Monday, May 11, 2009

FL - Teens in Keys sex tape case face judge

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With three older teens already in jail on charges of child pornography, five juveniles also involved in the sex video had detention hearings Friday.

PLANTATION KEY -- Five juveniles arrested on child pornography charges for making a sex video went before a Monroe County circuit judge Friday for a detention hearing at the Plantation Key Courthouse.

Four will be allowed to serve home detention until their arraignments on May 5. The fifth, a 14-year-old girl, was already in juvenile detention for violating probation on a drug offense.

''This certainly is a life-changing event, one of the dark moments of his life,'' said attorney John Jabro, representing a 16-year-old boy involved in the case.

The boy's father stood by his son during the hearing before Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia.

A total of 10 teenagers, ages 13 to 19, were charged Wednesday with making child pornography after detectives confiscated a videotape of a 16-year-old runaway girl having sex with a 19-year-old man as another man was ``directing.''

The others watched the taping for an hour and made comments about making a porn video.

The videotaping happened March 22 in the bedroom of a 13-year-old who lived with his working mother in Key Largo.

Two juveniles, including the 16-year-old girl who performed sex acts with 19-year-old _____, have yet to be arrested but both are being returned to the Keys to face the charges, according to Assistant State Attorney Colleen Dunne.

Three adults -- _____, _____, 19, and the video operator _____, 18 -- are in jail, with bail set at $175,000 per felony charge. Their arraignments also are set for May 5.

If convicted, the adults could face up to 15 years in jail per felony, plus the possibility of being declared a sex offender.

_____, who turned 18 after the videotaping occurred, was originally placed in jail but is now being treated as a juvenile. He was among the five given home detention.

Four of the participants, including _____, lived at the Florida Keys Children's Center.

Monroe County Sheriff's Office Detective Linda Mixon, who worked on the case, said it's not unusual for kids who live in shelters to run away to party.

''The parents are saying if she is old enough to consent to have sex, why is it a crime for it to be filmed?'' Dunne said.

Applicable state law is ''designed to protect the exploitation of children,'' she noted.

The case came to a light the day after the taping, when a 14-year-old runaway told a school resource officer she was concerned her friend had been raped.

The 16-year-old girl on the tape told police the sex was consensual.

NY - State Senator Proposes New Sex Offender Notification System

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A state lawmaker wants to use technology to help parents protect their children.

State Senator Jeff Klein (Email) is pushing legislation to create a statewide e-mail notification system for parents to learn if a convicted sex offender moves into their neighborhood.

"Presently, there are over 3,000 dangerous sexual predators living in New York City, in many cases near our schools, daycare centers, and parks," Klein said. "And I think it's important to give our families peace of mind to know who's living in their communities."

Klein has put together a mapping system to show where the most dangerous sexual predators are.

According to his data, 10029 in Manhattan is zip code with the most registered sex offenders, with 130. The neighborhood includes Wards Island's Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center.

The State Senate is expected to vote on the bill next week.

Implications of the "Holier-than-Thou Effect" For Criminal Justice

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Last week, the New York Times reported on a phenomenon known as the "holier-than-thou effect." When people were asked to predict how they would react to a moral dilemma under a particular set of circumstances, they typically overestimated the likelihood that they would make the right choice (e.g., stop to help others in distress). In predicting how others would react, however, people came much closer to the truth and thereby accurately estimated not only how others would behave, but also (albeit inadvertently) how they themselves would perform in the situation.

These findings could have important implications for how our legal system should approach criminal punishment.

The Goals of the Criminal Law

Theorists of criminal justice typically cite four reasons for punishing people who commit crimes. One is retribution, the moral desire to make a person who has acted wrongfully suffer and thus pay for his mistakes. Within retributive theory, we can ask, for example, whether a person who rapes but does not kill a child deserves to be executed. In conducting proportionality review under the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishments, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Kennedy v. Louisiana, answered this particular question in the negative.

The retributive approach to crime is, in some sense, the purest. Rather than utilizing the apprehended criminal (and his penalty) as a means of shaping others' behavior, the retributivist examines the content of the criminal's character, as manifested by his conduct, and decides what the proper penalty would be, putting aside instrumental considerations.

