Wednesday, December 26, 2007

OH - One Year For Obscenity, 15 Years On The Sex Offender List

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Now you all will be a sex offender soon... If you have porn, you better burn it, or the witch hunt will be coming for you, if this is true. They will be coming for you, real soon....

12/24/2007

Effective Jan. 2, an obscenity bust is a registered sex offense in Ohio.

CINCINNATI – H.R. 4472, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, is the gift that just keeps on giving ... to people who aren't too sane about sex.

"In Ohio, starting on January 2, a conviction for pandering obscenity is a registratable offense," stated prominent First Amendment attorney H. Louis Sirkin. "It's a result of the Adam Walsh Act. In Ohio, they've made pandering obscenity a 15-year registratable offense. The law doesn't go into effect until January, but the problem is, it's not one that is subject to a preenforcement attack, I don't think. I mean, how do you get standing? What are you going to say? 'I'm going to pander obscenity?' You have to wait till somebody gets convicted to make an attack on that, but it's really frightening."

The maximum sentence in Ohio for having been convicted of one count of "pandering obscenity" – that is, creating, advertising, selling, renting, delivering or displaying an obscene work within the state – is 12 months in prison. There's just one problem: The Adam Walsh Act has expanded the definition of "sex offense" to mean "a criminal offense that has an element involving a sexual act or sexual contact with another," and a "sex offender" is "an individual who was convicted of a sex offense."

Now, one might think that "a criminal offense that has an element involving a sexual act" would require some personal sexual contact between two or more individuals, and indeed, another part of the law states, "An offense involving consensual sexual conduct is not a sex offense for the purposes of this title if the victim was an adult, unless the adult was under the custodial authority of the offender at the time of the offense."

But censorious officials in Ohio (and likely soon elsewhere) have taken the position that an obscenity bust is a "criminal offense that has an element involving a sexual act," even if that act is only on videotape, DVD or VOD, and the Office of the Ohio Public Defender warns that under the Ohio Revised Code, Chap. 2907.32, "pandering obscenity" will become a "Tier 1" offense requiring registration under Ohio's Sex Offender and Registration Notification (SORN) Act, Ohio Revised Code, Chap. 2950.

As a Tier 1 sexual offender, the Ohio Public Defender's Office states that "registration duties last 15 years for adults, 10 years for juveniles," and "in-person verification at the county sheriff's office is required annually," although according to Sirkin, a Tier 1 offender can petition to be removed from the list after 10 years. Other Tier 1 offenses requiring registration include soliciting a child to have sex, or actually having sex with one; voyeurism; date rape, or having sex with someone who is incapable of giving consent; softcore child porn; enticing or stalking a child with the intention of having sex with it; or attempting, abetting or conspiring to do any of those things.

"Classification is based solely on the offense of conviction; a person's likelihood to reoffend will no longer be considered," the Public Defender warns. It also implies – and the new law so indicates – that such reclassification will be retroactive for anyone convicted of a covered offense, whether they have completed their registration compliance already or not. [See Sec. 2950.041(A)(4)]

Moreover, while there were some sexually-oriented offenses under Ohio law that did not require registration under SORN, most of those no longer exist: Ohio's Senate Bill 10, which revamps Chap. 2750, has apparently eliminated most references to "registration exempt sexually oriented offense."

"What's funny is, now soliciting prostitution or prostitution in Ohio is not a registratable offense," Sirkin noted, "but if you pander obscenity, it's a Tier 1, 15-year registratable offense."

The irony (and injudiciousness) of being forced to spend 15 years on the Sex Offender Registry for having committed an offense that can garner an adult retailer less than one year in jail is not lost on Sirkin.

"I've been thinking about filing a motion for declaratory judgment," Sirkin admitted. "The new law could be facially overbroad because it certainly creates a chilling effect, and it would be overbroad in the same way as the Free Speech Coalition case dealing with the [Child Pornography Prevention Act's criminalization of] "appears to be," so I think this in some ways is comparable to that. I feel incumbent to make the owners of adult businesses that I represent be aware of it, and also, they need to explain it to all their employees, who are really the ones who'll be on the front line about this."

Aside from the reporting requirements, one of the biggest problems with being compelled to register as a sex offender is residency.

