Friday, January 25, 2008

GA - Southern Center for Human Rights - Legislative Update – 2008 Georgia General Assembly (Days 1-5)

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The 2008 General Assembly started on Monday January 14, 2008. The General Assembly is in recess this week though there will be committee meetings on the Budget. They will resume on Monday January 28. Legislators meet for 40 business days before adjourning until next January. SCHR will be sending weekly emails to keep you updated on criminal justice legislation throughout the Georgia legislative session.

SCHR’s Priority Issues for 2008

Eyewitness Identification Reform

Mistaken eyewitness identifications contributed to over 75% of the more than 185 wrongful convictions in the United States overturned by post-conviction DNA evidence. Inaccurate eyewitness identifications can confound investigations from the earliest stages. Critical time is lost while police are distracted from the real perpetrator, focusing instead on building the case against an innocent person.

A Study Committee in the House has been meeting for the last year and will bring legislation to reform Georgia’s eyewitness identification procedures. This legislation comes in the wake of the release of John White, the seventh Georgia man to be exonerated by DNA evidence, all of whom were wrongly convicted primarily based on eyewitness testimony.

Indigent Defense

It took more than forty years for Georgia lawmakers to create a uniform and independent public defender system. Just three years after its launch on January 1, 2005, we must work to ensure that the Georgia's new public defender system has the resources, funding and independence it needs to provide people accused of crimes who cannot afford attorneys with their Constitutional right to counsel. SCHR strongly supports fully funding the GA Public Defender Standards Council to carry out their mission of safeguarding indigent defense.

One legislative proposal on indigent defense that SCHR is concerned about is the redefinition of “indigence” to qualify for a lawyer in misdemeanor and juvenile cases. This proposal would reduce eligibility to those earning 100% or less than the guidelines, which is less than $20,650 for that family of four. A person with such an income – about $1,700 a month to support four people – is not able to pay from $1,500 to $5,000 to retain a lawyer.

Another provision SCHR is concerned about alters the “72 hour rule” which currently requires that an accused person sees a lawyer “as soon as feasible and no more than 72 hours” after arrest. There will be legislation proposed that will change entitlement to counsel to 72 hours from when an accused person makes a written application for counsel, rather than as soon as feasible within 72 hours.

Sex Offender Residency Restrictions

On June 20, 2006, the Southern Center for Human Rights filed a class action lawsuit challenging the 1,000 feet restrictions set forth in HB 1059, Georgia's new sex offender legislation. In November 2007, the Georgia Supreme Court declared the residency restrictions unconstitutional, stating that it was in violation of people on the registry’s property rights. HB 908 was introduced to reinstate the residency restriction for all but home owners. We have posted extensive information on this law and the pending legislation. Please take action against HB 908. HB 908 passed the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee last week and will soon be voted on by the House.

Death Penalty

House Bill 185 would end the unanimous jury system in death sentencing. A unanimous jury is an important safeguard in the process of meting out this final and irreversible punishment. The number of recent death row exonerations (over 124 in the nation in thirty years – six in Georgia) reminds us that human beings are fallible and the criminal justice system is not foolproof. Growing evidence shows that the system makes mistakes. 80% of Georgia's death sentences are reversed due to serious error. Georgia has a long tradition of relying on the jury system to protect against errors and abuses of the judicial system. Public safety and justice for victims of violent crime would be better served by examining and addressing the documented levels of error and bias in death sentencing, not by eliminating safeguards that would loosen up a flawed process. HB 185 is currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee and may be called for a hearing in the next few weeks.

Criminal Justice Legislation introduced this week

HB 908: This bill reinstates all of the residency restrictions that apply to people on the sex offender registry that have been in place since July 2006, with certain exceptions. Further details are available on our website including an Action Alert.

HB 913: Inmate work programs- this bill states that there will be no preference given to goods made by Georgia Correctional Industries for state use.

We will keep you updated on these issues and more. Please don’t hesitate to call or send an email if you have any questions or concerns about these issues.

All the best,

Sara

Sara J. Totonchi
Public Policy Director
Law Offices of the Southern Center for Human Rights
83 Poplar Street, N.W.
Atlanta, Georgia 30303
404/688-1202 voice
404/688-9440 fax
stotonchi@schr.org

The Southern Center for Human Rights is a non-profit, public interest law firm dedicated to enforcing the civil and human rights of people in the criminal justice system in the South. Based in Atlanta, the Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR) brings class action lawsuits on behalf of people confined in prisons and jails; represents people facing the death penalty who would otherwise have no representation; and challenges unconstitutional and illegal criminal justice practices that target the poor, people of color, and marginalized groups. SCHR accepts no government funding, and for over 30 years has relied entirely on the support it receives from individuals, law firms, and foundations to carry out its work.

