Tuesday, June 3, 2008

FL - A former Charlotte County teacher accused of molesting two students was found dead in his Port Charlotte home

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CHARLOTTE COUNTY - A former Charlotte County teacher accused of molesting two students was found dead in his Port Charlotte home.

The Sheriff's Office says 46-year-old [name withheld] was found dead yesterday with a gunshot wound to the head. They are still investigating if this was a suicide.

[name withheld] was the band director at Port Charlotte High School. In January he was arrested for sexually molesting a student at his home. He was arrested again in March for sexually abusing another student during a field trip to Disney World. He resigned amid those allegations.

FL - HOMELESS SEX OFFENDERS - Aid sought for homeless sex offenders

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Stringent local laws have left convicted sex offenders with virtually no place to live in South Florida.

BY DIANA MOSKOVITZ (dmoskovitz@MiamiHerald.com)

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida asked Gov. Charlie Crist (Email) on Monday to convene a task force that would address the issue of convicted sex offenders who are homeless.

About 30 to 40 convicted sex offenders across the state, mostly in South Florida, can't find homes, according to the Florida Department of Corrections. The number is expected to grow.

The problem goes back to 2005, when several South Florida cities passed laws prohibiting convicted sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of places where children convene, including parks and schools.

State law requires 1,000 feet. The strict local ordinances left some sex offenders with few choices to live, including a small colony of men living under the Julia Tuttle Causeway in Miami.

The letter said that living restrictions were "not effective in protecting the community.''

''In short, these regulations have had the unintended consequence of jeopardizing, not protecting, the public welfare,'' the letter stated.

The request came in a letter sent to the governor, signed by ACLU of Greater Miami President Carlene Sawyer and ACLU of Florida President Jeanne Baker.

A Crist spokesman said on Monday that the governor had not yet received the letter.

NY - Ulster sheriff's deputy charged with bribing teen with sex

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HURLEY — An Ulster County sheriff’s deputy was arrested on charges he had sex with a teenage girl in exchange for keeping her out of legal trouble, state police announced Tuesday.

Police said Jeffrey P. Geskie of Hurley engaged in a sex act with a 17-year-old girl early Monday night in High Falls in exchange for his not filing criminal charges against her.

Geskie was charged with bribe receiving and ciminal sexual act, both felonies, and official misconduct, a misdemeanor. Additional charges are pending, police say. He’s resigned his position with the sheriff's department.

NJ - Bill introduced to increase penalty for public lewdness

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When he was a Wall Township police officer, Assemblyman David Rible arrested a number of men participating in sexual activity in the woods outside the Monmouth Service Area on the Garden State Parkway.

In the nine years since Rible retired, lewd conduct in public restrooms at that service area -- as well as at other rest areas on the Parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike -- has remained a nagging problem to law enforcement, who have conducted stings almost monthly this year.

Rible today unveiled a bill increasing the penalties for acts of lewdness and sexual assault in a public place, saying it was time to find a new way to curb the illegal behavior.

"Families with young children who are traveling through our state should not fear that they will be subjected to these acts of lewdness," said Rible (R-Monmouth). He said he believes the bill (A-2865) he introduced two weeks ago will go a long way toward protecting children and making parents feel more comfortable about safety at rest areas.

Rible said he's read many news stories about arrests at the Monmouth Service Area in Wall Township of men engaging in lewd conduct in the bathrooms there. But the most egregious incident, he said, occurred last August when a 12-year-old boy briefly left unattended by his stepfather in a restroom there was molested by a pedophile.

Mark Mandelbaum, 43, of Pemberton Township, Burlington County, was convicted in 1998 of child endangerment and ordered to register as a sex offender, according to the State Police sex offender registry. He pleaded guilty last month to sexual assault and faces seven years in prison when he is sentenced next month.

However, most of the men arrested at the public restrooms have been charged with lewdness, a disorderly persons offense punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, six months in prison or both. After the fine is paid or the prison term served, the conviction does not give the offender a criminal record.

Rible said his bill upgrades the charge of lewdness committed in a public restroom to a fourth-degree crime that carries of fine of up to $10,000, 18 months in prison or both.

Under the proposal, the offender would have a criminal record, something Rible said could serve as a deterrent.

