Wednesday, November 24, 2010

NJ - Rep. Rothman fires chief of staff (Robert Decheine) following arrest for soliciting a child for sex online

Original Article

Well, so much for "innocent until proven guilty!"  The man may be guilty, but he may also be innocent.  Why not suspend him, until he's been found guilty, then fire him?

11/23/2010

By HERB JACKSON

Rep. Steve Rothman fired chief of staff and political confidant Robert Decheine after his arrest on a charge of soliciting sex from a minor, the congressman’s office announced Tuesday.

Robert Decheine, 48, of Washington, D.C., was arrested in Gaithersburg, Md. last week. Gaithersburg police announced Tuesday that 11 people were caught in a police sting that involved ads placed on a website and an undercover officer communicating with “johns” through phone and text messages.

During the communication, an exchange of services or expectations was made,” a police news release said.

Decheine was arrested at 10:30 p.m. on Nov. 17 and Gaithersburg police contacted authorities in the House to confirm the employment information he gave them, Lane said.

The solicitation was for sex with an underage girl, said Gaithersburg Police Officer Dan Lane. Decheine was released on $15,000 bail.

Rothman, D-Fair Lawn, learned of the arrest from the House sergeant at arms at 3:30 p.m. Friday, spokesman Aaron Keyak said in a release. Rothman “immediately consulted appropriate House Counsel and terminated Mr. Decheine’s employment,” the release said.

Congressman Rothman considers this alleged criminal act to be shocking, appalling and indefensible,” the release said. “As a parent, he understands the vital importance of protecting our children from predators.”

Rothman directed his staff to cooperate with investigators, but would not comment further. The charge of sexual solicitation of a minor in Maryland carries a penalty of not more than 10 years in prison or a fine not exceeding $25,000.

Decheine has run Rothman’s Washington and New Jersey offices since May 2003 and was also an integral part of his reelection campaign. After Rothman became the first House incumbent in the Northeast to support Barack Obama against Hillary Rodham Clinton for president, Decheine became a senior adviser to Obama’s New Jersey campaign operation and took a leave from Rothman’s office.

Decheine said in an e-mail message he had no comment.

Decheine was fiercely loyal to Rothman and good at his job, according to several current and former aides to other members of congress, all of whom spoke on the condition they not be named. He ruffled some feathers by trying to keep people from talking to the Rothman without going through him first, but others said he had to be the heavy so Rothman could stay out of the fray.

Decheine was heavily involved in Bergen County political intrigue in 2008 when Rep. Rob Andrews, D-Haddon Heights, launched a challenge to Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s re-election in the Democratic primary.

Decheine delivered the news that Rothman would field a slate of county committee candidates to challenge then-Bergen County Democratic leader Joseph Ferriero if Ferriero sided with Andrews. Ferriero’s decision to back Lautenberg was a major blow to Andrews in the primary.

More recently, Decheine had a confrontation with Michael Agosta, the Republican challenging Rothman this year, after Agosta followed staffers he said had stolen his campaign signs. An aide to Agosta recorded the incident, in the parking lot of Bergen County Democratic headquarters, and posted it on the Internet.

Decheine and his wife, Carrie Bromeland, were both on Rothman payrolls.

Decheine earned $168,408 in House salary between July 2009 and June 2010, according to the most recent public records available. Decheine earned an additional $15,784 from Rothman’s campaign account this year, while Bromeland earned $681 a month from an affiliated Rothman political action committee.

A native of Wisconsin, Decheine had previously worked for Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisc.

Rothman named Rutherford native Marc Cevasco, to serve as acting chief of staff. Cevasco has been legislative director of Rothman’s office since the beginning of 2009.


MI - Of sex and injustice

Original Article

11/24/2010

By Jack Lessenberry

Why the Michigan Sex Offender List needs to be abolished as soon as possible.

Some years ago, I talked to a heartbroken woman who lived near the Ohio border. Her daughter, who was younger than 16, the legal age of consent in Michigan, had been willingly having sex with her 17-year-old boyfriend, an honor student. The kids wouldn't stop doing it, surprise, surprise, and the mom then took them to court.

