suspected or believed to have occurred, and children who are known to face or are reasonably suspected or believed to be facing a threat of suffering abuse or neglect and does not preclude any exercise of the authority of the state, any political subdivision, or any court to ensure that medical or surgical care or treatment is provided to a child when the child's health requires the provision of medical or surgical care or treatment.
Section 2. That existing section 2151.03 of the Revised Code is hereby repealed.

GA - Sex offender ruling revised

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Attorney General says renters remain restricted

When the Georgia Supreme Court changed one word this week in a recent ruling on residency restrictions for registered sex offenders, it meant that most won’t be able to live wherever they want, after all, officials say.

Meanwhile, a legal advocacy group maintains that the state attorney general’s interpretation of the ruling makes a complex law even more confusing.

A Nov. 21 ruling by the high court was interpreted to mean that it had struck down the provisions that prohibit registered sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school, church, playground or other places where children congregate. The court cited individual property rights as a basis for the decision, saying the government was effectively taking a person’s property by dictating where he or she could or could not live.

"We find that (the law) is unconstitutional because it permits the regulatory taking of appellant’s property without just and adequate compensation," the court wrote.

On Thursday, the court issued a substitute opinion with the word "because" replaced by the phrase "to the extent that."

Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker’s office interprets the ruling to mean that sex offenders who don’t own their own homes are still bound by the old residency restrictions.

"After the attorney general moved to reconsider its (Nov. 21) decision, the Georgia Supreme Court subsequently narrowed its original ruling to now only apply to property owners who are registered sex offenders," said Russ Willard, a spokesman for Baker’s office.

Hall County Sheriff Steve Cronic made a similar argument when the court’s opinion was issued last month, saying sex offenders who rented their homes were not having their property taken if they were forced to move when a church or school was built next door.

Cronic believes the court’s new ruling will likely restore the 1,000-foot rule to the residency restrictions, except for a handful of the county’s 225 registered sex offenders who own their own homes.

"Home ownership is low among the sex offenders in Hall County," Cronic said.

Cronic said his office is still waiting on official word from the attorney general and Georgia Sheriffs Association before resuming its enforcement of the 1,000-foot rule.

The Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights, however, says renters have rights, too.
- Amen! I was living with my father, my whole life, until this new law passed and they told me I had to move because I lived near a church and school. I lived there for over 20 years without any issues, but now, because of a law, they are banning me from my fathers home. I've had to move about 8 times already, and maybe 9 now.

"The courts have repeatedly held that renters have property rights that are protected," said Sara Totonchi, a spokesperson for the center. "The attorney general’s interpretation of this ruling has made a difficult law 10 times more convoluted."

Totonchi noted that the attorney general’s office as recently as Nov. 26 declared the restrictions unconstitutional in a letter to the state’s 159 sheriffs.

"To do a 180 like this really puts the sheriffs in an unrealistic and chaotic place in trying to enforce this law and do their jobs," she said.

"The sheriff will now be expected to determine whether people ... own their houses and whether they up on payments on them," Totonchi said.

Cronic, who was opposed to striking down the 1,000-foot rule, called the court’s revised opinion "a step in the right direction."

The sheriff said he believes the residency restrictions still need adjustment to stay within the boundaries of the Constitution, and hopes the Georgia General Assembly will address the matter in the coming session.

"I still think the legislature needs to go back and recraft a law that will withstand judicial review," Cronic said.

FL - ACTION ALERT from Eadvocate

Florida ACLU | Radio Show | MP3 Audio File

RSOs and their families:

Apparently George Crossley, President of the Central Florida ACLU, has his own talk radio show. That show called "People Power Hour" has its own Internet web site. Clicking on that link will take you to that site and you can find out more about him and the show, and listen to past shows as well.

Now, this coming Saturday, December 15, 2007 from 2-3 PM EST he will be addressing the absurdity of sex offender laws. If you would like to call in and express your opinions, you can: Florida residents (407) 273-1190 and Nationwide Toll-free: (800) 300-3776. E-Mail them too.

Everyone should have their voices heard.


If There Was a Gay-Straight Switch, Would You Switch?

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Scientists Debate the Question After Experiment Makes Fruit Flies Bisexual: It's All in the Smell

Is there a switch that turns you gay? That's the startling question raised again by a recent experiment in which scientists said they were able to turn on and off homosexual behavior in fruit flies.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago said they discovered what they call a "gender blind gene," or GB, in male fruit flies. A mutation in this GB gene spurred the males flies to start courting other males, as well as females.

When researchers strengthened neural synapses in the brain, the male flies were attracted, rather than repulsed, by the smell of other male flies.