"Sec. 2950.034. (A) No person who has been convicted of, is convicted of, has pleaded guilty to, or pleads guilty to a sexually oriented offense or a child-victim oriented offense shall establish a residence or occupy residential premises within one thousand feet of any school premises or preschool or child day-care center premises," the new law reads.

Why someone convicted of selling a non-child-porn obscene DVD should be forced to live at least 1,000 feet from where children go to school or day-care is unclear, and the law itself provides no rationale for it. Moreover, wherever the registrant decides to live will go into an official database ... along with information about their DNA, fingerprints, criminal history, Social Security number, driver's license, vehicle ownership, school attendance, email addresses, business and occupational licenses, a description of their offense and a photograph and physical description of the registrant. All of this may be accessible to others via the local sheriff's website, and the sheriff is required to send notice of a registrant's address to all apartment house managers and condo owners association within 1,000 feet of that address, to any school principal, day-care center administrator and youth organization leader within the county, and to any resident who shares a common hallway with the registrant.

"Some states require that [sex offenders] live so many feet from schools, parks, etc.," noted attorney Clyde DeWitt, "and that's a big issue. If you do a Google search about this, you'll find there's some states where there has been litigation about this, where they've said you need to be 500 feet from this and this, kind of like adult businesses, and the sex offender says, 'Well, wait a minute; I can't live anywhere except on the top of a mountain somewhere.'"

"Registration is bigger than the scarlet A," Sirkin asserted. "I just think it's cruel and unusual punishment, but more than that, I think it creates a prior restraint and a chilling effect, and I think people, when they find out what the potential of that is – I mean, the fear of even the conviction of going to jail is enough to cause some people some problems, but now to add onto that the potential of registration, I just think is unbelievable."

At this time, Ohio is the only state that AVN has been able to determine has enacted such a law, but all states must do so by July 27, 2009 or risk losing 10% of their federal law enforcement grant funds.

"I think it's a serious concern and we need to get proactive about it," Sirkin warned.


TN - Law Keeps Some Sex Offenders From Treatment

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Total idiots in office, passing feel good laws, without even considering other laws which may be on the books, just to "look good!"

12/26/2007

Some Treatment Facilities' Locations Prohibit Offenders From Visits

CLARKSVILLE -- Some sex offenders are having trouble finding a legal place for treatment.

Tennessee law states that sex offenders have to get treatment, but, at the same time, a different law says that when offenders go in for treatment, they could be arrested depending on the location they visit.

Mr. Jones was convicted of statutory rape. But none of the three doctors where he lives in Montgomery County can legally treat him because of their offices’ proximity to where children might be.

"They passed the laws saying you've got to have it, then they passed the laws restricting the doctors who can do it,” he said.

The state law passed last year states that any sex offender whose victim was a minor can’t get treatment within 1,000 feet of "any public school, private or parochial school, licensed day care center, other child care facility, public park, playground, recreation center or public athletic field available for use by the general public.”

"A lot of doctors have been affected by this,” Jones said.

Jones had to stop seeing his therapist at the Family Wellness Center in Clarksville because the building is next door to a child care center.

Sheila Rudolph owns the Golden Apple child care center. She said she was very concerned.

"It was practically throwing up a liquor store next to a church, same difference, except these are children's lives,” she said.

The day care center has been there for 10 years. The doctor's office opened last year before the law changed.

After the new law, sex offenders are not supposed to go there anymore. Three patients were arrested when they reported for their court-mandated appointments.

"I was very scared, upset, that I would be arrested for doing what the state told me to do,” said one offender.

The problem is that there are no doctors within an hour's drive who can legally treat Clarksville's sex offenders.

“I've been cut off from all sex offender treatment,” an offender said.

"I know it's putting everyone in a tough spot, but what's more important is our children,” Rudolph said.

There were 80 lawmakers in the House and Senate who sponsored or co-sponsored the bill.

The state Board of Probation and Parole said the sex offenders who were arrested in their therapist's parking lot had been warned in writing to not go there.


IN - Court says registry violated offender's constitutional rights

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AMEN!!

12/26/2007

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The Indiana Court of Appeals says a legal change that forced a convicted sex offender to register for life as a sexually violent predator violated his constitutional protection against retroactive laws.

