Friday, March 29, 2013

TX - Texas sex offenders in sight of rare policy win

Original Article

03/29/2013

By Paul J. Weber

AUSTIN (AP) - Four convicted sex offenders huddled in a busy hallway at the Texas Capitol, congratulating each other for going public and testifying against a bill that would plaster their criminal past on their Facebook profiles.

As expected, not everyone was moved by their objections.

"I don't feel bad for the guys that came in here whining," Republican state Rep. Steve Toth said after the men had left the room at a recent House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee meeting. A Democrat switched on her microphone to voice on the record that she, too, had no sympathy.
- Just wait until one of their own get slapped with the label, then they will see it differently.

In the Texas Legislature and statehouses nationwide, bills aimed at curbing how and where sex offenders can live and work are routine. But for the 72,000 registered sex offenders in Texas this year, there is optimism. A legislative victory is in sight, and it's not for sinking a fresh round of get-tougher proposals — but scaling back one already in place.

Pushing forward what advocates say would mark a minor but extraordinary softening of the state's sex offender laws, the GOP-controlled Senate has passed a bill to remove employer information from Texas' online sex offender registry.

"I've been on that registry for 15 years and going on for a lifetime," said [name withheld], 34, who works in information technology and said he was arrested at 18 for copying illegal images. "I've never re-offended. I have no intention to re-offend."

It's not a change of swaying lawmakers but the wringing hands of frustrated business leaders — they complain their bottom line suffers when the public discovers who's on the payroll.

The odd result: Sex offenders and Gov. Rick Perry's favorite conservative think tank is among those left seeing eye-to-eye. The Texas Public Policy Foundation, which backs business-friendly bills, argues the current registry comes between the private relationship between employer and employee.

"We've seen if it bleeds, it leads in news coverage for years," said Marc Levine, director of the foundation's Center for Effective Justice. "Obviously, people may be able to make money by doing a news report, 'We went to a McDonald's and there was a sex offender serving as a cashier' or something. It may be salacious, but what's the public interest?"

Mary Sue Molnar, executive director of Texas Voices for Reason and Justice and the mother of a registered sex offender, said the bill is only the second her group has endorsed since forming in 2007.

Hers and a small band of similar organizations typically play defense in statehouses, arguing that decades of stacking one restriction atop another has pushed sex offenders to society's fringes. They say the result is growing ranks of unemployable and homeless outcasts, who then become more likely to commit new crimes.

"(Texas) would have every right to crow, jump up and down, dance jigs — whatever," said Brenda Jones, executive director of the Massachusetts-based Reform Sex Offender Laws Inc. "It would be a huge win. It's very difficult to do."

Pressure on lawmakers to step up restrictions began intensified in 2005 when 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford of Florida was sexually assaulted and killed by a sex offender, according to a 2006 report by Texas House researchers. States began enacting sweeping "Jessica's Laws" that generally included mandatory minimum sentences and prohibiting sex offenders from living with 2,000 feet of schools and playgrounds.

Rules were being put in place prior to that. In 2001, for example, a Texas judge ordered sex offenders to place conspicuous signs in their front yards announcing their convictions to neighbors. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld that sex offender registries are not punitive, though an Indiana federal appeals court this month did uphold the rights of sex offenders to have social media accounts.
- Live with the laws for about 10 years, then tell us it's not punitive!

And states — Texas included— continue to roll out new legislation to more closely track sex offenders and restrict what they can and cannot do. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder this month signed a new law expanding the state's public sex offender registry to include a wider range of crimes involving minors. In Arkansas, a proposal would keep sex offenders whose victim was under 18 on the registry for life, whereas now they can petition for removal after 15 years.

About a dozen bills in the Texas Legislature this session would create new restrictions, including one reinforcing the authority of cities to keep sex offenders away from playgrounds and swimming pools.

In all, it's a reality check that keeps groups stopping short of predicting that wiping employer information off the registry will lead to a wave of other rollbacks.

Tough-on-crime conservatives aren't the only ones piling on the restrictions, either: The Texas proposal that would require sex offenders to list their convictions on social media profiles was filed by Democrats' go-to political attack dog, state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer.

"The state made a public policy decision in 1991 to get into this business. Every year we've expanded it," Martinez Fischer said. "It's all been done under the rubric that we need to protect the public. And most important, we need to protect those who probably can't protect themselves."
- And adding onto someones sentence, after the fact, is an unconstitutional ex post facto law!

