Thursday, February 11, 2010

AL - WAFF 48 News Special Report: Child Porn Virus

Original Article

02/11/2010

HUNTSVILLE - Technology has taken cyber-crimes to a whole new level. You usually think of identity theft,criminals stealing your personal information such as credit card and social security numbers, but that's not the only way someone can ruin your life.

Sexual predators may now have a way for you to take the fall for their addictions. It's a scary scenario, where several people have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars just to prove their innocence.

Here's a preview of this special assignment report: The Child Porn Virus.

Crimes exploiting children can bring shame to the family name.

"Even myself before I got into trouble, whenever I heard the word sex offender or sexual predator, I always thought of a child molester," said a man who spoke to WAFF 48 News about the stigma of having to register as a sex offender.

He doesn't deny his guilt, but imagine your life being labeled this way and not being guilty of a sex crime. An Associated Press investigation found some disturbing cases in which innocent people have been branded pedophiles. Their personal computers were taken over, used to store child porn. A pedophile gets their fix, you take the fall.

"Generally if we do get a report that a computer has child pornography on it of some sort, we'll serve a warrant and try to get any materials that may have that data on it," said FBI Special Agent Bryan Oakley.
- Even the FBI are posting links, and if you click on one of them, they will be paying you a visit real soon!

How often do these cases actually happen? What can you do to protect yourself on-line? We'll have those answers for you. Watch the Child Porn Virus Thursday night at 10:00 p.m.

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"The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly." - Abraham Lincoln


IL - Convicted Despite DNA Evidence - The Juan Rivera Case

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"The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly." - Abraham Lincoln


FL - Sexting Leads To Teen Having To Register As A Sex Offender

Original Article

02/11/2010

By Gil Kaufman

As soon as he woke up the next morning, _____ knew that he had made a huge mistake. Angry that he was unable to get the attention of his ex-girlfriend, the then-18-year-old Florida teen arose from a sleeping-pill-induced stupor at 3 a.m. and forwarded some sexually explicit images that she had given him to everyone on his distribution list as a means of getting a reaction.

When he was arrested on child-pornography charges and ordered to register as a sex offender a short time later, _____ quickly learned that sexting has very real consequences, ones the teen could never have imagined.

"Sexting cases are unusual and few and far between these days, and they don't fit into any particular category or set of standards," said Lawrence Walter, _____'s lawyer, who has taken on the now-20-year-old's case pro bono, in part to help publicize the issue. "Usually police, prosecutors, judges and lawyers default to treating them as child-pornography cases, and the knee-jerk reaction is to have them register as sex offenders, which ruins their lives."

While Walter said _____ quickly realized how wrong his behavior was, he stressed that sexting between underage victims involving underage men and women who are taking photos of themselves in which they are, essentially, both victim and perpetrator is a very different thing than an adult exploiting a child by making them participate in pornographic photos or films in which they are unwilling participants.

"Society is starting to recognize that maybe this is something different, a phenomenon we haven't dealt with before, but currently they're doing it in the worst way possible, by lumping these kids in with pedophiles and molesters," said Walter, who is pushing for the legal system to come up with a new means of dealing with sexting cases among minors. "[They're being punished for] doing things kids have done for time immemorial: playing doctor, truth or dare and exploring their sexuality with each other. We just happen to have given them the tools to create digital copies to record them and send them around easily."

_____ tells his story in "Sexting in America: When Privates Go Public," a 30-minute special airing Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on MTV, in which we take a closer look at the dangers of sexting and the serious repercussions for the people who send and receive naked pictures of peers on their mobile phones and other devices.

In _____'s case, after being arrested for child-pornography distribution, he was put on five years' probation and required to register on the public sex-offender list, which lists his age, hair color, eye color and home address and is readily available to anyone and everyone. "I've actually had a lot of neighbors come to my door before ... to check if it was safe for their kids to play around outside, with me here," _____ says in the show. "I'm extremely sorry for what I did, but the sex-offender thing, which is going to last until I'm 43, that's overkill."

Images taken of someone under the age of 18 constitutes child pornography, according to Parry Aftab, an Internet privacy and security lawyer. "If you take a picture, you can be accused of producing child pornography; if you send it to somebody, you can be accused of distributing child pornography; and if you keep a picture, you can be accused of possessing child pornography," Aftab explained. "Anywhere along this chain of transmission of the images, you can be charged as a registered sex offender.'

