Wednesday, May 20, 2009
By Sam Womack
Santa Barbara County officials are rolling up their sleeves to get tougher on local residency restrictions for sexual predators.
After receiving a report on Jessica’s Law, a 2006 proposition restricting where sex offenders can live, the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voiced its desire to enact more detailed local ordinances.
The issue was brought to the board by 4th District Supervisor Joni Gray after some of her constituents near Lompoc were faced with a neighbor who is also a convicted sex offender.
- So, I guess, when a sex offender moves into someones neighborhood, we will continue to have the witch hunt continue because nobody wants a sex offender around. Who cares about serial killers, gang members, drug dealers, DUI offenders, they are apparently not a threat, and sex offenders have become the new terrorists. So what is next? Concentration camps?
Jessica’s Law bars sex offenders from residing within 2,000 feet of parks and schools, and it allows local authorities to enact even tougher restrictions.
Fresno County established a 3,000-foot restriction, and the city of San Diego included amusement parks, arcades, libraries and even fast-food restaurant playgrounds, according to the staff report presented to supervisors.
The supervisors said they were interested in a residency and a location ordinance.
The caveat for Lompoc area residents looking for an excuse to boot _____, 47, the twice-convicted violent sexual predator who moved in to Cebada Canyon near Lompoc earlier this year, is that the new laws are not retroactive.
Jessica’s Law and local ordinances do not affect people convicted and required to register as sex offenders before the laws’ passage, according to County Counsel.
However, until rulings come back on pending litigation, the law remains unclear on residency restrictions and retroactive application, said Stephen Underwood, chief assistant county counsel.
- RETROACTIVE LAWS (I.E. EX POST FACTO LAWS) ARE A DIRECT VIOLATION OF THE CONSTITUTION. So if the Constitution means nothing anymore, then why have it? You basically have NO RIGHTS then! Let's just tear it up and become a communist country already. Let's get the show on the road!!!
The board also asked staff to research a potential loitering law that would prevent sex offenders from visiting schools and parks, because Jessica’s Law only affects residency.
Two former Creston police officers convicted for their roles in the rape of a country club bartender were sentenced today to a combined 50 years in prison.
A jury of nine women and three men in Sioux City found James Christensen, the city’s former police chief, and John Sickels, the former assistant chief, guilty in March of second-degree sexual abuse.
- I thought juries were suppose to be fair? Why not six men and six women?
Prosecutors contended that Sickels, 39, raped the woman at the Crestmoor Country Club on April 18, 2008, after the club had closed. Prosecutors alleged that Christensen, 41, stroked the woman’s hair and tried to quiet her during the incident.
Both were sentenced today to 25 years in prison. Each read a statement at the sentencing, which was held at the Polk County Courthouse, before their terms were handed down, but neither apologized directly to the victim.
Sickels instead criticized the trial and maintained that the sex was consensual.
"I'm proud of him and what he's done for the community," Sickels' mother, Janet Jackson said after the hearing. "This was a set up from day one."
Christensen told the packed courtroom, which included 30 or more anti-sexual assault advocates, that he was sorry his supporters "had to endure this."
Both men will stay in jail without bond while they appeal the conviction.
Defense lawyers had contended at the trial that the sex between Sickels and the woman was consensual. Christensen testified that he did not see the sex act.
The arrests of the men in June sent shockwaves through Creston, a town of about 8,000. Christensen and Sickels were fired after they were charged. The trial was moved from Union County to Woodbury County to ensure a fair trial.
- Why were they fired automatically? So much for innocent until proven guilty!
The verdict capped an eight-day trial that was often contentious. Four hours of closing arguments became so heated that Judge Arthur Gamble twice sent jurors out of the courtroom so he could referee disagreements among the attorneys.
Sickels lawyer charged that prosecutors deliberately tried to mislead jurors about which side was responsible to prove Sickels’ guilt. Defense lawyers also raised questions during the trial about the accuser’s statements, her reported drunken memory lapses in the past, and the tactics used by state investigators.
