Tuesday, July 29, 2008
More feel good proposals, which will not work. They have not worked for sex offenders, they just cut off the devices, so this is just more wasted money. But hell, why not hook it up to all criminals like murderers, gang members, drug dealers, DUI offenders, stalkers, etc. Pretty soon, we will have every citizen on a 24/7 monitoring system, so if they do something, we will know what and when they did it. Hell, if you have nothing to hide, why wouldn't you want it? If it protects one person it's worth it, right?
LANSING — Mary Babb was in her SUV last year when her estranged husband slammed into her with his pickup truck. The crash overturned Babb's vehicle and left her suspended upside-down by her seat belt.
As she hung there helplessly, Thomas Babb fired two rounds from a shotgun, killing his wife in front of horrified witnesses outside the office where she worked.
Now Babb's family has lobbied successfully for Michigan to join a growing number of states that have expanded electronic monitoring to include domestic abusers and stalkers.
Before her death, the 30-year-old Babb had filed for divorce and moved out. She changed jobs and obtained a court order protecting her from her husband. But he kept following her.
"She did everything the law provided her, and it wasn't enough," said Mary Babb's brother, Michael Anderson.
Michigan's new law allows judges to order domestic violence suspects to wear GPS devices — even before they go to trial. The idea is to alert victims if alleged abusers are nearby. That measure joins another law signed this month by Gov. Jennifer Granholm that requires paroled prisoners who have been convicted of aggravated stalking to wear GPS tethers.
Authorities and victims will "know exactly where they are," said Harvette Williams, 39, a former real estate agent who sought the law after being stalked for three years by a client. Her stalker was imprisoned in 2006, and will be monitored electronically if he's paroled.
GPS devices have been used for years to monitor sex offenders. But technological advances have now made it possible for the systems to issue warnings by cell phone if the offender gets too close to a specific victim.
Massachusetts adopted a law last year that lets judges require electronic monitoring of people who violate personal protection orders. Michigan, Oklahoma and Hawaii followed suit this year with GPS laws, bringing to 11 the number of states with related measures, said Diane Rosenfeld, a lecturer at Harvard Law School who proposed the Massachusetts law.
Similar legislation is awaiting the governor's signature in Illinois. The proposed law there is named for Cindy Bischof, who was gunned down in March by her ex-boyfriend at the suburban Chicago real estate office where she worked.
After Mary Babb's death in 2007, authorities searched for technology that could call victims' cell phone if offenders come within a certain distance or approached their home or office. Victims also receive a call when the offender leaves the area.
Protection orders traditionally have sought to protect victims in their homes, at work or their children's school. But GPS technology now allows "zones" of protection to move with the victims if they wear a device.
"This returns some of the power and self-control of victims' own lives back to them," said Michigan Rep. Bill Caul, a Republican who sponsored a GPS bill.
The GPS technology has limitations if there's poor cell phone coverage, and zones have to be large enough so victims can be alerted in time to react. But the systems also help police corroborate whether an offender violated a protective order.
In response to Michigan's new law, parole officers recently fitted GPS devices on 39 parolees who served prison time for aggravated stalking.
Authorities already had the option of ordering paroled stalkers to wear monitoring devices because nothing explicitly prohibited the practice. But advocates hope the new GPS laws raise awareness about the technology and encourage judges to use the monitoring devices in more domestic violence cases.
Thomas Babb, who pleaded no contest to murder and other charges, is serving a 52- to 77-year prison sentence in the slaying of his wife.
"This could happen to your niece or your daughter, or to your sister, your neighbor, your friend or even your mother," said Mary Babb's aunt, Paula Andresen of LeRoy. "No one deserves to live in such fear and terror. We have to do everything possible to change this, to make laws to protect the victims."
Yuma police have identified a body found last weekend floating in the East Main Canal as 46-year-old Yuma resident Michael Soliz Corona.
According to police department spokesman Clint Norred, Corona's body was pulled from the canal near Colorado Street and 8th Avenue at around 6:59 p.m. Saturday.
Norred said police believe Corona fell into the canal sometime between Friday evening and Saturday night.
- I find it unbelievable that a sex offender just happened to fall into a river and killed. He either committed suicide or was helped into the river.
"He was last seen Friday night around 7:43 p.m.," Norred said. "Some folks who were fishing there on Saturday found the body and called it in."
An autopsy showed the cause of death to be drowning. said Norred.
While police do not suspect foul play because Corona had no visible injuries, Norred said they are asking anyone with information about his whereabouts Friday night prior to the time he was last seen to contact the police department at 373-4670 or 78-CRIME.
"The circumstances of how or where he entered the water remain unclear," Norred said.
- What difference does it make where or how he entered the river?
A search of The Sun's archives indicate that Corona has had prior trouble with the law.
According to the Yuma County Sheriff's Office, Corona has been booked into the Yuma County jail 24 times dating back to 1995. He was sentenced in 1996 to 2-1/2 years in prison on a parole violation.
Court records indicate Corona was lasted arrested on May 9 for failure to register as a sex offender.
- Look, why do people feeled compelled to bring up someones past when they die like this? Who cares about his criminal history? A man is dead, and you are further tarnishing his name by bringing this BS up!
