Tuesday, May 6, 2008

WA - 'Community Safe,' Sex Offender Says

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05/06/2008

EVERETT - The convicted sex offender at the center of a neighborhood uproar told KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reporter Rick Price he wants the community he was released in to know it is safe.

Level-three sex offender Sidney Jay Summiel stated his case to Price in the Everett neighborhood where he now lives.

"I'm not a person that's going to run around here and try to attack anyone's kids or do anything like that, and I just want the community to know that they're safe," said Summiel.

Summiel spent four years in prison for child rape and was slated to be released last week in Oak Harbor near where he committed his crimes.

Instead, Gov. Christine Gregoire convinced the Department of Corrections to release him in Everett because it was likely that Summiel was going to be homeless if released in Oak Harbor.

Summiel was released on Friday, but neither Everett police nor neighbors of the sex offender were notified.

Everett police learned of Summiel's release in the area on Monday from KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reporter Gary Horcher.

By law, neighbors should be given at least two weeks' notice when a sex offender is moving into their area.

Everett police said that by law, they cannot notify neighbors about a sex offender until they receive an official fax from the Department of Corrections, which they did not have on Monday.

The DOC said it faxed a warning about Summiel to Everett police on Friday, but Everett police told KIRO 7 they never received it.

Everett Police said they e-mailed the notification on Tuesday to dozens of leaders, community groups and institutions, and are mailing the notice to more than 1700 homes and businesses nearby.


NV - Ruling on Nevada's sex offender law appealed to Supreme Court

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05/06/2008

CARSON CITY (AP) - A lower court ruling that part of a new law on sex offenders is unconstitutional will be appealed by Clark County prosecutors to the Nevada Supreme Court - and a public defender plans a cross-appeal aimed at keeping the law off the books.

Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Vanboskerck said he filed a notice of appeal after Clark County Family Court Judge William Voy's recent decision against part of the law passed by the 2007 Legislature.

Deputy Clark County Public Defender Susan Roske said she's cross-appealing even though Voy's decision was one she sought. Roske said part of her argument on the constitutionality of the law was rejected, and her cross-appeal preserves that argument for future litigation if necessary.

Voy held that a law section dealing with sex offender registration for juvenile offenders violates constitutional due process guarantees because it lacks a rational basis for extending to 14-year-olds but not to someone who may be younger but more dangerous.


MA - Hull Town Meeting Takes No Action on Sex-Offender Bylaw


IL - Second Life could sexually exploit children via Internet, Rep. Mark Kirk says

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05/06/2008

Congressman calls for consumer-alert warning for online social network

With nearly 13 million online users, the rapidly expanding virtual world Second Life is a risk for children, who could be sexually exploited, U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) (Contact) said Monday.

Kirk sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission requesting a consumer-alert warning about its dangers.

Mt. Prospect Mayor Irvana Wilks said the community has been concerned about Internet predators.

"This Second Life is a new scare, unchartered territory," Wilks said at a news conference Monday with Kirk at the Mt. Prospect Police Department. "It hits home."

Kirk said he knew of no cases in which children were targeted by sexual predators on Second Life, but he said he considers the virtual world an emerging danger.

"Members of the Second Life community, including Linden Lab staff, actively monitor against minors accessing the [adult portion of the] service," according to a statement from the San Francisco-based firm that created it.

Users of Second Life assume characters known as avatars, and can play, date and do business in a 3-D world that resembles a video game.

The dark side of the Internet site quickly became evident when one of his aides created an account last week, Kirk said.

The aide tried and failed to log in as a 10-year-old. But she gained access, she said, using the same e-mail address when she claimed to be 18.

Within half an hour, the aide said, she was perusing pornography and roaming in "virtual rape rooms" and drug dens.

"If you ask: Do you know about MySpace? The average parent will say yes," Kirk said. "But the average parent doesn't know anything about Second Life."

Linden Lab has two virtual districts, one for people 18 and older and one for users age 13 to 17, but company officials have acknowledged it is possible for adults to get into the teen district and for children to get into the adult district, according to news accounts.

mtwohey@tribune.com


CT - Student: Crowd Watched Sexual Assault

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05/05/2008

UConn Student Describes Attack In Paper

STORRS -- A University of Connecticut student who said she was the victim of Spring Weekend sexual assault has come forward in a very public way.

UConn student Melissa Bruen described the attack in the school's newspaper. Bruen is editor-in-chief of the paper.

Bruen wrote that she was on her phone on the Hunting Lodge Road Path when she was thrown against a tree by a man who then fondled her.

