Thursday, September 6, 2012

UK - Police worker (Ashley Whitfield) who coaxed children into performing webcam 'sex shows' is jailed

Ashley Whitfield
Original Article

09/06/2012

By SABI PHAGURA

A police worker who coaxed children into performing webcam sex shows has been locked up.

Paedophile Ashley Whitfield used animated kids’ web-chat site ‘Habbo Hotel’ to find victims late at night.

Children as young as ten posed indecently for him via webcams in their bedrooms as their parents slept unawares.

The PCSO, who secretly recorded the images, won his victims’ trust by pretending to be a teenager.

In reality, Whitfield, 25, was a serving police community support officer with a secret obsession with child porn.

He had been in a £20,000-a-year post with Cheshire Constabulary for two-and-a-half years when he was exposed.

Whitfield, of Redfern Walk, Warrington, had used a string of different email addresses to avoid detection.

He sobbed in the dock as he was jailed for three-and-a-half years at Manchester Crown Court.

He had admitted six counts of causing a child to engage in sexual activity, three counts of taking indecent photographs of a child, and 13 counts of possessing child pornography at an earlier hearing.

Habbo, is the world's largest social game and online community for teenagers but also has users that are younger.

According to the site, users of Habbo Hotel can 'make friends, chillax - (and) get noticed!' with the 10 million youngsters it attracts each month.

The site, which is owned by Finnish company Sulake, states that it bans users from sexually explicit language and it warns players not to exchange pictures or use webcams.

But police found photos and video of four children that Whitfield had incited into stripping off and performing sex acts online, as well as a large stash of child porn he had downloaded.

The crimes came to light last summer after detectives investigating a child grooming case in Scotland learnt that Whitfield had been involved in obscene chats with an 11-year-old boy and tipped off colleagues in Cheshire.

When officers knocked at Whitfield’s parents’ home and asked where he was, they were told ‘they should know’ as he was serving with them at the time.

When questioned, Whitfield admitted to obscene MSN Messenger chats with the 11-year-old boy a dozen times.

Searches of computer equipment uncovered images of the other young victims, who included a 10-year-old girl he had groomed using Skype, a young teenage girl he goaded into obscene acts while she enjoyed a sleepover with a friend, and an unidentified boy who Whitfield had saved a screenshot of as he performed an indecent act.

And this is not the first time Habbo has been in the media spotlight.

A Channel 4 News investigation in June this year found children on the website were befriended by users who encouraged them to make contact using Skype or webcams, and to perform sex acts.

Producer Rachel Seifert visited the site over a period of two months and said she was targeted by sexually explicit chat each time.

So damaging was the investigation that Sulake’s second-largest investor, London-based Balderton Capital, said it had decided to drop its stake in the business after learning of the findings.

Sentencing, Judge Martin Rudland said: 'What you did was go into a site where children should feel safe and free from predatory adults and corrupted them in their own homes.'

'You wormed your way into their homes; you ruthlessly exploited the immaturity and malleability of your victims,' he said.


TX - Fifth Circuit Limits Reach of Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA)

Original Article

09/06/2012

A recent federal court decision could allow some convicted sex offenders to avoid adding their names to the federal registry.

In a somewhat surprising move, the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently issued a verdict that has limited the reach authorities have over certain people convicted of federal sex crimes.

Background of the Kebodeaux Case
The case -- Fifth Circuit No. 08-51185, U.S. vs. Kebodeaux (PDF) -- involves a Texas resident (and former servicemember) convicted in 1999 of having "carnal knowledge of a child" under Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Kebodeaux successfully completed his punishment following sentencing, and he wasn't subjected to any form of long-term probation or supervision.

In August of 2007, Kebodeaux registered his El Paso, Texas, residence with authorities pursuant to the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). SORNA was only enacted in 2006, long after Kebodeaux's sentence was carried out, and while he technically was no longer "on the radar" of federal authorities at that time, he did register his El Paso address.

Shortly afterward, though, he moved from El Paso to San Antonio and did not update his registration accordingly. He was charged with violating SORNA provision ? 2250(a)(2)(A) for his failure to register his new contact information with the authorities. Following a bench trial, Kebodeaux was found guilty and sentenced to 12 months incarceration and a five-year period of supervised release afterwards. He appealed the verdict, arguing that, as applied to the facts of his specific case, SORNA oversteps proper federal punitive authority; the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.