Prosecutors, cited conflicting statements from Sickels and Christensen about the incident, their admitted request that night for oral sex, and the woman’s unwavering story.
Sickels initially denied that he had sex with the woman, then twice changed his story when questioned by a state agent.
The Des Moines Register does not name rape victims without their permission.
Sickels and Christensen argued in court papers that prosecutors misstated facts and denied them a fair trial.
- Welcome to the real world!
But Gamble ruled Tuesday that the prosecutors broke no rules and that the evidence was fairly presented.
It wasn’t just a “he said, she said” case, Gamble wrote, and the conviction was supported by ample evidence that included Sickels’ admission that he had sex with the woman.
“Given the physical evidence at the crime scene and the admissions of the defendants, the state’s case was strong,” according to Gamble’s ruling. “The complainant’s testimony was credible. Her statements to the DCI, her deposition testimony and her trial testimony were consistent on her central allegation of sexual abuse. The testimony of the defendants was neither consistent nor credible.”
By Regan Kohler
WASHBURN COUNTY – A Minong woman was convicted of sexual assault of a child Wednesday, May 13, at the Washburn County Courthouse.
_____, 29, pled no contest in March to second-degree sexual assault of a child and to child enticement with sexual contact, and was found guilty. According to the report, _____ had forced a 14-year-old boy into intercourse and other sex acts multiple times on May 12, 2008, and offered him alcohol, while he was baby-sitting her child overnight. Later that week, his mother intercepted text messages from _____ indicating the acts and telling him to keep them secret, the report said. She testified later in court that she had had suspicions upon his return, and that _____ had said some inappropriate things in front of her son before that.
Though the boy denied it when asked, his mother reported the issue to human services.
When a deputy interviewed the boy, he admitted he felt forced into these acts, and that _____ indicated that more would occur in the future when he baby-sat.
_____, who denied the accusations, was taken into custody later that week and charged with four counts of second-degree sexual assault as well as child enticement and exposing a child to harmful material. The latter charge, as well as three counts of sexual assault, was dismissed.
Wednesday, _____ was sentenced to nine months in jail and six years of probation, and was ordered to register as a sex offender.
The man accused of attacking the winner of Alaska's biggest lottery with a metal pipe or rod pleaded guilty this week to a reduced charge of second-degree assault, a prosecutor said.
Brandon Hughes, a 20-year-old from the Los Angeles area, was sentenced to three years in prison under a plea bargain, said prosecutor Clint Campion.
Hughes will be eligible for parole and time off for good behavior, which is usually about one-third of the sentence.
Anchorage Superior Court Judge Patrick McKay accepted the plea and sentenced Hughes on Monday.
The victim was _____, a convicted sex offender who won the $500,000 jackpot in January. After taxes, _____ took home a $350,000 prize. Hughes knew a relative of one or more of _____'s sexual abuse victims, according to authorities.
The lottery also benefited the advocacy group Standing Together Against Rape, though the charity received much less than _____, about $11,000.
- They should be happy they got anything!
View the article here
Gov. Bob Riley (Contact) signed a bill Monday that keeps convicted sex offenders from residing within 2,000 feet of a college or university, and from loitering near school bus stops and within 500 yards of colleges and universities. This does not disallow sex offenders from attending college.
There’s nothing really wrong with the bill other than it’s not as big of a deal as some might want to make it out to be. Instead, this appears to us as another misguided attempt to give some people a false sense of security and let politicians pretend they are doing something for our benefit. The truth is, it makes no one that much safer and affords the politicians an opportunity for a chest thump.
There are many on the sex offender registry who do not pose an actual danger to society, and there are many who are horrific predators.
Instead of working hard to pass a bill that moves sex offenders just a little bit further from college campuses, where less expensive housing often exists anyway, why not do something in the Legislature to offer some sort of separation between the truly gruesome sex offenders that have preyed upon children or others on multiple occasions and those who fall under the banner of “sex offender” because they had consensual sex with a minor not much younger than they? We’re not saying the latter is right because violations of these laws must be taken seriously, but some are far more dangerous than others. The problem with the registry now is that it paints all with a very broad brush.
