Monday, October 27, 2008
By JIM SALTER - The Associated Press
ST. LOUIS - A federal judge ruled Monday that parts of Missouri's new law restricting registered sex offenders' actions on Halloween night are unenforceable, saying it lacked clarity and could cause confusion for sex offenders and those charged with enforcing the law.
U.S. District Judge Carol Jackson granted a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of some parts of the law after hearing arguments in a case brought by four sex offenders.
Attorney General Jay Nixon's spokesman, Scott Holste, said the office was not prepared to discuss the ramifications of the order but would appeal quickly.
The law approved by the Legislature in May and signed by Gov. Matt Blunt (Contact) in June requires that sex offenders avoid all Halloween-related contact with children from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Oct. 31. It requires them to remain inside their homes with the outside lights off, and to post a sign saying they have no candy.
- If they are not on probation or parole, then you have no right to make them stay in their home under some curfew. There has not been one case of a child harmed sexually on Halloween, not one! So this is all hype and fear-mongering.
A violation is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail.
Attorney Chris Quinn, arguing for the state, said the law is aimed at protecting children on a night when many visit strangers' homes, sometimes without their parents.
- So that is the problem, why aren't parents being parents and going along with their kids, if they are so scared of the boogeyman?
"Sex offenders pose a risk of reoffending that's higher than anyone else," he said during the four-hour hearing.
- Um, no they don't! Where'd you get that BS? The Bureau of Justice says they are LESS LIKELY TO REOFFEND, than any other criminal, see for yourself here, here and here. This is just one of those sound bites, people repeat over and over, until people believe it, and they are believing it. Hitler once said, "If you tell a lie often enough and loud enough, eventually it will be believed!"
Jackson found no fault with the provision requiring sex offenders to keep their outdoor lights off. She also agreed there was no lack of clarity in the requirement for a sign that reads, "No candy or treats at this residence."
But other aspects of the statute were too broad and raise questions, the judge said.
For example, Jackson said, may a sex offender have contact with his or her own children on Halloween? Passing out candy is clearly prohibited, but what else constitutes "Halloween-related activity?" And if a sex offender planned to be out of town on Halloween, he or she would not technically be "inside the home" as the law requires, Jackson said.
The law also allows sex offenders to leave home on Halloween night if there is "just cause" such as work or an emergency, but Jackson criticized the measure for failing to define "just cause" more clearly.
Such vagueness would cause confusion among sex offenders, police and prosecutors, Jackson said.
She cited a letter sent out by the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff's Department to registered sex offenders in that southeast Missouri county. She said the letter's reference to the "Halloween season" could have police trying to enforce the law on days other than Oct. 31 — clearly not the law's intent, she added.
The injunction stemmed from a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri. Attorney Dave Nelson called the requirements of the law a "scarlet letter" for sex offenders. He said the law also results in additional punishment by requiring what amounts to "house arrest" one day each year.
Anthony Rothert, the legal director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, said the judge did not limit her order to just the four plaintiffs in the case.
In practical terms, the judge's order appears to mean that registered sex offenders in Missouri do still have to turn off their porch light and post a sign saying they don't have candy on Halloween night, he said.
But as he understands it, the judge's order means registered sex offenders in Pike, Cape Girardeau and St. Louis counties where the plaintiffs live, can spend time with their children on Halloween and do not have to stay inside their homes.
Rothert suggested registered sex offenders statewide check with their county sheriff's department to see how they plan on enforcing the law. Rothert said the judge's order only applies to this Halloween, but he added the ACLU will continue working to get the entire statute off the books.
BY LESLIE WILBER - LWILBER@VICAD.COM
The district attorney will continue to prosecute aggravated perjury cases against three officials, a judge ruled Monday.
"I think it's a legitimate issue, and it's a matter of important concern," Judge Robert Cheshire said of attorney Randy Schaffer's motion to disqualify. "But I don't have the authority to do what you're requesting."
Even if Schaffer's request to remove District Attorney Stephen Tyler from the case has merit, Cheshire said he can't stop an elected prosecutor from doing his job. Schaffer is defending former city attorney David Smith. Lawyers for Police Chief Bruce Ure and Lt. Ralph Buentello asked Cheshire to consider similar motions for their clients.
"What the defense has asked the court to do, the court has no authority to do," Tyler said.
Tyler's testimony would establish that Smith's prosecution is part of an ongoing feud, Schaffer's motion read. He also argued that Tyler witnessed Smith's alleged lie and is uniquely capable of describing how the perjury could have affected the case against the DA's former chief of staff, Michael Ratcliff.
