Wednesday, June 26, 2013
By Caleb Whitmer
A former Justice Department attorney was sentenced June 21 in U.S. District Court in Nashville for attempting to entice a minor into sexual activity.
Karl Gellert will serve 10 years in prison followed by 20 years of supervised release. Upon release from prison, he will be required to register as a sex offender and go through sex offender treatment.
Beginning in April of 2012, Gellert corresponded online with an undercover agent he thought to be an 11-year-old girl. The correspondence lasted two months.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Nashville, their communication involved chess, his family, school, relationships, and sex. Gellert sent the undercover agent instructions on how to perform sexual acts and photos of himself performing sexual acts, as well as other explicit content.
He eventually propositioned the girl, and began corresponding with someone he believed to be the girl’s mother but actually was the same agent. He sent the agent instructions on how to prepare the girl for his sexual abuse of her.
Gellert worked as an attorney for the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., through 2009.
“The U.S. Attorney’s office is committed to protecting our children who are powerless from protecting themselves from sexual predators,” said U.S. Attorney David Rivera in a press release. “No one is above the law and no one gets a pass.”
By Shana Rowan (Blog, USA Fair Inc.)
It was with great disappointment that I read MPNnow.com blogger Jeffrey Arnold’s suggestion that readers contact their state Assembly members in support of a bill that would ban registered sex offenders from volunteering or becoming employed as firefighters. Like the majority of sex offender laws, this proposal is based on misconceptions and will do nothing to improve public safety.
As executive director of a nonprofit group advocating for evidence-based sex offender laws, I’m well aware that society tends to view all sex offenders as incurable predators, and proposed laws reflecting those sentiments are churned out every day. This idea is no different in that regard, but it is easily one of the more ludicrous ones.
According to the New York State Senate Open Legislation site, this bill is necessary because “volunteer firefighters are often in situations where children and families are present and most vulnerable due to a fire or medical emergency” and “fire fighters frequently participate in community and school activities in which children are present that would give sex offenders unique access to children.”
Extensive research over the past two decades has consistently found sex offender recidivism (re-offense) to be very low – usually in the single digits – and overwhelmingly, sex crime victims know their perpetrators either as family members or acquaintances – not strangers. There is absolutely no record anywhere of a registered sex offender sexually re-offending while acting as a volunteer firefighter responding to an emergency scene. Other than the precious seconds before and after pulling someone out of a burning building, the opportunity for a firefighter to be alone with a potential victim is virtually nonexistent.
The notion that sex offenders would become firefighters so they can attend school and community activities from which to pick their next victim is ridiculous. High-profile cases of child rape and murder by strangers are high-profile because they are so rare – not representative of the majority of registrants. Again, 95 pecent of all child sexual abuse is committed by someone the victim knows inside the home – not by a stranger in a public place.
It’s been proven that establishing healthy ties to the community is essential in successful reintegration and avoiding recidivism. Sex offender laws are already so restrictive, it can be impossible for former offenders to maintain housing or employment. These restrictions are suffered by the family members and children of offenders, too. If we want to avoid re-offense, we need more opportunities, not less.
Are there dangerous people on the registry who may harm children? Of course. But they are the exception, not the rule. Painting all registrants with the same broad brush significantly dilutes the effectiveness of the registry and needlessly hinders individuals trying their best to reenter society.
Why should the 20-year-old man convicted of consensual sex with his teenage girlfriend be denied the chance to volunteer? The senior citizen whose crime was committed decades ago? The person put on the registry for inappropriate behavior as an adolescent – even as a child? These are the people who are registered sex offenders, and they and their families deserve the chance to rebuild their lives.
Shana Rowan is executive director of USA Families Advocating an Intelligent Registry, Inc. (www.usafair.org), a nonprofit group founded by family members of people on the registry.
By Bob Gardinier
QUEENS - The sentencing of a former Troy police sergeant arrested a year ago in a sting for sending sexual material to a minor over the Internet was postponed again in Queens County Court.
Patrick Rosney, 54, of Rensselaer pleaded guilty in March to felony first-degree attempted dissemination of indecent material to a minor. Officials in the Queens County District Attorney's office said Wednesday's sentencing was postponed because the judge hearing the case was absent. No new date was set.
Rosney retired a sergeant after 26 years on the job after his arrest in June 2012 for sending images over the Internet to an NYPD detective he thought was a 14-year-old girl. He is expected to be sentenced to five years' probation and a $5,000 fine. He will also have to complete a sex offender program and register as a sex offender, officials have said.
A lawyer for Rosney did not immediately return a call.
By Brittany Jones
TALLAHASSEE - Sex offenders and predators may have to spend more time in jail before they're released. Florida's new "Brittany's law," requires a judge to determine whether offenders are dangerous prior to releasing them into the community before their first court appearance.
