Monday, November 2, 2009

KY - Kentucky court won't suspend sex offender ruling

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Related Article


FRANKFORT - The Kentucky Supreme Court on Monday denied the state's request to suspend its recent ruling which loosened restrictions on where convicted sex offenders may live.

Attorney General Jack Conway (Contact) last week asked the state's supreme court to delay implementation of the ruling while the decision was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
- When something is ruled unconstitutional, then it is to NOT be enforced, until other appeals, etc, not the other way around!

The state Supreme Court ruled on Oct. 1 that Kentucky's law was unconstitutional because it also applied to sex offenders who were convicted before the law was on the books. The law barred sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of schools, daycare centers, playgrounds and other places where children congregate.

An order from the Kentucky court Monday says its ruling would remain in effect during an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of a civilization. We must have a desire to rehabilitate into the world of industry, all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment." - Winston Churchill (United States Constitution, Bill of Rights)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved

OH - Criminal Profiler on Ohio Murders (Once again, people jumping to conslusions without evidence to back it up!)

This man may indeed be guilty as ever, but he is innocent until proven guilty. So wait for evidence to come out, before you condemn the man! This is the problem with our society, if someone is accused, we automatically condemn them to being guilty! Click the above "AnthonySowell" link for all related articles.

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"That old law about 'an eye for an eye' leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing." - Martin Luther King (United States Constitution, Bill of Rights)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved

MI - Fmr officer gets 60 days for sex case (And won't be on the registry, of course!)

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Original Article

Of course, he's a "good ole' boy!" He gets 60 days in jail, instead of prison, and will not be on the sex offender registry! So much for holding those in positions of trust to a higher standard!


By Joe LaFurgey

Thomas Carey faced up to five years in prison

GRAND HAVEN (WOOD) - Thomas Carey, the former Grand Haven Public Safety Officer who two woman said used his badge to coerce them into sexual relationships, will spend 60 days behind bars.

That was the sentence handed down by an Ottawa County Circuit Court judge Monday after a plea deal that keeps Carey off the streets as a cop, but also off the state sex offender list.

The prosecutor said he was more concerned with Carey's career future than putting him on the sex offender list.
- Wow, when it's not a cop, but Joe Public, you never consider this!

"I didn't want him to be a police officer again," said Special Prosecutor William Forsyth, in defending the plea agreement he made with Carey's attorney.

Forsyth told 24 Hour News 8 his concern over whether a jury would believe Carey used his position to coerce the woman to have sex with him made him settle for the plea bargain.

"One of the relationships lasted three years," Forsyth said, "one lasted over a year."

The case was originally investigated as first-degree sexual assault, which carries up to life in prison. Gross indecency carries a maximum five year sentence.

Forsyth, the Kent County Prosecutor, was brought in because of Carey's law connections in Ottawa County.

Carey was arraigned, sent to trial court and allowed to plea all in one day last summer. Forsyth said Ottawa County's Court system allows for that process.
- How many other non-police get this right to a speedy trial?

Carey is accused of coercing two vulnerable woman into a sexual relationship, one lasting close to three years.

The 43 year-old victim, who had a 14-month relationship with Carey, told 24 Hour News 8's Ken Kolker, "He's just a sick person who takes advantage of women that can't help themselves."

In her case, Carey first responded to her home on a suspicious person complaint.

He kept coming back to comfort the woman, eventually convincing her to perform oral sex on him during several visits. Each time, he was in uniform.

The woman has been diagnosed with mental health problems, including depression, as well as other health issues.

She told state police investigators she felt she could not say no to Carey's request because he was in a position of authority.

Carey spoke out for the first time Tuesday in court.

"I apologize to the victims, my family, my community. I will continue to work on the issues in my life."

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"That old law about 'an eye for an eye' leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing." - Martin Luther King (United States Constitution, Bill of Rights)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved

GA - Murder case, Leo Frank lynching live on (We never learn from history, we repeat it!)

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Leo Frank - Wikipedia


By Jessica Ravitz

Atlanta (CNN) -- Turn back time, more than 90 years, to a cold case that won't gather dust.

