Thursday, January 30, 2014

NJ - Allen wants tougher penalties for child sex offenders

Sen. Diane Allen & Mark Lunsford
Sen. Diane Allen & Mark Lunsford
Original Article

01/30/2014

By David Levinsky

TRENTON - State Sen. Diane Allen first introduced New Jersey’s Jessica Lunsford Act in June 2005, a few months after the 9-year-old Florida girl was kidnapped, raped and murdered by a twice-convicted sex offender.

In the ensuing years, Allen has reintroduced the measure every two years at the kickoff of a new legislative session, only to see it fall short of being signed into law.

This January marked the sixth time she has introduced the bill. She’s hoping it will be the last time.

As you all know, Jessica was kidnapped, raped and buried alive back in 2005. Since then, I’ve had a bill in (the Legislature) to change many aspects of our law so we can make sure this kind of thing cannot happen to any children in New Jersey,” Allen said Thursday during a hearing on the latest version of the bill before the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.
- 10 million laws will not prevent another tragedy like this.  You are, in our opinion, just exploiting children, fear and Mr. Lunsford for your own political gain.

Unfortunately, we’re now one of only five states that haven’t passed any Lunsford laws,” she said during the hearing, the first by the panel of the new legislative session.

The new version of the bill seeks to impose a mandatory sentence of 25 years to life in prison for anyone convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a child under age 13, except in certain circumstances of a negotiated plea agreement.

Current law permits a 10- to 20-year prison sentence for the crime.

Allen said the plea agreement clause was added at the behest of state prosecutors, who argued that there are some occasions when it’s in the best interest of the victims to permit a negotiated plea deal. In those cases, the bill allows an offender to be sentenced to a minimum of 15 years in prison.

The new bill also excludes previous language mandating that anyone found guilty of harboring an offender or hindering the arrest or conviction of a sex offender would face a mandatory sentence of six months in prison without the possibility of parole. Allen plans to introduce a separate bill with that penalty.

Frankly, it’s a watered-down version. It is not the one the committee chairman (Donald Norcross, D-5th of Camden) was looking for or what I was looking for. But it is a start,” Allen said during the hearing.

Also testifying in favor of the measure was Gregory Quinlan of the New Jersey Family Policy Council. He pointed to a recent state auditor's report that said many New Jersey parole officers were failing to maintain regular contact with sex offenders they are assigned to supervise, including some convicts marked for mandatory parole supervision.

This is why this (bill) is so important,” Quinlan said. “I just want to see this passed.”
- So how would passing this law fix what you mentioned above?  It won't!

There has been some progress in moving the measure forward. During the last session, two versions of the bill were approved by the Senate and Assembly, but the chambers failed to approve a single bill with the same language.

The Senate Law and Public Safety Committee voted 5-0 on Thursday to release the measure from the committee. Norcross said he hoped it could be fast-tracked through the Senate.

This is why we put this bill No. 1 on our 216th legislative agenda,” he said.

Allen, who hosted Jessica’s father, Mark Lunsford, during a Statehouse news conference in 2011 to advocate for the bill, said New Jersey has waited too long to put the bill’s child protection measures into law.
- When Jessica went missing it was said child porn was found on Mr. Lunsfords computer, and his own son molested a child but got a slap on the wrist.

There is little as heinous as the sexual assault of a child, and it’s time we send a message that those types of monstrous actions are going to be punished severely,” she said. “Those vile enough to commit this type of a crime once should never be afforded the opportunity to put a second child and family through a similar tragedy.”
- So why isn't your own son, and possibly you, in prison then?


FL - Registered sex offender can live near school

Morning coffee and paperOriginal Article

01/30/2014

By Laura Caso

CLAY COUNTY - According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's website, a registered sex offender is living just feet away from Clay Hill Elementary School.

The sex offender, who First Coast News has decided not to name, moved to the area at the beginning of January. According to the Clay County Sheriff's Office, he was arrested in September of 2004 for possessing and distributing child pornography. He served time in federal prison and according to the CCSO, he got off probation at the beginning of the month.

Under Florida law, sex offenders are not allowed to move within 1,000 feet of a school or park. CCSO said this sex offender lives 1,056 feet away from the elementary school. Detective Ryan Ellis said this man isn't doing anything wrong according to the law.

"He's not doing anything wrong," said Ellis. "He is currently within all of his guidelines of state statute, and he's in full compliance under Florida State Department of Law Enforcement regulations with sexual offender requirements and he's under full compliance with the sheriff's office."

