Monday, July 6, 2009

Microsoft Security Advisory (972890) - Vulnerability in Microsoft Video ActiveX Control Could Allow Remote Code Execution

View the article here
Fix it, here

07/06/2009

Version: 1.0

Microsoft is investigating a privately reported vulnerability in Microsoft Video ActiveX Control. An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could gain the same user rights as the local user. When using Internet Explorer, code execution is remote and may not require any user intervention.

We are aware of attacks attempting to exploit the vulnerability.

Our investigation has shown that there are no by-design uses for this ActiveX Control in Internet Explorer which includes all of the Class Identifiers within the msvidctl.dll that hosts this ActiveX Control. For Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 customers, Microsoft is recommending removing support for this ActiveX Control within Internet Explorer using all the Class Identifiers listed in the Workaround section. Though unaffected by this vulnerability, Microsoft is recommending that Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 customers remove support for this ActiveX Control within Internet Explorer using the same Class Identifiers as a defense-in-depth measure.

Customers may prevent the Microsoft Video ActiveX Control from running in Internet Explorer, either manually using the instructions in the Workaround section or automatically using the solution found in Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 972890. By preventing the Microsoft Video ActiveX Control from running in Internet Explorer, there is no impact to application compatibility.

We are actively working with partners in our Microsoft Active Protections Program (MAPP) to provide information that they can use to provide broader protections to customers.

Microsoft is currently working to develop a security update for Windows to address this vulnerability and will release the update when it has reached an appropriate level of quality for broad distribution.

Mitigating Factors:
  • Customers who are using Windows Vista or Windows Server 2008 are not affected because the ability to pass data to this control within Internet Explorer has been restricted.
  • By default, Internet Explorer on Windows Server 2003 and 2008 runs in a restricted mode that is known as Enhanced Security Configuration. Enhanced Security Configuration is a group of preconfigured settings in Internet Explorer that can reduce the likelihood of a user or administrator downloading and running specially crafted Web content on a server. This is a mitigating factor for Web sites that you have not added to the Internet Explorer Trusted sites zone. See also Managing Internet Explorer Enhanced Security Configuration.
  • By default, all supported versions of Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Outlook Express open HTML e-mail messages in the Restricted sites zone. The Restricted sites zone helps mitigate attacks that could try to exploit this vulnerability by preventing Active Scripting and ActiveX controls from being used when reading HTML e-mail messages. However, if a user clicks a link in an e-mail message, the user could still be vulnerable to exploitation of this vulnerability through the Web-based attack scenario.
  • In a Web-based attack scenario, an attacker could host a Web site that contains a Web page that is used to exploit this vulnerability. In addition, compromised Web sites and Web sites that accept or host user-provided content or advertisements could contain specially crafted content that could exploit this vulnerability. In all cases, however, an attacker would have no way to force users to visit these Web sites. Instead, an attacker would have to persuade users to visit the Web site, typically by getting them to click a link in an e-mail message or Instant Messenger message that takes users to the attacker's Web site.
  • An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could gain the same user rights as the local user. Users whose accounts are configured to have fewer user rights on the system could be less impacted than users who operate with administrative user rights.



"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin (Bill Of Rights)


OH - Fired Toledo police sergeant rehired

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07/06/2009

A Toledo police sergeant is back on the force, after being fired for threatening a convenience store clerk. The sergeant was fired last year, but recently re-hired.

Deb Angel says she was appalled to hear Sergeant Daniel Brandon is back on the job. "What I believe the man did is be a sexual predator even though there was no overt act; covertly he was a sexual predator."
- Those are strong words.  Did he commit a sex crime?  No, if what is said below, is true, then it's sexual harassment, but nothing more, and by calling the man a sexual predator, that is a little insane to me.

Angel is referring to surveillance video from last year in which Sergeant Brandon can be heard making inappropriate comments.

Sgt. Brandon: I know what I want with you, anyway.

Clerk: Shut up

Sgt. Brandon: You're still playing like you're not going to give it to me

Clerk: I'm not

Sgt. Brandon: You're going to give it

Clerk: No I'm not

Sgt. Brandon: Either willingly or by force

Clerk: You better shut up, punk. (then clerk appears to laugh)

Brandon was fired in September, but appealed and just last month an arbitrator ruled he could have his job back.

It's a decision these women disagree with. Anita Rios is president of the Toledo chapter of the National Organization for Women. She said, "Never in the length of my experience have I seen someone come down with such an erroneous miscarriage of what is right."

Rios and Angel say they are speaking out and standing up for the female clerk. Both women say they plan to keep fighting until the sergeant is without a badge. The clerk has filed a civil suit against Sergeant Brandon.

We contacted both the female arbitrator and Sergeant Brandon today. Both have no comment.




"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin (Bill Of Rights)


FL - Crime & Politics - The continuing success of lobbyist Ron Book: Perverse proof of how much lawmakers need lawbreakers

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Not sex offender related, and is old, but still a good article.

11/09/1995

By Jim DeFede

Ron Book is facing the toughest lobbying campaign of his career, more challenging than anything he ever did for Wayne Huizenga or Ralph Sanchez or Metro-Dade County or any of his other prominent clients. Book must try to sell the public on his own integrity.

It's not the first time he has found himself scrambling to put the proper spin on his own image. But this is different. This is going to be far more difficult. Because now Ron Book is a convicted criminal.

In the past, he's simply been known as an influence peddler. Today, however, he is an attorney who knowingly violated Florida's campaign finance laws -- not once or twice, but on dozens of occasions over a number of years, in a systematic and willful manner.

Book's colleagues in the lobbying business were not shocked. Years ago they recognized a disturbing malady that would periodically overcome Book and others like him, a sudden collapse of the ethical standards upon which the lobbying profession is precariously balanced.

They called it the "Ronnie Book Syndrome."

People are said to suffer from the Ronnie Book Syndrome when their zeal overtakes them, when their frenetic lobbying leaves no room for sober reflection, when winning becomes so important that right and wrong lose their meaning. Arrogance, overconfidence, and a sense of infallibility are symptoms of the disease. And once infected, the victim will always carry the virus, forever susceptible to another outbreak. Like malaria, it becomes a permanent feature of the afflicted individual.

In Book's case, each time he fell prey to the syndrome he claimed he had learned a valuable lesson. But some would say those lessons were quickly forgotten. In late 1985, he came under investigation for allegedly helping to bribe an Opa-locka politician. Book had been caught on police surveillance tapes telling the official: "I'll see that you get paid for your time. . . . I'm there for you. I'm there for whatever you tell me I got to do. How more direct can I be?"

The next year Book was arrested for allegedly overstating (by nearly $10,000) the value of his car, which he said had been stolen. That insurance-fraud case dragged on for almost three years, and when it was finally settled -- with Book pleading no contest to a misdemeanor -- the judge withheld adjudication, which meant that Book Ended up with no criminal record.

But he has one now -- compelling evidence that the Ronnie Book Syndrome is tenacious. Having been scandalized in the Eighties, barely escaping the decade without a criminal conviction, and knowing that police and prosecutors were just waiting for him to trip up again, Ron Book chose to blatantly violate state law by funneling more than $30,000 in illegal campaign contributions to at least a dozen of his political cronies in state and county government. He did this not in a single campaign season, but year after year, over and over again.

This past September 21, Book pleaded guilty to four misdemeanor charges and was fined $2000. He also agreed to donate $40,000 to charity as an additional punishment. But rather than express remorse at having cynically subverted the public trust, Book asks for sympathy and says he should be given some credit for being man enough to plead guilty and admit his mistakes: "Anyone who says the decision to stand up and accept responsibility was an easy one, I tell them: 'Get in my shoes, get in my clothes and feel it.' I have been pained and I have been hurt. It hasn't been easy. Not at all."

The fact is that Book confessed to his crimes not as an act of contrition, not out of a sense of shame, and not because he understood that what he did was wrong. No, Ron Book confessed because the investigation into his criminal activities was about to be exposed in the media.

Even after being confronted with overwhelming evidence of his guilt, Book for months had attempted to manipulate the legal system to his advantage. Prosecutors say Book and his high-priced attorneys abandoned the effort only after they learned that a local television station was about to reveal that Book was under criminal investigation. "He was fighting two battles," says Dennis Bedard, the assistant state attorney who prosecuted Book. "First he was fighting a legal battle against us. But just as important to him, he was fighting a public-relations battle as well. Once this became public, if this had dragged out, it potentially could have destroyed his ability to work as an effective lobbyist."