Phil Taylor, a licensed sex offender treatment provider in Dallas, told lawmakers the social media bill would only further stigmatize sex offenders and hamper their efforts to rejoin society. He said 80 percent of sex offenders don't relapse after prison, and pointed out that the group has lower recidivism rates than burglars and other criminals.

Sex offenders, meanwhile, sought to make a pragmatic case to lawmakers: money and resources. State law requires released sex offenders to register within seven days of leaving prison. [name withheld], 43, said he fell out of compliance that first week of freedom because the state was so backlogged. Three months passed before [name withheld] said he was finally registered.

"I think if more people knew the person behind the mug shot, they would be more in favor of turning away from sex offender registry," [name withheld] said.


PA - Former SCI Pittsburgh prison guard (Harry Nicoletti) to serve five years of probation in abuse of sex offenders

Harry Nicoletti
Original Article

We're sure this happens a lot more than they make you believe. Just ask almost any sexual offender who has been in jail or prison for any extended period of time. Maybe they should put him in prison or jail and tell all the inmates he's a cop? See the other articles at the end. It would seem that he committed many sexual crimes, but like usual, he gets a slap on the wrist when compared to the average citizen who does the same.

03/28/2013

By Adam Brandolph

The Woods Run prison guard who masterminded the abuse of child sex offenders serving time will spend five years on probation, an Allegheny County judge ordered on Thursday.

Harry Nicoletti, 61, of Coraopolis, a former guard at State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh, will spend six months on house arrest.

Prosecutors said Nicoletti led a group of guards who targeted inmates convicted of sex crimes involving minors.

You were painted as an ogre; you were painted as a sex fiend; you were painted as a villain who liked to torture and seek out sex offenders,” Common Pleas Judge David R. Cashman said before imposing Nicoletti's sentence. “I'm sparing you from the danger you imposed on the individuals you were in charge of. I hope you understand that.”

It certainly has never been my mission to hurt or embarrass anyone,” Nicoletti told the judge before sentencing. “While I do respect the jury's verdict, I still struggle with it daily.”

He declined to comment as he walked out of the Allegheny County Courthouse, Downtown, with his wife.

A jury in January found him guilty of 27 counts, including one felony of solicitation and misdemeanor charges of official oppression, simple assault, solicitation, indecent exposure and making terroristic threats.
- Indecent exposure?  So why isn't he on the sex offender registry?

The jury acquitted him of 52 charges that he sexually assaulted the inmates. It could not reach a verdict on one count that Nicoletti brought illegal contraband into the prison.

Defense attorney Steve Colafella said Cashman's sentence sends a message to other guards.

This case represents a policy statement that that type of behavior is not tolerated by the Department of Corrections,” Colafella said.
- It may not be tolerated when someone is caught, but we are willing to bet it happens a lot more than people think.

A jury in December found former Woods Run guard Tory D. Kelly, 41, of Aliquippa guilty of threatening and assaulting an inmate. Kelly is scheduled to be sentenced April 2.

Former guard Bruce Lowther, 35, of West Newton is awaiting trial set for April 15. Prosecutors dropped or dismissed charges against four others.

The charges against Nicoletti and the other guards have spurred several federal civil lawsuits.

See Also:


Do Sex Offender Registries Belong in a Free and Just Society?

Original Article

03/28/2013

By Gina Luttrell

In the continuing madness out of Steubenville, Walter Madison, the attorney for [name withheld], is appealing the “You’re so obviously guilty it’s painful” verdict in the rape of a 16-year-old girl. Why? Because he believes that adding [name withheld] to a lifetime sex offender registry is unjust.

The question of whether [name withheld] deserves to be in the already-existing sex offender registry is a different beast. The interesting question is whether or not sex offender registries should exist at all. My thought is that government-sponsored sex offender registries are unjust, but in a free society there would be no way to prohibit a privately-run registry. However, it is highly likely that such a registry would be more just than the system currently in place.

Government-run Registries are Unjust

You do your crime, you do your time.” Typically an adage that refers to the fact that you can’t avoid punishment for wrongdoing, this phrase also suggests something we all believe to be true about punitive justice: there is a beginning and an end to a punishment. However, “paying your debt to society” doesn’t end when you leave the prison walls. A criminal record follows you, and this makes it difficult, if not impossible, to find employment and, with such, improve your life after incarceration. This contributes to a cycle of poverty and, for many people, results in repeating criminal activity because there are few if any other options.

