Thursday, January 29, 2009

GA - Ga. lawmakers propose fee for strip-club patrons

View the article here

01/29/2009

By SHANNON McCAFFREY - Associated Press Writer

ATLANTA -- A bipartisan group of Georgia lawmakers wants to slap a new fee on strip club patrons to help fund rehabilitation programs for child prostitutes and sex abuse victims.

The fee - which some have dubbed a "pole tax" - would be between $3 and $5 for each customer at the 45 clubs around the state. State Sen. Renee Unterman (Email) said Thursday there are links between the adult entertainment industry and the underground world of child prostitution.
- So instead of making the strip joints pay the fines and taxes, you want to make the patrons?

"This is the industry that creates the problem. They're financing what they created," the Republican from Buford said.
- So go after the industry, not the people going to the places.  Yes, we have a bunch of idiots running this state!

State Sen. Jack Murphy (Email) said he'll introduce the bill next week. It's unclear how much revenue it would raise.

"As a conservative, I'm not for any tax increase," the Cumming Republican said.

Still, he said rehabilitation centers for teen prostitutes will do more good than youth detentions centers that treat them as criminals.

Gov. Sonny Perdue initially proposed cutting about $500,000 in state money for the Georgia Regional Assessment Center, a therapy program for former child prostitutes. He has put the money back for now to keep the center, which is scrambling to secure longer-term funding.

But Unterman said the state is already paying for the problem through Medicaid for health and mental health problems as well as through the Department of Juvenile Justice that funds incarcerating youth.

There was no immediate comment from Perdue's office on the proposal. Republican legislative leaders have expressed reluctance to impose any new taxes to fill the state's $2.2 billion budget hole.

Strip clubs say the fee would be damaging to their business, which is already suffering in the difficult economy. They argue it would impact not just club owners and dancers but the waitresses, food workers and parking attendants who depend on the clubs for their livelihood.

Georgia's suggested fee is similar to a $5-per-customer strip club fee in 2008 that was declared unconstitutional by a state district judge. Judge Scott Jenkins wrote that the Texas fee, "while furthering laudable goals," violates the First Amendment and declared it invalid.

But backers of the proposal in Georgia said the state had addressed the constitutional concerns by funneling the money raised by the fee into a victims' right fund with the specific intent of using it for sex abuse programs.

The proposal came from a legislative study committee that met last year to look at the growing problem of child prostitution. The group estimates that between 200 to 300 children are sexually exploited in Georgia every month.
- So go after the people exploiting the children!  Also, where is the study to show these "facts?"

Lawmakers in the group also introduced legislation on Thursday that would raise the minimum age for exotic dancers from 18 to 21. Another bill would expand the definition of child abuse to include any person who allows a child to engage in prostitution.


UK - 'That paedo is going to get it': Drunken vigilante's threat to police moments before he knifed child porn suspect to death

View the article here
Updated article - Sentenced to 10 years in prison

How ironic. They show the victims photo, an ex-cop, but not the photo of the drunk vigilante jerk who murdered this man in cold blood.

01/29/2009

By Liz Hazelton

A former police officer facing child porn charges was stabbed to death by a drunken neighbour, a court heard today.

_____, 49, died after Daniel Williams attacked him in the street with a heavy-duty hunting knife,a jury was told.

Williams, 30, had drunkenly boasted to police that he was going to 'get' _____ moments before carrying out the crime.

'That paedo is going to get it. I'm going to have him,' he reportedly told officers. 'If you don't do something about it then I will.'

Williams had spent from noon to 11pm on June 6 last year drinking cider and lager in the Bird In The Hand pub, in Trimsaran, Wales, with his brother Chad.

During the evening the police were called to a disturbance and arrived to see Chad driving his car away from the pub. He was stopped and failed a breath test.

Paul Thomas QC, prosecuting told Swansea Crown Court: 'Daniel Williams became agitated and began strutting back and forth, swearing and shouting. He said the word 'paedo' more than once.'

Williams even told officers to send a car to Dythel Park, where Mr _____ lived, in 20 minutes.

Instead of detaining him, police let him go and he went to the house of his friend Andrew Thomas, who he allegedly told: 'They don't do anything about that paedo down the street'.

