Tuesday, July 8, 2008

FL - Sex Offender Ordinance

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Sex offenders are flocking to one local county. Now, law enforcement trying to stop the trend.

The laws are less strict in St. Lucie County about where sex offenders can live. So, that's why it's more attractive for them to come here. Despite the Miami area or Palm Beach County who have adopted new laws.

St. Lucie County has more than 600 registered sex offenders. That's double what the State's website says.

The Sheriff's office says they are moving here because it's easier. Now, they want the County Commissioners to adopt a new ordinance. Setting in stone how close a sex offender on probation can live to a school, park or daycare in the Unicorporated parts of St. Lucie County.

Commissioner Joe Smith says, "We want to make sure we are balancing the needs for public safety, which is obviously is a great need, along with people's individual rights."

As it stands now, sex offenders or predators on probation after 2004 go by the states rule: 1000 feet from school or park. Residents who live near a sex offender say a change to 2500 feet would be great. Resident Augustus Johnson says, "I would like that. I got kids myself, I have a bunch of kids. That's good for me, make them safer." Emily Johnson says, "I think it should be tougher than what it is. Yes, definitely."

Detective Suzanne Woodward with the Sheriffs Office sex offender unit says last year 96 sex offenders moved to St. Lucie County. Nearly 80 of those called first to find out if there was an ordinance. Since there wasn't, they moved in.

Commissioner Joe Smith says, "We want St. Lucie County to be a safe place to live and a safe place to work and we want to make sure we provide all opportuniites to make sure that occurs."

Current sex offenders would be grandfathered in. As long as they don't move they don't have to abide by the 2500 feet rule.

A public hearing to discuss this new law is set for August 19th in front of County Commissioners.

MA - Mayor expected to rule on sex offender bylaw proposal

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WALTHAM - A law that aims to push sex offenders further from places where children normally congregate will go into effect if the mayor OKs the ordinance.

The ordinance would bar Level 3 sex offenders - considered to be the most dangerous and most likely to offend again - from living within 500 feet of any school, day care center, park, recreational facility, elderly housing or facility for the mentally retarded.

The ordinance also bans sex offenders from loitering within 300 feet of those same locations.

The ordinance was one of a handful the City Council passed on June 23, the last meeting before the council's summer break. The council will next meet on Aug. 4.

Mayor Jeannette McCarthy (Email) was expected to make a decision either late yesterday or today on whether to approve or veto the ordinances, including the sex-offender law, according to the city clerk's office.

McCarthy could not be reached for comment yesterday.

After the City Council approves an ordinance, it is sent to the mayor's office. McCarthy then has 10 days to decide whether to veto it. A vetoed ordinance is then sent back to the council, which could then decide to override the veto.

If the mayor signs the ordinance, the law goes into effect. The same happens if McCarthy leaves the ordinance unsigned.

Ward 2 Councilor Ed Tarallo said last night he had expected to hear yesterday whether the mayor had OK'd the sex offender ordinance.

Tarallo, the chairman of the council's Ordinances and Rules Committee, where the sex offender law was created, said the proposal had the council's full support.

"We didn't have any objections from the council floor," Tarallo said.

Ward 9 Councilor Robert Logan pushed for the new ordinance following an incident in New Bedford in January in which a 6-year old boy was raped in a library.

The Waltham ordinance broadly defines recreational facilities to include everything from a public library to a "laser tag" game room.

Richard Conn can be reached at 781-398-8004 or rconn@cnc.com.

NC - Senate's version of Jessica's Law denied by House

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RALEIGH - Working the Jessica Lunsford Act through the North Carolina legislative maze will take a bit longer.

The state House decided not to accept the Senate version of the bill, which would require a minimum of 25 years in prison of adults who rape a child younger than 13 years old.

One of the bill's sponsors, Rep. Julia Howard, R-Davie, said supporters are prepared to work out the kinks in the bill.

"We will work through it and hopefully get everything resolved," Howard said.

The House action means that a conference committee made up of senators and representatives will be appointed to work out a final version of the law. If the committee is able to come up with a final bill agreeable to both the Senate and the House, both chambers will then have an opportunity to approve that final version.

For the bill to become law, the committee will need to come up with the final version and have it voted on soon since most legislative leaders have indicated that the 2008 session of the General Assembly is winding down. If the bill does not pass before the session ends, it will die.

In addition to requiring the prison time, the bill would also require that people convicted of such crimes submit to lifetime GPS monitoring once released from prison. It also forbids sex-offender registrants from going on the premises of places where children normally congregate, such as schools, children's museums and playgrounds.

That provision could create problems for people on the registry who are parents and need to pick their children up at school, or for people who need to go to schools and other places that serve as voting precincts.