Police said Corona was also charged with first-degree murder in the killing of Roger Davidson, who was stabbed to death at his home on March 27, 2000. However, the case against him was dismissed when it was determined he was incompetent to stand trial.
Voters said paroled sex offenders cannot live near a school or park, so more and more are saying they don't live anywhere while bouncing from place to place to avoid the tight living restrictions of Jessica's Law.
Now, the state plans to bar those "transient" sex offenders from staying at any address for more than a few hours, while allowing them to settle in homeless camps, under bridges or at bus stops, including those near schools or parks.
With the new rules, parole officials aim to define what it means to "reside" somewhere under Proposition 83. The 2006 ballot measure set some of the nation's toughest sex offender laws, including lifetime GPS tracking for most sex felons and a lifetime ban on them living within 2,000 feet of a school or park where children "regularly gather."
- I am surprised, that with all these PUNISHMENT and restrictions, that more of these people are not just vanishing or committing other crimes just to survive. We have lost all control of the justice system, now, instead of locking someone up for a crime, we are locking them up for being forced into homelessness by the state, or because they cannot afford the extreme fees and fines that come along with the PUNISHMENT. Instead of trying to help people, we are just creating more problems. Are we all totally stupid and blind? Apparently so!
Critics call the changes for parolees a harsh and possibly dangerous reaction to the fact that in the Bay Area and other urban centers, little housing falls outside of the 2,000-foot zones.
Less than a year after parole agents began enforcing the residency ban, more than 1,000 paroled sex offenders across the state have registered as transient. That is one among every five parolees who fall under the law, state data show.
Parole workers have found that many of them are "couch surfing" within the banned zones, said Robert Ambroselli, state deputy parole director.
"People are kind of moving to a location, staying there for a day and moving on to some other location," said Ambroselli.
"If you're charging a (GPS) unit, that's one thing, but at one point you cross the threshold of 'I was just charging my unit and I ended up sleeping on the couch.' At some point, you've established residency. The department is trying to define just that."
Parole Director Tom Hoffman detailed the agency's plans in a July 15 memo to parole officers and supervisors. It was quickly rescinded so state lawyers could review it.
Except for work, business or treatment, the memo states, parolee sex offenders who register as transient may not regularly visit any banned address for more than a "brief or momentary period," and for no longer than two hours.
- So you are basically redefining what "loitering" means? Loitering means being somewhere without a purpose. If they have a purpose, then they are not loitering, now are they?
Also, according to the memo, the 2,000-foot rule does not apply to homeless camps, bridges or bus stops, no matter how close to schools or parks — a change from earlier statements by corrections officials. Ambroselli said he expects most of the directive to become policy after the review.
The shift reflects what many critics and even some Proposition 83 backers predicted: Trouble for sex offenders and the parole agents who manage them in finding stable housing that complies with the law. Jessica's Law does not define "park," "reside," or how to measure the distance.
- This is because those making and passing these laws, are not stopping and using their brains before passing these laws. They want to look good to the sheeple, but now, you see, things are backfiring like many predicted several years ago.
The state paroles as many as 700 sex felons each month, and state maps show that in the Bay Area, few apartment houses or motel rooms fall outside the zones. Virtually none does in San Francisco. Some sex offenders said their parole officers suggested they register as transient to stay within the law.
S.T., a parolee in West Contra Costa, said he registered transient and arranged with his parole officer to tend to his ailing wife, build a contracting business and to sleep various places at night. The new rules, he said, would threaten his chances.
- This is nothing more than setting them up to fail, which I guess is your REAL intention in the first place!
"Anywhere without an address? That's primarily under a bridge or in an open field," said S.T., who asked to be identified by his initials only, saying he was concerned for his safety. "I'd basically be losing my family. I couldn't do my job. It seems to me they're trying to lock everybody up."
- Well, in a country that has become fascist, what do you expect? When the gestapo come for them, then they will be raising hell as well, but it will be too late then.
Hoffman's memo "clearly shows how the parole division is struggling with this untenable situation that Prop. 83 put them in," said Ernest Galvan, a San Francisco attorney who represents four parolees in a case challenging one aspect of Jessica's Law. "The fact the pendulum can swing suddenly back and forth — now you can't be somewhere for two hours, now you can be under a bridge — it's a classic symptom of an unconstitutionally vague law."
Experts, including many sex-crime prosecutors, have called stability — in housing, treatment and family — key to keeping sex offenders from reoffending.
The proposed rules would prove counterproductive, one advocate said.
"You're saying they're a beast in the field. How are they supposed to get through the night?" asked Jake Goldenflame, a registered sex offender in San Francisco. "We're not likely to make them a better person if we treat them as if they're an animal that has to be kept outside all the time. It's going to make the state a more dangerous place."
The agency is simply adjusting to what it has found enforcing the law, Ambroselli said. Saying that bridges, homeless camps and bus stops are not subject to the 2,000-foot rule recognizes "just the reality of dealing with ... all these sex offenders," he said. "We're not saying that's what you should be doing."
One advocate said it's too easy to blame the state parole agency.
"They're sort of working with what they've been given," said Robert Coombs of the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, which opposed the 2,000-foot rule. "Most parole agents are really working to make sure their folks have stable housing as best as they can. In some cases, there's literally nowhere to go."
The concern over parolees neglects a group that grows daily — those off parole, said Nancy O'Malley, Alameda County's chief assistant district attorney, who sits on the California Sex Offender Management Board.