The abrupt guilty plea and limited media coverage afterward seem to have left the 42-year-old Book intact. None of his clients have dropped him, although Dade County has yet to make a decision. "I don't have any problem with Ron Book as a person," says County Commission Chairman Art Teele. "I have found things that I admire about Ron Book and I find things, quite frankly, that I am embarrassed for about Ron Book. Like all of us, he has defects, and in his case that defect gets down to judgment. Ron Book processes more information and more transactions than the average ten people combined. And when you are processing that fast, you tend not to see things that people who are processing much slower would see. It gets down to a moral-compass issue."

But Teele, who was a partner with Book in the early and mid-Eighties at the law firm of Sparber Shevin Shapo Heilbronner & Book, says he believes Book is so "uniquely talented" that county residents should continue to enjoy the benefit of his lobbying skills. "Hiring him obviously raises the kind of ethical questions, or public-confidence questions, that you have to balance against Mr. Book's effectiveness," Teele explains. "Ron Book is by any standard a very effective lobbyist and advocate in Tallahassee. And it has been my hope that he could continue to work with Dade County."

So far only one county commissioner, Katy Sorenson, has spoken out publicly against retaining Book as the county's official lobbyist. "I keep hearing the argument that he is effective," Sorenson says. "But why is he effective? Because he spreads money all over the place. If we are ever going to stop governments from operating that way -- from working in a system where money and campaign contributions are traded for political favors and votes -- then we have to say no to this kind of behavior. We have to say this is not acceptable in general, and it is certainly not acceptable from the person we hire to represent us in Tallahassee."

Most politicians, however, have rallied to Book's defense. The mayor of North Miami, for example, labeled Book's crime a mere "technical violation" and scoffed at the notion that the Ronald L. Book Athletic Field in North Miami should be renamed. Others have criticized the campaign finance law Book admits he violated. "This is a bullshit law," declares Ralph Haben, former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives who now works as a lobbyist. "I'm not saying it's okay to break the law, but to the people in the process, this is just not that serious an offense. Is it illegal? Yes. Is it wrong? I suppose it is, because it is illegal. But that whole law is ridiculous. Everybody in some way or another violates those laws, and most probably don't even realize they're breaking the law."

Dade Rep. John Cosgrove attributes the illegal campaign contributions not to criminal intent but to Book's near obsession with being helpful to people. "He has a very zealous attitude about pleasing everybody," notes Cosgrove. "I'm sure it was not an insidious or malicious effort on his part to avoid the law."

State Sen. Pat Thomas (D-Quincy), a long-time Book friend and former president of the Florida Senate, agrees with others that the lobbyist's reputation in Tallahassee will not be hurt in the least by this latest scandal. "It's hard to go through any campaign without committing some transgression," says Thomas. "It is sort of like stepping in quicksand."

Such laments are lost on prosecutor Dennis Bedard. "I expected that the public officials who deal with Book would downplay the significance of his conduct and try in some way to mitigate what he did," Bedard says. "But in a larger sense, it disheartens me because it perpetuates a cynicism that the public has about elected officials and lobbyists. There is a feeling among a very significant segment of the population that the members of the Florida state legislature, and elected officials in general, are, ethically speaking, only somewhat higher than the type of people you would find in a prison, but slightly below the folks you would see in a brothel. The reactions of politicians to this case do nothing but perpetuate that type of feeling by the public. And that is what is truly unfortunate about this matter."

During the annual 60-day legislative session in Tallahassee, Ron Book typically loses about twenty pounds -- not from anxiety or loss of appetite, but from running between committee hearings and meetings with lawmakers. "He's a blur," says fellow lobbyist Guy Spearman. "There isn't a wasted minute in Ron Book's life. He is always moving at breakneck speed."

The former high school track star carries at least two and sometimes three cellular telephones, as well as a digital pager. John Cosgrove says he has watched in amazement as Book, a cell phone in each hand, has held two separate but simultaneous conversations while at the same time trying to get the attention of another lawmaker passing by. "He is a very intense person," Cosgrove observes.

At the end of the day, while other lobbyists may adjourn to Clyde's, a bar near the capitol popular with legislators and reporters, Book retires to his hotel room to begin preparing for the next day. "I don't believe in going out drinking," Book remarks. "I don't believe in going out and partying. I don't entertain a whole lot of legislators at night. I get to the capitol first and I am basically the last guy out of there at night."

"I hate to lose," he continues. "I hate to lose. I learned that when I ran track. I will work as hard as a human being can work. I will work 24 hours a day to accomplish what I need to accomplish."

Book's attraction to politics began early. When he was just thirteen years old, upset that the park in his North Miami neighborhood was not lighted at night, he picketed the mayor's house. The park got lights. Flush from the success of that fight, he organized a teen group called "Youth for Progress," and became politically active in local races, handing out leaflets for a variety of candidates, including Gwen Margolis. "He loved politics," recalls Margolis, now a Dade County Commissioner. "He really enjoyed it. While he was in high school, he hung signs for me in my first statehouse race, and he has helped me in every campaign since."

He attended the University of Florida, where he continued his interest in running, a solitary, inwardly competitive sport well suited to his personality. When necessary, Book can work with other lobbyists as part of a team, but he prefers to operate alone. The message is clearer when one person delivers it, he says. And he never has to share the glory of winning.

Book received his bachelor's degree ultimately from Florida International University and a law degree in 1977 from Tulane in New Orleans. Returning to Florida, he immediately went to work for Alan Becker's 1978 campaign for state attorney general, but when Becker lost in the primary, Book joined up with Bob Graham, who was running for governor.

So persistent (some would say annoying) was Book that he quickly became one of Graham's top fundraisers, an accomplishment that greatly impressed the candidate and his staff, and when Graham won, Book was offered a job with the new administration.

He began as a special assistant for legislative and cabinet affairs, which had him lobbying the legislature in support of the governor's initiatives. Reporters dubbed the 25-year-old a whiz kid. Soon he was made director of the office, and eventually was given the senior title of special counsel to the governor. Observes veteran Sen. Pat Thomas: "In North Florida vernacular, Ron Book is as smart as a tree full of owls."

At the least Book was smart enough to realize that being a glorified bureaucrat had its limitations, especially given his experience and growing political contacts. So after less than four years with Governor Graham, Book opted for the private sector and landed at the fast-rising law firm of Sparber Shevin. He became an instant rainmaker as clients clamored for the boy wonder with the solid-gold connections. His name was added to the letterhead and his salary was reported to be $200,000 per year.

By 1985 he was married, and he and his wife Patricia already had the first of three children. Life couldn't get much better.

And it didn't.
In 1985 little was known publicly about Alberto San Pedro except that each year during the Christmas season he would host a lavish party at the Doral Hotel in Miami Beach in honor of Lazarus, his favorite Santeria saint. Politicians, judges, and law enforcement officers were among the multitudes who attended the annual bash. Details of San Pedro's life may have been sketchy, but he was generally understood to be a successful real estate developer who lived in a Hialeah mansion with eight bathrooms and bulletproof windows.

If that last detail didn't cause San Pedro's guests to wonder about the true nature of his business, apparently neither did his 1971 conviction on murder-conspiracy charges stemming from a plot to rip off a group of drug dealers who turned out to be undercover cops.

For Ron Book in 1985, Alberto San Pedro was merely another client. Book reportedly had been introduced to him by Donald Dugan, a local public relations man and San Pedro confidant. The ex-convict had for years been trying to have the murder-conspiracy conviction expunged from his record. He had already completed his sentence, but he still sought an ex post facto pardon just in case he might someday want to run for public office (the felony would have prevented that).

Both Dugan and San Pedro believed Book was the perfect advocate to bring the matter before the state's parole board and Book's old boss, Gov. Bob Graham. Indeed, San Pedro needed all the help he could get. In a report analyzing his request, the state's corrections department noted, "A highly sensitive police contact indicated that this individual is one of the top ten cocaine dealers in Dade County. He has his own organization and is known as El Padrino (the Godfather). He is very violent. Informants are afraid to talk about him because they know he will kill them."

As Book worked on the pardon, he, Dugan, and San Pedro crossed paths on another project. A company called Southern Combustion Technologies had hired Book to lobby the Opa-locka City Council for approval to construct a ten-million-dollar hazardous-waste recycling plant.

