Wednesday, June 18, 2008

SOCLEAR - Editorial 1 - This is a brief editorial with some statements for people to think about.

Visit SOClear Media Here

NOTE: I do not agree with the suicide bombers comment in this video...


Just a reminder for those who signed up for this

Dear Colleagues,

Thank you for registering for tomorrow's online event "Sex Offender Residency Restrictions: Implementation and Impact " at 1pm (EDT).

If possible, try to log in 5-10 minutes early to secure your virtual "seat." This event has received a lot of interest, and we remind you that seating is limited and not guaranteed (we do expect to accommodate all or most people who wish to attend). In the event you are unable to attend, a recording of the event will be made available on our website, as well as slides from the presenters (with their permission).

Please review the instructions ahead of time to make sure you meet the technical requirements. To access the instructions for logging in, click the "Instructions" link on our event page at:

http://www.innovations.harvard.edu/spotlight.html?id=1331&preview=0

Thanks for your interest. We look forward to seeing you!

Sincerely,

The Government Innovators Network & the National Institute of Justice


FL - Restoration of Rights Summit: A Summit on Successful Re-entry



View the article here

June 17 – June 18, 2008
Tallahassee, FL – State Capitol Building
(see the above link for the audio portion of this article)

Day One June 17, 2008 – 8:30AM Introduction
Franchatta Barber, Florida Department of Corrections started the summit with a brief speech which included a very inspirational quote from Theodore Roosevelt. Franchatta mentioned that this is the first of what the state hopes will be many such summits. She talked about the word summit and how she had looked the word up in Webster’s Dictionary. “A summit is a meeting of high level leaders who are called to share a program of action”. Franchatta then talked about leaders, not just the people on the advisory committee, but all who were invited to participate in this summit.

Invocation, National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance
Chaplain Alex Taylor said an invocation prayer which was very touching and was followed by Minister Marty Duncan of Tallahassee who sang the National Anthem ocapella . The Minister has a very good voice and although our National Anthem is a very difficult song to sing with music, he did a great job. Chaplain Alex Taylor led in the pledge of allegiance.

Opening Remarks
Department of Corrections Secretary Walter McNeil spoke about the current state of corrections in the state of Florida. Secretary McNeil began by saying he was honored to be part of the re-entry summit and that it gives him a sense that the time has come for cooperation and a rule of strategy rather than exception. He continued by talking about the surging prison populations, limited state resources and increased offender releases. The Secretary gave statistical information that the state has over 100,000 people currently incarcerated and 110,000 under supervision. That number includes the sex offender populations.

After Secretary McNeil spoke, Chairman Monica David of the Florida Parole Commission spoke. Chairman David spoke about the changes to the Executive Clemency rules where Level 1 is now an automatic restoration of rights, Level 2 require a short investigation and most do not require a hearing for their civil rights to be restored. Level 3 (which includes sex offenders and predators) require a full investigation and a hearing to be considered for restoration of civil rights. These new rules became effective in 2007 in Florida. She mentioned that successful re-entry is dependant upon rights restoration.

Introduction of the Key Note Speaker
Secretary McNeil introduced the Key Note Speaker, The Honorable Senator Stephen R. Wise and gave a brief overview of the Senator’s political career in Florida.

Key Note Speaker
The Honorable Senator Stephen R. Wise spoke about the increased recidivism rate (for offenders) in Florida saying “one out of three offenders in the state are re-incarcerated within three years”. He also mentioned that the legislators are concerned about the increase of violent crime in the state and public safety. He continued to talk about the growing corrections budget in the state and that it is taking money from education. The Senator quoted that $866 million dollars was cut from the k-12 education budget while corrections budget was increased by $150 million from last year.

Re-Entry Summit Structure
John Kerski, Bureau Chief, Department of Corrections talked about the structure of the “Break Out” sessions that we all participated in. He explained the time frame and who each of the moderators for the sessions would be. We broke from the introductory session and went into our individual groups.

Housing Break Out Group
Transitions of America was assigned to the Housing Breakout Group. The first item on the agenda was introductions. The group was mostly comprised of faith based groups involved in transitional housing for offenders. There were only two other groups representing sex offenders, although there was considerable interest from the majority about transitional services for sex offenders. Mark introduced Transitions of America saying we are a startup nonprofit, non-faith based organization who will provide housing and on-site evidence based programs and services to sex offenders. After the initial introductions we broke to return back to the Knott Building.

Success Stories
Bernie DeCastro from Time for Freedom spoke about his prior incarcerations and how faith during his last incarceration turned his life around. He has been very active within Corrections and the prisons working with inmates.

Kevin Gay, Operation New Hope spoke about finding employment opportunities for offenders and that employment is the key element that is needed for successful re-entry for an offender.

Sheriff Morris A Young, Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office spoke about his department working with offenders to help them be successful and productive citizens.

Patti Harris, Florida Parole Commission spoke

Senator Arthenia L. Joyner spoke about her life and in particular her past experience with being arrested twice for being involved in civil rights activities and having to tell employers she had been arrested. It was interesting to hear a Senator speak about this topic and being able to directly relate to some of the experiences.

Governors Address
Governor Charlie Crist spoke and relayed his appreciation for the participation at the summit and his appreciation to the Representatives and Senators. He then spoke about Florida’s restoration of civil rights rules and how pleased he is with the number of people that have had their rights restored. He continued saying that Florida was among the last states to have automatic rights restoration and he was asked while campaigning for Governor if he was considering automatic rights restoration. He talked about mistakes saying “everybody makes mistakes” and he makes mistakes too. He continued with “When you realize what others go through in their lives and maybe some of the challenges they deal with growing up, no matter where that might be or what the circumstances are…I think you become a more understanding person” He mentioned that people do deserve second chances and that it is important to him. He also said that “forgiveness is very very important” He continued by saying that “once someone has paid their debt to society, they why shouldn’t we as a state recognize that and welcome them back into society and give them that second chance, because who doesn’t deserve a second chance?”

Breakout Sessions Continue
We returned to the Housing Breakout session where we began talking about housing issues faced by offenders. The conversations in the room vacillated back and forth about treatment, services and housing…all concerning offenders. A representative from Mathew25 mission spoke up and mentioned that the laws concerning sex offender “zoning” were creating additional problems. The discussion shifted to sex offenders where a Public Defender in the group spoke and said the zoning rules are creating more problems. Amy spoke and asked if maybe we should define what appropriate housing is. The moderator agreed, but no one could define it. The discussions in the room quickly moved from housing to programs, to media issues to public opinion. It became obvious that housing itself is a very difficult issue to speak about without bringing the other issues up. We also noticed that although there are many efforts, all working to accomplish similar things, there is little to no communication and direction amongst the groups. It was even mentioned by a Department of Corrections staff member that what he felt was needed is a single entity that handles standards, funding, communication and direction.

Day 2 (to be added - Visit the link for day 2)


AZ - Chandler police ID wrong house as sex offender’s

View the article here | Interview with Video

It seems, common sense would tell the police to verify the address before assuming it's right, then this kind of stuff would not occur. But we all know, common sense is not available in the justice system, now is it?

06/18/2008

Chad Tow avoided neighbors for a few weeks earlier this year, and to this day he's still a bit embarrassed. Children no longer visit his south Chandler home to see which of his toys - golf carts, go-carts, street cars - he's tinkering with in his driveway.

Gone are some of the friendly waves he was used to from neighbors he knew by sight, but not by name.