The law called for lifetime GPS monitoring but did not say who would track them, and local agencies have balked at the cost.
Just how many sex offenders who fall under Jessica's Law have since come off parole is unclear. In December, then-corrections Secretary James Tilton put the number at 500. Now, officials won't reveal a number.
- All you would have to do is see when the law was passed, then check the sex offender registry or criminal records to see who came out of prison for a sex crime afterwards. I'd love to know these statistics myself.
"We're trying to figure that one out," O'Malley said.
DAYTON -- A United States District Court Judge in Dayton has upheld the constitutionality of the 2006 federal law used to punish sex offenders who fail to register.
Gregory Lockhart, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, and James Wahlrab, United States Marshall, annouced the ruling handed down by Judge Walter Rice July 24th.
Congress passed the Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act as part of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act in 2006. The law requires anyone convicted of sex crimes under federal law, or anyone convicted in state court and traveling in interstate commerce, to register with law enforcement agencies where they live, work, or are a student.
Any person required to register and fails, is subject to a fine up up to $250,000 and up to ten years in prison.
Judge Rice's ruling is in response to a motion filed by Roger Dale Trent. A federal grand jury indicted Trent in December of 2007, charging him with failing to register as a sex offender, when he moved from Indiana to Darke County. Trent was convicted of a sex crime in Indiana in May of 2007.
Trent asked the court to dismiss the indictment, claiming that the law violated the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. He also said that the law should not apply to him since he hadn't been notified of it, and the crime occurred before Ohio passed a sex offender notification law.
Judge Rice rejected all of Trent's arguments saying that SORNA is "a valid regulation of the uses of the channels of interstate commerce." Judge Rice also ruled that the federal guidelines governing the application of SORNA allow for the law to be applied even in states which have not yet approved their own registration programs.
"The ruling adds to the growing number of court decisions that SORNA is a legal and useful way to protect communities from sexual criminals who travel from place to place without notifying those communities of their presence," Lockhart said. "We will continue to work closely with the Marshals Service and local law enforcment agencies to bring to justice any who violate the law."
But think of the children! It never seems to stop. Just as yet another court has ruled that the COPA law is unconstitutional, some folks in Congress are trying to bring back its sister legislation, DOPA. COPA (the Child Online Protection Act) required websites to block objectionable material. DOPA (the Deleting Online Predators Act) is much more narrowly focused, requiring schools and libraries to put in place filters that block access to social networks. Why? Well, politicians are under the false belief that this somehow stops predators.
There are just two big problems with this reasoning. First, studies have shown that the supposed "threat" of online predators has been blown way out of proportion. Most kids are not targeted by online predators on social networks, and the few who are tend to know enough to deal with them. But you won't hear the politicians pushing DOPA say that. Instead, they claim: "as more children flock to social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, we've seen a corresponding increase of online sexual predators." According to whom? Over the past few months we've pointed to three separate reports showing that the reports of the threat have been greatly overstated.
But, more importantly, even if predators are a threat on social networks, isn't it a much better solution to let kids use them in schools and at libraries where there can be reasonable oversight, and where educators can teach the kids how to deal with online threats? Banning access from schools and libraries only guarantees that kids will find other ways to get to those social networks when no one's there to watch them. And, by making it seem like it's somehow underground, it will seem even "cooler" to make use of those sites. And, at the same time, teachers, parents and librarians won't feel compelled to teach kids how to use those sites safely, because the use will be totally hidden from view. How is that possibly a good result?
Newton - Being the only “no” vote on a crime bill named in memory of a little girl is a tough spot to be in for an elected official, but that is my situation after the Senate overwhelmingly passed Jessica’s Law. For 10 years, I have been deeply involved in reforming the state’s sex-offender laws, and we have made Massachusetts safer for children. Unfortunately, and in spite of its popularity, Jessica’s Law has serious flaws.
Jessica’s Law originated in Florida in response to the rape and murder of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford by a convicted sex offender. Since then, more than 30 states have adopted some form of the law. Our version was largely developed by the district attorney’s and the attorney general’s office, and focuses on creating three new “aggravated” levels of existing sex crimes, which would now carry mandatory minimum prison sentences ranging from 10 to 20 years.
I am a longtime critic of mandatory minimum sentencing as a failed experiment of the “get tough” 1980s. Nearly 30 years of experience shows that mandatory sentencing does little to deter crime, unnecessarily ties the hands of judges and pointlessly fills prisons when less expensive — and more effective — sentencing alternatives exist.
In 1999, I successfully argued that convicted sexual predators should have lifetime parole supervision. A few years later, I helped create and fund a statewide intensive-parole program. To date, that program has a recidivism rate of zero. It can — and should — be expanded.
In addition to mandatory sentences, Massachusetts’ Jessica’s Law also included several other questionable provisions on administrative subpoenas, mandated reporters and proof of prior convictions.
Tucked away in the bill were two sections that were misleadingly touted as simply statutory updates for the Internet age. The change, however, gives prosecutors sweeping new powers to demand subscriber information from both telephone companies and Internet service providers. These expanded administrative subpoenas allow investigators to avoid the need for judicial or grand-jury approval, and ultimately to circumvent everyone’s Fourth Amendment protections.