In contrast, a second common reason for punishment is deterrence, both general and specific. In general deterrence, penalties aim to scare aspiring criminals, as a group, into changing their evil ways. At best, general deterrence prevents people from offending before anyone has had to suffer punishment – that is, the law on the books chills misconduct without having to be enforced. In reality, of course, people do offend and thereby "test" the threat of the criminal law, and their penalties then serve to emphasize, for others, the downside risk of crime.

Specific deterrence operates at the level of the particular person receiving the punishment; by suffering the consequences of his actions, he learns for the future that "crime doesn't pay" and avoids reoffending.

A third objective of criminal punishments is to incapacitate offenders and thereby restrain them from committing further crimes. In the case of imprisonment, for example, a person who is living inside a penitentiary does not have the same opportunities to engage in anti-social conduct as he would on the outside. A sentence of death, once executed, ensures that the offender can no longer hurt anyone. Accordingly, some juries consider "future dangerousness" as an aggravating factor when deciding whether to sentence a killer to death. For extremely dangerous offenders, a prison term alone might not be sufficient to prevent them from killing again.

Fourth, criminal punishment may direct itself toward rehabilitating offenders. The phrase "house of corrections" and the word "reformatory" reference this objective and imply that a person who commits a wrongful act can be changed into the sort of person who would no longer do so. Rehabilitation might involve therapy or behavioral conditioning (A Clockwork Orange explores the potential dark side of this approach), but it treats criminality as a pathology or defect that is subject to reform.

Retribution's Dominance

In the United States, retribution currently dominates over the other objectives within our criminal justice system. Prison sentences are extremely long here, by contrast to those imposed in other parts of the world, and prison conditions are deplorable and include gang violence, rape and the spread of serious illness.

Though such harshness could be a feature of general and specific deterrence, the almost-complete lack of rehabilitative programs within prison (coupled with the ubiquity of prison rape) suggests that a forward-looking attempt to reduce criminality is not an important part of the prison equation in the U.S.. People who are suffering brutalization and spending years away from gainful employment cannot be expected to rejoin law-abiding society and make positive contributions to their respective communities.

What's Wrong With Retribution?

In one respect, the retribution objective shows the greatest respect for the individual and his character. Rather than utilize the convicted criminal to send a message, or treat him as the object of pathology that requires behavioral or medical intervention, a retributive approach takes the criminal actor seriously as an autonomous person and punishes him in the way that he deserves. A problem arises, however, if our assumptions about individual autonomy and responsibility are incorrect, and the holier-than-thou effect suggests that they might be.

When we empathize with a person in whose shoes we can easily imagine ourselves, we sometimes say, "There but for the grace of God go I." This expression captures the notion that, at least in some cases, we understand that we cannot take the credit for the benefits that we enjoy. Whether we attribute our good circumstances to God's grace or to luck, we acknowledge that something outside of our own control and responsibility must be credited.

This empathic approach can usually be found on the political left. People interested in focusing on the "root causes" of anti-social behavior point out that a person who has suffered a rotten childhood is more inclined to turn to criminal deviance than someone whose childhood was uneventful, and they argue that the law ought to take this into account.

Though reflecting a laudable empathy toward our fellow human beings, such "root cause" analysis, on occasion, can strike many on the right (and even in the middle or left) as misguided. When a terrorist blows up a school, for instance, the understood proper reaction is outrage, not an attempt to identify with the terrorist. Indeed, when someone argues that "I might be a terrorist if I grew up under the same conditions as the person who blew up the school," the ready responses are that (a) most people who grew up under those conditions did not become terrorists, and (b) one must deal with a person as he is, and it is not terribly helpful in strategizing a response to specific violence to observe that its perpetrator might have been a good person if his last seventeen years had gone differently.

By contrast, the holier-than-thou effect tells us something far more practical than would a close analysis of "root causes." It exposes the fact that we, as we now exist in our current incarnations, having experienced our actual childhoods, are far more responsive to context in making our moral choices than we are to enduring character traits (developed over the years). If a context invites Bad Samaritan behavior (i.e., ignoring a person in need of help) or worse, in other words, even those of us who think we are good and think we would do the right thing will predictably fall short of our own expectations. We might strongly believe that we would not succumb to temptation (of whatever variety), but we are – in all likelihood – mistaken.

