Saturday, February 11, 2012

GA - Man stuck between clashing sex offender registration laws

Original Article

I don't think this is true. SORNA is nothing more than guidelines for states, not laws that apply to individuals, as mentioned here.

02/11/2012

By Kyle Martin

There’s a growing conflict between state and federal sex offender laws, and [name withheld] is in the middle of it.

[name withheld] was sentenced to 87 months in federal prison in exchange for pleading guilty to possessing child pornography. His return to his native Georgia in 2005, after six years in prison, forced him to register in a state with what’s widely considered one of the toughest sex offender laws in the country.

Residency restrictions forced him to live in a small farmhouse in rural Burke County that’s 17 miles over open roads from the closest Walmart.

[name withheld] saw his chance to live a more normal life when Georgia lawmakers opened a way in 2010 for some sex offenders to get their names off the registry with a judge’s approval. These are offenders, for instance, who are disabled, teens charged with statutory rape for consensual sex or not likely to re-offend.

[name withheld] meets several of these criteria – he’s been slowly going blind since the 1970s because of a rare degenerative eye disease – and a Superior Court judge recently agreed that he should be taken off the registry.

But there’s a catch, and it’s one being repeated across America.

Superior Court Judge David Roper said federal regulations still compel [name withheld] to keep his name on the registry. Roper backs up the decision with a host of case law from similar challenges around the country.

For [name withheld], it’s a slap in the face.

If the state says I’m not a danger, then I should be able to live like a normal person,” he said.

HIS CASE IS representative of a larger debate in the legal community about the Adam Walsh Act, which established federal requirements and standards for sex offender registration in 2006. Only 15 states have substantially complied with the law; most, including Georgia, have chosen to take the penalty of a 10 percent reduction in federal law enforcement grants for not implementing it.

It’s a real interesting and difficult area of law that a lot of people are dealing with,” said Augusta attorney Scott Connell, who is petitioning to have Augusta businessman [name withheld] removed from Georgia’s registry.

Connell said his focus is on getting [name withheld] off the state registry first, but if he’s forced to tackle the federal requirements, then “we’ll do that dance.”

A lot of people are going to be in that two-step process,” Connell said.

The question is whether a state’s sex offenders should have to comply with the federal requirements if the state doesn’t.

The two laws basically can’t co-exist,” said Stephanie Carrigg, a senior policy adviser for the U.S. Justice Department Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking.

THE LAW, named for the murdered son of America’s Most Wanted host John Walsh, established guidelines for the types of information sex offenders must provide. Those guidelines, which fall under the umbrella of the Sex Offender Regis­tra­tion and Notification Act, require much more information about sex offenders to be publicly available than what’s commonly found on most state registries. It also requires juveniles convicted of sex crimes to register and extends the amount of time offenders have to report their address.
- John Walsh's son was never proven to have been sexually assaulted by a known or unknown sex offender, so why pass a law affecting sex offenders instead of murderers or children?  Also, the law is called the "Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act," so why don't they put all criminals on the list who have harmed children in any way?  Why just sex crimes?

One of the primary goals is information sharing,” said Linda Baldwin, the director of the Justice Department office.

Ideally, uniform reporting standards and improved digital databases would give law enforcement greater access to more accurate information so, for instance, a Rich­mond County deputy who pulls over an absconded sex offender from Alabama would know immediately who he is dealing with.

But most states are resisting the changes.

They find it a difficult pill to swallow,” Baldwin said.
- And for good reason!  It's basically bribery, IMO, and unconstitutional on many grounds, but the Constitution is no longer worth the paper and ink it's written with, so basically anything is possible now.

Terry Norris, the executive director of the Georgia Sheriff’s Association, said most sheriffs in Georgia are already going above and beyond what’s required by them to keep tabs on sex offenders in their neighborhoods.

He said the cost of implementing the added federal requirements is prohibitive.

It’s the federal government telling you how to do something, when most of law enforcement is done by the local police department,” Norris said.

States had three years after the Adam Walsh Act became law to become substantially compliant with its requirements. Not doing so meant a 10 percent reduction in federal law enforcement Byrne grants (i.e. Bribery), which provide funding for after-school education programs and specialized law enforcement training in areas such as gang prevention.