State Sen. Sean Kean (R-Monmouth) said he plans to introduce a similar measure in the Senate.

Today, members of the state police and the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office joined Rible and Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini (R-Monmouth) at the service area to discuss the legislation, which also would apply to other public venues such as public parks, beaches and shopping malls.

Last year, there were 14 lewdness cases at the Monmouth service area, state Police spokesman Sgt. Stephen Jones said. For the first five months of this year, state police have already charged 34 people with lewdness at that service area, he said.

Jones said state troopers conduct their undercover details based on random checks of the facilities or complaints by the public.

"We want the rest areas and service areas around the state to be safe for families and travelers," he said. "People shouldn't have to fear going into a public bathroom."

CA - Sex Offender Ordinance Expected To Pass

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BAKERSFIELD -- Kern County Supervisors are set to approve an ordinance limiting where sex offenders can live.

The ordinance, which is expected to be enacted, will strengthen a state law prohibiting sex offenders from living 2000 feet from schools.

The new measure will also prohibit them from living near day care facilities.

It comes after a local parents' group discovered 35 known sex offenders living in a Union Avenue Motel near a day care.

FL - Former Springs mayor gets 4-1/2 years in molestation

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Video is available at the site. Yep, it's all in who you are or who you know.


FORT LAUDERDALE - Former Coral Springs Mayor John Sommerer was sentenced to 4-1/2 years in prison today after he pleaded no contest to charges he molested a 5-year-old girl.

Circuit Judge Mily Rodriguez-Powell also ordered Sommerer, 60, to serve 30 years of sexual offender probation after prison.

Sommerer pleaded no contest to four counts of lewd and lascivious molestation, four counts of lewd and lascivious conduct, and one count of exhibition.

Had Sommerer gone to trial and been convicted as charged, he could have faced a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Sommerer served as mayor for 10 years until term limits forced him from office in 2004. He tried to make a political comeback in March 2006 but was defeated.

The molestation, according to court records, occurred from April 1, 2006, to Oct. 31, 2007, and included Sommerer inappropriately touching the child.

Sommerer had pleaded not guilty to nine counts of lewd and lascivious actions, four punishable with a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison and a maximum of life.

The victim's father said his daughter was doing OK and receiving counseling every other week.

"What drove our decision for a plea was really to keep her out of trial or deposition," said the father, who is not being identified to protect the privacy of his daughter.

"We just wanted to make it as easy as possible for her," he said.

As Rodriguez-Powell told Sommerer his sentence, his wife and two sons sat in the front row of the courtroom.

NC - Senate panel backs bill targeting child sex offenders

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RALEIGH - A North Carolina Senate panel is backing a plan to strengthen the penalties child sex offenders would face.

A Senate judiciary committee Tuesday approved the bill, titled the Jessica Lunsford Act. The plan is named after a 9-year-old former Gaston County resident who was kidnapped and buried alive by a convicted sex offender in Florida in 2005.

The plan would require adults who rape or commit certain sex-related crimes against children to be sentenced to either 25 years in prison or life without parole. Offenders released from prison would be monitored by GPS for life.

The proposal now heads to another Senate committee.

Several other states have enacted similar measures.

OR - Neighbors say Woodburn officer caught on tape exposing himself

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WOODBURN - Police say a Woodburn police officer is on paid administrative leave after his arrest on charges of exposing himself to his neighbors.

Three witnesses say they saw 50-year-old Jose Rodriguez standing in the doorway of his West Salem home and masturbating with his pants down to his ankles. They say he was aware he was being watched. He was off duty.

A neighbor reportedly took home video as evidence and said that Rodriguez had done it before but was never caught in the act as he was this time.

Joe Arvin, who lives across the street, said he knows of at least six previous incidents when Rodriguez exposed himself in front of his own daughters so he told his girls to call him the next time it happened and they did. Arvin said his daughters called him and since he was not home, he called a friend who took the home video and alerted police.

"My daughters were victimized," Arvin said. "He'd wait until my daughters were in the window to pull down his pants and start touching himself."

Salem officers said they also saw Rodriguez with his shorts down when they responded to the 9-1-1 call. They said Rodriguez told them he did it because he was depressed.