"We put the males together, and they did to each other what they do when they're interested in a female: They approach her, sing her a song, lick her ... and mount her," researcher David Featherstone told

"They treated other males exactly the way they would treat other females. We put male flies in a chamber with males and females, and they were attracted to both with equal frequency."

In another recent study, researchers showed how they could alter the way female mice smell the the sexual secretions, or pheromones, of other mice, and turn them into "lesbian mice."

Both studies seem certain to bolster the growing scientific consensus that homosexuality is biological rather than learned. And they point to an answer to the lingering question of whether sexual orientation is hard-wired into the brain or whether it can be altered.

But both sides of the debate agree that just because fruit flies and mice can easily switch from straight to gay doesn't mean that it's that easy for humans to make the same transition.

"This shows that latent homosexual tendencies are there in all of us -- it's a matter of suppressing this synapse in the brain," said Axelrod. "Mice, flies it wouldn't surprise me in humans."

But smells are only one stimulus in the complicated dynamics of human sexuality.

"Humans use a variety of things: pornography, phone sex and cologne," said Axelrod. "And smell is not that strong a factor as it for fruit flies. If you took a guy and made him smell like a woman and even gave him a sexy high voice, it's not going to work."

Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, a controversial psychiatrist known for treating homosexuals who want to change their orientation, doubted that these results had implications for human sexuality.

"The truth is that a single gene in an animal as primitive as a fruit fly really says nothing at all about human beings," he said. "But in the current political environment, it gets translated by gay activists as 'voila, there must be the same gene in humans.'"

Satinover said that the genetic influence on homosexuality in human beings is weak. "Human sexuality is incredibly plastic," he said. "Under the right circumstances, people can be turned on by almost anything. You find temporary homosexuals in jail."

John Corvino, professor of philosophy at Wayne State University and the author of "Same Sex: Debating the Ethics, Science, and Culture of Homosexuality," is more interested in the study's moral implications.

"While science can tell us something about why we exhibit certain feelings and behaviors, it can't answer the moral question of what to do with them," Corvino told in an e-mail. "Should we embrace them? Tolerate them? Change them? Because even if we could change people's sexual orientation, it doesn't follow that we should."

Peterson Toscano, a gay Connecticut-based performance artist and comic, certainly wouldn't make the switch, and he has plenty of experience in trying to change his orientation.

Toscano, 42, spent 17 years in therapy to undo his homosexuality. "I was so ashamed of being gay that I tried everything -- it didn't matter who had the 'cure,' I tried it," he said. "I even went to a Jamaican exorcist woman in Brooklyn who was ranting and raving and trying to get me to vomit into a bucket."

Toscano also married a woman and spent two years at Love in Action, a Christian ministry for ex-gays in Memphis, Tenn. At one session, they were told that it was forbidden to use after-shave and cologne because those smells might remind you of your former gay lovers. Another time, Toscano had to talk about his most embarrassing sexual experience in front of his parents and the group. In the end, he realized that he was gay and that no amount of therapy would change that fact.

As a result, he would never contemplate a switch and compares switching to society's obsession with plastic surgery and body sculpting.

"I know so many people who did not want to be gay, and if they could have taken a pill, they would have in a minute," he said. Now they look back and think, 'Thank God, I didn't change.'"

WA - A sensible offense against sex offenders

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Call it the Zina Linnick bill.

The murder of the 12-year-old Tacoma girl last summer was the impetus behind the new proposal to put sharper teeth into Washington sex offender laws.

Gov. Chris Gregoire made that clear Wednesday when she announced the $8.2 million plan in the neighborhood where Zina was abducted by a sexual predator.

Dino Rossi and other Republicans immediately pounced, citing the initiative as more evidence that Gregoire reacts to problems after the fact, for political reasons, rather than addressing them beforehand.

That’s election-year rhetoric. And Gregoire’s proposal is an election-year countermeasure, at least to some extent. Doing nothing in the aftermath of Zina’s outrageous murder would have opened the governor to easy attacks next fall.

But politics drive democracy. The fact that a measure might be politically motivated hardly makes it wrong.

It’s been all too clear for some time now that Washington hasn’t been keeping a close enough eye on known sex criminals. The Legislature has passed all kinds of tough laws targeting them: long sentences for offenses, requirements that they register with law enforcement after they do their time, community notification of their whereabouts and the wearing of GPS tracking devices in some cases.

Yet offenders routinely evade registration and notification, often by declaring themselves “transients” to avoid giving an address, or simply by ignoring the requirement.

The state doesn’t need tougher penalties and requirements so much as it needs tougher enforcement of the laws already on the books.