However, parents are still concerned and angered by the recent move. One mother said, if he doesn't move, she might move her kids.

"I am considering pulling them out and putting them in home-school. That has crossed my mind. And, depending on how this turns out, that might be the right option for me."


NH - House committee passes bill prohibiting restrictions on where sex offenders can live

Unconstitutional
Original Article

01/29/2014

By ANNMARIE TIMMINS

A House committee easily passed a bill, 18-1, prohibiting restrictions on where sex offenders can live yesterday, noting that judges have twice ruled residency restrictions unconstitutional. Still, lawmakers predicted a tough fight in the Senate, which has rejected similar bills before.

There is a perception that this bill is being soft on crime,” said Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, a Manchester Republican who voted for the bill. “All of us who have heard (this debate) know the benefits of the bill. But we’re going to need to explain it.”

Rep. Al Baldasaro, a Londonderry Republican, cast the lone vote against the bill, saying he didn’t want to tell his constituents they couldn't determine where sex offenders could and could not live.

As many as 11 communities have residency restrictions for sex offenders, said Rep. Renny Cushing, a Hampton Democrat. Londonderry is not one of them, according to the town’s website. Locally, Tilton, Northfield and Boscawen have such restrictions. Both Northfield’s and Tilton’s ordinances prohibit people convicted of sex crimes against children from living within 2,500 feet of schools, child-care centers and playgrounds. Boscawen’s ordinance was not available yesterday.

Tilton adopted its ordinance in 2007 and added this explanation to it: “Acknowledging that sex offenders who prey on children are at a higher risk of re-offending, the town of Tilton has a compelling interest and responsibility to protect the health, safety and welfare of its children by restricting access to areas where there (is) a high concentration of children.”
- Once again a law passed based on lies and not the facts.  Recidivism among sex offenders is lower than any other criminal, except murderers.

However, two judges have found otherwise. In 2009, a district court judge in Dover ruled that city’s residency restriction invalid because the city had not shown a “substantial relationship” between the ordinance and the protection of children. In 2012, Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Larry Smukler came to the same conclusion when the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union appealed Franklin’s ordinance.

Cushing, a member of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, said the bill prohibiting residency restrictions is necessary because it will take costly legal fights to undo the 11 ordinances still in place across the state. “The simple thing that can be done is to pass a bill that incorporates the . . . courts’ decisions.”

Cushing also argued that restricting housing for sex offenders pushes them “underground,” in campgrounds, under bridges and to other places the police cannot monitor. He said communities are safer if the police know where sex offenders live and require yearly registration with the local police.

Baldasaro said he was concerned that if a sex offender moved into a Londonderry neighborhood, “everyone else wants to move out.” He added, “I want to support this bill, but I have to go back to neighborhoods in my district. Who is going to protect the neighbors?
- It is not up to the government or police to "protect" anybody, it's their job to enforce laws and respect the Constitution and the rights of others, not pass unconstitutional laws to help themselves look tough!

Rep. Larry Gagne, a Manchester Republican, responded to Baldasaro.

My first term, I was pretty much a hard-liner,” he said. “I said, ‘Put (sex offenders) in outer space. Put them all on an island.’ But I changed my mind after a (police) sergeant came in and said, ‘If they go underground, we can’t find them.’

Rep. Roger Berube, a Somersworth Democrat, questioned why the state Senate has rejected several similar bills from the House in previous years. “How can they get away with that?” he asked. “It doesn't appear the Senate is actually listening to the . . . court.”
- And it appears you are not obeying your oath to defend the Constitution and the rights of others!

To that, Rep. Laura Pantelakos, chairwoman of the committee said, “Sometimes the Senate doesn't listen to anybody.”


FL - Law enforcement may have entrapped alleged sexual predators

Operation Home Alone
Operation Home Alone
Original Article

01/29/2014

By Noah Pransky

PINELLAS COUNTY - A document obtained by 10 News indicates law enforcement may have crossed the line when trying to round up alleged sexual predators over the weekend -- and defense attorneys say entrapment cases could be built around the evidence.

The multi-agency sting, led by the Pinellas Co. Sheriff's Office and Clearwater Police Department, netted 35 arrests in "Operation Home Alone." The effort was coordinated by the region's Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force.

ICAC guidelines instruct undercover officers to "allow the investigative target to set the tone, pace, and subject matter of the online conversation."

But a Florida man, who says he responded to the officers' Craigslist ad, sent 10 News an alleged e-mail chain that indicates law enforcement is willing to bend, or break, their own ICAC guidelines to get "targets" to talk about sex with children.

In the exchange, an officer posing as a 12-year-old girl repeatedly engaged the man, who indicated she was too young to be on Craigslist. The topic of sex was also first introduced by the officer, an apparent violation of ICAC guidelines.

"There's no question they blur the lines," said defense attorney Jeffrey Brown of law enforcement officers. "But I think they can blur the lines because the ultimate resolution for a defense attorney is to go to trial."

And Brown said juries seldom have sympathy for accused predators, no matter what means were used to obtain evidence. He also said bending ICAC rules isn't necessarily breaking the law.

Brown added that the officers gave defense attorneys another possible entrapment argument by posting "casual encounters" ads on adult websites and only later suggesting they were 14 or younger.

Pinellas Co. Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who was at the forefront of the Monday press conference announcing the 35 arrests, didn't make himself available to 10 Investigates for this story. But an agency spokesperson said they were reviewing the document provided by 10 Investigates.

"We are confident it was done within the process of the law and within all legal boundaries," said Pinellas Co. Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda.

See Also:


DC - What’s in the farm bill - States make ex-offenders jobless and homeless, now they want to deny them food?

Cow
Original Article

Congress is notorious for bundling non-related items into a bill, this is one of the many examples. Now what does "sex offenders" and food stamps have to do with farming? To read more about this bill from another perspective, click here.

01/29/2014

WASHINGTON - The compromise farm bill passed Wednesday by the House sets policy for food stamps and farm programs. The bill would cut food stamps by around $800 million a year and continue generous farm subsidies. Some of what’s in the bill:

  • Test programs in 10 states that would allow new work requirements for food stamp recipients.
  • A prohibition on lottery winners, convicted sex offenders and murderers from receiving food stamps.
  • The end of so-called direct payments, government subsidies paid to farmers whether they farm or not. The payments now cost around $4.5 billion a year.
  • A new revenue insurance subsidy that would pay farmers in the event of “shallow losses,” or revenue losses incurred before their paid crop insurance kicks in. That program might kick in sooner than previously thought as some crop prices have dropped in recent months.
  • A separate subsidy program would trigger payments when crop prices drop. This is similar to current subsidies, though the new programs would kick in sooner, especially for rice and peanut producers. Producers would have to choose between these subsidies or the revenue insurance.
  • Stricter limits on how much money an individual farmer can receive — $125,000 annually on all payments and loans, when some were previously unrestricted. The agreement is less strict than either the House or Senate bills, which had put limits on how much a farmer could receive from individual programs. Language that would limit how many people in a farm operation may receive such payments was also passed by both chambers but taken out of the compromise bill, which would kick the issue to the Agriculture Department.
  • An additional $5.7 billion for government-subsidized crop insurance programs. A Senate amendment that would have lowered crop insurance payouts for the wealthiest farmers was struck from the final version.
  • A new dairy program that would do away with current price supports and allow farmers to purchase a new kind of insurance that pays out when the gap between the price they receive for milk and their feed costs narrows. The program is designed to help dairy farmers survive price collapses like they have seen in recent years. But it would not include a so-called stabilization program that would have dictated production cuts when oversupply drives down prices. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called that “Soviet-style” and pressured negotiators to take it out. He was backed by large food companies which said the program could raise the price they pay for milk.
  • A new insurance program for cotton growers designed to bring the U.S. industry into compliance with the World Trade Organization. The WTO said in 2009 that Brazil could raise the tariffs on American goods because the United States had failed to get rid of subsidies the WTO said are illegal.
  • A test program that would allow 10 states to grow industrial hemp. Those 10 states have legalized cultivation but are unable to produce because of current federal law.
  • Land payments to Western states. The bill gives the government authority to make payments of $425 million to states which lose tax money because of federal lands, mostly in the West. That funding had expired at the end of last year.


DC - Dennis Sobin Wins In Court

Congratulations! For all the related posts about this, click the "IdiotsRegistry" label above, or see this article.


LA - Local law enforcement issues warning about sexting

Sexting
Original Article

A major study was done years ago that shows that children are sexting other peers at a growing rate.