The law had been amended to require lifetime registration for certain offenses in 2006, two years after Todd L. Jensen was released from probation. The court said today in a 2-1 ruling that applying the requirement to Jensen violated prohibitions against ex post facto laws.

It was not immediately clear whether the ruling might have wider impact beyond Jensen's case.

The 39-year-old Jensen served 18 months in prison after pleading guilty in 2000 in Allen Superior Court to vicarious sexual gratification and child molesting.


IN - State Rep. Foley seeks revision of sex offender registry law

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How is someone going to prove this? Again, guilty until proven innocent, totally backwards of how the laws are suppose to work. Mr. Foley, why don't you prove to me you are NOT a killer?

12/26/2007

State Rep. Ralph Foley (Email) (R-Martinsville) is trying to work the problems out of the Indiana Code that governs the sex offender registry to further protect residents from sexual offenders.

Foley co-authored a bill in 2006 that changed the obligations of registered sex offenders and attempted to remove confusion regarding the court of jurisdiction to hear an offender petition. The new bill is currently awaiting assignment from House Speaker B. Patrick Bauer.

The bill Foley is co-authoring, House Bill 1058, strives to make it more difficult for sex offenders to petition to have their names and likeness removed from the registry. It places the burden of proof on the offender and would ensure that the court that originally heard the case also hears the petition.

"I think it's important because these are aspects that we really hadn't thought of," he said. "We're glad it was tested in the real world, and we found out quickly where it was deficient, where we had to tighten it up. The main thing about this is to keep the focus on safety and security in the community."

According to a press release, Foley filed the bill at the request of Morgan County Prosecutor Steve Sonnega, who had been working with a John Doe case. In that matter, an anonymous offender, who had been convicted of performing oral sex on a 9-year-old boy in 1991, sued Sonnega and Morgan County Sheriff Robert Garner, trying to be removed from the sex offender registry and receive permission to move back into his home, which was less than 1,000 feet from a school.

In the 2007 session, Foley worked with a bill that aimed to distinguish between sexual predators that the state needs to tag forever and those who are unreasonably registered, for one reason or another.

This year, Foley said he is attempting to continue the restrictions on sex offenders and their efforts to escape the registry.

"I truly believe that some predators will never be truly reformed or cured," he said.

Bob Cline, chief Morgan County deputy prosecutor, said the proposed legislation is a sensible deterrent to keep sex offenders from escaping the registry through changes in venue.

"We don't want to be a venue county for sex offenders," he said. "From what I've discussed with Steve, it seems to be good common sense legislation."

Foley's co-authors on the bill are Rep. Linda Lawson (D-Hammond), Rep. Bruce Borders (R-Jasonville) and Rep. Vernon Smith (D-Gary). After the proposed bill is assigned to a committee, the chairman of the committee sets the committee's agenda, which may or may not include Foley's bill.

About the bill

Sex offender procedures. Specifies the court in which a petition to remove the designation as a sexually violent predator or an offender against children must be filed, and provides that the petitioner has the burden of proving that the designation should be removed. The introduced version of this bill was prepared by the sentencing policy study committee.


AL - Former Arab Cop Convicted of Sex Crimes Loses Appeal

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12/26/2007

ARAB - Former Arab police officer Shane Alldredge has about a month to decide to continue appealing four sex crime convictions or start serving his prison sentence.

Last week, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the convictions, Marshall County Assistant District Attorney Byron Waldrop said today.

Alldredge, 32, has until Jan. 20 to appeal to the state Supreme Court or begin serving a three-year prison term. He remains free on a $10,000 bond while he's appealing his convictions.

On Sept. 28, 2006, a jury convicted him on four charges of seeking personal gain for the purpose of influencing an official action. Specifically, he was found guilty of soliciting sex in exchange for not writing traffic tickets against four women.

Then-Circuit Judge David Evans, now retired, sentenced Alldredge to three years on each conviction, but allowed the sentences to be served concurrently.

During his sentencing hearing on Nov. 17, 2006, Alldredge told Evans he was willing to accept the jury's verdict, although he denied having solicited sex from any of the victims. He urged the judge to grant him probation, saying he had been punished enough by being fired from his job and humiliated by residents in his community.


Digital Vigilantes: Hacking for a Good Cause

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12/25/2007

Using a piece of software he originally created to access computers remotely, Brad Willman went on the offensive against child pornographers.

