Saturday, June 7, 2008

Bullies tap into Web to ambush

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Sounds like some people who have harassed me as well.


RIVIERA BEACH — Shameeka Mucklin's MySpace page looked like those of many other 14-year-olds.

But one day, the headline in her profile was changed to a sexually suggestive phrase. Her occupation had changed from "student" to a vulgar description of a prostitute and her mood was described as naughty.

A few days later, sexually explicit captions were placed under pictures in her online photo album.

Then, a second, equally offensive, Web site was created. The makers sought dozens of "friends" to ensure that as many people as possible saw the Web site. The eighth-grader at John F. Kennedy Middle School had made the mistake of sharing her MySpace password with a so-called friend, she said. Mucklin suspects that the girl, with help from friends, altered her page after the two had a falling out.

The harasser even changed Mucklin's password, locking her out so she couldn't undo the damage or remove her page. Suddenly, she was the object of stares from classmates and come-ons from grown men who saw her profile online. She didn't go to school for three days.

"All I could do was cry because I couldn't do anything about it and everyone was seeing it," Mucklin said. "I didn't expect a friend would do this to me."

Mucklin's mother, Sheila, invited the girls and their parents to her home to discuss the situation. Mucklin's grandmother even offered a $100 reward for the password, but no one has accepted responsibility.

Riviera Beach police shut down both her original site and the new one last week and are investigating the case as possible cyberstalking.

"We want to press charges," the girl's mother said. "They have been given every opportunity to stop. We've pleaded with them to stop."

Cyberbullying, in which harassers attack victims via the Web, is a growing problem across the country, with police beginning to take a more active role in going after the bullies.

Last month, a federal grand jury indicted a Missouri woman on a charge of computer fraud after she used a phony online identity to trick and taunt a 13-year-old girl who later committed suicide.

Although critics contend that criminal prosecution is a harsh punishment for what is essentially bullying, others counter that it is about the only way to stop cyberbullies, many of whom operate anonymously.

Schools walk a tightrope in trying to protect victims without violating free speech rights. And because most cyberbullying happens off campus, schools don't have jurisdiction. Though Florida recently passed a law that requires schools to step in when cyberbullying occurs, it doesn't call for disciplining the bullies.

The courts have given schools leeway to punish students for off-campus behavior only when the misconduct disrupts the school.

This year, a student was kicked out of a charter school in Palm Beach County after she posted threats of violence against her school and classmates on the Internet. The threat caused panic among students, giving the school the right to punish the student.

Without the threat of discipline, schools can appeal to students only through education.

"There is only so much we can do," said Dave Benson, assistant director of the district's Safe Schools Institute. "I can't suspend a kid. It might not stand up in court. The schools want to do something but we're limited to what we can do."

Although the Palm Beach County School District tracks bullying incidents, it does not keep tabs on cyberbullying.

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta estimates that 34 percent of students have been victims of cyberbullying, 21 percent have perpetrated online harassment and 68 percent of those harassed online also are bullied offline.

Florida Atlantic University Professor and cyberbullying expert Sameer Hinduja and his research partner, Justin Patchin, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin, recently released a survey of middle school students in a district they don't want to identify. Nearly 18 percent of the students had been victims of cyberbullies, with a similar number admitting to being involved in bullying.

"Kids don't necessarily see the problem in it," Patchin said. "If you ask the girl who did this, she understands it wasn't the right thing to do but probably not the serious nature of it."
- Neither do so called adults either!

Riviera Beach police are taking Mucklin's case seriously. They want to charge whoever posted the sexually suggestive remarks on her Myspace page with cyberstalking.

"This is very cruel," said Detective Sgt. Pat Galligan. "She didn't even go to her graduation. That should have been a great day for her and her family."

One way experts say children can avoid cyberbullying is by toning down their sites and keeping private information off the Web. Mucklin's MySpace page contained pictures of her bending over, showing off her clothed posterior.

Her mother said she doesn't approve of the pictures but said her daughter is not to blame. "The pictures feed the fire," she said, "but that still didn't give them the right to go in and put in all those captions."

MN - Locked in limbo

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Civil commitment is just another fancy word for "prison after prison!" They do not get treatment, at least not treatment that would set them free eventually.


Minnesota commits a greater proportion of sex offenders to treatment lock-ups after prison than any other state. As costs mount, so do questions about effectiveness and why no one has been released.