Donald Dugan was also apparently working on behalf of Southern Combustion, and in November 1985, he approached Opa-locka's vice mayor, Brian Hooten, and offered what Hooten believed was a bribe for his vote on the project. Hooten immediately reported the offer to police and agreed to wear a listening device. During his next meeting with Dugan, Hooten asked him how he had become involved with the Southern Combustion project. Dugan replied, "It's through an attorney, Ron Book."

On November 18, 1985, Dugan, Book, and Hooten met at a Denny's in Hialeah. After a few minutes, Book reportedly asked Dugan to leave the two of them alone. Book proceeded to tell Hooten how important the Southern Combustion project was to him. "There were innuendoes and secret words," Hooten recalled in a Miami Herald article describing that meeting.

Two days later, on November 20, Book himself approached Hooten in the parking lot of Opa-locka's city hall and asked if they might speak privately. Book invited Hooten to sit with him in his brand-new Mercedes.

The lobbyist, however, did not know that Hooten was still wearing a listening device and that members of the Metro-Dade Organized Crime Bureau were monitoring the conversation nearby.

Hooten told Book that if he voted for the unpopular project, it could cause him trouble in the next election, both in votes and campaign contributions. According to transcripts of that meeting, Book replied, "I don't want to cheat you. What do you want me to do?"

"I gotta take time off from my own business, my own people," Hooten said.

"I'll see that you get paid for your time," Book responded. "I call the shots for my client. He'll follow what I ask him. You need to tell me what I need to do. . . ."

Hooten continued to talk about his business until Book interrupted and said, "I'm willing to make a commitment."

"Yeah, I understand that," Hooten said.

"Do you hear me?" Book asked.

"Everybody is gonna want something," Hooten continued. "I'm not saying that you're going to have to give everybody something."

"I'm there for you," Book stressed. "I'm there for whatever you tell me I got to do. How more direct can I be?"

On November 22, Dugan, whose telephone lines had been tapped by investigators, talked to Alberto San Pedro and complained about how Book was handling Hooten, that he was being too cautious. Dugan said Book is "probably afraid to say anything" and that he has "just been talking, talking with no nothing."

The exact nature of San Pedro's involvement in the Southern Combustion project remains unclear, but according to the wiretaps, he told Dugan to take charge. "Don't let Book give him [Hooten] the money," San Pedro ordered. "You give him the money."

Two weeks later, on December 3, 1985, Dugan visited Hooten at the vice mayor's home and laid out $4000 cash in what police alleged was a bribe to secure Hooten's vote for Southern Combustion. Hooten was to keep $2000 for himself and pass along the remainder to another council member and certain city staffers. Dugan promised that after the vote Hooten would receive another $3000 in cash.

In the meantime, Alberto San Pedro's request for a pardon was moving ahead. During a telephone conversation between Dugan and a Tallahassee attorney who was also representing San Pedro before the parole board, the attorney said, "Apparently Ronnie has gotten Graham to come across. The way it was put to me, the only friend [San Pedro has on the parole board] is Graham, and apparently that's in deference to Ronnie."

At a December 1985 hearing, Graham did say he was inclined to grant San Pedro's request for a pardon. Parole board members postponed the hearing, however, and before it could be rescheduled, San Pedro was arrested under a sweeping indictment alleging drug trafficking and bribery of public officials.

In February 1986, the Miami Herald broke the story that Book and Dugan were under investigation for allegedly bribing members of the Opa-locka City Commission. Hooten told the Herald he had no doubt that Book knew what Dugan was doing when he delivered the $4000. (Nearly a decade later, Hooten remains firm in his belief. "Ron Book was the engine," he said in a recent interview. "Dugan was his gofer.")

On August 6, 1986, Dugan was arrested and charged with bribery. He eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years' probation and 500 hours of community service. Today he maintains that Book knew nothing about his attempts to bribe Hooten: "My problems were created by myself, period."

Book was never charged with any crime regarding Southern Combustion and the payoff to Hooten. That decision by then-State Attorney Janet Reno reportedly caused a major split in her office as several prosecutors involved in the investigation argued strongly that Book should have been criminally charged. Still, Book's connection to San Pedro would forever color the way police and prosecutors viewed him. And if there was suspicion during this period, it was only exacerbated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

According to a January 15, 1986, sworn statement by Metro-Dade Sgt. Thomas Tretola, FBI agents in Philadelphia had contacted Metro detectives to say that Book's name had surfaced in an investigation there. One of the FBI's informants was alleging "widespread corruption" within the Florida Department of Insurance, then headed by Bill Gunter. "The confidential source further alleged that Ronald Book was heavily involved in this corrupt activity and was one of the key people to be contacted for any potential bribery attempt concerning the Department of Insurance," Tretola wrote. Book and Gunter were long-time friends; the lobbyist had raised more than $100,000 for various Gunter campaigns over the years. At the time the report was made public, both Book and Gunter denied any wrongdoing, and no charges were brought against either man.

The peculiar events of late 1985 prompted investigators to take a special interest in Ron Book's affairs, including the reported theft of his brand-new Mercedes 500 SEL, stolen from a parking lot at Miami International Airport on December 10, 1985.

Book had owned the car -- the same one he and Brian Hooten sat in outside Opa-locka City Hall -- less than a month. It was a gift from Miami Grand Prix promoter Ralph Sanchez, who Book represented as an attorney and lobbyist. The Mercedes was a "gray market" car, meaning it had been manufactured for use outside the United States and required upgrades after being imported. Such modifications sometimes make it difficult to place a precise dollar value on a car.

But determining a price didn't seem to be a problem for the dealer, Rennsport Autohaus, a Coconut Grove dealership owned by Antonio Jose Garcia. In early November, Ralph Sanchez had reportedly called Garcia to tell him Book would be trading his current car for a new Mercedes and that Sanchez would pick up the difference between the trade-in and the new car.

A month later, after the Mercedes was stolen, Book submitted an insurance claim stating that the sale price was $53,000. Following a tip by Metro-Dade police that something odd may be occurring with Book's insurance claim, two investigators from the state Division of Insurance Fraud went to Rennsport and asked to see all documents relating to Book's Mercedes purchase. When a secretary approached with the paperwork, the investigators -- John Askins and Ed Dahl -- quickly snatched it, slapped a subpoena in her hands, and walked out with the file.

Inside they found the original invoice for the car, dated November 5, 1985, which stated its sale price as $44,000. They also discovered a letter dated December 26, 1985, from Book to Antonio Jose Garcia: "Please remember to send me the Bill of Sale we discussed." At the bottom of the letter, in Garcia's handwriting, was a note to one of his assistants: "We have to do new bill."

Next in the file, Askins and Dahl found a new invoice, backdated to November 5, 1985, stating the purchase price of the car as being $53,000. Book had submitted to his insurance company a copy of this inflated invoice as proof of how much he paid.

On May 23, 1986, Book was arrested at his law office in downtown Miami. The headline in the Herald the next morning read, "Noted Lawyer Arrested"; the article was accompanied by a photograph of Book being led away in handcuffs by Askins and Dahl. The lobbyist was charged with second-degree theft and three counts of filing a false and fraudulent insurance claim, each of which were third-degree felonies. Book was also charged with misdemeanor perjury for filing a sworn statement he knew to be false. The case was assigned to Assistant State Attorney Larry LaVecchio, the same prosecutor who at that time was handling the Opa-locka bribery investigation.

Book and his attorneys argued (and argue to this day) that there was never any fraud against Book's insurance company, and that the $53,000 figure more accurately reflected the replacement cost of the car. Book and his attorneys worked aggressively to have the case thrown out of court, and even tried to assign blame to others.

As a defense against the misdemeanor perjury charge, for instance, Book contended that his secretary had violated the rules governing her status as a notary public by failing to swear him in before he filled out and signed the claim. If he hadn't been duly sworn in, Book reasoned, he couldn't have committed perjury on the claim form. The judge agreed and dismissed that one misdemeanor charge.

The move infuriated investigators, who saw it as a cowardly attempt by Book to protect himself by endangering his secretary, who could have been criminally charged with misuse of a notary seal.

Instead of arresting the secretary, however, prosecutor LaVecchio filed a new charge against Book -- "uttering a forged instrument." In his hasty effort to avoid responsibility, prosecutors argued, Book had admitted he sent the insurance company an affidavit he knew hadn't been properly sworn. Moreover, the new charge wasn't a misdemeanor, it was a felony.

