Thursday, November 4, 2010

CA - South Pasadena sex offender removed GPS tracking device in July

Original Article

Yet more proof GPS is a waste of time and money. If he removed it in July, why does it take until November to inform someone about it?

11/04/2010

By Adolfo Flores

The one-time resident of the South Pasadena Convalescent Hospital, 904 Mission St., is believed to have removed his GPS tracking device in July and could've been in South Pasadena as early as Monday, officials said.

[name withheld], 54, lived at the South Pasadena Convalescent Hospital, a few blocks away from Orange Grove Park.

Offenders are prohibited from residing 2000 feet from a school or park where children gather, said Sgt. Tony Abdalla.

South Pasadena officials were informed about the removal on Tuesday by the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation, said Police Chief Joe Payne, who doesn't know why it took over two months for them to be notified.

Officials subsequently determined that four registered sex offenders lived at either Prospect Manor, 800 Prospect Avenue, and the Convalescent Home, Payne said, which fall within the residency exclusion zone.

Apart from [name withheld], two are no longer there. One is still at Prospect Manor.

"One certainly is there and we've given notice that the subject is in violation of municipal code," Payne said, addressing the city council that discussed the issue at their meeting Wednesday night.

In order to prosecute the individual or facility, officials would need to prove they knew they were in the exclusionary zone and that the administrator knew they were a registered sex offender.
- Yeah, right.  So is an offender suppose to be a land surveyor or magically know the distance between two places?  If they exercise their fifth amendment, and remain silent, how will you prove they did not know?

"Detectives believe he may be trying to get in touch with family in San Bernardino and Barstow," Payne said. "Don't believe he is here, but we don't know where he is at."

There is a no bail warrant out for his arrest, Abdalla said.

No one from the South Pasadena Convalescent Hospital was available to comment on whether the hospital knew [name withheld] was a registered sex offender.


AUSTRALIA - North Shore's teen boys addicted to sex and violence online

Original Article

11/04/2010

By Julie Huffer

North Shore boys as young as 12 are becoming addicted to graphic and violent internet pornography.

Ku-ring-gai Youth Development Service counsellor David Citer said the worrying behaviour was an addiction, like drugs and alcohol, and was replacing normal relationships.

"Internet porn is everywhere and a lot of young boys have become addicted," he said.

"It’s all about instant gratification, rather than delaying urges and building relationships. It teaches them they can have sex there and then and doesn’t teach good values".

Mr Citer said some schoolboys had developed "rites of passage" where they were required to sexually assault girls to become members of a club.

"A lot of this (internet) stuff is very violent, where you have five or six males having sex with a woman and if you look at the kind of stuff that’s happened in rugby league, a lot of that is bred out of internet pornography."

He said internet porn was increasingly "a coping strategy" for boys under stress and the harder life got at school, the more they turned to it. The danger was they were being duped into thinking sex without a relationship was normal behaviour.

Many 12-year-olds were regular browsers of pornography and some were even younger.

Parents had little control because "kids are too computer savvy and always one step ahead".

While schools promoted computer use, "once parents go to bed, they don’t know what they are doing in their room."

"Children aged 14 and 15 end up chatting to people in their 30s and 40s and sex advances are made."

Another concerning trend was "sexting", where young girls text nude photos of themselves to their boyfriends.

"He then passes it to a lot of his mates, sending it around mobile phones, and when you are dealing with 14 and 15-year-olds, that’s child pornography," Mr Citer said.

"We are hearing a lot of that."

But chairwoman of the department of digital cultures at the University of Sydney, Kathy Cleland, said fear around the internet was overstated.

"I think the internet is often beaten up for social problems. There’s fear with new communication technologies, like there was with television."

"Kids do go through intense adolescent phases and don’t want to communicate with their parents and it’s not necessarily about technology," she said. "However, the internet does provide instant gratification It’s easy to turn to as it’s always available."


GA - Removal from Georgia Sex Offender Registry

Original Article

11/03/2010

By Attorney Ed Napier

Overview
In most cases, the most severe criminal sanction involves incarceration. However, in cases involving sex offenses, a lifelong requirement to register as a sex offender is a disastrous consequence preventing individuals from obtaining employment and pursuing other endeavors. Many defendants find the lifelong registration requirement devastating.