"If this law had been put in place years ago one other murder would've been prevented," said Dritt.
- Keep dreaming! No matter how many laws are on the books, named after dead children, it will never prevent another tragedy like this from occurring.
Jennifer Dritt, the executive director of the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence says after hearing a number of tragic stories involving sex offenders, she's pleased the new "Brittany's law" will go into effect.
"Every assault and murder of a child, I would assume is a sexual motivated offense is horrible," said Dritt.
- Well that is not true! Children are murdered by gang violence, DUI and other situations where sex was not involved.
The law is named after a 17-year old Brittany Carleo was murdered in Port St. Lucie in 2006 by a 42-year-old sex offender who bonded out after being arrested.
Prosecutor Jack Campbell says the law would keep some of them behind bars under certain circumstances.
"They're going to allow our prosecutors and opportunity every time their arrested to take a look at that individual and make a determination of what we need to do to protect the public from this person," said Campbell.
It also requires a judge to determine whether they're dangerous prior to releasing them into the community before their first court appearance.
Campbell says it'll help them prosecute more cases and keep those in jail who need to remain behind bars.
"We want to be involved we want an opportunity to be heard so that we can speak up saying this person has a history of being dangerous in sexually motivated crimes," said Campbell.
A recent case in Jacksonville where an 8-year old girl was allegedly killed by sex offender who had just been released 3 weeks prior, for that Dritt says this law is much needed.
"There continues to be people who are going do these things and we can't ensure that people don't want to do these things, but we can do is make our best effort to ensure that their not out on the streets," said Dritt.
The law takes effect on July 1st.
OK - Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling may result in removal of hundreds of names from sex offender registry
By Randy Ellis
Names of convicted sex offenders may be removed from the state's list of registered sex offenders as the result of Tuesday's state Supreme Court ruling.
Hundreds of names of convicted sex offenders may be removed from the state's list of registered sex offenders as the result of an Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling handed down Tuesday.
In a split decision, the court ruled state corrections officials have been violating the Oklahoma Constitution by retroactively applying state sex offender registry laws, thereby dramatically increasing the time many convicted sex offenders must spend on the registry.
“It should be fairly significant,” Corrections Department spokesman Jerry Massie said of the impact of Tuesday's ruling.
There are currently 7,704 names on Oklahoma's sex offenders list, Massie said.
Massie said it was probably safe to say hundreds of convicted sex offenders would be impacted but declined to speculate on whether the numbers could reach into the thousands.
Individual case reviews likely will be necessary to determine which convicted sex offenders should be removed from the list, he said.
The Supreme Court issued its ruling after scrutinizing a 2007 state law that requires the Department of Corrections to assign a three-tiered risk level to convicted sex offenders.
The law requires convicted sex offenders to be placed on the sex offender registry for 15 years, 25 years, or life, depending on their assigned risk levels which are tied to the specific crimes they committed.
“We find it was not intended to apply retroactively, but is to be applied prospectively,” the court stated.
Justices issued the decision on a 6-2 vote, with Justices James Winchester and Steven Taylor dissenting. Chief Justice Tom Colbert partially agreed and partially disagreed with the decision.
Taylor and Winchester both said they thought it was constitutional to apply the sex offender registry laws retroactively.
“The public's right to have this information trumps the discomfort and inconvenience caused to the convicted sex offender,” Taylor wrote in his dissenting opinion.
The majority of justices, however, decided that Oklahoma's sex registry laws are punitive toward violators and should not be applied retroactively to inmates who were convicted while earlier laws were in place.
Tulsa attorney John Dunn, who represented sex offender [name withheld] in his Supreme Court appeal, said the court's determination that Oklahoma's sex offender registry laws are punitive was critical to the case.
Punitive laws cannot be applied retroactively, he said.
Dunn said there are numerous aspects of Oklahoma's sex offender registry laws that make them punitive.
“Oklahoma law provides restrictions on where a sex offender may live, with whom a sex offender may live, prevents them from engaging in certain occupations or occupations in certain locations, and creates a presumption against them having guardianship or even the right to visit their own children,” Dunn argued to the court.
|Oklahoma Driver's License|
[name withheld], Dunn's client, pleaded no contest in Texas in 1998 to a charge of sexual assault on a 15-year-old child. He received a deferred judgment that included community supervision for 10 years, a $4,000 fine and 60 days in a county jail.
[name withheld] moved to Oklahoma later that year and was initially required to register as a sex offender in this state for 10 years, in accordance with the state's law at that time.
However, after Oklahoma's law changed in 2007, corrections officials contended [name withheld] would have to register for life.
Tuesday's ruling means [name withheld] no longer will have to register, since the original 10-year registration requirement time has expired, Dunn said.