It's a classic whodunit, starting with the rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl and ending in a lynching. It was grist for a prosecutor's political aspirations, a case that was appealed all the way to the country's highest court and a story hotly debated in the national press.

At the center of it all was Leo Frank, a northern Jew who'd moved to Atlanta to supervise the National Pencil Company factory. When the body of Mary Phagan, a white child laborer, was found in the basement, law enforcement homed in on Frank. He was tried and convicted, based on what most historians say was the perjured testimony of a black man, and sentenced to death. But when the governor commuted his sentence in 1915, about 25 men abducted Frank, 31, from the state prison and hung him from a tree in Marietta, Georgia.

Considered one of the most sensational trials of the early 20th century, the Frank case seemed to press every hot-button issue of the time: North vs. South, black vs. white, Jew vs. Christian, industrial vs. agrarian.

In the years since, it has inspired numerous books and films, TV programs, plays, musicals and songs. It has fueled legal discussions, spawned a traveling exhibition and driven public forums.

Who murdered Mary Phagan? What forces were behind the lynching of Frank? Why should we still care?

Answers to these questions, or theories, keep coming.

"Leo Frank was not a good ole Southern boy. He was different and not ashamed of being different," said Ben Loeterman, whose new documentary, "The People v. Leo Frank," will air Monday on PBS. "The test of us as a society is not necessarily how we treat the best among us but how we treat the most questionable."

Mixed in with ongoing analysis of the Phagan-Frank story are the descendants of those involved, people who learned of their connections differently and carry these legacies forward in unique ways.

The accused

"The story goes that no one in my family talked about it," said Cathee Smithline, a 62-year-old great-niece of Frank.

Frank was the one who handed Mary Phagan her check when she stopped by the factory on April 26, 1913, Confederate Memorial Day. The night watchman, Newt Lee, would find the body and call police early the next day.

Smithline, of Wyckoff, New Jersey, was 16 when she first heard about the case. Her mother sat her down, told her a story about what a man in the South had been through, said it was based on her uncle and handed over a book: "A Little Girl is Dead."

It turns out Smithline's mother got the news in her teens, too, when her boyfriend turned to her after seeing "They Won't Forget," a 1937 Hollywood film. "You know that's about your uncle," he said.

She'd grown up hearing Uncle Leo died of pneumonia, and after asking family about it, the truth was revealed, followed by the words, "We will never talk about this again," Smithline said.

"I think it was a family embarrassment," she said. "My grandmother [who died when Smithline was 1] was very close to her brother. It cannot be easy to tell someone your brother was lynched and why."

The first victim

Mary Phagan Kean was 13 when the story hit her. She was in a South Carolina classroom, and her name stopped short a teacher taking attendance.

"Mary Phagan, you say?" she recalled the teacher asking, peering up from his list. He wanted to know if she was related to a girl with that name who died in 1913. Confidently, she told him she wasn't. But the boys on the playground taunted her anyway, telling her she was reincarnated from a dead girl.

Traumatized, she asked her father about her name. "He turned whiter than white," she remembered.

Mary Phagan had been her grandfather's little sister. He only wept when asked about her. When Mary Phagan Kean's family moved back to Marietta, questions about that name never stopped.

"I went on a campaign," said Kean, 55, who sought out every article and piece of information she could find. "I did that for years and years and years."

The consensus of historians is that the Frank case was a miscarriage of justice. Crime scene evidence was destroyed, they say. A bloody hand print was not analyzed. Transcripts from the trial vanished.

Frank's conviction was based largely on the testimony of a janitor, Jim Conley, who most came to see as Phagan's killer. He'd written notes found with the body, but said they were dictated to him. The prosecutor, Hugh Dorsey, used race in his argument, saying a black man couldn't be smart enough to come up with such stories.

Witnesses would come forward to say Conley was seen carrying the body and washing out a bloody shirt. Conley's own attorney, William Smith, came to believe in Frank's innocence, scrawling a note to that effect on his death bed nearly 35 years later.

Conley, who appeared in the press for petty crimes over the years, eventually disappeared.