Additionally, it did not simply add ISPs to the existing administrative-subpoena statute. It took the dramatic step of lowering the standard for obtaining information on phone users and applying that lower standard to computer users as well, opening the door to all sorts of prosecutorial fishing expeditions that current law would prevent.
This unwarranted invasion of privacy is even more alarming when you consider that Internet providers store far more personal information than telephone companies. Throw in the bill’s lack of disclosure requirements and its blanket immunity for providers, and the potential for abuse can easily be envisioned.
I cannot support this attack on privacy rights when less-invasive and equally effective means are available. Our liberties should never be sacrificed in the name of prosecutorial convenience.
For that same reason, I also objected to Jessica’s Laws provisions allowing the admission of court records as self-authenticating evidence of prior convictions. Such evidence will be admissible as prima facie evidence to apply mandatory minimum sentences to repeat offenders.
I see this as a violation of the federal and state Constitutional rights of a defendant to confront accusers, and I believe my position is supported by recent rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court, which has barred similar efforts to offer evidence of prior convictions in lieu of witness testimony.
All too often we have seen the fallibility of state and federal record-keeping, especially when exempted from traditional and adversarial testing. This only reinforces the importance of the ability to confront opposing witnesses.
Finally, Jessica’s Law creates broad new mandatory sentences for so-called mandated reporters. There is no question that people who abuse a position of trust to sexually assault children are particularly abhorrent. Still, this bill was not carefully drafted and is ultimately too broad.
“Mandated reporters” engage in occupations or hold positions that have functions of trust such as physicians, teachers, child-care workers, certain court employees and religious leaders. If they have a “professional relationship” with a child they believe is the victim of abuse, they have a legal obligation to notify authorities. However, Jessica’s Law ignores the need for such a relationship when imposing new penalties. As I read the bill, any defendant who happens to be in a mandated-reporter occupation would face enhanced penalties — even if he had no prior relationship with the victim.
People who abuse a position of trust should face stiffer penalties, but this law seeks to create a new category of criminal based solely on occupation.
It’s never easy to stand alone — especially when the question is the safety of our children. Yet I stand by my vote, because Jessica’s Law is riddled with flaws and based on outmoded thoughts on criminal sentencing. I have argued for years that we need to be smart on crime — especially with offenders as insidious as sexual predators. Increased parole, thoughtful sentences, allowing judges to do their job and forcing prosecutors to respect civil liberties are all properly part of that effort. Unfortunately, Jessica’s Law is not.
State Senator Cynthia Creem (Email), D-Newton, represents Newton, Brookline and parts of Wellesley.
An angry British father and his vigilante gang were sentenced Tuesday for kidnapping and torturing a 17-year-old they wrongly believed sent abusive text messages to the man’s daughter, The Daily Mail reported.
James McPhilbin, 50, thought his daughter, Kelly-Ann, 18, had received the messages from Sam Valentine. In McPhilbin’s quest for revenge, he and a group of family and friends kidnapped Valentine and stabbed him three times – including a stab wound to the cheek and one to the chest that punctured a lung, the Mail reported.
Officials later reported that no abusive text messages were ever sent to McPhilbin’s daughter.
McPhilbin, of Stretford, Greater Manchester, started his 16-month jail sentence Tuesday after pleading guilty to false imprisonment.
- 16 momths for trying to kill a person. He should be in prison for a lot longer than this.
Judge Peter Lakin told the gang members they had committed a “frightening, sustained and brutal attack,” the Mail reported.
- And then he sentences him to 16 months. Apparently he is not very shocked about the incident.
The 2006 incident happened four months after Valentine and his friends had a fight with Kelly-Ann at school. Kelly-Ann’s relatives believed she had received offensive text messages despite her denials that Valentine was to blame.
Initially following the attack, Valentine was so scared he told police he had been mugged and claimed not to know the attackers, The Mail reported. But the gang members were arrested when he later gave a statement.
The three other gang members received sentences ranging from four to seven years.
- So the father gets 16 months, and these people get 4 - 7 years. Why didn't the father get the same?
Sex offenders are required to list an address, even if they don't have one.
Georgia's sex offender registry law should be struck down because it makes homelessness a crime, a lawyer told the state's highest court on Monday.
"The law is fundamentally unfair to homeless sex offenders," public defender Adam Levin argued to the Georgia Supreme Court.
Levin represents William James Santos, charged in Hall County for failing to register a new address in the sex offender registry. Because this would be his second failure-to-register offense, Santos faces a mandatory life sentence.
The registry law, with the harshest penalties in the nation, requires sex offenders to provide a route or street address within 72 hours after being released from custody or moving to a new address. The law states that an offender cannot use "homeless" as an address.
Santos had lived at the Good News at Noon homeless shelter in Gainesville and correctly gave that address on the registry. But in July 2006, Santos was forced to leave the shelter.
For the next three months, Santos was homeless and could not give an address and comply with the statute, Levin said. In October 2006, Santos was arrested and later indicted.
Levin argued there is precedent by the U.S. Supreme Court supporting his position. In 1983, the high court ruled that someone on probation cannot be imprisoned if they are found to be indigent and cannot afford to pay a court-imposed fine.
Sex offenders who can afford roofs over their heads can give a proper address, Levin said. But homeless offenders such as Santos cannot and are subject to prosecution, he argued.