The legal wrangling continued for more than two years. Initially Dade Circuit Court Judge Ralph Person tossed out the entire case against Book because he agreed that the $53,000 figure represented the cost of replacing the Mercedes. The Third District Court of Appeals then overturned Person's ruling and reinstated the charges.

On December 5, 1988, Book finally pleaded no contest to a single misdemeanor count of submitting a falsely notarized affidavit. Judge Person withheld formal adjudication, which meant Book would have no criminal record from the affair.

LaVecchio had urged Judge Person to declare Book guilty. "This crime is not a random or senseless act," LaVecchio told the court. "It was carefully planned." But Person refused, and even seemed to express sympathy for Book by stating that the prosecution had been a costly and embarrassing affair for Book to endure. "Mr. Book has been the subject of a great deal of punishment already," Person declared.

Book and his defense attorney, Donald Bierman, declared victory. "This plea is not an admission of guilt," Bierman announced. "The agreement was made to place this unfortunate matter behind Ron Book. He wants to continue life without a shadow."

By the time the insurance fraud case was settled, Book had already left the law firm of Sparber Shevin to open his own lobbying business, a one-man shop that would give him complete control over his future.

Despite several years of bad publicity, Book seemed poised for a comeback as the Eighties drew to a close. The swagger had returned to his walk. A self-assured cockiness once again infused his personality. In a 1987 Miami Review article entitled "The Persecution and Resurrection of Ronald Lee Book," the lobbyist cast himself in the role of victim. "The only thing I ever wanted to be is president," Book told the Review. "That's what this thing has cost me probably -- the ability to run for public office. It hurts because I've always wanted to serve. The truth is it makes me want to cry."

"I learned a lot from this experience, in spite of it," he continued. "From the beginning of this whole mess, people said two things: One, you learn who your friends are. Two, you learn a lot about life you thought you never needed to know."

Book certainly didn't lose many friends during this period, especially among politicians. And if there was a life lesson he learned, it very well could have been this: The road to redemption is paved with campaign contributions.

George Raisler knew he was in deep trouble. Across the table from him sat two investigators from the state's Division of Insurance Fraud. Officially they considered him a suspect, but unofficially they knew he was the operator of one of the largest insurance-fraud rings in South Florida history. By staging automobile accidents and filing false claims, Raisler's group allegedly had defrauded insurance companies of millions.

He'd been cooperating with state and federal agents for several months in hopes of lessening whatever charges might eventually be brought against him. And on this day in early September 1994, Raisler was once again grasping for any bit of information his interrogators might consider useful, and more importantly, redeeming.

After a long pause, Raisler admitted that he wasn't even sure if what he was about to tell them was illegal. It certainly didn't have anything to do with phony auto accidents. But it did seem suspicious to him. Raisler said that his partner, Greg Webb, was living with a woman, Debbie Stipp, who worked as a secretary for some bigshot attorney. The attorney had asked Stipp to write a bunch of checks to various political candidates, and then the attorney reimbursed her. Raisler knew this, he told investigators, because Greg Webb had told him.

He said the attorney's name was Ron Book.

As Raisler spoke Book's name, a broad smile spread across the face of John Askins, one of the two investigators questioning Raisler. "It was like deja vu," Askins recalls.

With his earlier investigation of Book for insurance fraud still clear in his mind, Askins immediately called the State Attorney's Office. Like Raisler, he wasn't entirely familiar with Florida's elections laws, but he quickly discovered there were two possible offenses. First, it is illegal to make a contribution through another person; and second, the maximum amount an individual can contribute to any candidate is $500 per election. Both offenses are misdemeanors.

On October 5, 1994, Greg Webb and Debbie Stipp were interviewed by Askins and two of his colleagues. Webb, too, had been cooperating with investigators in the staged-accident case, but now that the questions involved Ron Book, it was Debbie Stipp who did most of the talking.

She said she worked as an assistant manager for an Aventura company called Executive Acquisitions. The firm leased out office space and also provided secretarial and support services to a variety of clients, including Ron Book. Stipp confirmed what Raisler had told investigators earlier -- Book would ask her to write checks to various political candidates on her personal account and then reimburse her the same day.

She said Book had explained to her that this was necessary because he would often guarantee candidates a specific amount of money from friends and clients, sometimes as much as $5000 or $10,000. But from time to time, when the money was due, he wouldn't have collected the full amount. Rather than disappoint the candidate, Book personally would make up the difference and funnel the money through her.

As proof, she reached into her purse and handed investigators two checks Book had written her. One was reimbursement for a $500 contribution he had asked her to make to statehouse candidate Charlie Safdie; the other was to another statehouse candidate, Dana Maley, in the amount of $250. The checks from Book had been written September 23 and September 30, 1994, and she hadn't yet deposited them.

Stipp then showed investigators her personal checkbook, which included carbon-copy receipts of more than two dozen checks she had written to various candidates. The total amount came to more than $10,000. All the checks, she said, had been written at the behest of Ron Book. As for the candidates, most of them were unknown to her.

Stipp then told investigators this practice had been going on for years, and that she wasn't the only one Book had asked to write checks; she provided the names of five other secretaries in the office.

In return for Stipp's cooperation, investigator Askins promised to speak to prosecutors on her behalf regarding allegations that she played a minor role in the staged-accident ring. (She is not expected to be charged in connection with that case. To date no charges have been filed against George Raisler or Greg Webb, although investigators say they are imminent.)

Askins didn't hesitate in considering which prosecutor would be best suited to receive Debbie Stipp's information about Ron Book: He called Larry LaVecchio, the assistant state attorney who had been vexed by Book's conduct in both the Opa-locka bribery investigation and the stolen Mercedes insurance case. LaVecchio, in turn, recruited Dennis Bedard, another assistant state attorney from the office's organized crime unit. And with that, the latest criminal investigation of Ron Book was under way.

"It was the easiest case we ever worked," says Askins. "It was absolutely ironclad. We were sort of astonished at the irony of us having been the same agency that arrested Book previously, and now having apparently hit pay dirt once again. It's not like we targeted him. We were going after the staged-auto-accident ring and he just sort of fell into our laps."

It may have been an ironclad case, but a substantial amount of work still had to be done -- various bank records needed to be subpoenaed, politicians' campaign-finance statements required scrutiny, and Book's secretaries had to be interviewed. Even though the allegations had nothing to do with insurance fraud, the State Attorney's Office asked Askins and his colleagues to continue with the investigation. They had broken the case, and the principal witness, Debbie Stipp, was still providing them with information regarding the accident ring. To enhance the team's investigative power, agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) were also assigned to the case.

This past June investigators began serving subpoenas on other secretaries who had worked with Book, all of whom subsequently admitted their involvement in Book's scheme to subvert campaign finance laws.

From the outset, Book and his attorneys, Donald Bierman and Ted Klein, quietly tried to settle the case with the State Attorney's Office. "They wanted to resolve this civilly, with a civil fine, without any sort of a criminal case being filed against him," prosecutor Bedard recalls. "I disagreed with that and I told them very bluntly that as long as I was the prosecutor in the case, we were going to prosecute this criminally." (Bedard took control of the case after Larry LaVecchio left the State Attorney's Office to become a federal prosecutor.)

According to Bedard, Book and his attorneys responded by attempting to have him removed as the lead prosecutor. "They did not like the manner in which I was handling the case," says Bedard. "I didn't take it personally." They were in the process of appealing to Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle (a Democrat like Book) when, on September 20, they learned that WPLG-TV (Channel 10) was about to air a story on the Book investigation.

Other media outlets would be sure to follow, and would undoubtedly try to investigate more deeply. A prolonged period of bad publicity now seemed inevitable.

At 5:00 p.m., Bedard recalls, an hour before the story broke on Channel 10's evening newscast, Book's attorneys called to say he was prepared to plead guilty to criminal charges, just as Bedard had been proposing for months. Less than 24 hours later, Book appeared in court and pleaded guilty to four misdemeanors: two counts of making campaign contributions in excess of $500, and two counts of making a campaign contribution in the name of another person. Judge Catherine Pooler fined him $2000, and Book turned over another $40,000 to the State Attorney's Office to be distributed to various charities.