Dorsey, the prosecutor, had political aspirations riding on this win.

"A conviction of just another black guy wasn't going to do anything for his career," said Sandy Berman, the archivist at The William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum in Atlanta who created the traveling exhibit, "Seeking Justice: The Leo Frank Case Revisited."

Two years after Frank's lynching, Dorsey was elected governor of Georgia.

But the story was interpreted differently by Kean, who wrote "The Murder of Little Mary Phagan," and stands by this conclusion: "Leo Frank was guilty as sin. He was a sexual pervert."

Kean often visits her namesake's grave in Marietta. She's not the only one. She says she's struck by the teddy bears people leave there.

The governor

Elizabeth Slaton Wallace couldn't be prouder of her heritage. At 81, she's the great-niece of the late Georgia Gov. John M. Slaton, the man who commuted Frank's death sentence to a life sentence, believing Frank's innocence would be proved and, in doing so, ruined his political career.

The Georgia National Guard was called out to protect the governor after his decision prompted a rabble-rousing newspaper publisher to call for the lynching of both Frank and Slaton.

Frank had been moved to the state prison in Milledgeville, Georgia, where an inmate slashed his throat. He survived, but weeks later about two dozen Marietta men came into the prison, with no resistance from officials, and abducted Frank in the dark of night.

By dawn, he was hanging from a tree in Marietta. Photographs of his dangling body and the crowds who gathered there adorned souvenir postcards.

"Leo Frank was a Jew and a Yankee Jew at that. He was railroaded. Uncle Jack knew that," said Wallace, who lives in Atlanta.

She can't explain why the story persists to this day. But throughout her life she's witnessed the kindness of the Jewish community, especially toward her father, who was named for the late governor.

"The Jewish community could never do enough for my father," said Wallace, who recalled being in a Jewish-owned store with her parents in the 1980s. "They could have given us the shop."

As grateful as they were to Slaton, Frank's lynching left Georgia's small Jewish community frightened. Many left the state; those who stayed kept a low profile. For decades, they only spoke of Frank in hushed tones.

The lynching party

The lynching of a white man can hardly be compared to what happened in the black community in the South. But this case, the only lynching of a Jew on American soil, was the culmination of a state-sponsored conspiracy, historians say.

While Georgia Jews remained quiet, so did those who were involved in Frank's killing, said Steve Oney of Los Angeles, California, who wrote the authoritative book "And the Dead Shall Rise: The Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank." It would be about 80 years before members of the lynching party were publicly, and not just secretly, known.

"They were not liquored-up yahoos," said Oney, a journalist, editor and Atlanta native who spent 17 years researching his book. "These were smart, deliberate people -- from good, prominent families."

They included a former governor, a former mayor, a U.S. senator's son, a judge, lawyers, a state legislator and business owners. One of the 25 or so men was Cicero Dobbs, the grandfather-in-law of Roy Barnes, a Georgia lawyer and politician who is a former governor himself and will be running again in 2010.

Barnes and his wife, Marie, never knew Dobbs, who owned a taxi company in Marietta and likely provided transportation to the prison where Frank was held. Oney broke the news about the family connection to them.

"Marie's parents didn't know. It was never mentioned," Barnes said. "On death beds, people confessed. It was just that powerful."

Barnes, who is featured in the new documentary, said it's important to keep the story alive and learn from it.

"It's a terrible blot on our history," he said. "How we keep it from happening again is to never forget."

Video Link

The People v. Leo Frank Trailer (Video Link)

"That old law about 'an eye for an eye' leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing." - Martin Luther King (United States Constitution, Bill of Rights)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved

CA - California Supreme Court to review Jessica's Law

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By Howard Mintz

If not for his poor driving, S.P. might have escaped the web of Jessica's Law, California's controversial bid to keep convicted sex offenders from living near parks, schools and other places where children gather.

But when he got busted in San Jose for driving the wrong way and with an open beer in his car, parole agents checked his residence and told S.P. he had to move. He was living with his mother, and her house was closer to a child-care center than the 2,000 feet prescribed in the 2006 voter-approved measure.