Hall County Assistant District Attorney Vanessa Sykes urged the state Supreme Court to uphold the law and allow Santos' prosecution to go forward.
"He is not being charged with being homeless," Sykes said. "He is charged with not registering as a sex offender."
Santos is a three-time convicted felon and is exactly the type of offender the sex offender registry law is designed to target, she added.
Sykes argued that a sex offender can give "a temporary address" —- such as the location of the bridge they are sleeping under for the night or a car —- even if it is updated on a daily basis.
Justice Harris Hines wondered how this could be done when some homeless offenders may not know in advance where they are going to sleep. Justice Carol Hunstein said, practically speaking, it might be a good idea for the homeless to find a place to sleep near the local sheriff's office, where they have to change their address on the registry.
The Southern Center for Human Rights, which filed legal briefs in support of Santos' appeal, noted that counties across Georgia interpret the law differently. Some counties allow an offender to give the location, such as the intersection of streets or the street location of a bridge, of where a homeless offender is sleeping. But other counties require a specific street address and will prosecute offenders if they cannot provide one, the human rights group said.
The Southern Center noted that, because of restrictions prohibiting sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of where children congregate, only one homeless shelter in the state qualifies under the law —- and it has only two available beds.
Justice Hugh Thompson told Sykes if the objective of the law is to make sure where sex offenders are located, wouldn't it be better if the statute spelled out exactly what types of addresses homeless people can provide? "I'm not going to stand here and argue that wouldn't be helpful," Sykes replied.
The Barre City Council is going to revote on a plan to enact strict residency requirements for sex offenders in the community.
Last week, the council adopted the ordinance, which would prohibit convicted sex offenders from establishing a residence within 1,000 feet of any public or private school or municipally maintained park or playground.
But city officials discovered the ordinance was enacted without it being published before the hearing in the local newspaper.
So officials placed the ad and then called another hearing and vote for Tuesday evening -- tonight.
The ordinance would not affect the 45 sex offenders already living in Barre.
City officials say they expect a legal challenge to the ordinance.
Goodling targeted rumored lesbian: report
A former Justice Department official violated federal non-discrimination laws by denying a job extension for a department attorney and by attempting to block the attorney from obtaining two other department positions because she believed the attorney was a lesbian, according to findings of an internal DOJ investigation.
The investigation found that Monica Goodling, senior counsel to former Attorney General Alberto Gonazles and the department’s liaison to the White House, told subordinates in 2006 that she denied extending an appointment of former Assistant U.S. Attorney Leslie Hagen of Michigan to a post at the Justice Department in Washington because she disapproved of Hagen’s sexual orientation.
“We concluded that Goodling’s actions violated department policy and federal law, and constituted misconduct,” states a report released Monday by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility, which jointly conducted the investigation.
The findings involving Goodling’s conduct toward Hagen were part of a broader, year-long probe into the 2006 firings of eight U.S. Attorneys under Gonzales’ tenure that were said to be based on political considerations.
Goodling resigned from the Justice Department in April 2007 amid allegations that she and others at the department helped orchestrate the U.S. Attorney firings and used political and ideological considerations in hiring and firing dozens of career employees at the DOJ.
Federal civil service laws prohibit political and ideological factors from being considered in personnel decisions related to career federal employees.
A 1999 graduate of Regent University Law School, which was founded by televangelist Pat Roberson, Goodling was among a cadre of young religious conservatives who joined the Bush administration in 2001.
In its discussion on the department’s handling of Hagen, the report states that investigators also found that Goodling told a number of subordinates that she believed Hagen was having a “homosexual relationship” with a female supervisor and that the two “took trips together at government expense.”
Some of the subordinates interviewed in the investigation said Goodling told them Hagen was having a “sexual relationship” with the supervisor, the report states.
The report does not identify Hagen by name, only as “the assistant U.S. Attorney.” It also withholds the name of the person with whom Goodling said Hagen was having the sexual relationship, referring to that person as “the U.S. Attorney” for whom Hagen formerly worked.
However, Hagen’s identity and the identity of the “U.S. Attorney” were widely disclosed in the media in April when National Public Radio broke the story that the Inspector General’s Office was investigating Goodling for allegedly seeking to have Hagen banned from future jobs at the Justice Department because of Hagen’s sexual orientation.
Official biographical information on Hagen released in the past by the Justice Department states that Hagen worked for then-U.S. Attorney Margaret Chiara of Michigan, who was among the eight U.S. attorneys fired in 2006.
“The Assistant U.S. Attorney [Hagen] told us that the rumors were false and that she was not involved in a sexual relationship with her U.S. Attorney,” the joint Inspector General-Office of Professional Responsibility report states. “Similarly, the U.S. Attorney denied that she and the AUSA were involved in a sexual relationship,” the report says.
Beginning in 2002, Hagen worked under Chiara as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, where she prosecuted cases on Indian reservations. In October 2005, she was recruited for a job in Washington that involved serving as liaison between the Justice Department and a special U.S. Attorney’s committee on Native American criminal justice issues.
The Washington job was considered a “detailed” rather than a permanent position and was based in the DOJ’s Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys.
According to the Inspector General-Office of Professional Responsibility report, Dan Villegas, Hagen’s supervisor, offered her an extension for her detailed post in the summer of 2006, saying colleagues and associates familiar with the Native American liaison office praised her for doing an excellent job.