She wrote that once she freed herself from the man, another man pulled down her shirt and touched her bare chest and mocked her screams that she was being sexually assaulted.

Bruen wrote that a group of people, mostly men, stood by and did nothing.

"No police officer witnessed the incident, but it was reported to police who were on the path that night," said Major Ron Blicher of the UConn Police Department.

Bruen wrote that she hopes her story will force people to do the right thing in the future.

"All I could think of is the good Samaritan law," said UConn junior Katie Jobs. "People are going to have to live with it the rest of their lives."


Some states releasing inmates early

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05/05/2008

Huge fiscal pressures are causing many to let thousands of felons go free

NEW YORK - Reversing decades of tough-on-crime policies, including mandatory minimum prison sentences for some drug offenders, many cash-strapped states are embracing a view once dismissed as dangerously naive: It costs far less to let some felons go free than to keep them locked up.

It is a theory that has long been pushed by criminal justice advocates and liberal politicians -- that some felons, particularly those convicted of minor drug offenses, would be better served by treatment, parole or early release for good behavior. But the states' conversion to that view has less to do with a change of heart on crime than with stark fiscal realities. At a time of shrinking resources, prisons are eating up an increasing share of many state budgets.

"It's the fiscal stuff that's driving it," said Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, a Washington-based group that advocates for more lenient sentencing. "Do you want to build prisons or do you want to build colleges? If you're a governor, it's kind of come to that choice right now."

Worried about exploding costs
Mauer and other observers point to a number of recent actions, some from states facing huge budget shortfalls, some not, but still worried about exploding costs.

  • To ease the overcrowding and save California about $1.1 billion over two years, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has proposed freeing about 22,000 prisoners convicted of nonviolent, nonsexual offenses 20 months earlier than their scheduled release dates. He also wants to place them on unsupervised parole, saving the state the cost of having all parolees assigned to an agent.
  • Lawmakers in Providence, R.I., approved an expansion last week of the state's "good time" early-release rules to cover more inmates serving shorter sentences. The new rules, which will put more inmates under post-prison supervision, are expected to save Rhode Island an estimated $8 billion over five years.
  • In Kentucky, where 22,000 state inmates are housed in county prisons and private facilities, lawmakers agreed to allow certain nonviolent, nonsexual offenders to serve up to 180 days of their sentences at home, and to make it easier for prisoners to earn credit for good behavior. The move could save the state, which is facing a $900 million deficit over the next two years, as much as $30 million.
  • In Mississippi, where the prison population has doubled during the past dozen years to 22,600, Gov. Haley Barbour (R) has signed into law two measures that will reduce it: One to let certain nonviolent offenders go free after serving 25 percent of their sentences, and the other to release some terminally ill inmates.
  • South Carolina, meanwhile, is looking to abolish parole, in part to slow the growth of its prison population since there would be fewer people returned to prison for parole violations.

Proposals to free prisoners are still met with opposition, particularly from law enforcement officials who fear that a flood of released felons could return to their communities, and from victims groups that worry that justice is being sacrificed for budgetary concerns.

The California plan has drawn criticism from the Legislative Analyst's Office, the state's nonpartisan fiscal adviser, which warned that 63,000 mid-level offenders would "effectively go unpunished, serving little or no prison time" and would not have active supervision.

The proposal also worries local governments and police in California, particularly in Los Angeles County -- home to the nation's largest prison system, which supplies about a third of the state's prison population. "It's kind of like the volcano has erupted," County Sheriff Lee Baca said. "To let out 63,000 prisoners on summary parole -- which means no parole -- is not good policy."

Bob Pack, 52, of Danville, Calif., is particularly disturbed by the prospect of softer punishment for those convicted of drunken driving. In 2003, Pack's two children -- Troy, 10, and Alana, 7 -- were struck and killed when a drunk driver's car jumped a curb and ran onto a neighborhood sidewalk. The driver had three prior drunken-driving convictions.

Said Pack: "I guarantee you that if this program is fulfilled, somewhere down the road -- it could be three months or a year -- there's going to be a family in court over the death of a loved one, because of someone who got out early."

Mounting pressure to cut costs
But for now, state officials are finding themselves under mounting pressure to cut costs and are looking at their rising prison population.

Between 1987 and last year, states increased their higher education spending by 21 percent, in inflation-adjusted dollars, according to the Pew Center on the States. During the same period, spending on corrections jumped by 127 percent.