This perceived shunning, he says, stems from a lying sex offender who registered under Tow's address and the sloppy work of the Chandler police.

Tow is now threatening a defamation suit against Chandler and accusing police of dragging their feet in correcting a flier notifying neighbors that a sex offender lived at his house and partially blaming him for the error.

Tow, a 35-year-old machinist, filed paperwork May 29 demanding $200,000 to settle out of court.

"This could have happened to anybody," Tow said Monday.

Tow also questions Chandler's procedure for verifying the residences of sex offenders, which he calls lax.

A neighbor informed him about the flier in January.

Convicted sex offenders are required to register their home addresses with police, who must then notify neighbors. The state is required to post the information online for the community to see where these offenders live.

Thirty-two registered sex offenders live in Chandler's five ZIP codes, according the state Department of Public Safety.

The flier, which went to 60 homes, pictured Kurtis Hamady, 34, who was convicted in 1993 in Michigan of criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree for having sex with a 14-year-old girl when he was 19.

He was also convicted of failing to register as a sex offender in Arizona and was released in March 2007 after serving an 18-month prison term.

Tow's and Hamady's appearances are similar, which could cause alarm in a neighborhood where people know each other more by sight than name.

"I'm sitting there thinking, what are my neighbors thinking?" Tow said. "If you're 50 feet away it would be hard to tell the difference between him and me, and I'm thinking how many neighbors know my name is Chad rather than Kurt."

Tow has known Hamady since high school through Hamady's brother, and while they were friends, Tow kept him at arm's length, especially after Tow got married.

Tow said that Hamady, who couldn't be reached for comment, asked Tow if he could stay with him when he got out of prison, but Tow refused and then paid for Hamady to stay a few nights in a hotel.

Nine months later, in December, Tow found in his door a Chandler police detective's business card with a note for Hamady to call.

"It didn't say Chad, it didn't say homeowner, it said Kurt," Tow said. "I think nothing of it."

The detective left a message a few weeks later on Tow's phone for Hamady to call.

Tow said he didn't know how to reach Hamady to let him know Chandler police wanted to speak with him.

Hamady finally called him in early January, the first time they had spoken in months, but Hamady didn't mention anything about using his address.

That's when Tow let him know the detective was looking for him.

Hamady told Tow that police just wanted him to check in.

Then his neighbor came over with the news of the flier notifying neighbors that a sex offender lived at his house.

When Tow learned about the problem, he immediately went to Chandler police.

The initial reaction by the detective was surprise and shock that Hamady lied to him, Tow said.

"What was he put away for 2 1/2 years ago, not registering as a sex offender, how could this come as a surprise," Tow said.

Tow said he initially got promises that the problem would be corrected immediately and he would receive a letter of apology.

The detective even went to his neighborhood and started speaking with neighbors.

As Tow moved his complaint up the chain of command, a lieutenant told him there would be no letter of apology because he was partially at fault for not calling the detective when he left his business card and message for Hamady, Tow said.

Lyle Riggs, Hamady's attorney, said Tow had no obligation to respond to messages left for Hamady, and police were obligated to verify Hamady's address.

Sgt. Rick Griner, Chandler police spokesman, declined to comment because the first steps toward litigation have been taken.

According to Chandler police policy, the department's Sex Offender Registration and Tracking coordinator has the option of verifying a sex offender's address within 45 days of notifying the community.

The coordinator is required to check the residence once a year for low- and medium-risk offenders and every six months for high-risk offenders.

The department checks on high-risk offenders in person and the low- and medium-risk offenders by sending them a certified letter with a questionnaire that must be returned within two weeks.

Hamady is considered a medium risk, according to the state registry.

Police did send out a second notification correcting the first one, but Tow said it took 17 days for that to happen.

"Had my neighbor not told me about it, Kurt Hamady would still be using my address," Tow said.

Chandler police arrested Hamady on Jan. 29 in west Phoenix, and he admitted that he never lived at Tow's house, according to court documents.

He's been indicted on a charge of failing to register as a sex offender.

However, on that same document, which police fill out, Tow's address is listed as Hamady's. Court paperwork filed as recently as May 29 still lists Tow's address for Hamady.


OR - County sued for strip-searching minors

View the article here
Another Article About The Original Charges Here

I hope they win every penny, which they deserve....

06/18/2008

MCMINNVILLE (UPI) -- Two Oregon boys are suing Yamhill County for subjecting them to unnecessary strip-searches while they were in jail on sex abuse charges.

McMinnville, Ore., residents, Cory Mashburn and Ryan Cornelison, both 14, and four other plaintiffs are part of a federal class-action lawsuit filed last week which claims county officials frequently performed unnecessary strip and body-cavity searches on minors, the (Portland) Oregonian reported Wednesday.

Mashburn and Cornelison last year faced felony sex abuse charges for slapping girls' bottoms at school. The charges were eventually dropped, the report said.

"They have been and continue to violate minors' Fourth Amendment rights protecting them against unreasonable searches and seizures," said Leonard Berman, a Portland, Ore., attorney who took the case.

The suit asks for officials to stop such searches, an undetermined amount of compensation for damages and $2 million in punitive damages, the newspaper said.


TX - Three cops indicted in 2 separate incidents

View the article here

06/17/2008

Three San Antonio police officers were indicted Tuesday afternoon in separate incidents last year, including the alleged sexual assault of a woman in a city park while one officer was in uniform and on duty.

The officers — two of whom have been terminated — each are accused of abusing their powers, and are among a group of city law enforcers involved in controversial incidents last year, including the assault of an 18-year-old woman at a community pool and the alleged strip search of about a dozen women and men at a bar.

The incidents led to disciplinary measures against those involved.

The Bexar County district attorney’s office announced Tuesday that Raymond Ramos, 28, was indicted on charges of sexual assault and violation of the civil rights of a 28-year-old woman he’s accused of raping in a park last November while on night patrol.

A two-year member of the force, Ramos was terminated May 1, and faces up to 22 years in prison if convicted of the charges.

Also, Victor Gonzalez, 36, and Michael Munoz, 33, were indicted in connection with a June 26, 2007, incident involving an 18-year-old whom Gonzalez is accused of soliciting while on patrol on the South Side.

Gonzalez faces charges of abuse of official capacity and official oppression, while Munoz was indicted on an official oppression charge. The charges are misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in jail.

Munoz was suspended without pay pending the outcome of the criminal case, while Gonzalez was terminated May 9.

“Any time there’s an alleged incident like this, we don’t take it lightly,” said Mike Helle, president of the San Antonio Police Officers Association, “and whether some people believe it, we do police ourselves.”

“Chief (William) McManus and the community hold our officers to the highest standard. When those standards are violated, our department takes the appropriate action,” police spokesman Gabe Trevino added.

Ramos was arrested about six weeks after the alleged attack Nov. 11 at Golden Park in the 7800 block of Somerset.

While that incident was under investigation, an officer stopped an 18-year-old woman.

That woman, who police said didn’t want to be arrested on an outstanding warrant, told the officer that the last time police had stopped her, she was released after she performed sexual acts on one officer and his friend. She asked whether a similar arrangement could be made.

Trevino said at the time that the officer declined the woman’s offer, and took her to jail.

That officer then filed a report with the department’s sex crimes investigators. They traced the woman’s claims back to Gonzalez and Munoz.

The investigation showed that Gonzalez had run the woman’s record on June 26.

Of the indictments, Helle said: “It’s disappointing. It’s not indicative of the entire Police Department.”