The report says Villegas told investigators that he received word that Goodling rejected his proposal to extend Hagen’s detail assignment based on a “political decision” rather than on her job performance.
“In fact, [Hagen’s] 2006 performance appraisal, which covered her detail at Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, rated her performance as ‘outstanding’ on all performance elements, the highest possible appraisal,” the report states.
Other Justice Department officials reported that Goodling made it known that she wanted Hagen terminated from her post and didn’t want her to be considered for any other Justice Department job, the report says.
“Several witnesses told us that Goodling’s opposition to the extension of the detail was based at least in part on [Hagen’s] alleged sexual orientation,” the report states.
It says that John Nowacki, deputy director for the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, told investigators he met with Goodling about Hagen’s employment at the DOJ and left the meeting “with the sense that her personal views on homosexuality probably played a role in Goodling’s decision not to extend [Hagen’s] detail.”
The report says Goodling later attempted to block Hagen from consideration for at least two other DOJ positions. But at least one other DOJ official – Assistant Attorney General Regina Schofield – rejected Goodling’s overtures and decided to hire Hagen to a detailed position with the department’s Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART).
“Schofield told us that she learned from discussions with several people, although she did not recall who, that it was alleged that [Hagen] had a homosexual affair with her supervisor, a U.S. Attorney,” the report states. “Schofield told us that the allegation was not relevant to her assessment of [Hagen’s] qualifications, and she offered the AUSA the detail despite Goodling’s objections,” the report says.
“On February 1, 2007, [Hagen] was detailed to the SMART Office, despite Goodling’s request that the AUSA not be given the detail,” the report says. “Schofield said [Hagen] was doing a good job at the SMART Office, and would renew her SMART detail,” the report says.
Hagen, who still works at the Justice Department, has declined to respond to press inquires, saying she “just wants to focus on her work,” according to the April report by National Public Radio.
Employment attorney Elaine Kaplan, a lesbian who headed the federal office in charge of investigating job discrimination against federal employees, called the probe and report on Hagen's case an important breakthrough.
“It reconfirms that sexual orientation discrimination in the federal workforce is illegal,” Kaplan said. “This is an example of the Justice Department’s Inspector General taking a stand that sexual orientation discrimination violates the law.”
Michael B. Mukasey, the current U.S. Attorney General, issued a statement Monday praising the Inspector General and Professional Responsibility offices’ report while saying he is “disturbed by their findings.”
He said the DOJ has made “many institutional changes” over the past year to prevent the problems discussed in the report.
In June, Mukasey spoke at an event at the Justice Department headquarters sponsored by a DOJ gay employees group.
View the article here
Corrections officer from Madison County thought he was corresponding with 14-year-old girl who was actually a federal agent, according to U.S. attorney
FOLEY — A Madison County corrections officer was arrested in south Baldwin County on Monday morning on federal felony charges of attempting to use the Internet to solicit sex from a minor.
James Norbert Stracke, 55, of Meridianville was arrested when he arrived in Foley, said Tommy Loftis, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Mobile. Stracke was also charged with attempting to transfer obscene material.
Stracke has been a corrections officer for the Madison County Sheriff's Office for 15 years, said Chris Stephens, chief deputy.
Last week, Stracke began corresponding on the Internet with a person whom he believed to be a 14-year-old girl, according to a statement issued by U.S. Attorney Deborah Rhodes. The person was an undercover federal officer, the statement said.
In Foley, Stracke was arrested by officers from the city police, the U.S. Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force and the U.S. Attorney's Office Project Safe Childhood Task Force.
Stephens said that Madison County officials placed Stracke on unpaid leave Monday after being informed of the arrest. He said Stracke has been a corrections officer assigned to overseeing jail inmates since being hired.
Stephens said the jailer had no record of disciplinary problems.
"He was kind of a quiet guy, kind of reserved," Stephens said Monday. "There was never any indication of anything such as this."
Stephen said Stracke did not have access to county computers or the Internet as part of his jail job.
Stracke made an initial appearance Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge William Cassady, and is scheduled for a detention hearing Wednesday.
A defendant convicted of enticement of a minor could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison and fined as much as $250,000, according to federal officials. The charge of transfer of obscene material to a minor carries a maximum sentence of 10 years and a $250,000 fine.
Stracke's case will be presented to the federal grand jury next month, Loftis said.
VT Will Require Evaluation, In-Person Reporting, and Location Advisory of Sex Offenders
MONTPELIER - When a state Senate committee begins deliberating later this summer on how to respond to the kidnap and killing of 12-year-old Brooke Bennett, it also will be under pressure to deal with a new federal law named for another slain child.
The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 establishes new mandates for the way states set up their sex offender registries -- mandates Vermont currently does not meet.
"It will mean some huge changes for Vermont," said Sherry Englert, sex offender registry program coordinator with the Department of Public Safety.
Adam Walsh was 6 when he was abducted from a Florida shopping mall 27 years ago; his body was found 16 days later. No one was ever charged in the abduction and slaying. He became one of a sad gallery of dead children for whom various laws trying to crack down on sex offenders have been named.
