Thursday, December 19, 2013

Lawmakers, Credit Card Companies Take Aim at Mug Shot Websites

Celebrity mug shots
Original Article

You wouldn't have to make a law to do this if the police didn't post them online, now would you? But it's about time something was done!

Now all the victims of these extortion sites can feel what it's like to have your photo, name, criminal record, etc online! It makes it hard, if not impossible, to get a job or place to stay.


12/18/2013

By STEVE OSUNSAMI, BRANDON BAUR and LAUREN EFFRON

Watch the full story on "Nightline" tonight at 12:35 a.m. ET

For people who find their faces splashed across mug shot websites, even if they were later found innocent of the crimes, it can haunt them for the rest of their lives.

Now, lawmakers and even credit card companies are stepping in to help protect people from further humiliation.

Owners of mug shot websites will post the photos released by police departments with the person's name and information. Many then make money by charging people, sometimes hundreds of dollars, to have a mug shot removed. Dozens of these sites exist and can rack up clicks -- BustedMugshots.com alone boasts nearly three million viewers per month.

_____ said the mug shot from his DUI arrest in Georgia ended up on one of these websites and now pops up with every Internet search of his name.

"Stuff follows you forever and it feels like I'm a little fish in a big pond," he said. "It's hard to fight these mug shot companies. It's hard, I don't even know who to turn to, to try to make these things go away."

The former ROTC cadet now runs a moving business and hires college students, but fears he will never escape his past.

"It's ridiculous to have one small chapter of your life affect a big portion of your life," he said.

What these websites are doing is considered legal. They stand behind "sunshine" laws that allow them to legally download booking photos and other open records from police websites, sometimes the very second those files are released. In some cases, the websites won't remove the mug shots even if the person was cleared of all charges.

And it can be hard to track down the site owners to ask to have the mug shot taken down. Often the contact information listed on these websites leads to dead ends.

_____ said she felt violated by mug shot websites that legally published the booking photos from what she said was a false arrest from a domestic dispute. She said she was innocent, and the charge was later cleared from her record, but her mug shot remains online.

"It's like you can't move on with your life," she said. "I mean everybody goes to Google now to see who you are. ... I'm not a criminal. I'm not charged with anything."

When _____ asked one of the mug shot websites to keep her photos private, she said they would do it if she paid them $399. She refused and while she was negotiating with one website, her mug shot showed up on others.

"Just to have that online, it's just a constant reminder of my nightmare," _____ said. "It's not just that I take my photograph down on this site, it comes down on this site and it pops up somewhere else. Over and over again, so when does it stop? What am I paying for?"

When "Nightline" first told this story earlier this year, Georgia lawmaker Roger Bruce was pushing a bill that would make it a crime for a website to charge someone in Georgia to remove a mug shot photo. After our report, nearly every state lawmaker supported his bill and Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed it into law. Georgia joins a handful of states now trying to protect residents who have booking photos.

"Well, you can file a lawsuit now," Bruce said. "Basically what happens now is if your mug shot is out there and you call them, they have 30 days to remove it. If they don't remove it now they are in violation of the law."


MN - Minnesota's sex offender program to be reviewed

Civil commitment
Original Article

12/18/2013

By CHRIS SERRES

The fate of Minnesota’s controversial system for confining sex offenders beyond their prison terms was cast further into doubt Wednesday, as a federal judge indicated that he would allow portions of a high-profile legal case challenging the constitutionality of the sex-offender program to proceed.

At a hearing Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank said he would render a decision within 60 days on key reforms sought by a class of sex offenders who claim the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) violates their due process rights. “The time has come for the court to rule on what is in front of it,” Frank said.

Frank’s comments Wednesday raise the specter of a federal judge imposing costly and dramatic changes to how hundreds of rapists, pedophiles and other sex offenders are treated after prison — without input from state legislators and officials who run the program. The changes being considered include the release of sex offenders to less restrictive settings and the appointment of a federal master to oversee the program.

Such a move would give the federal court unprecedented oversight of sex offenders in Minnesota, while potentially limiting the power of legislators and other elected officials to move forward with long-sought reforms to the MSOP.

