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City Council will consider action
HICKORY -- Marvin Oliver stopped by J.C. Park on Wednesday for a tennis match.
The Lenoir resident thinks parks should promote a family friendly atmosphere. He agrees with Hickory officials who want to ban registered sex offenders from public parks and recreation facilities.
“The only time you think of sex offenders at parks is when something happens,” he said, adding he would ban sex offenders from all public areas.
- So I guess you want them to stay in their homes for the rest of their lives? All public places is basically everything. You are apparently an idiot, IMO!
Hickory’s parks and recreation commission adopted a draft of an ordinance this week that would fine and possibly jail registered sex offenders who go on park properties. The Hickory City Council will consider the issue at its June 1 meeting.
If approved, Hickory would become the second city in the region to adopt such a policy. Morganton approved the ban in January.
Such measures have been opposed by civil liberties advocates in other parts of the state. They say the ban violates offenders’ rights. The American Civil Liberties Union contested a similar law last year in Woodfin in Buncombe County, calling it too broad. The N.C. Court of Appeals upheld the decision, saying the ban didn’t violate offenders’ fundamental rights. The ACLU has appealed the decision to the N.C. Supreme Court.
District Attorney Jay Gaither sent letters to cities and towns in the 25th Judicial District - Burke, Caldwell and Catawba counties - in the fall asking them to approve the bans.
“Our office is always looking for ways to protect the community, especially families and children,” he said. Gaither pursued the matter after hearing of other communities in the state enacting sex offender bans.
- Especially families and children? What about all the single people out there who do not have families? I know that is not what you meant, but you need to be specific on who you say!
Hickory Mayor Rudy Wright (Email) supports the idea.
“I think it’s the least we can do to protect the children,” he said. “The sex offenders have made their own beds. I don’t have much sympathy.”
- Not all sex offenders have harmed children, so you cannot treat all sexual offenders as if they killed some child, that is just insane, but is exactly what this whole evil country is doing!!
The city would rely on the public to notify police of sex offenders in recreational areas. Each offense would come with a penalty of a $500 fine and/or 30 days in jail.
Hickory began criminal background checks of volunteer coaches in its sports programs several years ago. The policy was expanded to game officials last year.
“We’re just trying to be proactive and provide as safe of an environment as we can,” said Hickory Parks Director Mack McLeod.
Dana Inman, 19, and Stephen Snead, 20, fish several times a week at Hickory’s Geitner Park. They support the ban, but question its enforcement.
“I think it’s a good idea, but it doesn’t seem very feasible,” Snead said.
“I hear too many stories of kids involved in those crimes,” Inman said. “Anything to avoid that would be good for Hickory.”
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
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Video is available at the site above. And yet another slap on the wrist for the rich "Good Ole' Boys!" And more proof groups like Perverted-Justice are not needed, and only exploiting people to make quick cash.
An attorney accused of trying to arrange a sexual encounter with a 14 year old is sentenced to 30 days in jail. The 14 year old was actually a Hamilton Township police officer.
48-year-old Barry Menster pleaded guilty to importuning and attempted unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. Menster is a former staff attorney for Franklin County Children's Services.
A detective from Hamilton Township in Warren County posed as a 15 year old girl and communicated with Menster online for more than a year. Menster agreed to meet the "teen" at the Ohio Statehouse in the lunchroom this past October 31st. That's where Menster was arrested.
- I'm confused. At the top it says the "girl" was 14, and here it says 15. So which was it? Not that it matters, but facts need to be correct.
Menster could have gotten two and a half years in prison but was sentenced to 30 days plus three years probation. The Hamilton Township officer who helped catch Menster is disappointed in the sentenced. Menster's lawyer says he believes the punishment is fair considering Menster has lost his wife, children and his law career.
- What about sex offender treatment?
Menster will also have to register as a sex offender twice a year for the next 25 years.
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Don't let the door kick you in the a$$ on the way out. He always said we should hold him to a higher standard, so I think he should go down to the sheriff's office and sign up for the sex offender registration. They have on the AG web site a tribute to the fallen officers. What about fallen AG's?
Crippled by a sexual harassment scandal surrounding his office and an admitted affair with a staff member, embattled Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann resigned Wednesday.
Dann, 46, made the announcement at the Ohio Statehouse shortly before 5 p.m., joined by Gov. Ted Strickland, who had called for his resignation just over a week before.
"The only way to protect the priorities of the attorney general's office and the people of Ohio is to remove myself as attorney general," Dann said.
The state's top lawyer, a Democrat, left the press conference without taking questions. He stepped down a day after Democrats in the Ohio House of Representatives had filed articles of impeachment against him and Ted Strickland signed an amended bill that allowed Ohio Inspector General Thomas Charles to begin a probe of Dann's office. That investigation began Wednesday morning and won't be affected by Dann's resignation.
"Attorney General Dann did the honorable thing by resigning," Strickland said, adding that no deal was brokered with his office regarding his resignation. "It will allow the important work of the attorney general's office to continue without the distraction of recent events."
Tom Winters, Dann's first assistant attorney general, will serve in the position until an interim appointment is made.
Dann stayed in office less than two weeks after details of an internal investigation into sexual harassment claims against Anthony Gutierrez, Dann's general services director, were released. That investigation, led by Ben Espy, deputy attorney general for criminal justice, and Julie Pfeiffer, assistant attorney general from the office's employment law section, led to the firing of Gutierrez, who had been placed on administrative leave weeks before.
Leo Jennings, Dann's spokesman, also lost his job after the report found he interfered with the investigation.
A third ranking staffer, Ed Simpson, resigned rather than risk facing dismissal after the report determined he failed to properly supervise Gutierrez and Jennings and failed to look into the harassment complaints made by employees Vanessa Stout and Cindy Stankoski.
A damaging revelation came in a statement Dann made May 2: He acknowledged an affair with a staff member, part of what the Espy-Pfeiffer report called "conditions (in the office) that contribute to a hostile work environment."
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NEW YORK STATE -- The State Senate has passed several bills aimed at stopping sex offenders from slipping through the cracks.
One bill requires all level three sex offenders to be tracked using GPS technology. The Division of Criminal Justice Services would monitor the devices.
Other bills include prohibiting level three offenders from moving to a home within 500 feet of a school and making it illegal for first time offenders to apply for a job where they would have access to children.
All of the bills now move on to the Assembly for consideration.
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Equal Justice does not exist anymore. Average citizens have been doing the same thing as this LAWYER and he gets 30 days in jail while others are in prison for years. This is why the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. It's all in who you know and who you are.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH - An attorney arrested on the Statehouse grounds for attempting to meet a teenage girl for sex was sentenced to 30 days in jail today in Warren County.
Barry Mentser, 48, of Harrison Pond Drive in Gahanna also was ordered to pay a $500 fine and placed on probation for three years.
In April, he pleaded guilty to importuning and attempted unlawful sexual conduct with a minor.