State Sen. Richard Sears, D-Bennington and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that meeting the federal requirements could present a new cost to the state "in the millions of dollars." Failing to meet them, on the other hand, will result in some cuts of federal law enforcement grant money.
Sears said the Adam Walsh Act requirements are sure to be part of the discussion when his committee holds hearings later this year on how to respond to the death of Bennett, whose uncle, Michael Jacques of Randolph, has been charged in her abduction.
Vermont currently has about 2,500 sex offenders on its registry, but access to the information is tightly controlled in a system lawmakers designed to take into account the privacy rights of people who've already served their time and in the hope that they'll have a smooth transition back into society.
- So I guess now, they are going to follow the bandwagon, to get grant money, and violate the rights of sex offenders. So much for upholding the constitution!
Sears said he expects one result if the state complies with the Adam Walsh Act will be a larger number of offenders with information posted online, including some as young as 14 if they are convicted in adult court.
But with Gov. Jim Douglas (Contact) and others calling for a "Jessica's Law," with 25-year mandatory minimum sentences for sex offenders, and with national media personalities pummeling Vermont as being soft on sexual predators, any concern for youthful offenders or for the privacy of those promising to mend their ways is at an ebb.
"The idea (of the Adam Wash Act) seems to be that most sex offenders have to be on the Internet," Sears said. "And I don't think a lot of us (lawmakers) have a problem with that."
The changes Vermont will have to make under the federal law are complex.
Vermont currently has essentially a two-tiered program for weighing the risks convicted sex offenders are expected to pose when they are released from supervision by the Department of Corrections: "high-risk" and regular offenders, Englert said.
Offenders are assigned to either of the two categories based on a psycho-sexual evaluation and other factors weighed by the Department of Corrections as an offender's release date nears.
- So it sounds to me like they are doing it right, and now, to get money, they are going to wipe out the rights of sex offenders and for what? Nothing about these laws will prevent another crime. And because of one child's death (which is wrong), they are acting in the typical knee-jerk reaction and letting the bully media and others persuade them to enact these laws, which the last 10 years or so is proof these laws won't and aren't working. Yet because there is money involved, they are more than willing to pass laws that will not work so they can get the money. It's all about money, greed and hate!
The federal rules, just issued in final form this month by the U.S. Department of Justice, call for a three-tiered system based not on a professional evaluation, but on the category of crime for which the offender has been convicted.
Another big change will be in-person reporting requirements.
Vermont law currently allows sex offenders who will be on the registry to check in with the Department of Public Safety by mail when they are first registered and annually thereafter, or when they move or enroll in college. Englert said when the person hasn't moved, this is usually accomplished by filling out a form sent by her office around the time of the offender's birthday.
The new federal rules will require offenders to report in person to a designated law-enforcement agency -- annually for tier-one offenders, who've been convicted of the least serious crimes; twice a year for those convicted of more serious crimes; and quarterly for the most serious offenders.
Yet a third big change -- "the one that concerns me the most," Englert called it -- is that the state will be required to notify schools, day-care centers and other organizations working with children weekly about any sex offenders living within their vicinity. This likely would have to be done by certified mail, Englert said.
But overall, she said she was optimistic Vermont can meet the requirements if the Legislature decides that is what the state needs to do.
"I think it's very doable," Englert said. "Most of us are pretty creative. We have to be to get the job done."
- And idiots also. So we have a bunch of creative idiots running the state, amazing!
Jane Woodruff, executive director of the Department of States' Attorneys and Sheriffs' Association, said she was worried about the financial impacts.
"We have to be able to support it financially," Woodruff said. "That's the issue for me. How much is this going to cost?"
- Why don't you contact other states who have implemented these insane, draconian and unconstitutional laws? It's costing tons of money, and the laws are not working. Yet everyone is blind and stupid and won't acknowledge this fact.
She added a plea often made by state officials in the face of new federal requirements. "Don't create unfunded mandates."
Federal workers are covered under 1973 Rehabilitation Act
Twice this month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit expanded the sweep of a "major life activity" under the nation's anti-discrimination law for federal employees.
First, the court said sleep qualified. Now sex is on the list.
That is, disabilities that promote sleeplessness or the inability to have sex are covered by the 1973 Rehabilitation Act the court ruled.
Employment lawyers say the rulings open the door for a host of new discrimination claims and add ballast to cases that hinge on plaintiffs' ability to prove that their disabilities substantially interferes with their everyday lives.
"Employers will have to view the term 'disability' much more broadly," says Victoria Zellers, a partner in Cozen O'Connor's Philadelphia office.
Zellers says many of the cases brought under the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, which protects private employees, wash out on summary judgment because employees fail to clear the first hurdle: proving they are disabled.
In some circuits, the statute is construed to cover those who can't care for themselves, perform manual tasks, walk, see, hear, speak, breathe, learn or work.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 10 percent of American adults suffer from a sleep disorder, and at least twice as many suffer from sexual dysfunction, whether physical or psychological.
"This could mean a lot more ADA cases go to trial," Zellers says.
In a July 18 opinion, Judge David Tatel, quoting Genesis, pronounced sex a "significant human activity, one our species has been engaging in at least since the biblical injunction to 'be fruitful and multiply.'"
In stating the obvious, the appeals court became the second in the country to answer a question the Supreme Court circumvented a decade ago in Bragdon v. Abbott in which the majority found that reproduction -- the end, but not the means -- rated as a major life activity.
