Thursday, August 7, 2008
I knew it would not be long before someone did something like this, and here it is.
MARINETTE (AP) — Scott J. Johnson hid in the woods knowing police were coming after him.
He had nothing to lose, plotting to kill as many officers as he could after luring them to a nearby river by ambushing a group of teenagers, according to a criminal complaint.
Johnson gunned down three teens as they relaxed near a bridge spanning the Menominee River between Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula that is a popular swimming site, prosecutors said Wednesday.
"His plan was to shoot anyone who showed up to help," Marinette County District Attorney Brent DeBord said.
But Johnson apparently reconsidered after shooting the teens, the complaint said. Following an all-night manhunt, he surrendered to authorities, disabling his military-type rifle in a way that would be obvious to them, DeBord said.
Johnson, 38, of Kingsford, Mich., was charged Wednesday with three counts of first-degree intentional homicide. The charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Johnson's public defender, Len Kachinsky, said he plans to hold his first meeting with Johnson before a court hearing Thursday.
"I think people should maintain an open mind and withhold judgment until the evidence is in," Kachinsky said.
The complaint tells a chilling story of a disaffected man who had thought about committing a random shooting for the past four or five years and prepared by stashing weapons in the woods.
"He stated that the sole purpose of his hiding this equipment was for when a day like this came," DeBord said.
Johnson finally decided to execute his plan last week after suspecting that a woman he had recently sexually assaulted would tell her ordeal to police, the complaint said.
He has not been charged with sexual assault, but more charges could still be filed, DeBord said at a news conference Wednesday at which he read the complaint but declined to take questions.
The complaint gives the following account:
Johnson said he lured the woman near the bridge the evening before the shooting, sexually assaulted her and tried to talk her out of calling police. He decided to wait there and kill any law enforcers who arrived to investigate. When none did, he returned home.
He left his home the next day and when he returned, his mother told him police were looking for him. Expecting to go to jail and fearing the label of sex offender, he decided "he had nothing to lose and the only power he had in this life was `to take.'"
He returned to the bridge, where he counted eight teenagers. He recovered his hidden Armalite 7.62 mm military-type rifle and an ammunition box with .308 cartridges that he had stowed at least a year before.
He found a hill on the Wisconsin side where he could shoot. He planned to wait until the youths were back on the Michigan side and shoot them as "bait" to lure law enforcers he could then also shoot.
But he was startled when four of the teens began to climb up toward him, instead of taking the path he expected. When the teens approached, he felt trapped and jumped up, firing about 17 shots. He saw people fall as he began to reload but decided not to fire again.
Johnson spent the night in the woods and turned himself in the next morning as an intensive manhunt was under way.
"Before exiting the woods, he disabled the firearm in a way so that law enforcement could see that the gun was disabled," DeBord said.
Two teens, Tiffany Pohlson, 17, and Anthony Spigarelli, 18, died instantly from single shots to the head. The third, Bryan Mort, 19, died of a shot to the torso. A 20-year-old man suffered superficial shrapnel wounds. All four were from Michigan.
The location of the wounds suggested all four were fleeing, said Scott Celello, undersheriff for Dickinson County, Mich.
Johnson's mother, Judy Johnson, had said her son was honorably discharged from the Army in 1994 without serving overseas and has been unemployed. She described him as despondent since his wife left him in 2001 and took their two children with her. She said she worried he might "do something stupid."
DeBord is handling the case because the shots were fired from the Wisconsin side. Michigan authorities are still investigating and could file additional charges, he said.
Christopher Ninomiya, the Dickinson County district attorney, did not immediately return a message left Wednesday seeking comment.
By Tony Messenger - ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri Rep. Scott Muschany (Email), R-Frontenac, was indicted Wednesday in connection with the sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl early in the morning on May 17, hours after this year's legislative session ended.
The alleged victim is the daughter of a state employee. The girl's mother and Muschany — who is married and has two children — were involved romantically, the woman said.
A Cole County grand jury returned an indictment charging Muschany with the Class C felony of "deviate sexual assault." The indictment identifies the victim only by initials. It says that on May 17, Muschany "had deviate sexual intercourse" with the girl, "knowing that he did so without" her consent.
The charge carries a potential prison term of up to seven years and a fine of up to $5,000.
Muschany, 42, was booked into the Cole County Jail at 2:50 p.m. and was released after posting $5,000 bail.
Muschany was widely perceived as a rising conservative voice in the state Republican Party, but he surprised many by announcing in late May that he was not running again in November. At the time he said he wanted to spend more time with his family.
Muschany's attorney, Robert Haar of Haar and Woods in St. Louis, told the Post-Dispatch that "the allegations are false, and we believe the jury will conclude they are false."
