Monday, September 16, 2013
By Danielle Battaglia
WENTWORTH - Is the Rockingham County District Attorney violating the constitutional rights of sex offenders? Someone seems to think so.
A lawsuit, filed in August, claims Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr., N.C. Governor Pat McCrory, N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper and every other district attorney in the state did.
“It is a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality on registered sex offenders being banned at certain locations,” attorney for the plaintiff Glenn Gerding said.
Noelle Talley, spokesperson for the attorney general’s office, confirmed the lawsuit.
“Violent sex offenders and those who’ve harmed children have no business being at schools, daycares or playgrounds,” Cooper said in a statement through Talley. “We’ll fight to uphold this law to protect our kids.”
- How many children have been sexually abuse at a school, daycare or playground? Care to answer that question? We are willing to bet zero.
Talley said the lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of a North Carolina law that makes it illegal for certain convicted sex offenders to be within 300-feet of any place intended primarily for the use, care or supervision of minors.
Talley said the ban applies to sex offenders convicted of violent sex offenses or ones involving minors. It applies to locations including schools, children’s museums, child care centers and nurseries and playgrounds.
“The attorney general’s office will defend the state in the case, which was filed in United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina in late August,” Talley said.
Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr. confirmed the lawsuit does name him as a defendant.
“I am being sued, with all other district attorneys, the governor and the attorney general, on N.C. General Statute NCGS-14-208.18, which prohibits sex offenders from being at certain places,” Berger said. “The injunction said the unconstitutional provision violates sex offender’s constitutional rights.”
- So he admits it's unconstitutional?
Deputy Attorney General Hal Askins plans to represent Berger in the lawsuit. None of the attorneys on either side of the case were willing to comment on the lawsuit.
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RICHMOND - Convicted sex offenders who want to travel outside the country will have to alert Canadian authorities before they leave and Canadian officials will, in turn, warn the destination countries if new legislation proposed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper is passed.
Harper made the announcement in Vancouver as part of a package of reforms targeting convicted sex offenders.
"Just as we must protect Canadian children, we should do what we can to protect children abroad," Harper said.
The plan would also step up information sharing between police and border officials to keep track of sex offenders.
Harper promised a national, publicly accessible database of high-risk child sex offenders who have been the subject of public notifications.
"Gaps in information sharing and collection, as well as gaps in enforcement, mean child predators can slip over our borders unmonitored," Harper said. "That is going to change."
As an example, he noted the case of _____, a registered American sex offender who had been returning to the U.S. after a vacation in Mexico.
Border agents had been alerted by authorities in his home state, California, that his travel pattern suggested he might be involved in child sex tourism.
At the border, _____'s laptop and camera were searched. Hundreds of images of _____ molesting a girl under 10 years old were found and _____ was arrested.
- So if the person was not on probation or parole, did they have a warrant or was this an illegal search?
Harper said in Canada, this may have not happened.
Harper has been in British Columbia for the past several days as Ottawa prepares for a federal review panel report on the Northern Gateway pipeline.
The panel will report to the federal minister by the end of the year.
LITTLE ROCK (AP) - An Arkansas doctor convicted of possessing child pornography 13 years ago is suing the state over a new law that bars giving Medicaid money to convicted sex offenders.
Dr. _____ filed a lawsuit in federal court on Friday and asked a judge to block enforcement of the new restriction, which took effect Aug. 16. The law prohibits any registered sex offender from providing Medicaid services in the state.
The measure was introduced after a legislative audit noted that _____ had received more than $489,000 in Medicaid payments.
_____ was convicted in 2000 of possessing child pornography, but he has maintained his innocence. The state Medical Board in 2005 reinstated his license to practice medicine in Arkansas.
In the lawsuit, _____ argues the restriction violates his constitutional rights.
WHITEFORD - Police in Harford County are investigating a case in which a 40-year-old woman filed an apparent false rape report on Wednesday.
At about 2:30 a.m. ET, officers responded to the 1600 block of Main Street in Whiteford for a report of an armed burglary and sexual assault.
At the scene, Sara Stallons told deputies that the suspect had broken into her home and assaulted her. She provided a description of the alleged attacker and told police he punched her, cut her with a knife and then attempted to sexually assault her.