Tatel, writing again for the majority in a July 1 opinion, aligned the court with at least three other circuits on the issue of sleep.
"Sleeping is unquestionably a significant activity -- human beings spend roughly a third of their lives doing it," Tatel wrote in Desmond v. Mukasey. "And it is certainly important."
The court, reversing circuit precedent, also found that plaintiffs are not required to show that their sleep disorders affect their waking activities, in order to bring a discrimination claim. The court's drift toward a broader definition of disability comes as Congress is considering legislation that would aggressively expand coverage for employees bringing claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which protects private employees from discrimination based on disability.
The legislation would junk four Supreme Court decisions that lawmakers say ignored Congress' intent when it passed the Americans with Disabilities Act 18 years ago, lessening the burden on claimants to show how their disabilities affect them. The House passed the ADA Amendment Act in June, by a vote of 401-17. The Senate had its markup earlier this month.
The D.C. Circuit's July 18th ruling was a victory for Kathy Adams, a lawyer in Piedmont, S.C., who sued the State Department for discrimination in 2005, after she was refused clearance to serve in the Foreign Service.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2003, soon after receiving notice that she had passed her written and oral examinations. She underwent a mastectomy, and two months later, her fallopian tubes and ovaries were removed. By October 2003, when she received a letter assuring her of an appointment to the Foreign Service, Adams was cancer-free.
When Adams informed the State Department of her bout with cancer, she was denied medical clearance, despite her doctors' assurances that she was healthy.
The district court dismissed her claim last year, reasoning that the cancer did not qualify as a disability because it wasn't long-term or permanent.
Significantly, the D.C. Circuit found that her history with cancer was enough, provided she could show it continued to limit a major life activity.
Adams, in a declaration, said the experience had "crippled indefinitely and perhaps permanently" her ability to enter into romantic relationships.
"Our client just wept when we read the [D.C. Circuit] decision to her," says Adams' lawyer, David Shapiro, of Swick & Shapiro. "Here's a person who came to the conclusion she wanted to serve the country, she's well qualified to do so, and she's denied because she had cancer?"
He says Adams wants to be hired into the Foreign Service with a salary equivalent to the experience she would have accumulated had she been cleared in 2003.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, which handled the case, says the decision is under review.
Shapiro says he was less impressed with the panel's pronouncement on sex than its finding that her history of cancer withstood the statute's requirement that the claimant show a "record" of impairment.
"They discriminated against her based on a history -- and this is exactly what the statute is supposed to guard against," Shapiro says.
Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, in her dissent, said she would not have reached the question of whether sex qualifies as a major life activity because Adams failed to show that her impairment had limited her before the State Department rescinded the offer.
They may have taught in Southwest Florida schools for years, but a new law could mean a pink slip for veteran teachers.
Teachers, administrators and others now fall under the Ethics and Education Act, which was passed by the Legislature and went into effect July 1.
The new law requires retroactive checks of the criminal records of teachers and employees in contact with students daily, and bars from employment anyone with any felony conviction for a variety of specified crimes.
- Yep, many people are going to lose their jobs over this law.
Some of those felonies are obvious disqualifications for employment around minors: sexual crimes against children, abuse and neglect and other violent crimes. Still, other crimes that are now left to the judgment of the district will be automatic disqualifications for employment.
Though everyone seemed to agree that student safety is paramount, some worry that the retroactive checks could end otherwise stellar careers over a mistake that might have been made before the person was a school district employee.
- Same is being done to all sex offenders, causing them to lose jobs and cannot find new jobs, so join the crowd of the every growing list of unemployed.
The new law requires that those in violation be fired and forfeit their state pension.
Collier County School Board attorney Richard Withers confirmed the district is going through the records of all employees, but said he doesn’t believe the district will come up with too many people.
Withers said the district is reviewing teachers hired before 2003, which is the year that the district stepped up its screening policies. He said he didn’t know why the policies were stepped up in 2003.
“I think we do a better job than other folks do,” he said. “I think we have been more stringent.”
Withers said the district is waiting for more direction from the state Department of Education before moving forward, but said if those guidelines aren’t given to districts before school starts, the district will follow the law.
Lee County School District spokesman Joe Donzelli said the Lee County School District is also waiting for technical assistance from the state to help the district with the new law.
“We have to wait. We don’t want to go down the road believing we have interpreted the law correctly and find out that it is wrong,” he said. “Do we have ideas of what the new law may mean for us? Absolutely.”
Donzelli said one of the questions is how far back will the district have to check records.
“If someone has been teaching for 29 years and 35 years ago they did something stupid in college, does that mean we show them the door?” he asked. “We would rather let the state give us the guidelines and take it from there.”
- You bet! If it's OK for sex offenders, then it's OK for you as well.
Donzelli said he thinks the law won’t affect many teachers or administrators.
The new law doesn’t mean that schools have been lax with their screening of employees.
Both Collier and Lee schools comply with the Jessica Lunsford Act, which requires fingerprinting and screening of contractors and vendors before allowing them to work near students.
“We are still doing those checks that were in place before June 30,” Donzelli said.
Jonathan Tuttle, executive director of the Collier County Education Association, which represents 80 percent of the district’s teachers, said some teachers have called the union about the Ethics and Education Act.