Wednesday, October 27, 2010

MO - Sex Offender Speaks Out About Change in Halloween Law

Original Article

10/27/2010

By Joanna Small

Missouri's law no longer applies to everyone, and one man tells us it's a small victory. Others say it is a major concern.

Changes to a relatively new law are in place. For the past two years Missouri law has restricted all sex offenders from participating in Halloween activities. Now only those convicted after the law went into effect will have to abide by it.

It's only been on the books since August 28, 2008. There are about 850 registered sex offenders in Greene County alone, and between 20 and 30 were convicted after that date. The rest now have a legal right to their Halloween.

"Mine and her situation was a one-night stand where she lied about her age."

For [name withheld] that situation resulted in a child, a more than six and a half year prison term, three years of parole, and a lifetime on Missouri's sex offender registry.

"People need to leave us alone and let us get on with our lives."

Not to mention a permanently tainted resume and isolation from his family.

On Halloween, [name withheld]- convicted of aggravated indecent liberties with a 15-year-old girl at age 20- planned not to be home.

"That way I'm not here to keep my family from passing out candy," he explains.

But plans, like laws, change. He was convicted in 2001, seven years before Missouri's sex offender Halloween law took effect.

The law no longer applies to people like [name withheld] so on Halloween night he has every right to pass out candy, but that doesn't mean that everybody's happy about it.

"Well my first thought is my grandkid," says Jeff Stevens.

The grandfather doesn't agree with grandfathering in. He lives near [name withheld] and says the law should be universal, regardless of when the offense was committed and what it was.
- I disagree, that would be against the Constitutions ex post facto clause.

"A sex offense is a sex offense; I don't care what it is. I mean if it's your wife, a 4-year-old, it doesn't matter," says Stevens.

Other neighbors say it does.

"If you have a younger girlfriend that's not being a sex offender."

Jackie Loftin says she wishes the law only applied to some sex offenses. But because it doesn't and now excludes the bulk of all offenders, she says parental policing is more important than ever.

"If you have a child you have a big personal responsibility to know where that child is going and if they're safe," explains Loftin.
- Even without the laws, that is your personal responsibility as a parent, otherwise, don't have kids!

[name withheld] says he's never posed any kind of safety risk to children, and he plans to- legally- prove it.

"If I have my way about it I will pass out candy," he concludes.

In Missouri sex offenders have to register with the county they live in every three months for the rest of their lives.

[name withheld] committed his offense in Kansas. It's been ten years and he no longer has to register there. He hopes to move back after winning custody of his son.


Antoine Dodson's Disinformation Commercial About Sex Offender Tracker

Original Article
Halloween Sex Offender App Fuels False Fears
See Additional Comments Here

Click the "Halloween" label (link) above to see more hysteria!

10/26/2010

Background check company BeenVerified has found an inventive way to bring attention to its snoopy services. As my colleague Brian Caulfield noted, the company has hired Antoine Dodson (of Bed Intruder fame) to help pitch the company’s latest product, a “Sex Offender Tracker” application for iPhones and Androids.

Unfortunately, Dodson’s pitch, while amusing, is extremely misleading.

In the video, Dodson says you won’t have to hide your kids, wives, and husbands anymore because of the “revolutionary sex offender app,” priced at just $1.99. After watching the pitch, you’d think the app would tell you if a potential “bed intruder” were sitting next to you in the park. The video has a demonstration of the “actual app in use” at a playground, where it shows a cluster of red dots moving around — indicating that a bunch of registered sex offenders are lurking hoping to share a swing set with your kid. That made me suspicious: did this company really get permission to access GPS information for tracking bracelets worn by sex offenders (not all of whom are actually required to wear them)?

Dodson says, “If you don’t download this app, you are dumb, you are really dumb. For real.” The actual dumb ones are those who believe his pitch.

All the app actually does is tap into info in the National Sex Offender Registry and map the results.

The app uses publicly available addresses for registered sex offenders. It takes those addresses and displays them using augmented reality which is a live physical view of the world overlaid with graphics,” Ross Cohen, business development director for BeenVerified told me. “It does not show sex offenders walking around you.”

The video, though, does make it seem like the app is going show you more than where convicted sex offenders live. “You can use it in the ‘hood, in the park, at your Grandma’s house, on a plane, in the rain, it does not matter, the tracker works anywhere,” says Dodson, saying it’s “augmented reality.” In fact, it’s not going to do much for you on a plane unless your Boeing 747 is parked in the middle of a suburban neighborhood.

The misleading pitch led Mathew Ingram at GigaOm to ask whether the app is a futuristic invasion of privacy. “Do we really want apps that can pull up a person’s criminal history and other details about his or her life and show it to us in real-time as we watch them walk down the street?” asked Ingram.

Whether we want that or not, it’s not what this app is going to do. It’s simply mining an existing publicly-available database and re-purposing it visually. It’s like Google maps for sexual deviants.

And it’s not revolutionary or novel. TechCrunch wrote last year that a similar app by ThinAir Wireless was a top 10 seller in the iPhone store.

Watch the video for yourself to determine whether it’s misleading:


UK - Milford Haven sex sentence doubled day before release (Double Jeopardy?)

Original Article

I know this is the UK, but do they not have double jeopardy laws?

10/27/2010

A man who carried out a series of sex attacks on young girls in Pembrokeshire during the 1980s has had his prison sentence more than doubled.

[name withheld], 63, was due to be released on Thursday after being jailed for a year.

But Attorney General, Dominic Grieve felt the sentence was too short and referred the case to the Appeal Court.

Three judges agreed and increased his sentence to two-and-a-half years, so he will spend another year in jail.

[name withheld] was originally sentenced by a judge in Swansea Crown Court in August after he was found guilty of a spate of sexual assaults on girls under 16.

The court heard [name withheld], who was in his 30s at the time, had targeted two young girls.

The victims, now women in the 30s and 40s, contacted police in 2008 and [name withheld], a retired scaffolder, was arrested later that year.

He denied his victims' accusations, and continues to claim he was wrongly convicted.

Unduly lenient

The appeal court heard one of [name withheld]'s victims said he had "destroyed her life".

The other woman said she had difficulty forming relationships because of what he did to her, and had been left with anger management problems.

Crispin Aylett, representing Mr Grieve, told the court the maximum sentence for the offences was five years and [name withheld]'s 12-month term was "unduly lenient".

He said the crimes were particularly grave because the "pattern of offending" got more serious as [name withheld] "gained confidence".

Dyfed Thomas, representing [name withheld], said the sentence was lenient, but not unduly so, considering the amount of time that had passed since the offences, and [name withheld]'s previous good character.

Lord Justice Hooper, sitting with Mrs Justice Rafferty and Mrs Justice Dobbs, criticised the delays in bringing [name withheld] to justice once the victims had contacted the police.

"This was a simple case, and for the complainants and the offender it was important it proceeded quickly," he said.

However, the judges agreed that the one-year jail term was too short.


MO - Halloween rules only apply to sex offenders convicted after 2008

Original Article

And it's only for those on probation or parole, not all offenders. Plus it's nothing more than a moral panic. Not a single kid has been harmed by a sex offender on Halloween night, only one in 1975, but many have been harmed by cars. So it would serve the public better if police were watching out for vehicles, and the parents stopped buying the mass hysteria and let kids be kids, or go along with them like any good parent should!

10/27/2010

By Erin Hevern

Not all registered sex offenders in Cape Girardeau County will be prohibited from dishing out Halloween candy to trick-or-treaters Sunday because of a Missouri Supreme Court decision in January that sided with an offender convicted of a sex crime about 20 years ago.

The Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that a 2008 law requiring sex offenders to avoid any Halloween contact with children, leave their outside lights off and post a sign saying "No candy or treats at this residence" was unconstitutional. In its ruling, the court stated that under Missouri's ex post facto provision the restrictions on sex offenders on Halloween may only apply to defendants convicted after Aug. 28, 2008.

"It's very limited in applicability in our county," said Morley Swingle, Cape Girardeau County prosecuting attorney.

"We'd have to look at all of our offenders and see which convictions came after 2008 and even then there's some question on whether all four of the provisions of the Halloween law can be enforced."
- What about the fact that not a single child has been harmed by a sex offender on Halloween?  Once again, facts don't count, only hysteria!

Of the 145 registered sex offenders in Cape Girardeau County, less than 10 were convicted after the 2008 law was enacted, according to Lt. David James of the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff's Office.

Swingle said it remains questionable that two of the four provisions regarding sex offender conduct on Halloween are enforceable because active litigation involving Cape Girardeau, Pike and St. Louis counties. Just before Halloween two years ago, the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri filed a lawsuit against the three counties, and after hearing arguments in the case U.S. District Judge Carol Jackson moved for a preliminary injunction, preventing agencies in the counties from enforcing parts of the Halloween restrictions statute.

According to Swingle, the judge found provision one -- avoid all Halloween contact with children -- and provision two, which orders offenders to stay inside their home from 5 to 10:30 p.m. on Halloween unless required to be elsewhere for "just cause," too vague.

Swingle said Jackson criticized the provision because it didn't define the term clearly.

"It's about the language," he said. "It doesn't really describe what just cause is."
- Or look into the facts!

Because the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed Jackson's decision before Halloween two years ago, Swingle said if he had to give advice to area law enforcement it would to limit any enforcement to offenders convicted after Aug. 28, 2008.

"I don't think the number's even big enough to mess with," he said. "Let's not mess with it this year since it's the subject of active litigation right now. There's no sense in trying to enforce it until an answer's given in black and white."

Despite what seems like continuous changes in the law, officers from county law enforcement agencies say they're still keeping close tabs on sex offenders living in their area.