In the 14 years since Minnesota's Sexually Dangerous Persons Act cleared the way for the state to detain hundreds of paroled sex offenders in prison-like treatment centers, just 24 men have met what has proved to be the only acceptable standard for release.

They died.

"We would say, 'Another one completed treatment,'" said Andrew Babcock, a former guard and counselor in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP).

Minnesota now has 544 men and one woman behind razor wire as a result of sex-offender civil commitments -- nearly one of every seven nationwide, and the most nationally per-capita.

Most have completed their prison sentences. They are being detained for the stated purpose of treating them until they are no longer dangerous.
- It's basically a warehouse to hold people, until they die... That is obvious!

Only Washington state preceded Minnesota in handling paroled offenders this way. Now, 19 states and the federal government, which last year began its own commitment system, are detaining a total of nearly 4,000 former prison inmates for indefinite treatment.

The MSOP began with support from the public and legislators angered that paroled rapists had murdered several young women in the late 1980s. The 2003 killing of college student Dru Sjodin by newly released rapist Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. prompted a new surge of commitments of all types of sex criminals, from rapists to nonviolent molesters.

"This is a very unique group that goes after vulnerable victims," said former state Sen. Wes Skoglund (Email), DFL-Minneapolis, who helped draft the Sexually Dangerous Persons law. "Society has a constitutional and moral obligation to keep people from hurting others."
- And it also has a constitutional and moral obligation to not violate the constitutions ex post facto and due process clauses, to name a few, and provide fair treatment to all people. Which clearly is not being done, so what this man says is just more hot air...

Pam Poirier, the mother of Katie Poirier, who was murdered by released rapist Donald Blom in 1999, said she would be content if no one in the MSOP is ever released. "You can't even call these men animals," Poirier said. "I say build more prisons and put them out in the desert somewhere."
- Like demonizing people is going to help. Why do you think the registry grows on a daily basis? It's because of more people committing these crimes. Even if you killed them on the spot, it would continue for the rest of eternity. Until we get SMART on crime and work on PREVENTION, nothing is going to change. Just locking someone up and throwing a way the key is the easy way out, and solves nothing...

But the MSOP's rising cost -- now $67 million a year -- and lack of measurable success are causing growing unease among legislators, victim advocates, judges and even the program's designers.

The financial burdens imposed by the program raise compelling questions:

  • Taxpayers have spent at least a half-billion dollars on the MSOP and the commitment system feeding it, but the program can't point to the successful treatment of a single offender. (Because they do not treat them, they just lock them up and forget about them, that is why!)
  • Each "patient" costs taxpayers $134,000 a year -- three times the amount state prisons spend to treat sex offenders. Yet the state has only about 300 adult treatment beds in prison, while the MSOP has plans to double its 400-bed capacity.
  • The MSOP deals with less than 3 percent of Minnesota's 20,000 predatory offenders but consumes more than half of what the state spends yearly to control and track them.
  • The MSOP's budget, which has tripled since 2004, is more than seven times the amount the state spends to monitor the 3,500 sex offenders on probation. The state spends less to keep 31 offenders on electronic home monitoring each year than it does to keep just one offender in the MSOP.

"It's just an awful lot of taxpayer money for what we're getting,'' said Sen. Linda Berglin (Contact), DFL-Minneapolis, chair of the budget division of the Health and Human Services Committee, which oversees the program's funding. "We've cut everything else in God's green Earth, but we've spent a lot of new resources on this group. They go in but they don't come out."

Ratcheting up

The MSOP was created to treat small numbers of the state's worst sex criminals. But the killing of Sjodin prompted officials to begin committing soon-to-be-released prisoners at a much higher rate, from an average of 15 per year before 2003 to 50 per year since.
- Typical knee-jerk reactions. Instead of thinking, they react... This is exactly why the system is so FUBAR!!

That same year, Gov. Tim Pawlenty (Email) prohibited releases not required by law or court order. His order came after then-Attorney General and eventual gubernatorial candidate Mike Hatch accused the administration of planning releases to save money.

Pawlenty declined to discuss the program with the Star Tribune. The governor's order barring releases remains in effect, Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung said late last month.

The MSOP's population surged past all similar programs except California's, which has 703 hospitalized offenders in a state with a population six times greater than Minnesota's. An 800-bed, $131 million expansion is underway at the MSOP's Moose Lake facility to handle the influx.