Muschany could not be reached for comment. He has turned down several interview requests since June, when the Post-Dispatch first began asking about the allegations of sexual assault.
On June 2, a reporter asked if he wanted to hear details in a police report about the incident. Muschany said: "I'm not interested in any details. That's just crazy." The next day, Muschany told the Post-Dispatch, "There is no investigation." He did not return subsequent phone calls.
On June 17, reached in person at his home, he declined to answer questions and threatened to call police if a reporter didn't leave his property.
The girl's mother, who owns the Jefferson City house listed on the police report as the scene of the incident, confirmed that Muschany was in the house on the night of the incident. She declined to comment further.
Last Friday, the father of the girl filed a motion for temporary child custody in Cole County Circuit Court. In the filing he argued that the mother's "believed paramour was believed/alleged to have had inappropriate sexual contact with one of the minor children."
The document, which does not identify Muschany, alleges that the mother "did admit that the incident did take place, including her witnessing same."
The court filing also alleges that the mother originally "denied such allegations" to law enforcement before later admitting that "she had lied."
The mother has not responded to the father's assertions, according to the court file.
The grand jury indictment lists eight witnesses for the state, including most of the family members of the victim and Jefferson City police Detective Lee Tubbesing.
Tubbesing did not return calls seeking comment.
Cole County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Richardson could not be reached for comment. He had previously declined to discuss the case.
Jefferson City Police Chief Roger Schroeder said that a narrative connected to the police report describes the details of the alleged assault, but that it was part of the investigative file and would be kept secret for now.
The girl's father told the Post-Dispatch that his daughter told a sibling about the alleged assault a few days after it happened, and that the sibling told the father on May 26. He called the child abuse hot line the next day.
"I believe what my daughter told me," the father said.
According to documents obtained by the Post-Dispatch, the state Children's Services division investigated the reported sexual assault and issued a preliminary finding that "substantiated" the claim. Under Missouri law, a substantiated claim means that investigators found a "preponderance of evidence" that the assault took place, said Jan Carter of the Department of Social Services. Muschany has the right to appeal that claim, Carter said.
- So did they do a rape kit? And if not, why the hell not?
The girl's 17-year-old brother told the Post-Dispatch that his mother told him she has known Muschany for about two years and that they had been seeing each other romantically for about a year. The woman is a former House employee who now works in a different department in state government.
The Post-Dispatch does not typically identify victims of sexual assault. The newspaper is also withholding the names of the girl's mother, father and brother, who share her last name. All three family members spoke to the Post-Dispatch without promises of anonymity.
Muschany was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 2004 representing District 87, which covers portions of St. Louis County including Frontenac, Brentwood and Warson Woods.
Muschany was chairman of three House committees. In 2006, Muschany was a co-sponsor of legislation that toughened sex offender laws.
- Karma sucks doesn't it?
He ran for majority floor leader in the House last year but lost to state Rep. Steve Tilley, R-Perryville.
On May 20, three days after the Legislature finished its 2008 session, Muschany announced he was ending his re-election bid to spend more time with his family. At the time, Muschany said it was a decision he and his wife had made in early January, but he kept it from his colleagues so he wouldn't be a "lame duck" during the session.
The owner and founder of engineering firm Trileaf Corporation, Muschany served as a board member of the Pregnancy Resource Center of Greater St. Louis. He and his wife both were licensed as foster parents with the Division of Family Services, according to his legislative biography in the state's official manual, known as the "blue book."
Several lawmakers told the Post-Dispatch during the paper's investigation of the case that they were shocked that Muschany could be the subject of a sexual assault investigation.
State Rep. Chuck Portwood, R-Ballwin, said he was surprised. He said he knew Muschany and the woman were "good friends."
Rep. Ryan Silvey, a Republican from Kansas City, also said he was "shocked" by the allegations.
Silvey and other state representatives and legislative staffers had been with Muschany at a post-session party the night of May 16, after the legislative session ended. The party was at the home of Supreme Court Clerk Tom Simon.
Rep. Jim Lembke, R-Mehlville, was also at the party. He said allegations that Muschany was involved in any sort of sex assault "would be very shocking" to him.
Muschany is the second Republican with a connection to the Capitol to be indicted on sex charges in Cole County in the last three months. In May, the former chief of staff to Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder was indicted on misdemeanor charges of providing pornography to a minor.
Eric Feltner was engaged in explicit conversations with a person he thought was a 13-year-old girl, but it was an undercover police officer, according to the probable cause statement in his case. Feltner is scheduled to be arraigned in his case today.
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An attorney for Everett recommends a task force to deal with frustrations of neighbors.
