Thursday, April 1, 2010
By Matthew Reichbach
A Second District Court Judge ruled today that Albuquerque’s regulation banning sex offenders from libraries is unconstitutional. The law would create “an unacceptable risk of the suppression of ideas” and infringe upon the First Amendment rights of the sex offenders.
The ACLU of New Mexico (ACLU-NM) challenged the law and praised the decision by Judge Christina Armijo.
“No one questions the City’s purpose of ensuring public safety, but this regulation sacrificed library access for too many people who present no threat to library goers,” said ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson in a statement following the ruling. “A regulation like this must be narrowly tailored if it is going to infringe on a right as fundamental as the public’s ability to receive information. For many people, public libraries are, as one court put it, ‘the quintessential locus of the receipt of information.’”
The ruling enjoins, or prohibits, the city of Albuquerque from enforcing the regulation.
The ACLU highlighted a part of Trujillo’s decision:
“This Court has struggled in this case to strike the proper legal balance between competing interests… On one side of the equation here is the City, which no reasonable person could or would contend does not have a legitimate and compelling interest in…protecting children from harm, danger and crime, especially crimes of a sexual nature. On the other side of the equation is a group of individuals that, no matter how reviled, nevertheless possesses certain constitutional rights. When those rights are burdened or, in this case, wholly extinguished by an action of government, this Court has an obligation to scrutinize the facts and the law closely, carefully, and objectively to ensure that, whatever the end result, it is just. In this case, having done just this, the Court concludes that the City’s regulation, as currently written and in its present form, cannot stand.”
Former mayor Martin Chavez created the regulation in 2008 with an executive order.
By Andy Green
The kidnapping and killing in December of 11-year-old Eastern Shore girl Sarah Foxwell was horrible enough by itself to spur Maryland’s lawmakers to action — the man accused of the crime had been convicted of a series of sex crimes against girls and young women but had always eluded serious jail time. Throw in the fact that the crime occurred just before the General Assembly returned to Annapolis for an election-year session, and it’s no surprise that more than 75 bills to crack down on sex offenders were introduced this year. With few people willing to stick up for sex offenders, the risk appeared to be not that the legislature would fail to act but that it might go too far.
But a curious thing happened in Annapolis this year. For the first time in the several years that the legislature has been working to tighten sex offender laws, a vocal group of people — often family and friends of people who have been caught up in sex offender registries — began to push back. They said that people who are listed as sex offenders are not all created equal and that many regret their crimes and have gone on to law-abiding lives but live in fear that neighbors or employers will find out about their past. In particular, the legislature faced resistance to the idea that new reporting requirements for sex offenders would be applied retroactively and stigmatize people who pose no threat to the community. Sex offender laws should be more narrowly crafted, they argued, to target the most serious, violent, repeat offenders, not those who committed relatively minor offenses many years ago.
To a remarkable degree, the package of legislation approved by the House of Delegates accomplishes that.
Combining bills offered by Gov. Martin O’Malley (Contact) with others sponsored by lawmakers from both parties, the legislation would expand registration to include some non-violent offenses, but it changes the state’s registry to make it easier for citizens to get a true picture of the risk posed by those who are listed. It would adopt a new federal standard to list offenders in three tiers depending on the severity of their offenses and would include a plain-language description of the crimes. The amount of information the state would collect would expand, but it would be easier for citizens to make sense of it.
The package of legislation, some of which is still pending in the Senate, also calls for the creation of a juvenile sex offender registry, which would be available only to law enforcement officials.
What’s particularly important about the proposed system is that it is a first step toward national standardization of how sex offenders are tracked. In the case of Sarah Foxwell, the most serious offenses committed by Thomas J. Leggs Jr., the man charged in her murder, were committed in Delaware. Mr. Leggs was listed as a sex offender in Maryland, but in Delaware, where he had pleaded guilty to raping a minor in 2001, he was deemed "high risk." If this new law is enacted and other states follow the federal guidelines, offenders won’t be able to shop around for the least restrictive states, and if an offender moves, his new state will know immediately how to classify him.