Mr Thomas said Williams then 'dressed for the occasion' by changing into a black hooded top and armed himself with a combat knife.

As he walked towards the house of Mr _____, 49, he was intercepted by another set of officers.

They, too, failed to stop him.

When he got to Mr _____' home, Williams slashed the tyres of his victim's car, the court was told.

Mr _____, wearing slippers and glasses, went out to confront him. Moments later the
49-year-old was stabbed 20 times and left to bleed to death in the road.

Mr Thomas told the jury no-one saw all that happened but witnesses were able to report fragments.

One heard 'a strange haunting sound like a cow moaning.'

It could have been, added Mr Thomas, the sound of Mr _____ trying to breathe after suffering a fatal stab wound to his back that penetrated his right lung.

Williams allegedly ran off and took a 'circuitous route' back home down a lane and through brambles.

He also washed and his clothing, added Mr Thomas.

After his arrest Williams denied, in 12 interviews, being involved in the attack.

But when tests showed Mr _____' blood on his clothing he 'changed his defence' and claimed he had been defending himself and had forgotten he had had a knife in his hand.

The dead man's injuries included defence marks while Williams, said Mr Thomas, suffered only scratches from the brambles.

Mr _____, who suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure, had resigned from from Dyfed Powys Police after being charged with downloading indecent images of children from the internet.

As he awaited trial he and his wife Elizabeth left their home in Pembrey to live with his mother in Trimsaran 12 miles away.

The prosecution said Mr _____' arrest was 'irrelevant' to the case.

'It is understandably repulsive in the minds of right thinking people,' he said.

'There were residents of that estate who were angry and concerned he (Mr _____) had moved there. One was Daniel Williams.

'What images he may have had, however flawed an individual he was, _____ was still human and no-one had the right to kill him.

'Society rightly condemns anyone who has such images on his computer. Had he lived he would have received the appropriate punishment from a court of law.

'That is the only way a civilised society can operate. The other is the way to lawlessness,' added Mr Thomas.

Williams denies murder. The trial continues.


VA - VCU police chief arrested in undercover solicitation sting

View the article here | Video

01/29/2009

UPDATE:
Suspended Virginia Commonwealth University Police Chief Willie Fuller appeared briefly in a Chesterfield County court this afternoon for arraignment on charges of soliciting sex with a minor in an online sting operation.

Fuller, who appeared by video teleconference from the jail, did not yet have an attorney. A preliminary hearing was set for April 2.

After the hearing, Chesterfield Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Dave Rigler said Fuller thought he was talking to a 14-year-old girl, not a detective, when the alleged offenses occurred Jan. 10.
"There was one day of chatting," he said, "everything he was charged with happened on that one day."

He was charged with two counts of using a computer to solicit sex from a minor and two counts of attempted indecent liberties with a minor.

Fuller is 50, but Rigler said he portrayed himself online as being about 35. Fuller’s screen name was hotcop2006, Rigler said.

Earlier today VCU said it had suspended Fuller without pay.



Virginia Commonwealth University Police Chief Willie B. Fuller has been arrested in an online sting operation in Chesterfield County and charged with soliciting sex from a 14-year-old girl, police said today.

Police said Fuller, 50, was arrested last night at his home in the 9000 block of Meadowfield Court in Henrico County. He was charged with two counts of using a computer to solicit sex from a minor and two counts of attempted indecent liberties with a minor.

His arrest resulted from a sting operation that involved undercover detectives going to online chatrooms or other Internet sites popular with juveniles. The detectives then create fictitious posts and pose as minors.

Although police declined to provide more specific information in this case, meetings are usually arranged between the detectives and the people with whom they communicate, most of whom are seeking sex.

Chesterfield Police Maj. Dan Kelly said Fuller clearly believed he was communicating with a 14-year-old girl.

"I’m not sure which [Internet] medium the detective was using at the time it occurred," Kelly said. "But it was part of our ongoing online efforts in these areas. When time permits, our detectives trained in this area will utilize their time and go online."

Kelly declined to say when Fuller made contact and over what period of time.

"We’re going to wait to talk more about the investigation at a later time," he said.

Fuller is being held without bond in the Chesterfield Jail pending a pre-trial hearing this afternoon in Chesterfield Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.

