Tuesday, November 18, 2008

OK - Teen Sex Criminalized

View Ricky's Web Site

Ricky was 16 when he had consensual sex with another teenager who lied about her age and now he is listed as a "predator" on the Oklahoma registry. The sex offender registry needs reform! Please visit the site above.


PA - Man found guilty of killing son's alleged molester

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Related Story (More Detailed)

This is pure pre-meditated murder. Read the second story above.

11/18/2008

By The Associated Press

ERIE -- A northwestern Pennsylvania man has been convicted of third-degree murder for shooting a man who was accused of molesting the suspect's 10-year-old son.

Terry Sherlock, 34, of Erie County, will face up to a 20- to 40-year prison sentence when he's sentenced Jan. 15 on the murder charge, and more time on four lesser charges including reckless endangerment.

Erie County prosecutors say Sherlock purposely shot and killed Kenneth Himrod, 28, on Nov. 20, while Himrod was being investigated on allegations he molested Sherlock's son.

Sherlock's attorney had argued at trial that Sherlock killed Himrod in a rage and should be convicted of the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter. Today, a jury agreed with prosecutors instead.


Overhyped Fear Of Child Predators Leading To Real Concerns About Child Privacy

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11/18/2008

from the funny-how-that-works dept

Once again, we have a situation of unintended consequences due to politicians trying to make headlines for "protecting the children." As you probably know, the press and politicians have been pushing for a bit of a moral panic over the idea that kids are at great risk from predators online. The truth is that the risk has been blown way out of proportion. Most child abductions come in cases where the abductor knew the child, and most children know better than to talk to random strangers online. Yet, because of all the scary articles in the press, plenty of politicians went around demanding that various social networks put in place age verification systems in order to "protect" the children. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal led the charge in insisting that predators on social networks was a huge problem.

Of course, now that the social networks have started putting in place age verification systems, child safety experts are realizing that this actually creates some serious privacy issues, most likely bigger than any threat of predators. The various companies that are providing age verification tools are building up databases of info on children, and many of them are using that info to market stuff specifically to children. So, now, rather than being mostly anonymous online, various marketers have a bunch of info -- including name, age, address, school and gender -- that they wouldn't have access to otherwise.

And, of course, even though he's partly responsible for this turn of events, Richard Blumenthal is quite upset. After first claiming that he's only just been hearing about such privacy issues, he claims:

"The attorneys general would be very concerned about using age verification to promote marketing or any other kinds of promotional pitches or gimmicks aimed at specific age groups. Targeted marketing may have its place, but it should not be coupled with the issue of childhood safety."

Perhaps he should have thought of that before demanding that social networks hire companies to collect that kind of information.


CA - Into the Realm of Insanity - When Mooning is a Sex Crime

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11/18/2008

By MARC GARDNER

In 1993 JM turned around, dropped his trousers and told his sister-in-law to “kiss my black ass!” The younger sisters laughed, compounding the indignity. To make JM pay for this rude affront, the sister-in-law called the cops. He did three days in the county jail and pled out to misdemeanor indecent exposure and credit for time served.

Sounds pretty harsh, doesn’t it? Three day and nights for mooning your sister in law?

Fast forward to 1998 when the voters of California passed “Megan’s Law” (PC 290) requiring those convicted of certain sex offences to register with the local police for the rest of their lives. Indecent Exposure (PC 314) is listed under PC 290 and is applied retroactively. Required to register under penalty of felony, combined with a taste for illicit substances, JM picked up a new state prison term.

California’s Proposition 83, voted and enacted in 2006, prohibits registered sex offenders from living within a certain distance of a school or a park. Most urban areas have no places to live within the required distance. The new law has been determined by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to apply retroactively once a parolee violates parole after the election of 2006, no matter when the 290 offenses took place and even if, as with JM, it wasn’t a felony requiring state prison and parole. Until recently the parole officers have been looking the other way to a certain extent, given the impossibility of actually complying with the law, which explicitly forbids a parolee from spending a night in a non-compliant place.

JM was paroled to a Bay Area city where there are no compliant places. A brand new rule laid down by the CDCR is that one cannot be in the same non-compliant place for two hours. This is very recent, as we’ve been seeing these two-hour-rule violations for about the past week or two. JM is fortunate enough to have a trailer and a truck, so he and his wife have been moving his home around the clock. This is probably not a healthy environment for someone with substance abuse issues.