Norris said the penalty lacks teeth. Information from the Justice Policy Institute shows Georgia received $5,594,288 in Byrne grants in 2006; the penalty would be a loss of just more than $500,000. In contrast, the estimated cost to implement the federal requirements in 2009 was $15 million in Georgia.
- And states who are passing laws to come into compliance, apparently aren't looking at the full picture.  Why would you spend millions of dollars just to save less than $1 million?  It's stuff like this why this country is broke!

In the whole scheme of things, (the penalty) is not a big number,” Norris said.

HE VIEWS HIMSELF as a victim of a broken system. He’s not against the registry’s intent, but he said it creates the illusion of safety to the general public.

He points to Phillip Garrido, a convicted sex offender wearing an ankle monitor in California who kidnapped Jaycee Dugard in 1991 when she was 11 and kept her as a prisoner for 18 years.

[name withheld] also argues that there are predators who were not on the registry, including Ryan Brunn, who pleaded guilty in Jan­uary to sexually assaulting and killing a 7-year-old girl in Canton, Ga., then killed himself in prison.

What did the registry do for that child?[name withheld] asked.
- The registry, no matter who is on it, dangerous or not, won't prevent another crime like this from occurring.  The truly dangerous should be sentenced to longer in prison, after experts review everything about them, and then all the others, should not be on any public registry, the registry should be offline and used by police only.  It's becoming an online hit-list.

He proposes a three-year period on the registry that involves therapy and intense supervision. A re-evaluation after that period would determine whether the person should be removed from the registry.

I don’t know if there’s a solution, but I think there’s a better answer,” he said.


CA - California sheriff's deputy (Jennifer McClain) arrested on suspicion of having sex with inmate

Jennifer McClain
Original Article

02/11/2012

SANTA ANA - A sheriff's deputy has been booked on suspicion of having sex with an inmate at a jail in southern California, authorities announced Friday.

Jennifer McClain, 29, was arrested Thursday night after being suspected of engaging in sexual activities with a male inmate at the Men's Central Jail in Santa Ana, Calif., southeast of Los Angeles, during November and December last year, The Orange County Register reported.

Orange County sheriff's department spokesman Jim Amormino said it was not known if McClain -- a five-year employee with the department -- had known the inmate prior to him being detained at the prison.

Amormino said McClain was released Thursday on her own recognizance.

Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs president Tom Dominguez said in a statement that McClain was cooperating with investigators.

"The allegations made against one of our own are very serious," the statement read. "We are confident that the investigation will be thorough and we anticipate a fair and just outcome."


TX - Compliance Checks

The following was sent to us via the contact form and posted with their permission.

Dear Sex Offender Issues Blog,

You have posted issues I have had before and would greatly appreciate if you could post this one for readers to respond to for advice:

My husband is a RSO in Texas and we are yet again having problems from the local law enforcement SO officer. When my husband last year went to update his registration on his birthday, the officer told him he needed to do a compliance check, there in the police station. The officer told my husband that he had been by our house "several" times to do a compliance check, but nobody was home. The officer said that "If I go by a SO's residence enough times and aren't able to find them at home I will get an arrest warrant." Basically, he was threatening to get an arrest warrant for my husband simply because we aren't home when he randomly knocks on our door? We have no idea when this officer comes by, or if he really does. We own our house and we spend every single night here, and we never travel outside of the state. Out of a total of 168 hours in a week, SOMEONE is at our house at least 80% of the time, yet we have NEVER seen this particular officer knock on our door. What do we do? My husband is completely in compliance and we are so tired of the local law enforcement harassing us for no reason.

Also, what should we, or any RSO that is NOT on any form of probation, do when law enforcement shows up for a compliance check.

Thanks,

Wife of a RSO


TNT's Southland Community

This was sent to us via the contact form and posted with permission. This sounds very similar to the following article.

By Anonymous:
I am greatly disturbed by the cable show Southland on TNT. Season 4, episode 3 "Community" includes a sex offender - actual crime unknown - that was attacked, shaved and had in permanent black marker "Child Rapist", "Molester" etc written on his head. His actual crime is not disclosed.

It's bad enough that LEO's don't like RSO's (and I used to work in the Federal Court System), but the neighborhood sets the apartment/house on fire during the evening. Every neighbor said they did it---the police could do nothing. All this episode does is provide an excuse for vigilantism. While the episode did a good job of illustrating that vigilantism exists, TNT could have had a disclaimer. What we don't need is increased vigilantism.