Deputies searched the area and posted a lookout with Pennsylvania State Police, however they were not able to locate a suspect. The victim had minor injuries and was transported to Harford Memorial Hospital for treatment.
As detectives investigated further, the facts provided by Stallons could not be verified.
Authorities then learned that she was wanted on an outstanding warrant by Pennsylvania State Police in Lancaster County for theft and that she had multiple aliases and dates of birth. She has since been identified as Sara Marie Stallons, 44, of Whiteford.
She was taken into custody on the arrest warrant. Through further investigation, detectives determined Stallons reporting of the attempted rape was false. After reviewing the case further, it was decided that she would not be charged with making the false report.
She is, however, being held at the Harford County Detention Center awaiting extradition to Pennsylvania.
By Jacob Fischler
Last month, McAllen police arrested a man on child pornography charges after they found nude photos of girls who appeared to be younger than 15. But how they found the photos might be unconstitutional, if a state appeals court ruling is adopted statewide.
- What the officer did was a violation of his fourth amendment rights.
A police officer asked to look through photos on the phone of _____, 57, after someone complained that he was taking photos of a woman’s breasts at McAllen’s downtown bus station, police records state. When the officer browsed the photos, he found other pictures of a woman’s buttocks in tight jeans – obtained without the woman’s permission – and the pictures of the naked girl posing provocatively, according to the report.
Police arrested _____ on suspicion of child pornography and violating Texas’s improper photography statute.
That photography law was struck down Aug. 30 in the state’s Fourth Court of Appeals on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of speech. The ruling leaves the law unenforceable in parts of the state, including Starr and Zapata counties, while it remains on the books in other parts, including Hidalgo and Cameron Counties – at least while an appeal is pending.
Cliff Herberg, the first assistant district attorney for Bexar County, said his office is appealing to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals – the highest criminal court in the state – the ruling in which the statute was found unconstitutional.
“We think it’s an important statute in the fight against crime,” he said by phone this past week.
To make his case, he noted that the possible child pornography on _____’s phone never would have been found if not for the improper photography law. He added that photographing children is often an early step in a child predator developing fantasies and then acting on them.
“We’re intercepting these pedophiles before they get to the children,” he said. “This is really an important statute.”
- It's a violation of their rights and illegal search and seizure!
But Justice Marialyn Barnard, in her opinion for the Fourth Court, found the law was so vague that it trampled First Amendment rights.
The statute “is void on its face because the statute is overbroad, reaching a substantial amount of constitutionally protected conduct,” Barnard wrote.
Reached by phone, Barnard said per the state judicial code of conduct, she does not comment beyond what she wrote in the opinion.
Three other state appellate courts have upheld the law, according to a news release from Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed.
Until the issue is resolved by the State Court of Criminal Appeals, the defendant in the Bexar County case was released on bond, while _____ still awaits prosecution.
“We’re not just going to dismiss it because someone ruled it unconstitutional,” Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra said in a phone interview last month. “Until it’s settled by one of those two courts (the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court), we’re going to continue.”
DC - Justice Department Announces $15.5 Million In Awards To Support Sex Offender Registration, Assessment, Intervention
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) Office of Justice Programs (OJP) today announced more than $15.5 million in Fiscal Year 2013 grant assistance for states, territories and tribal governments to use in implementing, training, maintaining and enhancing sex offender programming throughout the United States.
More than $13.3 million will be used to develop or enhance sex offender registration programs; improve law enforcement and other justice agency information sharing as it relates to sex offender registration and notification; and implement other efforts aimed at furthering the objectives of Title I of the Adam Walsh Act, the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).
The remaining funds, administered by OJP's Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking (SMART), break down into four areas: Sex Offender Treatment Intervention and Progress Scale (SOTIPS) project sites support, the Sex Offender Management Fellowship program, the SORNA Tribal Training and Technical Assistance Program, and further support for the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) operation.
The Adam Walsh Act was signed into law July 27, 2006 and is designed to protect children and adults from sexual exploitation and violent crime. The Act also aims to prevent child abuse and child pornography, promote Internet safety, and honor the memory of Adam Walsh and other crime victims. SORNA was enacted to protect the public from convicted sex offenders and offenders against children by establishing a comprehensive national system for the registration and notification to the public of those offenders.