Sex offender registries exacerbate this problem. Not only does the registration stay with the perpetrator for the rest of his or her life, sex offender registries are public documents. There are areas of society that registered offenders are not allowed to go. The problem compounds even further when one considers the kinds of acts that can land people on government sex offender registries: urinating in public, streaking, and prostitution or paying for sex.

This certainly does not constitute “justice.” Even under a punitive justice system, punishment must fit the crime. With compulsory sex offender registries that do not expire, criminals “do time” for the rest of their lives. Every penalty is a life penalty. It is the modern-day equivalent of human branding.


CA - Man is a "sex offender" for slapping a woman on the thigh and butt?

Original Article

How many of you out there, who will admit it, have done exactly what this man has done? Should you be on the sex offender registry for something like this? We agree the man should be punished, but come on!

03/27/2013

By ALYSSA DURANTY

SANTA ANA – A 30-year-old convicted sex offender from Santa Ana, who has been trying to appeal a probation violation for entering a county park, has been sentenced to an additional 197 days in jail after he admitted to more misconduct.

[name withheld] has been fighting the Orange County ordinance barring sex offenders from public recreation areas such as beaches and parks since he was found guilty on Nov. 14, 2011, of violating his probation by entering Mile Square Park in Fountain Valley on May 5, 2011, authorities said.

Authorities said [name withheld] admitted to a deputy on June 7, 2011, that he was in the park for several hours and knew it was a violation of his probation.

[name withheld] has now been charged with additional jail time after his probation officer filed a petition that states he admitted to multiple offenses including sexual encounters with women and a man since January, authorities said.

[name withheld] had to register as a sex offender for life after he was convicted on June 17, 2010, on a misdemeanor count of sexual battery for slapping a woman on her upper thigh on Nov. 11, 2009, and chasing her after she ran away, according to a statement from the District Attorney's Office.

He also was convicted of a misdemeanor attempted sexual battery for slapping a woman on her buttocks Nov. 17, 2009, after he leaned down and pretended to pet her dog and slapping her on the buttocks a second time after she walked away.

He admitted to both incidents in a taped interview with the Santa Ana Police Department, officials said.

[name withheld] signed a copy of the Orange County sex-offender ordinance on May 2, 2011, which states that he is not allowed to enter public recreation areas without signed permission by the Orange County Sheriff's Department. That was three days before he went to a family gathering at Mile Square Park, according to a statement from the Orange County District Attorney's Office.

Officials said [name withheld] was found guilty Nov. 14, 2011 of violating the ordinance and sentenced to 100 days in jail and five years formal probation for the misdemeanor.

[name withheld] appealed the conviction, stating that the county law is too vague and that state law -- which bans paroled sex offenders only if committing crimes against young children – trumps the county law.

Scott Van Camp, [name withheld]'s court-appointed attorney, said that his client's new jail time will not affect appeal, and he will be finished with his probation term once he is released.

Several Orange County cities had passed similar ordinances, but some including Los Alamitos and Lake Forest have reversed the ban to avoid financial penalties after being named in an anonymously filed federal lawsuit Sept. 28.

A hearing on an appeal relating to Fullerton's ordinance banning sex offenders from public parks is scheduled for Thursday morning.


MO - Missouri Sex Offender Registry Changes Proposed

Original Article

Video available at the link above.

03/27/2013

By Kevin Schwaller

SPRINGFIELD - Proposals in Jefferson City could let select sex offenders take their names off of Missouri's sex offender registry.

Rep. Don Phillips, R-Kimberling City, Mo., says if his bill passes, more than 1,100 people on the registry would be eligible to take their names off of the list. He says some people simply don't belong on those records.

Phillips gave an example of someone who may be charged after relieving themselves on the side of the road.

We also spoke with the mother of a sex abuse victim. KOLR10 News concealed her identity to protect that victim. She is referred to for the purposes of this story as "Janette".

"We started our journey in 2011," says Janette.

That journey in court is one no mother wants to travel.

"He was five years old when it happened."

Janette says her brother-in-law sexually abused her little boy. It took her son years of growing to admit what happened.

"The ten years that he had kept in silence and what had happened to him, you know, no amount of jail time would have made that up," Janette says.

Now, Janette wants to be sure the man who pleaded guilty to the misconduct won't get a chance to leave the sex offender registry.

"We are in desperate need of reforming our sex offender registry. We have hundreds and hundreds of people that don't belong on there," Phillips says.