The felony convictions mean that Mentser will have to report his home address to authorities as a sex offender for 25 years, Warren County Prosecutor Rachel Hutzel said in a news release.
Common Pleas Judge Neal Bronson denied a request to keep Mentser out of jail.
“Judge Bronson noted that those convicted of criminal offenses are sentenced similarly in accordance with their criminal conduct,” Hutzel said. “Even with all the publicity that follows these cases, individuals are still using the Internet to find vulnerable victims.”
- Well here is an example, where the same thing was done, and they got sentenced to one year in prison. So the above statement appears to be false to me.
Mentser, a former attorney for Franklin County Children Services, was arrested Oct. 31 in a sting set up by a Warren County detective who had posed online as a 14-year-old girl. Lt. Jeff Braley was testifying at a hearing about Internet sexual predators on the day of Mentser’s arrest.
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ALBANY - New York officials are sending letters to the state's 25,000 registered sex offenders telling them to disclose their Internet screen names in an effort to keep them from secretly contacting juveniles on social networking Web sites.
Those screen names will be made public. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo says at least two popular networking sites, MySpace and Facebook, plan to remove users whose names appear on the state's Sex Offender Registry.
The screen name disclosures are required under a law signed by Gov. David Paterson that also prohibits certain convicted offenders on parole, probation or conditional discharge from using the Internet to contact children.
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Governor David A. Paterson (Contact) was joined today by Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo (Contact), Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (Email), Senate Deputy Majority Leader Dean Skelos (Contact), Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith (Contact) and Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco (Email) as he signed legislation designed to protect children who access social networking sites from convicted sex offenders.
“New York State must do everything it can to protect our children from sexual predators,” said Governor Paterson. “Many of these individuals are able to prowl the Internet with anonymity, and this legislation will help us to identify these individuals and restrict their access to web sites used by children. I urge social networking site providers to take advantage of the new information in the Sex Offender Registry in order to prevent offenders from accessing their web sites, making the Internet safer for children.”
Attorney General Cuomo said: “I applaud Governor Paterson for signing e-STOP into law and giving New York the nation’s most comprehensive protection against sexual predators on the Internet. The Internet has proven a useful tool for sex offenders to prey on the innocent, especially children, and I proposed the law because it is imperative that protections keep up with the rapid changes in technology. e-STOP is a powerful tool and has the potential to save lives, and I am grateful this state is setting an example and leading the nation with this groundbreaking law. I was proud to work with Senator Bruno, Speaker Silver and all of my colleagues in the Senate and Assembly to propose and pass this important new law.”
Under New York State’s Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA), the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) maintains a computer registry of the names and addresses of convicted sex offenders, and that information is made available to the public. Unfortunately, sex offenders remain free to create screen names and access social networking sites used by children, and our laws do not effectively prevent that use.
The Electronic Security and Targeting of Online Predators Act (e-STOP) seeks to address that problem by: (1) requiring convicted sex offenders to register their Internet screen names with the Sex Offender Registry; (2) allowing social networking web sites to obtain those screen names in order to prohibit those account holders from accessing web sites on which they could contact children; and (3) mandating that dangerous convicted sex offenders who are serving a term of probation, conditional discharge or parole be prohibited from using the Internet to contact children.
As a result of e-STOP, DCJS today will begin sending out approximately 25,000 letters to sex offenders who are in the Sex Offender Registry advising them that they must register any Internet and email accounts used for purposes of online chatting, instant messaging or social networking. DCJS will advise offenders that if they change their email address or create a new online profile, they must notify the state within 10 days – and failure to comply with the registration requirements is a felony.
The bill, which was sponsored by Senator Dean Skelos and by Assemblymember Joseph Lentol, takes effect immediately, and the new requirements relating to registering Internet screen names apply to all sex offenders who currently are registered or who must register in the future.
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The Real Estate Adviser on Bankrate.com has answered an important question from a reader: Does a registered sex offender living in your neighborhood affect your home's value? The unfortunate answer is "yes."
One study found that a sex offender within one-tenth of a mile of your home makes your house sell for about 17% less than comparable homes without a sex offender in the neighborhood. If a sex offender is within two-tenths or three-tenths of a mile from your home, expect a 9% to 10% lower sales price. A separate study found that homes within one-tenth of a mile of a sex offender only sold for 4% less than comparable homes.
Even though there is a range of numbers presented, it's clear that the presence of a registered sex offender in your neighborhood will have an impact on the sale price of your home. It's no wonder. What parent would buy a house in close proximity to a registered sex offender? For most parents, that's too big a risk to take when you know your child will want to play outside during summer.
This is a good time to remind buyers to check registries to see if a sex offender is living in the neighborhood you're considering. If you can't locate a registry, check with the local police station for guidance on sex offender registration. You want to make an informed choice before you buy a home for your family.
Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley (Contact) late yesterday introduced legislation that will further enhance the penalties for people convicted of crimes against children.
“We’ve heard stories of innocent children being victimized and abused by predatory criminals,” Grassley said. “With this new legislation, I want to send a strong signal to criminals that we won’t tolerate this behavior and a predator’s actions will have real, serious consequences.”
In 2005, Grassley introduced legislation named after Jetseta Gage, a 10-year old Cedar Rapids girl who was sexually assaulted and murdered by a registered sex offender. A modified version of “Jetseta’s Bill” was incorporated into the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety bill. “Jetseta’s Bill” created mandatory minimums of imprisonment for criminals who committed murder, kidnapping, or serious bodily harm against children.
“We made a good start in the Adam Walsh bill, but it’s not enough for people who commit these despicable crimes,” Grassley said.
The “Prevention and Deterrence of Crimes Against Children Act of 2008” increases mandatory minimum sentences for criminals who commit exploitation crimes against children, boosts penalties for certain crimes against children, controls the use of passports by convicted sex offenders, and strengthens the process for removing criminal aliens who commit sex offenses.
Details of the bill follow here.
- Increases penalties for crimes against children – The bill increases the penalties for child pornography offenses and elevates the mandatory minimum punishment for criminals who commit exploitation crimes against children. The bill sets the following penalties: 1) where a crime involves child pornography, the offender will receive from 20 years to life; 2) where the crime deals with sexual exploitation of a minor by a parent or guardian, the offender will receive no less than 3 years to life.
- Increases penalties for child sex trafficking and child prostitution – The bill increases the penalties for these crimes so they reflect the gravity of the crimes and the damage done to children. The bill creates the following mandatory minimums for child sex trafficking and prostitution: 1) where a crime involves sex trafficking of children by force or coercion the offender will receive not less than 30 years or life if the victim is less than 14 years old; 2) where a crime involves coercing or persuading a child to travel in commerce to engage in sex acts or prostitution the offender will receive up to 30 years; 3) where a crime involves transportation of minors to engage in illicit sexual conduct the offender will receive not less than 10 to 15 years or not more than 30 years; and 4) where the crime is facilitating child sex tourism for financial gain the offender will receive no less than 10 years.