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NY - To catch a predator - How some cyber-agencies help victims fight back against online aggression

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01/24/2008

Online harassment has recently flourished into a trend with the development and popularity of omnipresent portable technology and social networking sites.

People across all demographics are using technology in various forms. But frequent online activity has posed a risk for users: One in every 100 users online today is a victim of harassment.

"We are seeing a rise in online harassment cases now more than ever," said Jayne Hitchcock, president of Working to Halt Online Abuse (WHOA), a volunteer organization dedicated to fighting online harassment. "We see more victims of online abuse come to us from college and universities looking for help."

Approximately 100 million people use the Internet, and 1 million of them have been victims of harassment, Hitchcock said.

A majority of online harassment and cyber-stalking victims are women in their late teens and early twenties, who use technology more often than older age groups.

While the cyber harassment laws vary from state to state, harassment is any behavior that induces fear. Cyber-stalking is harassment repeated after the victim asks the offender to stop.

WHOA reported an average of 50-75 cases per week or 2,600-3,900 cases a year. In a survey taken from 2000-06, the WHOA asked harassment victims to voluntarily fill out a questionnaire before filing their cases online to learn about the victims' demographics. Of the 2,039 victims who voluntarily filled out the questionnaire, 1,500 were women, 452 were men and 87 were unknown. In the total number of cases, 946 victims ranged between the ages of 18-30.

The harassers were predominantly male, amounting to 1,044 men compared to 571 women, and the remaining 424 unknown in gender. Of the harassers, about one in six previously dated his or her victim.

Among the total number of cases, 1,014 of the 2,039 victims knew their harasser.

WHOA helps educate online harassment victims through the information available on its Web site at haltabuse.org. Victims are encouraged to read the guidelines about harassment before they report to WHOA through e-mail.

"Some weeks there are more or less, but it's hard to gauge the actual amount because it varies," Hitchcock said.

And the number of unreported cyber harassment cases is also uncertain.

"If I had an answer to the number of victims who didn't report to authorities, I would be a millionaire," Hitchcock said. "That question is like calling the police station and asking how many stalkers didn't turn themselves in today."

The Stalking Resource Center, a branch of the National Center for Victims of Crime, which handles stalking both online and offline, reports a similar number of cyber harassment cases reported to them.

"Among college students, current and former ex-girlfriend and ex-boyfriends are usually the harassers, who in most cases harass through e-mail and social networking sites," said Prisca Doh, a counselor at the Stalking Resource Center.

In 2006 and 2007, the Syracuse University Department of Public Safety had a total of 68 reported cases of aggravated harassment. Since the start of this academic year, SU Public Safety investigators have pursued 12 harassment cases. Three out of the 12 cases involved ex-boyfriends harassing their previous girlfriends.

The Stalking Resource Center reported that an estimated 60 percent of the online harassment cases involve a male harassing his ex-girlfriend. Of the 60 percent of cases, 75 percent are ex-boyfriends trying to win back their girlfriends.

A majority of the victims who seek help from the Stalking Resource Center believe they know the identity of their harasser. But it's very hard to prove, Doh said.

"Exes can go through someone else's computer to make it harder for authorities to track," Doh said. "Or they can block their name in a social networking site or use someone else's e-mail or social networking account."

On MySpace, a user can apply the "no name" option to an account to mask his or her identity.

Allan Kush, the executive director of WiredSafety.org, said harassers typically use cyber space as a preferred medium for attacks rather than face-to-face confrontation because the Internet masks the harassers' identities. WiredSafety.org is a volunteer organization dedicated to helping victims of cyberabuse ranging from online fraud and cyber-stalking to child safety and hacking.

"People feel more comfortable harassing others without their identities out in the open," Kush said. "The reason people stalk and harass usually has to deal with power and control issues, and that's the true issue of the predator."

The harassers seeking revenge against their ex-girlfriend or boyfriend hope to make their victims' lives miserable, Kush said.

"The harassers all try to justify their wrath in their minds and believe there are no consequences," Kush said.