EVERETT -- The city should form a task force to examine sex offender housing and prepare a report to send to state lawmakers, an Everett deputy city attorney told the City Council on Wednesday.
The attorney, David Hall, offered the advice during a briefing on community fears about sex offenders moving into what is called the McManus mansion in the Riverside neighborhood.
"Anything we can do can't hurt," City Councilwoman Brenda Stonecipher said. "I know the city of Everett has tried to approach the Legislature on these issues in the past, but requests have fallen on deaf ears."
Hall said the task force should include Everett residents as well as city officials.
Such a group could examine issues such as the concentration of sex offenders in a given neighborhood, sex offender notification and zoning rules.
A state law passed in 2006 prohibited local jurisdictions from enacting zoning rules that dictate where registered sex offenders can live. The law was passed after Monroe, Steilacoom and Issaquah created their own zoning rules regarding where sex offenders live.
The issue came to a head in Everett earlier this summer when a former Seattle police officer bought the McManus mansion and rented out a room to a high-risk sex offender. The offender has since gone back to jail after he was caught drinking alcohol, a violation of his parole.
Alex Thole is a business partner with Mike Westford, who owns several properties around Everett and rents to dozens of sex offenders.
Westford has plans to tear down his rental houses in the Bayside neighborhood, and neighbors across town in the Riverside neighborhood fear he will start buying houses and renting to sex offenders near their homes.
Westford says he might rent to sex offenders, but his primary goal is to provide housing for people recovering from drug and alcohol addictions.
While sex offenders are not a protected group, people recovering from drug and alcohol addictions are considered disabled and therefore protected from discrimination under the federal Fair Housing Act.
That means communities can't create zoning rules to keep them out of certain neighborhoods.
Westford's opponents say he is savvy and merely hiding behind federal housing rules to thwart attempts to regulate his enterprise.
Westford, who hangs the Ten Commandments outside his rental properties and who says he is a devout Christian, says he is providing affordable housing for people who otherwise would be homeless.
At the meeting on Wednesday, Ric Rosales, a community corrections supervisor with the state Department of Corrections, said he understands the concern about placing many sex offenders in a single neighborhood.
Putting too many sex offenders in a single place could cause backlash from the public and make landlords less willing to rent to anyone who has been convicted of a sex crime.
He referred to convicted rapist David J. Torrence, whom the Department of Corrections in April outfitted with a GPS tracking device and ordered to sleep under a bridge because he had no place to live. Torrence removed the device, fled the state but surrendered a couple of weeks later in Arkansas.
Reporter David Chircop: 425-3393429 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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A jury found San Jose police officer Kenneth Earl Williams guilty of soliciting nude photos from a former Scotts Valley High girls basketball player.
Santa Cruz County jurors returned the verdict just after 5 p.m. Wednesday and Williams, who had been out on bail, was taken into police custody at the courthouse in Watsonville.
"He betrayed the trust of this young girl. He betrayed the trust of the community," prosecutor Jeff Rosell said outside the courtroom after the verdict was read.
The 27-year veteran officer was arrested and charged in December 2005. The girl, who was 15 and 16 years old when she had contact with him, told Scotts Valley police detectives Williams gave her a digital camera and asked her to take naked photos of herself, which she did.
The girl, who is not being named because she was the victim of a crime, had contact with Williams because his wife, Yolanda Williams, was the girls' basketball coach at Scotts Valley High. Williams, 50, assisted with the team.
Naked photos of the girl were found on several of Williams' electronic devices, including at least two computers and an iPod. During his trial, Williams testified that the girl had access to those devices and speculated that she loaded the photos herself.
Jurors disagreed. He was found guilty of four felony counts of soliciting lewd matter from a minor and two misdemeanors: possessing the lewd matter and destroying evidence.
"We're pleased with the verdict and we're pleased the jury saw through his lies," Rosell said. "We hope the victim can get some closure out of this and heal the wounds he caused her."
The trial lasted more than two weeks and the jury deliberated for about a day.
Williams faces a range of sentencing options, including a state prison sentence, and will have to register as a sex offender, according to Rosell.
Williams' lawyer, Paul Meltzer, had asked Superior Court Judge Heather Morse to permit Williams to stay free until sentencing, even suggesting bail could be increased or his client made to wear an electronic monitor. But Rosell argued that bail be revoked due to the seriousness of the crimes. Morse agreed.
Williams was booked into County Jail while he awaits a sentencing hearing set for Aug. 18.
New rules restrict where convicted sexual offenders may live in township.
JENKINS TWP. -- The board of supervisors voted unanimously on Wednesday to enact a new law to protect local children from known sexual predators.
The ordinance sets residency restrictions for sexual offenders that follow state law commonly referred to as Megan’s Law II.