There is good news. Recently, the legislature enacted O.C.G.A. § 42-1-9, a means by which certain Sex Offenders may seek removal from the Sex Offender Registry. It is not easy and it is not available to every offender. The first step is to determine eligibility.

Specifics
Everyone on the registry wants to be removed. What does it take? To be eligible, the offender must fall in one of the four categories:

  1. Disabled Persons: The Offender must have completed all prison, parole, supervised release, and probation for the offense which required registration pursuant to Code Section 42-1-12; and
    • be confined to a hospice facility, skilled nursing home, residential care facility for the elderly, or nursing home; or
    • be totally and permanently disabled as such term is defined in Code Section 49-4-80; or
    • be otherwise seriously physically incapacitated due to illness or injury;
  2. Romeo & Juliet: The Offender was sentenced for a crime that became punishable as a misdemeanor on or after July 1, 2006, and meets the criteria set forth in subparagraphs (c)(1)(A) through (c)(1)(F) of Code Section 17-10-6.2;
  3. Non-sexual Offense: The Offender was required to register solely because he or she was convicted of kidnapping or false imprisonment involving a minor and such offense did not involve a sexual offense against such minor or an attempt to commit a sexual offense against such minor. For purposes of this paragraph, the term "sexual offense" means any offense listed in division (a)(10)(B)(i) or (a)(10)(B)(iv) through (a)(10)(B)(xix) of Code Section 42-1-12; or
  4. Everyone Else: The Offender has completed all prison, parole, supervised release, and probation for the offense which required registration pursuant to Code Section 42-1-12 and meets the criteria set forth in subparagraphs (c)(1)(A) through (c)(1)(F) of Code Section 17-10-6.2. and
    • either ten years have elapsed since the end of the sentence or
    • the Offender is considered a Level I risk by the Sex Offender Review Board.

The disqualifiers mentioned in O.C.G.A. § 17-10-6.2 are:
  • (A) The defendant has no prior conviction of an offense prohibited by Chapter 6 of Title 16 or Part 2 of Article 3 of Chapter 12 of Title 16, nor a prior conviction for any offense under federal law or the laws of another state or territory of the United States which consists of the same or similar elements of offenses prohibited by Chapter 6 of Title 16 or Part 2 of Article 3 of Chapter 12 of Title 16;
  • (B) The defendant did not use a deadly weapon or any object, device, or instrument which when used offensively against a person would be likely to or actually did result in serious bodily injury during the commission of the offense;
  • (C) The court has not found evidence of a relevant similar transaction;
  • (D) The victim did not suffer any intentional physical harm during the commission of the offense;
  • (E) The offense did not involve the transportation of the victim; and
  • (F) The victim was not physically restrained during the commission of the offense.

Next Steps
If you meet the eligibility requirements, then you may file a Petition for Removal from the Sex Offender Registry. Additional requirements exist regarding venue, proper service of the petition, proper requirements for requesting a hearing, and necessary requests for relief. Therefore, the assistance of legal counsel is critical. Should your Petition fail for some reason, you must wait two years to file another Petition.

If you need help, call me at 678-383-1690 or visit my website at http://www.napierlawllc.com. If for whatever reason I can't help you, I'll point you in the direction of someone who can.


VA - Court rules sex offender required to admit guilt during group therapy

Original Article

I do not care what the court says, if I was innocent, I'd never admit guilt. I'd rather die in prison knowing I was innocent, then saying I was guilty and dying with that false confession.

11/04/2010

RICHMOND - The Virginia Supreme Court (Case file) says a defendant can be forced to admit guilt as part of his probation even if he's allowed to withhold such an admission at a plea hearing.

The court on Thursday upheld an Arlington County judge's decision to revoke probation and impose a five-year prison term for a sex offender who refused to admit guilt during court-ordered group therapy.

James Carroll had entered an Alford plea on a rape charge. In an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges there's enough evidence to convict.

The justices rejected Carroll's claim that he could not be required to admit guilt later, saying a person who enters an Alford plea is treated like any other defendant convicted by a judge or jury.


UK - Hinch appeals sex offender suppression order

Even the UK is being whipped into the sex offender hysteria. The laws pertain to sex offenders, and this idiot, along with the lady at 16 seconds into the video, seem to think all sex offenders are pedophiles, which is just not true.