Walter said _____'s message is not that sexting is OK or should be decriminalized, but rather, "Look at me. Don't make the mistake I did." Perhaps the worst part is that _____'s dream of being an animator has been dashed because of the tight restrictions placed on his Internet use as a registered sex offender. "He can't live within a certain distance of schools, so he can't live with his father, because he lives too close to the high school that [_____] attended," the lawyer explained. "He can't be near places where minors congregate, but if you're 18 and have underage friends, what do you do?"

Because of his lack of privacy, _____ is afraid to even send his lawyer e-mail, because if his probation officer decides that the e-mail was not work- or school-related, _____ could go to prison for five years. "He can't find a job, because he has to tell people he's a registered sex offender," Walter said. "It's hard to make new friends and date."

But perhaps the worst punishment is the requirement that _____ attend weekly sex-offender re-education classes for five years.

"Here, he's being trained not to reoffend and deal with his pedophilia or sexual deviance, which does not exist," Walter said. "He's stuck with people who did terrible things with minors, and he's forced to tell his story over and over again and can't move beyond it. For a 19- to 20-year-old kid, that's not a healthy thing. The more he does this and the longer he goes to these classes, the more he concludes, 'I guess I am one of them. I must have done something so horrible to be considered like the dregs of society.' It has a terrible impact on his self-worth."

The MTV News special "Sexting in America: When Privates Go Public," premieres Sunday, February 14, at 9 p.m. ET/PT.




"The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly." - Abraham Lincoln


SD - Panel approves changes to sex offender registry

Original Article

02/11/2010

PIERRE - A South Dakota Senate committee has advanced a bill that would create tiers for the state's sex offender registry, giving some people a chance to get their names removed.

The bill, approved 7-0 by the Judiciary Committee on Thursday, would create three groups of sex crimes.

Those convicted of serious crimes could never get off the offender list.

Those convicted of a middle group could ask to be removed after 25 years, and those convicted of less-serious crimes such as misdemeanor indecent exposure could ask to be removed after 10 years.

The bill now heads to the full Senate.


"The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly." - Abraham Lincoln


TN - Lawmaker Wants Juvenile Sex Offender Registry

Original Article
Video

02/10/2010

By Cara Kumari

NASHVILLE - There are thousands of names and pictures on the Tennessee sex offender registry. But state lawmakers said there are dangerous sex offenders living in Tennessee who are not on the list -- they are juveniles.

"I'm trying to make sure that the public is aware of that and the public is safe," said Rep. Debra Maggart (Contact).
- I think your just exploiting people and their fears, to further your career personally!

Maggart is pushing to create a registry for juveniles 14 and older who have been convicted of violent sex crimes, such as rape of a child.
- I don't agree with putting children on a registry, but why spend millions more on another registry, put them on the same registry as adults.

If it doesn't pass, the state could lose millions of dollars of federal money that goes to local law enforcement. Last year, that grant money totaled $5 million.
- And it will cost millions more to enforce the same laws, but I guess you don't care about that, just so you can look good to the sheeple, right?

But the idea of adding teens to a sex offender registry is controversial, because many child advocates believe it would ruin lives.
- Yes it ruins lives, for kids and adults on the public accessible online hit-list.

"When you put them on a sex offender registry for 25 years, then they have virtually no chance for success in life because they are going to have difficulty with school, jobs, anything that can turn them around," said attorney Linda O'Neal.
- The same applies to adults on the list, and thus proves my point the registry is further ex post facto punishment!

A doctor who works with teen sex offenders said 85 percent of them can be successfully rehabilitated.

"I think this is a very risky thing, to stress people who are already stressed without offering them any type of treatment," said Dr. Valerie Arnold.
- Amen, same for adult offenders!

But Maggart wonders about the other 15 percent and the dangers that parents might not even know could be living nearby.

"What about the ones who are not rehabilitated?" she said. "Do we just let them rape at will? They are out in the public, and I think the public has a right to know."
- Give me a F'ing break!  So what about all the murderers, gang members, DUI offenders and all other criminals out there who do not have a special online shaming registry?  Are you okay with them committing crimes at will?