Now, "S.P.," as he's known in the law books, is one of four ex-convicts in California at the heart of a legal challenge unfolding this week in the California Supreme Court against a key part of Jessica's Law.

The state Supreme Court on Tuesday is considering whether the residency restriction contained in Proposition 83 is so broad and intrusive that it violates the constitutional rights of registered sex offenders. Under the law, critics say, many sex offenders cannot find a place to live in urban areas across the state and are effectively forced into homelessness.

S.P. had been convicted in 1998 of raping a 15-year-old girl when she was drunk at a party. S.P., 16 years old at the time, served his sentence, got out of prison, was convicted again for a felony theft offense and then released on parole. Despite all that, Jessica's Law would have left him alone but for the driving arrest. When he was convicted of another crime after Jessica's Law passed — even though it was not a sex crime — he fell under its provisions.

For offenders like S.P., the choices are to move, to take to the streets or to risk violating parole and winding up back behind bars.

"The problem with this law,'' said attorney Ernest Galvan, who represents S.P and three other convicted sex offenders, "is it arbitrarily banishes people from home and family without any regard to whether the past offense in any way was even related to children."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (Contact), a strong backer of Proposition 83, is defending the law, along with the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (Contact), which has largely been responsible for enforcement through its parole units. The administration's lawyer declined to comment but in court papers has defended the law's constitutionality.

"The residency restriction is designed to protect children, not to punish the offender," state lawyers wrote in court papers.

Jessica's Law, however, has been openly questioned for its effectiveness, even in the law enforcement community, and also for its legality. More than 20 states have adopted similar provisions, with courts taking a mixed view of whether they pass legal muster. Most courts, including two federal courts in California, have found the laws cannot be applied retroactively to sex offenders who committed their crimes and were released from prison before the laws were passed.

Earlier this year, California's Sex Offender Management Board (Contact), which includes many law enforcement officials, urged changes in Jessica's Law and found that the residency restrictions were counterproductive, particularly because of a surge in offenders declaring themselves transients, making it even harder to track their whereabouts.

At the local level, police departments find the law largely unworkable. San Jose police Sgt. Ed Pedreira, head of the city's sex offender unit, noted that Proposition 83 didn't even create a separate crime for violating the residency restriction.

"The intention of the law was good," Pedreira said. "But what it leaves us with is no teeth in the law to where we can go out and actively enforce it."

State parole agents have been enforcing the provision, however, tracking an estimated 6,800 registered sex offenders with GPS devices. In August 2007, offenders found living within 2,000 feet of a forbidden zone received a letter that they must move within 45 days; that included the four plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case.

Robert Ambroselli, acting director of the corrections department's adult parole division, said the complexities of the law have been a challenge for his agents.

"It certainly keeps us busy to stay within the confines of the law," he said. "We're trying to balance public safety and the reintegration of this population."

Legal experts say the courts for the most part are allowing at least portions of Jessica's Law to survive, as long as they don't reach back and punish offenders who were released long before the restrictions are enacted. If the California Supreme Court upholds Proposition 83, some predict it could embolden other states.

"If the California courts uphold it, it could start a new round of residency restrictions," said Corey Rayburn Yung, a John Marshall Law School professor who blogs on legal issues involving sex offenders.

"That old law about 'an eye for an eye' leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing." - Martin Luther King (United States Constitution, Bill of Rights)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved

BULGARIA - Girl, 11, gives birth on wedding day

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An 11-year-old girl who gave birth on her wedding day while still dressed in a white gown and a tiara says she is excited to "have a new toy".

Kordeza Zhelyazkova from Bulgaria gave birth to 2.4kg baby girl Violeta last week but left the hospital with her newborn after only an overnight stay to finish the wedding ceremony, the News of the World reports.

The schoolgirl said she and 19-year-old husband Jeliazko Dimitrov met in the playground of her school in the industrial town of Sliven after he saved her from bullies.

Kordeza said the pair began a sexual relationship even though she did not know what a condom was and fell pregnant within a week of them meeting.