Book's dramatic change of strategy, and the speed with which he managed to get before a judge and enter a plea, caught some investigators by surprise. FDLE officials were upset because, they claim, they had not been properly notified in advance that a deal was being cut. If they had been notified, they would have objected to the charges and penalties as being too lenient. FDLE Commissioner Tim Moore says he has asked the U.S. Attorney's Office to review the evidence to determine if any federal charges might be applied.

According to law enforcement sources familiar with Book's case, the federal prosecutor who has been assigned to review the material is none other than Larry LaVecchio. (LaVecchio declined comment for this article.) Because some of the illegal campaign contributions were mailed to candidates, LaVecchio is believed to be examining the possibility of filing federal mail fraud charges against Book, charges already considered but discounted by Assistant State Attorney Dennis Bedard. (The Florida Bar is also reviewing Book's actions to determine if professional discipline is warranted.)

Bedard says he sympathizes with FDLE's frustrations. If he could have threatened Book with jail time, he would have pressed the case further. But he notes that the crimes are misdemeanors, and even though he might have been able to charge Book with more than 50 counts, jail time for a first offender would not have been realistic.

"In my own personal opinion, I think this should be a felony," Bedard adds. "It is a very serious offense for the following reasons: In the last 30 years in this country, money has played an increasingly important role in our political system. The influence of people who contribute money to politicians has increased enormously, to the detriment of the public. What these laws try to do is minimize the amount of influence these people have on the political process by preventing big contributors from donating large sums of money."

"And lets face it," he continues, "what Ron Book is trying to do here is to maximize the amount of political clout he can exercise over these politicians on behalf of his clients. And the way he does that is by contributing as much money as he possibly can -- legally or illegally -- to the campaigns of those candidates who, at a later time, will be asked to vote in a certain way that benefits his clients. He deliberately violated those laws for his own selfish good and for the good of his paying clients."

Not surprisingly, Ron Book's interpretation of events is considerably less harsh. "It's that rush to success," he ventures. "It's that drive to win, the drive to have that image of someone who meets his obligations and keeps his word. It wasn't as though I was trying to do something that was bad. I never thought about it being bad. I never thought about it being wrong. It was just easier, it was just quicker, it was more expeditious, it was sloppy, it was foolish, and it was a mistake."

"The bottom line is that sometimes you make commitments and the checks don't come in from clients and in the rush to keep my word that I would raise so much by such and such a date, I had people write checks."

But even in acknowledging his crime, Book has a way of making it seem almost noble. "I did it because I am a person of my word," he insists. "I think my word is important."

More important, evidently, than the law.

Now Book is left to ponder his future. "Integrity is important to me, in spite of the problem that just happened," he says. "Integrity means something to me. And I understand what the word means."

To demonstrate his understanding of integrity, Book points out that there are some clients he simply will not accept -- those, for example, who might use this phrase: We'll give you whatever you need to get there. "You say those words in my office, you're gone," Book says dramatically as he points toward his office door. "I'm not interested in representing you."

But how different are those words from the ones spoken by Book, and captured on police surveillance tapes, as he and former Opa-locka vice mayor Brian Hooten sat in the infamous Mercedes? "I'm there for you," Book told Hooten. "I'm there for whatever you tell me I got to do. How more direct can I be?"


"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin (Bill Of Rights)


FL - Board of County Commissioners Meeting - Ron Book - Julia Tuttle Causeway - 06-30-2009


Source Web Site (Ron Book starts around 06:02:44 in 06/30/2009 link)


This is bad quality, but the best I could do!

This is the rantings of Ron Book, lobbyist, lawyer, and head of the homeless trust.


The following is what someone under the bridge said, Ron said, about the female sex offender under the bridge. Ron, are you trying to say she is running a prostitution business or something!

I think Ron owes this lady an apology for saying this, but do I expect him to actually do this? No!


"You know what this guy had to say about Voncel??? Ron Book said that the only reason she does not leave the bridge. Is because she is running a business from down there."

Myself and 3 of the other guys overheard him saying it to the senator!


Ron Book is running on nothing but emotions (hate, rage, anger, etc) because even he, could not protect his own daughter from sexual abuse.

And even he has said, the residency restrictions or registry would not have prevented this sexual abuse, but then later says it would have protected his daughter. He says one thing, then says something else. He doesn't know what he wants, except to protect his own tail.

The nanny who abused his daughter, was NOT on any registry, nor had any previous crimes on her record, yet he thinks he could have some how (magically) predicted the future if these laws were in place at the time.

Give me a break Ron! It's clear what your motives are. You are using your daughter, IMO, as your poster child to get unconstitutional laws passed to make you temporarily feel better, at the time punishing thousands of people to satisfy your hate and anger.

Just like John Walsh, Mark Lunsford and all the rest, you run on emotions instead of on FACTS and listening to EXPERTS.

You say you have read all the statistics and studies, which I do not believe that for one second, because many studies show that 90% or more of all sexual crimes occur in the victims own home, and 90% or more of all sexual crimes being committed today, are by those NOT on the registry.

When are you and all the others, going to listen to the FACTS and EXPERTS instead of your FEELINGS?

Ron also says in video #04, that he is out there all the time talking with the offenders and trying to solve the problem. Well, from what the offenders under the bridge have said, that is a flat out lie as well. He's been there a couple times recently, for about two hours total, and it wasn't until recently, when the heat is burning his butt, that he started going out to the bridge. And see the above quote he made about the female offender. HATE, BLAME SOMEONE ELSE, HATE, BLAME SOMEONE ELSE, ETC....

He also says they do not discriminate against the offenders, another lie, and that he has helped some people to get out from under the bridge. Well, one person out of 71, yes, but, if you are homeless, cannot find a job, then how can you pay for a place to stay Mr. Book? You ever asked yourself that question? Also, this offender is not where you placed him today, why, because he cannot afford it, from what I've been told. IMO, you did this to look good, that you are helping.

You are solving nothing, just making matters worse, and now that it's coming back and biting you in the rear-end, you are blaming others... Politics as usual!

NOTE: You will also note, he mentions "criminals will be criminals, law-breakers will be law-breakers." Then go read this article., and and this one.  And I am not insinuating anything, just pointing out some articles done by other news media.


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"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin (Bill Of Rights)


NJ - Mayor actually admits that his town passed a law they knew was unconstitutional in order to "appease" a "hysterical" public.

View the article here

06/25/2009

By TRUDI GILFILLIAN

WILDWOOD - The next phase of the city's Boardwalk reconstruction is expected to start this fall, City Development Director Lou Ferrara said.

During Wednesday's regular City Commission meeting, the commissioners authorized the city's engineer to advertise for bids for the project's hardwood decking for a section of Boardwalk between Cedar and Oak avenues.

Ferrara said the city plans to use Forest Stewardship Council-certified ipe, a tropical hardwood, to complete the work.

But Ferrara said the city will consider different materials as it slowly works toward renovating the entire Boardwalk.

"We're always looking (for new materials). The problem is finding the right stuff," Ferrara said.

This latest project involves rebuilding that section of the Boardwalk from the ground up, much like the recent project at Schellenger Avenue, which did not, however, use certified hardwoods.

Ferrara said about $4 million is needed to cover the cost of the work and that money will come from the city's Urban Enterprise Zone fund and grants.



Also on Wednesday, the commissioners introduced an ordinance that would rescind an October 2005 ordinance that banned sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of any school, park, playground, or day care center.

In May, the Supreme Court ruled that municipalities do not have the authority to regulate where sex offenders live.

That ruling followed superior and appellate court decisions that overturned similar ordinances in Galloway Township and Cherry Hill.

The court found the state's Megan's Law already requires law-enforcement officials to determine where convicted sex offenders should live upon their release from prison.

Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. said the Wildwood ordinance was approved during the height of hysteria surrounding sexual offender residency issues at the time. More than 100 other towns passed similar laws during that period.

"We knew this was not going to survive," Troiano said of the ordinance, "But we did it anyway to appease the public."
- And that my friends, is how many laws get passed, to "appease" the sheeple!



The commissioners also heard from municipal prosecutor Mary D'Arcy Bittner about proposed changes to the city's ordinance on how to deal with rowdy houses.

Troiano said he liked Bittner's proposals and noted that the city had been troubled by a number of rowdy properties.

Bittner's plan includes adding hotels, motels and boarding houses to the list of properties that fall under the provisions of the ordinance. She also suggested that a hearing officer be designated to oversee the rowdy house complaints.