- Increases penalties for criminals convicted of child sex offenses resulting in death, repeated child sex crimes, and forcible rape of a child – The bill provides for increased penalties for crimes involving the most violent types of sex offenders and justice for these crimes should be dealt out with the strongest available prison sentences. . The bill establishes the following mandatory minimums for violent crimes against children: 1) where the crime of violence results in death of a child under 18 years, the offender will receive the death penalty or be imprisoned for not less than 30 years or for life; 2) where a crime involves forcible rape or sexual assault effected by threat of death or serious bodily injury to the victim the offender will receive 10 years to life; and if 3) the sexual assault was effected by forcible administration of a drug or other intoxicant or while the victim is unconscious the offender will receive 5 years to life.
- Allows for denial or revocation of passports to sex offenders – The bill provides authority to the Secretary of State to revoke a previously issued passport or refuse issuance of a new passport to any individual convicted of a federal sex offense. This is consistent with other federal laws giving the Secretary of State authority to revoke or deny passports for individuals who traffic narcotics and fail to repay federal loans.
- Strengthen laws against criminal alien sex offenders--The bill provides authority to the Secretary of Homeland Security to place any alien convicted of a sex offense in immediate removal proceedings. The bill also adds a previous conviction of a criminal sex offense to the list of crimes that makes an alien inadmissible into the United States.
Here’s a copy of Grassley’s prepared statement upon introduction of the bill.
Mr. President, I’ve come to the floor today to discuss an issue that has hit home over the last few years for all Americans, crimes against children. We’ve all heard stories of children, our most innocent population, being victimized and abused by predatory criminals. While it is true we’ve made great strides passing federal legislation against criminal predators, more work remains to be done. That is why I’m here today to introduce, “The Prevention and Deterrence of Crimes Against Children Act of 2008.” I am pleased to be joined by Senators Kyl and Vitter who have cosponsored this bill.
This is a very important bill that will protect our children from the vilest forms of abuse and will send a strong signal to criminals that we as a society won’t tolerate this behavior and that their predatory actions have real, significant consequences.
I would like to take a moment to talk about the murder of a girl from my home state of Iowa, Jetseta Marrie Gage. On March 24, 2005, Jetseta, a 10 year-old girl from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, went missing from her home. Within twelve hours of her disappearance, Iowa law enforcement arrested registered sex offender Roger Bentley for the crime. He had been previously convicted of committing lascivious acts with a minor.
Regrettably, this criminal served just over a year in prison for his previous sex crime conviction. Two days after her disappearance, an Amber Alert tip led officials to the location of Jetseta’s body. She was found stuffed in a cabinet in an abandoned mobile home. The autopsy revealed she had been sexually assaulted and suffocated with a plastic bag. I can’t help but wonder whether Jetseta would still be alive today had her killer received stricter penalties for his first offense. It breaks my heart to hear about cases like this, but it’s even more demoralizing when you know that it might have been prevented with adequate sentencing.
Last week, I honored two extraordinary law enforcement officers who helped put away another one of Jetseta’s abusers, James Bentley. Unbelievably, James Bentley is the brother of Roger Bentley who was responsible for Jetseta’s rape and murder. A year prior to her murder, James Bentley took nude photos of 9-year-old Jetseta and her 13-month-old little sister, Leonna.
After the child abuse prosecution of James Bentley stalled in the state court due to Sixth Amendment concerns, U.S. Postal Inspector Troy Raper and Cedar Rapids Police Department Investigator Charity Hansel followed up on child pornography allegations that eventually led to James Bentley’s conviction on federal child pornography charges.
These investigators worked tirelessly to find nine previous victims of James Bentley. Only two of the nine victims testified, but their courage and accounts of abuse by this man were very powerful. As a result, these testimonies influenced the District Court’s decision to use higher sentencing guidelines to put him away in federal prison for 100 years. I am truly thankful for the public service that Inspector Troy Raper and Investigator Charity Hansel have done for Iowa’s kids.
In doing our part, we in Congress have not sat idly by. Two years ago we passed into law the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006. This important legislation made great strides in protecting America’s children against violent sexual predators. Among its many components, this Act standardized the national sex offender registry, eliminated the statute of limitations for sex crimes against children, provided grants for the electronic devices used for monitoring sex offenders, and established more severe criminal punishments for certain crimes committed by sex offenders.
As part of the Adam Walsh Act, we were able to include the Jetseta Gage Assured Punishment for Violent Crimes Against Children amendment. The amendment created mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment for criminals who committed murder, kidnapping, or serious bodily harm against children.
We are on the right path, but I still say this is still not enough punishment for people who commit these despicable crimes. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done on this serious issue.
This bill will help change this by protecting children in four ways. It will increase mandatory minimum sentences, boost penalties for certain crimes against children, control the use of passports by convicted sex offenders, and strengthen the process for removing criminal aliens who commit sex offenses.
The first section of the bills increases the penalties for child pornography offenses and elevates the mandatory minimum punishment for criminals who commit exploitation crimes against children. I know that some of my colleagues have concerns about mandatory minimums, especially in the context of drug sentences. I understand that concern, but in light the Supreme Court’s decision in the Booker case, something must be done to insure that sexual predators receive the types of sentences appropriate for their crimes.
In Booker, the Court held that the Federal Sentencing Guidelines are no longer mandatory, thus federal judges have unfettered discretion in sentencing. I am very worried judges are not doing their job to protect children. As a matter of fact, Deputy Attorney General Laurence E. Rothenberg testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee last year that, since the Booker decision, federal judges have significantly increased the number of downward departures for those convicted of possession of child pornography.
To counter this trend, this bill establishes the following mandatory minimums for exploitation crimes against children: 1) where a crime involves child pornography, the offender will receive from 20 years to life; 2) where the crime deals with sexual exploitation of a minor by a parent or guardian, the offender will receive no less than 3 years to life.
The second section of the bill increases the penalties for child sex trafficking and child prostitution. The penalties for these crimes need to be adjusted to adequately reflect the gravity of these crimes and the damage they do to children.
The third section of the bill will ensure harsh penalties for criminals convicted of child sex offenses resulting in death, repeated child sex crimes, and forcible rape of a child. These crimes involve the most violent types of sex offenders and justice for these crimes should be dealt out with the strongest available prison sentences.
The final section of the bill has to do with not permitting these sex offenders to travel outside the country. If we know someone is a convicted child molester, we have the responsibility to not allow them travel to Asia or Europe or anywhere to exploit or harm other kids. The bill provides for the following: 1) when the offender has been convicted of a sex offense, the issuance of a passport shall be refused 2) if a passport has already been issued, the use of the passport may be restricted if the passport was used in the furtherance of the sex offense; and lastly, 3) any alien convicted of a sex offense shall be placed immediately in removal proceedings.
The provisions of this bill are designed to protect our children by locking up violent sexual predators. I doubt that the members of this body, many of whom have young children of their own, will have any objections to ensuring that violators of crimes against children receive tougher penalties for their acts.