This is the current state of paroled sex offenders: to stay out of prison they have to drift from place to place within two hours, twenty four hours a day. I wish I were making this up. Most of these people have no evidence in their history to show they are a threat to children, and many don’t have a record of putting their hands on anyone else.

Things have gone beyond irrational into the realm of insanity. During JM’s parole revocation hearing one of the Corrections Officers said that a “college streaker” had recently been at a hearing subject to this madness.

Granted, there are people who have done horrible things and JM’s benign example is being used to show the breadth of the dragnet, but these laws are counterproductive in every way and from any angle given how difficult they make it to supervise the parolees and provide treatment, housing and employment opportunities, in addition to public safety issues arising from the unendurable stress that they’re put through.

If the voters of California don’t want child molesters living near schools or playgrounds then Section 290 of the California Penal Code has to be drastically overhauled so that it actually applies to convicted child molesters, although it is difficult to imagine any efficacy to a law which foments homelessness and helplessness.

Marc Gardner is a defense lawyer in the Bay Area. He can be reached at: marcgardner@earthlink.net


CA - Where can sex offenders live? City Council will try to solve some riddles, mysteries and enigmas.

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11/17/2008

City Council will try to solve some riddles, mysteries and enigmas.

With due respect to Winston Churchill's description of Russia shortly after World War II began, a revised Long Beach sex offender ordinance is "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma."

The original ordinance came about after nearby residents complained that an apartment building at 1149 E. First St. was housing more than a dozen sex offenders. As a result of the complaint, the City Council passed an ordinance in March that banned more than one registered sex offender per building - even apartment buildings - and placed restrictions on sex offenders loitering in "child safety zones," among other restrictions.

A group of 35 sex offenders hired a lawyer and threatened to sue the city, claiming that the ordinance was unconstitutional because it was retroactive. A month after the ordinance was passed, enforcement was suspended.

The revised ordinance would limit two sex offenders (who were convicted after the ordinance takes effect) from living together in the same housing unit, but an apartment building could house as many offenders as there were apartments. In other words, 16 sex offenders could live alone in a 16-unit apartment building. Which means it's back to square one for those who think clustering sex offenders is a bad idea. And it appears that the new law wouldn't apply to those who were convicted of sex offenses before the ordinance took effect.

But here's where the riddle part of the equation comes into play. Does the revised ordinance apply to offenders who move, or are they free to cluster with other sex offenders even if they change addresses? The lawyer for the Group of 35 claims that those who are clustered now are free to cluster even if they move. The owner of an apartment building next to the one where the offenders are clustered now says her understanding, based on a neighborhood meeting with a deputy city attorney, led her to believe that the new ordinance would apply to those who change addresses.

The mystery parts of the puzzle are why a landlord would want to rent to a dozen or more registered sex offenders in the same building and whether a sex offender convicted after the law takes effect could live anywhere in Long Beach, since the new ordinance would prohibit them from living within 2,000 feet of child-care centers, parks and schools.

Finally, the enigma: Let's say a homeowner commits a sex crime, is convicted after the law takes effect, does his time and returns to the home he owns. And let's say his roommate is a registered sex offender, too. And just to make things interesting, their house is across the street from a school, a block from a park and next to a child-care center. Under the new ordinance, it would appear that they would have to move. But maybe not.

The City Council will try to resolve the riddle, mystery and enigma of where sex offenders could live at its meeting tonight. What's already settled is the fact that, for sex offenders currently living in Long Beach, not much, if anything, will change.


OR - Sex crime suspect in jail - Former police officer turns himself in

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11/18/2008

By Mark Freeman - Mail Tribune

A former police officer accused of online sex crimes with children was jailed early Monday in Medford after a three-day public manhunt in Oregon and California.

Mark Allen Heckerman, 42, surrendered to authorities at 3:30 a.m. Monday at the Jackson County Jail, where he was lodged on 20 felony counts of encouraging child sexual abuse.

Heckerman telephoned investigators with the Southern Oregon High-Tech Crimes Task Force on Friday, the same day investigators went public about their search for the 18-year law-enforcement veteran from Hawaii and California, said Sgt. Josh Moulin, who heads the task force.

Heckerman told investigators that he was in the Redding, Calif., area and planned to turn himself in Sunday at the jail, Moulin said.

Police in Contra Costa County, Calif., also contacted Heckerman's family there Friday, Moulin said.