To acknowledge the holier-than-thou effect, then, is to begin to understand the somewhat counterintuitive reality that when we are not inhabiting a situation, we are ill-equipped to judge how we would respond to it. To give one example, the behavior of our soldiers in Abu Ghraib, given the orders they received and the circumstances in which they found themselves, was predictable. Indeed, Professor Philip Zimbardo essentially predicted it in his 1971 prison simulation experiment at Stanford University, during which ordinary students grossly abused their randomly assigned roles as "prison guards" to their peers.

Consequences for Criminal Justice of the Holier-than-Thou Effect

One might read the holier-than-thou effect as counseling anarchy – arguing that we cannot punish people for their misdeeds, because they are simply automatons subject to the directives of circumstance. I would not support such an approach, however, in part because the manner in which the legal system handles misconduct is itself an important factor in shaping human behavior. An absence of criminal sanctions could therefore produce lawlessness. Being supremely aware of the context-sensitivity of human beings thus requires greater, rather than less, care in crafting our responses to harmful acts.

The holier-than-thou effect might, however, help us to see that many of the people who are languishing in prison are not "worse" people than their law-abiding counterparts. Indeed, we might have behaved as they did under the "right" circumstances. This view does not mean that we cannot punish criminals, but it does call into question the conclusion that most convicts are beyond redemption and should be, in effect, written off with long, life-destroying prison sentences. Indeed, the situation-dependent nature of behavior counsels against surrounding a person convicted of wrongdoing with other criminals for long stretches of time, during which he will be almost entirely cut off from what lawful behavior in civilized society looks like. Shorter and less brutal sentences, coupled with humane and educational transition opportunities for former prisoners, could yield better results for everyone.

To take into account the holier-than-thou effect might also facilitate the forgiveness necessary to our ability to think logically about the problem of crime. If we are filled with rage and hatred (which are often themselves a very understandable response to crime), it will be more difficult for us to imagine, and thus to allow, that someone who committed a bad act in the past might soon become (or might even have already been) a contributing member of society.

As of early 2008, the United States had the highest documented per capita rate of incarceration in the world. More than one in every one hundred adults here were in prison. Of Americans in prison, between twenty and forty percent were estimated to be infected with Hepatitis C virus, and the prevalence of prison rape contributed to a high rate of HIV infection as well. If we are able to say of at least some of these offenders that "There but for the grace of God go I," we might begin to consider the changes necessary to fix our broken system.

Sherry F. Colb, a FindLaw columnist, is Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar at Cornell Law School. Her book, When Sex Counts: Making Babies and Making Law, is currently available on Amazon.

GA - Human Rights for Prisoners March Planned for May 16 in Atlanta

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This is only a small portion of the above article.  Go to the link above to read the entire post.


By Duo

DETAINEE TREATEMENT is frequently "inhuman" inside as it was outside America's borders. Plans are underway for the first annual Human Rights for Prisoners March and Conference in Atlanta in mid-May, 2009. Read first-person reports by seven Pennsylvania inmates who made sworn statements that they are electrocuted, beaten, half-starved, and verbally abused because they reported being tortured and beg for your help at this link (if this link is not allowed to work, please Yahoo "Mary Neal Care2 Sharebook"):

Whereas prison torture has been exposed and condemned in America's offshore prisons, abusive conditions with often deadly results continue largely unchecked inside the country's correctional institutions. Furthermore, racially motivated incidents of police brutality continue to threaten the cohesion of our social structure. Information about the Human Rights for Prisoners March is at the end of this article and will be updated until finalized.

There is a need to stamp out prisoner abuse and murders inside the U.S.A. as well as outside and avoid having detainees within America's borders live and die like the individuals in the VIDEO at the link below while their families are denied records and accountability. More videos are available throughout this article. (Beware - graphic violence, nudity, and death):

Torture in American Prisons

(Torture in American Prisons link originally placed here was deactivated. If this one fails, it is available at YouTube and other sites. Put the title in your browser for a 50 min. documentary of prison torture inside America that rivals the "War on Terror" prison camps.)