After Wednesday's meeting, Commissioner Gary DeMarzo said he is working to get the video recordings of the commission meetings back on the Internet. DeMarzo has been taping the meetings and putting them on Google Video, but he said that service is no longer available for videos longer than 10 minutes.

He said he is looking at other ways to get the meetings broadcast via the Internet and hopes to have them available soon.

In the meantime, copies of the recorded meetings can still be obtained from the City Clerk's office.


"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin (Bill Of Rights)


Child Porn, Animal Cruelty Porn, and the Right to Imagine

View the article here

07/01/2009

By Wendy Kaminer

Last month, Christopher Handley, a collector of comic books, pled guilty to federal charges of importing and possessing obscene cartoon drawings of children; he faces a maximum prison sentence of 15 years, for a crime involving neither actual children nor actual child porn. Last week, a Tennessee prosecutor charged Michael Wayne Campbell with aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, for photo shopping the faces of three girls onto the nude bodies of three adult women. How might this constitute a crime (outside Iran)? The prosecutor explained: "when you have the face of a small child affixed to a nude body of a mature woman, it's going to be the state's position that this is for sexual gratification and that this is simulated sexual activity." It is also a crime - a federal crime -- to share your sexual fantasies about children in private communications with other adults: Two weeks ago, the 4th circuit court of appeals declined to review the conviction of Dwight Whorley for sharing fantasies about sexual abusing children in purely textual email exchanges between consenting adults. Like Christopher Handley, Whorley was also convicted of receiving obscene Japanese cartoon drawings of children. Be careful what you imagine.

Dwight Whorley is a decidedly unappealing defendant: a convicted sex offender, he had received sexually explicit photographs of actual as well as imaginary children. But while his record and his traffic in actual child porn makes him undeserving of much sympathy, it also makes the government's troubling case against his fantasy life unnecessary: his actual child porn offenses were sufficient to convict and imprison him. Nor does the perverseness of Whorley's imaginings justify their prosecution. Our right to fantasize ought not be contingent on the moral content of our characters or fantasies; and if Whorley can be imprisoned for email discussions of repellant sexual fantasies, then so can you.

At least one federal judge was deeply troubled by this case. Dissenting from the 4th circuit's refusal to re-hear Whorley's appeal, Judge Gregory encouraged him to seek Supreme Court review: "The (Court's) obscenity jurisprudence has never come close to stripping adults of First Amendment protections for their purely private fantasies, and the implications of our sanctioning this governmental intrusion into individual freedom of thought are incredibly worrisome," Gregory wrote.

Equally worrisome is the likelihood that the Supreme Court would not accept this case for review, much less rule in Whorley's favor - even though the prosecution of people for sexual fantasies, or thought crimes - speech involving no illicit conduct and no conspiracies, solicitations, or attempts to engage in illicit conduct - was considered unconstitutional by the Court as recently as 2002: In Free Speech Coalition v Ashcroft, in a 6-3 decision, the Court struck down the Child Pornography Prevention Act bans on producing or possessing non-obscene, virtual (including computer generated) child porn. Invalidating these provisions did not require a subtle or arcane legal analysis; it required only a basic understanding of First Amendment freedoms.

The government may not criminalize speech based on claims about its indirect potential harm, as the Court stressed: "The mere tendency of speech to encourage unlawful acts is not a sufficient reason for banning it." (And, in this case, even the tendency of virtual porn to encourage child abuse was unproven.) "The right to think is the beginning of freedom, and speech must be protected from the government because speech is the beginning of thought." Justice Kennedy wrote for the majority.

That was then. Last year Justice Kennedy joined the majority in a 7 - 2 decision that effectively overruled the defense of free speech he had offered a mere four years earlier. In Williams v U.S., the Court upheld the PROTECT act, which includes a ban on pretending to traffic in sexually explicit images of actual children or obscene virtual child porn. Really. (PROTECT is an acronym for the shamelessly entitled, Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to end the Exploitation of Children Act of 2003," which was enacted in response to the Court's decision in Free Speech Coalition v Ashcroft.)

In other words, having held that Congress could not criminalize production or possession of all virtual child porn, the Court held that it could criminalize soliciting or advertising virtual child porn in the mistaken belief or with intent to persuade others to believe that it's the real thing. (The PROTECT Act also criminalizes obscene virtual child porn.) The soon to be missed Justice Souter pointed out the obvious, in a dissent joined only by Justice Ginsburg: Allowing prosecutions for pandering or soliciting non-obscene, virtual images dramatically undermines First Amendment protections the Court extended to them only a few years ago.

Dennis Whorley's conviction was based, in part, on the PROTECT Act (he was the first person convicted under it;) his conviction for sending "obscene" emails to other adults rested on an older obscenity statute, but it might easily be justified by the same impulse to prohibit virtual child porn that underlies the PROTECT Act and imprisons people for pretending to pander child porn or actually collecting obscene cartoons. It doesn't take a great leap of law of law to criminalize discussion of a cartoon - the depiction of a desire or an idea -- once you've criminalized possession of it.

Outside the respective subcultures of free speech advocates, comic book collectors, and pedophiles, not many people will mourn the loss of a right to imagine or discuss abusing children. But the rationales for censorship developed in these cases can always be extended, by carving out additional exceptions to the First Amendment. In fact, they could conceivably be extended next year, when the Supreme Court decides whether, like child porn, depictions of cruelty to animals should be denied constitutional protection. In the fall, the Court will consider the case of Robert J. Stevens, convicted and sentenced to 37 months under a federal law criminalizing the production, sale, or possession of material depicting animal cruelty; Stevens's crime was selling videos of pit bulls on the attack.

His conviction was reversed by the 3rd circuit court of appeals, which declined to create a new category of unprotected speech. The federal ban on animal cruelty depictions was based in part on assumptions about their indirect harm, the 3rd circuit observed; the government claimed an "interest in discouraging individuals from becoming desensitized to animal violence generally, because that may serve to deter future antisocial behavior toward human beings." If the Supreme Court rules that Congress may criminalize speech in the mere hope of deterring "future anti-social behavior," what speech may Congress not restrict? It's hard (and may eventually be illegal) to imagine.


"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin (Bill Of Rights)


A Reluctant Rebellion

View the article here

June 2009

By Mark Hansen

Laws are tough on child pornography. But some federal judges think the time isn’t fitting the crime.

Jon Hanson committed a despicable crime for which everyone, including the defendant, agreed he needed to be punished.

The 49-year-old Racine, Wis., funeral director, who had been secretly trading child pornography over the Internet for several years, had been caught sending four sexually explicit images of young girls to a man in Cleveland.

Much to the consternation of federal prosecutors, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman of Milwaukee sentenced Hanson last June to six years in prison, followed by a lifetime on parole.

Prosecutors had sought a sentence for Hanson of 17½ to 22 years in prison. Even that was on the low end of the guidelines range. They cited the size of his collection, which totaled nearly 900 images, the young age of some of the children depicted, and the fact that at least one of those images contained violent imagery. Likewise, in a chat with the Cleveland man, Hanson had made vile comments about some of the children depicted in the images.

Hanson, an otherwise law-abiding father of three, had apparently never done anything inappropriate around a child during his entire life. The defense cited Hanson’s own his­tory of sex abuse by an older relative when he was a child, an otherwise exemplary record, his deep remorse for what he had done, and the results of a psychological evaluation by two experts who had found him to be at low risk of re-offending.

Hanson knew going into court that he was facing a mandatory minimum five-year sentence in federal prison on the transportation charge to which he had pleaded guilty, and that he would have to reg­ister as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

‘FLAWS IN THE GUIDELINES’

Judge Adelman detailed his reasons in a lengthy sentencing memorandum in which he recounted the defendant’s childhood sex abuse, his otherwise positive character and background, his efforts to rehabilitate himself after his arrest, and his remarks at sentencing that the judge said were “among the most insightful and moving” he had heard in all his years on the bench.

But Adelman devoted much of his opinion in U.S. v. Hanson to what was then a just-pub­lished critique of the child porn guidelines by an assistant federal defender in Jefferson City, Mo., whose findings have since been cited by at least five other federal judges.

That critique, “Deconstructing the Myth of Careful Study” (PDF) by Troy Stabenow, a former military prosecutor, alleges serious flaws in the guidelines—including penalties that have been increased arbitrarily and irra­tionally based on political demands, and “enhancement” specifics so ill-defined that they apply in almost every case.