This is Part Three of a Series

Brad Willman was installing networking equipment out of an emergency van in British Columbia when a policeman showed up and asked for him. Willman knew the officer from a case he was involved with a couple of years earlier, so he didn't worry--until he arrived at the police station and was introduced to a couple of U.S. cops.

The visit marked the end of Willman's version of vigilante justice.

A Trojan Horse Used for Good

It was 2000, and Willman was 19. He had spent the past few years surreptitiously distributing a Trojan horse program to more than 1,000 people to try to uncover child-porn activities. All told, Willman said his work sent around 70 people to prison.

But then Willman stumbled on a prominent California judge. He discovered that Ronald Kline, at the time a superior court judge in Orange County, had a big collection of child porn and a diary on his PC indicating he was planning to try to seduce young boys. The high-profile case put an end to Willman's career as a crime-fighter.

"Oh, I knew it was illegal," Willman said in a recent phone interview. "But I really didn't care. I felt if I'm helping a few people in the process, cool." Until Kline, Willman had managed to remain anonymous.

The Origins of the Program

Willman didn't initially set out to chase child pornographers. He started out developing a program designed to compete with pcAnywhere, Symantec's software that lets users access computers remotely.

But then, while discussing programming on various newsgroups, he had a conversation with a Canadian man who offered his 6-year-old daughter to Willman.

"That was an awkward scenario," Willman said, putting it mildly.

Willman quickly contacted the police, who were able to prosecute the Edmonton man, he said.

"He's more or less what altered my mind from competing with pcAnywhere to making a Trojan to see who else is doing this," Willman said.

Willman used the work he'd already developed on the program to trick suspected pedophiles into unknowingly downloading the software so that he could get proof from their computers.

How Willman Used the Trojan Horse

Willman would visit child-porn newsgroups and post his program as a file that looked like it contained a photo. In order to avoid suspicion, Willman built in an additional feature: When the program launched without opening a photo, he designed it so that the first time it loaded, it would display any photo from the directory to the user.

After someone downloaded the software, Willman could look through their files remotely for illicit documents or photos. Once he found damning information, he'd copy and share it with various child-porn watchdog groups, who could then pursue the perpetrators.

Everything changed when Kline downloaded the Trojan and Willman found evidence on the judge's computer.

Willman passed the information on to one of the watchdog groups as usual, and he figured that was that--until the day the police showed up while he was at work.

The U.S. police told him that they found him through correspondence sent from his computer to one of the watchdog groups.

While the police were initially friendly because Willman was able to give them additional information about Kline, they later told him that if he did any more hacking, ever, they would arrest him. Willman signed an agreement that he wouldn't hack and that he wouldn't have anything to do with child porn.

Legal Barriers to Willman's Vigilantism

Various U.S. state and federal laws criminalize unauthorized access to computers, said Jeff Neuburger, an attorney specializing in technology at Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner, an international law firm based in New York City. If Willman hadn't agreed to the deal with the police, he could have been charged with violating state or federal laws. But even in that case, as long as he didn't set foot in the United States, it would have been difficult for American authorities to prosecute Willman, Neuburger said.

Neuburger is seeing more and more cases like Willman's, where people are using the Internet to accomplish good, but sometimes with questionable means. "In the U.S., prosecutors are careful not to let something like this go without sending a message that what the person did was wrong," he said. "But they may not aggressively seek a severe sentence or punishment."

One problem with vigilante work like Willman's is that someone might make a mistake and affect innocent people, Neuburger warned. Had Willman wrongly accused someone, he could have faced much bigger legal problems. "It's a dangerous thing," he said.

Retiring the Trojan

His days in the spotlight behind him, Willman, now 27, lives with his parents in Langley, B.C., where he provides phone tech support for a small cable company. On the side, he repairs computers and dreams of becoming a computer security researcher.

As for Kline, he was sentenced earlier this year to 27 months in prison, a sentence that Willman called "reasonable."

Once in a while, Willman still gets a request from someone asking for his help in busting a suspect involved with child porn. He can only refer them to the watchdog groups he was familiar with.

"I would like to help these people get their kids in a better position--but I can't, because the type of research I'd have to do is stuff I'm not allowed to do anymore," he said.