According to an affidavit for his arrest, Gonzalez stopped the 18-year-old while she was walking on School Street and asked her if she was a prostitute. When she said no, he asked her if she needed money, and she said she did, adding that she was wanted on an arrest warrant.

Gonzalez, who was a six-year member of the force, drove the woman to a park near Riverside Golf Course, where Munoz joined him, the affidavit said.

Munoz, a five-year member of the force, was instructed by Gonzalez to block the park’s entrance and wait for a friend, who the affidavits said paid the woman to perform oral sex on him.

Gonzalez also was charged with misdemeanor promotion of prostitution, punishable by up to a year behind bars.

None of the defendants could be reached for comment Tuesday.

Therese Huntzinger, who’s representing Munoz and Ramos, said she expects both cases to go to trial.

Earlier this year, concerned with keeping the “public trust,” Chief McManus transferred four supervisors from a night shift on the South Side in response to the arrests of the officers, each of whom also was assigned to that shift.

McManus said the transfers of their supervisors — one lieutenant and three sergeants — sprang from concerns about their leadership abilities.


UK - New model for dealing with sex offenders launches in UK

View the article here

06/16/2008

A new charity is being launched in London tomorrow to pioneer an award-winning community response to sex offending, in the UK.

Circles UK aims to support the development and effectiveness of Circles of Support and Accountability, (Circles), which have halved rates of reoffending where they have been used abroad.

A 'Circle' consists of about 6 people from the local community, with the sex offender at the core.

This idea is not used as an alternative but in addition to whatever sentence is passed and the offender is still registered on the sex offenders register.

The Canadian model has proved to work with re-conviction rates halving, and those who re-offend committing less serious offences.

Amongst sex offenders there is often a high degree of emotional loneliness and isolation experienced just after they are released. These feelings are likely to make them re-offend. The Circle is designed to address this. It also gives the community a voice, providing accountability for the offender, and reassurance for the community.

The Home Office funded pilots in the UK, the two main ones being run by Quaker Peace and Social Witness and the Lucy Faithfull Foundation.

The launch conference for Circles UK, at Central Hall Westminster in London tomorrow, will bring together more than a hundred people with expertise in dealing with sex offenders, including some from prison, probation and police services; academics and agencies working to promote child safety or working with adults at risk of sexual offending.

Keynote speakers include Maria Eagle MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice; Professor David Wilson, criminologist, writer and broadcaster; Tim Newell, former prison governor and worker for restorative justice; Dr Robin Wilson, forensic psychologist, Clinical Director, Florida Civil Commitment Centre; and Tim Richley, Criminal Justice Adviser, SACRO, Scotland.

Helen Drewery of Quaker Peace and Social Witness, said: “It was a little daunting for the Quakers in 1999 to pioneer this work in the UK. It was a big task for a small faith group. This work shows that the community can respond positively to the challenge of released sex offenders living in our communities.”

There are Quakers among the volunteers and Trustees, but Circles UK is now an independent charity.


WA - Deputies say woman attacked Level 3 sex offender in her neighborhood

View the article here

Yet more proof that the public cannot handle the online registry in a civilized manned without resulting in vigilantism. And more reason why it should be taken offline, like it was originally.

NOTE: See the 2nd item below, where comments from the police were removed from the 1st one above. So you see, they enjoy harassing offenders.

You will notice, the first reporter, is apparently condoning what occurred, or something... They did not mention the BASEBALL bat, nor the cops statements that the second reporter did... So who is condoning what here???

06/18/2008

Pierce County sheriff’s deputies have arrested a woman on suspicion of beating up a Level 3 sex offender who had moved into her neighborhood.

The woman was arrested on suspicion of second-degree assault and second-degree felony harassment. The offender, William A. Baldwin, was injured in the attack Monday night, Pierce County sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said. He was initially treated at a hospital and then released. He was booked into Pierce County Jail this morning on suspicion of failure to register as a sex offender.

Sheriff’s deputies distributed fliers in the neighborhood Monday afternoon. A few hours later, the woman allegedly attacked Baldwin.

Troyer said deputies do not condone acts of vigilante justice.

“That’s not the point of putting fliers out,” he said.

He encouraged neighbors to be aware if a sex offender moves into their neighborhood and to contact law enforcement if the offender commits a new crime or violates his parole.

In this case, “there was no new crime. She was just upset,” Troyer said.

Baldwin was convicted in 1999 in Pierce County of first-degree child molestation after he sexually assaulted two 5-year-old girls who were his neighbors. He had participated in the sex offender treatment program while in jail.



View the article here

06/18/2008

Woman beats Level 3 sex offender with bat, deputies say

Pierce County sheriff’s deputies have arrested a woman on suspicion of beating up a Level 3 sex offender who had moved into her neighborhood.

The woman was arrested on suspicion of second-degree assault and second-degree felony harassment. The offender, William A. Baldwin, was injured in the attack Monday night, Pierce County sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said. He was initially taken to a hospital. He was booked into Pierce County Jail this morning on suspicion of failure to register as a sex offender.
- Here, they sent out fliers, which apparently he was living where he was suppose to, so this lady beat the hell out of him, and he's in jail for SUSPICION of failure to register. Sounds like they just wanted to arrest him, which goes along with the cops statements below... SO I GUESS, FROM THIS COPS STATEMENTS, IT'S OK TO BEAT THE HELL OUT OF SOMEONE......

Sheriff’s deputies distributed fliers in the neighborhood Monday afternoon. A few hours later, the woman allegedly attacked Baldwin.

Troyer said deputies do not condone acts of vigilante justice.
- No? Well see the comments below, sounds to me like you condone this...

“That’s not the point of putting fliers out,” he said.

He encouraged neighbors to be aware if a sex offender moves into their neighborhood and to contact law enforcement if the offender commits a new crime or violates his parole.

"We thoroughly enjoy putting those people back in jail," Troyer said. "Let us do it."

In this case, “there was no new crime. She was just upset,” Troyer said.
- She beat the hell out of this man with a baseball bat!!!

Baldwin was convicted in 1999 in Pierce County of first-degree child molestation after he sexually assaulted two 5-year-old girls who were his neighbors. He had participated in the sex offender treatment program while in jail.


FL - Boston 'Eligible Bachelor' Who Escaped Rape Charges Arrested for Alleged Indecent Exposure, Assault

View the article here | Related Article Here

06/18/2008

BOSTON — A lawyer who beat rape charges after being named one of People magazine's "Most Eligible Bachelors" was arrested Wednesday for allegedly hitting a police officer who confronted him for urinating in public.

Gary Zerola, 36, was arrested in downtown Boston as fans celebrated the Celtics' win over the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.

Boston Police Sgt. David O'Connor said he watched Zerola, of Boston, unbutton his pants then turn toward the corner of a building near Faneuil Hall about 1:45 a.m.

O'Connor asked Zerola what he was doing and ordered him to stop, then tried to grab his hand as Zerola walked away, according a police report. Zerola allegedly struck O'Connor on the shoulder and fled before being tackled by O'Connor and other officers a few blocks away.

Zerola was released on personal recognizance later Wednesday on charges including assault and battery on a police officer, disturbing the peace and resisting arrest. He was scheduled to return to court on Aug. 7 for a pretrial hearing.

Zerola, who said he had attended the Celtics' Game 6 win at the TD Banknorth Garden, denied the charges. He had two bandages on his knees and one on his right hand — injuries he said he received when he was arrested.