Most of the improvements listed below would cost nothing. In fact, they would reduce America’s incarceration rate and save billions of dollars annually. For instance, death row inmates cost about $90,000 more per inmate than those in maximum security prisons. Mentally ill inmates who are released under an assisted outpatient treatment program would experience a better than 80% reduction in future arrests, hospitalizations, and homelessness, and outpatient commitment would promote public safety. There are currently 1.25 million mentally ill people in America’s correctional facilities. Because treatment is significantly less expensive than either hospitalization or imprisonment, states would save significant amounts of tax money that is needed elsewhere.

Peaceful prisoner activists and individuals with an interest in human rights are invited to attend, particularly those interested in:

  1. death penalty
  2. prison torture
  3. solitary confinement
  4. life without the possibility of parole
  5. trying children as adults and life sentences for minors
  6. mandatory sentencing
  7. three-strikes laws
  8. law of parties (sentencing all parties equally, regardless of parties' level of participation in crimes committed, i.e., Jeff Wood drove with the wrong person to a store in Texas)
  9. criminalizing mental illness, including PTSD among American veterans
  10.  relocating prisoners out of state, which restricts visits even for sick prisoners
  11. private prison profiteering - especially by decision-makers with positions in criminal justice (possible conflicts of interest)
  12. excessive sentencing and unacceptable disparities in sentencing for similar offenses
  13. enforcement of Freedom of Information Act
  14. prisoner healthcare
  15. increased funding for public defenders
  16. post-conviction DNA testing
  17. no penalty or misdemeanor charge for less than one oz. of marijuana
  18. strict enforcement against police and prison brutality; prosecution of 100% of offenders
  19. new trials with substantial new evidence, like the Troy Davis case (Is Davis is preserved to execute one day and set off riots to excuse Martial Law? President Obama should pardon Davis. See comments*)
  20. so-called "non-lethal weaponry" and the possibility of conflicts of interest among decision makers regarding police equipment purchases
  21. illegal alien raids and arrests
  22. police profiling and abuse of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons
  23. surveillance of U.S. citizens; loss of privacy rights
  24. plans for mass "emergency centers" inside U.S.A. for Americans (H.R. 645)
  25. remedial damages for victims and families of abused or murdered prisoners (whether or not victims lived to reach jail)

**Additional concerns suggested by email respondents supplement this list in the comments section to this article, below.

The Human Rights for Prisoners March will be conducted in the tradition of non-violent social change demonstrations by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Freedom Riders, which were supported by people of different races and backgrounds united to promote civil rights. It seems fitting to have the march in Dr. King's hometown.

NH - Individual rights a hot issue for the state's lawmakers this session (Or so they say!)

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This is not about sex offenders, but I find it ironic and hypocritical that they are all about individual rights, except when it comes to sex offenders and other groups. Funny how they never say any of what is in this document, until it affects them personally.



This year the Legislature has considered many controversial bills, but two in particular have dealt with personal rights and the tolerance of differences.

One of these bills, HB 415, which would have prohibited discrimination against transgender persons, failed in the Senate. HB 436, which would permit same-sex marriage, is now under consideration by the governor.

The two principle founding documents of our country make clear that our government is based on equal rights for all citizens. The beginning of the Declaration of Independence asserts that "all men are created equal" and have "certain unalienable Rights . . . among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

The preamble of the Constitution gives as one of the basic purposes of our form of government "(to) promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity."

Although it has taken a long time to realize these goals – voting rights for women and racial minorities were only achieved in the 20th century – they have always set a standard for our society.

The basic idea behind these statements is that people should not be denied rights that are generally available because of who they are. We should not consider anyone of less value just because they are different from the majority.

Of course, actions that harm anyone in our society can be restricted, regardless of who commits them. But we should not allow our government, or even a majority of our fellow citizens, to deny rights simply because the majority feels uncomfortable with a group of people who happen to be "different."