Even though Willman knew his actions were illegal, he didn't consider the consequences. "I thought I covered my tracks pretty well," he said. "And I did until the Judge Kline thing. I didn't really think I'd get busted."

Don't miss: Parts One and Two of our Digital Vigilantes Series

The White Knight Busts ID Thieves
Using eBay to Catch a Truck Thief


NBC is stooping lower and lower to dredge up shows sans writers

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12/23/2007

Writers? NBC has figured several cunning strategies it hopes will override the need for those people who supply all those creative, you know, words.

Here's a short course, considering just one innovative network's road map to the writerless future, in what we can expect from the small screen should this strike continue as, by all accounts, seems likely.

First, titillation and vigilantism sell. "To Catch a Predator" returns Dec. 28, with Chris Hansen and the "Dateline" sting operation set up in Kentucky to nab men who've been trolling for sex online. This prime-time eye candy manages to have it both ways: sounding high-minded in its purpose, exposing Internet solicitation of minors, while wallowing in the gutter in terms of the gotcha visuals. On-camera confessions, entrapment and other not-so-legal methods haven't gotten in the way of "Predator's" success, with the network operating in league with the volunteer organization Perverted Justice. Who needs writers when Hansen's on a sting?

Second, that old standby "repurposing" is easy and cost-effective. NBC will borrow the basic cable shows "Monk" and "Psych" from sister network USA for its air. Repurposing, also known as airing reruns on a different platform, will mean the new episodes will appear first on USA in January, then on NBC Sunday nights in March.

Third, and really, the most obvious: So-called "reality" programming is cheap and ready to be used as wallpaper. NBC plans 11 hours of unscripted prime-time programming a week in the first quarter of 2008.

You already know about "Deal or No Deal," "1 vs. 100," "The Celebrity Apprentice" and the updated "American Gladiators," coming Jan. 6.

Here's a new one: "Baby Borrowers," premiering Feb. 18, puts actual babies in the care of teenage couples in an experiment in teaching responsibility. A controversial reality series borrowed from British TV, it fast-forwards through a lifetime of parental issues over the course of six weeks, from dealing with an infant to raising a toddler to managing a preteen, a teenager, all the way to a senior citizen.

(Why the couple would be taking care of their own child as a senior citizen is just one more imponderable).

Fourth, when all else fails, prey on America's fat consciousness. The network announced this week its "Biggest Loser" will launch Jan. 1 with "a challenge for America to lose 1 million pounds!" Start by losing the exclamation point.

To supplement the competition, and further marginalize writers, the show will feature a social-networking element on MSN, in-show user-generated content, sweepstakes and "tour events in America's fattest cities."

For this fifth season, teams of two - mother and son, husband and wife, best friends, brothers, a divorced couple and former football teammates - will compete, and slugs on the couch at home will be encouraged to team up with a partner to lose weight.

With NBC's late-night hosts Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien coming back Jan. 2 without writers, as the network announced this week, viewers can expect heavily ad libbed, unscripted interviews and no monologues at bedtime.

The open question regarding the late-night shows is whether some actors may boycott, in a demonstration of support for striking writers. If that happens, expect second- and third-tier authors promoting books and D-list celebrities occupying the seat next to the hosts.

Really, just because Johnny Carson returned to the air after two months during the last strike doesn't mean that's how it must be done. The decision by Leno and O'Brien to return and keep their staffs employed seems arbitrary and counter to the interests of the larger number of striking writers.

In any case, the continuing strike could do more than make this the dreariest year on record for broadcast television, ruining a season that was already rather bleak. It has the potential to devastate an industry already undergoing massive change.


OH - Heartland Disease - Ohio public policy took a mean turn

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12/26/2007

Fear, hatred and vindictiveness aren't the values most people strive to instill in their children. Nor do politicians tout that kind of stuff when they run for office. Yet that seems to be the motivation behind some of the most significant public policy developments in the Buckeye State in 2007.

Is this a bait-and-switch on the part of elected officials -- or just social reality behind the polite facade we use when trying to woo businesses and stop the outward flow of population? If this is the heartland of America, then we have some serious plaque build-up, and the blood flow that it's restricting has to do with those who don't have money -- the poor, immigrants and/or former criminals.