Case law supports forcing a defense lawyer from a case, Cheshire said, but none applies to elected prosecutors.
Schaffer countered that the same legal reasoning behind removing a defense lawyer for a conflict of interest should apply to a prosecutor.
Cheshire found one aggravated perjury case with similar facts, but the prosecutor voluntarily removed himself, the judge said. Since Tyler has turned this into a personal crusade, Schaffer argued, Cheshire should set new precedent.
"Just because no prosecutor has ever gone that far before, that does not mean we cannot show a due process violation," Schaffer said.
In an interview after the hearing, Tyler said prosecutors can't walk away from cases just because defendants think they should.
"You don't get to just try the pleasant cases or the easy cases," Tyler said. Stepping down from these cases would set a bad precedent, he said.
And if Tyler thought there was a conflict, he would recuse himself, as he did in the Ratcliff case, he said.
In that case, Tyler said, he stepped aside because he found out Tyler found out Ratcliff may have given him misleading or wrong information about his law enforcement licensing, Tyler said. In that case, Tyler would have been the only witness to Ratcliff's misstatements. In Smith's case - as well as in those against Ure and Buentello - at least 13 other people heard the alleged lies and they were recorded on videotape before the grand jury.
But Tyler's involvement in the case is undeniable, Schaffer said in court.
"He is right in the mix as a fact witness," Schaffer said.
Schaffer declined to discuss Monday's hearing. Cheshire invited him to file a brief with more evidence refuting the judge's decision. Schaffer said he would continue to research.
What's happened so far:
Former Sheriff Michael Ratcliff was indicted in October 2007 on charges of sexually assaulting a teenage boy. Ratcliff was District Attorney Stephen Tyler's chief of staff at the time of the indictment.
Ratcliff was sentenced to probation after he pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated perjury in a plea bargain in July 2008. As part of the plea bargain, he admitted he lied about having sex with his accuser.
That accuser alleged the abuse occurred while Ratcliff was sheriff a decade ago. Victoria police and city officials said they became concerned during the summer of 2007 with the pace of the Ratcliff inquiry and took a variety of steps to investigate, including talking to an Advocate journalist. In May 2008, a grand jury indicted Police Chief Bruce Ure, Lt. Ralph Buentello and former city attorney David Smith on charges of aggravated perjury, official oppression, misuse of official information, witness tampering and criminal conspiracy. Mayor Will Armstrong was charged with misuse of official information and criminal conspiracy for his role in the alleged leak.
The aggravated perjury charges against Ure, Buentello and Smith remain pending; a judge dismissed all other charges.
Cheshire set a pre-trial hearing for Smith, Ure and Buentello at 10 a.m. Dec. 18. The three men are scheduled to have separate trials, which could be held in January and February.
Who is this reporter? The need to grammar check their articles.
Former Alton Police Chief Jose Luis Vela was back in court on Monday.
Vela is accused of drugging and raping two male officers from his own police department.
The embattled lawman's trial was supposed to start on Monday but prosecutors offered Vela plea bargain that would have left him off on deferred adjudication.
Sources told Action 4 News that strong point of disagreement between prosecutors and defense attorneys the condition he register as a sex offender for life.
- Well, he did commit a sex crime, so yeah, he should be labeled a sex offender like the average John Doe who does the same thing.
Vela maintains his innocence and that some the alleged sexual contact was consensual.
Sources told Action 4 News that the former police chief could face prison time if the case ends up going to trial and Vela loses.
We are writing to report a very positive development in the law. Today, the Supreme Court of Georgia struck down the portion of the sex offender law that made it illegal and punishable by 10-30 years in prison for a person on the sex offender registry to be homeless. The case is Santos v. State, Case No. S08A1296 (Ga. Oct. 27, 2008). We congratulate the Hall County Public Defender Office whose attorneys briefed and argued the case. Our office also filed a legal brief in the case.
As many of you know, the sex offender law that went into effect on July 1, 2006 required persons on the registry to report an “address.” The law further specified that “homeless does not constitute an address.” Ga. Code Ann. 42-1-12(a)(1). In the last two years, a number of people have been arrested and charged with a crime simply for being homeless. Some of those people became homeless as a direct result of Georgia’s 1,000-foot sex offender residence restrictions.
In Santos, a homeless man in Hall County was charged with the crime of “failure to register” because he did not have a residence to register as an “address.” The Georgia Supreme Court held that the homeless provision was unconstitutionally vague. The Court reasoned that the law did not give Mr. Santos appropriate notice about what conduct was required of him given his homelessness. The Court further stated:
“Our decision renders unconstitutional the address registration requirement as applied to homeless sex offenders who, like Santos, possess no street or route address for their residence. It does not exempt such offenders from reporting other information required under the statute and it does not exempt homeless sex offenders who are able to provide a street or route address, such as the address of a shelter at which they are staying.”