"We're happy to have him in custody," Moulin said.

Heckerman was arraigned on the 20 charges Monday in Jackson County Circuit Court, where not-guilty pleas were entered on his behalf, court records show.

He was ordered back in court Dec. 1 for a hearing and then returned to the jail, where he remained in custody Monday in lieu of $200,000 bail, records show.

Heckerman owned a construction company and at least once had attempted to join the Ashland Police Department, but a misdemeanor conviction in 2005 ended his law-enforcement career, police said.

The sex-abuse case began last spring when local police received information about Heckerman developed during a nationwide pornography investigation, police said.

Armed with a search warrant, police in March searched Heckerman's Phoenix house and seized digital images that were later examined at the task force's lab, police said.

Heckerman fled the area immediately after the search, and he was believed to be in the Sacramento area, police said.

A Jackson County grand jury in August indicted Heckerman on the 20 felonies, but California police were unable to to find and arrest him.

Heckerman was convicted in 2005 in Jackson County for a single count of invasion of privacy, police said.


GA - Sex offender law mindlessly harsh

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11/18/2008

One-size-fits-all laws don't fit all cases, and this is one of them

Should the law punish a motorist who is ticketed for a broken tail light as harshly as it punishes a drunken driver with multiple offenses who's found guilty of causing a fatal crash?

Of course not. Traffic law violations, like other crimes, are punished according to the seriousness of the offense. But that's not necessarily true when it comes to Georgia's sex offender law. Just ask Wendy Whitaker of Harlem.

More than 10 years ago, when she was a 17-year-old high school student, she engaged in consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old male classmate. In 1997 she pleaded guilty to sodomy and was put on five years' probation.

Since then Whitaker has gotten married and been free of any hint of misconduct. Yet she still must register each year as a sex offender. Her photo appears on the sex offender Web site and she is subject to a Georgia law that prohibits convicted sex predators from living within 1,000 feet of places where children gather, such as schools, parks and day care centers.

Her Harlem home is within 1,000 feet of a day care center, which as of now means she'll have to leave that home this week. Federal Judge Clarence Cooper denied Whitaker's motion last week to halt enforcement of that part of the state law that would force her out.

Before she and her husband moved into their Harlem home a few years ago, the couple had to move several times because of the sex offender law. It's very difficult to find a place to live that's not within 1,000 feet of where children gather, a point Whitaker's lawyer made to the federal judge, but to no avail.

The main point ought to be that the sex registry law shouldn't apply to Whitaker. She's clearly not a pedophile who preys on teenagers, and it's a travesty of justice that she's being treated like one.

Adding to Whitaker's pain is that the law she was sentenced under was repealed by the legislature shortly after her guilty plea and was replaced by a law that is much lighter on teenagers having sex. Had she been sentenced under the new law, she would not have to register as a sex offender or move out of her home.

Clearly, the toughest provisions of Georgia's sex offender law should not apply to persons like Wendy Whitaker. Distinctions must be made between nonviolent sex offenders -- particularly those with no record of repeat offenses -- and potentially dangerous predators.

One-size-fits-all justice does not work in sex predator cases any more than it would in traffic cases. We want strong laws against sex predators, but not at the exclusion of common sense. Judges must have the authority to make distinctions between the severity of sexual offenses -- and impose punishment accordingly.

Georgia's children won't be any safer because Wendy Whitaker is forced out of her home.


FL - Sex offender killed outside game arcade

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11/18/2008

BY MICHAEL LaFORGIA - Palm Beach Post

A registered sex offender from North Miami was shot and killed outside a video game arcade in Lake Worth.

A North Miami man shot and mortally wounded Sunday night outside a children's amusement center in Lake Worth was a registered sex offender, according to state records.

Edner Eustache, 27, was shot at least twice in the ''upper part of his body'' at about 8:30 p.m. after a fist fight outside Fun Depot, 2003 10th Ave. North, the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office said.

Eustache was flown to Delray Medical Center, where he died, said Teri Barbera, a sheriff's office spokeswoman.

Witnesses told deputies that three men were involved in the fight in the parking lot, and that two drove away in a white van and green car.

In February 2002, Eustache registered in Broward County as a sex offender who had assaulted a minor, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement records.

In three arrests in Miami-Dade and Broward counties since December 2007, Eustache was charged with failure to obey state registration laws for sexual offenders. In the case of a Dec. 1 arrest by Miami-Dade police, he pleaded guilty to the charge, records show.