"I was trying to go home, that's all," he said. "It was one of the best nights of my life that ended with a thud."

Zerola was one of 22 people arrested during postgame celebrations by Celtics fans. His arrest comes days after prosecutors in Florida dropped charges that he raped an 18-year-old woman at a Miami Beach hotel. Prosecutors said they had no DNA evidence against Zerola, and the victim had credibility problems because she lied about drug use and drinking and gave various versions of events to investigators.

Zerola also was acquitted earlier this year of rape and attempted rape in cases involving two other women in the Boston area.

"People that know me know I'm a man of character and integrity. I'm not perfect by any means," Zerola said. "I want to get back to my life. I want to get back to practicing the law."
- Then stop breaking the law... Urinating in public is wrong!

In 2001, at age 29, Zerola was named one of People's 50 most eligible bachelors.


MI - Ex-con claims Mega Millions jackpot

View the article here

Why does it even matter if the man is a sex offender? Oh, they need news to report, so they exploit this man to get more viewers... I wish him luck, and wish he'd use some of that money to help out all the other RSO's in this country faced with these draconian laws...

06/18/2008

Fred Topous shows up on three State of Michigan Web sites.

Today, the Kent City man headlines the state lottery Web page, winner of Friday's $57 million Mega Millions prize.

"I want to enjoy a little bit of life," Michigan's newest millionaire told state lottery officials Tuesday. "We're plain folks. We've struggled all our lives."

He also is listed on two other state Web sites -- the State Public Sex Offender Registry and the state Department of Corrections offender profile.

Those pages name Frederick A. Topous Jr. for three felony convictions in Grand Traverse County. He was released from corrections oversight in 2006 for the most recent, a 1999 attempted sexual assault conviction.

"He's had some tough breaks," friend and co-worker Jan Westcott said Tuesday night. "I know some of his secrets, and he knows some of mine. I'm not going any further."

Topous, 45, did not return voice messages left by The Press on his cell phone after the award was announced Tuesday night.

He claimed the Mega Millions prize in Lansing Tuesday, the seventh-largest jackpot in Michigan lottery history. He chose to collect the alternative $34 million lump-sum payment, and told lottery officials he didn't know until driving home from work Monday that he won.

At Party World in Alpine Township, where the winning ticket was sold, the announcement ended the mystery as to which customer had won.

"He seemed like a nice guy anyway," said clerk Andy Bekins, whose family owns the Comstock Park store.

Added clerk Rob Antor, "He was never in a bad mood. He just picked up his beer and shot the breeze."

State records show Topous was discharged from state oversight in October 2006. He lived in Kentwood until late November and had been renting the top floor of an old farmhouse that co-worker Rick Westcott's family owned on Peach Ridge Avenue near Kent City.

Westcott, 48, said Topous picked up his wife and two of his children early Tuesday, then planned to collect his father, who has cancer and lives elsewhere in Michigan, and take a long vacation, he said.

"They were heading to Lansing this morning, and then he said they were going to be gone for a while, " said Westcott, who worked with Topous at Structural Standards in Sparta. "Can you blame him?"

Westcott and his brother, Jan, 49, both worked for the past year with Topous and often played poker late into the night at the farmhouse.

The three were playing Friday night during the Mega Millions drawing. They did not watch the drawing -- Topous did not yet realize he'd won -- and the Westcott brothers cleaned him out at the poker table.

Topous thought he'd had an unlucky night.

"He was a millionaire already," said Rick Westcott about the winning ticket, one of five he said Topous bought "on a whim" when he stopped by Party World to buy the latest beer special.

Topous pleaded guilty to breaking-and-entering in Grand Traverse County in 1984 and again in 1988, according to corrections records, and was discharged from state supervision in 1996.

In 1999, Topous pleaded guilty in Grand Traverse County to attempted criminal sexual conduct with intent to commit penetration, the records say. He was sentenced to 5 1/2 to 10 years in prison and was released from state oversight in October 2006.

Topous must register as a sex offender until 2024, according to registry records.

Details of the three crimes were not immediately available. The Press also could not reach Lottery Commissioner M. Scott Bowen or spokeswoman Andi Brancato for comment late Tuesday.

"We're always happy to make someone a millionaire, and we wish Mr. Topous and his family all the best," Bowen said in a statement announcing the win..

Topous told lottery officials he plans to buy a house for his family and put his three children through college.

"We thought we were going to end up working until we died, but not any more," Topous told lottery officials.

"Now I don't have to wait until Friday to get groceries or put gas in the truck."


CT - Not On My Beach - Why banning sex offenders from West Haven's public places won't keep kids safe.

View the article here

06/19/2008

When Charles got out of prison last month after serving two years for possession of child pornography, he went to pick up some things from the house of his ex-wife, who had divorced him while he was incarcerated. A neighbor mowing the lawn saw Charles—who says he was well within the terms of his probation—and immediately called the police. (Charles asked that his last name not be used for this story.)

No one wants a sex offender living, or even walking, down their street. Problem is, they have to live somewhere. Charles is one of 57 registered sex offenders living in West Haven, all of whom the City Council is trying to ban from its beaches, parks, sports facilities and swimming pools in order, they say, to protect the children.

A proposed ordinance would allow police officers to issue a warning and then a $100 fine to any sex offenders caught in these "child safety zones." Although well-intentioned (hell, it's not even an election year in West Haven), the idea comes riddled with questions about constitutionality, enforceability and its real effect on the safety of children.

The City Council wants the final ordinance to be immune to legal challenges. Corporation Counsel Peter Barrett, who is reviewing the law, admits it will be difficult, if not impossible, to make it legally sound. "It's very broad," he says.

Critics say it's too broad, not distinguishing between those who offended against children and those against adults, or those who assaulted strangers and those who assaulted people they knew. In West Haven, 21 out of the 57 offenders were convicted for a crime against children, or 37 percent. Two of the 57 were convicted in other states, and details of their crimes are not on the registry.

"We need to protect children from the true child predators," says council member Gail Carroll. She'll be happy to support the law—written by her colleague Stephen DeCrescenzo and Police Chief Ronald Quagliani—once it's narrowed down, she says.

In Connecticut, you can get on the state sex offender registry for rape and other forms of sexual assault, as well as for statutory rape (the age of consent here is 16), child porn, kidnapping, enticing a minor over the computer and voyeurism.

Barrett says the breadth of the proposed ordinance is one of the issues he's examining. But if he addresses all the legal issues involved, he says, "I'm not convinced it's going to resemble the (proposed) ordinance enough for the council."

Andrew Schneider, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, says the "whole purpose behind" the law is the problem.

"No matter how fine they tune this law, it's still a misguided piece of legislation," he says. "Our justice system is based on the principle that (once) you've paid your debt to society, you should be able to live as a free man." He adds that the ACLU CT opposes such laws and will be keeping an eye on West Haven's.
- Not anymore, apparently...

Similar bans passed recently in Danbury and Bristol have not been challenged in court, but they have also not yielded much in the way of offenders.

So far, there have been no incidents under the law in Bristol, says Police Lt. Edward Spyros. Bristol has 85 registered sex offenders.

In Danbury, where 43 registered offenders live, a Common Council committee recently voted to increase the fine from $100 to $250, despite the fact that no tickets have been issued. But, says Detective Lt. Tom Michael, one written warning has been given. In that case, the sex offender was an employee of a camping-equipment store that gave a demonstration in one of the city's parks. A local newspaper wrote a story about the event, quoting the sex offender; an officer from the youth bureau recognized his name, went to his home and issued him the warning.