The SMART Office awarded nearly $210,000 to the SOTIPS project to further training and technical assistance, and support additional data collection and training activities for two SOTIPS implementation sites.
An award of $149,747 was made for the Sex Offender Management Fellowship Program to assist SMART in focusing on ways to broaden programming designed to improve the prevention of, and education about, sexual violence and victimization in our communities.
The SMART Office will also fund the SORNA Tribal Training and Technical Assistance Program, awarding $1 million to provide targeted training and technical assistance to tribes that have opted to become SORNA registration jurisdictions, with the emphasis on hard-to-reach and underserved tribes.
More than $825,000 will support maintenance, operations and enhancements of the NSOPW and the Tribe and Territory Sex Offender Registry System. NSOPW links to state, territory, and tribal sex offender public websites and allows the public to search for registered sex offenders on a national scale.
|Attorney General Greg Isaacs|
KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Attorney and 6 News legal analyst Greg Isaacs explained the state sex offender registry during this week's "Ask Isaacs" segment, and how members of the public can use it.
Those who are convicted of a sex crime are required to submit a DNA sample, fingerprints, a photograph, and to register in the county in which they reside.
"There are certain provisions which are designed to protect young children," explained Isaacs. "[Registered offenders] cannot be within a thousand feet of a daycare, a public park, a school, or a place where they have athletic events."
- And the irony of it is that if a person wanted to harm a child or adult, they could and nothing about these laws would "protect" them. The laws are only for those who have been caught, but a vast majority of all sexual crimes are by those not caught yet, and those who have, don't often re-offend, so it's pretty much a useless law that is a false sense of security.
Those who break those rules violate their probation and commit another crime.
- Not exactly true! Not everyone forced to register, against their will, is on probation or parole.
Isaacs also says members of the public can use the sex offender registry website or mobile app to be aware of sex offenders in your neighborhood.
- Being aware of ex-sex offenders doesn't prevent someone from committing another related or unrelated crime, if they wanted to, but the fact is, most ex-offenders do not re-offend, as we mentioned above.
"If you go on the TBI website and you punch in your zip code, they will give you the name and address, along with a picture, of every registered sex offender in your postal zone," said Isaacs.
There are ways to get off the sex offender register, according to Isaacs.
"If 10 years has passed since your conviction, and you're a non-violent offender, you can petition to be removed. Also, there's a change in the law. If you committed statutory rape before 2006, you can petition to be removed also."
Otherwise, convicted sex offenders are on the registry for life.
- This is an example of lifetime punishment when, in most cases, the punishment doesn't fit the crime which at one time was unconstitutional.
By Stephen Dinan
Report says many are freed without supervision or speedy deportation
The news last week that federal authorities had to release 2,837 convicted sex offenders back onto the streets has renewed focus on a Supreme Court case that requires the government to release immigrants whose home countries won’t take them back.
A report (PDF) released last week by the Government Accountability Office said the nearly 3,000 sex offenders are part of the 59,347 immigrants who the courts have ruled cannot be held, whom the U.S. has been unable to send home, and who instead were released under some sort of supervision as of September 2012.
The GAO took a sample of the sex offender cases and concluded that about 5 percent of the time U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement didn’t ensure that the immigrants released were properly registered with local authorities as sex offenders.
“I’m surprised that only 5 percent of them are not properly registered,” said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies.
She said ICE isn’t particularly rigorous about monitoring many of those it releases.
Following on news this year that ICE released a number of immigrants from custody and blamed automatic budget cuts, the latest report again highlights a thorny part of the immigration system.
In this case, the sex offenders and other immigrants — legal and illegal — who have been released are thanks to a 2001 Supreme Court ruling in what is known as the Zadvydas case. The court ruled 5-4 that detention for immigration purposes can’t be punitive; therefore, if there isn’t a likelihood someone can be deported, they generally have to be released.
That matters because many countries delay documents to make it more difficult for U.S. deportation. The worst is Qatar, which takes an average of 800 days to issue the necessary deportation documents, according to ICE numbers that Ms. Vaughan obtained. That is followed by Cambodia at 522 days and Vietnam at 368 days.