By Heather Skold
COLORADO SPRINGS - A former Colorado Springs Police Officer who lied about being a sexual assault victim is sentenced.
Sydney Huffman will spend 90 days in home detention, four years in supervised probation and must serve 200 hours of community service.
Huffman pleaded guilty to attempted to influence a public servant. She claimed her then boyfriend, Jarrot Martinez, assaulted and raped her.
Martinez was acquitted of those charges.
I think everybody feels sad for the loss of this child, but lets not forget the fact that child porn was found on Mark's computer when Jessica went missing and that his own son in Ohio (Joshua) molested a child, but got a slap on the wrist. Never let a good crisis go to waste, as one man once said.
Mark Lunsford feels pain of Cherish Perrywinkle's family
By Ashley Harding
JACKSONVILLE - Mark Lunsford knows what it's like to lose a child to a sex offender. He helped push for stricter monitoring laws after his daughter, Jessica, was kidnapped and killed by a known offender in 2005.
He is outraged to learn that the man accused of killing 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle is another longtime sex offender.
"This guy apparently wasted no time in laughing in the face of law enforcement and legislators," Lunsford said. "I can feel every ounce of pain that her parents are feeling. It tears me up inside to know that another child has been senselessly murdered."
Cherish's body was found in a wooded area Saturday morning. Donald Smith was arrested and charged with murder. He has a long history of crimes against children and had gotten out of jail just three weeks before.
Ann Dugger, of the Justice Coalition, says the current laws are good ones, but she says dangerous offenders like Smith need to stay behind bars.
"If they're off the street, absolutely, they don't need to be around society," Dugger said. "They don't need to be around children. They don't need to be around their prey."
- Not all ex-sex offenders harm children. Those who do are the minority.
Lunsford said if repeat offenders are released from prison, there should be better ways to track their movements. He said lawmakers should make protecting kids their top priority.
- How do you expect to track them Mr. Lunsford? Will you volunteer to be their permanent chaperon?
"We've got to come to some kind of solution for these children so they're not victims," Lunsford said. "Parents need to be educated. Law enforcement needs tools. Prosecutors need laws. Legislators, what do you need? Another child to be murdered?"
- No matter how many laws you put on the books, things like this will always happen! You need to come back to reality and get off Fantasy Island!
Jessica Lunsford's killer, John Couey, was sentenced to death for her murder but later died in prison.
- Any person who murders another human being, child or not, should be in prison until the day they die!
Oh the horror! We must scare the people with thoughts of a "prison break," or something similar, so we can get their money!
By TIM HAECK
For several days we've been hearing that a deal is near in Olympia on a new two-year state budget. But a deal is not done and a partial government shutdown looms. If you think that the prison system is untouchable, think again.
The Department of Corrections estimates that more than one-third of its staff is subject to lay-off if lawmakers don't approve a new operating budget by June 30.
"A shutdown would have a significant impact on the Department of Corrections," says prisons spokesman Chad Lewis. "We would have about 3,000 layoffs."
Lewis says new inmates would remain in county lock-ups and the prison system would suspend the supervision of offenders on parole. Roughly 15,000 of the 16,000 offenders would not be supervised in the community.
Most of the layoffs involve community corrections staff, what used to be called parole officers, who keep track of newly released inmates. "It's everything from holding [the offenders] accountable for their actions if they violate the terms of their supervision, getting them to treatment, field contact," explains Lewis. "It also includes the offenders checking in to their local field office. The community corrections officer would go to a house to search for drugs or alcohol."
There are cutbacks inside prison walls, too. That means inmates get meals and basic health services, but no programs to change offender behavior, no chemical dependency programs, and no family visits, no education programs and very few job opportunities, according to Lewis.
If lawmakers don't have a budget deal by June 30, corrections staff will no longer help serve arrest warrants, assist in fugitive captures and there will be no one to monitor electronic trackers worn by certain sex offenders.
The governor's office estimates that at least 25,000 workers face furlough and that a partial government shutdown will mean 34 state agencies will have to cease operations while another 24 agencies would face partial shutdowns.
|Justice Minister Anna-Maja Henriksson|
A Facebook group page publishing photos and information about convicted pedophiles in Finland was closed down earlier this month, but the same group has started a new page on the social website. Justice Minister Anna-Maja Henriksson says Finland needs no public register of sex offenders.
For three years, the Facebook page "Ei hyssyttelyä pedofiileille" (No coddling pedophiles) published the photos of and personal information about people condemned by Finnish courts for sexual offenses against minors. Facebook deleted the account on the 19th of June.
The page was maintained by a group calling itself "Finnish Pedohunters (Video)" (Forums). As soon as the Facebook account was closed, another with the same purpose and content was set up.
The group maintaining the Facebook page has countered that the law is not tough enough on the sexual exploitation of minors and so they are entitled to publish information about offenders.