That’s the idea behind Gregoire’s plan, which draws from the recommendations of a task force formed after Zina’s murder.

Gregoire is asking the Legislature for, among other things, $920,000 to expand the satellite tracking, $700,000 for additional corrections officers to hunt down offenders in hiding, and $320,000 to improve the state’s sex offender Web site and set up automatic e-mail notices to the neighbors of registered offenders.

The Legislature’s should look at the particulars, of course. But Gregoire’s push to force more accountability from sex offenders is a good move, regardless of any political considerations.

OH - Neighbor guilty of stalking man

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Springfield resident harasses molester

Beacon Journal staff report

A Springfield Township neighbor who placed large signs with red letters announcing a convicted child molester lives next door has been convicted of stalking the man.

Akron Municipal Judge Kathryn Michael sentenced James Z. Cody, 50, to 30 days in jail Thursday. The jail sentence came after Cody declined to be placed on probation for six months, court officials said.

A jury acquitted Cody on charges of violating a protection order, aggravating menacing and resisting arrest. He will begin his jail stay Jan. 3.

Assistant Akron Prosecutor Gerald Larson said Cody engaged in a personal crusade against Michael Harig, 45, who spent nearly a year in prison for fondling after he was convicted in 2003 of fondling three boys, ages 12, 13 and 14. Harig is registered as a sexually oriented offender and lives next door to Cody on Gregory Drive.

Larson said he prepped jurors not to hold Harig's past against him, but he conceded that it was unusual to have a sex offender portrayed in court as a victim.

''That was an obstacle, but the jury swore ahead of time that they would apply the law to the evidence, whether they liked an individual or not,'' he said.

Larson said the stalking charge involved an ongoing series of events perpetrated by Cody against Harig that included death threats, the placement of several signs outside his home and Cody bursting inside Harig's home and threatening him.

Cody's attorney, Mark Lavelle of Youngstown, could not be reached for comment.

The feud began last summer after Cody and his wife, Sharon Hall, accused police of not fully investigating an incident involving a 16-year-old boy visiting Harig's home.

Cody claimed he walked past his neighbor's window and he witnessed Harig molesting the boy. He said he was seeking to protect the teen and others after police failed to investigate the case.

Later, the couple erected large signs with red letters in front of their house warning passers-by of Harig's crimes.

Harig said that he has been harassed, spotlights have been pointed into his bedroom window, a radio has been blared toward his home and physical threats have been made against him.

Township police have said they talked to the boy and found no crimes committed by Harig. Police then warned Cody to stay away from Harig.

Hall was charged in August with criminal trespassing for entering Harig's home, but the case was dropped. Prosecutors say she has since helped bring peace to the dispute. Harig continues to live next door.

NY - Watertown City Council, 12.10.07, Sex Offender Legislation

CO - Sex Charges Against Clown Are Dropped

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A man who performed as Giggles the Clown, accused of sending naked pictures to a child over the Internet, won't have to register as a sex offender.

When Antonio Lazcano was arrested 8 months ago, he was charged with six felony sex crimes. If he was found guilty, Lazcano would've had to register as a sex offender, but most of those charges were dropped as part of a plea deal that was signed Thursday.

Shortly after the deal was agreed upon, we tried to speak with Rodney Fouracre, the Otero County District Attorney about why the charges were dropped.

I asked Fouracre if he was worried that Lazcano would re-offend. “I worry everyone will re-offend," said D.A. Fouracre. I mentioned that Lazcano is a clown and asked Fouracre if he would want him at his children’s birthday party. “That's a stupid question. I'm done," Fouracre said as he walked away from us.

Antonio Lazcano was accused of sending naked pictures over the Internet to Lisa Doney's 12-year-old daughter's email. The Rocky Ford mother says she started talking with 30-year-old, who worked as a clown in Grand Junction.

Doney portrayed herself as a 12-year-old girl. In chat logs, Doney said Lazcano would ask about her underwear and other graphic questions. After 11 News began an investigation, Lazcano was arrested and charged with six sex crimes, including Internet sexual exploitation of a child and attempted sex assault on a child.

The Otero County District Attorney, Rodney Fouracre and Lazcano's lawyer, Raymond Torrez came to a plea deal, dropping most of the original charges, except the least serious one which was trying to lure a child over the internet.

For that crime, Lazcano doesn't have to register as a sex offender. "He's going to do it again and next time, I'll be there to catch him," said a frustrated Doney.

The probation department did a sex offender evaluation on Lazcano. Those officers even asked the judge not to accept the plea deal.

When Lazcano gets out of prison, probably in the next 8 months, the judge says the Department of Corrections does have the ability to require Lazcano to register as a sex offender.