It is unfortunate that it took the murder of girls like Jetseta Gage for a law with severe penalties to be proposed, but I strongly believe that a vote for this bill could save the lives of children in the future.
We have an obligation as legislators to protect our citizens, including our most vulnerable populations. We have an obligation as adults to protect our youth. We have a commitment as parents to protect our children and ensure that they are given the opportunity to grow up free from the dangers that violent sex offenders pose. I urge my colleagues to join me and Senator Kyl in strengthening our laws so that no child becomes the victim of a repeat offender.
I yield the floor.
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Please take the time to read this message carefully from beginning to end.
We’re writing today to let you know that last night, Governor Sonny Perdue (Contact) signed Senate Bill 1, a modified version of the sex offender residence restrictions. You can read the text of SB 1 at:
SB 1 is effective immediately and does the following things:
- Reinstates all of the same residence restrictions as were in effect under HB 1059, with the following exceptions for some homeowners.
- A homeowner who established ownership of his residence before July 1, 2006 will not be required to move.
- A homeowner will not be required to move if a day care center, church, park, etc. moves in within 1,000 feet of his residence.
- Reinstates all of the employment restrictions that were in effect under HB 1059, with the following exceptions for some Plaintiffs:
- A person who was employed at a location as of July 1, 2006 (and still works there) will not be required to leave his employment.
- A person who is employed will not be required to leave his employment if a child care center, church, park, etc. moves in within 1,000 feet of the place of employment.
- Adds “public libraries” to the list of “areas where minors congregate,” meaning that people on the registry cannot live within 1,000 feet of a public library.
- Forbids anyone on the registry from volunteering at or within 1,000 feet of a school, church, or child care center
- Prohibits people on the registry from intentionally photographing a minor without the consent of the minor’s parent or guardian.
In other words, with the exception of the homeowners described above, people on the sex offender registry will have to comply with all of the same residence restrictions as in HB 1059. This does not, however, include the school bus stop restriction, which is not being enforced at this time.
Many people on the registry will once again receive orders to move. Once again, we urge you to take these orders very seriously. A violation of the residence restrictions can carry 10-30 years in prison.
We have now re-doubled our efforts to fight this legislation in the courts and have already filed an Amended Complaint to include SB 1’s provisions in the ongoing Whitaker litigation. We include today’s press release below which includes a link to the documents filed in the court. We will keep you updated as this case progresses.
We are very sorry to be the bearers of bad news. We look forward to a day when our lawmakers will value civil rights and the safety of women and children above political posturing. Unfortunately, it appears that day has not yet come.
All the best,
Sara, Sarah, Lisa, James, Gerry and Mica
Georgia Sex Offender Law back in Federal Court moments after being signed by Governor Perdue
ATLANTA – Late Tuesday, Governor Sonny Perdue signed Senate Bill 1, a modified version of Georgia’s sex offender residence and employment restrictions. Immediately following his signature, attorneys from the Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR) renewed their legal challenge to the sex offender law. For the last two years, SCHR has represented a class of people on the registry in Whitaker v. Perdue, Civil Action No. 4:06-cv-140-CC (N.D. Ga. 2006). The pleading filed today is the fourth amended complaint in the Whitaker case.
Civil rights groups are not the only ones challenging Georgia’s sex offender law. During the 2008 Georgia General Assembly, several advocacy groups for women and children, including Georgia Network to End Sexual Assault and Voices for Georgia’s Children, voiced their opposition to SB 1. They stated that SB 1 will once again commit taxpayer resources to efforts that have no demonstrated positive effect and that may, in fact, place women and children at greater risk of victimization by forcing sex offenders underground, increasing the likelihood of subsequent sex offenses by severing their ties to stabilizing forces like their church, families, and treatment providers.
“There is simply no evidence that 1,000-foot restrictions reduce sexual offenses, as recognized by the many women’s and children’s advocates who opposed SB 1” said SCHR Attorney Sarah Geraghty “It’s unfortunate that our legislature has again chosen political posturing over the safety of women and children.”
On November 21, 2007, the Supreme Court of Georgia held Georgia’s sex offender residency restrictions unconstitutional in Mann v. Georgia Department of Corrections.
The Court held that Georgia’s sex offender residence restrictions violated the takings clause of the state and federal constitutions which prohibits the government from taking someone’s property without adequately compensating him for the property loss.
Senate Bill 1 failed to properly address the Court’s findings, and will likely similarly be struck down by the courts for the following reasons:
- No Provision for Renters: People who enter into a valid lease to rent property have rights to that property protected by the takings clause of the Georgia Constitution. SB 1 carves out an exemption for homeowners who purchased property, but makes no provision for renters. Under SB 1, the moment a child care center or a church opens within 1,000 feet of a sex offender’s residence, that person is required to break his lease and move. Because it makes no provision for renters, SB 1 will be held unconstitutional under Mann, the very case that struck down the previous sex offender residency law.
- All Offenders Treated the Same: Under SB 1, a 17-year-old who engages in consensual sex with a 15-year-old is subject to the same residency and employment restrictions as a serious sexual offender.
- No Exemption for Nursing Home Residents and Others Who Do Not Pose a Threat: SB 1 makes no exemption for people in nursing homes, hospice care facilities, and others who no longer pose a danger and may not be able to safely relocate due to health problems.
The practical effect of SB 1 is that all people on the sex offender registry – with the exception of certain homeowners – will have to comply with all of the same residence restrictions as in HB 1059. The school bus stop provision remains a part of the law. There are no exceptions for persons who are physically incapacitated by illness or age. The prohibition against working at or within 1,000 feet of a church remains in the law. The law retains the provision making it illegal and punishable by 10-30 years in prison to be homeless.
The ostensible purpose of sex offender residence and employment restrictions is to keep Georgia’s children safe from sexual offenses. No one would dispute that this is a laudable goal. Senate Bill 1, however, is yet another wrong approach that has once again forces the State into court to defend the General Assembly’s ill-advised and unconstitutional actions.
The amended complaint is available on our website, www.schr.org just click on ”latest news”.
Sara J. Totonchi
Public Policy Director
Law Offices of the Southern Center for Human Rights
83 Poplar Street, N.W.
Atlanta, Georgia 30303
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This is just insane. So I guess it's ok if they go to school, but when graduation comes, the most important time of a kids life, IMO, they are all of a sudden punished more due to being a sex offender, yet they can attend classes. Now what sense does that make? It's just pure punishment, nothing else. I am also tired of reporters putting their personal feelings into articles instead of just reporting the facts.
In some high schools, you can be denied the privilege of marching with your graduating class if you haven't paid up your library fines or school fees.
So it was more than a bit puzzling when Mad River Local School District officials wrestled with the question of whether to allow a convicted sex offender to march with his class.
Thankfully, they made the right decision. Superintendent Mike Eaglowski said senior Christopher Lemaster will not take part in the graduation ceremony. "Graduation is a privilege to be earned," he said, adding, "We need to send the message to all students that there are consequences for every action."