VCU suspended Fuller without pay and appointed Carlton Edwards, a VCU police captain, as interim chief.

"We've taken action," said VCU Rector Thomas Rosenthal. He said he received a call from university President Eugene Trani this morning about the arrest.

"We regard this situation as extremely serious," Trani said in an alert sent to member of the campus community. "We have taken aggressive action to address it, and we will cooperate in all appropriate ways with the Chesterfield County Police investigation."

Fuller came to VCU as police chief in 2000 from Virginia State University, where he was also police chief, said John M. Bennett, VCU senior vice president for finance and administration. Fuller also previously worked for VCU police.

Bennett said VCU instituted criminal background checks on all employees at some point after Fuller was hired, but he said he knew of no complaints against him.

He also said he did not know if any VCU computer equipment had been taken by Chesterfield police from Fuller’s home. Bennett said VCU did not plan its own investigaton.

Chesterfield Police Chief Thierry Dupuis notified VCU officials this morning of Fuller’s arrest, Bennett said. The board of visitors was notified and about 30 minutes later VCU President Eugene Trani alerted the university community by e-mail.

Bennett said Edwards, the acting chief, had been with VCU for 24 years and was the most senior captain on the force, which has 82 officers. Bennett said he met with the officers this morning and "they are stunned and shocked, as we all are."

But he said there will be an orderly transfer of power. Edwards had filled in as chief previously when Fuller was on medical leave.

Fuller was an art student at VCU in the 1970s and worked as a student security officer. In a 2003 interview with The Times-Dispatch, he said it was from that experience that he found that he liked police work.


NACDL - State Legislation

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IA - Iowa Sex Offender Research Council - Report to the Iowa General Assembly


Staff support to the Iowa Sex Offender Research Council is provided by
The Division of Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning
Iowa Department of Human Rights
Lucas State Office Building
Des Moines, Iowa 50319

Preface
Over the last several years, lawmakers have been responding to several highly publicized child abduction, assault, and murder cases. While such cases remain rare in Iowa, the public debates they have generated are having far-reaching effects. Policy makers are responsible for controlling the nature of such effects. Challenges they face stem from the need to avoid responses whose primary motivation is political and the desire to make informed decisions that recognize both the strengths and the limitations of the criminal justice system as a vehicle for promoting safe and healthy families and communities.

One of the standing goals of the Research Council is to provide nonpartisan guidance to help avoid or fix problematic sex offense policies and practices. Setting this goal was a response to the concern over what can result from elected officials’ efforts to respond to the types of sex offender-related concerns that can easily become emotionally laden and politically charged due to the universally held abhorrence of sex crimes against children.

An issue of perhaps the greatest interest to many Council members is a belief in the benefit of viewing Iowa’s efforts to protect children from sex crimes with as comprehensive a platform as possible. It has been suggested that much more can be done to prevent child-victim sex crimes than would be accomplished by concentrating only on what to do with offenders after a crime has occurred. To prevent child victimization, most laws and policy provisions rely largely on incapacitation and future deterrent effects of increased penalties, more restrictive supervision practices, and greater public awareness of the risk presented by a segment of Iowa’s known sex offenders. For some offenders, these policies will no doubt prevent future sex crimes against children, and the Council supports long-term studies to look for the desired results and for ways to improve such results through better supervision tools and more effective offender treatment.

Unfortunately, many of the effects from the new policies may primarily influence persons who have already committed sex offenses against minors and who have already been caught doing so. The evidence suggests, however, that most offenders coming to the attention of the justice system for sex crimes have not previously been adjudicated for such crimes. Thus, Council members continue to discuss the need for a range of preventive efforts and a need to think about sex crimes against children from other than just a “reaction-to-the-offender” perspective.

Along with incapacitation and deterrence, comprehensive approaches to the prevention of child victim sex crimes would also involve ensuring that parents have the tools needed to detect signs of adults with sex behavior problems, to both help teach their children about warning signs and to find the support necessary for healthy parenting. School, faith-based, and other community organizations might benefit from stronger supports and better tools to more effectively promote positive youth development and the learning of respect for others, respect for boundaries, and healthy relationships.