SC - Prison guard (Belvin Lee Sherrill) rapes women prisoners

Original YouTube Video

GEORGETOWN — Two former, female inmates have filed a lawsuit against the Georgetown County Sheriff's Office and an ex-correctional officer.

A judge recently sentenced Belvin Sherrill, 28, to eighteen months in prison for having sex with an inmate. He is also required register as a sex offender.

However, the two prior inmates also want Sherrill and the sheriff's office to pay punitive damages for what they claim Sherrill did to them.

According to the Georgetown County Sheriff's Office, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division did investigate claims that Sherrill had sexual relations with female inmates inside the jail.

After a thorough investigation, Sherrill was fired after it was discovered that he sent a letter to a female inmate apologizing for the incident.

In the lawsuit, two former, female inmates claim the ex-guard entered their jail cell and ordered them to perform a sex act on him on December 11, 2009.

It goes on to state that the women repeatedly pushed the panic button; however, it appeared to be broken.

The women claim at no time during these incidents did any other employee with the sheriff's office or detention center intervene to take any actions to protect them. As a result of Sherrill's action, the women's attorney says they've suffered emotional and physical harm.

Harry Oxner is the attorney who has filed the lawsuit on behalf of the women. A jury trial has been requested.

Sherrill has filed a response to the lawsuit with the Georgetown County Clerk of Court. In it, he denies "each and every allegation."


NV - Sex Offender Rules for Nevada Upheld by 9th

Original Article

02/10/2012

By TIM HULL

(CN) - Nevada can retroactively apply tough new registration rules for sex offenders, the 9th Circuit ruled Friday.

The appeals court in San Francisco (PDF) joined several of its sister circuits in finding that the retroactive application of the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act is "constitutionally sound."

The Nevada Legislature passed its version of the federal child-protection legislation - which encourages states to adopt uniform, expanded rules for sex offenders, and withholds federal law-enforcement funds from those who don't - in 2007. But the state law exceeded Washington's mandate in a few areas.

The Legislature supplemented the law by requiring police to provide public notice of the status of some sex offenders, and notify youth groups and religious organizations about some offenders. In other areas, the state provisions largely mimicked those in the federal law.

Several anonymous sex offenders teamed up with the American Civil Liberties Union Nevada to fight the legislation in Las Vegas. The federal complaint said retroactive application of the new rules would violate the ex-post facto and double jeopardy clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

U.S. District Judge James Mahan agreed, and he permanently barred the state from applying the rules retroactively in 2008.

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit reversed unanimously on Friday, joining the five other circuits (the 11th, 10th, 8th, 7th and 5th) that upheld retroactive application of the act's requirements against constitutional scrutiny.

"We have not explicitly ruled on the constitutionality of retroactive application of SORNA-inspired requirements," Judge Stephen Trott wrote for the panel. "Many of our sister circuits, however, have considered this issue. Unanimously they have concluded that retroactive imposition of SORNA requirements is constitutional ... We join them in concluding that the requirements of [the law] do not constitute retroactive punishment in violation of the ex post facto clause or double jeopardy clause."

The few differences in the Nevada law are not enough to disrupt such unanimity, the panel found.

Nevada's law was intended not to impose further criminal punishment but "to create a civil regulatory regime with the purpose of enhancing public safety." Thus it can be applied retroactively under precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003's Smith v. Doe, which upheld Alaska's sex-offender law.

But ACLU Nevada's general council Allen Lichtenstein told Courthouse News that there are "significant differences" between the Nevada law and those approved in other circuits. He said the group is still evaluating its next step.

"We feel that there are some important distinctions between Nevada and those other jurisdictions," he said in a phone interview on Friday.

ACLU Nevada had also challenged the retroactive application of a separate law passed by the state Legislature that puts tough new residency restrictions on sex offenders. The District Court enjoined that law as well, but the 9th Circuit found that the issue was moot on appeal. Nevada has already admitted in court filings that it "will not retroactively impose residency and movement restrictions," the panel said.

The 9th Circuit remanded that portion of the case back to the lower court, urging a settlement. If that fails, however, the District Court injunction will remain in place.