Both of these towns rely on chance to enforce these laws, hoping a police officer on patrol or a citizen would recognize a sex offender in one of these "no-fly" zones. West Haven would do the same, but might have more luck: One detective in the special victims unit, Brian Reilly, is familiar with every offender in town. He checks up on them, going to their listed addresses to make sure they live there. If he suspects they don't, he'll even ask to see their dirty laundry for proof. Under state law, local cops aren't required to do that unless an offender doesn't respond to a letter sent from the registry office.

But even if these ordinances were proven legal and the police could enforce them effectively, would they actually do anything to protect the children?

David D'Amora, the head of the Center for the Treatment of Problem Sexual Behavior, thinks such laws could have the opposite effect. By taking away offenders' wholesome activities (say, swimming at the beach or playing softball in the park), cities might be sending them toward relapse.
- They don't care about protecting children, they care about money, and exploiting sex offenders is their way at getting money, period.

"When we keep removing normal opportunities from people, the risk increases," D'Amora says. "We know that employment, housing and engaging in appropriate social activities—not the wrong thing—are three of the most powerful items that impact people making it."

There's been a national trend of putting more and more restrictions on where sex offenders can be, he says, but these laws are rarely based on concrete data. For one, very few sex offenders attack strangers in public places, and those that do, D'Amora says, are often first-timers. He's all for putting restrictions on the most dangerous offenders, but not the entire spectrum of pervs.

"We're making a lot of policy nationally without looking at data to support it. If we're really concerned about community safety, we shouldn't be making slapdash decisions," he says, adding that the best thing a community can do is provide close and constant supervision. He cites an Iowa law that heavily restricted where sex offenders could live; after it passed, the portion of unregistered offenders shot up from 14 to 50 percent.

Nancy Kushins is the executive director of Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services, which operates rape crisis centers throughout the state. She agrees with D'Amora and worries that such laws "could be perpetuating the stranger-danger myth. It's well known that children are more often than not sexually assaulted by someone they know," with more than 90 percent of child victims in Connecticut knowing their attacker.

Since the reporting rate for sexual crimes is, nationally, between 16 and 40 percent, most sex offenders aren't on the registry at all, says Kushins.

For now, the West Haven law is being revised and may even be held, as the council ponders waiting for the state legislature to tighten up sex offender laws. The General Assembly must comply with a new federal law, much stricter on offenders, by 2009.

Charles, the sex offender from West Haven, would like to see the West Haven ordinance trashed. "Occasionally, I might have gone for a walk before (prison), on the (beachside) bike path," he said. "I'd still like to go for a walk."

editor@newhavenadvocate.com


IL - Ill. jury convicts former police sgt. of 4 rapes

View the article here

06/18/2008

CHAMPAIGN — A former Bloomington police sergeant was convicted Wednesday of raping four women and stalking a fifth, ending a trial in which prosecutors said he was driven by pornography-fueled fantasies.

Jeff Pelo, 43, was found guilty on 35 counts, including 25 of aggravated sexual assault. Two other charges were dropped during the trial.

The rapes took place from 2002 to 2005. Pelo has been jailed since his June 2006 arrest, unable to post $100,000 to cover $1 million bail.

Prosecutor Mark Messman noted that the jurors reached their decision despite a lack of DNA or similar forensic evidence linking Pelo directly to the rapes.

"There was no smoking gun; (but) there were several very strong pieces of evidence," he said.

Three of the women picked Pelo out of a photo lineup.

Defense attorney Michael Rosenblat said he likely would appeal. He plans to argue that the judge shouldn't have let jurors see pornography found on Pelo's home computer, and should have let the defense call an expert witness to testify about the reliability of eyewitness identifications.

"I believed before opening statements and I believe today that Jeff is not guilty," Rosenblat said.

Messman portrayed Pelo as a man driven on the one hand by violent fantasies, and on the other by a desire to be his victims' boyfriend. At least one of the women described her attacker as gentle and polite.

Investigators found numerous images of violent pornography, some depicting forced sex at gunpoint, on Pelo's home computer.

Rosenblat said whatever taste Pelo might have for pornography was irrelevant.

The defense attorney seized on discrepancies offered by the victims, particularly one woman's description of an attacker as young as his early 20s.

"The descriptions of these attacks vary widely," the attorney told jurors. "They differ because different people committed these attacks."


NY - Ex-cop assigned highest sex offender status

View the article here

06/18/2008

TROY -- A former police and corrections officer was assigned the highest sex offender status this morning in county court for his conviction 10 years ago for raping an 11-year-old girl.
- Why did it take 10 years?

Paul J. D'Adamo, formerly of Columbia Turnpike, admitted in August 1998 to attempted rape and rape in the case. The abuse continued for about a year, according to court documents.

During his plea allocution, D'Adamo also admitted molesting a second girl, the sister of the first victim, as young as 10, but was never charged in that case, Judge Patrick McGrath said during the hearing this morning.

D'Adamo was sentenced to 7 1/2 to 15 years in prison on the attempted-rape charge and 2 1/3 to 7 years on the rape count involving the 11-year-old.

Three years later, D'Adamo unsuccessfully attempted to withdraw his plea, claiming he was depressed and on drugs when he agreed to it.

McGrath held a required risk assessment hearing this morning in anticipation of D'Adamo's release from prison in August. The state Board of Sex Examiners suggested that he be assigned a level two status but McGrath noted that certain circumstances would require a level three status, the highest, which denotes a likelihood of repeat behavior.

"He has shown a high proclivity for sex with young, pre-pubescent females,'' McGrath said.

McGrath also noted that D'Adamo has a long history of work in the criminal justice field that could give him inside knowledge of how to abuse the system to get close to young girls again.

D'Adamo opted not to appear in court for the hearing, and his court-appointed attorney represented him.

D'Adamo served in the military police with the Coast Guard and the U.S. Air Force, was a sheriff's deputy in Texas, a police officer in Maryland and worked for Burns Security. He was a Rensselaer County corrections officer for a time in 1994 and was a New York state corrections officer at the time of his arrest.

After his release from prison, he must report as a level three sex offender, which will restrict where he is allowed to live.


FL - 115,000 Ex-Felons Regain Rights

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This is total BS! All felons get their rights back, except sex offenders. Sounds like discrimination to me.

06/18/2008

Gov. Crist says almost half of the state's former convicts have taken advantage of new rules in the past 14 months.

TALLAHASSEE - More than 115,000 former felons who completed their sentences have had their civil rights restored since a new state rule went into effect 14 months ago, Gov. Charlie Crist (Email) said Tuesday.

The rule by the Board of Executive Clemency, which Crist chairs, restored rights almost automatically, ending a policy of requiring the panel to act individually on every restoration of rights requests. The rights include voting and the ability to get state and local licenses for certain types of jobs.

"Once somebody has truly paid their debt to society, we should recognize it," Crist said. "We should welcome them back into society and give them that second chance. Who doesn't deserve a second chance?"
- All talk, but what about sex offenders? You asked, "Who doesn't deserve a second chance?" and yet you do not give sex offenders their rights back, so I guess you answered your own question.

The 115,000 former felons Crist cited accounts for more than half of all former felons in the state who have had their rights restored during the past 14 months, according to the governor.

The governor made the announcement at a two-day summit of state officials, lawmakers, community activists, prison ministers and others to brainstorm ideas for keeping former inmates from returning to crime after they are freed.