Effective Wednesday, Aug. 13, any person over 18 years old with a record of convictions for crimes against minors must reside at least 1,500 feet away from schools, child-care facilities, parks and other areas where children congregate, the ordinance reads. Rule breakers could face 90 days in jail and pay $1,000 in fines for each violation.
Any offender residing within the 1,500-foot limit will be given 45 days to relocate, according to the ordinance, which will be enforced by township police. And, their new residence must be outside the limit.
The township has several public parks, said township Secretary/Treasurer Russ Arnone. Although there are no known sexual offenders currently residing in the township, Arnone said the supervisors are following a trend among local municipalities in adopting the law.
The ordinance states the township recognizes child predators as a paramount concern for township citizens.
Supervisor Joe Zelonis pointed out the township is spread out and growing as new residents move in, making the sexual predator rule more important for residents.
In other action, supervisors adopted the International Property Maintenance Code. Township Manager Robert Jones said the code focuses on the responsibility of property owners for upkeep. The rule mirrors statewide codes enacted about five years ago, Jones said.
The code enforcement officer will now have the authorization to “get more aggressive,” Arnone said. Property owners face penalties if they don’t remove garbage, cut their lawns and stay on top of other general maintenance jobs.
The supervisors want to see properties cleaned up in the township, Zelonis said. He cited absentee landlords as an example of property owners who sometimes ignore their maintenance responsibilities.
During Labor Day weekend, Jenkins Township and the Pittston police department will sponsor a softball tournament to raise funds for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Zelonis said the township expects to raise up to $4,000.
Officials also announced all refuse and recycling collection will be one day late during the Labor Day holiday week. And, the township will collect yard waste on Thursdays until November.
The New Jersey Parole Board violated a repeat sex offender's constitutional rights by imposing an all-night curfew without giving him a chance to challenge it, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled yesterday.
In a unanimous decision, the high court said Ronald Jamgochian -- who twice assaulted women after luring them with promises of modeling work -- was improperly ordered confined to his home from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. The curfew was based on a woman's complaint to police that he had made her feel uncomfortable after offering her work.
The court found the board violated his due process rights and must provide offenders notices and a "meaningful opportunity to be heard."
The parole board could reasonably have found his behavior was a "prelude to recidivism," but he still deserved an opportunity to contest the allegations and curfew, wrote Justice Barry Albin for the court, adding a nightly 11-hour curfew encroaches upon on Jamgochian's right to liberty.
"The loss of freedom occasioned by home confinement is not as complete as imprisonment in a penal institution, but it is, nevertheless, a deprivation of liberty. Meaningful procedural protections that would lessen the likelihood of mistaken imposition of a curfew ... serve both the interests of the supervised offender and the state," Albin wrote.
Jamgochian's attorney, Joseph Murphy, was pleased the decision.
"We can't just give due process to honorable people," he said. "Due process means there has to be some fair procedure set up so that people don't get thrown into jail because of whim and arbitrariness.
State Parole Board officials also said they were pleased the court said the agency had the expertise and authority to come up with a scheme to handle future cases.
"The decision more narrowly defines the process that is due, and clarifies the factors that must be considered. It also upholds the State Parole Board's ability to impose a curfew on an emergency basis and afford due process afterwards, in the interest of public safety," said spokesman Neal Buccino.
In 1979, Jamgochian was convicted of leading an extortion operation in which Playboy Bunnies from a Vernon resort were lured to Jamgochian's home, drugged and videotaped while they were raped. He served eight years of a 12-year sentence.
Ten years ago, a 20-year-old California woman came to New Jersey expecting to model for the cover of a romance novel. When she arrived, Jamgochian bound her and then gave her the choice of performing a sex act in front of a video camera or being gang-raped. He was sentenced to four years in state prison and placed on community supervision for life.
In 2005, 3 1/2 years after his release. He propositioned a 17-year-old waitress at a diner, offering a job opportunity and asking her to keep the conversation quiet. She became concerned and alerted Rockaway Township police.
The next day, the Parole Board concluded the curfew would "lessen the likelihood of Mr. Jamgochian's return to criminal activity."
Yesterday's 36-page decision said Jamgochian is no longer under a curfew and the ruling is meant to apply to any future curfews officers seek to impose on him or other offenders being supervised for life. Over 200 offenders on lifetime supervision are currently on curfew, the court said.
Jamgochian, 58, and now living in Somerset County selling long-distance telephone services, called the ruling logical.
"This is about a comment allegedly made that made someone feel uncomfortable. The parole board made a big leap from that I was going to do something wrong. I was never even given an opportunity to say that is not what happened," he said.
Kate Coscarelli can be reached at email@example.com or (973) 392-4147.