Howard said that problem can be fixed by having such people on the registry give notice to the school superintendent that they were on the registry and would have a need to be on the school premises for legitimate purposes.

Stricter registration rules would also be in place for when sex offenders change addresses.

The Jessica Lunsford Act is named in memory of Jessica Lunsford, a 9-year-old Gaston County native who after moving to Florida, was kidnapped, raped and murdered by a sexual predator in February 2005. John Couey, a registered sex offender, was convicted and sentenced to die for the crimes.

Police lost track of Couey. He was staying with his sister, who lived in the same neighborhood as Jessica.

UK - Woman can sue rapist who won lottery millions

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LONDON — A British woman assaulted by a serial rapist has won the right to sue the attacker who became a millionaire by winning the lottery while in prison.

A judge ruled Tuesday that the 78-year-old victim, known only as Mrs. A, can seek punitive damages from Iorworth Hoare for an attempted rape in 1989.

Hoare won 7 million pounds — about $12.8 million at the time — when he bought a winning lottery ticket in 2004 while spending a few hours outside prison under supervision. He received his money when he was released in 2005, after serving 16 years of a life sentence for attacking Mrs. A. He had six previous convictions for sexual assaults and rape.

Mrs. A sought to sue Hoare when she learned about his winnings. But she was initially told the time limit for compensation claims had run out, with such claims allowed only up to six years after a crime.

On Tuesday, Judge Peter Coulson ruled she could pursue the lawsuit, saying he accepted that Mrs. A did not sue Hoare immediately after the attack because the convict did not have funds that would make a financial claim worthwhile.

Coulson stressed that the case was exceptional and should not lead to many people trying to sue long after the statute of limitation runs out.

"It will be even rarer for such a defendant, years later, to buy a lottery ticket which wins him 7 million pounds or otherwise comes into an unexpected fortune which makes him suddenly worth pursuing after all," the judge said.

In a statement that formed part of the court ruling, Mrs. A said: "I very strongly believe he should be held accountable to me for his attack on me and the physiological damage the attack caused me over the years. The attack fundamentally changed me and I am not the person I used to be."

NC - Man stabbed Monday; housemate arrested

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RALEIGH - A man was fatally stabbed at his home Monday night, and a man who shared the residence has been charged with his murder.

Police found Anthony Patrick Graves, 43, about 9:45 p.m. when they responded to a call about a stabbing at his home at 734 South State St. Graves died later at WakeMed, police reported.

Travis Glenn McDougal, 31, of the same address was arrested at the scene without incident, said Police Spokesman Jim Sughrue.

Sughrue declined to discuss the nature of the relationship between Graves and McDougal, but he said the two men had a domestic dispute.
- The one who died was a sex offender, so I think the motive is pretty obvious.

"The dispute turned into a physical altercation, " Sughrue said. "The stabbing was the end result of the argument."

Both men have criminal histories in Wake and Johnston counties, state records show.

Graves was required by Wake County authorities to register as a sex offender in 1992 when he was convicted of felony indecent liberties with a child and felony second degree sexual offense, court records show. Graves' criminal background also includes convictions for assault on a law officer, court records show.

McDougal has past convictions in Wake and Johnston counties for simple assault, probation violations, misdemeanor larceny, assault with a deadly weapon, assault on a government official, shoplifting, misdemeanor possession of marijuana, felony malicious conduct by a prisoner, assault inflicting serious injury, felony probation violation, second degree burglary and common law robbery, court records show.
- So this man is a repeat offender, now another man is dead, again due to an assault. Hopefully he will be in prison until he dies this time.

Police transported McDougal to the Wake County jail, where he is being held without bail, a jail spokeswoman said today.

Police are continuing to investigate, Sughrue said.

thomasi.mcdonald@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4533

ME - Another registry? Not so fast

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If there's one thing Maine knows about online criminal registries, it's that they carry unforeseen consequences.

The Department of Corrections plans to publish the an online database of 10,000 people serving prison or probation terms. The logic is simple: providing public information, to the public, for the benefit of the public.

Yet this is the same logic that, tragically, helped a Canadian man murder two registered sex offenders in Maine in 2006. Stephen Marshall researched his victims via Maine's online registry.

The murders raised many questions about online registries; Maine's highest court answered some in a landmark decision last year, in which it said the registry had become possibly unconstitutional.

Subsequent legislation to change qualifications for sex offender registration was tucked into Gov. John Baldacci's (Contact) pocket, amid concerns some offenders - now identified - would be released from the rolls.

Maine remains with a sex offender registry of questionable legality and a mandate from its judicial system to change it. Rolling out a new registry of probationers and inmates into this atmosphere, without much notice - which surprised even the governor - would have been a tactical error.