"I'm not going to play with toys anymore — I have a new toy now," she was quoted by the paper as saying.

"She is so beautiful, I love her ... Violeta is the child and I must grow up."

"I am not going back to school — I am a mother now."

Kordeza said she did not realise she was pregnant until her grandmother pointed out her weight gain.

"I just thought I'd eaten too many burgers," she said.

But Mr Dimitrov could be jailed for up to six years for having sex with a girl under 14.

"I'm scared ... I want to look after my wife and child ... instead I may be going to prison," he said.

"I made a mistake but I am not going to apologise for that because now I have beautiful Violeta."

Kordez said she was not planning on having any more children.

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Reminds me of this case (Video Link)

"That old law about 'an eye for an eye' leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing." - Martin Luther King (United States Constitution, Bill of Rights)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved

OFF TOPIC - CA - San Jose Cops Are First In Nation To Be Armed With Cameras As Part Of Uniform

It's about time. Now maybe they'll stop beating the hell out of people, maybe.... They will find some way to circumvent it though, just like they do with the cameras in the cars.

Video Link

"That old law about 'an eye for an eye' leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing." - Martin Luther King (United States Constitution, Bill of Rights)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved

VT - Residency law challenge moves forward

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By Brent Curtis

A convicted sex offender's legal challenge of a residency ordinance that prohibits him from living in Rutland is getting attention beyond the city's limits.

Seven months after 38-year-old _____ filed a lawsuit suing both the state Department of Corrections and the City of Rutland, a Rutland Superior Court judge said last week that he will hold a hearing to consider suspending the city's child safety ordinance.

It's a court review being watched closely by officials in Barre where a similar ordinance has been inactive since a court ruling in September found the city lacked legislative authority to pass a law that restricted residency.

The Rutland ordinance, passed by the aldermen in 2008, prohibits sex offenders from living 1,000 feet of a school, playground or day-care facility. The ordinance excludes offenders who were living in the city before the law went into effect and _____, who was convicted of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child in 1991, was living on Grove Street before the aldermen passed the measure.

But _____ was sent to jail in September 2007 after he was convicted of setting several trash bin fires around the city. Under the terms of his 1-1/2 -year to 6-year sentence, _____ became eligible for release in January, but he has remained in the Rutland jail because as far as the city is concerned, his time in jail has eliminated the exemption allowing him to return home and Corrections will not release _____ unless he has a residence.

_____ filed a lawsuit seeking his release in April. But the complaint, which he brought without a lawyer, wasn't served upon the city.

Now represented by the state Prisoners' Rights Office, _____'s case is moving swiftly toward a showdown that will test Rutland's ordinance and inform officials in Barre about whether to begin enforcing their own ordinance again.

"We're watching because the ruling up here was clear. That's why we chose not to appeal it," Barre Mayor Thomas Lauzon said. "If there's a different ruling down there, then we may in fact begin enforcing our ordinance again because then, if we're challenged again, we'll have a precedence to contest the other ruling."

During a brief hearing in Rutland Superior Court last week, Judge Harold Eaton gave Rutland two weeks to file an answer to _____'s complaint. Once the city answers, Eaton said he would hear arguments for an injunction that would allow _____ to return to his home.

The case before Eaton bears a lot of resemblance to the case decided two months ago by Judge Helen Toor in Washington County.

The ordinance in Rutland is similar in many respects to the one in Barre and the arguments brought by _____, the lawyer representing _____, rest on the same principle used in the Barre case: that Rutland lacks express authority from the Legislature to "bar individuals from living within its borders."

"The City of Rutland charter does not grant the municipality the power to enact ordinances that regulate where certain individuals may or may not live within the municipality's borders," Malone wrote.