All of us who have children, or who live in communities where there are children, need to understand the limitations of our justice system and the importance of our own ability to play a role in preventing sexual abuse and protecting children from sex offenders, who are often the child’s own family members. Over 1,000 incidents of child sexual abuse are confirmed or founded each year in Iowa, and most such acts take place in the child’s home or the residence of the caretaker of the child. Efforts to prevent child sexual abuse and to provide for early interventions with children and families at risk should be strategically examined and strengthened.

The Sex Offender Research Council was formed as a successor to the Sex Offender Treatment and Supervision Task Force, established to provide assistance to the General Assembly. It will respond to legislative direction to adjust its future plans as laid out in this report. Its plans could be modified to broaden or narrow its scope or to assign different priority levels of effort to its current areas of study. Also, further Council considerations of the recommendations it has already submitted could be called for. In the meantime, it is hoped that the information and recommendations submitted through this report prove helpful.


IA - Iowa Sex Offender Research Council - Report to the Iowa General Assembly



Staff support to the Iowa Sex Offender Research Council is provided by
The Division of Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning
Iowa Department of Human Rights
Lucas State Office Building
Des Moines, Iowa 50319

Preface
Over the last several years, lawmakers have been responding to several highly publicized child abduction, assault, and murder cases. While such cases remain rare in Iowa, the public debates they have generated are having far-reaching effects. Policy makers are responsible for controlling the nature of such effects. Challenges they face stem from the need to avoid responses whose primary motivation is political and the desire to make informed decisions that recognize both the strengths and the limitations of the criminal justice system as a vehicle for promoting safe and healthy families and communities.

One of the standing goals of the Research Council is to provide nonpartisan guidance to help avoid or fix problematic sex offense policies and practices. Setting this goal was a response to the concern over what can result from elected officials’ efforts to respond to the types of sex offender-related concerns that can easily become emotionally laden and politically charged due to the universally held abhorrence of sex crimes against children.

An issue of perhaps the greatest interest to many Council members is a belief in the benefit of viewing Iowa’s efforts to protect children from sex crimes with as comprehensive a platform as possible. It has been suggested that much more can be done to prevent child-victim sex crimes than would be accomplished by concentrating only on what to do with offenders after a crime has occurred. To prevent child victimization, most laws and policy provisions rely largely on incapacitation and future deterrent effects of increased penalties, more restrictive supervision practices, and greater public awareness of the risk presented by a segment of Iowa’s known sex offenders. For some offenders, these policies will no doubt prevent future sex crimes against children, and the Council supports long-term studies to look for the desired results and for ways to improve such results through better supervision tools and more effective offender treatment.

Unfortunately, many of the effects from the new policies may primarily influence persons who have already committed sex offenses against minors and who have already been caught doing so. The evidence suggests, however, that most offenders coming to the attention of the justice system for sex crimes have not previously been adjudicated for such crimes. Thus, Council members continue to discuss the need for a range of preventive efforts and a need to think about sex crimes against children from other than just a “reaction-to-the-offender” perspective.

Along with incapacitation and deterrence, comprehensive approaches to the prevention of child victim sex crimes would also involve ensuring that parents have the tools needed to detect signs of adults with sex behavior problems, to both help teach their children about warning signs and to find the support necessary for healthy parenting. School, faith-based, and other community organizations might benefit from stronger supports and better tools to more effectively promote positive youth development and the learning of respect for others, respect for boundaries, and healthy relationships.

All of us who have children, or who live in communities where there are children, need to understand the limitations of our justice system and the importance of our own ability to play a role in preventing sexual abuse and protecting children from sex offenders, who are often the child’s own family members. Over 1,000 incidents of child sexual abuse are confirmed or founded each year in Iowa, and most such acts take place in the child’s home or the residence of the caretaker of the child. Efforts to prevent child sexual abuse and to provide for early interventions with children and families at risk should be strategically examined and strengthened.

The Sex Offender Research Council was formed as a successor to the Sex Offender Treatment and Supervision Task Force, established to provide assistance to the General Assembly. It will respond to legislative direction to adjust its future plans as laid out in this report. Its plans could be modified to broaden or narrow its scope or to assign different priority levels of effort to its current areas of study. Also, further Council considerations of the recommendations it has already submitted could be called for. In the meantime, it is hoped that the information and recommendations submitted through this report prove helpful.