"We know who we've got; we keep pretty good tabs on them," said Jackson Police Department Lt. Rodney Barnes. "There are a lot of legal decisions and changes in the sex offender registry but we stay on top of it the best we can. Our main concern is just the safety of the children."
- Your main concern should be crime, and the parents should be concerned about their own kids safety!

Cape Girardeau Police Department Sgt. Jason Selzer said changes in restrictions don't change how their crew approaches the holiday. A few extra officers are scheduled to be on duty, although they don't anticipate any problems with sex offenders violating the law.
- Of course not, none have been a problem in the last 100 years!

"We're not going to go door-to-door and check on all registered sex offenders in the city limits," Selzer said. "We'll take it on a case-by-case basis. If there was some other mitigating circumstance where we saw someone was in danger, that went beyond handing out candy, we would of course act immediately."


TX - Halloween moral panic continues year after year!


'Stranger Danger' and the Decline of Halloween

Original Article

10/27/2010

By LENORE SKENAZY

No child has ever been killed by poisoned candy. Ever.

Halloween is the day when America market-tests parental paranoia. If a new fear flies on Halloween, it's probably going to catch on the rest of the year, too.

Take "stranger danger," the classic Halloween horror. Even when I was a kid, back in the "Bewitched" and "Brady Bunch " costume era, parents were already worried about neighbors poisoning candy. Sure, the folks down the street might smile and wave the rest of the year, but apparently they were just biding their time before stuffing us silly with strychnine-laced Smarties.

That was a wacky idea, but we bought it. We still buy it, even though Joel Best, a sociologist at the University of Delaware, has researched the topic and spends every October telling the press that there has never been a single case of any child being killed by a stranger's Halloween candy. (Oh, yes, he concedes, there was once a Texas boy poisoned by a Pixie Stix. But his dad did it for the insurance money. He was executed.)

Anyway, you'd think that word would get out: poisoned candy not happening. But instead, most Halloween articles to this day tell parents to feed children a big meal before they go trick-or-treating, so they won't be tempted to eat any candy before bringing it home for inspection. As if being full has ever stopped any kid from eating free candy!

So stranger danger is still going strong, and it's even spread beyond Halloween to the rest of the year. Now parents consider their neighbors potential killers all year round. That's why they don't let their kids play on the lawn, or wait alone for the school bus: "You never know!" The psycho-next-door fear went viral.

Then along came new fears. Parents are warned annually not to let their children wear costumes that are too tight—those could seriously restrict breathing! But not too loose either—kids could trip! Fall! Die!

Treating parents like idiots who couldn't possibly notice that their kid is turning blue or falling on his face might seem like a losing proposition, but it caught on too.

Halloween taught marketers that parents are willing to be warned about anything, no matter how preposterous, and then they're willing to be sold whatever solutions the market can come up with. Face paint so no mask will obscure a child's vision. Purell, so no child touches a germ. And the biggest boondoggle of all: an adult-supervised party, so no child encounters anything exciting, er, "dangerous."

Think of how Halloween used to be the one day of the year when gaggles of kids took to the streets by themselves—at night even. Big fun! Low cost! But once the party moved inside, to keep kids safe from the nonexistent poisoners, in came all the nonsense. The battery-operated caskets. The hired witch. The Costco veggie trays and plastic everything else. Halloween went from hobo holiday to $6 billion extravaganza.

And it blazed the way for adult-supervised everything else. Let kids make their own fun? Not anymore! Let's sign our toddlers up for "movement" classes! Let's bring on the extracurricular activities, travel soccer and manicure parties for the older kids. Once Halloween got outsourced to adults, no kids-only activity was safe. Goodbye sandlot, hello batting coach!

And now comes the latest Halloween terror: Across the country, cities and states are passing waves of laws preventing registered sex offenders from leaving their homes—or sometimes even turning on their lights—on Halloween.

The reason? Same old same old: safety. As a panel of "experts" on the "Today" show warned viewers recently: Don't let your children trick-or-treat without you "any earlier than [age] 13, because people put on masks, they put on disguises, and there are still people who do bad things ."

Perhaps there are. But Elizabeth Letourneau, an associate professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, studied crime statistics from 30 states and found, "There is zero evidence to support the idea that Halloween is a dangerous date for children in terms of child molestation."

In fact, she says, "We almost called this paper, 'Halloween: The Safest Day of the Year,' because it was just so incredibly rare to see anything happen on that day."

Why is it so safe? Because despite our mounting fears and apoplectic media, it is still the day that many of us, of all ages, go outside. We knock on doors. We meet each other. And all that giving and taking and trick-or-treating is building the very thing that keeps us safe: community.

We can kill off Halloween, or we can accept that it isn't dangerous and give it back to the kids. Then maybe we can start giving them back the rest of their childhoods, too.

Ms. Skenazy is the author of "Free-Range Kids" (Jossey-Bass, 2010). She blogs at www.freerangekids.com.