"That old law about 'an eye for an eye' leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing." - Martin Luther King (United States Constitution, Bill of Rights)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved

OH - Officers Had Visited Ohio Home Where Bodies Found

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This story is not making much sense to me. The women, who claimed she was raped in the house, how come she did not mention the dead bodies? Was she actually raped or making false accusations? Plus, many people said they smelled what they thought was natural gas. Wouldn't you report it to the police or someone if you smelled that? Natural gas, if you can smell it like that, can explode. Plus, like usual, everyone is jumping to conclusions that he actually killed these people. That has not been proven yet, and he is innocent until proven guilty. And time will tell. I admit, it looks fishy, that he may have done this, but think about it. If he was staying there on a daily basis, wouldn't his clothes stink?



Ohio officers monitoring convicted rapist had visited home where decomposed bodies were found

As a registered sex offender, Anthony Sowell checked in regularly with law-enforcement authorities, who also monitored him by making home visits.

But since Sowell wasn't on parole or probation, they didn't have the right to enter — until Thursday when they had search and arrest warrants after a woman said he had raped her there. That's when they discovered badly decomposed bodies in the house.
- If she had been raped there, did she mention all the dead bodies?  It sounds like she did not, otherwise, why would it surprise the police when they showed up?

By Sunday, authorities had determined there were six bodies, all of them women, and each was the victim of a homicide.

Officers had last visited Sowell at home as part of his sex-offender monitoring on Sept. 22, just hours before the woman reported being raped there.
- And yet she didn't mention all the dead bodies?

The three-story house with neat white siding is in a crowded inner-city neighborhood of mostly older houses, some boarded up, and small corner stores. The windows on the third floor, where the first two bodies were found, were wide open Sunday as a slight breeze blew. Some neighbors said a bad smell came from the house several months ago, but they thought then that it might be natural gas.
- If they thought it was natural gas, why did they not report it?  If it's gas that smells this bad, it can explode.

At least five of the women apparently had been strangled, said Powell Caesar, a spokesman for the Cuyahoga County coroner. Decomposition made it difficult to determine how the sixth died, he said.

The bodies "could have been there anywhere from weeks to months to years," Caesar said.

None of the victims has been identified. Two were black, but the race of the others hadn't been determined, Caesar said.

Sowell, 50, previously spent 15 years in prison for choking and raping a 21-year-old woman who was lured to his bedroom in 1989, police said. He was arrested Saturday when officers spotted him walking down the street in his neighborhood.
- If he did this, then we have a serial killer on our hands.

The first bodies were found Thursday night when police went to arrest Sowell on new charges of rape and felonious assault, but he wasn't home. The woman in that alleged attack said she knew Sowell, and he raped her at the house.
- This is just fishy.  If there were six bodies in the house, which apparently smelled, why did she not report the bodies or the smell?

Court records and jail officials had no information about whether Sowell had an attorney. No charges have been filed regarding the bodies.

The gruesome discovery left some in the community concerned about women who hadn't been seen in a long time. Ida Garrett, 72, who walked to church Sunday just one block from Sowell's house, said she was worried that a friend who went missing six months ago might be among the dead.

The friend, 43-year-old Nancy Cobbs, lived one street away from Sowell. She was reported missing in April, and her family told police they fear she is among the victims.

"She seemed to be a very nice, quiet girl," Garrett said. "I've known her since she was a teenager."

Clovice Ramsey, minister at All Nations Deliverance Ministries in nearby Maple Heights, held a "PEACE" sign on a corner within sight of the Sowell house and said the discovery of the bodies had damaged people's trust in law enforcement.
- Why?  Are you assuming he did it?  If not, then why the distrust?  Cops are not psychic, and if nobody reports the bad smell, then how are they suppose to know?  Don't condemn someone until you have all the facts.

"They don't see the system working for them," Ramsey said. "They are not keeping a watch on him."
- The man is off probation and/or parole, so they are doing what is required of them.  Sounds like everyone their is already condemning the man for something he may or may not have done.

Sowell often walked around his neighborhood asking for money and looking for scrap metal to sell, neighbors said.

He returned to the family home in 2005 after his release from prison. The house was owned by two of Sowell's relatives, including a woman — described by neighbors as either Sowell's stepmother or aunt — who maintained it.

Neighbors said the woman moved into a nursing home after Sowell was released from prison. Teresa Hicks, a neighbor, said people feared that she might be dead. Police were looking into her status.