It was not immediately clear what Eustache was doing outside Fun Depot, where young people gather to play video games and laser tag.

Fun Depot general manager Eddie Naphan said he watched security camera footage Monday morning but did not see anyone who looked like the victim enter or leave the park's arcade in the hour before the shooting.

Naphan said the security cameras showed a car sitting by a trash bin in Fun Depot's parking lot.

''You can't see anything but headlights,'' he said.

As detectives paced outside Fun Depot, patrons continued to hit baseballs in the batting cages, which overlooked the crime scene.

''I've been around here for 20 years, and I can tell you we've never had an incident like this near this place,'' said Naphan, whose father opened Fun Depot in 1988.

Police asked anyone with information about the shooting to call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 800-458-8477.

Miami Herald staff writer David Smiley contributed to this report.


NC - Council puts sex offender ban on hold

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11/18/2008

By Joe Killian - Staff Writer

HIGH POINT — High Point’s parks will stay open to sex offenders. For now.

City Council members said they were uncomfortable with a ban proposed Monday night by the city’s parks and recreation department.

The proposed ordinance was sent back to the council’s public safety committee when council members said they needed more information.

“At this point I have a lot of unanswered questions about this,” said Councilman Latimer Alexander. “I’d like to look at the state laws that already cover our parks and rec facilities.”

Greensboro banned registered sex offenders from its parks in a unanimous City Council vote in September. It was one of a number of N.C. cities to create such an ordinance after the state Supreme Court upheld a similar law in Woodfin.

But many on the High Point council said they weren’t sure about approving such a law simply because they could.

“We have not had a case of a sex offender problem in our parks to this point,” Alexander said. He was cut off by Councilman Mike Pugh, who asked, “And why would we want to?”
- Nobody wants another victim!

Pugh was the only councilman who pushed for the ordinance to be passed as written and the only one to vote against sending it back to committee.

I think if this prevents one child from being molested and one life from being ruined, then it’s worth our every effort,” Pugh said. “This should be a no-brainer. If we won’t take some measure we are basically saying we don’t give a flip.
- If you really want to protect the children, and prevent sexual abuse, then you should REMOVE the children from everyone's home.  Anyone who has a child, that child should be removed from the home, that is one good way to "protect the children!"  And by saying people "don't give a flip," simply because they do not want to pass a draconian, unconstitutional law, that is simply wrong!

Others on the council said it wasn’t that simple. While the ordinance would allow sex offenders to attend public meetings or go to polling places in public parks, Councilman Ron Wilkins said it could prevent registered sex offenders from doing community service work.

Alexander said that unless police or city workers asked for identification from everyone entering a parks and rec facility, the ordinance was basically unenforceable. Parks and recreation officials were present to support the proposal but didn’t have answers for many questions about it. When asked how many sex offenders lived in High Point or in Guilford County, no one knew.
- So this proves the stupidity of these people.  They cannot even tell you if ANY sex offender lives in the city, yet they want to pass a law to prevent them from entering parks?  And also without any proof that a child has been harmed in a park, or any proof the law would work.

According to the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office, High Point has about 100,000 residents and 134 registered sex offenders. Greensboro has about 250,000 residents and 313 registered sex offenders, according to the office.

I am not saying I don’t care about this issue,” Wilkins said. “I’m just saying we need to know more before we pass something like this and we need to be careful.”
- This is how all representatives should think...  Rational, instead of with knee-jerk reactions, or "following the bandwagon!"


LA - BR officer booked in rape

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11/18/2008

By SONIA SMITH - Advocate staff writer

A 36-year-old Baton Rouge police officer surrendered to Livingston Parish sheriff’s deputies Monday in the alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl, authorities said.

The alleged rape occurred at police Cpl. Jeffrey Scott Webb’s Denham Springs home early Sunday, said Perry Rushing, chief of operations for the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Megan Matthews, 20, of Denham Springs, an acquaintance of the victim, is accused of giving the girl alcohol and, once she was intoxicated, persuading her to go to the officer’s house, Rushing said.

The victim’s mother reported to deputies Sunday afternoon that she believed her daughter had been raped by a much-older man who worked as a Baton Rouge police officer, Rushing said.

Following a Sheriff’s Office investigation, a judge issued an arrest warrant for Webb and Matthews on Monday, Rushing said.