"It's kind of gotten way out of control. ... We're filling these treatment facilities as fast as we can build them," said Sen. Don Betzold, DFL-Fridley, who cosponsored the Sexually Dangerous Persons law. "Rodriguez ratcheted everything up. No one wants to be blamed for letting anybody slip through the cracks."
- I think they are called CONCENTRATION CAMPS!!! And the second item in bold above is the real reason nobody is being released, nobody wants to take responsibility.

And no one wants to release someone who might reoffend -- although 13 other states have released a total of more than 250. Experts say the MSOP's lack of discharges increases the odds that the courts will declare the program unconstitutional and order the detainees released.
- As Abraham Lincoln once said:

The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly!

"At some point a federal judge might say all you're doing is incarcerating people after their prison sentences," Betzold said. "At some point you have to show some result."
- This is EXACTLY what they are doing!

Some state judges have already reached that point. In February, Olmsted County District Judge Kevin Lund refused to commit rapist Robert Tolbert, even as he ruled that Tolbert, 30, is a sexually dangerous person.

Instead, the judge ordered Tolbert back to prison for treatment or until the end of his sentence in 2012.

"Since no patient has ever been discharged," Lund wrote, "... the [MSOP] is not a treatment program, and [MSOP] facilities are not treatment facilities. These facilities are nothing more than detention facilities."

The county, joined by the state Corrections Department, has appealed.

Wes Kooistra, assistant commissioner of the Department of Human Services, which runs the MSOP, said the lack of releases "deserves public discussion." But he added that the bar for release should be high.

"That's why they're in our program -- because they have victimized innocent people," he said.
- So have murderers, drug dealers, gang members, thieves, you name it... So why aren't they being civilly committed? It's unconstitutional discrimination!

Most molested children

The patients, as the program refers to its residents, range from 19 to 81 years old. While state officials refused to release their names, citing privacy laws, the Star Tribune obtained names and other information on about 350 of them through other means, including their commitment papers and other public records.

Of the 350, seven are convicted killers, and a few dozen have histories of violent rape. The majority molested children, usually by means of coercion or manipulation. Many victimized their own children or other relatives. About one in 10 have only juvenile records.
- More proof that the "stranger danger" issue is a myth!!!

Many were molested themselves as children.

Their histories are disturbing but don't all fit the violent predator stereotype. Here are four examples:

  • Christopher Welin, 29, was committed on his 19th birthday. He spent most of his teens in juvenile detention after being declared delinquent at 12 for molesting and raping his little brother and other children.
  • Dr. James Poole, 69, was convicted in 1991 of molesting female patients and imprisoned for eight years. He also admits sexually abusing a 6-year-old girl and several teens, including his daughter. He was committed in 1999.
  • Ben Alverson, 32, had sexual relationships with two girls, ages 13 and 14, while he was in his early 20s. He was imprisoned three years and committed in 2005 after violating probation.
  • Dwane Peterson, 28, is one of two patients with no sex crime on his record. Peterson, however, had sexual fantasies about children and wrote to them. He also kidnapped an elderly man. He was committed based on his history of sexual obsession and stalking, and the risk that he might offend.

Then there is Dennis Linehan, 67, who calls himself the MSOP's "poster child" and whose history is a parent's worst nightmare.

Imprisoned for killing 14-year-old Barbara Iversen in 1965 during an attempted rape, he escaped in 1975 and was caught while trying to assault a 12-year-old girl.

His prison release was approaching in 1992 when authorities committed him as a "psychopathic personality." The state Supreme Court overturned the decision, saying he didn't have an "utter lack" of control over his sexual impulses, the standard required by Minnesota's 1939 Psychopathic Personality law. The Legislature responded by passing the Sexually Dangerous Persons Act, allowing the recommitment of Linehan and lowering the standard. Judges can now commit any offender deemed by psychologists to have a mental or personality disorder and likely to reoffend.
- So this statement basically means anybody can be committed, if the judge doesn't like you!

In 1995, the state opened the $20 million, 100-bed Sexual Psychopathic Personality Treatment Center in Moose Lake. As the program grew, it divided offenders primarily between Moose Lake and another site in St. Peter, though about 100 of the 545 inmates now are housed elsewhere and typically not reported as part of the population. Sixty-three of the about 100 were sent back to prison for release violations, to be returned to the MSOP afterward. An additional 37 who are developmentally disabled or elderly are in different facilities, including three in a state nursing home.