Judy Rabinovitz, deputy director at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said the GAO report highlights how the system is supposed to work: Once illegal immigrants are released, they are supposed to be under supervision, and ICE is supposed to make sure the sex offenders register with authorities according to state and local laws.
“The GAO report is focusing on the more important thing, which is that it’s the criminal justice system that’s responsible for these people and ICE should be cooperating with the criminal justice system,” Ms. Rabinovitz said.
ICE regularly faces criticism from both sides of the immigration issue.
Advocates for strict enforcement want the agency to do more to detain dangerous immigrants it is trying to deport, and to do a better job of tracking those it doesn’t detain to make sure they don’t disappear into the country. But immigrant rights advocates said too many people are being detained and often are held in poor conditions, far from their families.
Under existing law, once another country refuses to accept its people for repatriation, the government is supposed to begin refusing to issue travel visas for citizens of that country to visit the U.S.
Ms. Vaughan said that can be a devastatingly effective tool, but administrations of both parties had refused to use it.
“When you start denying student visas — any narrow category that you want, that hits people in the ruling elite in that other country — they start paying attention,” Ms. Vaughan said. “That is the best leverage we have with people in other countries, is visas, because they all want to come here, go to school here, go to Vegas, Disney World, whatever.”
By Charlotte Silver
A new precedent for chilling 1st Amendment rights
Last November, California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 35, the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation (CASE) Act. Like “tough on crime” anti-trafficking legislation around the country, Proposition 35 was presented as bolstering law enforcement's ability to fight human trafficking by introducing a bundle of new laws that, most prominently, increased penalties for those convicted of trafficking human labor, made prostitution a sex crime, and with less public attention, created a new requirement for registered sex offenders.
Under this last provision, all 73,000 registered sex offenders are required to submit their Internet service providers and "Internet identifiers” to their local police department within 24 hours of creating each new one, or face up to three years in jail. “Identifiers” include every name or username a registrant uses for any online activities he engages in, from posting a comment in a news outlet to shopping.
The day after Prop 35 was voted into law, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU of Northern California filed a class action complaint on behalf of two anonymous registrants and the advocacy group, California Reform Sex Offender Laws, against the provision under question, claiming that it was unconstitutionally broad and would create a chilling effect on registrants’ free speech and associative rights. In response, the District Court immediately issued a temporary restraining order on Nov. 8, 2012, and eventually, a preliminary injunction on Jan. 11, 2013.
In his ruling (PDF), presiding judge Thelton E. Henderson agreed that the provision would chill the right of registrants to speak anonymously and stated that the “Court cannot simply presume the [government] will act in good faith and adhere to standards absent from the [statute's] face.”
Nearly a year later and that key, if less trumpeted, provision of the voter-initiated measure is still being battled in court. Meanwhile, since the complaint was first lodged, US citizens' cognizance of the ease with which the government abuses its access to their online activity has grown at a rapid rate — as has its disapproval. A recent poll conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that the percentage of Americans who think the government does a good job at ensuring freedoms dropped from 60 percent in 2011 to 53 percent this year. Similarly, in 2011 40 percent thought the government did a good job protecting their privacy, but today that number is down to 34 percent. It would appear that Americans are increasingly less likely to “presume the government will act in good faith.”
This shifting context may have impact on the outcome of the provision of Proposition 35 that has yet to be implemented.
Judge Jay Bybee, the former Bush administration attorney who co-authored the Office of Legal Counsel's “torture memos,” sat on the three-judge panel in the Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Tuesday, Sept. 10 to hear arguments in the case. As state's attorney Robert Wilson struggled to articulate his argument that the provision would not have a chilling effect on registrants' speech, Bybee interrupted him to comment: “We're dealing in a post-Snowden era, where we're wondering whether all our online communications are being monitored by the NSA.”
Hanni Fakhoury, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, warned against reading too much into Bybee's comment, but nonetheless thought it telling. “It reflects an interesting dynamic: that even in a case that has nothing to do with NSA surveillance, when it comes to government interference or government collection of Internet data about particular data there are now going to be some questions that are asked.”
Fakhoury continued, “When the government is watching what you're doing, it chills speech. This is true in the NSA context and in this context.”