Friday, May 8, 2009

AL - Sex Offenders near Colleges

Listen to what this man says: "Alabama is taking an active approach to keeping kids safe on college campuses!" How old are the college students? Come on, they are adults!

Lawmaker Defends Imprisoning Hostile Bloggers

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By David Kravets

Sanchez, with the introduction of the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act, clearly has a great interest in censoring.

Still, the Democrat from Los Angeles makes several valid points that cyberbullying has lasting consequences on our nation’s youth. The 13-year-old Meier’s suicide is clearly a tragedy. But how she characterizes the measure is simply untrue.

Put simply, this legislation would be used as a tool for a judge and jury to determine whether there is significant evidence to prove that a person ‘cyberbullied’ another,” she wrote in the Huffington Post. “That is: did they have the required intent, did they use electronic means of communication, and was the communication severe, hostile, and repeated? So — bloggers, e-mailers, texters, spiteful exes and those who have blogged against this bill have no fear — your words are still protected under the same American values.

But that’s not what the proposal says. It goes way beyond youth cyberbullying. As we said the other day, the measure seemingly outlaws logging onto the internet.
- I disagree with this statement.  Read what it says below.  How is logging on to the Internet being lumped into this?

But don’t take our word for it. Here’s what H.R. 1966 says:

(a) Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated and hostile behavior, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

(b) As used in this section —

(1) the term ‘communication’ means the electronic transmission, between or among points specified by the user, of information of the user’s choosing, without change in the form or content of the information as sent and received; and

(2) the term ‘electronic means’ means any equipment dependent on electrical power to access an information service, including e-mail, instant messaging, blogs, websites, telephones and text messages.

This measure and Sanchez’s electronic defense of it are so emotionally distressing to us that, if adopted, perhaps Sanchez should be the first to be prosecuted under the statute.

We strongly urge Sanchez and the measure’s 14 other congressional backers to promptly withdraw this proposal.
- I disagree, this should be passed, IMO.  And the law should apply to all who are cyberbullied, not just children!

AR - Ark. Supreme Court reverses deputy's case

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LITTLE ROCK - The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a circuit court ruling that a former Crawford County deputy has to serve more jail time for sexual abuse of two children because he did not complete counseling for sex offenders.

_____ of Van Buren pleaded no contest in 2001 to two counts of first-degree sexual abuse, lesser offenses than he was originally charged. He was sentenced to six years in prison for one count and to a 10-year suspended sentence on the other count.

_____ was released in 2007 but a prosecutor filed a petition to revoke the suspended portion of the sentence on grounds that _____ didn't go through the counseling program. A judge ordered him to jail for six more years, but _____ appealed and argued that the program was optional. The Arkansas Court of Appeals agreed.

The high court ruled Thursday that the appeals court was in error and that _____'s negotiated plea required him to take the treatment course for sex offenders. The opinion by Justice Elana Cunningham Wills quoted from the terms of the sentence that said the "defendant is to enroll in and complete (sex offender counseling) program prior to being released." Another section of the sentencing document says _____ was to "complete aftercare program," and it contains a statement signed by _____ that he read and understood the document.

"Review of the record shows that the requirement for _____ to complete (the counseling) program was a condition of his suspended sentence," Wills wrote.

"In order to revoke probation or a suspension, the trial court must find by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant inexcusably violated a condition of that probation or suspension," Wills wrote. The opinion states that it was undisputed that _____ refused to complete the program and refused to comply with its entry requirements.

The opinion says _____ stated, "If you ever lift the admission of guilt (requirement), I would consider taking the program."
- This is part of all sex offender treatment, you must "admit" you did something, even if you did not do it, and if you do not, then you are denied completion of the course.  I agree with him on this part.

The high court concluded that sending _____ back to prison "is not clearly against the preponderance of the evidence."

At the time of _____'s no contest plea, then-Prosecutor Mark McCune said _____ would be eligible for parole in about two years if he completed the sex offender treatment program. _____ was 51 years old at the time.

At the plea and sentencing hearing, the two boys _____ allegedly molested were in attendance with their mother. McCune said at the time the family agreed to the plea so they'd be spared having to testify.

NJ - Zoning out Megan's Law sex offenders gives towns a false sense of security

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A sexual attack on a child is such a revolting crime that society's response tends to be more emotional than its reaction to other serious crimes, up to and including murder.

The instinct to protect our children, not only from physical danger but from psychological trauma, is strong. So we warn them of "stranger danger," we want to know where they are at all times, and we want to do all we can to shield them from possible predators.

That's the impulse behind a wave of ordinances adopted in towns around New Jersey a few years ago that prohibit convicted sex offenders from living within a proscribed distance from a school, church, playground or other gathering place for children.

At last count, 118 of the state's municipalities had enacted such bans, some with such wide "predator-free zones" -- 2,500 feet, or nearly half a mile -- and so many protected sites -- even convenience stores -- that the entire town would be off-limits to offenders.
- The term "predator-free zone" is misleading, it makes people assume all sex offenders are predators, which is flat out wrong.  By meaning, this "predator-free zone" would include identity thieves, drug dealers, gang members, and other people who target others for some reason.

Yesterday, the state Supreme Court agreed with an appeals court that those ordinances are void -- essentially, because they are prohibited by Megan's Law, enacted in 1994 to address the concern that sexual predators would be hiding in our communities.