Are you struggling for attention? Do you want to be on all the news shows and be seen as the "savior" of children? Well, just act like the vigilante Barbara Ochoa (PetraLuna), she has "mastered" it!



Or Barbara Farris in Florida.


Criminally Innocent - How can you be exonerated of a crime that never happened?

Original Article

11/04/2010

By JORDAN SMITH

Twenty-eight-year-old John Arena would like to visit California. He's never been there – in fact, he's never traveled very far from his childhood home in Harker Heights, in Bell County. He'd like to see the California coast and to visit with the parents of his girlfriend, who is also the mother of his three children. But he's too scared to travel that far from home. "To me it's just not safe," he says.

It's not safe because John Arena is a registered sex offender. Unless he can find a way to clear his name, he will have to register with the state for life for having allegedly molested his cousin Stephanie when he was 15 and she was just 7 years old.

In April 1999, after questioning by police, John confessed to having sexually abused Steph­anie Arena, and he was subsequently sentenced to seven years in prison. The problem, according to John, his family – including Stephanie – and other supporters, is that he didn't molest Stephanie. Instead, he says, he falsely confessed to the crime after being pressured to do so by a police detective, and then took a plea deal to avoid a trial that he was told would land him in prison for decades. In fact, John says he confessed in part because he was told that if he did so the state would not prosecute his younger brother, Michael Arena, whom Stephanie had also accused. Yet Michael was also charged with the crime. Michael did not confess and instead took his case to trial; in 1999, he was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years behind bars.

At 9 years old, Stephanie testified against Michael in court; two years later she recanted her testimony. She had been told to implicate her cousins, she since says, by her mother, who at the time was involved in a bitter divorce from her husband Stephan Arena, Stephanie's father and the boys' uncle. Stephanie has maintained, for more than a decade, that her original testimony was in fact a lie. (Initially, her younger brother Austin Arena, then 5, also said the cousins molested him. But John's confession mentioned nothing about Austin, and at Michael's trial the court dismissed for lack of evidence a charge related to his having molested Austin.)

Although both brothers and their original accuser insist the men are innocent, the courts have disagreed, concluding that Stephanie's recantation is not as credible as her initial allegations – despite the fact that she has steadfastly maintained not only that her cousins are innocent but also that no sexual crime against her ever occurred.

No Evidence

Unlike the dozens of Texas inmates who have been exonerated of sexual offenses they never committed with the help of DNA evidence, the Arena brothers faced no biological evidence to prove or disprove the original allegations made against them. Indeed, in the climate of increasingly strict sex offender laws, and considering the credulity with which many lawmakers and members of the public regard all allegations involving sexual abuse, the Arenas are likely to remain among a group of offenders advocates and attorneys say are a growing population: individuals wrongly convicted of sex crimes who have no concrete scientific proof to help them exonerate themselves. (For more on the consequences of Texas' sex offender laws, see "Sex Offenders Exposed," Sept. 10.) "That's the classic example of a messed-up system," says Mary Sue Molnar, founder of the fast-growing group Texas Voices, which advocates for reforming the state sex offender laws. "I would bet my right arm that those boys are innocent."

Texas has been home to more exonerations of the wrongfully convicted than any other state, and many of the 42 exonerations so far have involved alleged sexual assault in which physical DNA evidence was available to help eventually set the record straight. What happens when there is no biological evidence available for testing? Those offenders, of whom experts say there are likely thousands in Texas alone, are generally out of luck. "Wrongful convictions proven by DNA evidence are just the tip of the iceberg of the exonerations that have occurred in Texas and throughout the U.S.," state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, said in an e-mail. "It is estimated that DNA would be available and useful in less than 10 percent of all serious cases, and there are many cases where evidence isn't preserved. One prominent piece of research found that three to five percent of people in prison were wrongfully convicted. Even if only one percent of Texas prisoners are innocent, that means that over 1,500 people in prison today should not be there."

That's the case with the Arena brothers, say their family members and supporters. The Arenas were sent to prison while still teenagers, though there was no evidence to suggest the assaults had even happened, save for the testimony of the young Stephanie. Stephanie Arena Gibson, now an adult, has recanted her accusations multiple times – not only to the courts but also to a national audience on a 2006 episode of ABC's 20/20. "I didn't even know what I was saying, and I didn't even comprehend the consequences of what I was saying," she told 20/20. "Now that I am older, and I can understand the consequences of my actions, I need to step up and do what I have to do to make things right."