By further limiting non-violent offenders’ choices upon re-entry into society, we’re only making it more difficult for them to be functional members of society.
Better legislative action could mean stiffer sentences for violators of specific crimes — targeting the gruesome predators. Simply making them move their residence another 500 feet away from college campuses doesn’t protect future victims as much as we’d like to think. For that matter, it doesn’t keep them off of campus at all. It just means they have to walk a few more feet to get there from their front door.
Moving sex offenders’ residences further from campuses does nothing to distinguish between the truly horrific predator from the others. It does nothing to prevent attacks on campus.
- Question is, how many sexual crimes have occurred on campus?
Instead, legislators in Montgomery can celebrate a law that did little to make people safer from the true predators, while the person with no violent streak who made a mistake with his girlfriend is branded for life.
This isn’t progress. Politicians just want to tell you it is.
New Article (05/21/2009)
By David Hench - Portland Press Herald
PORTLAND - A man who says he was prepared to kill at least two people attending an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in a church basement Monday morning was arrested by a Portland High School resource officer as he loaded a high-powered rifle outside the church.
Officer Stephen Black said he was locking the rear school doors, as he does every day at 8 a.m., when he saw Herbert Jones, 46, holding a rifle in a small paved area behind the school known as Freshman Alley. He said he then saw Jones, whose back was to him, loading rounds into the gun.
Black drew his sidearm and ordered Jones to put down the gun, a 7 mm Remington. Jones complied immediately, Black said.
Jones seemed confused and said he was loading the rifle because he believed there were pedophiles at the morning AA meeting held in the basement of First Parish Unitarian Church, which abuts Freshman Alley.
"That was when I thought to myself, 'Oh, man, this guy is here to kill people,' " Black said.
Jones confirmed as much in a jailhouse interview a few hours after his arrest.
Jones said he has bipolar disorder and has spent time in Spring Harbor psychiatric hospital. Two months ago, he said, he saw a documentary about pedophiles and became furious. He said he's had family members who were abused as children.
"I watch these vigilante shows. Why can't it be done?" he said. "I wanted to do an 'angel of the night' thing and catch somebody in the act - pedophile, rapist, doesn't matter."
Dressed in a yellow Cumberland County Jail jumpsuit, his hands cuffed, Jones occasionally sobbed and repeatedly said he was confused.
Jones said he planned to shoot a man at the meetings who he believes was a priest and a convicted pedophile.
Police said they are not aware of any registered sex offenders who participate in the morning AA meeting at the church.
Jones also said he's been obsessed with a 26-year-old woman, someone he bought gifts for and phoned often, but she told him to stop speaking to her. Jones conceded that he was troubled that the woman, whom he met at AA meetings, did not return his affection.
Asked whether he planned to shoot anyone else at Monday morning's meeting, Jones said he believed that another man might take advantage of the woman he likes.
"I was going to take him out, too," he said. "I just wanted to protect her."
Jones said Monday morning's shooting was to be his final act before he left for Massachusetts to start over, "a clean slate."
"I have to get out of Maine because I know demons are after me," he said.
Jones is charged with terrorizing, stalking, possession of a firearm in a school zone and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
The stalking charge stems from repeated telephone calls, cards and gifts to the woman who attends the morning AA meetings. A court complaint filed after Monday's incident states that the woman initially accepted Jones' gifts - he took her to the mall, bought her clothes, and paid for her to have her nails and hair done.
He told her he had received a $30,000 settlement from Social Security.
At one point, he gave her a canister of pepper spray to protect herself. Later, she said, she carried it out of fear of him.
Jones would sometimes lose his temper during the AA meetings, and he had been forced to leave, making him angry at participants, according to court papers.
A check of the State Bureau of Identification in Maine shows Jones has no criminal history in the state. Police believe that he was convicted of a felony, aggravated larceny, in Florida several years ago.