More treatment in prison

Both prison-based treatment and the MSOP provide group therapy, classes and other meetings. But the MSOP provides less treatment at a higher cost. According to prison officials, it costs about $100 a day to treat and house a sex offender in prison. In the MSOP, it costs more than $350 a day.

While the state says MSOP residents get five to 18 hours of treatment weekly, treatment records released by patients show that many got only five to six hours. Margretta Dwyer, former director of a sex offender outpatient program at the University of Minnesota and a volunteer adviser to MSOP residents, surveyed patients and came to the same conclusion.

"It averaged out around 5 1/2 hours per week, which makes it more like outpatient treatment,'' said Dwyer, a critic of the program. In contrast, Lino Lakes prison offers a minimum of 12 treatment hours weekly, according to the Corrections Department and former inmates.

The disparity widens when breaks are factored in. The MSOP has monthlong breaks between "trimesters," each of which contains its own weeklong break. That adds up to almost four months a year without treatment -- a deficiency cited by the Department of Human Services' own Licensing Division.
- Having monthlong breaks is insane. The treatment needs to be an ongoing basis to be effective, IMO. Giving one 8 hour day here, then wait a week or more, then another 8 hour day, is pointless...

In contrast, Lino Lakes prison has four weeks of breaks a year.

A 2005 report by the Vermont Legislative Council concluded that Minnesota "is essentially warehousing sex offenders in mental health facilities at a cost far higher than that to incarcerate them in prison."

In most ways the MSOP is indistinguishable from prison, with cell blocks and lockdowns for searches. Residents earn modest wages cleaning bathrooms or making signs for state office buildings. They can also work out in the gym, read in the library and visit a computer room, though it lacks Internet access.
- Prison labor camps???

The MSOP counts work, classes and exercise as treatment because each is therapeutic, said assistant commissioner Kooistra, who added that the number of breaks is something "we're going to look at." But he said that the breaks are more than the term implies.

"What's going on during that time is a lot of assessment, a lot of team meetings," Kooistra said. "There's an increase in patient activities," such as work and recreation. "It's not like everybody's watching TV."

Administrators say that constant supervision also is part of their treatment, done mostly by "security counselors" trained to guard patients and document day-to-day behavior.

Growing uneasiness

Last year, the MSOP published a mission statement: "To promote public safety by providing a safe and secure environment in which civilly committed sex offenders are offered the opportunity to participate in high-quality treatment programs that enhance the success of their re-entry into society."
- Yeah right, this is just PR propaganda to sugar coat the prison labor/concentration camps!!!

In theory, then, eventual releases from the program are a given. But in February, Ann LaValley-Wood, the assistant clinical director, wrote in a memo to a patient that "the focus of the program is not completion. It is consistent demonstration of behavioral change."

As the program grows older and larger, so too, critics say, grows the distance between its promise and what it delivers.

Dr. Michael Farnsworth, the psychiatrist who helped design the program, quit his post after the 2003 exchange between Pawlenty and Hatch, saying the MSOP was "mired in politics.'' Farnsworth said the state has a dilemma: "How do you release somebody after building them up as monsters?"

The MSOP's rapid growth has forced the Legislature to appropriate additional money for it in every bonding bill since 2003. Berglin said that meanwhile the state has cut millions from programs for at-risk kids -- the pool from which experts say many sex offenders emerge.

"You'd have to conclude that the only people we're concerned about in the state of Minnesota during the past four years are [committed] sex offenders,'' Berglin complained during one hearing. Other legislators have asked why treatment costs so much less in prison, where 83 offenders have completed the two- to three-year program since 2002.

Last fall, Dennis Benson, then deputy commissioner of corrections, told a House-Senate subcommittee that the prison system offers better "economy of scale" -- larger facilities and more inmates to spread out the costs.

Benson said corrections officials were castigated after the Sjodin killing for referring too few offenders for possible civil commitment -- only eight in 2001. He said employees "were accused of saving money -- all kinds of what I think are ridiculous accusations." After Sjodin, he said, "we tried to tighten it up," jumping to 170 referrals in 2004.
- So, they civilly commit more people, to look good to the public. It's called PR propaganda!

"We are trying to put the right people through the process so that we don't have another tragedy," he said.
- As long as their is human beings on this planet, you will always have psychopaths, period!

Berglin replied: "When it was eight or 13, I said it wasn't enough. But I didn't think that meant we'd get 150." In an interview, she added: "The vast majority of sex offenders in this state are not committed. They're living out in the community, and for the most part successfully. ... You know, it's very possible that some of the people who have been committed would have been in that [group]."