Although the court and prosecutors should have been skeptical from the start, the state did not hesitate in the face of Stephanie's accusations that her cousins had both sexually assaulted her, allegedly on multiple occasions and in several locations, including at the children's grandparents' home – with no one the wiser. But the Arena family, including Steph­anie's father, Stephan, says that story never made sense – and the family has been trying for more than a decade now to make the state listen to what they say really transpired back in 1997, what the family says led to the conviction of two innocent teen boys.

They argue that Stephanie was coerced into making the damaging accusations by her mother, LaVonna, during a heated divorce and battle for custody over Stephanie and her younger brother, Austin. In the spring of that year, according to court records, LaVonna stole several hundred dollars from the H-E-B where she worked and fled the state with the children, initially to a homeless shelter in Florida, in violation of a court order. In an effort to avoid trouble for disobeying the court, family members, including Stephanie, say LaVonna asked her young daughter to say they'd left Texas because she'd been abused. Stephanie did as she was told.

In testimony, LaVonna denied that she ever told her children to make false accusations against their cousins, but Stephanie still maintains that is exactly what happened. "My mom is kind of mentally unstable," Stephanie, now 21, married and in school full time, said during a recent phone conversation. "I don't know what she was thinking, but she told me to say that my cousins had molested me, otherwise she would go to jail," she continued. "I was 7 at the time – I don't know what sexual molesting means, but I do know what jail means."

It was not the first time LaVonna had raised the specter of sexual abuse – nor would it be the last. According to court records, LaVonna had previously accused another man, the father of her eldest daughter, of having abused their child, an accusation the girl denied. Also according to court records, LaVonna called Harker Heights police in 2000 – well after John and Michael had been sent to prison – to report that the two Arena boys had again molested Stephanie and her brother, Austin. Since the boys were already locked up, the police dismissed the allegation.

That should have been a red flag, says veteran Austin family law attorney Catherine Mauzy, who has seen more than her share of divorce and custody cases in which allegations of sexual abuse are made. "A really telling sign is when [accusations are made] multiple times," she said recently.

Unfortunately, there is a dearth of credible research suggesting how often false accusations are made during custody or divorce battles. Mauzy notes that whenever allegations of sexual abuse come up, they have to be taken seriously – in part because it is often difficult to know whether they are true. But experience also tells Mauzy that false accusations are all too common: "Every single lawyer doing this work for a while would say, 'Hell yes, it happens,'" she says. "It happens with frightening frequency." Maybe not every day or every month, but inside of a year, she says, she'll have a case come across her desk where such accusations crop up, most often with little evidence to help confirm one way or another if they are true. "It's scary as hell."

Trusting the System

When the cops came calling in the spring of 1999, the boys' parents, Betty and Robert Arena, voluntarily took John and Michael to the police station for questioning. John was 15 when the crime allegedly happened (Michael was 14), but by the time the case was actually investigated – more than a year after LaVonna said Stephanie first told her mother she'd been molested – he was 17. John says that when he went in to talk to the local police detective, Erika Jordan, he still had no idea what was going on. "I didn't even know a crime had been committed," he recalled recently. But his dad had told him to go and "help them out. Be honest." Once inside an interview room, John said, Jordan began reading information to him from a paper; he needed to tell her what she wanted to hear, he says he was told. He told her he didn't know what was going on and that he wanted to leave; that wouldn't be allowed, he recalls the detective telling him.

Testifying at a hearing in connection with an appeal of Michael Arena's conviction, Jordan told the court in 2001 that John came to the police station voluntarily and gave his 1999 statement voluntarily. She never advised him of his rights before or during the interview, she said, because he wasn't in custody and was in fact free to leave at any time. "Did you ever tell him he was under arrest?" prosecutor Thomas Seigman asked.

"No, I did not," Jordan answered.

"Did you ever lock any doors behind him?" Seigman continued.

"No, I did not," she said.

"A silly question: Did you ever hold a gun to his head or anything like that?" the prosecutor asked.

"Absolutely not," Jordan replied.