Police and others said Black's good timing and quick reaction might have saved several lives.
"I don't think we're going out on a limb to say that Officer Black being in the right place at the right time and taking the right actions really probably avoided a tragedy," said Capt. Vern Malloch.
Jones, he said, "had been making threats against people throughout the course of the weekend."
Black said he was walking down an inclined hallway toward the back of the high school when he first saw Jones holding the rifle and standing next to a 2001 BMW convertible, its top down and the trunk open.
"He looked like a normal enough guy," Black said. "I don't know what his intentions are. My first hope was he was going to secure the weapon in the trunk."
Instead, Jones reached in and got ammunition, Black said.
"I knew his intentions weren't very good at that point," he said. "You're not going to be loading a rifle behind my school."
As Black approached, he saw that there also was a shotgun in the trunk, and another man, later identified as Walter Begaye, in the passenger seat of the car. There were two open beers in the car's console.
Begaye, 43, was charged with having a concealed weapon after a knife was found under his seat.
Jones said Begaye, whom he referred to as "the chief," is a friend he met up with Sunday night in front of the Milestone shelter on India Street. Begaye is well-known to police and has been charged repeatedly with drinking in public. He was visibly intoxicated at the time of his arrest, police said.
Jones was given a field sobriety test and passed, Black said.
When Black called for backup, Officer Cong Van Nguyen was patrolling less than a block away. Van Nguyen took the rifle and ejected two rounds. In the car, police found 40 rounds of ammunition and four other knives.
Police later searched Jones' home on Valley Street and found another rifle and more ammunition.
- Did they have a search warrant?
Jones said he bought the guns at L.L. Bean a week ago. He said he wanted to go hunting, but admitted later that might have been an excuse to purchase the guns. He said he paid $1,900 for them.
Police said the felony conviction they believe Jones has in Florida includes a different date of birth for the recipient, which might have contributed to his ability to purchase the weapons. Having a criminal record prohibits the purchase of guns.
Jones is being held on $100,000 bail pending a court appearance.
Portland High School Principal Michael Johnson sent a letter home with students alerting parents to the incident. He said the school's only involvement was the work of its resource officer.
"At no time was the school in any kind of danger," Johnson said. The school was not locked down because the incident was over before anyone was even alerted to it.
Black noted that he has been involved in a number of high-stress, high-profile incidents during his 10 years on the force. He's been involved in a police shooting and a brutal fight with a suspect.
Monday's incident left him feeling pretty good.
"I think I saved a lot of lives today," Black said. "The fact he was mad at everybody in that place. ... It's more scary now than when it actually happened."
If all you do is focus on the negative, then the problem will always look larger than it is.
Out of the occasional offender who reoffends, there are thousands more who have not, yet everyone concentrates on those who do. Of course some will reoffend, that is common sense, but instead of working on prevention and rehabilitation (like they do with all other issues), they do not, when it comes to sex offenders.
So that begs the question, why? Maybe it's to keep their evil system running, to help their bogus statistics to become reality, and to keep people living in fear and distracted from the REAL issues?
Instead of helping people (prevention), they create more crime, by forcing people to lose jobs, homes, friends, family, etc. And when people become homeless, that only adds to the stress, and eventually, someone will abscond, or worse. Then they can use that to help their bogus statistics! But, if you look at the whole picture, they are not helping crime, they are creating it, and making it worse, and for what?
They are all cowards!!! If they were to help sex offenders get help, and work on preventing crime in the first place, they'd look like they were soft on crime, or pro-sex offender, and they could lose their jobs. If they treated people like the human beings they are, like Jesus once said: "Do unto others as you would have done unto yourselves," then we'd eventually not need such a large prison business, and yes, it is a business!
So it's all about saving their own careers, and to stay in good with the people. As long as this is the attitude, then the issue will never be solved! Just count the number of negative and positive news stories you see, and you can be assured, the negative will outweigh the good. Why is that? Why do we concentrate on all the evil and negative in the world?