Webb, was booked into Livingston Parish Jail on a count of simple rape after surrendering to deputies Monday evening, Rushing said. Webb was being held without bond late Monday, he said.

Cpl. L’Jean McKneely, a spokesman for the Baton Rouge Police Department, said Webb was placed on paid administrative leave Monday when the department became aware of the investigation.

Matthews, was booked into Livingston Parish Jail on counts of principal to simple rape and contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile, Rushing said. Her bond was set at $50,000, he said.

Under Louisiana law, the penalty for simple rape is a sentence of up to 25 years in prison without the possibility of parole.

Webb is the third Baton Rouge police officer to have been arrested or placed on paid administrative leave in November.

Sgt. Edward Coulter, 50, was placed on leave Nov. 3 after getting in a crash while off-duty in his marked police vehicle. A test administered after the crash showed Coulter had a blood alcohol level of 0.11 percent. A blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent is considered presumptive evidence of drunken driving.

Officer Jerald Holmes, 27, was arrested Nov. 4 for allegedly falsifying timesheets he submitted to an extra-duty employer.

Holmes resigned from his position with the department before being booked into East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on one count each of felony theft, attempted felony theft and malfeasance in office.


NC - Former Polk sheriff gets probation

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Just like expected, another cop, another slap on the wrist!

11/18/2008

Former Polk County Sheriff Chris Abril got probation for soliciting sex from two young girls 20 years ago. He won't have to register as a sex offender.

Abril pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of soliciting a felony just before jury selection in his trial was to start in Haywood County.

Superior Court Judge Zoro Guice sentenced him to 120 days' house arrest and three years' supervised probation after a hearing that took much of the day. The maximum sentence was six years in prison.

The 47-year-old first-term sheriff had been charged with much more serious crimes that could have sent him to prison for life. That was something his attorney said weighed on his decision to take the plea deal.

A Polk County grand jury indicted Abril in August 2006 on five counts of first-degree statutory rape and one count of first-degree sexual offense. He went on to win election against an incumbent three months later.

The indictments followed a State Bureau of Investigation inquiry into allegations that Abril had sex with two young girls in 1988 and '87 — acts he has always denied.

It was the second time state investigators had looked into the allegations. An earlier investigation ended in 1991 without charges.

Mark Buchanan, assistant special agent in charge of the SBI's Asheville office, testified Monday that one of the victims told him that Abril had sex with her three times when she was 10 years old.

Abril was about 25 at the time.

Buchanan said the victim told him they had sex once at his home on his couch, once in his bedroom and once in the woods.

She also told him that she saw Abril having sex with her 12-year-old cousin, Buchanan said in court.

The woman told the judge about what the crime has done to her in what's known as a victim impact statement. The Citizen-Times is withholding her name because it does not normally identify rape victims.

She came to see sex, especially with older men, as a way to get attention and approval. The pain has lingered her entire life, she said.

“I cannot just step over the damage inside to be the mother my children and husband deserve,” she said in the statement.

Abril looked on with no noticeable emotion as she told him she had forgiven him.

“While I don't feel that there is any remorse from Mr. Abril for his actions, I do feel the need to offer my forgiveness so that I may be that much closer to moving on,” she said in court. “Hopefully, I can move forward from this day in a more positive manner and become a productive and complete person.”

Abril's supporters in court called him a loving and caring man who was good to his two sons and had the respect of the children who played on the soccer teams he coached.

“He is caring and very trusting,” said Patricia Alred, the Polk County recreation director who worked with Abril on youth soccer. “Anytime anybody has ever had him as a coach they always want to come back to him.”

The case was moved to Haywood County when a judge over the summer ordered a change of venue after prosecutors said Abril had contact with two potential jurors.

It had been slated to start in August in Polk County.

Abril's attorney, Stephen Lindsay, said the long prison sentence that could have come with a guilty verdict on first-degree rape and sex offense was too much of a gamble for his client. His name would have also been on the state's sex offender list.

He said Abril decided to accept the plea instead of risking never seeing his family again. He has two sons and a wife.

“Certainly, he denies that he did anything,” he said. “In fact, he didn't plead to anything as far as conduct goes. It is very hard to disprove something that supposedly happened 20 years ago. And whereas we felt very certain we would do a great job for him, it never guarantees that you are going to win.”
- Why should he has to disprove something?  It should be the other way around, you should have to prove he did it.

Abril left the courthouse without making a public statement about the guilty pleas. He said nothing in court.