Thursday, December 20, 2007

IN - Challenge to Sex Offender Law

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12/20/2007

Fort Wayne -- A judge in Lafayette will decide whether a sex offender's lawsuit can go forward... challenging the state's law that he must live at last 1000 feet from a school, park, or youth program center.

The man doesn't necessarily want to live closer to children, he just wants to be able to live anywhere.

In Fort Wayne, for example, sex offenders are forced to live in small pockets of town that meet that criteria.

Attorneys for the Lafayette sex offender are arguing that the thousand feet rule leaves limited areas where the man can live, as well.

And so the issue before the court is whether the law actually protects neighborhood children, or punishes the offender.

Here in Allen County, the detective in charge of the sex offender registry says he thinks the rule doesn't do much to prevent convicts from offending again.

Det. Jeff Shimkus\Allen County Sheriff's Department: " In my opinion, an offender is going to, if he wants to offend, he's going to do it wherever he can. And telling him he cannot live next to a school is really not going to matter one way or another."


GA - Man cleared by DNA eager for Christmas in freedom

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12/20/2007

ATLANTA -- In prison, December 25th was just another day for John Jerome White. This week, he smiled at the thought of Christmas surrounded by his wife and family instead of inmates for the first time in a decade.

"What was the point in getting excited about it?" he asked.

"You ain't with nobody you really love. But this year, I got a whole lot of reasons," White said as he glanced at his wife of 14 years, Mary, and held her hand.

The holiday came early for the 48-year-old. He was released from Macon State Prison 10 days ago after he was cleared by DNA evidence of a rape he did not commit. Since then, White has already savored a few gifts: a late-night stroll under the moon and stars, fried okra, being able to see his wife for more than six hours at a time.

"We've just been enjoying ourselves, enjoying each other," White said.

White was convicted in 1980 of breaking into a 74-year-old woman's home and raping and robbing her. The woman has since died.

He was sentenced to life in prison, then was paroled in 1990. White was sent back to prison for 2 1/2 years on a drug violation in 1993. A 1997 robbery charge led to a conviction, a seven-year sentence and a requirement that he return to serving his life sentence for the rape conviction.

At the urging of the Georgia Innocence Project, authorities recently tested DNA from hairs found at the scene of the rape - a test that wasn't available in 1979. White is the seventh Georgia convict to be cleared by DNA evidence, and the 210th nationwide.

In all the Georgia cases, the men were wrongly convicted on eyewitness accounts.

The Whites - who met while he was on parole in the early 1990s and married before he was sent back to prison - wore permanent smiles while talking to The Associated Press on Thursday. White reflected on his wrongful conviction, his faith, and his new freedom. He is already a naturally doting husband, pulling out his chair for Mary White and making her as comfortable as possible under the glare of camera lights and gaze of the media.

Rarely dropping her husband's hand, when asked what it's like to have her husband home, Mary White beamed.

"Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful," she said. "At least I did get a chance to touch him before, but the idea of leaving him there gave me that empty feeling."

Now she says she can finally look forward to their future feeling "secure and complete."

"When we first got married, I felt like we were going to be together, but now it's etched in stone," she said. "We definitely are going to be together."

John White said he is eager to get a job, though he hasn't figured out what he might do for a living. Mary White works at a fast food restaurant - the place where she met her husband when he came in for a cup of coffee.

The couple is looking forward to going to the movies, maybe to see Will Smith in "I Am Legend."

John White said having his wife's support has meant a great deal to him, and their shared faith helped him get over the anger he felt over his wrongful conviction.

"I am different," he said. "It's a new beginning. I've matured. I put God first in everything I do now. I don't look at things in a negative way."

He said he has already been to the church that his wife regularly attends, and while he hasn't completely warmed to the idea, "I felt some things when I was there."

Dwelling on his sentence was "a hindrance," John White said.

"I always felt in my heart that God was going to open them doors," he said.

Instead of blaming the justice system - which he said was just doing its job - he simply asserts that "some people made some mistakes."

James Edward Parham, 54, of Manchester, who was on the state's Sex Offender Registry for a 1985 rape conviction, was arrested on Dec. 11 on charges of rape, aggravated assault, burglary and robbery. In an ironic coincidence, Parham had been in the police lineup when the victim picked White as her attacker.

Like a character in the Bible, John White said sometimes people have to go through times of tribulation to become better.

"Certain things are just meant to be," he said. "I felt like I gotta go through this right here. It had to be that."

Now, he said, perhaps his life can serve as an example for others headed down a wayward path.