And people wonder why the world is going to hell???
Sorry, just had that on my mind for some reason, so I put it here.
Why, oh God, am I homeless?
by Greg Allen
In Miami, a causeway in the middle of Biscayne Bay has become home to one of the county's least desirable populations: sex offenders.
What began a few years ago as a stopgap solution has become de facto public policy. For sex offenders with few resources who want to stay in Miami, there's just one option: an encampment of tents and shacks on the Julia Tuttle Causeway.
The encampment got started a few years ago, when Miami-Dade County, like other communities across the country, adopted an ordinance banning sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of anywhere that children gather.
It's a law that applies not just to sex offenders on probation but also to felons who have served their time — people like 31-year-old Juan Martin. He served an eight-year sentence for exposing himself to a teenaged girl.
After Martin got out of prison in 2006, his probation officer brought him to what at that time was just a small camp of several men and a few tents under the bridge on the causeway. After three years of living here, he's angry. He says, "The state is forcing you to live like an animal."
'Why Do I Have To Be Here?'
What once was a collection of tents has now become a small village. There are a half-dozen shacks, some with kitchens and working toilets. A few of the men have built a dock for fishing where some small boats are tied up.
Right now, 67 people live here. And nearly every week, probation officers drop off sex offenders, recently released, who have nowhere else to go.
Voncel Johnson recently became the first woman who was told she'd have to live under the bridge. She says when her probation officer dropped her off at the camp, it was unexpected and frightening.
"I'm thinking she's bringing me to a three-quarter-way house," Johnson recalls. "But when I got here it was … pitch dark. The first thing I saw was men, and I'm the only lady here. … I broke down. I'm asking her, 'Why do I have to be here?'"
Johnson pleaded guilty to a charge that she exposed herself to a friend's children — an incident she now says never happened.
As Martin says, the people who live under the bridge aren't saints.
'People Break Down So Bad'
During the day, most of the people who live in the encampment leave for jobs or to visit their families until evening, when their curfews require them to come back and live in what Martin calls inhumane conditions.
"We've had two heart attacks here," he says. "And we've had a couple of times where people break down so bad — they don't eat, they try suicide attempts."
Martin shows me his left arm, where there are scars that he says are from his own suicide attempts.
Safer With 'An Army of Angry, Homeless' Offenders?
State prison officials and probation officers are not happy about the situation under the bridge. They believe it is leading sex offenders to stop registering with the state and go underground.
That's one reason why state Sen. David Aronberg (Email) has been working to replace the hodgepodge of county and city ordinances with a new state law. It would set a single 1,500-foot restriction for sex offenders that would enable them to find housing inside of communities.
And, unlike the current law in Miami, it would also restrict sex offenders' movements during the day, creating child-protection zones that would keep offenders away from places where children congregate.
Aronberg says the laws as currently written make little sense. He asks, "How is it that an army of angry homeless sex offenders who are roaming our streets [makes] us safer?"
- So how is it that an army of idiotic legislature passing draconian unconstitutional laws makes us safer?
Resistance To Changing Restrictions
So far, officials in Miami-Dade County say they see no reason to change the ordinance.
- So the homeless camp will grow, and then spread to other portions of the county and state, eventually someone in one of these camps, is going to lash out. With nothing to lose, it's only a matter of time.
Jose "Pepe" Diaz is one of the county commissioners who sponsored the law. He concedes that the growing encampment presents health and safety problems but notes that it's the state, not the county, that's put the sex offenders there. And that's a population for which he has little or no sympathy.
- If you were a religious person, you should have sympathy for all human beings, and try to help them get rehabilitated and back on their feet, not help keep them there. But again, we have a lot of idiots running the country, so what do you expect? If this is how they treat one group of people, they might treat you this way next!
He says, "I have to deal with people everyday that I get calls from … looking for jobs because they lost their house, they don't have a job. That's my most important priority."
- What about changing the laws? Then you'd not be having to deal with this, and could work on something that benefits everyone else.