Same-sex marriage

New Hampshire currently has a civil union law, and opponents object to using the term "marriage" for families based on same-sex unions. Opponents see same-sex couples as somehow being out of the norm.

But while homosexuality is certainly less common than heterosexuality, that does not necessarily make it less normal than, for example, being left handed. The fact that homosexuality has survived from the beginning of recorded time suggests that it is a regular human condition.

The main argument against same-sex marriage is that it is against religious/moral law. But nothing in the current proposed law would affect any religious beliefs – the effect is purely for marriage as a secular institution.

No religion would be required to recognize any spiritual marriages, or perform religious ceremonies for same-sex couples, or sanctify those marriages. However, secular marriage, which supports couples who want to form a family because that is seen as important for the strength and stability of society, would be available to all.

So, the same-sex marriage bill would stop current legal discrimination against a minority, while still allowing everyone to act according to their own beliefs.

Transgender rights

The other controversial bill also would have prohibited existing discrimination against a sexual minority – transgender individuals.

There has been a great deal of misinformation and fear-mongering spread about this bill. It has commonly been called the "bathroom bill," even though it really has nothing to do with bathrooms. The main cause of all this uproar is that people don't really understand what it means to be transgender.

Put simply, transgender individuals are born with a body that is genetically of one sex, but with a mind that has feelings and perspectives of the other sex.

This conflict does not occur by choice, or even because of life experience, but is naturally present from early in life.

People who are transgender do not present themselves as a sex different from their physical sex for any ulterior reason: they simply want to act as the person they feel themselves to be and to be comfortable with their place in life – to "pursue happiness." This is true whether or not they have had reassignment surgery.

An especially reprehensible charge has been that men who are transgender might enter women's bathrooms in order to sexually molest young children. However, the assumption that homosexuals or the transgender are likely to be sexual predators is not merely false, but it shows complete lack of understanding of the issues.

Sexual orientation and identity have nothing to do with whether one is a sexual predator or child abuser. Heterosexuals are just as likely, or unlikely, to be sexual predators as are homosexuals or transgender people. Of course, sexual abuse of any kind is simply wrong, since it takes away the rights of one person, and harms them, for the pleasure of another.

On the other hand, having a particular sexual orientation or identity is simply no one else's business: none of us has the right to control what someone else thinks or feels, so long as that person does not impose those thoughts or feelings on us.

In the "Live Free or Die" state, where we fight hard for our own liberties, we should remember that other people's liberties are just as important. Restricting the rights of one group is a slippery slope that can lead to all of us losing the freedom that we hold so dear.

Rep. John Knowles, D-Hudson, represents Hudson, Litchfield and Pelham in the House of Representatives.

FL - E-mail identified wrong man as sex offender

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By Bart Pfankuch

Mix-up offers a cautionary tale to those who hit 'send' in haste

EAST MANATEE - Thomas Carpenter's job as a tae kwon do instructor for children requires a high level of trust from parents.

In one lesson, Carpenter plays the role of a creep who grabs the children's shoulders; to get away, the elementary school-age students thrust up their arms to push off Carpenter's hands before giving him a hard shove so they can run away.

The parents chat casually among themselves as they watch through a glass window at Carpenter's studio on State Road 70, just east of Interstate 75.

"I'm 100 percent comfortable with what happens here in class," said parent John Schultz.

But Carpenter's reputation took an unfair beating recently when someone sent an anonymous and erroneous e-mail alleging that Carpenter was a state-registered sex offender.

"I am writing to inform you that the owner and chief instructor of this facility is a registered sex offender," said the April 18 e-mail, sent to several businesses in the plaza shared by Carpenter's Family Taekwondo. "Obviously, this person should not be dealing with children. I urge you to ... make local parents aware of the potential danger they could be putting their children in."

The e-mail was incorrect. Carpenter is not a sex offender, and now the sender, if he or she can be identified, could face criminal charges and a civil suit as a result.

For Carpenter's lawyer, the situation is a cautionary tale of how in a world of instantaneous communication -- and in a society that places a virtual scarlet letter on sex offenders -- people had better have their facts straight before sending out warnings about strangers.