The MSOP is a creature of the state Legislature and changes should be made by the Legislature,” said Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, and chairwoman of the House Health and Human Services Policy Committee. “This represents a very hands-on takeover of some aspects of the program.”

Task force options

Just two weeks ago, a state task force appointed by Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson recommended sweeping reforms to the MSOP, following two years of meetings. The group called for the creation of a centralized state court to oversee the commitment of rapists and other sex offenders, as well as options for less violent offenders to live in less restrictive settings, among other measures.

Liebling and other influential legislators, including Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato, had been crafting draft legislation that would include many of the recommendations made by the task force. These legislators had planned to introduce a bill reforming the MSOP when the Legislature reconvenes in February.

Now, with a decision on the legal case expected within 60 days, legislators may be left with little choice but to implement reforms that could be expensive and politically unpopular.

My concern is that we lose control over how we deal with offenders in our state, and that we have a process imposed on us that we are responsible for implementing without having an opportunity to make it work,” Sheran said.

Explosive growth

The size and cost of the MSOP have exploded over the past decade, and it now costs taxpayers three times more than keeping offenders in prison.

In 2003, after the kidnapping and murder of college student Dru Sjodin, the state Department of Corrections began recommending more sex offenders for civil commitment. Currently, nearly 700 sex offenders are being held indefinitely at high-security treatment centers in Moose Lake and St. Peter, up from 199 in June 2003. Minnesota now confines more sex offenders per capita than any other state.

At the hearing Wednesday, Frank heard starkly varying descriptions of Minnesota’s system of committing sex offenders to treatment after they complete their prison terms.

Attorneys representing a class of sex offenders referred to the MSOP as “broken” and as a “failure,” because almost no one in the program is ever released. Just one person has been successfully discharged from the program in its 19-year history.

The attorneys have filed motions calling on the judge to declare the program unconstitutional and to appoint a special master to oversee the program until offenders’ rights are preserved. The attorneys have also asked the judge to order the immediate establishment of less restrictive treatment settings for sex offenders and to re-evaluate all offenders at Moose Lake and St. Peter to determine if they still pose a risk to society.

The results of the program don’t just speak for themselves — they scream for themselves,” said Daniel Gustafson, a Minneapolis attorney representing sex offenders in a class action lawsuit against state officials who administer the program. “The statute that was supposed to treat and release people has failed.”


CA - Thank you so much for your efforts

The following was sent to us via the contact form and posted with the users permission.

By K:
I'm a CA 290 registrant. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR WORK AND WEBSITE. I was punished for 3 images that were downloaded via LimeWire when I was downloading music.

My life is changed forever. My wife has left me, my son I don't get to see often, and I live alone. I finally found a job, but with all the despair that I feel, suicide has been a consideration. I have a masters' degree and have always been a good citizen. Now I feel my life is trash. The feds and .ca.gov don't care about us and helping to restore some humanity to our lives. it's so pitiful.
- Suicide is NOT the answer. Get Help! Stop thinking of yourself and think about your children and family! You are not alone in feeling that way we are sure of that!

Thank you again!


OH - EP. 22 - Once Fallen meets Congressman Steve Chabot

Once Fallen - Derek Logue
Hosted by: The Fallen One

Title: EP. 22 - Once Fallen meets Congressman Steve Chabot

Time: 12/18/2013 08:25 PM EST



Episode Notes: This morning, my Congressman held an open house. I had the opportunity to express me concerns on a couple of issues. It was a five minute one-on-one session. Below is a brief on the two bills of concern. You can get more info from eAdvocate here: http://so-bills-in-congress.blogspot.com.

Concerns:
  1. Passport Fees for Registered Citizens - H.R.898: Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2013, Sec. 101 - H.R.2848: Department of State Operations and Embassy Security Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 2014, Sec. 212
    • ISSUE: If these provisions stay in the respective bills, then the Passports of Registered Citizens will be limited to one-year. A Registrant will essentially pay ten times the amount of money ($1260 more, going by the current fee scale) to keep a Passport valid as any other citizen, even those convicted of other violent crimes such as murder. This provision is an act of malice that serves no purpose other than to add a new (unconstitutional) punishment to those who have served their sentences.
    • NEGATIVE IMPACT: Thousands of Registered Citizens and their families will be unfairly forced to endure extra fees, which negatively impacts business travel and family travel. Registrants will likely be subject to more discrimination simply due to presence on the registry and may be denied the opportunity to travel altogether.
    • REMEDY: These provisions should be immediately removed from the respective bills.
  2. Food Stamps for Registered Citizens - H.R.2642: Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013, Sec. 4037
    • ISSUE: If this bill passes with the offending section intact, Registered Citizens will effectively be banned from obtaining food stamps for life. The section is rather vague on exactly which Registered Citizens are impacted by the ban. Furthermore, unlike the drug offender ban in previous food stamp laws, this bill denies the states the right to choose not to enforce the provision. Furthermore, the bill penalizes entire households due to the presence of a Registered Citizen in the household.
    • NEGATIVE IMPACT: A large number of registrants (as little as 40% and as high as 82% in limited area studies) are unemployed, and ultimately dependent on welfare to survive. The bill as written would take away food stamps for hundreds of thousands of Registered Citizens. In addition, because the bill penalizes the entire household, not just the registrant, entire families, women and children, will go hungry. This will lead to an increase in crime. This bill is even more immediately damaging than the passport issue because it affects far more Registered Persons.
    • REMEDY: Sec. 4037 should be stricken from this bill immediately!


NM - Former Okla. cop (Robert Mullen) arrested in ABQ on child porn charges

Protect and serve?Original Article

12/18/2013

Robert Mullen, 60, a former officer with the Lawton, Okla., Police Department who now lives in Albuquerque, was arrested Tuesday morning by special agents with Homeland Security Investigations on a criminal complaint charging him with receiving and possessing visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

According to the criminal complaint, a special agent with the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office in August identified an IP address that was being used to share files containing child pornography, and a subsequent investigation found that the IP address was subscribed to Mullen at a residence on Albuquerque’s West Side, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

On Dec. 11, HSI agents, Albuquerque Police Department officers and other agencies participating in the New Mexico Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force executed a state search warrant at Mullen’s home and seized a computer and computer-related media, federal prosecutors said.

If convicted of the charges in the criminal complaint, Mullen could face a federal prison term of between five and 20 years and would be required to register as a sex offender, according to a news release.


CA - 25 to life for failing to reregister as sex offender

Cruel and unusual punishment
Original Article

This is just insanity and so are the three strike laws!

12/18/2013

By Bob Egelko

_____ was a 41-year-old man with a long criminal record and a low IQ when he left Oakland in late 1999 and bedded down at a homeless shelter in San Mateo. Police found him there in March 2000 and discovered he had failed to reregister as a sex offender as required by law — once a year, within five days of his birthday, and within five days of a change of address.

After a San Mateo County judge barred a psychologist from testifying about _____’s low mental capacity, a jury convicted him of violating the registration law. With multiple felony convictions on his record — three robberies in 1978, and forcible oral copulation of a minor and attempted manslaughter in 1983 –he was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison under California’s three-strikes law.

_____ has remained in prison during lengthy and unsuccessful appeals in the state courts, and on Wednesday he lost again, this time in the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (PDF).

One defense argument was that the trial judge should have allowed the jury to hear a psychologist who said _____ had an IQ of 69 and that such people have difficulty with their memory and ability to make plans. The judge said the defense could offer evidence that _____ was unaware of his duty to register, or lacked the ability to comply, but that state law barred testimony that he suffered from a mental defect that affected his capacity to follow the law. In any event, as prosecution witnesses noted, _____ had registered as a sex offender after his birthday in January 1999 and was evidently aware of his duty to register. On Wednesday, the federal court said the California law did not interfere with _____’s ability to put on a defense.

The court also upheld his 25-to-life sentence in a 2-1 ruling. The majority, Judges Connie Callahan and Randy Smith, noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the California three-strikes law in other cases, and said the sentence wasn’t excessive for a sex offender with a long record who fails to register after changing his address.

Dissenting Judge Barry Silverman said the jury’s verdict, after lengthy deliberations, failed to specify whether _____ was guilty of failing to register after moving or — more likely — had merely violated the requirement to reregister every year. In the latter case, Silverman said, a life sentence for such a “technical” violation would be an unconstitutional act of cruel and unusual punishment.