The fact is, about half the counties in Florida now have an ordinance similar to the one in Miami. There are fewer and fewer places sex offenders can legally live in the state after they are released from prison.
- Well, like Jerry Keen in Georgia, who said "he hopes it forces all sex offenders out of the state," they want the same thing, and instead of dealing with the problem and working on prevention, they just push their problem off to someone else, find someone else to blame for the problem. Politics as usual!
Fred Grimm (Email), a columnist for The Miami Herald, has been a regular visitor to the camp on the Julia Tuttle Causeway.
Grimm is convinced that county officials know they made a mistake but are waiting for outside forces — action by the Legislature or a lawsuit — to resolve the problem.
"You don't lose votes by being tough on sex offenders," he says. "We've all seen… spontaneous homeless camps pop up. But this is a camp created by public policy."
And it's a camp that is getting crowded. The space under the causeway can't handle too many more people.
Miami-Dade County officials may have to find a new location for sex offenders or take them north to Broward County. A highway bridge there recently became home to the region's second encampment of sex offenders.
Team 5 Investigates Uncovers Bias
BOSTON - For Tyson Lynch, Facebook is as much about social networking as it is a way to tell friends about his confidential state job deciding who is a threat to you and your children. Lynch is a hearing examiner at the Sex Offender Registry Board in Salem, a job that's considered crucial to public safety.
"They're instrumental," said attorney Terrence Noonan. "Those are the people who are making the final assessment of dangerousness. And if they get it wrong, either way we all suffer."
Lynch has a reputation among some defense attorneys of not being fair.
"He's expressing opinions about how these hearings have been conducted, essentially showing that he's made up his mind before they're finished," said attorney Eric Tennen.
For example, Lynch wrote on his Facebook account how he gets "great satisfaction" out of denying motions and that: "It's always a mistake when people testify because they get destroyed in cross examination." Fellow hearing examiner Mel Maisel used her Facebook account to comment, "But it's so entertaining."
- It looks like the name Lynch fits him rather well, and this man, who is playing with people's lives, should be fired. Anybody who gets pleasure out of torturing someone else, is a sick person.
"This is not entertaining," said Tennen. "These are people's lives we're talking about."
Team 5 Investigates counted dozens and dozens of status updates, quizzes and other posts since the day Lynch wrote about his hiring last October.
This raises questions from defense attorneys.
"If he misses something, then it may very be that a high level offender gets a low level classification that the public never knows and maybe vice versa," Tennen said.
On one workday at 3:47 in the afternoon Lynch turned to quizzes like which Supreme Court justice is he? Answer: Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Here's something lawyers and witnesses should know: He hates the word "lascivious" and you better not type in Arial font. He won't trust you.
"Have you ever personally drafted something in Arial font?" reporter Sean Kelly asked Tennen. "I haven't so I guess I'm safe when it comes to Tyson Lynch."
Not entirely. Once he bragged about "putting the smack-down on some crazy attorney." Without naming anyone he called others "incompetent." One morning he wrote: "It's always awkward when I see one of my pervs in the parking lot after a hearing."
He encountered Team 5 Investigates there as well. "Can I ask you a few questions about your Facebook use?" Kelly asked Lynch outside the Sex Offender Registry Board offices. "Is there a reason why you're spending so much time on Facebook? Don't you take your job seriously?" asked Kelly but Lynch said nothing.
He finally made his account private months after posting that his agency "has been the subject of too many news exposes" while wondering if he should "seek alternate career plans."
"Every single one of his decisions has to be redone and looked at," Noonan said.
"Every case that he's heard has to be re-examined to determine whether or not he was biased, whether or not he was fair and whether or not he gave the person a legitimate hearing and classification," Tennen said.
The head of the Sex Offender Registry Board refused our request for an interview and refused to tell us what, if any, disciplinary action Lynch and his fellow hearing examiners will face. A Board spokesman also refused to tell us whether or not Lynch's decisions will be reviewed. The agency claims it has taken firm steps to make sure that this will not happen again.