Tuesday, February 21, 2012

MO - Some Mo. senators concerned about sex-abuse bill

Original Article

Of course they are going too far, they always do.

02/20/2012

By DAVID A. LIEB

JEFFERSON CITY - Some Missouri senators raised concerns Monday that colleagues may be going too far in their response to the sex abuse scandal at Penn State University by proposing criminal penalties for any adult who fails to report child sexual abuse.

The Missouri legislation, which is similar to bills being considered in at least a dozen states, would require anyone age 18 or older who witnesses child sex abuse to report it to a law enforcement agency or the state Family Services Division, which investigates allegations of child abuse and neglect. Those who don't could face misdemeanor charges punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-St. Louis County, said his bill was prompted by the case against retired assistant Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, who was charged in November with child sex abuse. Two school officials were charged with failing to properly report abuse allegations. But Schmitt cited reports about another university employee who told his boss about witnessing sexual abuse and did not tell police - and was not charged with failing to report abuse.

Schmitt's bill would expand a Missouri law that already requires about two dozen categories of individuals - including doctors, teachers and ministers - to report suspected child abuse or neglect to the state Family Services Division. The proposed reporting mandate for all adults would apply only to observed cases of child sexual abuse, not instances of neglect and not to secondhand reports or suspicion of sexual abuse.

"The goal of this is to make sure these sexual offenders are brought to prosecution," Schmitt said. "This bill closes the gap between what we know is the right thing to do and what the law actually says."

Yet several senators said the legislation could have unintended consequences for families.

Sen. Luann Ridgeway, R-Smithville, questioned the wisdom of making a criminal out of an 18-year-old high school senior who witnesses a stepfather abuse a sibling but doesn't go to police out of fear for his or her own personal safety.

"Obviously, no one is going to stand up for the child abuser," Ridgeway said. "But what I want to know is how can this abuse statute be abused?"

Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, cited another scenario in which a mother who reports child sex abuse by a boyfriend - because the law requires her to do so - could end up having her child removed and placed in state custody while authorities try to figure out the situation.

As she studied the bill, "I kept finding more and more of those situations that made me uncomfortable," Justus said.
- Well at least people are examining the bill and thinking about it before passing it.

Senators set the bill aside without taking a vote after debating it Monday. Senate Majority Leader Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, said it was unclear when he would bring the bill back up for debate.

"I think senators want to think it through," Dempsey said.
- Good, they should do this with everything that comes before them.


MS - Former Gautier police officer (Robert Brian Hill) indicted on sex-crime charges

Robert Brian Hill
Original Article

02/20/2012

By MARGARET BAKER

PASCAGOULA -- A Jackson County grand jury has indicted a former Gautier police officer of 12 counts of touching of a child for lustful purposes and three counts of sexual battery, according to court records.

Robert Brian Hill, 44 and a 13-year veteran police officer, first was arrested in September on the 15 felony charges accusing him of having sex with a minor or touching her inappropriately while in a position of authority.

The alleged incidents, all involving a minor under the age of 14, occurred at different times between March 1 and July 3. At the time of his arrest in September, Hill had worked in Gautier for three years. Pascagoula police officers assisted Gautier in the investigation.

Hill had worked for two years as a patrol officer in Gautier. In May, he was assigned to work as an agent at the Narcotics Task Force of Jackson County. Hill remained a narcotics agent until he was placed on administrative leave on July 17 as a result of the investigation into allegations against him.

Immediately after his arrest, Hill was taken to the Jackson County jail, where his bond was set at a total of $150,000. He’s currently out of jail on bond.

Hill is tentatively set to go to trial on May 7 in Jackson County, records show.

Prior to working in Gautier, Hill was a police officer in Philadelphia, Miss. Prior to that, authorities said he served as a law enforcement officer at agencies in Sebastian County, Ark., and in McNairy County, Tenn.