Despite what Jordan told the court, John says he did not feel that he was free to leave without telling the detective what he believed she wanted to hear. So he did, he says, parroting back to her the information she'd just read to him about Stephanie's allegations. He figured it was the only way out. "I know that sounds stupid," the now-28-year-old said this summer. "But I had listened to my dad: 'Trust the law; trust the system,'" he'd been told. He just wanted out of the room, so he wrote a statement, confirming that he'd assaulted his cousin – a statement that he says is not true and never was. His brother, Michael, was also questioned but refused to admit to anything. The truth, John thought, would certainly come out.

But it was too late. Before long the boys had both been charged with sexual assault of a minor. "I took the plea bargain," John says, for two reasons: First, his lawyer told him that if he copped to the crime, the state would drop the charges against Michael. And second, he was also told that if he failed to take a plea for five years, a jury would most certainly sentence him to 40. As it turned out, John got seven years instead of five, and the state did not drop the charges against his brother. Instead, after a three-day trial in 1999 – during which the court-appointed attorney failed to call any witnesses, except for Michael, to counter the accusations – Michael, then 16, was convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a child and given a 20-year determinate sentence. He isn't due to be released until 2019.

Molnar, the founder of Texas Voices, which has more than 600 active members advocating for commonsense changes to Texas' sex offender laws, says she's not at all surprised that John pleaded guilty – even though he maintains that he did not commit any crime. "Almost everyone takes a plea, and we know exactly how that works: They are scared into it and told what a great deal they'll get," she says, "as opposed to a jury, [which] could give you 30 or 40 or 50 years." That is appealing to people who don't have the money to fight in court or who are afraid of a lengthy punishment. "Taking a plea doesn't mean you're guilty," she says.

That's "absolutely" true, says Austin defense attorney Keith Hampton. "That happens all the time, particularly in sex offense cases," which are emotionally charged and many times based on "he said, she said" accusations.

The sad but generally unrecognized reality that people plead guilty to crimes they haven't committed has also been acknowledged by the courts. In a case Hampton argued before the Court of Criminal Appeals, the justices ruled in favor of a client's ability to file an appeal with evidence of his innocence even though he'd previously pleaded guilty. There are any number of reasons that a person would plead guilty, Hampton says one judge pointed out during that 2002 oral argument, none of which may have any connection to the veracity of the underlying charge.

The Science of Prosecution

According to Michael's appellate attorney, Clint Broden, at least part of what sealed Michael's fate was the testimony of state expert witness Fred Willoughby, a sex offender treatment provider who claimed to be able to testify that Michael was a "pedophile" and that he would be a "high risk" for committing another sex offense. Willoughby knew that, he testified, based on the results of the so-called "Abel Assessment," which he'd administered on Michael and on which the teen had scored poorly.

The assessment tests sexual arousal, in part, by showing a series of photo slides and asking the observer to click through the pictures. If the subject of the test lingers on a photo of a toddler, for example, it might suggest that the person has a sexual attraction to toddlers. John says he remembers also taking the test but insists he wasn't given any real instructions other than to look at photos. He said he quickly got bored, clicked through a series of them, and then stopped for a while in favor of daydreaming. Michael was given the same exam in August 1999 and, according to John, was similarly uninformed about the process and uninterested in taking the test. Instead, Michael was distracted frequently and would get up from his seat and walk to gaze out the window, leaving any number of slides on the screen for long periods of time.

Nonetheless, in court Willoughby testified that the Abel test is an "objective" measure of sexual interest; in Michael's case – a teen he said he categorized as having a "meek" and "submissive" personality – the test showed that he had a "significant sexual interest" in 8- to 10-year-old girls (exactly the age group his cousin Stephanie then fell into), an interest he said Michael "may simply be unaware of."

More important, perhaps, is that Willoughby told the court that the test was widely used across the country and had been demonstrated to provide reliable predictions of sexual interest when administered to juveniles. In fact, that was not true. The experts Willoughby cited had established just the opposite: Researchers had found only weak evidence that the test is reliable at all and, more importantly, that there had not yet been any research to determine whether it was a good diagnostic tool to use on juvenile offenders.

According to veteran licensed sex offender treatment provider Philip Taylor, the problem with Willoughby's testimony began with his conclusion that Michael Arena is likely a pedophile. That is a difficult diagnosis even under the best of circumstances, he says, and is even more controversial when used to label a juvenile. "Unfortunately, there are a lot of ignorant practitioners who diagnose pedophilia any time someone is charged with an offense against a minor," he says. "But people who study this carefully ... point out that, one, not everybody who has pedophilia commits an offense and, [two], not everybody who has committed an offense has pedophilia." Nonetheless, many "experts" will "automatically diagnose as such, and it is such a scare term," he says. "I've practiced in this area for 20 years, and I can count on less than one of my hands, out of 2,500 guys I've seen, the number of cases of pedophilia."