That's all the more true because the victim is another Stebbins High School student.
Lemaster, 18, pleaded guilty April 3 to a fourthdegree felony charge of gross sexual imposition. The charge stemmed from a Nov. 2 incident when Lemaster forced himself on a 16-year-old sophomore who had passed out at a party after consuming alcohol and Xanax.
The girl woke up feeling abdominal pain, and her pants were unbuttoned. She suspected she had been raped when she found out that male students were circulating semi-nude photos of her on their cell phones.
Can you imagine a more humiliating experience for a high school student? Picture the further pain and indignity if her attacker were treated as an honored member of the class of '08.
"He's a convicted felon, and in my opinion school districts should not let convicted felons participate in a graduation ceremony," said Nicholas Subashi, general counsel for the Mad River Local School District. "The fact that the victim was a 10th-grade student just made the administration's decision even easier."
Subashi said that taking part in a graduation ceremony is not a constitutionally protected right. "It's akin to an extracurricular activity," he said.
The school district's decision was applauded by Rhonda Barner, director of the Victim-Witness division for the Montgomery County Prosecutor's Office. "The administration is sending the message they're not going to condone that sort of behavior," she said.
It's a message some students clearly needed to hear, based on the responses to stories and blogs about the Lemaster case. Some messages placed the word "victim" in quotation marks; others referred to the victim as a "tramp" or stated, "She put herself in that position."
Noted Barner, "They're not recognizing that he has pleaded guilty and taken accountability for his actions. Sadly we still do see a mentality that wants to blame the victim."
Lemaster's defenders aren't doing the young man any favors. He'll never become a productive member of society until he accepts the gravity of his crime.
Not marching with the Class of 2008 is the first small step.
Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2209 or mmccarty@DaytonDailyNews.com.
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The mother of four children in Aiken County public schools expressed alarm and anger that parents are not notified when registered sex offenders are enrolled in their children's schools.
"Who allows this to be kept from parents?" C.J. Taylor asked the Aiken County Board of Education at a meeting Tuesday. "We learned about this, not from the school system, but from the outside."
There is no cover-up, said School Board attorney Bill Burkhalter. Federal and state privacy laws prevail in these situations.
"We're not allowed to broadcast to the world or the public that (a student) is going to a high school and is a registered sex offender," Burkhalter said.
Under certain conditions, however, the school district can refuse to admit a student but only for a year, he said.
Generally, when a juvenile completes a sentence or other action imposed by the Department of Juvenile Justice, that person has the right to come back to the school system, said Burkhalter.
"We don't have any right to deny them that education," he said.
Either DJJ or the court system is required to notify school districts about registered sex offenders enrolling in schools. Administrators and teachers are aware of such students, and the students are watched closely, said Burkhalter.
But Taylor and another parent, Sheila Pate, question if such students are being monitored effectively. They acknowledge that information about sex offenders is available on the Internet, but "you can search for your neighborhood, but not who you're going to school with," Pate said.
"I'm appalled," Taylor said. "It's not fair to hundreds of other students that they have to be around these students. This is not the end of this."
Taylor said she would talk to state legislators about her concerns and also see if the sex offender website can be adjusted for additional information.
Contact Rob Novit at email@example.com.
CA - San Bernardino County OKs ordinance preventing registered sex offenders from becoming licensed to drive ice cream trucks
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Why are we passing county laws like this? Why is this not a state law? This just makes it a pain in the butt when someone moves from one county to another due to these draconian laws. Imaging if every single county in this country had it's own laws? It would be a nightmare, and that is what this is becoming.
A loophole that allowed registered sex offenders to drive ice creams trucks was closed Tuesday when the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance changing the licensing of mobile vendors.
"Sex offenders should not be placed ... in close proximity to children," said Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt, who wrote the proposal.
The ordinance will take effect July 3 and will cover unincorporated areas of San Bernardino County, authorities said.
State and local officials began investigating the possibility of a ban last year after residents of Perris in Riverside County discovered that a registered sex offender was operating an ice cream truck in their neighborhood.
The ensuing outcry reached Assemblyman Paul Cook (Contact), R-Yucca Valley, who sponsored legislation to prevent it. Cook's push in Sacramento stalled, leaving elected officials in San Bernardino and Riverside counties to pursue local ordinances.
In San Bernardino, applicants for a roaming solicitor's license must undergo a background check for disqualifying criminal offenses. But registered sex offender was not on the list, county officials said.
"I believe parents have enough to worry about," Mitzelfelt said.
The approved ordinance would ban registered sex offenders from getting licenses, said David Zook, a spokesman for Mitzelfelt. "It's a lifetime ban," he said.
Riverside County supervisors are expected to consider a similar measure within the next few months.
Reach Zeke Minaya at 909-806-3062 or zminaya@PE.com
CA - Corona police to explain limitations of Jessica's Law after sex offender moves near school, parks
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CORONA - The legal debate over a state law aimed at keeping sex offenders away from schools and parks is hitting Corona residents close to home this week.
Today, the Corona Police Department will hold a town hall meeting to explain the legal limbo of Jessica's Law to residents alarmed that a convicted sex offender moved into their community near a school and two parks.
Passed by voters in 2006, Jessica's Law prohibits registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools or parks. However, through a series of legal challenges, the courts are still trying to decide whether the law can be applied retroactively to offenders convicted and released before the law took effect.
Robert Keith Tyner, 47, is one of those offenders. Convicted and placed on probation five years ago for lewd and lascivious acts with a child younger than 14, Tyner is one of the sex offenders who can't be forced to move by Jessica's Law, said Corona Police Department Chief Richard Gonzales.
It is the first time since the law passed that the city has had to deal with a situation like this, added Gonzales. However, he added, "All cities and counties are in the same position."
Tyner recently moved into a quiet northern Corona neighborhood near Corona Ranch Elementary and Creste Verde and Village parks.
Patricia and Don Lacher live with their two children just down the street from Tyner.
"I think this is a terrible risk that our children have to suffer for," said Don Lacher, a retired police captain who teaches criminal justice at two colleges. "It's a sad commentary that we as a society can't really protect our children from these people."
Since Tyner moved into the neighborhood, Lacher's 11- and 14-year-old aren't allowed to play outside without supervision, and some of the parents of their friends won't allow their children to stay over, he said. Lacher said he and his wife have considered moving to get away from the situation.
"My daughter is sick to death over this. When she is out front, she has to look up and down the street, scanning her environment," said Lacher. "The fact that I've seen life's seedier side -- because of what I did for a living -- affects how I see this situation, but I've talked to a lot of parents who feel the same way."
Tyner, who answered the door at his Corona home, declined to comment.
He was convicted in October 2003 and sentenced to six months in jail. In December 2003, he was placed on five years probation, court documents show. Probation expires in December. As part of his probation, he was ordered not to associate with female minors unless an adult or probation officer was present and not to take a job in a business where minors are present.