You can read the Georgia Supreme Court opinion at:
We believe that this decision was not only compelled by the Constitution, but also serves the goal of public safety. The purpose of the sex offender registration law is to give law enforcement officials the ability to keep track of persons who have committed sexual crimes. Criminalizing homelessness is the wrong approach since it creates a significant disincentive to reporting and may encourage persons to abscond from the registry.
PLEASE NOTE THAT HOMELESS PERSONS ON THE REGISTRY MUST STILL REGISTER. They must report their best available address, whether it is a homeless shelter or the location outside where they are sleeping. They must take care to apprise law enforcement officials when they change addresses.
We will keep you apprised of any further developments.
All the best,
Sara, Sarah, Mica, Gerry, and James
By BILL RANKIN - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Registration requirements ruled to be ‘unconstitutionally vague.’
The Georgia Supreme Court on Monday declared unconstitutional a provision of the sex-offender registry law, because it fails to inform the homeless who have no address how they can comply with the statute.
In a 6-1 decision, the court found that the law’s registration requirements are “unconstitutionally vague.”
The decision was a huge legal victory for William James Santos, charged in Hall County for failing to register a new address in the sex-offender registry. Because this would have been his second failure-to-register offense, he faced a mandatory life sentence.
The law, one of the harshest 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, he was forced to leave it. For the next three months, Santos was homeless and could not give an address and comply with the statute.
In October 2006, Santos was arrested and indicted for the second offense.
Santos’ lawyer had argued that the registry law made being homeless a crime.
In its opinion on Monday, the court said the law provides no standards or guidelines that would put homeless sex offenders without a street or route address on notice of what is required of them. This leaves them to guess as to how to achieve compliance with the law’s reporting provisions, the decision said.
This lack of direction “leads to arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement,” said the opinion, written by Justice Hugh Thompson.
“Our decision renders unconstitutional the address registration requirement as applied to homeless sex offenders, who, like Santos, possess no street or route address for their residence,” Thompson wrote.
The justice added that the court was “by no means holding that all homeless sex offenders are exempt from the statute’s reporting requirements.”
Justice George Carley issued the lone dissent.
Keep in mind, this affects those on probation or parole only!
In the last couple weeks, we have heard from individuals who have been notified by their probation officers that they will be subject to additional restrictions on the night of Halloween. These restrictions may include curfews, heightened reporting requirements, and mandatory meetings to take place during the evening hours of Halloween, among other things.
We recognize that these restrictions are likely frustrating for many of you and your families. While these restrictions are unfair as applied to many people, it would be difficult to challenge them in court since the law gives individual probation officers a lot of discretion about when to require people to report to the probation office (see OCGA 42-8-35(a)(3).) In addition, we must focus all of our energies on the Whitaker v. Perdue lawsuit (More Georgia Lawsuits) and our efforts to prevent people from being evicted from their homes and forced from their jobs. We are unable to challenge the additional Halloween night restrictions.
All the best,
Sara, Sarah, Mica, Gerry, and James
Posted by: Lisa Fritsch (Her Website)
What would most moms do if they find out that a man they had seen talking to their 10 year-old daughter was a sex offender of the highest level? Most of us would panic and call the police. Some of us might completely wimp out and just tell our daughters to stay away from them. But 40-year old Tammy Lee Gibson did the right thing. She sent a message straight to the offender by way of a baseball bat putting him the hospital before his arrest. William Baldwin, a 7 foot 3, convicted sex offender made several mistakes that provoked this courageous and necessary response from Ms. Gibson.
First, he failed to register as a sex offender and notify his neighbors. Second, he talked to Ms. Gibson’s 10 year old daughter. Baldwin claims, “I am not like that anymore.” If this had any grain of truth and Baldwin was indeed reformed he should know that him alone and talking with a 10-year child is wrong and risky.
- He did register, you did not do your homework. And he talked to her daughter LAST YEAR!!!