Kush said he knew of a case in which a young woman in her early twenties was stalked and harassed her by her ex-boyfriend for seven years before she contacted WiredSafety for assistance. The ex-boyfriend repeatedly contacted the victim's employer and co-workers, sending threatening, inappropriate and invasive messages via e-mail, blogs and Web postings.

"Finally the guy was put away," Kush said. "We advised the victim to devise a plan with local law enforcement in the area where the stalker lived to gather evidence there that was later used to convict the guy of violations of federal law which put him in a federal prison."

Other harassers, however, are not personally linked to their victims and cannot be identified immediately if they use a "no name" e-mail or social networking account, Kush said.

Susan Lipkins, a leading psychologist specializing in hazing on college campuses, said masking occurs when a person does not want their identity apparent.

"The lack of consequences online leads to immoral, illegal and sadistic behavior," she said.

Lipkins said online harassment often damages women emotionally more so than men because they tend to recall words and images more clearly.

Online cyber-stalking expert and author of "The Dark Side of the Internet," Paul Bocij said there has been an increase in the number of women who meet men online through social networking sites. Though they have never met them face-to-face, more of these online encounters result in cyber-stalking.

"Now more people meet online to try to start relationships," Bocij said. "Many of these stalkers, though, are people who want to start a relationship but are too socially awkward to confront the individual in person."

While some harassers seek relationships, others only seek instant gratification.

Katya Gifford, the program manager for CyberAngels-an online safety education program-helps counsel victims involved in online harassment cases.

"Most young women don't think about the 62-year-old man looking at their profiles," Gifford said. "In most cases, the harassment starts in a social networking site and then goes to e-mail for direct contact."

In one case, a college woman in her early twenties, whose MySpace profile was made public, received inappropriate, explicit messages about masturbation from an older man after he viewed her public profile, Gifford said.

"The victim's picture was not inappropriate in the least," Gifford said. "It was just cute."

The victim replied to the harasser, which provoked him to contact her again through personal e-mail and AOL Instant Messenger. The victim finally contacted CyberAngels for assistance.

CyberAngels advised the victim to block her harasser from contacting her through online avenues and to report the harasser's Internet Server Provider (ISP) number to the authorities.

"It's a life changing experience," Gifford said. "Once you are a victim, it's hard overcome the situation."

The offender finally stopped contacting the victim once she asked him to stop, but Gifford said it took this victim time to recover from the emotional trauma her harasser caused.

Predators also look for specific traits detailed in their victim's profiles.

"Predators look for vulnerability in their victims," Gifford said. "They look for the depressed freshman and the sophomore who broke up with her boyfriend. Predators hunt for these profiles."

While stalkers can easily pick their victims, it's harder for the victims to pinpoint their culprit.

"We can help assist victims find local authorities to contact for help," Kush said. "But a lot of the victims are from local jurisdictions who don't have dedicated computer forensics to catch the harasser."

Laws also vary by state, which makes tracking down harassers much harder for law enforcement agencies.

"The harassment numbers are increasing as more people join social networking sites," Kush said. "Once technology gets better and easier for everyone to use, harassment will cut across all boundaries of race, gender and age."


NJ - Voorhees alters sex offender law

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01/24/2008

For more than two years, most of Voorhees was off-limits to any convicted sex offender who wanted to live in the township.

If they were caught residing within 2,500 feet of a school, park, playground or day-care center in the township, they faced up to a $1,000 fine or a three-month lockup in the county jail.

Today, however, most convicted sex offenders can move into any neighborhood without retribution because the township's residency restrictions now apply only to Tier 3, or high-risk, offenders who pose the greatest community danger. Tier 3 includes crimes such as rape and multiple offenses.

The change went into effect the last week of December when the township committee amended Voorhees' sex offender ordinance under legal advice.

"A lot of these ordinances in other towns have been struck down by the courts," said Howard Long, the committee's solicitor.

"Rather than be left without any protection, we decided to narrow the ordinance so it applies only to the worst offenders," Mayor Michael Mignogna explained. "We think it can withstand a legal challenge."

In 2006 and 2007, state Superior Court judges ruled that sex offender ordinances in Cherry Hill, Galloway Township in Atlantic County, and Lower Township in Cape May County were unlawful.

Megan's Law, a 1995 state law requiring sex offenders to inform local police where they live, trumped the local ordinances, the judges said. They also ruled the ordinances violated the constitutional rights of convicted sex offenders and punished them again for their crimes.

Cherry Hill and Galloway are appealing the court decisions and will argue their case at a March 5 appellate court hearing in Trenton. The ruling will likely have statewide implications.

Long wouldn't comment when asked if Voorhees itself was challenged over its sex offender residency restrictions. Neither would Mignogna.

But according to the New Jersey Public Defenders Office, the township was sued last October.

"There was almost no place a sex offender could live in Voorhees under the previous ordinance. There may have been one area where houses were scheduled to be built, but they weren't built yet and they were likely going to be expensive," said Michael Buncher, who's been closely following the sex offender ordinance issue statewide as deputy public defender with the New Jersey Public Defenders Office.

The office is representing a male sex offender, who is not deemed a high risk to the community, in the Voorhees case, he said. It plans to withdraw the lawsuit, however, now that the township's ordinance no longer applies to low and moderate risk offenders, Buncher said. Low and moderate risk offenses include crimes such as sexual assault.

It's unclear how many New Jersey municipalities have sex offender ordinances, but the estimate is more than 100, Buncher said. He couldn't say how many of the towns have been sued.

In the local area, municipalities with such ordinances include Winslow, Camden, Berlin Borough, Clementon, Laurel Springs and Waterford in Camden County; Franklin and Woolwich in Gloucester County; and Maple Shade, Medford, Palmyra and Moorestown in Burlington County.

Towns began adopting these sex offender measures en masse beginning in 2005, said Ken Singer, a licensed clinical social worker and director of the New Jersey Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers.

"They don't make communities safer because they're based on flawed thinking. Most sex offenders don't attack strangers," said Singer, noting research has shown 90 percent of sex assault victims know their perpetrator.

The ordinances also often force offenders to move away from their support system -- family, friends, jobs, social workers and counselors -- which can put them more at risk of reoffending, Singer said. Some have ended up homeless after being ordered to move out of housing they could afford, he said.

Mignogna, however, believes sex offender ordinances scare away would be offenders because they show communities take the crime very seriously.

"The number one priority has to be the safety of kids," said Maureen Kanka, whose 7-year-old daughter, Megan, was murdered in 1994 by a neighbor with a history of sexual crimes. Her murder led to the adoption of Megan's Law.

She applauded Voorhees for keeping some of its ordinance intact despite the lawsuit.

"Towns are trying to come up with ways they think can best protect their residents. Hopefully, these types of ordinances will be upheld by the courts. If not, minds will get together and come up with something else," Kanka said.


ME - Offender Registry, Remade

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01/25/2008

As the Legislature’s Criminal Justice Committee begins the difficult and emotionally charged task of remaking the state’s sex offender registry in the wake of a Maine supreme court ruling and changes to federal law, lawmakers must ensure that the public is protected without excessive punishment or shaming. Creating a tiered registry and not making public information about low-level offenders is a good way to achieve this.

Last year, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court raised significant questions about the state’s sex offender registry. The court was especially concerned about changes made in recent years to require Internet posting of personal information about offenders, to restrict where offenders can live and to require fingerprinting every 90 days for offenders convicted since 1982. The case was brought by a man who said the registry violated his rights by imposing punishment that did not exist when he pleaded guilty in the 1980s to a crime against a family member.

The changes have made the law significantly more punitive and intrusive, changing the nature of the sanctions from civil penalties to a retroactive increase in criminal penalties. The justices suggested this retroactive increase violates the Maine Constitution. The court said it needed more information before ruling on the merits of the case and sent it back to Kennebec County Superior Court, where it is pending.

The most stinging rebuke came from Justices Donald Alexander and Warren Silver, who wrote a concurring opinion in stronger language. "We now recognize the extent to which the state’s use of the Internet to display registration information correlates to the shaming and branding punishments used in colonial times, and we have seen the registries’ potential for causing retributive and vigilante justice against registrants," they wrote. In 2006, two men on the registry were killed by a man from Canada who reviewed their information on the state’s sex offender Web site, the most popular in state government. The justices rightly wonder how making the identity and whereabouts of the state’s registered offenders accessible to anyone anywhere in the world is not unduly punitive.

Worse, this "shaming and branding" often leads to social isolation and depression, which could impede rehabilitation and cause some to reoffend. The registry requirements may thus be harming, rather than protecting, public safety, taking away a major justification for the law, Justices Alexander and Silver wrote.

A bill that the Criminal Justice Committee is scheduled to begin considering today, LD 446, aims to address the concerns raised by the court and to comply with changes in the federal registry law, which will require a tiered system. Under a tiered system, offenders would be included in the registry for differing lengths of time depending on the severity of their crimes. The amount of information made public would also increase with the seriousness of the crime.

Such a system, with only limited Internet postings, could return the registry to its original purpose of tracking and public notification, without the unnecessary negative — and likely unconstitutional — consequences.


PA - Court: Treat all sex parolees the same

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01/25/2008

It is unconstitutional for Pennsylvania to treat sex offenders from other states differently than those who are convicted in the commonwealth.

That was a ruling by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday, 16 months after a three-judge panel heard arguments on the matter.

The challenge came from a Pennsylvania man who was convicted of molesting an 11-year-old girl in New Jersey. He sought to have his punishment -- five years of probation followed by lifetime parole -- transferred back to Pennsylvania.

Because of the Interstate Compact Concerning Parole and Probation, of which both Pennsylvania and New Jersey are members, transferring him to Pennsylvania wasn't a problem.

The man, who is called John Doe in the appeal, complied with the requirement to register with the state police, but he refused to consent to the community notification requirement.

Under Pennsylvania's Megan's Law, community notification -- in which local police distribute fliers in the neighborhood where the offender lives -- is required for anyone who has been found in a separate court hearing to be a "sexually violent predator."

However, the state Board of Probation and Parole was applying that provision to all out-of-state offenders, without providing a hearing to make the determination.

When Mr. Doe refused to go along with community notification, the state denied his application for transfer and ordered him out of Pennsylvania.

"Under the Constitution, our government has an obligation to treat everyone fairly, including those who have committed crimes," said Witold Walczak, the legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, who argued on behalf of Mr. Doe. "This case is about treating similarly situated offenders the same."

Mr. Doe challenged the decision in federal court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and won.

The state appealed to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the lower court ruling, finding that not only did the state's actions violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, but that they were irrational, too.

That's because Megan's Law was revised in 2005 requiring that out-of-state transfers be granted the "sexually violent predator" hearing anyway.

Despite that, the state challenged the district court ruling, arguing that the disparate treatment was related to its public safety goals.

It offered four explanations, including that:

• It would be impossible to replicate the legal proceedings provided for in-state offenders for out-of-state offenders.

• Providing those types of proceedings to out-of-state offenders would increase time and expense.

• The "harshness" of community notification differs for in-state and out-of-state offenders.

• The publicity given to a sex offender's trial in Pennsylvania rationalizes the disparate treatment because the trials for out-of-state offenders are less likely to receive media attention here.

A two-judge majority, which included Judges Theodore A. McKee and Richard L. Nygaard, found the time and expense argument to be irrelevant, because Pennsylvania had agreed to treat all parolees -- both in-state and out-of-state -- the same.

"Put simply, every reason proffered by the Commonwealth for its disparate treatment of Doe in this case is meritless, and hence irrational," the two-judge majority wrote.

As of the end of December, the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole had 29,568 people on supervision. Of those, 3,225 had transferred in from out-of-state.

Board spokesman Leo Dunn could not put a specific number on how many sex offenders the court ruling would affect, but did say, "Sex offenders are a very low percentage of our caseload."


OH - Sex offender cases likely on hold

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01/25/2008

Summit County judges to consider whether new registration law unconstitutional

Dozens of Summit County sex offenders challenging more stringent registration requirements under Ohio's new law are expected to have their cases put on hold today by judicial order because of constitutional issues.

Common Pleas Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer, the General Division's administrative judge, said a meeting will be held to discuss how to proceed and that court-ordered action affecting about 75 to 80 civil cases is expected.

''The big issue is the application of the statute retroactively. We are absolutely, unequivocally using the new law for anyone who is charged as of Jan. 1 and then convicted,'' Stormer said.

Statewide, according to officials in Columbus, about 26,000 cases were affected by the new registration requirements.

In many of the cases, offenders under the old registration requirements of Ohio's Megan's Law had to register annually with the sheriff's office for 10 years as ''sexually oriented offenders,'' Stormer said.

The concern under the new Adam Walsh Act — which has three tiers, with Tier 3 being the
most serious — is that the same offenders are required to register every 90 days for the rest of their lives.

The new, more stringent requirements became law on Jan. 1 and affected about 26,000 offenders, said Leo Jennings, a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office. Of those, about 9,000 still are in prison, Jennings said.

Amy Borror, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Public Defender's Office, said there have been so many challenges to the new registration requirements, ''a real burden has been placed on the courts.''

As a result, Borror said, five counties already have or are planning to take court-ordered action on such constitutional issues. Stark was the first, she said.

The Summit, Licking, Warren and Van Wert court systems are the others, Borror said.

Stark County Common Pleas Judge Richard D. Reinbold Jr. said a major concern for the five trial judges was a clause of the U.S. Constitution.

''It's the classic argument: You can't make a crime today what wasn't a crime two weeks ago,'' Reinbold said.

An automatic stay has been issued in Stark only for the cases of sexually oriented offenders, Reinbold said, and a meeting will be held sometime in April to decide how all five judges will handle the challenges.

Reinbold said he has about 25 cases and that there might be as many as 250 cases countywide.

Last week in Summit, lawyer Paul F. Adamson filed a civil suit on behalf of former Buchtel High School football coach Claude Brown, who was released from prison on shock probation after serving nearly eight months on a sexual battery conviction for two incidents involving a 17-year-old girl in 2006.

In his filing, Adamson cited many of the same constitutional arguments raised by the judges, because Brown was in the lowest classification as a first-time sexually oriented offender.

But under the Walsh Act, Adamson said, Brown is now in the Tier 3 classification and faces the lifetime registration requirement and other penalties.

''Claude Brown is in the same classification as a serial rapist and we do not think that is right,'' Adamson said.

Summit County Common Pleas Judge Marvin A. Shapiro, who handled Brown's case, did not specifically comment about it, but did mention one of Adamson's concerns as a possible concern for all eight of the county's judges.

''The question is, historically, that ex post facto laws are unconstitutional,'' Shapiro said. ''And you can't create something as a law today for something that happened before.''


UT - 'Jessica's Law' gets OK from House panel

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01/24/2008

The so-called "Jessica's Law" advanced Wednesday.

HB256, which was approved unanimously by the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee, would increase the penalties for certain types of sex offenses against children. It would also up the penalties for those who strike plea deals, pleading guilty to "attempted" offenses. It is named after Jessica Lunsford, a little girl who was raped and murdered in 2005 in Florida by a convicted sex offender.

"This satisfies the necessary public outcry for stiffer penalties for child molesters," said Rep. Carl Wimmer (Email), R-Herriman, the bill's sponsor.

Rape of a child, sodomy on a child and object rape of a child could have a 25-years-to-life sentence. The parole board still retains some authority to deviate from that sentence, Wimmer said. "Attempted" charges would get a standardized sentence of 15-years-to-life, but the measure grants the judge the ability to deviate to a minimum of 3-, 6-, or 10-years-to-life in prison.

This version of the bill would likely increase the number of plea deals, sparing child victims the pain of testifying at a trial, Wimmer said, but does not deprive the courts or the parole board of any authority.

"It ultimately sets Utah as the gold standard across the nation," Wimmer said.


GA - Atlanta Police Officer Accused Of Child Molestation

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01/25/2008

ATLANTA -- A veteran Atlanta police officer was indicted Friday on charges that he molested a 12-year-old girl.

Atlanta Police Department officials said Investigator Wilson Carstaffin has been indicted on two counts of child molestation, two counts of sexual battery and one count of enticing a child for indecent purposes.

Officials told WSB-TV Channel 2's Jodie Fleischer that Carstaffin met the girl while he was working an off-duty security job at a school. He is accused of taking the girl off school grounds and molesting her in his car.

The indictment was returned by a Fulton County grand jury Friday morning after evidence gathered by APD was turned over to the office of District Attorney Paul Howard.

He has been suspended with pay pending an emergency action hearing early next week.

"It disturbs me and every other police officer in Atlanta when such allegations arise", said Chief Richard J. Pennington. "Children are told to trust police officers. This is an apparent heinous abuse of that trust."

The officer, a 16-year veteran of the department, was assigned to the General Investigations Unit before being assigned to non-enforcement, administrative duties while the investigation took place.

The officer was not on duty, in uniform or in a police vehicle at the time of the incident, according to officials. Police said they believe the victim knew Carstaffin was a police officer.

A news conference is being held Friday afternoon to discuss the case. Please refresh this developing story for updates.