Ingrid Wyatt, spokeswoman for the Riverside County district attorney's office, said Tyner would find himself in trouble if he failed to register with the state if he moves or commits another similar crime. "Doesn't sound to me like that's happened yet," Wyatt said. "It sounds like he's abiding by the rules."
Reach Paige Austin at 951-893-2106 or paustin@PE.com
View the article here
An Oxnard police officer who was accused of raping a 12-year-old girl at a police storefront two years ago will not be charged with a crime, the Ventura County district attorney announced Tuesday.
Before the more than yearlong criminal investigation against him was concluded, Senior Officer Martin Polo quietly resigned last month after 20 years with the Oxnard Police Department. He had been on paid administrative leave since last summer.
"Despite exhaustive investigation into this matter, insufficient evidence was uncovered to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the alleged offense occurred," District Attorney Greg Totten said in a written statement.
- This has never been an issue with nailing an average citizen to the wall, so why here?
"Allegations involving sexual abuse of a child are serious and are always thoroughly investigated regardless of a person's position or occupation," the statement continued. "The investigation of this matter was thorough, far-reaching and in keeping with the highest standards for the investigation of crimes against children."
- This is a flat out lie!!!
Polo could not be reached for comment Tuesday. When contacted previously, the 43-year-old Oxnard native said his life had become a "living nightmare."
- Welcome to the club!!!
Polo's attorney said his client "adamantly denies any wrong doing."
A deposition the now 14-year-old girl gave last week was "full of inconsistencies and frankly, in my view, defies credibility," said Steven Rothans, a lawyer with the Los Angeles firm of Carpenter, Rothans, Dumont.
- Again, never has been an issue for the average citizen. All it takes is an accusation!
No details on resignation
Polo resigned for reasons unrelated to the criminal allegations, Rothans said, without providing further explanation.
The girl, who reportedly suffers from emotional and mental problems, is now being cared for at a private facility in Utah. The Star has a policy of not identifying victims of alleged sexual crimes.
Despite Rothans' assessment, the girl's statements during more than 10 hours of questioning over two days were on point and consistent, according to Etan Lorant and Yeal Trock, attorneys for the girl's family.
The attorneys were also confident they had a strong civil case. The family has filed a $10 million federal civil lawsuit against Polo and the Oxnard Police Department.
"The DA must use a stricter standard of proof than required in her federal civil case and we strongly believe that we can comply with the civil standard to prove the child's case," Trock said.
The girl's attorneys also questioned why the district attorney said in the one-page written statement that the girl alleged she and Polo had "consensual intercourse." By legal definition, sex between a man and a 12-year-old girl cannot be consensual, Trock said.
"And she did not want to have sex with him," added Lorant.
DNA didn't match
The investigation into the girl's allegations included searches of Polo's home, his personal computers, car and the police storefront at 3749 W. Hemlock St. Investigators were unable to match DNA from the storefront and the girl's clothes to corroborate her allegations.
"Once the Oxnard Police Department became aware of the allegations, sexual assault detectives from the police department worked closely with the district attorney's office and conducted an extensive, yearlong investigation," according to the district attorney's statement.
On Tuesday, authorities revealed that the girl reportedly ran away from home the day before the alleged rape. Polo found her and took her back to her mother's house. The next day, she ran away again and then called Polo, who picked her up.
The 12-year-old said Polo took her to the police storefront, where they engaged in "consensual intercourse," according to the district attorney's statement.
While investigating the criminal case, Oxnard police uncovered allegations that Polo, his former partner, Senior Officer Frank Brisslinger, and an unnamed officer used the Hemlock storefront for sexual encounters and to take pictures of scantily clad women, according to Oxnard Police Chief John Crombach.
Although those allegations did not involve criminal misconduct, they did involve possible violations of department policy and conduct unbecoming an officer, Crombach said.
As a result of that inquiry, one officer resigned in lieu of termination, while Brisslinger remains on paid administrative leave, he said.
Chief closes storefronts
When the allegations surfaced, Crombach said his department quickly and thoroughly investigated the matter.
"We took this very seriously, and I appreciate the DA's comments," he said. "We did an exhaustive and far-reaching investigation with their involvement."
Since the matter became public, Crombach said, he has closed the Hemlock storefront and is in the process of closing several others.
The department has nine storefronts throughout the city, but Crombach would like to winnow those down to four because many are not being used. He would like the ones that remain open to offer a fuller range of police and neighborhood services.
Throughout the investigation, Crombach said his department has continued to do its job.
"We've kept our heads up and kept moving forward," he said.
View the article here
This man is an idiot. Sex Offender, Child Molester, Pedophile and Predator all mean something different, yet this person apparently thinks they are all one and the same thing. Or is it because he wants to get some more votes and brownie points from the sheeple so he looks like he is actually doing or trying to do something?
Convicted sex offenders would face possible jail time for wearing masks at Mardi Gras or handing out Halloween candy under legislation that cleared a House committee Tuesday.
State Sen. Nick Gautreaux (Email), D-Meaux, said he wants to prevent a child molester from applying for a job to dress up as Santa Claus.
- Look, I am sick and tired of people using the terms sex offender, child molester, pedophile and predator as if they are all the same. Not all sex offenders have harmed a child. Get that through your thick a$$ skull...
Senate Bill 143 would prohibit convicted sex offenders from wearing masks or a disguise on holidays. They also would be forbidden from distributing candy or giving gifts to anyone under the age of 18 on holidays.
- So now they cannot give their own kids Christmas gifts? Or they must card everybody to make sure they are 18 or older? Come on!!!
Violators would face up to three years in prison.
State Rep. Joseph Lopinto III (Email), R-Metairie and a former sheriff’s deputy, questioned how the bill would be enforced.
“On Halloween, I don’t expect to go ripping masks off,” he said.
Gautreaux, the bill’s sponsor, said he is trying to prevent sex offenders from gaining the trust of children.
- Yeah right, you are just wanting more brownie points. How many people can you name who have been harmed on Halloween? None!
He said he knows some of the Rev. Gilbert Gauthe’s victims and that the pain from what they suffered lingers today.
Gauthe, a Roman Catholic priest, pleaded guilty in 1985 to molesting a number of boys in Vermilion Parish. He was arrested last month near Galveston for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender.
- So was it on Halloween or was he wearing a mask? If not, then why mention him as your example? Yeah I know, you have to have some scapegoat, might as well use the first person that pops into your mind!
Gautreaux said he is trying to help law enforcement crack down on sex offenders.
- Why don't you just make a law saying that all sex offenders must die? Might as well!
“It’s just another tool for us,” he said.
- No, more brownie points for you!
The House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice delayed action on another bill targeting sex offenders after legislators expressed concern about the number of crimes that would apply.
Senate Bill 144 by Gautreaux would require some sex offenders to undergo “chemical castration.”