"That old law about 'an eye for an eye' leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing." - Martin Luther King (United States Constitution, Bill of Rights)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved

Documentary: Playground

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While traveling to the Philippines in 2001, filmmaker Libby Spears gained first hand knowledge of the horrific practice of trafficking human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation. She examined a little deeper, and discovered that most of these victims were young children.

Facing death threats to be “knocked off” for only $10, Libby went undercover to infiltrate brothels in South Korea and Thailand. She held first-hand interviews with victims, their pimps, and their abusers. She mapped the trafficking routes of the sex tourism industry, and charted the commerce fueled by the purchase and sale of minors—she was disheartened to find that virtually the entire globe was involved and affected by this growing industry.

What she was astonished to find, however, was the involvement of the United States and the degree to which they were influencing the global demand and growth of the sex trafficking industry.

Previously, she had mistakenly believed that sex trafficking was primarily an “international” occurrence in countries like Philippines and Cambodia. But a meeting with Ernie Allen, President of the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children, confirmed to Libby what her research was beginning to uncover: that the trafficking of children for commercial sexual exploitation is every bit as real in North America.

This is where Playground begins.

Video Link

Appalled by modern day sex slavery, filmmaker Libby Spears began a covert investigation to document the worldwide child sex trafficking problem, and to see how and if it led back to the United States. What she was astonished to find, however, was the involvement of the United States and the degree to which they were influencing the global demand and growth of the sex trafficking industry.

At the heart of the story is Michelle, whose first encounter with sexual abuse began at five. Having run away from a foster care system that left Michelle vulnerable and at risk, the film opens with the filmmaker’s search for her. Over a five year period, Spears unravels the gut-wrenching atrocities suffered by Michelle and other children like her, who are victims of the American sex trafficking industry.

By gracefully weaving in interviews with vice officers and social workers — and sometimes even the pimps or johns themselves — Spears constructs an insightful, resonant, and nuanced narrative that details just how complex and massive this problem is.

Playground examines our legal and social systems, and their inability to deal with this crisis. Neither dogmatic nor sensationalist, Playground offers no clear-cut answers, but instead, compels us to begin asking questions… the right questions:

Why do we treat children as victims in cases of sexual abuse, but as soon as money is exchanged, we deem these sexually abused children as “criminals?” Why does our legal system view foreign children who are trafficked from other countries as “victims,” but treats American children who are trafficked domestically as criminals? Why is there such an overwhelming demand for sex with a child? Are we adequately teaching our children sexual respect? What message do we send as a society when we normalize Justin Timberlake’s ripping off a woman’s shirt in public, but demonize Janet Jackson for her exposed breast?

The problem is monumental: The U.S. Department of Justice claims that the commercial sexual exploitation of children is the world’s fastest growing form of organized crime. Within the next decade, the prostitution of children worldwide will net more profit than the sale of illegal drugs. In the United States alone, child sex trafficking is a multi-million dollar industry with an estimated 300,000 children annually at risk. Wherever you can buy drugs in this country, you can buy children – American children – for sex. Playground makes compellingly clear that if we’re not seeing the problem, it’s only because we’re not looking.

To offer emotional relief of the heavy subject matter, animated characters appear throughout the film as quiet punctuations. Playground employs a hand-crafted animation style that hearkens back to the early days of animation as an art form. With original illustrations created by Yoshitomo Nara, the animation allows Spears to suggest, rather than literally depict, some of the horrors of sex trafficking, and does an effective job at conveying the psychological and emotional climate suffered by the victims.

From filmmaker Libby Spears and Producers George Clooney, Grant Heslov, and Steven Soderbergh, comes a beautifully-wrought, astonishing portrait of our country’s most alarming and insidious secret — the child sex trafficking in America.

Music by: Bjork, Radiohead, Chris Martin, Blonde Redhead, Cat Power, Sigur Rós, CocoRosie, Basement Jaxx, DJ Shadow, Kazu Makino

"That old law about 'an eye for an eye' leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing." - Martin Luther King (United States Constitution, Bill of Rights)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved