Thursday, August 5, 2010

When Will It Become Illegal to Take ANY Photos of Kids?

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CO - Registered sex offender found working at Westminster Walmart

Original Article


By Heidi Hemmat

WESTMINSTER - He's a registered sex offender. So how did he pass the background check at a Walmart in Westminster?

That's the question Walmart officials are trying to answer after a FOX31 News investigation found a 19-year-old who has been convicted of sexual assault on a child was working in a place packed with children.

He might still be a Walmart employee, if his victim's mother hadn't caught him there.

"How many kids have gone through that (store)? How many people don't know he is a registered sex offender?" that mother asks. Her daughter was only 4-years-old when she was molested by the 19-year-old, who was eleven at the time and the son of her father's girlfriend.

"(The nurse) told me there's nothing that wasn't done to her," The victim's mother told us. "She was still red and inflamed and had to be sedated."

The 11-year-old was charged as juvenile and convicted of "sexual assault on a child."

The crime happened 8 years ago, but the rush of emotion and anger all came flooding back when that mother saw the now-19-year-old sex offender working at the local Walmart.

"I thought Walmart doesn't hire sex offenders," she said.

She immediately notified the store manager.

A Walmart spokesperson says the employee no longer works at the store. He told us Walmart does background checks on their employees, but because juvenile records are protected under Colorado law, his background check came back clean.

Still, when we did a background check through the "Colorado Bureau of Investigations," it did not list his specific crime but it did show he is a registered sex offender.

Walmart is now investigating why their background check -performed by a private company- did not reveal that information.

When we tracked down the 19-year-old, he admitted he did not tell Walmart about his sex offender status. He also told us he deserves a second chance and claims he "didn't do anything wrong."

Former prosecutor and juvenile defense attorney Karen Steinhauser says the law believes in second chances too.

That's why juvenile records are not available to the public.

"We want to help these kids, rehabilitate them so that hopefully we will never see them again as adult offenders," Steinhauser said.

Still, Steinhauser believes all employers have a responsibility to do more than just a background check, but also check the sex offender registry before hiring an employee who could be around children.

The sex offender registry is available through the Department of Human Services.

The victim's mother wants to see employers do more to protect the public, so that another child doesn't end up living with the consequences.

FOX31 is not identifying the victim's mother or the suspect to protect the victim in this case.

OR - No easy answers - Residents object to sex offenders as neighbors, but what is the alternative?

Original Article


Residents of Ashland's Quiet Village neighborhood are making noise about convicted sex offenders living among them, and it's hard to blame them. But there is a larger issue here, one that raises questions about how our communities deal with those who break the rules.

Sexual abuse is a frightening topic, and movies, books and television shows can make it seem there is a rapist lurking behind every bush.

Consider the primary objection from the Quiet Village neighbors: Our children are at risk.

The statistics about child sexual abuse — a specific category of sexual offenses in general — are clear: Between 30 percent and 40 percent of child victims are abused by a family member. Half are victimized by someone they know. Children abused by a stranger amount to 10 percent of all victims.

According to the U.S. Justice Department, 5.3 percent of convicted sex offenders commit another sex crime after being released from prison — lower than the rates for selling drugs and burglary.

What's more, the three men living in the home in Quiet Village are not classified as predatory offenders. If they were, the law would have required police to notify neighbors that they were there.

Eugene Haag, the owner of the home where the men live, is a regional chaplain for the Oregon Department of Corrections. He has rented rooms in his home to sex offenders and others on parole for 36 years, and he says no resident has ever committed a crime while living there.

Haag says he rents to offenders to give them a place to live and to help them avoid repeating their crimes. He says further that he has no intention of changing his rental policy.

Haag has a point when he asks where offenders are supposed to live. The worst situation for anyone released from prison is to be homeless, living on the street exposed to active criminals who are not behind bars.

If these men should not live in Quiet Village, where do the neighbors suggest they go? Some other neighborhood in Ashland? Some neighborhood in Medford? Talent? Phoenix? And who gets to decide?

Residents are entitled to be concerned about the security of their neighborhoods and the safety of their children. But so are the residents of every community in Jackson County.

Some Quiet Village residents who attended a public meeting about the issue Monday night said they plan to ask lawmakers to toughen sex-offender laws. That's an appropriate step if you are convinced the current laws are inadequate.

But unless Oregon decides to impose a life sentence for every sex crime, similar situations eventually will occur. Then what?