Megan's Law requires convicted sex offenders who are released from prison to register there whereabouts with authorities. Depending on a judgment of how likely they are to re-offend, authorities share that information with local school and youth-group leaders and in some cases the public at large.
- You see, they are using "sex offender" and "predator" as if all sex offenders are predators, and that is wrong.  It seems educated people would know what the difference was, but it goes to show you, we do not have very educated people running this country!

Less well-known is that Megan's Law also puts stringent restrictions on the personal lives of convicted sex offenders. They remain under the supervision of parole officers, who must approve where they choose to live and what jobs they take and can require them to submit to psychological testing and counseling. Those whose victims were minors are prohibited from having contact with children, and their parole officers can slap on further conditions.
- Not all offenders whose victim(s) were children, are banned from being around children, that is another myth.  Many times they can be around their own children, and other children, with supervision.

At the same time, as the appellate court found and the Supreme Court affirmed, Megan's Law prohibits the use of its sex offender registry information to deny anyone insurance, credit, education -- or housing.
- And by being on the registry, people are denied education and/or housing, as well as jobs!

The appellate and Supreme Courts cited that provision, and the fact that local residency restrictions would conflict with the statewide system of supervision that the Legislature established with Megan's Law, in striking down those ordinances.
- So why are they not addressing the unconstitutional ex post facto issues?  Anyone made to be on the registry, who was convicted before the law came into being, is being subjected to ex post facto punishment, which the constitution strictly forbids, period!

Indeed, a statewide approach is the sensible way to deal with this difficult issue. If every town can design its own rules to keep out all sex offenders, they will either be constantly on the move or will simply drop off the radar entirely. Even a restriction on residency can't stop someone from walking or driving around town.

Which is more threatening, an offender who has served his time, undergone counseling, remains under supervision, lives in a location approved by his parole officer and whose whereabouts are known to and can be monitored by local police, or an offender who is isolated from society, retreats into the shadows and nurses his grievances?

Megan's Law is not the only state law designed to protect the public against repeat sexual offenses. The Sexually Violent Predator Act of 1999 gives the state the power to determine whether an offender due for release from prison is a danger to society and, if so, use civil commitment to keep that person in custody in a treatment facility.
- Yeah, committed without due process of law, yet another violation of the constitution!

There is no way to guarantee that no child will ever be harmed, just as there is no way to guarantee against murder or any other crime. There is no substitute for watchfulness on the part of parents and appropriate caution on the part of children.

Megan's Law is certainly not foolproof, but its system of supervision makes more sense than a patchwork of zones offering the public a false sense of security.

ME - Vote on sex-offender registry delayed

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By Rebekah Metzler

AUGUSTA - The stalemate among Maine's three branches of government over the state's sex-offender registry continued Thursday as legislators postponed a vote on a bill aimed at satisfying judicial and executive branch concerns.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court is questioning the constitutionality of a 2005 law that forces sex offenders convicted as far back as 1982 to register on the public database, even though it did not exist at the time of their offense.

Members of the previous Legislature passed a bill that would have addressed the judicial concerns, but Gov. John Baldacci (Contact) declined to sign it, exercising a pocket-veto, because he thought it weakened the registry too much.

On Thursday, members of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee briefly debated compromise language, offered by Attorney General Janet Mills (Contact), that would allow registrants convicted of a sex offense between 1982 and 1992 to petition for removal from the registry, similar to the bill that had reached the governor's desk before. But in order for an applicant to be successful, the registrant would additionally have to prove they had not been convicted of a subsequent felony.

It's the felony language that is making some lawmakers uncomfortable with the bill, while at the same time making it more likely to receive the governor's signature.

"A felony record speaks for a person's risk to society and they probably still ought to be a registrant," Mills told the committee Wednesday, when she first presented the amendment. "It's an objective risk factor that we could incorporate into this bill and satisfy some of the concerns that have been expressed privately and publicly."

Rep. Richard Sykes (Email), R-Harrison, said he wasn't convinced a felony conviction that has nothing to do with a sex offense, should come into play.

"I'm not sure where I stand on that; any felony would keep them from a successful petition," he said Thursday.

Other members shared his concerns, including Rep. Mike Lajoie (Contact), D-Lewiston.

"If it has nothing to do with a sexual aspect, aren't we punishing the individual for something other than what he actually did?" he asked.

Mills said including the felony provision is a fair way to help determine how dangerous a former sex offender is.

"Look, it's a little bit arbitrary, I don't disagree," she said Thursday. "We're drawing a line because we want to draw a line somewhere and we want it to have something to do with risk to society. I don't pretend to say that it is directly related in terms of risk as a sex offender. And it's a bit of a compromise, to be honest with you. I think it satisfies a lot of the concerns I've heard about in the last few weeks."

Mills said the most important thing is for the three branches to come together with a workable solution in as timely a manner as possible.

"I want to be able to enforce this law, appropriately and strongly," she said. "I mean, right now, the (district attorneys) are a little bit on hold and we know what's going on in the courts. Let's move things along and implement the legislative policy that you guys have been working so long on."

Alysia Melnick of the Maine Civil Liberties Union said her group has strong concerns regarding Mills' proposed felony language for sex offenders trying to remove themselves from the registry, and maintains that it's unconstitutional to require sex offenders to retroactively be included in the registry.

The committee will schedule another work session for the bill soon.

Commentary: Internet Law and Your Rights

Courtesy of A Voice of Reason

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