Rep. Phillips is sponsoring a bill in the Missouri House. It would create a tiered system for gauging offenses. Some offenders won't have to register. Others will have to wait ten or 25 years to try to petition for removal from the registry. The worst offenders generally stay on for life.

Let's go back to Janette. She says the time in court wore on the family. They settled with a plea deal: two counts of misdemeanor sexual misconduct. She says the original charges were statutory sodomy and molestation.

The perpetrator got two consecutive nine month sentences. Now, Janette believes this bill could eventually let him off of the registry.

"The main reason we wanted to do this is so there couldn't be another hidden monster in a family, all you would have to do is Google his name and see that he was a registered sex offender," says Janette. "And that's what we wanted to make sure, is that it didn't happen to another family."

If this law passes -- based solely on the charges -- Janette's brother-in-law could petition to be taken off the registry in ten years.

Janette says she also wouldn't want victims to have to relive the experiences by having to appear again when someone is trying to be removed from the registry.

Phillips says victims would not have to come forward again in his bill.

The house has considered several similar proposals in the past and there are more this year.

The bill we examined (HB 462) has cleared one committee and still must make it through the Missouri House rules committee before going to the house floor.

See Also:
  • HB-462 (PDF): Changes the requirements for the state sex offender registry
  • HB-589 (PDF): Changes the laws regarding sexual offender registration and classification
  • HB-624 (PDF): Changes the laws regarding sexual offender registration


MA - Former police dispatcher (Raymond Edward Kish) sentenced to five years for possessing child pornography

Raymond Edward Kish
Original Article

03/28/2013

By Michael Hewlett

A former dispatcher with the Winston-Salem Police Department was sentenced Thursday to five years in federal prison for possessing child pornography.

But Raymond Edward Kish, a former U.S. Marine who helped with rescue efforts in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks on the Pentagon, said in U.S. District Court that he was never interested in child pornography. His addiction was to adult pornography that started when he was 8 years old and was molested by a relative.

Kish, 35, said in court that he has struggled with his addiction to adult pornography for 27 years, and since his arrest has gone to counseling to deal with that and the sexual abuse he endured as a child.

J.D. Byers, his attorney, said Kish had used a file-sharing program called Limewire to download adult pornography to his computer. But that program also would download child pornography, according to Byers. When Kish discovered this was happening, he anonymously contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and he would routinely delete child pornography that was downloaded to his computer. When he was arrested last year, he had been out of town for a few days and had not had a chance to delete the child pornography that authorities found on his computer, Byers said.

It’s a shame that he is going to spend years in prison,” Byers said in court.


MI - Ex-Royal Oak officer (Michael Stephen Smith) sentenced to prison (one year) for child porn on home computer

Michael Stephen Smith
Original Article

Tell us, why is it that when a police officer is convicted of a sex crime, in many cases, they get a small sentence compared to the average citizen, as in this case?

03/27/2013

OAKLAND COUNTY - A former Royal Oak police officer was sentenced to one year in prison for the child pornography found on his home computer.

Michael Stephen Smith, 41, was sentenced Wednesday in Oakland County Circuit court.

Smith, who lived in Holly, worked as a police officer for Royal Oak until he was fired in January 2012.

Michigan's Attorney General Bill Schuette charged Smith with 20 counts related to the pornography.

Schuette said from September 2011 through January 2012, Smith downloaded and possessed pornography on his home computer.

The images were discovered through an online investigation by the Flint internet crimes against children task force (ICA), which uses sophisticated technology to identify online child pornography in Michigan. Smith was also charged for sending images to other users through a public internet file-sharing network.

In addition to the jail time, Judge James Alexander also ordered Smith to attend sex-addict anonymous meetings, along with 5 years of probation.

See Also:


OK - Clause and Effect: Norman Helps Sex Offenders by Not Making Them Move

Original Article

03/28/2013

By KATE CARLTON

For victims, life after a sexual assault is often filled with shame, fear and frustrating legal battles. For perpetrators, life after conviction is complicated, especially after they finish serving time in prison. According to Oklahoma’s Sex Offenders Registration Act (PDF), those convicted of a sexual felony cannot live within a 2,000-foot radius of a school. And, as straightforward as that sounds, it might be significantly easier said than done.


Well, we've got schools everywhere, plus the University of Oklahoma and that counts too,” said Norman Police Department Captain John Easley. “What you see is the law says, ‘You cannot live there.’ but that’s a little hazy area in the enforcement and prosecution of these folks. And what it’s come down to is somebody has described it as the grandfather clause.”