The state of Tennessee must have a juvenile sex offender registry to comply with the federal Adam Walsh Act. More than 20 states currently have a juvenile sex offender registry, but only Ohio is in full compliance with the Adam Walsh Act.
- And it all boils down to money. In order to keep and receive grant money, to fatten their wallets, they are okay with ruining thousands of childrens lives in the process?


"The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly." - Abraham Lincoln


OK - No longer a registered sex offender, but the stigma remains

Original Article

Congratulations Ricky, I wish you the best of luck!

02/11/2010

By Emanuella Grinberg

Stilwell - As a teenager, Ricky Blackman carried an Oklahoma driver's license with the words "sex offender" stamped in red below his picture.

His crime? Having sex with a 13-year-old girl when he was 16. The offense occurred when he lived in Iowa, and the label followed him to Oklahoma.

As a Tier 3 offender on Oklahoma's sex offender registry, Blackman could not attend high school, visit the town library, or go to his younger brother's football games.

But the label did more than limit where Blackman could go. It transformed him from an outgoing, sociable jock into an introvert who has trouble trusting people, his mother says.

"He's not the same," said Mary Duval, a straight-talker who has become a full-time activist to reform sex offender legislation since her son's conviction.

"I used to get a kick out of Ricky," she added. "He was so fun-loving and just full of life. I mean, there's no other word. Ricky was full of life and now he's definitely more cautious, more reserved."

Now 20, Blackman tenses up when he sees children at a supermarket and avoids talking to girls his age, even if they initiate contact, his mother says.

"I got a lot more fear in me, I mean, because anything could happen," Blackman said. "Say you're on the registry, and you're in the mall and a kid comes up missing. Well, guess what? You're the first person they're going to because you're on the sex offender registry."

Blackman lived with the "sex offender" label for nearly four years, until a law that took effect in Oklahoma in November removed his name from the registry.

His soft-spoken, reserved manner belies Blackman's hulking physical presence -- a reminder of his days as a high school athlete. On a sunny afternoon in December, he met a CNN reporter in the parking lot of the Stilwell Public Library, arm-in-arm with his mother, who is blind.

As he told his story, Blackman cast furtive glances at each passing car and sized up every person entering the library as if to ensure no one was after him. It was his first time at the library since 2006, when he moved back to his hometown. Though free of the scarlet letter that changed his life, he still feels the stigma of one of the country's most reviled labels.

It was all but impossible to independently verify details of Blackman's case. Prosecutors did not return repeated phone calls for comment, and efforts to check court files with Iowa's Fifth Judicial District were also unsuccessful because Blackman's record has been expunged.

But Blackman tells it this way: It all began when he met a girl at a teen club in Des Moines. They hit it off and started dating. He was 16 and thought she was 15.

When the girl ran away from home, police came looking for Blackman, who says he admitted to having sex with her twice. That's when police told him she was really 13, he says. Two weeks later, police returned to his home and arrested him.

Blackman pleaded guilty to one count of sexual abuse for having sex with the 13-year-old. The age of consent in Iowa is 14.

Taking into account the circumstances of the case, an Iowa judge accepted Blackman's plea and ordered that his record be expunged if he successfully completed probation and sex offender treatment. At that time, his name would be removed from Iowa's sex offender registry.

After his conviction, Blackman's family moved to Oklahoma to get a fresh start. He finished his probation and sex offender treatment, and his record in Iowa was expunged in October 2008, according to court documents.

But the action did not carry over to Oklahoma, where Blackman continued to be listed on that state's sex offender registry. The stigma followed him to his new home and the harassment continued, the family said.

A neighbor who found out he was on the registry videotaped him when he went outside, Blackman said. His picture and address were posted on a vigilante Web site, and a gas station attendant refused to sell him cigarettes, one time taking his license and throwing it across the store.

To comply with state residency restrictions that prevent registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or day care center, the family moved onto a small plot of land in the rural southeastern Oklahoma community of Stilwell, population 3,500.

The back door of the single-wide trailer faces the forest, a fact that Blackman's mother finds comforting should her sons ever need to escape a vigilante attack.

"Does it sound crazy? Yes. But knowing that my boys will have a few extra seconds to get out of the house and slip into darkness if someone ever comes provides some measure of comfort," Duval said.

Having a son on the registry also made a lasting impression on his mother. She now devotes most of her time to reforming sex offender legislation --specifically, the registry -- as chief operating officer of Sex Offender Solutions And Education Network.