01/29/2014

By Josh Marcisz

The Bossier Parish Sheriff's Office held a press conference Wednesday morning to address the issue of children sending and receiving nude photos and videos. Bossier Sheriff, Julian C. Whittington, says his office has been receiving a high number of complaints in recent days of young people sharing nude photos via cell phones, computers and social media sites.

BPSO hinted that they are working a number of cases which could result in charges.

"You could be arrested, you could go to jail, you could have to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life. This is not child's play anymore, this is serious business," remarked Whittington. Sexting is a crime punishable by fine, jail time and community service for a first offense. Distributing pornography involving juveniles is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

BPSO will be working with the District Attorney's Office, the Bossier Parish School Board and city law enforcement agencies in an effort to address the issue. Families with children in Bossier schools will be receiving letters that give suggestions about how to open a dialogue with their children. You can read the letter issued by BPSO here.



NJ - Trying to Ban Sex Offenders from Social Media Is a Waste of Time

Social Media
Original Article

01/29/2014

By Jason Koebler

New Jersey has become the latest state to try to regulate how (and if) sex offenders can use social media, an increasingly tricky problem facing legislators around the country. But privacy experts say the laws are problematic, and probably unconstitutional.

The proposed bill would require all sex offenders in New Jersey to disclose the fact on all of their social media accounts.

A similar measure was introduced, but not passed, last year. The measure has been pre-filed for the 2014 legislative session. Donna Simon, an assemblywoman who sponsored the bill, said anyone caught violating the law, if passed, could face a $10,000 fine and 18 months in prison.


Sex offenders are very sneaky and despicable,” she said. “What they will do is they will have a myriad of screen names and other identities to use for communicating to children.”
- Underage children are not suppose to be on Facebook based on their terms of service.  Why don't you teach kids in school, or better yet, the parents be parents and teach their own children about the sharing of personal information online or talking to people they do not know?  A major study was done years ago that shows most children are approached by their peers about sex, not a stranger, although that does happen.

Of course, stopping even a small number of sexual assaults is a laudable goal, but in many cases, laws that limit social media access are quickly struck down in court, making the whole exercise nothing more than a waste of time and money. A year ago, a federal appeals judge ruled that an Indiana law that banned sex offenders from using instant messaging, social networking sites, and chat programs was unconstitutional. In that decision, a federal judge wrote that the law “targets substantially more activity than the evil it seeks to redress.”

Nathan Wessler, an attorney with the ACLU, says that New Jersey’s proposed law is a similar overreach. The law would require sex offenders to disclose all of their online accounts to law enforcement, including E-mail addresses, screen names, social media accounts, message board handles, and more. Similar provisions in laws passed in Indiana, Nebraska, Georgia, Utah, California, and Louisiana have been struck down. A law banning sex offenders from social media was struck down in North Carolina last year, but a New Jersey ban on social media for sex offenders that are out on parole was upheld.

The reporting requirement is particularly problematic, because you have a right to engage in anonymous debate online,” Wessler said. “You have the right to ask about embarrassing medical matters online to write on the Facebook page of the Mayo Clinic or post on message boards. The government is requiring people to turn over these anonymous identities so they can watch what they’re doing online even when it’s protected anonymous political speech.”

Wessler says that besides being unconstitutional, the requirement is “onerous and impractical,” because it requires disclosure of things such as randomly-generated email addresses from Craiglist and disclosure of accounts that may have long-since been forgotten about.

The New Jersey law is modeled on a law passed in 2012 in Louisiana and goes a step further, too. It “requires person who are required to register as a sex offender to provide notification of that fact on social networking sites” and also has to include “notice of the crime for which he was convicted, the jurisdiction of conviction, a description of his physical characteristics, and his residential address.” The offender must also link to their sex offender profile on a social networking site.

That’s a lot of information, and a lot of it is impossible, logistically, to follow through with, Wessler says.

It is literally impossible to include all that information in 140 characters, so anyone on the registry who wanted to use Twitter would be automatically violating the law,” he said, forcing people to “choose between complying with this restriction or giving up the ability to engage in conversation in what has become the new town square.”

Some social media networks, such as Facebook and Match.com, already ask that sex offenders not register for their sites in their terms of service.

All of this may sound overly sympathetic towards sex offenders, but laws that do mainly superficial things such as trying to ban sex offenders from social media run the risk of diverting attention from other prevention efforts. The stereotypical image of a creepy old man preying on unknowing children is a popular—and certainly scary—one, but in reality, few sex offenders use social media to perpetrate their crimes.