Offenders could choose to be physically castrated rather than submit to injections of medroxyprogesterone acetate, which suppresses a man’s sex drive by reducing testosterone levels.
- This reeks of Nazism! Castration does not always work. It's just for you to get your sick, evil kicks out of inflicting pain and suffering on someone, that is what I think.
Lopinto noted that the list of about a dozen applicable offenses includes simple kidnapping.
“That’s not a sexual crime,” he said. “(We’re) talking about sentencing someone to five years in jail and castrating them.”
Gautreaux offered to remove simple kidnapping from the list, which also includes aggravated rape, sexual battery, second-degree sexual battery, oral sexual battery, incest, indecent behavior with juveniles, pornography involving juveniles, molestation of a juvenile, aggravated crime against nature or child sexual abuse.
“I have no problem taking that out,” he said.
Lopinto then asked why incest is on the list when aggravated incest is not.
- Because he is stupid?
Aggravated incest involves victims 18 and younger.
Lopinto suggested that action on the legislation be delayed a week to allow lawmakers to work on the list of offenses.
State Rep. Ernest Wooton (Email), R-Belle Chasse and committee chairman, said he also has concerns with some of the offenses in the bill.
Gautreaux agreed to delay proceedings on the bill.
View the article here
Another old item, but still interesting.
It's amazing how other countries can see this, yet the blind USA cannot!
The Globe and Mail
Should public get open access to private details of sex offenders?
Print Edition 18/04/06 Page A7
The shooting of two men who were listed on a sex offender registry in the United States underlines the hazards of giving the public open access to the kind of information that is carefully kept secret in Canada.
While the details of the Maine killings are sketchy, the names and addresses of the slain men -- Joseph Gray and William Elliott -- were readily available to anyone who wanted to connect to Maine's Internet registry.
Yesterday, the two men's personal details were still posted on the website, along with those of hundreds of other offenders.
That is common practice in the United States, where all states are required to register sex offenders, and many allow access to information that includes names, criminal record details and sometimes individual street addresses. The U.S. Department of Justice website even provides search tools to help the public glean information from individual state databases.
It's all designed to protect people from dangerous offenders, U.S. officials say. "The silent sex offender can be just as dangerous as notorious neighbourhood gang members, and because of this we must keep parents and communities informed and engaged," U.S. Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales says in a message on the Justice Department website.
It's also part of the preference for punitive penalties in the United States, said Alan Young, a law professor at Toronto's York University. "They're very much into shaming sanctions," he said. In Canada, by contrast, sex offender registries have been designed as investigative tools for use by the police, but are not open to the public.
The first registry in Canada was established in Ontario in 2001. It requires sex offenders to register with the local police within 15 days of being released from jail and to keep the police informed if they move.
The database of more than 8,000 names is used by police to monitor offenders and is analyzed when a crime is committed in a particular neighbourhood. But the information is closely guarded and unavailable outside police circles.
In 2004, a similar federal registry was established by the RCMP. For the national registry, however, a judge must order the offender's name on the list. That difference prompted the Ontario government to keep its registry up and running, even as the information in it is merged with the national list.
There has been some pressure to open up the Canadian lists to public scrutiny. Ontario MPP Gerry Martiniuk recently introduced a private member's bill in the legislature to grant public access to his province's registry.
Mr. Martiniuk also wants sex offenders who were convicted in other countries to be added to the provincial registry.
Still, many observers say the Canadian model is superior to the U.S. one and less likely to produce dramatic vigilante acts. A sex offender registry is most effective as a law-enforcement tool, not as a means for people to check up on their neighbours, said Steve Sullivan, president of the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime.
After examining U.S. models, "there really wasn't anything I saw that suggested making the registries public made them more effective."
Ontario has a high rate of registration among sex offenders, partly because they know the data will not be released, Mr. Sullivan said.
He noted that police do sometimes issue public warnings about individual sex offenders. These "targeted warnings" are more effective than saying, "Here's a list of 500 guys who live in your city who might be a risk to you," he said.
Steve Gehl, a lawyer in Waterloo, Ont., says opening up the databases for public scrutiny would be a big mistake, and not just because it is an invasion of privacy.
Mr. Gehl said the key problem is that publicizing the names and addresses of sex offenders would drive many of them into hiding.
"By putting their picture and everything else on a public website, you effectively force them underground," he said. Mr. Gehl is challenging the constitutionality of the Ontario registry, arguing that it is unconstitutional to force every sex offender to register.
View the article here
This is old, but explains or attempts to explain why these laws are still being allowed to pass.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Supreme Court has given states the green light to continue posting the names and pictures of convicted sex offenders on the Internet. And justices rejected attempts by a sex offender to prove he is no longer dangerous.
At issue was whether such laws amount to a second punishment for those already convicted for their crimes, and whether the laws violate an offender's due process rights. The court upheld the right of state legislatures to impose registries on sex offenders.
Every state has a so-called "Megan's law," named after Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old New Jersey girl kidnapped, raped, and murdered by a twice-convicted sex offender who lived across the street.
These laws require convicted sex offenders and certain other types of felons released from prison to register with local authorities. Such information is typically available to the public through print and Internet sources.
In the first case from Alaska, the question was whether a state law violated the constitutional guarantee against ex post facto, or punishment after the fact.
One "John Doe" was convicted of abusing his young daughter, the other man abused a 14-year-old girl. Both men were released in 1990, before the state passed its sex offender registration law. They argue they had served their sentences and wanted to put their crimes behind them.
The court decided the state legislature intended the law to be regulatory, not punitive in nature.
Writing for a 6-3 majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said: "Our system does not treat dissemination of truthful information in furtherance of legitimate governmental objection as punishment." And Kennedy noted, "The purpose and the principal effect of notification are to inform the public for its own safety, not to humiliate the offender."
But in her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg disagreed. "However plain it may be that a former sex offender currently poses no threat of recidivism, he will remain subject to long-term monitoring and inescapable humiliation," she said.
The other case involves whether Connecticut's sex offender registration law violates due process because offenders are not allowed hearings to see if they are currently a danger to society.
In this case, the "John Doe" claims the Connecticut registry does not differentiate between the seriousness of each offender's crimes, and doesn't allow for a hearing regarding his "current dangerousness" before information about him and his crimes are made public.
Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote for a unanimous court that even if the John Doe "could prove he is not likely to be currently dangerous, Connecticut has decided that the registry information of all offenders -- currently dangerous or not -- must be publicly disclosed."
Supporters of these registration laws say citizens deserve to know if convicted sex offenders are living in their neighborhoods, and argue registration laws are not unfair, since their convictions are already a matter of public record.
Opponents of the law call it a "government-imposed stigma" preventing those convicted deserve to move on with their lives after serving their time. They say such laws represent an overly intrusive invasion of privacy, since other criminal records are not subject to such readily available public scrutiny.
The cases are Smith v. Doe, 01-729 and Connecticut Dept. of Public Safety v. Doe, 01-1231.