Adelman said Stabenow’s analysis articulated many of the specific flaws in the guidelines he saw evident in the case against Hanson. “I could not conclude that under the circumstances of this case, given all of the flaws in the guidelines discussed above, that the range deserved deference,” he wrote in Hanson’s sentencing memorandum.

Adelman’s criticism goes to the heart of a much larger struggle in the federal courts over the federal sentencing guidelines that apply to computer-based child pornography offenses. Those guidelines tend to treat even first-time offenders with no history of abusing or exploiting children as seriously as murderers, rapists or child molesters.

Critics say the mandatory and recommended pen­alties for child porn offenses under the guidelines far exceed the seriousness of the crime committed by the typical offender who is swapping and down­loading child porn online with other like-minded in­dividuals in the presumed privacy of his own home.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Koenig, who prosecuted Hanson, refused to discuss the case or the guidelines.

But prosecutors and activists say the proliferation of child pornography on the Internet is an insidious problem that justifies the taking of extreme measures.

It is a debate that pits polite society’s disgust and revulsion against a judge’s solemn duty to impose a penalty that serves the three main purposes of sentencing: to punish the defendant, protect the public and deter the offender from re-offending.

Child porn cases account for about 2 percent of the entire federal criminal caseload, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, but they make up one of the fastest-growing segments of the federal court docket. The number of new cases filed has grown from a few dozen annually in the late 1990s to more than 2,200 in fiscal 2008, ending Sept. 30. That latest figure represents a 33 percent increase over the 2006 fiscal year, and a doubling in the number of new cases since 2003.

The average sentence has lengthened as well, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission. In 1997, child porn offenders (not including those involved in its production) received an average sentence of less than 21 months in prison. In 2007, the same class of offenders received an average sentence of more than 91 months, an average annual increase of more than seven months per offender and a nearly 350 percent increase over the previous decade.

But those same statistics also show that more than one-third of all child porn defendants sentenced for nonproduction-related offenses in 2007—351 out of 1,025 offenders—received sentences below the recommended guidelines. And, in the past two years alone, a small but growing number of federal judges have felt strongly enough about the guidelines to register their objections in the form of a written opinion.

A ONE-STRIKE RULE

In 2007, then-Chief U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell of Grand Rapids, Mich., said he had been “troubled” and “shocked” to discover that a married 35-year-old man with no criminal record—the father of a 2-year-old girl—was facing 11¼ to 14 years for a single count of possessing child porn.

The judge gave the defendant 5½ years in prison followed by 10 years’ parole, which was later affirmed on appeal.

This is what happens,” said Bell in U.S. v. Grossman, “when you take judging, which is a judge’s job, and you give it to a commission and say: Add mathematical calculations and come up with a presumed sentence from that.”

Last June, Chief U.S. District Judge Robert W. Pratt of Des Moines, Iowa, expressed similar reservations in U.S. v. Shipley in the sentencing of a married, 46-year-old father of two teenage girls on one count of receiving child porn.

Instead of the recommended 17½ to 20 years, he sentenced the defendant to 7½ years in prison, followed by five years’ parole, complaining that the guidelines “do not appear to be based on any sort of empirical data.” He said he had been unable to locate any particular rationale for them beyond the “general revulsion” associated with child exploitation-related offenses.

And a few weeks after Hanson was sentenced, U.S. District Judge William Griesbach of Green Bay, Wis., sentenced a 26-year-old casino worker and first-time offender to the mandatory five years, followed by a lifetime on parole in U.S. v. Ontiveros.

Jose Ontiveros testified that he had tried to delete the child porn on his computer before he even knew he was being investigated. That had no bearing on the guideline recommendation of eight to 12 years.

Unfortunately,” says his lawyer, federal defender Krista Halla-Valdes, “the only way to get rid of what you have on your computer is to smash it with a baseball bat or burn it.”

Citing Adelman’s decision and the Stabenow study, Griesbach concluded that existing child porn guidelines “do not reflect the kind of empirical data, national expe­rience and independent expertise” that would reflect the Sentencing Commission’s perceived institutional role.

Commission officials refused to comment on any aspect of the guidelines. The agency also issued a long list of proposed amendments to the guidelines for public comment in mid-January, none of which would substantively change the penalties for child porn offenses.

Stabenow says he began the study in early 2008 in an effort to rationalize the sentences that could be expected for the low-level child pornography offenders he was representing. “I was representing lots of clients in these cases. It’s a growth industry,” he says.

The problem with the guidelines, according to Stabenow and a growing chorus of critics, begins with the severity of the penalties. Possessing even one illegal image is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Receipt, transportation, distribution and production all carry a mandatory minimum five-year sentence and are punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Some of those penalties have been increased in an effort to go after what the commission called the “most dangerous” offenders, a group it has defined as repeat sexual offenders and producers of child porn. But according to Stabenow’s analysis, nearly 80 percent of all child porn defendants in 2006 had no prior felonies of any kind, let alone a history of sexually abusing or exploiting a child. And only 5 percent of all child porn defendants in 2007 had been charged with production.

BROAD-BRUSH APPROACH

Moreover, the guidelines make no clear distinction between the offender who swaps a few images online with another offender and the mass producers and distrib­utors who make and market such material to millions of potential customers worldwide.

The guidelines also include so-called enhancements that ratchet up potential penalties without distinction from the basic crime. For instance, an enhancement occurs when a computer is used to transmit an image—which is the way most images are exchanged; another for trading an image for “a thing of value,” which can—and usually does—mean another image. Other en­hance­ments are based on the number of images possessed, the age of the children depicted, and on images that depict violence and sadistic or masochistic conduct.

Compounding the problem, Stabenow and other critics say, is a Justice Department policy requiring that all child porn cases be prosecuted for the most serious, readily provable offense. This means that even low-level offenders—those who strictly trade and view images for their own gratification—are often prosecuted for receipt, transportation or distribution, which carry higher penalties and mandatory minimums.

Moreover, the guidelines are predicated on the un­tested assumption that anyone who would access and view child porn is a potential child molester—an assumption for which, critics say, the evidence is both scant and inconclusive.

There is no published research on the odds that viewers of child porn will actually assault a child. The only data that has been done is skewed by the fact that it is based on people who have already been caught. To date, how­ever, the available evidence suggests that access to child porn in the absence of other risk factors does not appear to strongly predict future contact offenses.

There’s nothing very definitive when it comes to sexual disorders, especially sexual disorders involving children,” says Dr. Avak “Al” Howsepian, a psychia­trist and professor at the University of California at San Fran­cisco’s Fresno campus who treats sexual offenders and evaluates child porn offenders awaiting sentencing. “We don’t even really know why anyone has any sort of sexual orientation or interest.”

The result is a sentencing scheme in which the typical offender “charts” at a guideline range that automatically exceeds the statutory maximum, even when there is a full acceptance of responsibility, complete cooperation with law enforcement officials, little or no threat of physical harm to any children and no criminal history.

Racine defense lawyer Mark Richards, who has represented several child porn offenders, in­cluding Hanson, says the guidelines operate like a rocket ride into the sentencing stratosphere.

They break down the basic offense into all these tiny little increments that almost repeat one another and then come up with this astronomical number,” he says. “You can get a lower score for killing somebody than for downloading child porn.”

Stabenow says most people would probably agree that swapping child porn is a serious crime that warrants punishment. But most would be hard-pressed to explain why a child porn offender deserves to be punished more severely than somebody who uses the Internet to try to entice a child into having sex.

Under the guidelines, a person who only views and downloads child porn online faces a recommended sentence similar to Hanson’s: 210 to 262 months. A hypothetical molester who uses the Internet to persuade a minor from another state to meet with the intent to engage in sex would face sentencing guidelines of 87 to 108 months, with a 10-year mandatory minimum.

An actual offender, Joe J. Champion of Granite City, Ill.—who paid the mother of a 9-year-old girl to hold her daughter down while he raped her twice a week for two years—got a recommendation, under the guidelines, of 151 to 188 months. Champion’s sentencing was discussed in U.S. v. Kane, the case of his co-conspirator.

Stabenow says the child porn guidelines, in effect, pun­ish for presumed future behavior. Moreover, they equate the titillation of witnessing an illegal act with its actual commission. If that were universally true, he says, there would be greater evidence in popular culture.

People who watch movies like Saw and Friday the 13th are being titillated by the act of torture and murder,” says Stabenow. “That doesn’t mean that they’re going to go out and commit torture and murder.”