This spring the state appointed Benson to head the MSOP. Almost immediately he and some legislators toured Wisconsin's program for civilly committed sex offenders. The program has discharged 14 people after what was deemed successful treatment. An additional 19 won release in legal challenges or risk reassessments, according to director Steve Watters.

Of those 33, only two have reoffended sexually, which Watters attributes partly to the close tabs kept on those transitioning to freedom.

Benson said he'd like to model more of the MSOP after Wisconsin's program.

A 'Pandora's box'?

In 2006 the MSOP's citizen review board observed that the program "is beginning to look like a black hole. ... There has to be a way to assuage the public's fear while providing a genuine therapeutic intervention.''
- Stop filling the public with more fear by giving them bogus statistics and letting the media run rampant to get ratings. Listen to the experts!!! Work on PREVENTION!!!!!!

A former member of that board, retired state District Judge Linn Slattengren, said that "the system is so restricted by political pressures that some offenders are effectively imprisoned for life" after committing crimes that wouldn't merit that sentence in criminal court.

Slattengren said the system fails to distinguish between those who belong there and those who don't.

"There were a large number of patients who ought to be restrained indefinitely. There were a small number who should never have been sent there in the first place, and some who society no longer needed to restrain in an institution," Slattengren said.

Testifying to Berglin's committee, Eric Janus, president of William Mitchell College of Law, argued that the civil commitment of criminals is a "Pandora's box" that could reach beyond sex offenders.

"We as a society will be locking people up for years, based not on a crime that they committed ... but because they pose a risk, and we think they might [someday] commit some undefined, unspecified crime," said Janus, author of "Failure to Protect -- America's Sexual Predator Laws and the Rise of the Preventive State."
- The thought police in action!!!!

Some experts say the emotion evoked by sex crimes makes it hard to craft policies that recognize differences among offenders or the pervasiveness of sexual violence.

"We can't incarcerate and punish our way out of this problem; it doesn't get at the root causes," said Nancy Sabin, director of the Jacob Wetterling Foundation, named for the St. Joseph, Minn., boy who was abducted in 1989 and never seen again.

"Where are these guys coming from? They're coming from our own homes," Sabin said. We have to own the problem so we learn how to get past the hysteria in order to find better solutions."

Comedian Chris Rock victim of practical joke in SAfrica

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This is not funny one bit, IMO. These idiots apparently do not know that accusations alone is enough to ruin someones life forever...


Celebrity funnyman Chris Rock was the victim of a practical joke while on tour in South Africa, after being pranked with accusations he had sex with a British minor, a prosecutor said Saturday.

"It was a hoax, it was for one of the US (United States) reality television programmes," said National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Tlali Tlali.

The US comedian, who is on his "No apologies"tour in the country, was duped by rumours he was about to be arrested for sexually assaulting a minor in Britain.

"They pulled one on him, information got to him that the South African Police Service was going to arrest him. Acting on that information he quickly approached lawyers who brought an urgent application at the Johannebsurg High Court where judgement was in his favour," Tlali told AFP.

Tlali said Rock had sought clarification on the charges to be brought against him.

A fake prosecutor, one of the cast members for the television show, appeared in court Monday urging that Rock be taken into custody, however the judge ruled he could not be arrested or detained without a proper warrant.

"This one went far, it must have been organised quite carefully," said Tlali, who said when prosecutors discovered the following day it was a prank there were mixed reactions with some slamming it as a waste of time, while others saw the funny side.

It was not known which television show was behind the prank.

IL - Gurnee 'top cop' charged in child sex cases

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Bond was set at $1.5 million Friday for a decorated Gurnee Police Department officer who was arrested and charged with three counts of sexually abusing and assaulting two children.

Lake County Sheriff's Office deputies arrested Officer Jay Simon at 12:25 p.m. Friday without incident at the Gurnee police station based on an arrest warrant.

According to the warrant, Simon, 36, of Round Lake Park, the father of three, is charged with two counts of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, a Class X felony one count of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, a Class 2 felony; and one count of aggravated assault, a Class A misdemeanor. If convicted of the Class X felony, Simon could face six to 30 years in prison.

The Class 2 felony carries a sentence of three to seven years in prison and the Class A misdemeanor penalty could land Simon in jail for under one year and fined up to $2,500.