View the article here
We will all be slaves one day, criminals and non-criminals. Those who do not learn from history, are doomed to repeat it. We will never amount to anything when we continue to repeat history. I'd like to see how many of these people passing these GPS laws, have stock in the GPS market!
BOSTON (Reuters) - It was just after 10 p.m. when William Cotter, wearing a belt full of ammunition, burst into the home of his estranged wife, Dorothy, shooting her in the back with a sawed-off shot gun before taking his own life.
Just five days earlier, a court had ordered him to stay away from his wife after decades of drunken violence and she was carrying a panic button linked to the local police station, in Amesbury, Massachusetts. But it wasn't enough to save her on the night of March 26, 2002.
Fast-forward six years. Electronic surveillance technology is changing the way authorities in the United States monitor repeat offenders. Its advocates say the new technology could have saved Dorothy's life. Its detractors fear a widening breach of civil liberties and an illusory sense of protection.
Coast to coast, authorities are expanding electronic monitoring to fight crime -- moving beyond its early use in tracking movements of sex offenders to include gang members who have been released on probation, people accused of repeated violence against women and even truant students at schools.
At the heart of the surveillance is a technology best-known for helping people on the road: the global positioning system.
Other countries are watching closely. GPS monitoring is already established in parts of Europe but applied more narrowly, and it's growing fast in Latin America, said Jeff Durski, spokesman for iSECUREtrac Corp, based in Omaha, Nebraska, which manufactures the devices and leases them to police and courts.
Massachusetts, one of the first states to employ it in 2006, now has about 700 people fitted with electronic bracelets that send signals via satellite to computer servers if they go places they shouldn't -- so-called "exclusion zones."
The Massachusetts law, which allows judges to impose electronic monitoring as a condition of a restraining order, has become a model for states such as Illinois and Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma Senate voted 47-0 in April to enlist GPS technology to protect victims of domestic violence. The Illinois House of Representatives unanimously passed similar surveillance legislation last month.
Part of the appeal is money. GPS is a cost-effective alternative to prison, said Paul Lucci, deputy commissioner of the Massachusetts Probation Service, pointing to a chart taped to his office wall showing a state-wide surge in use of GPS -- mostly to track sex offenders but also for others.
"These people probably should be in jail but the cost of incarceration can be as much as $30,000 or $40,000 a year. The GPS costs about $3,400 a year," he said.
"I think it's good on both sides. It is a device to protect the public. Although we can't guarantee anyone's safety, it provides an extra level of supervision on somebody. On the other side, for a defense attorney, it is in lieu of incarceration," said Lucci.
- Supervision = punishment!
The Massachusetts law was inspired in part by Cotter's death and other cases of repeated abuse in a country where authorities say more than 1,000 women are murdered each year by intimate partners. It alerts police whenever an offender enters a restricted zone such as near a woman's home or office.
"It's more than just slapping a GPS on a guy. You have to really have an intelligent coordinated approach to it and then it really can save lives," said Diane Rosenfeld, a professor at Harvard Law School who helped draft the Massachusetts law.
The Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center, a women's shelter which in 2006 began piloting the GPS program in Newburyport, a Massachusetts city north of Boston, has a high success rate -- none of the eight men fitted with GPS have violated protective orders while wearing the bracelets.
Kelly Dunne, associate director at the center, said Dorothy Cotter's murder highlighted several major problems. A judge, for example, released her husband without bail less than a week after he violated a restraining order and threatened to kill her. Five days later, he murdered her.
"As a result of that homicide, we now identify high-risk perpetrators as early as possible," she said. "In some cases the judge orders GPS," she said.
Authorities see it as an alternative to overflowing prisons in a country with the world's highest incarceration rate.
The number of people in U.S. prisons has risen eight-fold since 1970 to 2.2 million people -- nearly a fourth of the world's total, according to the Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy group.
North Carolina's eastern Pitt County, a rural tobacco-growing region of 138,690 people, adopted the technology in late 2005 to relieve overcrowded jails by freeing more accused batterers on bond and tracking them with GPS before they go to trial. It was expanded last year to four more counties.
In a measure of success, police dispatchers receive fewer calls involving the same person when an offender wears a GPS bracelet. Pitt County's recidivism rate for domestic violence fell from 36 percent in 2004 to 14 percent this year, said Sgt. John Guard of local sheriff's domestic violence unit.
But once batterers finish the program and go off GPS, the rate shot back up to around 40 percent, he added.
"It may help in the short term pre-trial. But post-trial, it's not. That tells me there are other things we have to do to ensure the safety of the victims," he said.
There are other concerns. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Linfield warned a Harvard Law School panel in February that GPS may offer only a "high tech illusion of safety" that fails to do more to protect women than traditional restraining orders, according to the law school's newspaper, The Record.
"We don't ever say to anyone that this will save your life," said Barry Bryant, deputy director of the Governor's Crime Commission in North Carolina.
"It doesn't really guarantee much because the truth is it's real time. If someone has entered a zone where they shouldn't be, can you get there before they do something violent? I don't know. But it's an added measure of safety."
He said police, not the court, mostly determine who wears the surveillance bracelets in North Carolina -- a nuance that raises civil liberties concerns.
"This should be done by independent judicial officials, not by police officers whose job is to investigate, not to mete out justice," said Barry Steinhardt, head of the American Civil Liberties Union's technology program in Washington.
"You want to protect the victims of domestic violence but there has to be a fair process."
View the article here
The Indiana Court of Appeals today declared unconstitutional a 2006 state law barring registered sex offenders from living near schools, parks and youth centers in cases where the offender had already owned his home when the law took effect.
The three-judge panel’s unanimous decision, upholding a Blackford County trial court judge’s ruling from June, determined the law was “ex post facto,” meaning it effectively criminalized conduct that had not been criminal before the law took effect July 1, 2006.
Defendant Anthony W. Pollard, charged with a Class D felony sex offender registry offense, has lived in and owned his home for 20 years. In appealing the trial court ruling, the state had argued that since Pollard had violated the residency law after July 1, 2006, he was being punished merely for that violation.
“However,” the appeals court wrote, “that punishment restricts an ownership interest in property that Pollard acquired before the statute came into effect; it is not just a potential penalty for continuing to reside within the exclusionary zone after the effective date of the statute.”
St. Joseph County Police Detective Sonny Oakley, in charge of the county’s sex offender registry, said he was disappointed in the ruling but didn’t think it would have a huge impact locally. When the law took effect, there were about 30 registered offenders living within the 1000-foot exclusionary zones — about 10 percent of the county’s 320 registered offenders, Oakley said.
Oakley sent letters to the 30 offenders, 20 of whom already had moved, he said. St. Joseph Superior Court Judge John Marnocha granted relief to another six offenders who filed court petitions asking to remain in their homes, a sign that, in light of today’s ruling, Marnocha “knows the law,” Oakley said.
Marnocha could not be reached for comment late today.
Staff writer Jeff Parrott (firstname.lastname@example.org) (574) 235-6320