Ohio State University law professor Doug Berman, an expert on sentencing, says that Stabenow’s analysis has confirmed complaints he has seen and heard about the operation of the child porn guidelines.

Berman, who writes an influential blog on sentencing issues, says the huge disparity in federal child porn sentences in recent years is due to differences in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion. “One would be hard-pressed to find any con­sistent set of policies or principles that would explain why some child porn offenders face de­cades in prison while others face years—and still others face little or no prison time at all,” he says.

Part of the paradox is that the least dangerous child porn offenders are often the easiest to catch and convict. They are often surprised at how aggressively anti-child-porn laws are enforced and how serious the consequences can be for those who get caught.

They know what they’re doing is morally wrong,” says Studio City, Calif., defense lawyer Alan Baum, who says he has represented dozens of child porn offenders, “but they have no idea that it’s a crime, let alone a federal crime punishable by five or 10 or 20 years in prison.”

Baum says some of the prosecutors he has dealt with have been willing to plea-bargain a child porn charge down to a lesser offense in a particularly compelling case. But others won’t budge from department policy, no matter what the circumstances.

THE INTERNET ISSUE

Prosecutors argue that child pornography has spun out of control since the advent of the Internet. They point out that real children are harmed, sometimes grievously, in the making of such material. They contend that the victim is revictimized every time an existing image is viewed, that an image in cyberspace will circulate forever—continuing to victimize the subject for the rest of his or her life.

Timothy W. Funnell, an assistant U.S. attorney in Green Bay, Wis., who has prosecuted several child porn offenders, including Ontiveros, says he doesn’t understand how anybody could characterize the guidelines as being unfair or unjust. He says the guidelines are designed to take into account all of the aggravating and mitigating factors that come into play in a particular case. And, if everybody does his or her job and follows the law, the result should be a just one.

Funnell also says he thinks the public misperceives the kinds of images for which child porn offenders are being prosecuted. They may think of a few innocuous photographs of naked children sitting in a bathtub, but the reality is much darker.

We’re usually talking about hundreds if not thousands of images of some of the most deviant and disturbing subject matter imaginable,” he says.

Drew Oosterbaan, chief of the Justice Department’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, says the DOJ’s policy of prosecuting all cases for the most se­rious, readily provable offense is not peculiar to child porn prosecutions. The policy—commonly known as “stacking”—applies to all federal prosecutions, be they for terrorism or public corruption.

It’s the only way to ensure that all cases are treated alike,” he says.

Funnell concedes that the typical penalties for child porn offenses tend to be more severe than those for contact offenses. But if that’s the case, he says, the solution is to increase the penalties for contact offenses, not to lower the penalties for child porn crimes.

Moreover, mitigating circumstances—such as those argued by Ontiveros—prove less than meets the eye. Ontiveros offered no proof other than his word that he actually tried to delete the porn in his possession. And he twice lied to investigators about the extent of his involvement in child porn before admitting he had actively searched for it, downloaded it and stored it on DVDs.

This is not a victimless crime,” says Ernie Allen, president and co-founder of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, bristling at the suggestion that people who access and trade child porn online are being punished too harshly. “These are serious crimes and they ought to be treated seriously.”

Allen says those viewing and trading in child porn are not going to be satisfied just looking at pictures. And some may even be motivated to create their own to gain entree to certain file-sharing circles whose members are required to provide images in order to receive them.

Nor is he willing to concede that those who access and download child porn pose no threat to actual children.

Allen cites a controversial study involving 155 convicted child porn offenders at one federal prison who were asked whether they had ever molested a child. At the start of the study, only 40 of the men (26 percent) had known histories of sexual abuse involving children. After treatment, however, 132 of them (85 percent) acknowledged having committed a sexual offense involving children, some of them many times over.

Allen concedes the point of controversy: The study was withdrawn before peer review because of questions about the authenticity of the prisoner responses. But some child porn offenders will go on to molest a child, he argues. And if a few offenders have to be severely punished to deter others, he reasons, so be it. “Maybe it will make others think twice about accessing this stuff in the first place.”

Hanson didn’t respond to a letter requesting comment from him in prison. But Ontiveros, who is an inmate at the same Pennsylvania prison, responded in writing.

ONE INMATE EXPLAINS

Ontiveros says his interest in child porn began with an addiction to adult pornography and grew from there. He also says he realized that his interest in child pornography was a problem weeks before he was first contacted by the FBI. “I wasn’t missing work and it wasn’t detrimental to my life, but in general it was having a negative impact on me morally,” he wrote. So he started deleting his collection, he says, beginning with the illegal material.

Still, Ontiveros says he has never molested a child and does not believe he is capable of doing so. And while he does not condone the production or possession of child porn, he thinks the penalties are extreme.

I myself have never sold drugs, physically harmed someone with the intent to injure them, nor am I a career criminal by any stretch of the imagination,” he wrote. “Yet, for five years I will be incarcerated for the possession of images which I attempted to get rid of.”

Allen talks hopefully about a promising new technology that could be used to block the transmission of child porn based on its “hash value,” or unique digital signature. But even he admits that the technology, which is still in the testing phase, won’t eliminate online distribution of child porn.

In the meantime, the debate over the merits of the child porn guidelines in the federal courts goes on.

In December, federal judges in Iowa and New Jersey issued below-guidelines sentences for child porn offenders, citing controversy over their fairness, in U.S. v. John­son and U.S. v. Grober. And in January, Judge Gilbert S. Merritt of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Cin­cinnati wrote an unusually pointed dissent to a panel’s affirmance of the 17½-year sentence for child porn given to a 65-year-old Cleveland-area man with serious health problems.

Merritt said the federal legal system had “lost it bearings” on the sub­ject of computer-based child pornography and likened the treatment of offenders to the “witchcraft trials and burnings” of several centuries ago.

He is a 65-year-old, psychologically disabled former minister with Type 1 diabetes with many complications,” Merritt wrote in U.S. v. Paull. “How could this sentence be ‘not greater than necessary’ to punish this crime?


"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin (Bill Of Rights)


CA - Murphy's Law: Bad legislation comes back to haunt author

View the article here

07/06/2009

Sometimes bad laws have a way of coming back to bite the people most responsible for enacting them. That's the case with state Sen. George Runner (Contact), the principal sponsor of Proposition 83, the 2006 initiative popularly known as Jessica's Law, which voters approved overwhelmingly.

Among other things, the law severely restricts where sexual offenders can live after being released from prison. Under its provisions, those convicted of rape or child molestation or even misdemeanor indecent exposure cannot live within 2,000 feet of a school or a park.

As critics of Proposition 83 pointed out, such tight restrictions have the unintended effect of forcing paroled sex offenders either into homelessness or into rural and suburban communities where law enforcement is thin and jobs and counseling services that many offenders need to remain crime-free are virtually nonexistent.

This was not mere conjecture. Law enforcement officials in other states that had enacted similar restrictions reported those results. Because of that, many states sought to repeal or modify their versions of Jessica's Law.

Runner was fully aware of these concerns. Nonetheless, the Republican from Lancaster continued to press the case for passage.

But even before voters approved Jessica's Law, The Sacramento Bee's Andy Furillo reports, Runner had taken exceptional care to see that as few parolees as possible, including ex-sex offenders, would be sent to his suburban Los Angeles district.

Because his district is home to a state prison and has a large supply of affordable housing, Runner says, a disproportionate number of released felons were being housed there.

So, he cut a deal with the Department of Corrections, 10 months before the ballot measure was voted on, to reduce the flow of parolees there.

Under what Runner called a "side agreement," the Department of Corrections pledged to assign only parolees with "historical ties" to his north Los Angeles County district.

But the deal turns out to have been illegal. State law requires that parolees be returned to their county of origin but does not allow the prison system to direct them to or away from specific communities.

Last year, the department suspended the agreement. So now, Runner's constituents are in position to experience the full brunt of Jessica's Law along with the rest of the state. Because the suburban district Runner represents is less populated, its parks and schools more spread out, it means that more sex offenders will likely wind up there.

A special board set up to monitor the effects of Jessica's Law thinks homelessness among parolees poses a significant public safety threat. Since Runner's initiative went into effect, the number of homeless sex offenders has jumped from 88 to 1,000.

The costly, dangerous mistake that is Jessica's Law hurts all of California. Now it will be felt in full force in Runner's home district -- as it should be.


"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin (Bill Of Rights)