At Crist's urging, the clemency board approved the rule change in April 2007. Before then, Florida was among a handful of states that refused to automatically restore felons' rights after they completed their sentences.

Only about 7,000 released felons had their rights restored annually under the old rule that required individual hearings and board action. Besides Crist, the board is made up of the state's three elected Cabinet members.

Corrections Secretary Walt McNeil said he hoped the summit would help find alternatives to building more prisons to house repeat offenders. About a third of more than 11,000 inmates released annually are back in prison after three years.

"We simply can't continue to keep doing the same old thing the same old way, expecting we're going to have some different outcomes," McNeil said.

He said it will take courage for lawmakers to shift funding from prison-building to providing inmates with more drug and alcohol abuse treatment, education and skills training need to find jobs after they are released so they won't return to crime.
- This all sounds great, but what about sex offenders? They deserve the same equal treatment!! They are human beings!!!

"There are some who say that you're either going to work for it, beg for it or steal it," McNeil said.


OH - State v. Ferguson : Another Illegal Ohio Sex Offender

View the PDF Documents here | Related Hyle v. Porter Case






FL - Will Crist Protect FL Children?

View the article here

06/17/2008

The Florida ACLU has acted. FINALLY.

I hold in my hand a three page letter that may mark the beginning of ending the madness.

The ACLU of Greater Miami and the ACLU of Florida has united to formally request Florida Governor Charlie Crist:

"...convene a task force of experts and lawmakers to respond to the public safety and housing crisis that the patchwork of residency restrictions for persons convicted of sexual offenses has created across the state of Florida."

Citing the:

"makeshift village of individuals who are now living under the bridge of the Julia Tuttle Causeway, and the inability of governmental agencies such as the Department of Corrections to continue to track some persons who are still under supervision...as well as those who have completed their supervision...such situations have the potential to compromise public safety and will not resolve themselves without your intervention."

As has been so documented in this blog countless times, residence restrictions are ineffective at protecting the community. Yet, "these laws have proliferated across the state in recent years. (...) Research from the Minnesota Department of Corrections found that not one of 224 recidivistic sex offenses would have been prevented by residence restrictions." (Residential proximity and sex offense recidivism in Minnesota. 2007.)

"According to the U.S. Department of Justice, approximately 93% of sexually abused children are molested by family members, close friends or acquaintances." (Bureau of Justice Statistics. 2000.)

The requested task force would include representatives from law enforcement, probation, experts in treatment and management of persons convicted of sex offenses, victim advocates, and civil-rights advocates.

The ACLU urges Charlie Crist via written communication to take action where the Legislature has failed, underscoring this situation is "not a crisis that can wait for the 2009 legislative session."

Also signing off on the June 2, 2008 letter to the Governor: Public Defenders of the 11th Judicial Circuit of Florida; Miami Coalition for the Homeless; Florida Council Against Sexual Violence; Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers-Miami Chapter; Florida Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers; Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Council of Greater Miami; Jill Levenson, Ph.D, LCSW, Lynn University.

Copies have been forwarded to the following: Walter Mitchell, Florida Department of Corrections; Carlos Alvarez, Mayor, Miami-Dade County; Manuel Diaz, Mayor, City of Miami; Matti Bower, Mayor, City of Miami Beach.

And never forget.
Many persons subject to these same laws have never physically laid a hand on anyone. But the Florida Legislature--in company with state legislatures many across this country with the blessings of the federal government--have led you ALL to believe that everyone deemed a sex offender is a child molester.

A copy of this letter can be made available to the press.

Feel free to contact Sunny/Smashed Frog via my email. Please write "ACLU" in the subject line.

It's time to put "human" back in "human rights".


WY - Sex offender’s case shows gap in system

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06/18/2008

Wyoming’s lack of programs means man will spend 35 to 50 years in penitentiary after sting.

An arguably mentally handicapped man sentenced to prison for most of the rest of his life because there is no other place for him highlights a gap in Wyoming’s criminal justice system.

Lloyd Christopher Belles, 39, was sentenced Friday to 35 to 50 years in the Wyoming State Penitentiary for one felony count of attempted sexual abuse of a minor.

That’s the longest sentence issued by 9th District Judge Nancy Guthrie in at least the last few years, according to attorneys.

Jackson police arrested Belles in a sting operation on Halloween after he appeared at a motel room with a towel and candy. He was instructed to bring those items to the specified room after an undercover officer, through an acquaintance of Belles’, arranged for Belles to have sex with a fictional minor, according to court records.
- So why did you tell him to bring a towel and candy? So it would make for a better news story and portray your vision of a sex offender?

Suspect sought help

But before that sting, Belles went to Smokey Rhea and Tommy Wood at the Community Resource Center, which serves as a hub for social services.

From the very beginning, he was saying, ‘help me, help me,’” Rhea said. “He would tell me, ‘Smokey, I don’t want you to be disappointed in me, but I’m really afraid I’m going to hurt someone.’”
- Here it was, a chance to save this man and get him the help he is BEGGING for, yet they did not get him this help.... So, who failed who here?

That was in August after Belles was released from the state prison, where he’d spent the last 16 years for two previous convictions for fondling a 6-year-old girl and a having a sexual encounter with a 12-year-old boy.

By September, Wood said he and Rhea and Belles were on a mad hunt for resources.
- OK, so they tried to help, and places are not available to help these offenders, so who's fault is that? So when you lock them up, they apparently do not get treatment, so you are helping who here?

Everywhere they looked, they found locked doors.

There are no resources in Wyoming for sex offenders.

Wood said he found several private rehabilitation programs that would accept Belles if he could pay $40,000 up front or if he had insurance.

They even called the Teton County Attorney’s Office and made an effort to have Belles institutionalized.

He turned himself in to St. John’s Medical Center and said he was a danger to himself and others because of his urges to have sex with young girls and dogs. He was held at St. John’s for 16 days before a bed opened at the state mental hospital in Evanston, Rhea said. They held him there for the required two weeks and then brought him back to Jackson, Rhea said.

He had nowhere to go. The state hospital said it would take him to Orvill’s Mission. But the mission was closed, Wood said.
- You see, if you are poor, you are screwed, but if you have tons of money, then they'll help you, so you are damned from the start!!

State hospital representatives did not return phone calls for comment.

No resources

The state hospital does not treat sex offenders, said Belles’ court-appointed attorney Neal Stelting,

Neither does anyone else. The only in-patient program for sex offenders in Wyoming is at the state prison, said Roger McDaniel, deputy director of the Wyoming Department of Health’s Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Division.

There’s something wrong with the system when we have someone who says, ‘I need help and I don’t want to hurt someone’ and they can’t get help,” Wood said.
- AMEN!!! It's about money and greed. Show us the money and we'll help you!

Rhea, who met Belles 16 years ago when she worked for Community Entry Services, which helps mentally disabled people, said he was abused in the institutions he’s lived in since he was 10 years old. His IQ is just above the level at which he would be considered mentally retarded. If he were officially mentally retarded, he would qualify for more social services and there would be more ways to help him, Rhea said.

She said Belles was caught in a sting operation. But what happens the next time someone who was failed by the system is released back into a community? Maybe they won’t be caught before they hurt someone, Rhea cautioned.

As a mother, she said, if her daughter was molested and she found out the man who did it was trying to get help, she would come undone.

While the sting operation saved children from Belles, she said, it doesn’t get to the root of a community problem.