Sex Offender Registration is Stupid



Written by Tiffany L Sanders

It started in the early 1990s: a great new idea to track sex offenders who had been released from prison. The intent was good and the motivation sensible; the program would allow law enforcement to keep track of released sex offenders and, as it developed let people know when a convicted sex offender was living down the street.

There was a flaw in the plan right from the start. As a parent, sure, I’d like to know if there’s a sex offender living next door. I’d also like to know if there was a child batterer, a drug dealer, or a murderer living next door…but for some reason the legislatures didn’t think those things were quite so pressing. Sex offenders got special treatment. The selectivity had some absurd results, too. My family was safe from the 19-year-old kid who’d had six with his underage girlfriend. In most states, that makes him a sex offender subject to registration requirements and doomed to show up on watch lists and websites for years to come—maybe even for the rest of his life. Just the price he has to pay to keep my family safe. Well, except from armed robbers and kidnappers and burglars and identity thieves and serial killers and stuff.

It is useful, though, to be able to find out when there are convicted child molesters in the neighborhood. And if child murderers also happen to have been convicted of some sexual misconduct, we might be able to find out about them to. As a mother, I sincerely appreciate that. Or I appreciated it in concept, anyway, until I attempted to USE my local sex offender website. You see, the extreme thoroughness that put every person convicted of a crime tangentially related to sex had an unintended effect: it buried the real threats in a landslide of relatively petty criminals and people whose sole offenses had occurred many years ago.

But at least the records weren’t cluttered up with murderers and such.

After a while, though, registration and websites weren’t enough. Legislatures started having more great ideas—ideas like restricting where convicted sex offenders could live. Again, the concept made sense: let’s make sure convicted child molesters don’t set up shop across the street from the elementary school. But in many states, they neglected to confine the restrictions to child molesters (although it’s extraordinarily rare for an offender to target both children and adults), and in some of those states it wasn’t just schools and playgrounds that were off limits.

In Georgia, for instance, no sex offender may reside within 1,000 feet of a child care facility, church, school, or "area where minors congregate." Those areas are defined as: parks, recreation facilities, playgrounds, skating rinks, neighborhood centers, gymnasiums, school bus stops, public libraries and public and community swimming pools. In some communities, that makes it virtually impossible to find housing that doesn’t violate the law—and the law applies even to those convicted of crimes of indecency such as public urination.

Not feeling too sorry for the convicted sex offender who has trouble finding a home after he’s released from prison? You’re undoubtedly in good company. But you might want to consider this: homelessness not only makes offenders harder for parole and probation officers to track and makes notification of neighbors impossible, it increases the likelihood of recidivism. Thus, by making it difficult or impossible for convicted sex offenders to find stable housing, we’re minimizing the ability to monitor them and making them more likely to commit new crimes.

Portions of the Georgia law were struck down as unconstitutional in 2007, but the legislature was determined, and a modified but substantially similar law is back on the books.

In California, the number of homeless sex offenders today is more than 12 times what it was just over two years ago, when voters approved residency restrictions in an initiative. A state panel is reporting that there is no evidence suggesting that the restrictions decrease recidivism, and has asked the governor and legislature to change the law. Meanwhile, California officials determined not to let those offenders slip through the cracks are spending nearly $25 million/year to house convicted sex offenders who are unable to find legal lodging under the law. In addition to the expense and ineffectiveness of the operation, it often has the undesirable effect of grouping convicted sex offenders together in temporary housing or residential hotels—precisely counter to the usual effort to separate released convicts.

One small town recently considered a revised proposal about sex offender living restrictions: the initial plan would have prohibited sex offenders from living in 98% of the town, while the revised plan cut that figure back to 84%.

It’s easy to say “That’s fine—we don’t want sex offenders in our town!” Probably no one does. But restricting where they can live isn’t going to make them disappear: it’s been tried in more than 20 states and the proven result is that it drives them underground.