Other legislation might also have led to more restrictions for Mr. Leggs. One bill would expand the circumstances in which evidence of past sex crimes could be brought up as evidence at trial. In Mr. Leggs’ case, they were not, which might help explain why he was frequently able to plead to lesser offenses and avoid serious jail time.
Another O’Malley administration bill calls for lifetime supervision of serious repeat sexual offenders. They would be required to accept measures such as GPS monitoring and polygraph tests, measures that have proven effective in all but eliminating recidivism. In addition, legislation approved by the House would eliminate good behavior credits for serious sex offenders; require a judge, instead of a district court commissioner, to decide whether a sex offender should be eligible for pre-trial release; and increase the mandatory minimum penalty for second-degree rape or second-degree sexual offense against a child younger than 13 from 5 years to 15 years. A Senate version of the legislation would increase the minimum to 20 years.
- GPS may deter some, but if a person is truly dangerous, then GPS won't stop them from committing another crime.
The cautionary note about all this legislation is that it is only as good as the administration’s execution of it. Tougher sex offender laws passed during a special legislative session in 2006 was essentially forgotten. A sex offense advisory panel never met, and legislation requiring extended supervision of some offenders was never used. The O’Malley administration says both bills were flawed, and new legislation moving through the General Assembly fixes and expands those laws. But if those laws were unworkable or potentially unconstitutional, it should not have taken four years for the administration to do something about it. Our leaders need to be held accountable to make sure they don’t just pass laws to look tough on sex offenders but that they actually do something about it.
Video is available at the link above.
By Christina Vaughn
Fargo - When it comes to housing for sex offenders in Fargo, nowhere is off limits. Offenders can live anywhere, right across from a school, a city park, or a swimming pool. City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn (Email) is spear-heading an idea to change that, and restrict where sex offenders can live.
Fargo City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn has a message, and it's crystal clear.
“If you're a convicted sex offender, you're not welcome. I think that's not a bad thing.”
Piepkorn wants to restrict where sex offenders can live, meaning there would be a 12-hundred foot buffer zone between them, and any playground, swimming pool, or school; roughly 3 city blocks. He understands the idea may sound harsh, but he says when people consider chances of re-offending, to him, it's the best way to protect vulnerable children.
- What chances of re-offending? Sex offenders have the second lowest recidivism rate of all criminals, except murderers.
“We should make it difficult, that's part of the consequence of being convicted is, you might have trouble finding housing. That's one of the consequences of breaking the law.”
- So what about all other criminals who harm children? Like murderers, gang members, drug dealers, DUI offenders, abusive parents, abusive nannies, etc?
Fargo police Chief Keith Ternes does think improvements need to be made, but he worries that restricting housing for sex offenders may lull the city in to a false sense of security.
“It is because the offenders are still mobile. There's nothing that prohibits them from going to the park, or the swimming pool, or the playground, they just simply can't live there.”
Right now, all 155 offenders living in Fargo at least have a place to stay, and police are able to keep an eye on them. Ternes ideally, restricting housing sounds like a good plan, but he thinks in the end, it could cause the city unexpected problems.
- And if this law is passed, then most will become homeless, which is even more dangerous!
“Sooner or later what begins to happen is that they begin to fail to register with law enforcement.”
For now, the idea is still in the preliminary stages, and Piepkorn says there are a lot of issues to work out.
“We don't want to end up having the city basically being off limits where there's no place, because that's not fair either.”
- And neither is adding ex post facto punishment, that is unconstitutional, and you took an oath to defend the constitution, which you apparently are not doing!
His concern is maintaining the safe environment here in Fargo. Piepkorn and Ternes plan to meet in another two weeks with the city attorney and a city planner to discuss more details.
By Gordon Robertson
TWO lifelong friends have spoken of their living hell after being falsely accused of rape.
Close pals _____ and _____ from Airdrie had their names cleared when they were acquitted at the High Court in Falkirk earlier this month.
It took a jury just one hour to find them not guilty of the unfounded accusations that were first made in March last year.
But for the two young men the torment they have gone through will take much longer to pass.