Searching for answers

She said the state and community need programs to help sex offenders.

We failed Chris,” Rhea said. “Please, let’s not fail anyone else.”
- I agree, and if you fail someone else, another person may be harmed, and nobody wants that!

Mental health and substance-abuse counselors from around the state met for a conference in Evanston this week. Keith Gingery, a state representative and deputy prosecuting attorney for Teton County, said sex-offender treatment was a hot topic.

“We do have programs,” Gingery said. “Can we do better? Of course.”

There are only outpatient programs in scattered communities. The nearest one to Jackson Hole is in Rock Springs, too far for a Teton County resident to travel regularly, especially if he’s borderline mentally retarded, said Deb Sprague, executive director of Jackson Hole Community Counseling.

Sprague said her center doesn’t offer services for sex offenders because sex-offender treatment requires specialized training, certification and equipment and there’s not enough demand in Jackson Hole to merit offering it.
- If the state was wanting to help stop sexual abuse, then they'd pay for a facility to treat sex offenders, but from the sound of this, they do not want to help.

“This is not just a problem in Wyoming,” said state official McDaniel.

Most states struggle with how to treat, house and contain serious sex offenders. He said some states are filling their prisons with them because judges don’t want to release them into the community. Some places are having to build geriatric units for the sex offenders growing old in the system, McDaniel said. Some states are building facilities where sex offenders can spend their lives. Some states are trying vigorous monitoring programs on probation. It’s an issue Wyoming officials talked about extensively at a conference in Evanston this week.

The biggest problem is that there’s no consensus in the counseling community that this disorder can be effectively treated,” McDaniel said.
- Oh that is a load of crap!!!! You are apparently talking to the wrong people. Therapy works, if the offender is wanting help. And if you are saying it's a disorder, then are they getting disability checks for their disability? It might help pay for treatment, if it were available. You people just don't want to help, that is how I see it.

Rhea agreed that treatment wasn’t a likely solution for Belles.

“I’m the last person to defend a sex offender,” she said.
- Come on, not all sex offenders are like this man or John Couey, yet you seem to think so, from that statement. Not all drug addicts are the same, neither are sex offenders. Stop treating them like lepers. Nobody will defend sex offenders, that is why prisons are overflowing, because we have corrupt lawyers, DA's and everyone else out there who don't want to help solve the problem, just push it a way and maybe people will forget about it, that is how I see it. Nobody wants to step up to the plate and help.

But she has wanted to see state resources for sex offenders for the last 15 years, she said. She hoped the Belles case might be good ammunition for a lawsuit against the state that would generate resources where there are currently none. But Belles has no money and no powerful friends and family to press a lawsuit, she said.
- So why not contact the ACLU? That is what they are suppose to be there for.

Though it was sunny outside Friday, Brian Hultman, deputy prosecuting attorney for Teton County, said it was “a dark day in the courtroom.”

With no alternatives, Hultman said he had no choice but to recommend a maximum sentence.

“I do that to protect the people I serve,” Hultman said.
- So much for cruel and unusual punishment, which this is, IMO.

Belles faced 10 to 50 years for the felony charge. The penalties were greater because of two previous convictions from 1992 in Teton County.

Stelting referred Friday to a fable probation agent Art Wolf wrote in Belles’ presentence report. The fable is the story of a scorpion who convinces a frog to carry it across the river on its back. The scorpion tells the frog that if he stings the frog, they’ll both surely die. Halfway across the river, the scorpion stings the frog and the frog asks why. The scorpion replies that he is a scorpion.

“That could apply to Chris Belles,” Stelting said. “But it could also be the system. Chris Belles was trying to get help and he’s the one who got stung. He was stung by the system.”

Stelting asked Guthrie to sentence Belles to a shorter prison term and order him into a new treatment program in the prison system for sex offenders. And he asked that if Belles graduated from the program, the judge allow him to be eligible for parole with strict supervision.
- That makes since. If they only have treatment in prison, sentence him to prison so he can get help, then release him if he is no longer a threat. Sentencing him to 50 years or more is just insane.

“There should be other alternatives,” Stelting said, “and it’s sad that there aren’t.”

Guthrie said she agreed with Belles’ advocates and Hultman that the situation was a sad one.

“The state has failed you,” Guthrie said to Belles. “But just because the system has failed you, I cannot fail my responsibility.”

Belles will serve 35 to 50 years and may participate in a sex-offender counseling program when authorities at the Wyoming State Penitentiary deem it’s appropriate. She gave him credit for time served, including the 30 days of voluntary confinement.
- Deemed it appropriate? I think all the above text has deemed it appropriate already, he should be getting help from day one in prison. Again, sounds like you don't want to help him, to me.


FL - Executive recommends DOJ database for sex abuse prevention

View the article here

HYPOCRITES! Ask yourself something... What would Jesus do? Not this!!

06/19/2008

Elects Orlando’s Randall James as chairman

The Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee passed a recommendation June 9 urging churches to screen prospective volunteers and employees with the U.S. Department of Justice’s national sex offender database and said it believes the “potential threat of sex abuse” on the local church level “is tragically underappreciated.”

At six pages, the Executive Committee’s report on child sexual abuse—adopted after two years of study—also said it is “strongly persuaded that no church or Baptist entity should employ a known sex offender.”
- Why do you think the registry grows daily? It's because of the unknown sex offenders who are not on the registry, and many known sex offenders do not commit other crimes, so IMO, this is a waste of time, and very hypocritical of the people who are suppose to follow in Christ's footsteps. This is just more appeasing the public, IMO.

Passed with only one dissenting vote, the recommendation said the Executive Committee “believes utilizing a reliable and authoritative database is an extremely important initial step of background review Southern Baptist churches should take to provide the highest degree of protection against sexual predators.” The database is called the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender database and includes a list of convicted sex offenders nationwide. It is linked from the SBC’s official website, www.sbc.net.

The Executive Committee declined—as a 2007 motion by Oklahoma pastor Wade Burleson suggested—to establish a database of Southern Baptist offenders. The report said that, “on the surface,” the idea of a Southern Baptist-run database “seems like a good idea.” But the report said such a proposal raised several questions and concerns:

  • That it would be “impossible to assure that all convicted sexual predators who ever had a connection with a Baptist church would be discoverable for inclusion on such a list.”
  • That “creating a database of ‘Baptist only’ convicted sexual offenders would leave out predators previously identified in other faith groups who could come in under the radar” and obtain employment at a Southern Baptist church. Sexual predators “frequently migrate” from victim to victim and job to job, the report said, and a national Southern Baptist database would not be of help for churches that hire someone from a non-SBC church.
  • That Southern Baptists’ ecclesiology—each church is autonomous—”precludes the Convention from having any authority to require local churches to report instances of alleged sexual abuse to their local association, their state Baptist convention, or the national Convention.”

The Dru Sjodin database, the report said, is maintained and provided by the United States Department of Justice and is “publicly accessible without charge” and “the best resource for such use.”

“Any convicted sex offender, regardless of religious affiliation, is already listed in the Department of Justice’s national database of convicted sex offenders,” the report said.

It is not enough, the report said, for a church to only view a candidate’s criminal history. The Dru Sjodin national database, the report said, should be employed, but a thorough background check also should be undertaken.

“In summary, prevention of sexual abuse, and proper response when victimization occurs, are best accomplished by churches diligently utilizing procedures, information, and resources already readily available,” the report said. “Churches are strongly encouraged to recognize the threat or harm as real, to avail themselves of such information, and to aggressively undertake adequate steps at the local level to prevent harm and protect victims.