The governor and lawmakers were wise to slow the Department of Correction's effort. While such an online registry sounds beneficial and valuable, Maine's experience requires time for its potential flaws to be examined and solved.

The core problem with criminal registries is stigma. Although those registered earned their inclusion, unless the registry makes clear differentiation among them and their crimes, the public's natural inclination is assuming the worst, which can breed contempt, suspicion and fear.

Just like Hester Prynne, the adulteress in Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter," her shame as a public pariah overshadowed her personal attributes. It was impossible for Prynne to seek or earn redemption while her crime was broadcast from the red "A" pinned to her clothing.

The law court's evaluation of the steady expansion of Maine's sex offender registry, which grew to include crimes and criminals dating back decades, echoed this notion.

It must be weighed whether a public registry of probationers and prisoners can preserve their rights, while also providing a valuable public benefit. Could a registry be an incentive against criminal behavior? Will it protect people from harm, or only further castigate criminals?
- The answer is NO. Does the death penalty prevent murder? No, so why would this deter crime? Stop living in fantasy land folks!

How does one separate the dangerous from the reformed? Is there a legal liability for the state if the online registry contains misinformation? At what point does a convicted criminal pay their debt to society, if they must register?

Such questions need time to consider. Maine's sex offender registry has existed for years, without yet reaching a conclusion. Before any new registries are opened, a good amount of examination needs to occur.

If there's one thing Maine should know by now, it's not to start a registry, then try to answer the questions later.

NY - Sex offender statute upheld

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Albany County limit on residency affirmed; appeal expected


ALBANY -- A City Court judge on Monday upheld the constitutionality of a county law banning sex offenders from making their homes within 1,000 feet of schools and day-care centers.

City Judge Rachel Kretser rejected claims the law violated four defendants' rights to due process and equal protection under the law and is overly vague and illegally increases punishment after the fact.

Kretser's decision appears to be the first time any court has ruled specifically on the Albany County law, passed July 2006. But it is expected not to be the last.

Kindlon & Shanks, the law firm representing the four men charged in City Court, is also representing several convicted sex offenders in separate-but-related civil lawsuits against Albany County in state Supreme Court.

The cases are still pending before acting state Supreme Court Justice Roger McDonough. Attorney Terence Kindlon said Monday he thinks the last word on the legality of the measures will come from an appeals court.

"My suspicion is that ... regardless of what Judge McDonough decides, the ultimate question is going to be answered by an appellate court, conceivably even the Court of Appeals," Kindlon said, referring to the state's highest court.

McDonough recently declined to grant a temporary restraining order halting authorities from enforcing the measure and is currently considering a preliminary injunction, Kindlon said.

The laws have been passed by counties throughout the state in an effort to keep sex offenders from living close to places where children gather. Schenectady, Saratoga and Rensselaer counties have approved similar measures.

But the local laws have come under fire from civil libertarians and others, in part because they believe they violate constitutional rights and in part because the laws vary from county to county, creating a confusing array of regulations that would change if a person moved less than a mile from, say, Waterford to Cohoes.

In a statement Monday, Albany County District Attorney David Soares, whose office prosecutes those who accused of violating the county residency law, said it's a matter for the state resolve.

"In the absence of a state law, counties have resorted to drafting legislation that pits county against county to see who can draft the toughest legislation," Soares said through spokeswoman Heather Orth, "and then at the end of the day, this is an issue that must be taken up by the New York state Legislature."

A call to the Office of the Albany County Attorney, which also is defending the county against the civil suits, was not immediately returned.

Kretser's decision was dated July 4 and filed Monday in City Court.

The portion dealing with the constitutionality of the law was actually four identical sections of four decisions relating to four separate defendants charged with misdemeanors under the county law. Kindlon's firm represents the defendants -- James Goldston, 62; Michael Simmons, 35; Clark Carter, 40; and Ethan Wray, 50.

Kindlon said he doesn't view Kretser's decision as a setback, just a step in legal ladder with many rungs.

"Lower court judges are not inclined to declare statutes or even local laws to be unconstitutional," he said. "We had fully expected -- from the day that we filed those motions -- there to be an adverse ruling."

Jordan Carleo-Evangelist can be reached at 454-5445 or by e-mail at jcarleo-evangelist@timesunion.com.

Family defends nude photos of 6 year old daughter

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The family of the six year-old girl who appeared naked on the cover of national art magazine say they have no regrets. The girl who is now 11 and her art critic father maintain the images are beautiful and say Kevin Rudd's tough stance on child nudity is ill-informed.

Child abuse campaigners say there is an urgent need for laws to be changed in all states and territories to prevent photos of naked children from being put forward as art.