Thursday, March 18, 2010

Feds flock to social networking sites (Nothing better to do, they troll for so called "predators!")

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"The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly."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


MD - Legislature abandons reason, good manners in rush to pass sex offender bills

Original Article

03/18/2010

By Brenda Jones

I was shocked at the disregard and outright rudeness shown to members of our group as we stood before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on March 16 to oppose many bills (especially HB936/SB854 and HB736/SB434) aimed at sex offenders, with no real consideration for the lives of the vast majority of victims, and certainly none for the vast majority of nonviolent, low-risk offenders.

Members of the committee pointedly got up and walked out when we spoke. They made disparaging remarks and spouted hearsay as if it were evidence. We citizens, as well as many well-spoken professionals, presented the committee with solid facts and dire warnings about what has happened in other states with similar laws. We stressed that all of us agree that dangerous, repeat offenders (aka predators) should be locked up for life. But fewer than 3 percent of all offenders fit this category! These laws would indiscriminately scoop up children sending "dirty" pictures to each other, consensual lovers who are too far apart in age, flashers, child porn possessors (yep, even accidental,) and guys with vindictive ex-wives.

We presented the same facts in the House Judiciary Committee on February 23. Fewer Delegates were openly rude -- but they weren't listening, either. The amended bills they have passed are actually worse than the originals!

Both committees heard over and over again how public registration has failed to prevent a single predatory offense in any state using it. How the common misperceptions that "sex offenders" are incurable, guaranteed to reoffend, and always getting worse, are totally not backed up by any reliable research that has been done in the past 20 years. How people who committed an offense several decades ago, and have been law-abiding, productive citizens ever since, will find themselves placed on this public registry.

I can promise you, delegates and senators, that the whole state of Maryland will regret the day you vote these bills into law. Our children will continue to be raped and molested (mostly within their own homes, by people who have never been on the public registry), our citizens will continue to live their lives in fear (because they erroneously think they are surrounded by predators), and our state will discover, to its eternal shame, the incredible toll in human lives these bills will ultimately take.

You will see, to your regret, that we were right about the astronomical budget it will take to implement -- and defend -- these totally ineffective laws. The thousands of formerly law-abiding, free citizens who suddenly find their lives completely destroyed by a public registry are going to sue you for damages and fight until their cases reach the highest courts and these laws are struck down. They are heinous, unconstitutional, and protect no one.

Senators, delegates, we have made every attempt to appeal to reason. There will be absolutely no joy in saying "We told you so!" Instead, we will be weeping beside you.

Brenda Jones

The writer is coordinator of Families Advocating for Intelligent Registries.


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


GA - Sex-offender law on its way to near-total rewrite

Original Article

03/18/2010

By Scott Henry

Four nearly four years, we’ve been bashing Georgia’s current sex-offender law as draconian; practically unenforceable; counter-productive; and patently unfair under any yardstick you care to use. (For more details, check out my July 2006 cover story.)

Since then, various courts — both federal and state, including the Georgia Supreme Court — have blocked or stuck down portions of the law as unconstitutional, such as a measure to prohibit registered sex offenders from living near school bus stops and a provision that criminalized homelessness.

And yet, the law’s most destructive aspect has been left unchanged: that it provides for no meaningful distinction between a serial child molester and a teen convicted of having sex with an underage girlfriend (or boyfriend). In some baffling cases, people convicted of non-sex-related crimes have ended up on the registry, where they have to meet the same requirements as rapists.

In addition, the law doesn’t allow judges to decide whether a particular offender poses a legitimate threat to the community, even if he’s an 80-year-old former peeping tom who’s confined to a wheelchair.

All of this appears about to change. Before the current legislative session began, new-elected House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, took up the reform of the sex-offender law as his personal cause. As the former chairman of the House Non-Civil Judiciary Committee, Ralston was well aware of the law’s shortcomings and his House Bill 571 represents a near-total overhaul.

Over the past few weeks, Ralston’s bill has only gotten stronger, thanks to sensible tweaks and amendments. The version that passed the House on Tuesday on a 165-1 vote (yes, the one naysayer was Rep. Bobby Franklin, R-Nutjob) would mark a return to sanity for Georgia.

Among HB 571’s many fixes:
  • Judges would have the discretion to exempt some registered sex offenders from restrictions on where they’re allowed to work.
  • Sex offenders would no longer be forced from their homes or apartments if a park or daycare opened nearby.
  • Sex offenders would no longer be prohibited from taking part in such church activities as choir and Bible study.
  • Homeless sex offenders would no longer risk prison for failing to have a fixed address.
  • Sex offenders could petition to be released from the registry if their conviction was for a non-sexual crime; if they were determined to be of low risk to the public; or if they’ve successfully completed their sentence.
  • The punishment for failing to register an address would be reduced from a mandatory 10-year prison term to one year for first-time offenders.
  • One could no longer be added to the sex-offender registry for a misdemeanor.