This “grandfather clause” is a caveat added to the law (57 O.S. § 590 - PDF) and a general understanding between law enforcement officials that makes it possible for sex offenders to remain inside that prohibited radius if they’re convicted while living there.

In other words, if you offend in Norman, if you’re convicted in Norman (of a sex offense that requires registration) and you have property here in town, you don’t have to sell and leave that property," explained Easley. "You can just register and stay with that property. Now if you sell the property, or dispose of it in some way, then you are stuck with the situation where now the rule kicks in on you because the grandfather clause no longer operates.”

The City of Norman lists 83 registered sex offenders within its limits. And there’s a common assumption that at least some of those were men who were simply caught urinating in public. But Captain Easley explains that this is not the case. He said that if someone really is just urinating in public, they’ll usually only be charged with a misdemeanor, which would not require registration as a sex offender.

[If] it’s done with malicious intent or prurient interest in mind…that’s where the state law kicks in,” Easley said.

The state law he refers to is the Sex Offender Registration Act. And while that’s generally not controversial, the “grandfather clause” is.
- It's called an ex post facto law and is a part of the states Constitution, so punishing people after the fact is an unconstitutional law, not a caveat.

However, according to Captain Easley, there are two main reasons why Norman allows for this exemption. First, the state of Oklahoma is reluctant to take property from property owners. And second, there are 24 schools that are part of the Norman Public School District, not including the private schools and day care centers that also count in the law’s enforcement. So it can be difficult to find land where offenders can live while following the original law, unless that land is out by Lake Thunderbird.

University of Oklahoma Assistant Professor of Sociology Meredith Worthen teaches a course on sexual deviance. She says that while this may sound alarming, she sees the grandfather clause as a more practical way to deal with sex offenders.

Whenever we think of a sex offender,” said Worthen. “We think of an offender that offends against children. Even though there’s lots of types of sex offenders, that’s the first image that comes to our mind. And what do we want to do? Protect the children. Of course.”

Not all sex offenders are pedophiles. Some are charged with statutory rape, incest, or sexual battery. Put simply, many sex offenders are not direct threats to children, and Worthen says this clause may be more beneficial to towns than it is harmful.

In the state of Florida, there’s kind of this area under a bridge where all of these sex offenders live because there’s nowhere in the county where they’re allowed to live based on their restrictions. And that is highly problematic because it creates this group of mostly men living without any sort of access to anything that we would think of as a safe space.”

Worthen cites the example of Miami, where there is no exemption from residency restrictions for sex offenders. Due to overlapping city and state laws, these men have been relegated to living in a tent city beside the Julia Tuttle Causeway, with no sanitation and tight restrictions on when they can leave.

They sit around and they talk about how mad they are and how this is a bad situation.” said Worthen. “So, those guys are not considering how they want to be good men, how they want to rejoin the population and, you know, do pro-social things because they’re living under a bridge because their city said “too bad.”

In this clip from ABC News, a man living under that bridge in Florida, [name withheld], reflects on his living situation.

"I done went to prison and did all this time. Why am I still here? Why am I still being punished? All I want is my life back. I deserve a second chance at life,” [name withheld] said.

Worthen says that by permitting the offenders to remain in their homes after serving time, it encourages assimilation rather than recidivism.

Allowing for kind of thinking about things differently can move away from creating these kinds of hubs of spaces where criminals live in,” said Worthen.


PA - Peters Township takes no action on sex offender registry

Original Article

03/28/2013

By Janice Crompton

Peters council members on Monday said they were concerned about a local sex offender registry but took no action on the issue.

Council also rejected a motion to institute term limits for volunteer board members.

Earlier this month, council Chairman Frank Arcuri said he wanted more information about whether the township could regulate the distance between schools and parks and the homes of registered sex offenders.

After researching the issue, township solicitor William Johnson said the township has the authority to regulate the residency requirements of offenders, but such a move is not recommended by the state Sexual Offenders Assessment Board.

The assessment board said local ordinances do little to protect the public from sex offenders and could backfire by making it more difficult for law enforcement to manage the sex offender population. According to statistics cited by the assessment board, the number of sex offenders who are unaccounted for doubles when residency restriction laws go into effect. Studies also show that placing restrictions on residency does not deter sex offenders from committing new offenses and shouldn't be used to control recidivism, according to the board.