“The Executive Committee strongly encourages local congregations to devise policies and execute strategies (1) to be diligent as they choose and supervise their ministers, employees, and volunteers, (2) to be vigorous in their investigations of known or suspected sex abuse within their ranks, and (3) to be honest and forthcoming in revealing the facts to their sister congregations when asked about former ministers, employees, and volunteers.”

The report further said the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is “fully capable of determining the proper construction, prioritization, and provision of ministry called for by sexual abuse victimization.”

The Executive Committee’s Bylaws Workgroup and Administrative Subcommittee discussed the recommendation and report during their morning meetings June 9. Much of the discussion centered on whether it would be reasonable for a child sex offender—after accepting Christ—to be employed again in a Southern Baptist church. The workgroup and subcommittee decided it would not. There are two issues, members of the workgroup and subcommittee said: a person’s salvation and a person’s employment. Although the person can be forgiven for past sins, he or she should not again be placed in a position of trust.

“God is a gracious, gracious God. God forgives. ... We can restore those that do this to our fellowship ,” workgroup chairman Stephen Wilson told EC members in presenting the report. “But ... the committee felt very strongly that in terms of employment practice, this is not something that we think we ought to be doing, and that is restoring people to a leadership position after they have had this type of in their lives.”

In other business, Executive Committee members adopted, on voice votes, three recommendations from their Cooperative Program Subcommittee:

1) to leave the formula through which Cooperative Program funds are distributed to Southern Baptist Convention seminaries unchanged through the 2019-20 fiscal year, after which the formula would be reviewed to determine whether adjustments would be needed “to assure the formula’s continued effective and equitable distribution” of funds for theological education.

2) to develop, in cooperation with the six Southern Baptist seminaries, a standardized questionnaire for an in-depth survey of graduating students, beginning in 2010, “to provide feedback on issues important to the Southern Baptist Convention and its seminaries.”

3) to request that LifeWay Christian Resources add questions to the annual survey of Southern Baptist churches that would help determine whether those congregations are led by seminary-trained staff and what degrees those staff members received from their institution.

The latter two proposals were brought in response to an 11-member ad hoc committee’s recommendations this past February for the Executive Committee to study the impact of the seminaries’ new lower-level academic programs on their primary graduate and post-graduate programs and find ways to track whether seminary graduates are serving in vocational missions or ministry positions after graduation.

In electing new officers for the coming year, Executive Committee elected Randall James, an assistant pastor at First Baptist Church in Orlando, as chairman; Michael Lewis, pastor of Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, vice chairman; and Martha Lawley, a women’s ministry author and speaker from Worland, Wyo., as secretary.


PA - Beaver Falls restricts where sex offenders can live

View the article here

06/17/2008

BEAVER FALLS — Beaver Falls Council adopted an ordinance Tuesday designed to keep registered sex offenders from living near schools, parks and other public areas frequented by children.

The ordinance, which council approved 4-0, states sex offenders can’t live within 500 feet of such places. Councilman Ted Krzemienski was absent.

Proponents believe the likelihood an offender will repeat the crime is lessened if the offender has less contact with children.
- Well, forcing them into exile, and a way from housing and treatment puts everyone in danger, and increases the risk of committing another crime. People who are passing these laws, and not listening to experts and facts are idiots who should be fired from office, IMO. Dictating where someone can sleep doesn't prevent other crimes, when 90% or more occur in the victims own home or close family and friends.

The law does not apply to the city’s 12 registered sex offenders unless they move from their home. Any sex offender new to the city is subject to it. Violators have 60 days from receiving written notice to move or face 90 days in jail or a $1,000 fine.

The law comes after residents complained in April that Smith’s Personal Care Home’s move to the former South Elementary School could bring more sex offenders into the city.

One of Smith’s 30 or so residents — at 300 11th St. — is a registered sex offender. He will be able to relocate with Smith’s — it plans to open in the school later this summer — because the move was announced before the ordinance was adopted, according to city solicitor George Patterson.

Brian Flaherty, a Beaver Falls resident, is appealing council’s decision to grant Smith’s a permit allowing the move.

In addition to Beaver Falls, Pulaski and Harmony townships, Ambridge and Baden have laws restricting where sex offenders can live. Patterson Heights is considering such an ordinance.

Cory Nealon can be reached online at cnealon@timesonline.com.

SEX OFFENDER ORDINANCE

The ordinance prohibits registered sex offenders from living within 500 feet of:

  • Child-care facilities — licensed day-care centers or other child-care services.
  • Open space — any area of land or water accessible for public use.
  • Community centers — buildings or related facilities used for educational, social, cultural or recreational activities.
  • Public parks or recreational facilities — playgrounds, parks, athletic fields, government-owned property.
  • Schools — any public or private building that provides education to minors.

Note: Megan’s Law requires sex offenders to notify state police when they change addresses. The state has no law restricting where they can live.


MI - Report: Michigan fails to defend poor suspects

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06/17/2008

LANSING -- Michigan is violating the U.S. Constitution by failing to provide competent legal representation to criminal defendants who cannot afford a lawyer, a new study says.

The year-long report being released Tuesday was requested by the state Legislature and evaluated public defense systems in 10 sample Michigan counties. It found that none are constitutionally adequate.

The study's authors said many of today's problems are the same as they were 75 years ago.

Defense lawyers are being appointed to cases for which they are not qualified. They are underpaid and do not have sufficient time, training, investigators, experts and resources to prepare cases.

Forty-three states spend more per capita on indigent defense than Michigan. Michigan also is among a minority of states to make county governments -- not state government -- pay for public defenders at the trial level.

Counties most in need of indigent defense services often are the ones that least can afford to pay for it, according to the report conducted by the National Legal Aid & Defender Association in conjunction with the State Bar of Michigan.

Many counties are controlling costs with low-bid, flat-fee contracts in which attorneys accept cases for a predetermined fee. That causes a conflict of interest between their duty to competently defend their clients and a financial self-interest to invest less time on cases to maximize profits, the study found.

"The majority of people requiring appointed counsel are simply the unemployed or underemployed -- the son of a co-worker, the former classmate who lost her job or the member of your congregation living paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet," the report's authors wrote in the executive summary.

Another key finding: Poor defendants accused of misdemeanors routinely are processed through the justice system without ever speaking to a lawyer.

"District courts across the state are prioritizing speed, revenue generation and non-valid waivers of counsel over the due process protections afford by the United States Constitution," according to the study.


NC - Short Film Illustrates Unfair Trial

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06/16/2008

Injustice runs rampant in North Carolina’s death penalty system.Of the 129 people exonerated from death row, eight are from North Carolina. The most recent exonerees were sent to death row because of prosecutorial misconduct, use of coerced testimony from snitches and junk science. The state has lied to a judge about how executions would be carried out and lied to a corporation that they would not use a machine for executions when, in fact, it is exactly why the state purchased the machine.

If there isn’t already enough proof that North Carolina’s capital punishment system is corrupt, here is more evidence. This short film www.mikelbarton.com/fti.htm discusses the unfair capital retrial of Jerry Conner. A crime reporter from the small community in which Conner was convicted covered the trial and received information from the Sheriff that a jury would not have known. When called to serve on Conner’s sentencing jury, the reporter lied and said she was unfamiliar with the case. Conner was sentenced to death and even though the reporter has admitted she lied, Conner still remains on death row without a new trial.