Taylor adds that sex offender treatment and diagnosis are areas ripe for abuse by professionals claiming to be experts. "Absolutely. It's a bird's nest on the ground. It's why people don't bring much critical thought to it," he says.

Moreover, he says, there have long been grave concerns about the use of the Abel Assess­ment – or "Abel Screen," as it's also known. It was originally designed in 1995 by Gene Abel as an alternative for the plethysmograph, a sensor that attaches to a man's penis to determine sexual arousal. That test was not very well standardized, and Abel developed his alternative, using visual recognition. Still, the test is proprietary, Taylor notes, meaning that "how it was developed, how it was normed, and how it is scored" aren't known outside of the group that works directly with Abel in Georgia. "That is one reason it does not have a good odor in the professional community," Taylor says, adding that the "Abel people have no incentive to police its practitioners." In short, he says, the results of an Abel test are "not acceptable in court any more than the plethysmograph is." (Abel Screening Inc. did not respond to a request seeking information about the reliability of the test on juveniles.)

Indeed, in 2003, Willoughby was reprimanded by the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists, in part for his "failure to substantiate forensic opinions" delivered in court, according to an agency document.

No Recourse

So the testimony at Michael's punishment hearing by the state's own expert turned out to be false, and Stephanie, the only witness to say the sexual assault had ever occurred, has recanted numerous times (even after, when she was 11, the trial court threatened her with jail time for perjury if she were to contradict the testimony she gave when just 9 years old). Yet the courts have denied both Arena brothers any relief.

Broden initially filed Michael's appeal with the Bell County courts in 2007. He argued several points: not only that Stephanie had recanted her previous statements and that there was credible evidence that LaVonna had fabricated the allegations in order to avoid trouble with the law for leaving Texas with the children, but also that Willoughby had testified falsely about the validity of the Abel Assessment – false testimony that made it appear to jurors that Michael was in fact a dangerous person, a pedophile who needed imprisonment. Moreover, at Michael's trial, prosecutors emphasized Willough­by's conclusions in their closing arguments. "He's been diagnosed as a pedophile by an expert. He is at a high risk to re-offend," the prosecutor argued. "Our community simply cannot take that chance by releasing him back in that home."

The state countered that Stephanie's original statement was far more credible than her recantation. The recantation, they alleged, had actually been coerced by an unlicensed but self-described "investigator" who had been helping the Arena family try to prove John's and Michael's innocence. (Stephanie vehemently denies this.) Moreover, the state argued that it wouldn't make any logical sense for LaVonna to fabricate a story involving the cousins: "there would be a difference between falsely accusing a soon-to-be ex-spouse to gain an advantage in a custody dispute and accusing a couple of nephews," the state wrote in response to Broden's writ. "While the former might make some logical sense, the latter does not."

Most strikingly, the state argued that even if Willoughby had misrepresented the credibility and accuracy of the Abel Assessment, it didn't matter. According to the state, it was unlikely that the jurors took that testimony into account when assessing punishment for Michael Arena – an argument they bolstered using an affidavit from Michael's trial attorney, Bobby Barina, which he'd written in response to a separate point of appeal that he had rendered an ineffective defense. "In my opinion, Dr. Willoughby's testimony had zero impact on the jury," Barina wrote. Instead, it was solely Stephanie's testimony that caused the jurors to sentence Michael to 20 years, he claimed, an argument the state adopted.

Yet researchers and appeals courts have long noted the effect that scientific "experts" have on juries. As Arizona State University Law professor John W. Strong wrote in a 1992 article for Oregon Law Review: "There is virtual unanimity among courts and commentators that evidence perceived by jurors to be 'scientific' in nature will have particularly persuasive effect."


CA - Law restricting where sex offenders can live is unconstitutional, L.A. judge rules

Original Article

11/04/2010

By Andrew Blankstein

Saying sex offenders are being forced to choose between prison and homelessness, a Los Angeles judge issued an opinion this week blocking enforcement of provisions a state law restricting how close those offenders can live from parks or schools.

Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza issued the 10-page ruling after four registered sex offenders petitioned the court, arguing that the legislation known as Jessica's Law was unconstitutional.

He said the court had received about 650 habeas corpus petitions raising similar legal issues, and that hundreds more were being prepared by the public defender's and alternate public defender's offices.

"The court is not a 'potted plant' and need not sit idly by in the face of immediate, ongoing and significant violations of parolee constitutional rights," Espinoza wrote.
- Amen!

Proposition 83, which is better known as Jessica's Law and was overwhelmingly passed by state voters in 2006, imposes strict residency requirements on sex offenders, including requirements forbidding them from residing within 2,000 feet of any public or private school or park where children regularly gather.
- And it was passed with disregard to peoples constitutional rights, and congress is suppose to uphold those rights, which they failed to do.

Before the law passed, those residency requirements were imposed only on offenders whose victims were children.
- If a person is dangerous and intent on committing a crime against a child, where they can live, has nothing to do with it.

Civil rights attorneys have argued that provisions of the law make it impossible for some registered sex offenders to live in densely populated cities.

Nearly all of San Francisco, for example, is off-limits to sex offenders because of the number of parks and schools close to housing. Los Angeles officials also said that there are few places in the city where sex offenders can find housing that meets Jessica's Law requirements.

The California Supreme Court ruled in February that registered sex offenders could challenge residency requirements in the law if it proves impossible to avoid living near parks and schools.

State corrections officials said Wednesday that they could not comment on the specifics of Espinoza's ruling, but said they would continue to ensure residency restrictions are imposed in cases where there is a valid reason to continue enforcing them.

"There are other tools that the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation can and will continue to use to further public safety, including residency restrictions specific to each offender," said the agency spokesman Luis Patino.

In his opinion, Espinoza cited comments by Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck that the Jessica's Law restrictions had resulted in "a marked increase of homeless/transient registrants." The judge noted that in 2007, there were 30 sex offenders on active parole in the city of Los Angeles. By September of this year, that number had jumped to 259.

"Rather than protecting public safety, it appears that the sharp rise in homelessness rates in sex offenders on active parole in Los Angeles County actually undermines public safety." wrote Espinoza, who is the supervising judge of the Los Angeles County criminal courts. "The evidence presented suggests that despite lay belief, a sex offender parolee's residential proximity to a school or park where children regularly gather does not bear on the parolee's likelihood to commit a sexual offense against a child."

LAPD officials said they were reviewing the court decision and had no immediate comment on its specifics.

Last month, in a briefing for the Los Angeles Police Commission, Det. Diane Webb, who heads a unit responsible for tracking the whereabouts of sex offenders, said there are about 5,100 registered sex offenders living in the city.

Of those, about 20%, or approximately 1,020 people, are on parole for felony crimes and are prohibited by state law from living near a school or park where children gather, Webb said.

She said that some of the city's sex-offender population has come to Los Angeles from surrounding cities that have passed additional sex-offender laws that make it next to impossible for offenders to find a place to live and push them to look elsewhere, but that Los Angeles does not have any additional laws on its books, making it a feasible destination.


CA - Reforming Sex Offender Laws

Original Article

11/04/2010

By Josh Goodman

California's Chelsea's Law rethinks the way state manages sex offenders who will return to society.

After the rape and murder of Chelsea King, a San Diego County teenager, California legislators decided they had to do something. Amid the emotions of the tragedy, they passed a rational, thoughtful law.

That was an unexpected outcome, because many of the approaches that states take to prevent sex crimes are based more on fears than hard evidence. That’s as true in California as any other place. There, with the support of most of the state’s key politicians, voters approved a 2006 ballot initiative, known as Jessica’s Law, that barred sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools, day-care centers, parks or churches.

Researchers and law enforcement groups overwhelmingly say that residency restrictions don’t prevent sexual assaults and, in fact, are counterproductive because they drive sex offenders underground, making them more difficult to track. In 2006, though, that message didn’t get through. “Jessica’s Law was a knee-jerk reaction that went against almost everything we know that is effective in dealing with sex offenders,” says Robert Coombs, a victims’ rights advocate and former chair of California’s Sex Offender Management Board.