The Kebodeaux verdict's impact is very limited, and might not make a difference in the lives of other convicted sex offenders who could be facing possible SORNA violations for failing to register a new address following an intra- or interstate move.

State Registration Requirements
The Kebodeaux verdict does not affect the application of any relevant state-level sex offender registration requirements. State statutes vary, but depending on the type of sexual offense charged, whether the offense involved a minor, whether the person is a repeat offender and whether the crime was a felony or misdemeanor, those convicted of sex crimes can expect to face mandatory registration for a number of years. Some are even forced to register for the rest of their lives.

Sex offender registries are obviously designed to protect children from being victimized, which is a laudable purpose, but their effectiveness has still not been quantified after decades of informal and formal registration requirements. Sex offender registries do have a huge impact on the people forced to register, though. Inclusion of a registered sex offender list will have both immediate and long-lasting effects on the registrant's life, and can easily affect housing, career, educational and personal opportunities.

With such severe consequences at stake, those facing charges of a sex-related crime must take action to protect their rights and mount a vigorous defense. If you or a loved one has been charged, seek the advice of a skilled criminal defense attorney in your area to learn more about your legal rights and options.


GA - Jurors want high sex offender bail

Original Article

09/06/2012

By Jim Wallace

ALBANY - Dougherty County Grand Jurors want to make it tougher for suspected child molesters to get out of jail.

In their presentments this week, they recommended anyone charged with sexually abusing a child be forced to post at least a half million dollars bail.

Child advocates say they're glad grand jurors are concerned about the serious problem of sex crimes against children.

Judges and Prosecutors told the Grand Jury their recommendation can't be implemented legally, but it's obvious that during their service Grand Jurors learned how serious this problem is.

The Lily Pad helps law enforcement interview and investigate child sex abuse cases, and they say most people would be stunned by the number they see.

"Over the past year we here at the Lily Pad have interviewed 225 sexual assault victims," Lily Pad Director of Child Advocacy Center Mary Martinez said.

The Grand Jury obviously was concerned by the cases they heard and recommended that the minimum bail for any person charged with a sex crime against a child be at least a half million dollars.

"Our rates match the national average. Approximately one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted before their 18th birthday," Martinez said.

And many of the offenders are in the home or family members of the victims, so that higher bail could protect some children.

The Judge and District Attorney understand the Grand Jurors concerns, but say their proposal isn't legal.

"Certainly while this is a very serious offense, the Courts can not impose a single bond amount or a cookie cutter type bond amount on every particular kind of case," said Dougherty District Attorney Greg Edwards.

But child advocates say they are glad to bring awareness to a serious crime issue in Albany and spur parents, educators, and mentors to protect youths.

"Talking with your kids about body safety. Making your children aware that it's OK to say no. And it's OK for them to protect their bodies," Martinez said.

Both the D. A.'s office and child advocates say the number of child sexual abuse cases is not increasing, but they and the Grand Jury agree that protecting children is a critical issue that needs awareness.

While bail for people charged with sexual abuse of a child has to be done on an individual case basis, the penalty for people convicted of the crime has been set high. At least 25 years in prison, to life for those convicted.

There are currently 319 registered sex offenders in Dougherty County, though many of them were not convicted of sex crimes against children.


TX - Child Wanders Around Area Filled With Sex Offenders (And yet nothing happens)

Original Article

See the video at the link above, which seems to be having problems.

09/05/2012

By Mike Manzoni

CORPUS CHRISTI - A child in the after school program at T.G. Allen Elementary School (1414 18th Street) slipped past supervisors and wandered around a neighborhood with more than 100 registered sex offenders before finding his way home, his mother said.

Edward Pena, 5, left the after school program and walked to his house which is the next block over. His mother, Valerie Silvas, said she is concerned because the area is home to 137 registered sex offenders. "He could have gotten kidnapped or he could have been run over."

Silvas said the school district is investigating the incident. Lorette Williams, the C.C.I.S.D. spokeswoman, said she could not comment, but said many after school programs are run by the city.