Saturday, December 26, 2009

NE - LB-285 Would Criminalize Any Internet Use

Original Article

12/26/2009

Assistant Nebraska Attorney General (Contact) David D. Cookson directly contradicted himself and proved that innocent sites such as YouTube, Twitter, and Wikipedia would be illegal for registered sex offenders to use under LB 285.

Quoting the new law:

“Any registered sex offender who knowingly and intentionally uses a social networking web site, or service, instant messaging, or chat room service that allows a person who is less than eighteen years of age to access or use its social networking web site, instant messaging, or chat room service, commits the offense of unlawful use of the Internet by a prohibited sex offender.

Unlawful use of the Internet by a prohibited sex offender is a Class I misdemeanor for a first offense. Any second or subsequent conviction under this section is a Class IIIA felony.”

One of the arguments of the Doe’s is that the definition of “social networking” is so broad that almost any site on the internet would be illegal for them to use. Almost every news site or blog on the internet allows you to, or requires you to, create a profile and allows direct communications.

During a hearing arguing against a temporary injunction against LB-285 going into effect January 1, 2010, Cookson defined social networking as any website that allows you to create a profile that can be viewed or searched, allows direct communications, and allows access to kids under 18 years old. He then admitted that you “can create a profile, and you can have access to direct communications and we know there are kids” on YouTube. However, he then argues that there are portions of YouTube that do not require you to have a profile, implying that it’s OK for registrants to use.

This is a blatant contradiction because the law states very specifically that a registrant cannot use any “social networking web site”. It doesn’t state that a registrant can use portions of a social networking site that don’t require a profile, and not portions that do require a profile. Also, if you use his argument, a registrant can use MySpace because there are portions of MySpace that are accessible without creating a profile.

Given the nature of the internet it would be impossible for a registrant to use the internet without fear of breaking the law. Tools such as AOL IM, Twitter, YouTube, and Wikipedia are ingrained into everyday life and all would be illegal to use. Remember, it’s already illegal to solicit a minor online in any fashion. The new law now makes it a crime to simply log onto AIM and send your husband a message to tell him you love him.

Hear Cookson’s exchange with Judge Kopf for yourself:

Video Link


GA - New rights center director fights for underprivileged

Original Article

12/25/2009

By Stephen Gurr

Sara Totonchi has grown accustomed to fighting for the underdog.

The newly named director of the Southern Center for Human Rights has lobbied for 10 years in the halls of the state legislature for the rights of convicted criminals and registered sex offenders, with some lawmakers more open to the group’s causes than others.

"Sometimes it can be very challenging and even lonely to work on some of the difficult issues we take on, but for the most part it’s incredibly rewarding to do this very important work," Totonchi said.

The Southern Center for Human Rights, based in Atlanta, has advocated for sex offenders in Hall County and across the state in a class action federal lawsuit challenging the restrictions of Georgia’s sex offender registry law, considered the most severe in the nation.

The group won an injunction against a law that would prevent sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of bus stops and effectively force most people on the registry to move out of populous counties.

The center earlier this year won an injunction that allows registered sex offenders to volunteer in churches. The law previously restricted sex offenders from church work.

The Southern Center for Human Rights also is heavily involved in death penalty work and provides lawyers for capital defendants in various stages of the legal process.

Earlier this month, the center filed suit on behalf of nearly 200 criminal defendants in North Georgia who were denied attorneys for their appeals.

It’s not popular work, but it has its champions.

The nonprofit organization, with 10 staff attorneys plus support staff, has a $2 million budget paid for through foundations and individual donations.

Totonchi, 33, has been the center’s public policy director and spokeswoman since 2001. She is the first nonlawyer to lead the group. She will take the helm Jan. 1, as previous director Lisa Kung is leaving to work in a fellowship in New Orleans. Kung was named director in 2006 when senior counsel Stephen Bright stepped down to spend more time in the courtroom and classrooms.

Totonchi was born in London to an Iraqi father and Irish mother, with her family moving to Chicago when she was a child.

"My activism started early," she said, recalling how she saw her parents provide medical care for poor people while working in her physician father’s Chicago office. "My family has always cared deeply for those who are less fortunate. My parents were very generous of their time and resources to help those who had less than we did and that had a huge impact on my world view."

Totonchi moved to Georgia from Chicago to attend Berry College in Rome, where she received a degree in family and community services.

Totonchi said she’s been "firmly opposed to the death penalty for most of my life," which led her to the Southern Center after two years with the Georgia Commission on Family Violence.

Totonchi views the center’s work as important in upholding the constitution in an adversarial justice system.

"Our system breaks down when one side has resources and the other doesn’t," she said. "It’s one of the most fundamental pieces of our democracy, to provide for fairness in trials and to hold truth to the value that people are innocent until proven guilty."

She points out the center has its share of victories, including a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision in a case involving the racial makeup of juries in Louisiana.

"We often win, so we know we’re doing right by the constitution," she said.

Totonchi’s new duties for the center will be primarily in administration, fundraising and lobbying.

"I want to continue to build up the Southern Center to be a powerful organization that has the capacity to have great wins, and to continue the incredible work of Steve Bright and Lisa Kung in shining a light on the injustices that our system perpetuates," she said.