In the Northeastern states, according to the Pew report, prison spending over the past 20 years has risen 61 percent, while higher education spending has declined by 5.5 percent.

California -- which has the country's worst fiscal crisis, with a potential shortfall of $20 billion -- has seen its prison-related spending swell to $10.4 billion for the 2008-2009 fiscal year. About 170,000 inmates are packed into California's 33 prisons, which were designed to hold 100,000. About 15,000 prisoners are being housed in emergency beds, in converted classrooms and gymnasiums.

Rhode Island's prison population peaked and its 4,000-inmate prison capacity was exceeded in recent years, prompting a lawsuit and a court settlement. "The soaring inmate census has created a crisis here," said Ashbel T. Wall, the state's corrections director. "We've been busting the budget continuously. . . . Our prisons have been packed."

More 'humane'
New Jersey is one state making changes out of a desire for more efficiency. Gov. Jon S. Corzine (D) is proposing legislation to expand drug courts to channel more nonviolent, first-time drug offenders into treatment instead of prisons, and also to expand supervised parole. Another proposal would change the parole policy so parolees were not automatically returned to prison for minor drug offenses, said Lilo Stainton, the governor's spokeswoman.

She said that in New Jersey's case, the changes are not budget-driven. "We think this is a more humane and sensible way to treat people," she said.

Michigan is grappling with a massive prison population, mainly because "truth in sentencing" rules make the state less generous about granting paroles. Michigan's incarceration rate is 47 percent higher than that of the other Great Lakes states, according to experts.

Michigan has become one of the few states that actually spend more on prisons than on higher education -- about $2 billion for prisons, and $1.9 billion in state aid to its 15 public universities and 28 community colleges. "It's insane," said Barbara Levine of the Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending in Lansing. "The governor is always talking about how we need to be high tech. But these days, the best career opportunity is to get a job as a prison guard."

In fact, according to Thomas Clay, a prisons and budget expert with Michigan's nonprofit Citizens Research Council, the state government employed 70,000 people in 1980, including 5,000 working for the prisons system. Today, the number of state workers has dropped to 54,000, but 17,000 work for the prisons.

"You've got two decades of failed policies," said Laura Sager a consultant in Michigan for Families Against Mandatory Minimums. She said mandatory sentencing laws and tough penalties for drug offenses in the 1980s "bloated prisons and prison populations, and the taxpayer is paying a very high price."

Now with states struggling with budget deficits, she said, "you have pressures that make it palatable to take a second look."

Surdin reported from Los Angeles.


MA - Ex-officer gets probation

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05/06/2008

By BUFFY SPENCER (bspencer@repub.com)

SPRINGFIELD - A retired Palmer police officer told a Hampden Superior Court judge yesterday that he was too intoxicated to remember indecently assaulting an 11-year-old girl, but he believes the state has evidence to prove he did so.

William E. McCarthy, 60, of Palmer, pleaded guilty to indecent assault and battery on a child under 16 years old and was sentenced by Judge Peter A. Velis to 18 months probation with conditions.

Assistant District Attorney Patrick Sabbs said that the victim, a girl who lives in the same condominium complex as McCarthy, reported that McCarthy went over to her when she was visiting his home on July 7, 2006, and kissed her, putting his tongue inside her mouth.

Sabbs said that under the plea agreement the state will not go forward on a charge of possessing child pornography that McCarthy faced.

McCarthy pleaded guilty under a provision of law available when a defendant has no memory of his or her crime but acknowledges the state has evidence to prove it.

The agreement between Sabbs and Jack F. St. Clair, defense lawyer, was for one year probation. But Velis said he believed the probation period should be 18 months and McCarthy agreed to that change.

McCarthy must register with the Sex Offender Registry. Sabbs said that the victim and her family did not disagree with the probationary sentence.

As conditions of probation, McCarthy must have no contact with the victim and her family and have no unsupervised conduct with children under 16 years old. He must continue counseling and a component of that must be about alcohol. He will be subject to electronic monitoring.

St. Clair said that McCarthy had retired after 28 years on the police department and "started drinking, more out of boredom" during the day. St. Clair said that McCarthy's wife and son are very supportive of him but McCarthy asked them not to come to court because "it's a very dark day for him."

Sabbs said that one of the reasons the victim was not in court is that school attendance is really important to her, so she went to school.


FL - Names of the disgraced stain our landscape

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05/06/2008

BY FRED GRIMM (fgrimm@herald.com)

The rightful location for the Barry Kutun Boat Ramp would be in the bowels of the Julia Tuttle Causeway with the sex offenders.

But Miami Beach has kept its tribute to Kutun not far from the kiddie playground at Maurice Gibb Park -- despite his 2007 conviction for cavorting with a 16-year-old.

The ramp not only memorializes Kutun, who had sex with the underaged girl at least eight times, but says something about the enduring reverence enjoyed hereabouts by disgraced politicians.

Boaters who regularly pull their trailers past a large sign honoring a sex offender can hardly be shocked that just across the bay the Miami City Commission intends to name a community center in Little Haiti after Art Teele.

INGLORIOUS PAST

Teele's 2005 suicide preempted a tidal wave of state and federal corruption charges, laden with fraud and kickbacks. No matter. The Miami Herald's Michael Vasquez reported last week that the City Commission seems hellbent on saddling Little Haiti with that tainted name.

Teele-style political corruption usually fails to roil the public revulsion engendered by public officials who have sex with minors. And Kutun's problems were compounded when police found photos on his computer at North Miami City Hall -- where he worked as city attorney -- of his illicit trysts with the child and also with an adult prostitute.

Kutun told police he thought the girl, whom he paid $50 to $200 to visit his condo, was 18. The cops didn't buy it, but apparently it helps, in trying times, to be a former state legislator with nifty political connections.

POWER OF CONNECTIONS

Kutun pleaded guilty to child abuse after his lawyer negotiated a stunning deal -- house arrest and probation.

He dodged adjudication as a sex offender -- a status that would have banished him to the causeway netherworld.

No one in Miami Beach thought to erase the disgraced name from the boat ramp.

But neither did the Broward County School Board bother to rechristen William Dandy Middle School in 1994 after Dandy, a longtime school official, drove into a pedestrian, knocked her 150 feet and fled the scene.

He waited four days -- after police had already connected his car to the dead woman -- before turning himself in. The well-connected Dandy escaped with probation. The school kept his name.

In 1990, Miami changed Leomar Parkway back to SW 132nd Avenue after Leonel Martinez went down on drug smuggling charges. But Miami kept Abel Holtz Boulevard after the banker did his stint in prison.

CALLING A FOUL

Jose Canseco Street still runs through Southwest Miami-Dade County despite the fallen baseball hero's various scandals.

But Robert Castillo of Miami Springs was stunned and disgusted Monday afternoon when told he was backing his fishing boat down the namesake of the inglorious Kutun.

''They ought to name it instead after that crack-smoking county commissioner who ran off to Australia,'' Castillo growled, referring to the still-infamous Joe Gersten who absconded about 15 years ago to avoid a court subpoena.

And why not name it after Gersten? By South Florida standards, his crack-whore exploits hardly preclude glorifying his name on a community center or a street sign or a boat dock.

Besides, if Kutun's ramp gets a do-over as Gersten's ramp, maybe we can lure Joe back home for the rechristening.


GA - DOT Workers Fired For Violence, Theft, Porn

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05/05/2008

ATLANTA -- More than 40 employees have been fired from the Georgia Department of Transportation for a wide array of misconduct including incidents of assault, drugs pornography and nudity, since the new DOT Commissioner took charge.

Through an open records request WSB-TV Channel 2 obtained documents from the DOT that in some cases read like a police report.

"I had just received a plethora of employee issues that just were absolutely unacceptable," said DOT commissioner Gena Abraham.

When the new DOT commissioner came under fire for admitting to a romantic relationship with the DOT board chairman some called her a hypocrite for releasing a memo holding her employees to the highest moral and ethical standards.

But documents obtained by WSB-TV Channel 2 may justify the need for the memo.

"We had a lot of theft in the department," said Abraham.

But that's not all.

WSB-TV Channel 2 reporter Lori Geary went through the data incident by incident and found that since December of 2007 when Abraham took office, she's fired 43 employees, suspended seven and reduced the salaries of 15 others.

"I was tired of catching people stealing gas," explained Abraham.

According to the records at least three employees were caught stealing gas and using taxpayer money by filling up personal vehicles.

Another employee stole almost $4,000 in cash.

Three were fired for sending pornographic e-mails inside and outside the department.

There were seven incidents of workplace violence, including an employee who pulled out a machete and threatened a colleague.

Another DOT employee brought a gun to work.

Three employees were arrested for DUI in their state vehicles; one of them also had marijuana in the car.

Another employee was fired for mooning his fellow employees; another for smearing ketchup on a co-worker with food allergies.

Eight others were fired on the spot for positive drug tests.