- So instead of pushing for stronger laws they become vigilantes!
The Ministry of Justice is currently drafting revisions of rape laws. Justice Minister Anna-Maja Henriksson says that they will include stiffer sentences for sex crimes targeting children. The bill is to be introduced to Parliament this coming autumn.
|Miika Salonen & his vigilante team|
Justice Minister Henriksson says she sees no reason to set up a public registry. She, as well, has been critical of the "No coddling pedophiles" Facebook page.
"I find it problematic that private individuals start their own registries of criminal offenders. This is a matter that now must be given some attention," Henriksson told Yle.
- If vigilantism is a crime then yes, they should be held accountable.
The police have received a formal complaint calling for an investigation into the activities of the Finnish Pedohunters group. The group's application to be registered as an official organization has not yet been approved. Registry authorities say that the application contains several points that do not fulfill public association registry requirements.
|Rep Chris Smith, Richard & Maureen Kanka|
By Matt Friedman
TRENTON - State lawmakers today advanced a bill that would require sex offenders to pay part of their monitoring costs under Megan’s Law and toughen penalties for those who violate its provisions.
The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee voted 12-0 to approve the measure (S2636), which would charge newly convicted sex offenders a $30 per month fee that would go into a state "Sex Offender Supervision Fund."
- Just more extortion as usual! Pay up or go back to jail / prison!
The money would also help authorities monitor what offenders do online.
"The original intent back in 1994 was to make parents aware of where the danger lies around the neighborhood," said Richard Kanka, whose daughter was the namesake of the law. "But with electronic stuff … we thought that it also had to be updated to include some of that, too."
Kanka and his wife, Maureen, pushed for the updates to the law and lobbied Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), who is one of its sponsors.
The bill, which was also approved by the Law and Public Safety Committee earlier this month and now heads for a vote in the full Senate at a yet-to-be determined date, would also:
- Upgrade penalties for sexual assault if the victim is physically or mentally incapacitated. The crime would be second degree, as opposed to the current third degree, carrying a sentence of 5 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000.
- Increase the penalty for failure to register a new address with authorities from a fourth-degree to a third-degree crime.
- Clarify that a young person caught "sexting" with a cell phone – sending racy pictures to other young people – would not have to register as a sex offender.
- Low-level offenders whose conduct has been deemed "repetitive" and "compulsive" would show up in publicly accessible online databases. Currently, mid-level offenders and up can be seen publicly.
- The supervision fund would also provide money to upgrade computer equipment so authorities can monitor sex offenders’ online activity.
- Parole officers would not be allowed to handle more than 40 sex offender cases.
The Office of Legislative Services estimates the bill would cost the state Parole Board $6.5 million in its first year and $7.6 million each subsequent year. The bill would also increase costs for the Judiciary, but the office had no estimate for how much. If every new convict paid the $30 per month fee, it would generate $350,000 in the first year and just over $1 million by the third year, but the office said that "many parolees have difficulty paying their current fees and restitution amounts and the additional fee may not be collected."
State Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-Middlesex), a sponsor of the bill, said that while the legislation’s language may be unclear, the bill is only intended to apply to those convicted of sex offenses in the future.
"The main thing that it does is just makes sure that we have enough parole officers, that everybody is well-trained, that we take into account all of the electronic means in which people are carrying out these heinous crimes – and that they are funded," Greenstein said.
The fee is tiered so that low-income sex offenders pay only half to three-quarters, depending on how much they earn.
State Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth) said she didn’t understand why low-income offenders should have to pay less.
"If you do something wrong, whether you’re rich or poor, we generally punish you the same way," Beck said.
- And that is a problem!
By DON RUSH
The battle over where [name withheld] a convicted sex offender can live in the city of Dover has the town council struggling with an ordinance that would force him out of his home.
[name withheld] lives within 500 feet of a daycare center but has been fighting a year-long battle with the city leaders to keep them from kicking him out of his home.
And he has gotten support from the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware who has filed a lawsuit on his behalf.
So, council president David Bonar says he is comfortable in grandfathering in two people specifically affected by the ordinance.
Kathleen MacRae, executive director of the ACLU of Delaware told WBOC, that the original ordinance was dangerous because it would drive registered sex offenders underground separating them from their family as well as their support system including counselors and work.
But Dover resident Julie Foster told the television station that she was terrified and said her grandchildren and neighbors’ kids do not feel safe.
City Police said [name withheld] is one of 253 registered sex offenders who live in the area.
And Chief James Hosfelt said he believes his officers can keep the public safe.
By SARAH MCCAMMON
As we continue our series on corrections in Iowa…here's the second half of our report on sex offender treatment and monitoring.
About 1 in 8 inmates in Iowa's prison system are sex offenders, and many go through treatment while in prison. But does it work?