When the boy, who was hoping for scholarships and acceptance at an Ivy League school, learned that he was going to end up on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry, he felt that his life was ruined. Soon after, he drove his car into the path of an oncoming tractor-trailer. He left no note, and his death technically could have been an accident, but everyone knew it wasn't.

Welcome to our wonderful world of stigma.

It's called the Michigan Sex Offender List, and is a terrible thing that needs to be abolished — as soon as possible. It was born of a half-baked noble idea that was rushed into law in Lansing and turned into something dangerously bad. This all started in 1994, when Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old New Jersey girl, was brutally raped and murdered. The scum who did it was a convicted felon who had served time for other sex crimes, and who lived across the street. Megan's parents had no idea of his background.

A national outcry led to Congress requiring persons convicted of sex crimes against children to notify law enforcement of any future change of address or employment, in some cases, for the rest of their lives. That itself ought to make us a bit uneasy; it sounds like something that would happen in a place like the Soviet Union, where prisoners often weren't allowed to leave Siberia even after they did their time. However, given the nature of sex criminals, and our legitimate interest in protecting children, this action might conceivably be justifiable in the interests of society.

What happened next, however, wasn't. New Jersey passed something known as "Megan's Law," which required the state to maintain a database listing all released sex offenders — and to notify communities whenever an offender moved into the neighborhood. Supposedly, that's so parents can keep little Billy away from the pervert's house. In fact, that sounds like a sure-fire way to make it impossible for these folks ever to rehabilitate themselves, and maybe even an open invitation to vigilante action. (Little Susie's late coming home from school? Let's string up the neighborhood pervs!)

Michigan then did something even worse. We created a registry listing people convicted of all sorts of "sex" crimes, showing people's driver's license pictures, telling where people live and indicating something about the severity of their crimes through a vague and confusing system of numbered categories.

Investigations have shown that the site is frequently out of date and lists wrong addresses. Worse, serial child rapists are there next to people who — when they were 16 — had sex with their eager and willing 15-year-old girlfriend or boyfriend. You can even get on the sex offender registry for indecent exposure, meaning it may well contain some drunken frat boys arrested for urinating in the South Quad.

To add to the monstrosity of this, once you get on the list, you stay on for at least 10 years, sometimes for life. This got new attention earlier this month, after it was revealed that a 14-year-old girl in Wayne County's Huron Township had sex with an 18-year-old classmate. Neither knew how old the other was.

Initially, both said it was not only consensual, the girl approached him. Then, however, the child had second thoughts and claimed she was raped. Classmates made fun of her, and she killed herself. Had she lived, the boy would have ended up on the offender list even if she had stuck to her story that she seduced him.

He also would have gone to jail. But since the only witness is now dead, he's home free. Which is a nutty system. But for those whose partners haven't died — how is somebody supposed to get a job and turn their lives around when they are on that list?

I just called it up and plugged in my fairly upper-middle-class ZIP code. There was one name in my neighborhood, but when I clicked on his info to see what he had been convicted of, I got knocked off the registry.

The Michigan State Police specifically say they won't verify for the accuracy of the registry's information. Nor does it do any good in preventing crime. Two years ago, a study of a similar New Jersey law found that the registry had no effect on reducing sexual offenses, re-offenses or the number of victims. What the law did do was cost the state a lot of money.

Obviously, this turkey should be repealed, and replaced with a law that requires authorities to keep close tabs on dangerous sexual predators, or, if it isn't politically possible to entirely get rid of a sex offender list, have it only for convicted child molesters.

Actually, if somebody is that dangerous, they probably shouldn't be out on the street. We need, as penal experts now say, to lock up the people we are legitimately afraid of, not the ones we are mad at. I wouldn't have any problem with stiffer penalties for dangerous sex criminals, especially if the Legislature wanted to save us millions by releasing a lot of nonviolent criminals.

Incidentally, I have a selfish interest in abolishing the sex offender registry; I might easily have been on it. Not because of anything I did when I was in high school; I was far too socially inept, and the only woman I now want is older than the president.

But I do take my dog to public woods, and once or twice, at night, after a day of coffee drinking, I have had to join him in peeing on trees. All things considered, I would rather not have my driver's license picture on the registry. It makes my face look fat.


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