"This is the downside to the easy public access to information about sex offenders," said attorney Kevin Bruning of Sarasota. "Even the average person has to understand the impact of what they're saying because if you're wrong, it could be devastating for that person."

No one is sure how far the e-mail spread, but a few days later, a neighboring business owner told Carpenter about the e-mail and its contents.

Carpenter was stunned, because not only is he not a registered sex offender, he is also a former sheriff's deputy who has passed numerous background checks and has made a living protecting the public and now children.

"My first reaction was shock, absolute shock," Carpenter, 50, said. "And then, 'Oh my God, what am I going to do? How far did this go? Who did it go to? And how can I stop this?'"

It turns out the e-mail's sender was correct that there is a Thomas Carpenter who is a registered sex offender in Manatee County. That other Thomas Carpenter was convicted in 1993 of lewd and lascivious battery on a child under 16 in Sarasota County, according to court records.

But even though the two men look somewhat alike, there are several distinct differences in their appearance.

Carpenter, the karate instructor, lives in Lakewood Ranch, and is 10 years younger and much taller than the other Thomas Carpenter, who did not want to comment for this story.

Clearing his name

The person who sent the untrue e-mail could face repercussions.

An obscure bit of language in the Florida sexual offender statute makes it a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail to misuse information contained in the state sex offender database.

The state makes it easy to track and identify sex offenders and predators via a search system linked to all sheriff's office Web sites and on numerous other law enforcement sites.

But the law basically states that before any of that information is shared or published, people must be certain they have identified the right person.

It is a crime, the law states, if anyone "knowingly distributes or publishes false information relating to such a predator or offender which the person misrepresents as being public records information."

Beyond that, Carpenter's lawyer said his client has a solid civil case on grounds of defamation. Civil defamation law does not require Carpenter to prove that he suffered any financial or emotional loss to win damages from the sender of the e-mail.

"It is automatically damaging," Bruning said. "In this world, for a person whose entire job is working with children, it's devastating to his job, just devastating."

Carpenter said he doubts that the parents of the 130 children he works with now would believe he could be a sex offender, and no one has dropped out of his class yet.

Still, he worries what the perception of impropriety can do to a "word-of-mouth" business when it comes to prospective clients.

"In my business, it'd be a 100-percent loss," Carpenter said. "I'd just put up a sign immediately -- business closed."

Parent Kimberly Delrosario of River Club said she trusts and respects Carpenter as an instructor. But she said that even incorrect allegations could cloud a parent's decision on where to send their child for instruction.

"If I were shopping for a place, and I heard that, I would go 'Oh, I don't want my child going there,'" said Delrosario, whose 5-year-old son is in Carpenter's class.

After the accusatory e-mail, sent from a account, was forwarded to Carpenter, he replied several times and asked the person to correct the record and to give him a call or drop by to talk about what happened. Carpenter said that as a former sheriff's deputy he wanted the sender to know that contacting the local sheriff's office would have been the right way to deal with their concerns.

But the sender, who did apologize and promised to send another e-mail clearing up the error, said the e-mail was simply an honest mistake and did not appreciate Carpenter's requests for more information.

"I will not provide you with any personal information of mine, nor will I disclose the name of the business I work with," the person replied. "I would rather try working with you, but not if you're going to harass and threaten me."

When Carpenter received that terse e-mail, he got angry and decided to contact the Sheriff's Office. A detective is working to determine the identity of the e-mail's author, sheriff's spokesman Dave Bristow said.

Detectives work with the e-mail service providers and can subpoena them to release the identity of people who use their service, Bristow said. He said he has never heard of this situation arising before in Southwest Florida.

Carpenter continues to run the studio he has operated for seven years in East Manatee with his two teen-age children and wife, Patti. He decided to talk openly about the allegations in an effort to publicly clear his name.

He and his family are still dealing with the stress of having been falsely accused.

"My wife was a total wreck about it," Carpenter said. "For two weeks, we've been holding our breaths to see how far this has gone."

CA - Victim's Advocate Says Sex Offender's Blog Posts Hurts Victims

SEX GULAG BLOG | Voices of the Gulag