Speaking to the Advertiser yesterday, _____ (22), from Gartness, said: “This has been the worst thing that has ever happened to me."
“It has been terrible to live through this and I want people to know that the court found us not guilty and we would never do anything like that."
“Our friends and family stuck by us and knew we were innocent, although we found out who our real friends are. It felt absolutely amazing when the verdict was given but the whole ordeal has had a terrible impact on our lives."
“Both of us are going to counselling to cope with what happened.”
_____, who was arrested at his workplace, said: “I have found this whole thing impossible to deal with."
“I hardly knew this woman who accused me of raping her but she has ruined my life."
“For an innocent man to be branded a rapist is the worst thing that could happen to anyone.”
Both _____ and _____ were invited back to the woman’s house in the Gartlea area of Airdrie after a night out in Glasgow.
The next day, _____ went to work but his nightmare began when CID officers turned up later at his home to arrest him.
The innocent men were charged and remanded to Addiewell prison.
When cons at the West Lothian jail found out what they were accused of, it became clear their lives were in danger.
_____ said: “They set fire to paper and tried to push it under the door, urinated through the door and threw boiling water at us."
“At one point we were attacked as 30 prison officers tried to get us back to our cell."
“A mini riot broke out. It was terrifying.”
While _____ was released from Addiewell after 10 days, _____ spent a YEAR in prison on remand.
He was moved to Barlinnie and shared a prison block with some of the country’s worst sex offenders including members of Scotland’s worst-ever paedophile ring.
At one point he was the only remand prisoner in there and struggled to cope.
He said: “There was one guy who had been convicted of a similar charge to the one I faced but was appealing it."
“If it hadn’t been for him I don’t think I would have coped."
“We looked out for each other and I helped him with his appeal."
“It is hard to put it behind you but I am trying. I would like to thank all those people who didn’t doubt our innocence."
“And I would also like to thank Bob Cochrane and the fellowship group at Barlinnie for the help they gave me.”
By McKeed Kotlolo
Accused student cops released
A 16-YEAR-OLD girl who laid false kidnapping and rape charges against two student police constables in Piet Retief and later changed her statement has been arrested and charged with perjury.
The teenager allegedly pointed out constables _____, 32, and _____, 21, attached to the Piet Retief police station, at an identification parade last Wednesday as the people who kidnapped and raped her in February.
The two were immediately arrested and appeared in court on Friday and their case was postponed to today for formal bail application.
Captain Leonard Hlathi said the complainant lied about having been kidnapped and raped by the constables.
As a result, “Piet Retief police charged her with perjury yesterday,” said Hlathi
Hlathi said she initially claimed that the two constables kidnapped her on the evening of February 27 and locked her inside a disused government mortuary near the police station and left.
“They apparently returned late at night and raped her,” she claimed.
On Monday she approached the police saying “she pointed out wrong members and that wrong people have been arrested."
She submitted a supplementary statement and based on its contents, the two constables were taken to court the same day and the charges against them were withdrawn.
He also said the case was only reported two days after the alleged incident, making it difficult for the district surgeon to determine if indeed she had been raped.
He added that the doctor also found that the teenager was already sexually active.
Hlathi said she apparently came up with the false allegations against the two when her parents questioned her about where she spent the night of February 27.
Sounds like illegal surveillance to me.
Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department shares an inside look to how some registered sex offenders are tracked by the use of surveillance cameras around the county.
Deputies say many times offenders don't tell the truth about where they're living. They'll report one address but actually live at another, which is illegal.
Deputies say they then get permission from neighbors, landlords, or business owners to put up cameras to see if they can spot an offender. Detectives will go back and watch the footage and have warrants written based on not seeing an offender at home.
The cameras can end up in different places. BCSO Detective Pat Burke says even a bush or a tree can be used for surveillance.
Deputies say in one example, cameras were put in a pet cemetery to make sure a homeless offender was living there as he reported. The cameras ended up spotting him there.
The cameras were paid for by a Federal Department of Justice grant.
BCSO wouldn’t say how many cameras are up, but confirm at least eight are somewhere in the county.