And so forth. As we said, the bill has already passed the House with no real opposition, so what could go wrong now? Well, HB 571 next goes to Senate Judiciary, whose chairman, Sen. Preston Smith (Email), has been on a law-and-order tear this session. Also, with Speaker Ralston as its author, the bill would make for a no-brainer bargaining chip if the Senate wanted to apply leverage on the House for some reason.

Are we implying that a reasonable and overdue piece of legislation stands a chance of being derailed for crass political motives? Say it ain’t so!

(Photo courtesy of the Southern Center for Human Rights)

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


OH - Court: New sex offenders may avert notification

Original Article

03/18/2010

By JULIE CARR SMYTH

COLUMBUS - The Ohio Supreme Court has delivered a setback to efforts by state lawmakers to apply the tough new sex offender notification requirements laid out in the federal Adam Walsh Act.

Lawmakers had intended for communities to be notified every time a sex offender in the most severe category began living, working or going to school in their neighborhoods. But the high court found that the state law's language conflicts with that intention.

In a unanimous decision (Or Here) Thursday, the court ruled that sex offenders classified in the most dangerous category after the law took effect Jan. 1, 2008, can still avoid the new community reporting requirements under exceptions similar to those in Ohio's old law.

A state lawmaker says he will draft a bill to fix the problem.

Ohio was the first state to put substantially in place the sex offender registration and notification system required by the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006. In June, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. (Contact) gave states and American Indian tribes another year to meet the requirements after complaints about the cost and work involved in implementation.

In the Ohio high court's majority opinion, Justice Robert Cupp agreed with lower courts that the wording of the law was clear in allowing the exceptions to community reporting to continue to apply.

The case involved _____, who pleaded guilty in Lorain County in July 2008 to rape and gross sexual imposition. After a hearing, a trial court decided he was unlikely to commit future sexually oriented offenses and could therefore be exempted from ongoing community notification requirements.

The 9th District Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision that _____ was eligible for the exemption even though he'd been classified asa Tier III sex offender, the most serious category, after the new law's tougher notification standards took effect.

Cupp noted the Ohio law was written in the present tense when discussing procedures for determining exemptions, so clearly was intended to apply to current and future offenders — not just those convicted before 2008, as the state argued.

John M. Prusak, _____'s lawyer, said it is unclear how many future cases will be affected by the decision. The ruling leaves it up to a trial court's discretion whether a newly classified sex offender's whereabouts will be provided to neighbors, schools and certain volunteer organizations and businesses as provided by the new law, he said.

"The way the state of Ohio was arguing, it was that if you're a Tier III sex offender you're automatically having community notification; there's no discretion whatsoever," Prusak said. "But it's not like they just left out a word or so. The way the entire statute is written, it's giving the trial court that discretion."

Sen. Tim Grendell (Email), chairman of the Judiciary Committee on Criminal Justice, said Thursday he'll introduce a bill to fix the offending language.

"Apparently the Supreme Court doesn't think we've got it artfully written," he said, noting that the bill closely mirrors Adam Walsh Act provisions.

Grendell, a Chester Township Republican, said lawmakers were trying to avoid adjusting criminal penalties for past acts in order to protect offenders' constitutional rights. Ohio's constitution prohibits making retroactive laws.

Deborah Donovan Rice, executive director of Stop It Now, a child sexual abuse prevention group, said the ruling reinforces her organization's efforts to take people's focus off relying on registration and notification for their safety and learning techniques to stop violence before it happens.


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


MD - Sex Offender Legislation

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


RI - Police officer (Marcus Huffman) to stand trial on rape charge

Original Article

03/17/2010

By ERIC TUCKER

PROVIDENCE – A Providence police officer accused of raping a woman in a deserted police substation and then showing up to take a report after she called 911 heads to trial this week at an already difficult time for the department.

Marcus Huffman faces charges of first-degree sexual assault. Opening statements are scheduled for Thursday morning in Providence Superior Court, and the trial is expected to take a couple of weeks.

Prosecutors say Huffman was on patrol in March 2007 when he offered a ride home to a 19-year-old woman who had been turned away from a club because she appeared intoxicated. He allegedly drove the woman to an abandoned police substation and is accused of raping her there.

Prosecutors have said they have a video showing Huffman entering the substation with the woman, then leaving separately before she did, and that they have recovered Huffman's semen from the woman's boxer shorts.

He was also allegedly one of three officers who responded to take a report after the woman called 911 from a relative's house.

Huffman has been suspended without pay, according to a department spokesman.

Huffman declined to comment in court this week and his lawyer, Robert Caron, has not returned repeated phone calls seeking comment. His former lawyer said at the time of Huffman's indictment that there was no direct evidence of a sexual assault.

The trial opens against the backdrop of pending criminal charges against a handful of other members of the police force.

One officer, Robert DeCarlo, pleaded not guilty last month to charges of beating a restrained man with a flashlight, and three other officers — including a narcotics detective, a school resource officer and a former driver for Mayor David Cicilline — were arrested two weeks ago for allegedly participating in a cocaine-dealing operation.

Those officers have not entered pleas yet.

State police say that investigation, called Operation Deception, is continuing and that more arrests are expected.

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