Friday, January 20, 2012

LA - Sheriff says cousin Brian Downing's sex charge, viral 'Bama-LSU fan video could have lifelong consequences

Brian Downing
Original Article

01/20/2012

By TIM CHITWOOD

Downing faces felony sexual battery charge in New Orleans

Today 32-year-old Brian Downing has a wife and baby, a second cousin who’s the sheriff of Russell County, a felony charge of sexual battery and a nationwide notoriety that may dog him the rest of his life.

If convicted of sexual battery, the local Alabama fan allegedly videotaped putting his genitals on an unconscious LSU supporter in a New Orleans Krystal restaurant after the Jan. 9 college football championship will become a registered sex offender, having to notify authorities whenever he gets a new home address, said New Orleans police spokesman Frank Robertson.

On Wednesday the Central High School graduate and University of Alabama alumnus lost his job, fired when employer Hibbett Sports learned he’d been identified as the Alabama fan in the viral online video.

On Thursday, Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor recognized Downing from images posted all over the Internet, summoned his cousin to the sheriff’s office and then sent him on to New Orleans, where Downing that night was charged with the felony and with misdemeanor obscenity. He was booked into the Orleans Parrish jail, where he spent the night.

At 12:46 p.m. Friday, he was released on $10,000 bond.

That same afternoon, Taylor was in his office holding a news conference about a joint drug operation with Phenix City police and state authorities. But what reporters really wanted to ask about was his cousin’s alleged conduct as captured on video about 11:45 p.m. Jan. 9 at New Orleans’ 118 Bourbon St. Krystal.

The entire video lasts about five minutes. But it takes the ‘Bama fan later identified as Downing just a minute and nine seconds to unzip his shorts, expose himself and simulate a sex act, his genitals making contact with the unconscious LSU fan.

Once posted online, the video went viral. New Orleans police saw it Tuesday and sought the public’s help in identifying the people involved. Websites devoted to irreverent sports news pitched in Wednesday and Thursday, vying to see which could ID the suspect first.

In Phenix City, Taylor started getting calls Thursday from relatives telling him his cousin was being identified as the suspect. Taylor looked at still photos captured from the video, and decided he had to act.

It was my responsibility that if I knew who New Orleans was looking for, to make them available, and if that meant putting them in my jail, so be it,” he said.

New Orleans police had no warrant for Downing’s immediate arrest, and did not want to have to extradite him later, so they asked Downing to come there, where he was arrested about 10 p.m.

Taylor, whose mother and Downing’s grandmother are sisters, said he since has tried to stay out of the matter, but is caught in the middle.

The conduct caught on camera is “out of character” for Downing, he said. “I’m upset with him on two levels: I’m upset with him as an Alabama fan, and I’m upset with him as a family member. I still love him, as a family member, but he has to pay a consequence if that is in fact found to be what he did.”

Is there a lesson for others in what happened?

I mean, you think? Is there a lesson here?” Taylor said wryly. “I mean, boy, you go thinking that you’re going to have a good time and that you’re going to enjoy and celebrate the university’s great win, and the next thing you know, you’re facing a potential sex-offender registration for the rest of your life.”

Whether someone’s photographing what you do in public shouldn’t matter, he said: “It’s about not doing that to begin with. That’s the issue.”

Taylor said Downing once was a talented baseball player: “He was a good athlete, good high school ball player, had some potential to play junior college ball. I don’t know if he did for a period of time or not.”

Downing went to work for Hibbett Sports right after graduating from Alabama, Taylor said. “He’s married to the same wife he’s had since they met in college. They’ve been together for a long time, and recently had a child.” Downing’s little girl is just three or four months old, he said.

Downing’s job loss shows that the consequences he and his family face for his alleged minute of misconduct extend beyond legal ramifications, Taylor said.

He’s been there a long time,” the sheriff said of Downing’s work at Hibbett Sports. “That, in and of itself in this economy — I mean, you lose your job after 10-plus years — that’s terrible. If nothing else were to happen, that’s bad enough…. To have to start over, with this following him the way it’s going to follow him, is very difficult.”

WARNING: VIDEO CONTAINS MALE GENITALS:

Video Link


OK - Oklahoma's Sex Offender Compliance Check


MN - Cost drives new plan on treating sex offenders

Original Article

01/19/2012

By PAUL McENROE

Citing the high cost of indefinite civil commitment for Minnesota sex offenders, two influential lawmakers will propose a shift to longer prison terms, coupled with intensive -- but cheaper -- treatment.

In addition, the legislators plan to propose a state mental health review court, a move aimed to standardize the civil commitment process for sex offenders and reduce political pressures on local prosecutors and judges, which can be intense in rural communities.

Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, said Thursday that he and Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, are in the final stages of drafting the legislation. He said a team of legislators has spent the past four months reviewing the public safety and civil liberties issues surrounding the more than 600 patients being held indefinitely in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) at Moose Lake and St. Peter.

"The cost is just tremendous, more than $330 a day, as opposed to keeping these offenders in a corrections setting for about $70 a day," Limmer said. "We intend to stay focused on safety, on cost and on the constitutional issues, [but] holding these individuals longer in prison makes sense rather than paying the high cost of civil commitment.''

Limmer and Cornish, chairman of the public safety committees in the Senate and House, respectively, attended a packed forum at the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul. Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson and Eric Janus, dean and president at William Mitchell, hosted the symposium.

Last spring, Legislative Auditor James Nobles found that the cost of treating Minnesota's sex offenders could be drastically reduced by creating alternative, highly supervised programs similar to those adopted in New York, Texas and Wisconsin. Minnesota is one of 20 states with civil commitment programs, and in 2010 had the nation's highest number of committed sex offenders per capita. "Without releases, Minnesota is susceptible to lawsuits challenging the adequacy of the treatment program," Nobles found.

Jesson has found herself caught in a paradoxical, emotionally charged debate over how to protect public safety while honoring the rights of offenders who have completed treatment requirements.

In her opening remarks, Jesson said she was just days into her job last winter when a reporter called her to discuss sex offender policy. That she would talk openly about the issue left her communications staff "terrorized," she said. The time has come, she said, to give the issue open discussion.

In late 2010, a Human Services review panel recommended the supervised release of two offenders from the MSOP. But on Jesson's watch, the department has blocked the releases in court. One of the patients, convicted rapist [name withheld], has admitted to more than 90 sexual offenses and is considered a high risk to reoffend.

At the same time, Janus has long warned lawmakers that courts are running out of patience over civil liberties issues and the political use of commitment as a way to extend punishment. "We are approaching a potential train wreck,'' Janus said. "Our commitment program is into its third decade. We must ask ourselves, what are the standards for commitment?"

In a sobering observation, William Donnay, of the Department of Corrections, told the audience he believes there are offenders who would not be in the MSOP but for misguided political pressures. "We are supporting a system where we know some offenders present no threat to us," he said. "How do we work our way out of that?"


The FSO Ecomonic Occupy Movement: For Former Sex Offenders and their Families

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