Ms. Gibson did everything right. “I was thinking he would never hurt any child again.” She had every parental responsibility to defend her daughter and her community against this sick man. Unfortunately, Ms. Gibson is in jail and awaiting bail. Like me several people are supportive of her actions and many have offered to help pay her bond. Though Detective Ed Troyer of the Sheriff’s Office disagrees. He reports to us that Gibson is “not a soccer mom in a minivan who lost her temper. She’s been in jail before.” And continues, “If everybody went out and beat up a sex offender, we’re going to have to stop doing notifications.” Whatever she drives, Mr. Troyer is beside the point. Whatever she has done in the past is not the point. The point is that when she took a bat to William Baldwin she was a hero. She had the courage to do what most of us should, but wouldn’t because we are the soccer moms in the minivans who are afraid to hurt someone’s feelings or we are afraid of how we might look. What Mr. Troyer should be thinking is that if everybody went out and beat up a sex offender, we might have a lot less sex offenders. This is the point. Home run and bravo to Ms. Gibson.
- Ms. Fritsch, you are just as sick as Ms. Gibson is. Ask youself this, why didn't he fight back? He could've kicked her butt and put her in the hospital, but he chose to not attack her, that is what is right. The way you defend this lady, I am willing to bet you are a femi-nazi who has been a victim as well, but still, that doesn't give anybody the right to take the law into their own hands. He could've pulled out a gun and killed her, yet he did not.
YouTube Channel | Web Site
Once again, another uninformed person. They are ASKING offenders to do this, not MANDATING it, and it's for those on probation or parole, not all sex offenders. See here. More Halloween Hysteria! Good show though. AMEN BROTHER, tell em' like it is. Be a parent for God's sake!
Story By: Jeannette Hynes
At least 51 convicted sex offenders in Colorado are back in jail, after a statewide sweep that involved 37 agencies, including Colorado Springs Police, Pueblo Police, Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Department of Corrections, and U.S. Marshals.
Authorities are calling the weekend sweep a success, saying assigning that many officers and agents for one purpose made every arrest worthwhile.
In Denver, U.S. Marshals arrested a man for failing to register, and they say they also found child pornography in his home, and plan to check into his roommate.
Pueblo Detective Jeff Shay said #80 on the "Most Wanted" list, Reggie Rodriguez, turned himself in, after learning he was wanted by federal authorities.
"We had officers all the way out in Kim, Colorado, looking for him," explained Shay. He said they were following up on several tips that were coming in from the community.
Pueblo Police arrested nine wanted sex offenders. Colorado Springs Police arrested 11.
Studies show, when a convicted sex offender does not comply with registration rules, it is very likely that person will offend again. That's why authorities conducted this weekend sweep - to try to track down as many people as they could who hadn't registered with local authorities.
- Really, I don't believe you, show me this so-called "study!" I can show you many which prove otherwise, here, here and here.
"If they're a continual problem, and not being monitored, chances are they're violating and reoffending without anyone knowing it," said David Floyd, Supervising Deputy for U.S. Marshals.
- Yeah right, and I guess you are a fortune teller as well!
These sex offenders' convictions include indecent exposure, rape, sexual assault, and sexual assault on a child.
Clermont County Sheriff A.J. Rodenberg issued the following statement on Sunday evening.
We have received some inquiries asking if our office had any plans for monitoring or controlling registered sex offenders on Halloween night. We do intensify our patrols in the county that night which increases our visible presence hopefully deterring criminal activity. Yet, there are no provisions of Ohio law that allow local law enforcement to exercise control over or place restrictions upon registered sex offenders. Those sex offenders that are still on probation may be monitored/visited by the Adult Probation Department, but if their sentences have been completed, they are under no further control by the legal system other than mandatory registration requirements. There is, however, a useful Internet tool that parents can use to check the neighborhoods where their children will be trick or treating.
Across Ohio there are approximately 20,000 registered sex offenders, and Halloween can present those that may be so inclined with an opportunity to offend. Anyone accessing the Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association web site or their local Sheriff’s Office website can input an address and find a list of registered offenders living within one mile of that address anywhere in Ohio. This information may prove helpful to parents if they wish to avoid certain places or residences during Halloween or at other times.
Even beyond Halloween citizens can enroll in the automatic address monitoring and notification system on the web sites, and the system will automatically e-mail an alert when a registered sex offender moves within one mile of the address specified. These e-mail alerts are sent out as soon as the offender is registered at the Sheriff’s Office in the county of their residence.
Citizens should click the “sex offender” link on the web sites and follow the instructions to check the desired neighborhoods/addresses and sign up for email alerts. It is important to keep in mind, however, that some sex offenders may not have registered as required by law, may have moved without updating their residence information, or may be visiting places other than their own residence. Also, offenders whose cases are still pending in the legal system, or others who have offended and have not been discovered or arrested will NOT be listed in the Internet sex offender registry. It is, therefore, important that parents exercise vigilance regardless of what may appear within the sex offender registry website.