Woodburn police say Rodriguez has been an officer for at least 20 years. He is now on paid administrative leave and facing three misdemeanor counts of public indecency. In addition to the Salem Police investigation, Woodburn planned to conduct their own internal review.

Rodriguez posted bail on Sunday. He refused to comment to KGW about the case.

VA - Gov. Timothy M. Kaine signs sex-crime measures

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Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (Contact) yesterday presided over the ceremonial signing of 13 bills designed to further protect victims of sexual violence.

Included among the measures passed this year by the General Assembly:

  • Victims will not be required to take a polygraph test as part of the investigation into their claims.
  • The state will pay for forensic medical examinations of victims regardless of whether they assist in the prosecution of their case.
  • Local courts will be required to immediately file protection orders to a state police database.
  • Stalking victims will be eligible to receive payments from the criminal compensation fund.
  • Men who sexually attack girls 14 to 16 years old will no longer have a defense against criminal charges by offering to marry the victim.

"There were some antiquated aspects of Virginia law that weren't just in the books -- they were being used," Kaine said in a brief interview. "So I think anything we can do to make sure we're treating [victims] of sexual and domestic violence in a better way is good."

NC - N.C. sex offenders could go to motels

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New laws make it tough for offenders to find post-jail housing, say prison officials.

RALEIGH - It has become so difficult, state prison officials say, that they want to put them up temporarily in motels at public expense.

A provision in a state budget bill would let prison officials spend public money on hotel rooms or other temporary housing to prevent offenders from wandering the streets.

It's cheaper than keeping sex offenders in prison, where the average annual cost of housing and feeding an inmate is about $26,000.

Some lawmakers learned about the proposal late last week. “It was just a shock,” said Rep. Pat Hurley (Email), an Asheboro Republican.

State prison officials say they are out of options.

It's not just that prisons are full. Prison officials say some sex offenders are finding it so hard to find a place to stay once they are paroled that they eventually give up and serve the remainder of their sentence behind bars. That happened 10 days ago when a sex offender's housing plans fell through – he was rejected from a homeless shelter – and no alternative could be found, Correction Department spokesman Keith Acree said.

The inmate decided to spend the remaining nine months of his sentence in prison, at a cost of roughly $19,000 to taxpayers. Prison officials say about a half-dozen others have done the same in the past 18 months.

“We're certainly not saying these are bad laws,” said assistant prisons director Mary Lu Rogers. “We're saying it adds to the complexity of finding a place for them to live.”
- Why can't you just put aside your ego and admit they ARE bad laws?

In 2006, lawmakers prohibited sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school or child-care center.

Some communities have passed ordinances preventing sex offenders from living near parks, and judges often require sex offenders on parole or probation to avoid living in a home with children.

Those actions, along with online registries that show where sex offenders live, have stigmatized them to the point where the home of a relative or a homeless shelter are no longer options, prison officials say.

“It's not a benefit to the released offender,” said Rep. Alice Bordsen (Email) of Mebane, a co-chairman of the House budget subcommittee. “It's a benefit for the general public.”

Bittorrent Item On BBCs Newsnight

PA - Ex-public defender faces years in prison

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Bingaman admitted molestation, possessing porn

BEDFORDA man who once defended people charged with sexual abuse and other crimes was himself sentenced Monday to 14 to 28 years in state prison for molesting a young girl during a four-year period.

Former Bedford County public defender Bradley Bingaman also was fined $20,000 despite a request that the sentence not include a monetary penalty because of the length of incarceration.

In a tearful apology to the girl, her mother, his parents, Bedford County judges, the county commissioners and the bar association, Bingaman, 32, said he has shame and regret he cannot express.

“The way you all probably feel about me is the way I have felt about myself for a long time,” Bingaman told the courtroom audience.

“This may sound strange, but I’m looking forward to the treatment and counseling I will receive (in prison.)”

Bingaman’s apology came after he was declared by Judge Thomas Ling to be a sexually violent predator who will have to register with state police for the rest of his life following release from prison.

“Given Mr. Bingaman’s attraction to young children, the court finds there is clear and concise evidence there were acts of a sexually violent predator,” Ling said.

“The chances of reoccurrence are very high should the opportunity present itself.”