"What keeps me going? My anger, my guilt," she said. "My ignorance is why Ricky's on this registry, or was on this registry. I didn't know the law. I didn't know how to protect my son when he talked to those cops. I just sat there thinking the truth will set him free. And that's what got Ricky convicted, the truth."

Blackman's story comes at a time of increased push-back against sex offender policies that some see as overly broad.

Many states have been resisting toughening their sex offender policies. Only one state, Ohio, has complied with the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, which lists sex offenders as young as 14 on a uniform registry.

In Georgia, the Southern Center for Human Rights is challenging a state law prohibiting sex offenders from living and working within 1,000 feet of a school, church or day care. Georgia's laws go so far as to ban sex offenders from living near bus stops. The case is still pending.

Last summer, the American Civil Liberties Union (Contact) filed a lawsuit against Miami-Dade County, alleging the county's 2,500-foot residency restriction interfered with Florida's ability to monitor and supervise released offenders. With nowhere to live, dozens of homeless sex offenders clustered under the Julia Tuttle Causeway. The lawsuit was dismissed in September 2009.

Meanwhile, Blackman was just trying to graduate from high school. He attempted to enroll but was told that he was considered a danger to the rest of the students. He couldn't take GED classes at the vocational school in town because of an on-campus day care center.

His mother persuaded the school board to provide him with a tutor and private classes at the local police department, under the supervision of an officer.

Finding a job presented its own challenges. He says he was turned down by Wal-Mart, McDonald's and another fast food outlet that told him he was considered a liability. He spent most days at home learning to build Web sites and helping his mother and brother.

Due in large part to the efforts of his mother, the Oklahoma Legislature last year passed the law that makes expungements of certain sex offenses in other jurisdictions applicable in Oklahoma.

Blackman traded in his driver's license for one that does not label him a sex offender, and has since returned to the mall and a movie theater.

"I know what I did was wrong and I deserved to be punished for it. But this destroyed my life. Took it away from me," he said. "You never forget about it. I know I'm off the registry but it's taking a long time for it to settle in."

In November, Blackman received a letter from the Oklahoma Board of Probation and Parole. It said he had been removed from the state's sex offender registry, where he had been designated the highest level of risk possible.

His return to a "normal" life has been slow. He still is reluctant to go to his brother's football games, and the thought of going to places where children convene makes him nervous.

"I know I'm off the registry but others may not know," he said. "I don't want to go somewhere and cause a scene 'cause people may not know that I'm allowed to be there and get upset."

But he is making progress. He has opened up to friends and relatives outside his immediate family. He married a 19-year-old childhood friend after he completed probation in September.

As a Christmas gift to her, Blackman made his way to the Stilwell High School Fine Arts Winter Celebration, where his wife sang in the choir.

Walking arm-in-arm with his mother into a building from which he once had been banned, he slowly made his way up the gymnasium's bleachers. From his seat in the fifth row next to relatives, Blackman trained his eyes on people entering the gymnasium, cautiously returning a wave or smile from an acquaintance.

How did he feel? "Nervous," he said. "It's still new to me."

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NY - Sex Offender Residency Law Rescinded

Original Article
Related Article

02/10/2010

By Jeevan Vittal

WATKINS GLEN -- The Schuyler County Legislature met this evening and voted to rescind a major sex offender law, following a State Supreme Court ruling.

The law in question is the county's sex offender residency law.

But tonight, the law was deemed unenforceable and is effectively wiped off the books.

Legislators first passed the law in December 2008.

It prohibited all level 2 and level 3 sex offenders from living within 500 feet of a school, playground or daycare center.

However, a Montour Falls couple filed a lawsuit challenging the county, after they say police told them to move because of their proximity to a playground.

The husband and wife were both convicted of being sex offenders in Florida, before moving to the Southern Tier.

County Legislators now say their hands are tied.

James Coleman, Schuyler County Attorney says, “the combined opinion of four New York state courts thus far is this is an area for exclusive state regulation and not local law passage.” Tim O'Hearn, Schuyler County’s Administrator says, “the state has deemed that sufficient. The county, while not necessarily agreeing with that is not inclined to pursue it at this time.”

The State Supreme Court has overturned similar laws in three other New York counties.

Right now, the legislature has no plans to fight the ruling.

The lawyer for the couple did not return our calls for comment.

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"The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly." - Abraham Lincoln