Lake County State's Attorney Michael Waller said the alleged sexual assaults involved a girl under 13 years old that began between March and September 2007. Another girl, also under 13, was allegedly sexually abused in November 2006. It is unknown if the victims were related to Simon.

Waller said a 35-year-old adult male was assaulted by Simon in March 2007. That case was not related to the sexual assault or abuse cases.

The investigation was conducted by officers assigned to the Lake County Children's Advocacy Center, an arm of the Lake County State's Attorney's Office.

Gurnee authorities said they were informed of the investigation of Simon in April and he was immediately placed on administrative leave while the investigation proceeded. He will remain on administrative leave pending any and all court proceedings. Gurnee authorities said there is no indication the alleged offenses were committed while Simon was on duty.

"We take this matter very seriously and we have cooperated with members of the Lake County Sheriff's department during their investigation," Gurnee Police Chief Robert Jones said in a statement. "We remain mindful of the fact that there is a presumption of innocence for all defendants. Therefore, we will have no comment on the alleged charges and allow the matter to proceed through the legal system."

Simon was praised at a Village Board meeting last month for making 47 driving-under-the-influence arrests in 2007, giving him a cumulative career total of 397 DUI arrests.

Simon was honored in 2005, 2006 and 2007 as the village's "top cop," and also was cited by the Illinois Department of Transportation -- Division of Traffic Safety for the number of DUI arrests while a member of the department's Operational Traffic Enforcement Team.

A Michigan native, he joined the Gurnee force in 2002 after serving in the Navy as a senior investigator, tracking down AWOL sailors.

Simon is scheduled to appear in court June 12.

CT - Justice for Julie Amero

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Julie Amero, if you don’t know, is a former substitute teacher in Norwich, Connecticut, who was sentenced to up to 40 years in prison after her classroom computer, infected with malware, started uncontrollably displaying pornographic pop-ups that were visible to the junior high school students she was teaching that day. As Lindsay Beyerstein wrote back in January,

On Jan. 5, 2007, a Norwich jury found Amero guilty of four felony counts of “injury or risk of injury to, or impairing morals of, children.” Each count carries a maximum sentence of 10 years and while it is unlikely that Amero will receive the maximum penalty, incarceration remains a very real possibility. Even if Amero avoids jail, she will be stripped of her teaching credentials unless the convictions are reversed. News of the guilty verdict sparked widespread outrage, particularly in the IT community. How could a 40-year-old woman with no prior criminal record be facing such serious charges over a few pop-up ads? “The fact that the machine was never scanned for spyware by the investigating authorities is outrageous. In fact, this alone should have resulted in the case being dismissed, as the defense found a major spyware infection by their expert forensic evidence,” wrote Alex Eckelberry, the president of Sunbelt Software, a Florida-based firm that makes anti-spyware products.

Now, Amero has been granted a new trial, because — surprise! — the failure of authorities to scan for spyware *before* the trial led to the jury getting erroneous evidence from the state’s “expert.”

In setting aside the guilty verdict, Strackbein ruled that the witness the state presented as a computer expert, a Norwich police detective, provided “erroneous” testimony about the classroom computer. “The jury may have relied, at least in part, on that false information,” said Strackbein. The motion for a new trial was filed on Tuesday by Amero’s attorney, William F. Dow. The motion said that evidence gathered after Amero was convicted in January of four counts of risk or injury to a minor casts serious doubt on her guilt. The judge cited a forensic computer analysis conducted by the state police crime lab - conducted after the guilty verdict - to support the argument that the verdict should be set aside. She said the lab report “contradicts testimony of the state’s computer witness.”

The state is not taking a position on the motion for a new trial, meaning that it’s unlikely Amero will be tried again. It seems like the prosecution’s tactics in the first trial were grounded in hysteria about kids seeing porn — even though they’re quite likely to be downloading it in their rooms at night. That Amero couldn’t have stopped the popups if she’d tried didn’t matter; Something had to Be Done to Protect the Children.

NC - Lawyer: Anyone could be charged

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Kevin G. Killingsworth would like to tell the world that he is no child rapist.

On the advice of his lawyer, however, he does not.

That is one dimension of a Kafkaesque nightmare that Killingsworth said he has lived for the past year.

Getting charged with a sex crime, Killingsworth and his lawyer contend, could happen to anyone.