Businesses continue dumping pollution in low-income neighborhoods, and the city does little about it because of an unproven but politically expedient fear of losing jobs. That means poor people in Cincinnati bear an unfair burden of toxins and waste. The movement for environmental justice got a bit of support with the reinstitution of the city's Office of Environmental Quality this year. But City Councilman David Crowley's effort to implement environmental justice legislation is stalled (see "Equal Environmental Rights," issue of April 18).

Statewide efforts to develop environmental-justice legislation came to town with a planning session in February to help craft a new law for Ohio (see "Pollution for the Poor," issue of Feb. 28).

But any kind of new restrictions on companies discharging more toxins into Lower Price Hill, Winton Terrace and other low-income neighborhoods face huge obstacles because many politicians refuse to consider the research that proves strong environmental controls make good economic sense.

Elected officials in Columbus this year practiced equal-opportunity blindness when it came to the choice between evidence and scare tactics. Ohio enacted one of the most restrictive sex offender notification laws in the country (see "Next Comes Burning at the Stake," issue of Aug. 15). Rushed to avoid the loss law enforcement money for not implementing new federal standards, the bill showed that legislators are willing to sacrifice former lawbreakers.

In fact, they're willing to consider the equivalent of branding former offenders who have already done their time (see "Green Means 'Run Like Hell,' " issue of Aug. 6) -- even though there's no proof that such laws improve public safety. In the end, the proposal to make former sex offenders use green license plates didn't become law.

Fear -- as opposed to research -- also played out in the state's legislation on undocumented workers, popularly called "illegal immigrants." Instead of looking at the positive impact of immigration, state officials passed a law making it illegal to transport or conceal undocumented workers (see "Alien Removal," issue of Aug. 13). The one glimmer of hope is the pending rejection of federal legislation requiring national standardization of drivers' licenses (see "Papers, Please," issue of Oct. 17). The goal of punishing undocumented workers -- who would be unable to get the ID -- will actually cost "law abiding citizens" and the states so much money that it's proving unpopular.

A long awaited study by the American Bar Association concluded Ohio's death penalty is fundamentally unfair (see "Law Group: Stop the Killing," issue of Sept. 26). Unfortunately, reform isn't likely. Lawmakers fear being called "soft on crime," so they tend to go to the opposite extreme, crafting more punitive laws.

House Bill 111, for example, seeks to expand the definition of neglected children to include a child "whose parents, guardian or custodian knowingly allows" a sexually oriented offender or juvenile delinquent "to reside in the same residence as the child." If the law passes, a teenage boy convicted of molesting his sister or a cousin will never be allowed to reunite with his family -- or his parents could lose custody of their kids due to a "negligence" conviction. How are people supposed to learn from their mistakes and move on if we aren't even going to allow them to live in their own homes?

The next proposal will probably be to apply the concept to overnight guests. With the sex-offender registry on the Internet, any parent with a computer or access to a library could be considered negligent for not checking up on every person who spends the night in her home.

Much of what passed for "public policy" in Ohio this year was nothing more than re-election campaigns and campaign contributions in the making. Sure, our hearts are pumping here in the heartland, but they're racing with fear and paranoia about very real concerns that aren't being addressed in a substantive way by policy makers. Someone gets something by keeping us all on the verge of needing life support -- namely, politicians who will swoop in with yet another miracle drug. If that one doesn't work, they'll try another and another because they care and want to make a difference.

Here's an idea for legislators: In 2008 take a deep breath, calm down and commit to living the really hard but highly prized values of compassion, patience, thoughtfulness and treating others the way you want to be treated. It takes courage and a lot of creativity to present effective policy, but what a powerful thing to start.


CT - Ordinance targets sex offenders

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12/26/2007

MONROE — The first significant piece of legislation the Town Council will take up in the new year is a proposed ordinance that backers say police could use to chase sex offenders away from public parks.

The ordinance, approved by the Legislative and Administrative Committee by a 3-0 vote last Thursday, will go to the town attorney for legal review, said Tony Unger, the committee chairman.

The legal questions include whether police can force someone to leave public property even though no crime has been committed, and whether the town would be liable for legal challenges on issues such as violating a person's civil rights.

The main park in town, Wolfe Park, attracts paying visitors from around the region and would fall under the jurisdiction of the ordinance if it is adopted.

"I would expect the Town Council will have this in January," Unger said Monday.

John P. Sredzinski, a Republican council member, had proposed the ordinance, calling the measure the Child Safety Zone law. When he proposed the ordinance, Sredzinski said Monroe had no residents listed on the state Department of Public Safety's sex offender registry.

Now, the town has two, a check of the registry showed Tuesday. One of the two was convicted of a child-related crime. Under the proposal, if someone spots a person convicted of a sex-crime felony involving a child, he or she could notify police, and officers would be empowered to tell that individual to leave the public place.

Failure to obey would result in a fine of $100. The second offense would carry a $500 fine and the third would mean a $1,000 fine.

"I want our children to feel safe," Sredzinski said.

He said he does not believe the proposal would conflict with a person's civil liberties because he modeled the ordinance after one in Danbury.

Sredzinski said that in order for the ordinance to work, people would have to be familiar with the faces of convicted offenders. Their photographs can be accessed through the state Department of Public Safety Web site.

The proposal calls for safety zones to be designated at parks, playgrounds, recreation centers, beaches, pools, sports fields and other facilities operated by the town. It does not include private facilities.


CA - Jessica's Flaw

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12/25/2007

There are, as of last count, about 660 convicted sex offenders wandering free around California, not wearing the monitoring devices that Jessica's Law requires. And state officials say there's nothing they can do about it.

That ought to come as a shock to California voters, who overwhelmingly approved Jessica's Law at the polls last year - under the promise that the state would finally get tough on child predators.

Turns out we were had, again.

Proposition 83, its proponents told us, would stiffen penalties for sex offenders. It would prohibit released sex criminals from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park. And it would require them to wear satellite tracking devices for the rest of their lives.

Yet even with Jessica's Law on the books, State Corrections Secretary James Tilton told Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Sex Offender Management Board in October that his department was removing GPS devices from 500 ex-convicts who had completed parole - regardless of the lifetime monitoring requirement.

And 160 more ex-parolees have been freed from monitoring since then. Not only are the whereabouts of these offenders unknown, but the state's ability to enforce Jessica's Law's residency requirements is severely undercut.

The reason, according to the governor's board, is that Proposition 83 was too vague about certain key details. First among them: Which authorities - state or local - would be responsible for monitoring the offenders? And, by extension, who's responsible for paying the $7 to $33 a day it takes to keep tabs on each one?

The board says it's trying to come up with an answer to those questions. Meanwhile, offenders who complete their parole can carry on as they have before.

Apparently the politicians who wrote Jessica's Law - state Sen. George Runner and his wife, Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, both R-Lancaster, did a great job coming up with tough-sounding promises, and a less impressive job of codifying them into law.

And countless other state politicians - from the governor and the attorney general all the way down - happily backed the measure because it was "tough on crime," even though it was light on details.

Voters don't read the fine print or the legal mumbo-jumbo on ballot initiatives, nor should they be expected to. It's reasonable to expect that a measure does what it's designed to do, and that the politicians, their lawyers and their staffers will take care of the logistical questions.

In this case, the voters did their job, but the politicians have not. And the result, as usual, is a "reform" that's a far cry from what the politicians advertised.


AL - Former cop faces new sex charges

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12/17/2007

A former police officer and candidate for Covington County sheriff turned himself in Monday after being indicted by the grand jury for the second time in less than a year.

Kevin Owens, 39, now faces an additional seven charges on a second grand jury indictment - one count of first-degree sodomy, one count of intimidating a witness, four counts of first-degree sexual abuse and one count of first-degree rape.

Owens was arrested in June after the grand jury returned an indictment alleging he engaged in sexual intercourse with a female by forcible compulsion and subjected a child less than 12 years old to sexual conduct - two separate charges stemming from incidents with two victims.

Before turning himself in on Monday, Owens was out on a $100,000 bond.

Owens, a Democratic candidate in the 2006 sheriff's race, received just over 1 percent of the 5,049 votes cast in June's primary election and served as a police officer with the Andalusia, Gantt and Opp police departments.

APD Chief Wilbur Williams said the complaints alleging the sexual misconduct by Owens were filed with his department in December 2006. Williams said he believes the second grand jury indictment stems from the initial complaint.

"I believe these charges are the result of information that was developed during the initial investigation that was begun after we received the first complaint," he said. "I believe there are at least two separate victims involved."

Williams said once the complaint was filed, Owens was put on administrative leave to allow for an internal investigation into the initial complaint and was soon ordered to take a polygraph test.

"I gave him the opportunity to take a polygraph examination to cover the allegations made against him," Williams said. "[Owens] refused to comply with my orders to submit to the examination and opted to resign.

"When it came time to finalize everything, Owens left the police department," he said.

Williams said it is normal procedure to use polygraphs during an internal investigation, but when Owens refused to comply, the case was turned over to the Alabama Bureau of Investigation.

"When we learned of the criminal aspects of the case, we immediately - within a day or two - referred the investigation over to the ABI," Williams said.

Once the ABI concluded its investigation, the findings were submitted to the Covington County District Attorney's Office, who in turn, presented the case to the grand jury in June.

Last week, the case was again presented to the grand jury, who decided there was sufficient evidence for Owens to face additional charges. There is no trial date set to hear the case against Owens.

Owens is currently incarcerated in the Covington County Jail on a $1 million bond.


WA - Abuse claims rattle women's prison

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12/20/2007

Seven Purdy staffers on leave

Seven male prison workers assigned to the women’s prison at Purdy have been sent home on paid leave following a four-month investigation into allegations that inmates were sexually assaulted by prison guards.

Eldon Vail, interim secretary of the Washington Department of Corrections, told reporters Wednesday that his staff is turning over its findings to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office for a criminal investigation. They may be forwarded to the Washington State Patrol, he added.

The internal investigation was spurred by a class-action lawsuit filed in July by Columbia Legal Services on behalf of four women, three in custody at the Washington Corrections Center for Women and a fourth who had been released.

The inmates claimed in the lawsuit that they were assaulted, forced to perform oral sex or fondled by custody officers, and that corrections officials failed to properly investigate.

“When one of our own crosses the line, as is alleged here … it’s appalling and disappointing to everyone who deals with offenders,” Vail said.

Four custody officers were suspended days after the lawsuit was filed. Two more and a sergeant since have been suspended from duty with pay, Vail said.

Vail said he could not talk about the specific officers or allegations because a Thurston County judge has issued a protective order in the case. Moreover, he said, the agency only now is beginning to schedule the administrative hearings for possible disciplinary action.

Beth Colgan, attorney for Columbia Legal Services, and Hank Balson of Public Interest Law Group, who are representing the inmates in the case, appeared with prison officials at Wednesday’s news conference.

Vail said he didn’t think the investigation showed that it was the culture of the agency – which he took over only last month – to turn a blind eye to allegations by inmates that they’re being abused by prison guards.

Colgan disagreed.

“We do think that is a real problem,” Colgan said. She noted that prison officials have been recently quoted saying “they would never take the word of an inmate over staff.”

Colgan said more female inmates have come forward during the investigation, others are afraid to come forward, and that one plaintiff has faced retaliation.

Vail said outside consultants also have completed their reviews of prison policies for investigating allegations by inmates, both at Purdy and at the state’s two other prisons for women – in Spokane County and in Mason County.

The consultants recommended the prison system hire more women custody officers, that more kinds of prison jobs be held by women, more cameras be installed at the Purdy prison and that more staff also be hired.

Purdy Superintendent Doug Cole, who took over the job in July, said there are only 56 women among the 178 custody officers assigned to the women’s prison.

The reviews also pointed to the need for such investigations to be handled by law enforcement officers who have greater powers, Vail said.

They would work alongside prison internal investigators.

He noted that there’s more money in the governor’s supplemental budget request for cameras as well as money that might be used to hire more women.

The prison system has only two full-time internal investigators. Washington has more than 18,000 inmates, including about 750 at the Purdy prison.

Since 1999, it has been a gross misdemeanor or a felony for a prison guard to have sexual contact with an inmate, even if it’s consensual. Prison guards have too much authority and control over inmates for a sexual relationship to be considered consensual, Colgan said.

In a story published Wednesday, The Spokesman-Review of Spokane said it reviewed hundreds of pages of prison investigation records and determined there were 202 allegations of sexual misconduct involving 218 people of both sexes in Washington’s prison system. Nearly half – 46 percent – involved staff members. Of those cases, 26 incidents were substantiated.

The agency couldn’t immediately say how many of those 26 cases involved women.

But it said the cases involved only a tiny fraction of correctional staff members.