"I was ignorant back then," he said. "All I knew was I was in some trouble, and I didn't know how to deal with it. Now, I would tell a young person to prepare yourself to take on life."


GA - 3 of Genarlow Wilson's co defendants released

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AMEN!!! PRAISE GOD ALMIGHTY!!!

12/20/2007

ATLANTA - The State Board of Pardons and Paroles has released 3 of Genarlow Wilson's co-defendants from prison.

Some lawyers hope the move will influence lawmakers tackling sex offender legislation next year.

The Board voted to release Adrian Willis, Ryan Barnwell and Cornell Robinson. They plead guilty to molesting the same 15 year old who engaged in consensual oral sex with Genarlow Wilson.

Their release comes more than a month after the Georgia Supreme Court ruled Wilson's sentence was cruel and unusual punishment. The news also comes as lawmakers prepare to revisit a tough sex offender law during the legislative session starting next month.

B.J. Bernstein, Wilson's lawyer, hopes lawmakers take the case into consideration.

BERNSTEIN: Listen, it's one thing when you're dealing with sexual offenders but restrictions that don't help children don't need to be there.

Lawmakers plan to consider a bill recently struck down by the Georgia Supreme Court. The court took issue with the portion of the bill banning convicted sex offenders from living within a thousand feet of libraries or any place where children gather.

The bill will effect Wilson's co-defendants. They'll be on the sex offender registry and on probation because, unlike Wilson, they plead guilty.


CO - Margera must give up "Don Vito" character for 10 years

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12/20/2007

Vincent Margera was ordered to "no longer be Don Vito" for 10 years by a Jefferson County District judge during a sentencing hearing today.

Margera, who played Don Vito on the MTV show, "Viva La Bam," was found guilty in October of two counts of sexual assault on a child.

Judge M.J. Menendez, who sentenced Margera to 10 years probation, told him he could not attend autograph sessions, write books or appear on television shows.

The judge also ordered Margera to register as a sex offender, work on his substance abuse problems and receive a mental health evaluation.

Margera was charged with sexual assault in connection with an August 2006 photo and authograph-signing event at the Colorado Mills mall skate park.

Prosecutors said Margera grabbed the breasts and buttocks of three young girls. He was acquitted of one count of sexual abuse.


UT - 13-Year-Old Girl Charged as Sex Offender AND Victim

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12/19/2007

Utah Supreme Court justices acknowledged Tuesday that they were struggling to wrap their minds around the concept that a 13-year-old girl could be both an offender and a victim for the same act - in this case, having consensual sex with her 12-year-old boyfriend.

The Ogden, Utah, girl was put in this odd position because she was found guilty of violating a state law that prohibits sex with someone under age 14. She also was the victim in the case against her boyfriend, who was found guilty of the same violation by engaging in sexual activity with her.

"The only thing that comes close to this is dueling," said Associate Chief Justice Michael Wilkins, noting that two people who take 20 paces and then shoot could each be considered both victim and offender.

And Chief Justice Christine Durham wondered if the state Legislature had intended the "peculiar consequence" that a child would have the simultaneous status of a protected person and an alleged perpetrator under the law.

At Tuesday's arguments, Matthew Bates, an assistant Utah attorney general, argued the prosecution of the girl was not unreasonable. He said the statute in question is designed to prevent sex with children who are 13 and younger, even if the other person is in the same age group.

Randall Richards, the girl's attorney, argued that prosecuting children under a law meant to protect them is illogical.

"A child (victim) cannot also be a perpetrator in the exact same act," Richards said.

The Utah Supreme Court will issue a ruling later.


WI - Boy found competent for trial in Howell school bus sex act case

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12/20/2007

A 9-year-old boy, accused of allegedly forcing a 7-year-old to perform a sex act on a Howell school bus in mid May, was found competent to stand trial at a pretrial hearing this morning before Livingston County Probate Judge Carol Hackett Garagiola.

The Prosecutor's Office requested a second interview with sex offender risk counselor Wendy Kunce based on the competency report submitted by Dr. Charles Clark.

A status conference is set for 9 a.m. Jan. 25 to review Kunce's findings and determine if the case will go to trial.


Children in Jail

View the article here | Texas Prison Bid'ness Blog

The United States government holds some 500 immigrant children and their families in a converted prison in central Texas. These children are from all over the world, are not accused of any crime, and in many cases came to our country fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries and seeking asylum in the United States.

“Children in Jail”, a documentary short film, tells the stories of some of these children and explores how the United States government came to imprison children as a strategy for discouraging undocumented immigration.