Bedford County District Attorney William Higgins told the court that seldom has he seen such “genuine remorse” as displayed by Bingaman.

“I think he’s a good candidate for treatment,” Higgins said.

Prior to sentencing, Herbert Hays, a criminal justice expert with the Pennsylvania Sexual Offenders Assessment Board, testified that Bingaman meets the criteria for the predator designation.

Hays said his examination of Bingaman’s past, including the years he molested the girl, was indication enough.

But the later discovery of more than 400 kiddie porn images on a county computer added to his conclusions.

“In my opinion, he meets the criteria for a pedophile,” Hays said.

“It is mentally abnormal for an adult to want to have sex with a 7-year-old child.”

Bingaman in March pleaded guilty to one count each of rape and attempted rape of a child and 22 counts of possession of child pornography.

Bingaman admitted he started molesting the girl when she was 7 and ended when she was 11.

She is now 14.

The pornography was downloaded at various times between 2003 and last year.

While the child testified at a preliminary hearing last year, she was not in the courtroom Monday.

Her mother told the court that Bingaman deserved to go to prison because he stole her daughter’s childhood and innocence.

“The sting is never going to go away. Both of us have been altered,” she said of herself and her daughter.

FL - Local man helps Port St. Lucie police keep track of sex offenders

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PORT ST. LUCIE — If you want to know who is out there protecting children from sex offenders, the name Vinnie Byrne stands out.

Byrne is a special investigator with the Port St. Lucie Police Sex Offender Program. His job, assisted by seven other officers, is to keep track of the sex offenders who live within the city.

"This unit, which has over 150 years of police experience, is a huge asset to the community because these eight passionate good guys are dedicated to watching the bad guys, and that keeps our children safe," said police spokesman Officer Robert Vega.

Byrne, who is a 24-year veteran in law enforcement, said that making sure sex offenders stay within the law is not always easy.

"To get the job done right means synchronizing our efforts with the probation and parole offices of the state Department of Corrections and the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office," said Byrne.

Byrne indicated that the team generally works from a list of offenders registered with the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office and the web site of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, but a lot of information comes from the street.

Eight to 10 times a month he and his unit drive out to make random visits of sex offender residences to confirm that they are still living at their listed addresses. The unit also checks on curfew violations and advises probation officers of their findings.

"We do these checks to make sure sex offenders are not committing any crimes, and we derive great satisfaction in doing something good for our community," said Byrne.

Once a New York City police officer and former U.S. Marine, Byrne has been a special investigator for the Port St. Lucie Police Sex Offender program for seven years.

Honor for the law runs in the family. His wife, Judy, is a member of the Victims Assistance unit for the Port St. Lucie police. Together they strive for proactive law enforcement.

Byrne reported that some of the offenders they check on have been convicted of computer-related sex crimes. They have advised parents to become active participants in their children's lives and to take precautions to assure that their kids do not become victims.

Vega believes the numbers show the success of the unit.

"In the 10 years the program has been in effect we have had only one reoffend," said Vega.

• Last year the unit made 1,600 house checks

• In the first four months of this year, the unit has made 700 house checks.

• There are 135 registered sex offenders living in Port St. Lucie

• Half are on probation; 133 are men and two are women.

GA - Police: Man Wanted To Have Sex With Teen Girl

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WALTON COUNTY -- A southeast Georgia man has been arrested and charged after police said he drove to Walton County to have sex with a 14-year-old girl.

Loganville police arrested Joshua Nelson, 23, after an online undercover investigation.

Police said Nelson had several sexual online chats with a detective he thought was a 14-year-old girl. Investigators waited for Nelson in Loganville after he drove from Midway, Ga., according to authorities. Police said Nelson brought a dozen roses and a box of condoms with him and they believe he intended to have sex with the girl.

Authorities said Nelson was terminated as a detention officer in Bryan County six months ago.

Chief Michael McHugh told Channel 2 his department is seeing more and more cases like this one.

“It's completely beyond me why they continue to do this knowing we are, and not only us, but other agencies are actively investigating these types of crimes. And we intend to continue,” said McHugh.

Nelson was charged with sexual exploitation of a minor. He is in the Walton County Jail.