This year the response was different. Chelsea’s Law began as a bill focused on tougher sentences, and its final version still takes that approach, including a provision that will mandate life sentences without the possibility of parole for sex offenders who violently attack children. But thanks to a collaboration between Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, a San Diego County Republican, and Sen. Mark Leno, a San Francisco Democrat, it also includes a broad rethinking of the way the state manages sex offenders who will return to society.

The law adopts a “containment model” that researchers in the field describe as the most promising approach to reduce sex offender recidivism. The approach couples mandatory treatment with intensive monitoring and regular lie-detector tests. While state policies often treat all offenders the same regardless of the nature of their crimes, the containment model is different. Parole officers and therapists place restrictions on offenders and pursue a treatment strategy based on their individual situations.

Leno says Chelsea’s Law is just a first step. He and Fletcher have discussed teaming up next year to try to mend some of the flaws of Jessica’s Law. Does that mean sex offender policy in California is finally headed in a more rational direction? “I could answer that question with more authority,” Leno says, “a year from now.”


GERMANY - German vigilantes expose pedophiles hunting online

Original Article

Nothing more than the German version of Perverted-Justice. Why not educate kids on the dangers of the Internet, instead of becoming vigilantes to make a quick buck, and let the police handle this?

11/04/2010

Sex, crime and the Internet – a controversial show exposing the dangers of pedophilia on the worldwide web is at the center of public attention in Germany.

The program claims to be raising awareness, but many say it is simply chasing ratings.

“Hello, my little friend…”

Leila is pretending to be a 13 years old. She is meeting in a cafe with a man in his sixties. They have been conversing online for weeks.

But Leila is actually an undercover journalist.
- Not a cop, but a vigilante reporter.

The man, it turns out, works for a children’s charity. He is completely unaware that the meeting is being secretly filmed as part of a German TV show called Tatort Internet, aimed at exposing the dangers of sexual predators online.

At the beginning we thought it would be the person that you usually imagine as a sexual predator," says Daniel Harrich, Tatort Internet producer. “You know, the guy with glasses and no hair – this bald old guy. But we’ve met people from all types of society.”

Those who oppose the show’s format say that the authorities should be informed straight away – especially in cases like this, where the man worked with children – and that the show’s desire for big ratings is their primary motivation.

The people who took the video clip took it in May – and broadcast it in October. In between there was no information for any investigative officials, for police or employer,” says Martin Pfriem, director at Caritas for Children Charity.

But the producers argue the reason for having to keep the identity of the men they film secret is due to a major loophole in the law.

Chatting on the Internet with a child – even about sex – is almost never considered a crime. It is left very unclear what exactly constitutes a criminal action,” says Udo Nagel, Senator of the Interior in Hamburg.

Shockingly, under the current law, unless there is an actual physical assault, there is not much that can be done.

This is an international problem, with many experts openly acknowledging that guidelines are in a desperate need of clarification.

Internet grooming is not a new phenomenon, and as the numbers of children going online grow, so does the danger. And the scariest part is that right now there is not much that the police can do to protect them.
- It's not the job of the police to "protect" people, it's to enforce the law!

The Tatort Internet team showed us how often within minutes of going into an online chat room posing as a young girl, sexual advances are made.

The people that the RT team were conversing with were completely unconcerned when we told them we were under the age of legal consent – which at 14 in Germany is already extremely young.

Despite the criticisms, those behind the show are adamant that raising public awareness of Internet grooming can make a difference.
- Yeah, pretend to be raising awareness, to make quick cash.

If we can succeed with the goal of really changing the law and making the approach of minors online – the cyber grooming – under lawful jurisdiction, we can avoid those people being out there and chasing little children,” Daniel Harrich says.
- You are living in Wonderland.  Even if it was the law, people would still do it, if that is their intent.  If you pass a law about robbery, it doesn't stop robbery, now does it?

Ivan Tonkikh, director of a Russian software-producing company, says when the law falls short, installing a special program is the only way to block negative content.
- And whammo, there is your motivation.  Make a show, scaring people, then tell them they can purchase your software to help. There are already FREE programs out there to do this, if people would look.

“'There are no really popular social networks for children in Russia,” he said. “So they [children] use the ones adults do. And some of these [networks] have a lot of violence, pornography and other negative content. That's why more and more parents want to control the time their children spend online. They don't understand that it's simpler to use special software to block the content. There are many programs available. This is probably the only measure that can help when the laws lack clarity,” says Tonkikh.