An allegation is all it takes,” said D.W. Bray, a Fayetteville lawyer who represents Killingsworth. “People do not comprehend that. I would say there’s a significant amount of people that have been convicted of sex offenses based on little to no evidence, just because the penalties are so stiff.”

That is why Killingsworth said he grudgingly agreed to endure his nightmare for another five years.

Killingsworth, 26, of Forest City, pleaded guilty and was sentenced on a misdemeanor sexual battery charge in Cumberland County Superior Court in May. In exchange for the plea, prosecutors dropped a felony rape charge. If the former Terry Sanford High School athlete completes five years of probation without incident, he won’t have to spend a day in prison or register as a sex offender, Bray said.

Yet Killingsworth must participate in a sex offender control program that requires him to acknowledge he belongs there.

Technically, if the person fails to make that admission, regardless of their true innocence or guilt, they can be violated off their probation and sent to prison,” said Bray.

So Bray told Killingsworth to avoid a declaration of innocence during an interview with The Fayetteville Observer.

The mother of the alleged victim has less empathy for Killingsworth’s predicament.

“I feel sorry for his mom,” said the woman. But she said that Killingsworth and his family are in denial.

If he was innocent, they would have taken this to trial,” said the mother, who isn’t being named by the Observer to prevent identification of her daughter, now 15.
- This lady clearly doesn't know what someone could be faced with by doing so. If you are accused, you are guilty by default, and must prove your innocence, and if you take it to trial, most people get longer sentences are are sent to prison when they are innocent. So many take what they think is the easy way out by pleading guilty. It's not going to be for this man, as it would seem above.

Bray, who defended accused molesters during five years at the local public defender’s office, said he was 80 percent certain Killingsworth would have been acquitted by a jury.

“But being 80 percent sure still leaves 20 percent out there,” said Bray.

If Killingsworth had lost at trial, Bray said, a prison sentence of 12 to 20 years would have been just the start. His client might have had to register as a sex offender and undergo satellite monitoring for life.

“All these potential penalties you’re looking at, or a combination of any of the three, are just so overwhelming that any reasonable person has to seriously consider a great plea offer,” Bray said.
- And this is why the system is FUBAR!!! You are guilty by default, and how does one prove you are innocent when society is as it is today?

And that’s just what Bray said Killingsworth received.

“The fact that we were very satisfied with what we were offered tends to indicate what the state thought about the strength of its case,” said Bray.


The accuser, 12 at the time of the alleged assault in 2005, is the daughter of a local man with whom Killingsworth played softball. The girl claimed she was raped on the day of a child’s birthday party, according to Killingsworth.

The girl didn’t tell her father until 2007, after, Killingsworth said, he stopped by their home to see if the father wanted to play for a new softball team.

After Killingsworth left, the accuser’s mother said, the girl told her father what she said had happened 18 months earlier.

The girl had kept quiet out of fear that her father would hurt Killingsworth, her mother said.

Bray said police could find no witnesses or physical evidence to back the girl’s claim.

In fact, Bray said: “The evidence, overall, would tend to be noncorroborative of her version of events.”

Killingsworth’s mother, who also has two daughters, said men proven to have raped should get life in prison.

But if you don’t have any facts, you don’t have any DNA, something that happened two years ago?” asked Leslie Hobbs, citing her view of the evidence against her son.

The alleged victim’s mother said she realized the late call to police hampered prosecution.

It was basically her word against his,” she said.
- And this is all it takes... And your life is over!!

Prosecutors from Wilmington handled the case because of potential conflicts in the local District Attorney’s Office.

Killingsworth’s stepsister is an assistant DA here, and his late uncle was Cumberland County’s chief magistrate, Hobbs said.

The accuser’s mother said Killingsworth has been in trouble with the law before. Killingsworth pleaded guilty to financial-card fraud in 2007, court records show.

Hobbs, a psychiatric nurse, said her son is no saint.

Killingsworth got a college baseball scholarship. After returning to Fayetteville, though, he said he abused cocaine while working at nightclubs. With treatment, he said, he hasn’t used the drug in 19 months.

In Rutherford County, Killingsworth has found a new job and a fiancee. As part of his plea, he may reside with the woman and her 11-year-old son, whom he plans to adopt.

Killingsworth said he holds no grudge against the alleged victim. “I don’t wish anything bad on her,” he said. “Of course, I wish this didn’t happen to me. But it did.”

Staff writer Francis X. Gilpin can be reached at or 323-4848, ext. 372