Sex offender registration in its current form ruins the lives of people as the result of very minor transgressions. A man who was arrested for urinating in an alley on his way home from a bar one night in college might find himself, years later, unable to work in (or even live near) a school. The teenage girls recently charged criminally for sending nude pictures of themselves to their boyfriends’ cell phones could face similar restrictions. Perhaps it’s easy to shrug that off—however petty, they did commit crimes, and in today’s climate it’s arguable that everyone should know that a very wide range of activity to criminal charges and lifelong consequences.

But what about the children these laws were intended to protect?

The simple fact is that mass sex offender registration, without charge-specific filtering, provides little or no value—and whatever minimal value it does provide comes at the expense of something far more important: the ability to track and monitor sex offenders in a stable environment that may reduce recidivism.

It’s time we stopped racing to the polls to vent our emotions and pass laws that make us feel better, and started thinking about the kind of law that might make a difference.

More Sex Offender Registration / Restriction Absurdities Unveiled


IA - Proposed sex offender law change makes sense, county attorney says

View the article here

01/29/2009

By ROD BOSHART, Courier Des Moines Bureau

DES MOINES - Sex offenders would be restricted from loitering or being present --- rather than residing --- near places where children play or gather under changes being proposed by state public safety officials.

Ross Loder, lobbyist for the state Department of Public Safety, told a legislative panel his agency is working with justice department officials to craft legislation that will comply with new federal sex-offender requirements --- including a provision to repeal Iowa's 2,000-foot residency restriction and convert to presence and loitering restrictions that focus on where offenders are while they're awake instead of while they're asleep.

Thomas Ferguson, Black Hawk County attorney, said trading residency restriction for exclusion zones makes sense.

"That would be more effective in achieving the goals of protecting children and be more efficient in the use of law enforcement resources," Ferguson said.

"The residency restriction just bans someone from sleeping near certain designated areas --- school and day cares --- but it doesn't really prohibit them from spending their day in an area where kids can be," Ferguson said.

He noted that limiting where convicted sex offenders can live caused some to disappear from the registry system that was put in place to keep tabs on them.

Loder said the proposed changes are part of a complex measure intended to improve the effectiveness and enforceability of laws designed to oversee convicted sex criminals while meeting a deadline to comply with the federal Adam Walsh Act or face sanctions.

Among the provisions would be language to shift the focus from restricting where sex offenders can reside to establishing exclusion zones where they could not be present without permission or loiter within 300 feet of a restricted area, he said.

The proposed changes also would establish a three-tiered system requiring sex offenders to register for 15 years, 25 years or life without a waiver option. Right now convicted sex offenders in Iowa could be required to register for 10 years or for life depending on the crime for which they were convicted.

Loder said there is concern that should Iowa not adopt the federal changes that the state might be viewed as a place where sex offenders could go to avoid being tracked in a uniform national system.

Rep. Jim Lykam (Email), D-Davenport, chair of the House Public Safety Committee, said he recently attended a national conference where some state officials indicated it would be more costly for them to comply with the federal mandate than to accept the funding sanctions.

Lykam noted that a similar discussion on moving away from the residency requirement two years ago failed because one of the four legislative caucuses was not on board.

In Black Hawk County, the residency restrictions cut off large sections of residential areas, often driving sex offenders to rental property on the edge of the cities.

Lobbyists for the county attorneys, sheriffs' and deputies' associations strongly advocated a repeal of the current 2,000-foot residency requirement.

Aside from the claim that the requirements deter offenders from registering their addresses, authorities said it is addresses only a small portion of sex crimes against children. Only 1.5 to 2.5 percent of molestation cases involve a stranger, Ferguson said. In the vast majority of cases, the perpetrator is family member, step-parent or friend of the family, he said.

Click the image to enlarge


FL - Body ID'd As Tampa Sex Offender

View the article here

01/29/2009

By KYLE MARTIN - Hernando Today

BAYPORT - A registered sex offender who lived in Tampa was the man found dead in a parked sport utility vehicle on Wednesday, according to the sheriff's office.

_____, 43, was discovered slumped behind the wheel of a white Mazda by a jogger around 9:45 a.m. on Bayou Drive. The narrow road is bounded by a salt marsh and connects Pine Island Drive to State Road 550, near Bayport Park.

The medical examiner is still investigating, but signs point to suicide, said Sgt. Donna Black, spokeswoman for the sheriff's office.

A news release defines those signs as a note, weapon and reason. Black declined to identify the weapon out of respect for the family.

"They're the ones that really suffer," she said.

_____ was on federal probation at the time of his death for possession of child pornography, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's sex offender database.


MI - Death of homeless sex offender in Grand Rapids poses questions

View the article here

Death by legislation!

01/29/2009

By Tom Rademacher - The Grand Rapids Press

So is this what it finally takes for us to hear the muffled cries of the homeless -- an ex-con dead in the snow because it's against the law for a sex offender to huddle up at either of two Grand Rapids missions?

Thomas Pauli didn't choose to die alone in the cold.

He apparently froze to death because of a crime he committed nearly 20 years ago, and a niggling law that's dogged him ever since his release from prison.

In the days prior to the discovery of his body Monday morning at a recycling operation in the 600 block of South Division Avenue, he reportedly attempted to score a bed at either or both the Guiding Light Mission and Mel Trotter Ministries, just blocks away.

But officials at both facilities reluctantly acknowledge they would have turned him away because registered sex offenders can't reside for even one night within 1,000 feet of a school, in this case, Catholic Central High.

Never mind that school isn't in session during the hours a guy like Pauli would have been snoozing away on a warm cot.

Or that ex-cons -- or anyone else -- are more likely a threat to a neighborhood when they have nowhere to go. When they are desperate.

The missions aren't to blame. They risk fines or even being shut down if they don't comply with the law.

But it's a law that needs changing. And we need to re-examine our collective level of commitment to a part of society that, to most of us, matters least.

Asks Bill Shaffer, an officer with Guiding Light, "How do we treat the unlovable?"
- So why is he unlovable?

"I couldn't sleep last night thinking about Thomas Pauli freezing to death outside," said a tearful Marge Palmerlee, executive director at Degage Ministries, which cares for folks like Pauli who live and frequent the Heartside area on downtown's fringe.

"Who can sleep at night, thinking of these people outside. It's just unbelievable."

No, it's not.

I'll bet that even before readers got to my fourth paragraph, some were thinking that Thomas Pierrie Pauli, who was born on Christmas Eve 52 years ago, got what he deserved. OK, so he spent time in the joint. Big whup. A sex offender should pay forever.

Maybe so. I know too many people -- people close to me -- who have been victims of sexual assaults. In Pauli's case, he was convicted in Grand Traverse County in 1991 of second-degree criminal sexual conduct against a person younger than 13.

Of the 5 to 15 years to which he was sentenced, he served more than 11. Not exactly a slap on the wrist. His wife divorced him two years into his stint.

After his release in 2003, he eventually ended up at an address on Leonard Street NE. But he wandered from there and ended up roaming Heartside's gritty domain. He checked in and out of Project Rehab.

On Dec. 30, he was booked for failing to register his address with authorities. He got 16 days for that misdemeanor and was freed Jan. 14.

Sometime during the past two weeks, he tried to bed down at either or both missions, according to Palmerlee, who knows of two people saying they saw Pauli standing in lines.

"A patron told me they'd seen him in Mel Trotter's line not long ago," added Lori King, life enrichment center supervisor at Degage.

Officials at both missions cannot confirm Pauli tried to get in, but they also can't rule it out, because they don't track applicants who are refused admission, only those who make it across the threshold.

Either way, they said it breaks their hearts to know they have to abide by a law that puts men in life-or-death situations.

"Ethically, it feels like we're responsible," said Bill Merchut, in charge of programs at Mel Trotter. "But we have to follow the law."

Added Shaffer, of Guiding Light, "These men and women are clearly 'The Scarlet Letter' folks of our day. "I've had (sex offenders) say, 'Where can I go?' and I stand there with my mouth open and I have no answer."

There aren't many options for men seeking overnight shelter outside of the two missions. In a perfect world, there would be a homeless shelter located where it could accept sex offenders. Maybe a place like the former Greyhound bus station, Merchut said. Or perhaps the former site of a corrections center on Wealthy Street SW near the Grand River. But any solution will require a monstrous coalition. And money.

Don Lamse was the gentleman who found Pauli about 10 a.m. Monday in a parking area adjacent to the auto recycling operation he manages on South Division. The victim was beside a '93 or '94 GMC conversion van.

Lamse, 70, walked over and tried to rouse him. "Hey, hey," Lamse remembers saying. "Something like that."

Pauli was bent into a crouching position, knees and hands on the ground. He wore no gloves. "I tried to nudge him a bit while I was talking to him, and he felt pretty stiff."

Lamse said he found it odd that Pauli didn't crawl into any one of several unlocked vehicles, the van included. "He could have gone inside and had some shelter if he'd just opened a door.

He added, "That's not a nice way for anybody to die."


ND - No sex registration please, we're the ND Senate

View the article here

01/28/2009

By DALE WETZEL Associated Press Writer

BISMARCK - North Dakota's Tax Department should not be in the business of registering strippers, lap dancers and nudie bars, the state Senate has concluded, with one senator saying the job should be left to local governments.

"We think that this is a political subdivisions problem," said Sen. Stan Lyson (Email), R-Williston, a former sheriff. "They can (decide) their own way of doing this. They can register those people if they want to."

Cass County law enforcement agencies had requested the legislation, which ordered the Tax Department to provide registration forms for sex businesses, bars featuring nude dancers, and the strippers themselves.

Agencies supported the bill as a way to keep track of the area's adult entertainment industry, a business they say often is linked to prostitution and drugs.

The proposal required nude dancers to keep detailed records of taxable income and their registration certificates in their possession "at any time the individual is providing live nude entertainment."

Senators voted 45-1 on Wednesday to defeat the measure. Its only supporter was its principal sponsor, Sen. Judy Lee (Email), R-West Fargo.

Bars already register with state government, "and not all of them have dancers and strippers in there," Lyson said. "But the ones that do, it should be left up to the local (governments) to make the law to have them register."

Lyson also said he doubted having the strippers register would do much good.

"These performers change their name each time they go to a different place to perform," he said. "We'd have a whole bunch of names there, without any identification, if we did this in the state."

The bill is SB2170.


ND - ND psychologist gets 7 years on child porn charges

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How ironic!  This man was the person responsible for evaluating sexually violent predators, and yet he does the same thing as some of his clients.

01/24/2009

By DAVE KOLPACK

FARGO (AP) — A former mental hospital psychologist who said he became interested in child pornography while treating sex offenders was sentenced Friday to seven years in prison.

Joseph Belanger, 61, of Jamestown, pleaded guilty last year to charges of receiving and possessing materials involving the sexual exploitation of minors.

Belanger, who had worked at the North Dakota State Hospital in Jamestown for more than 20 years, paid for access to Internet pornography sites and downloaded thousands of sexually explicit images and more than 200 videos. He subscribed to the Web sites for more than six years, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Klemetsrud Puhl said.

Prosecutors said Belanger told authorities that his interest in child pornography began while he was counseling sex offenders at the hospital.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson said Belanger should have taken advantage of his experience and background to seek treatment for himself.

"He, of all people, should have known there was help available," Erickson said.
- Another ironic comment.  When it's Joe Public, many say therapy doesn't work, which many know is a lie, therapy does work.  And no, since he was not convicted, and had the problem, if he would've sought help, he would be in prison soon after he sought help.

Belanger faced a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a mandatory minimum term of five years.

Defense attorney Steven Light said a psychologist's report showed his client was a good candidate for rehabilitation. Belanger cooperated with authorities and had no previous criminal history, he said.
- He may be a good candidate for rehabilition, but so are many other sex offenders who everybody is quick to judge and throw in prison for a long time.  But because of who he is, he can be helped, while others cannot?

"He's not a hands-on offender," Light said.
- But he received and possessed child porn, and many other Joe Public's get sentenced to three years per picture.  But do I think he will get such?  No, of course not, he's a respectable person, unlike Joe Public!

When given the opportunity to speak, Belanger referred to a written statement to the judge that was not made public.

"I don't know what more I can say," Belanger said.

During the hearing, Puhl read a victim impact statement from a 17-year-old girl who had been sexually molested by her father when she was 10 or 11. Images of the girl were posted on porn sites accessed by Belanger.

Victims in such cases "are traumatized in a way that never really ends," the judge said.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.