Numbers suggest that Internet-initiated sex crimes account for a salient but small proportion of all statutory rape offenses and a relatively low number of sexual offenses committed against minors overall,” according to a 2008 study published in American Psychologist (PDF).

More than 90 percent of sex offenders personally know their child victims, and in over 50 percent of cases, the perpetrator is a family member—far from a creepy stranger they met online.

These laws end up being counterproductive,” Wessler said. “They’re not tailored at all to addressing the harm the state should be concerned about. Anytime a legislature relies on inaccurate stereotypes of the problem, they’re diverting attention away from ways to address the real problem. It can create a false sense of security and divert law enforcement resources.”

And, if the goal is to rehabilitate sex offenders who have served their time in jail, requiring them to abstain from social media can seriously hinder that. Because sex offenders often have a difficult time finding jobs, many are self-employed and start their own businesses. If they want to start a social media page for their business, they’d be required to comply with the law.

A lot of times, they’ll try to make their own goods and sell them online or start a business that you can’t successfully do without marketing online,” Wessler said. “Complying with this is probably going to completely destroy their ability to promote that business online.”


WA - Judge rules sex offender data in Benton County not public information

Donna Zink
Donna Zink
Original Article

01/29/2014

By Tyler Richardson

A Tri-City judge ruled Wednesday the personal information of low-level sex offenders in Benton County is not public information and shouldn't be released to a Mesa woman.

Judge Bruce Spanner's ruling comes after more than a month of deliberation about whether the data should be released to Donna Zink.

Zink has no "legitimate interest" in it, Spanner wrote in his 13-page decision. The information, if released, would cause irreparable harm to more than 400 Level 1 sex offenders.
- And the online registry for other ex-offenders also causes irreparable harm!

Spanner said the information is considered confidential under other state and federal statutes and therefore is exempt from release.

"There is no showing that the information requested is either relevant or necessary," Spanner wrote. "Our Supreme Court has determined that Level 1 sex offender registration is in most instances 'confidential' and that the public has 'no legitimate' interest therein because those offenders do not pose any threat to the community."

Zink -- the former mayor of Mesa who sued the city in 2003 for withholding other kinds of public documents -- requested in July the names, birthdates, addresses, pictures and other information of the Level 1 offenders.

She requested the same information from Franklin County, and it has been released.

Zink has been in a legal fight with several Tri-City lawyers since making her request. She has said she plans to create an online database of the offenders because she believes people should know where someone convicted of any type of sex offense is living. She has said in court that Level 1 offenders can be dangerous, citing a recent Richland case in which a low-level offender is charged with raping and killing an infant.

Registration information for Level 2 and 3 offenders is routinely posted on sheriff department websites. But Level 1 offenders are considered the least likely to reoffend, and their information is not made public unless they fail to register.

The Benton County Superior Court ruling, however, only blocks the release of the personal information of 14 sex offenders.

Richland attorney John Ziobro, who represents those offenders, was the first to have his case for a permanent injunction heard.

Spanner granted the injunction, but it can be appealed to a higher court.

"For my clients, it's great," Ziobro said. "I haven't spoken to any of them, but I am sure they are ecstatic."

Lawyers for other clients told the Herald they are optimistic Spanner's ruling will be applied to their cases.

A temporary injunction was in place to prevent the county from releasing any low-level sex offender's personal information.

Benton County prosecutors do not agree with Spanner's ruling, saying the information should be released to Zink.

"There's still a whole lot left up in the air," said Ryan Lukson.

Richland attorney Greg Dow represents 20 other Level 1 offenders and is trying to form a class-action lawsuit to provide the majority of Level 1 offenders legal representation so they also can try to prevent the release of their personal information.

Spanner previously denied Dow's request, but he's filed an appeal.

"There's a lot of cleanup work left," said Dow, who praised Spanner's decision. "We need to find out what impact the judge thinks this has on the people who are not named as plaintiffs. There's 390 guys out there wondering, 'Am I protected or not?' "

Zink, who has been representing herself, could not be reached about the decision but took to social media Wednesday to blast the ruling. She said she is frustrated the court system is protecting sex offenders.

Zink wrote that Spanner's ruling will not stop her attempts to get the information.

"After all this they would serious(ly) think I was going to roll over," Zink wrote. "Let me give you a clue, when someone works this hard they are not going to quit. At least not till the Supreme Court weighs in. That is what appeals are for."

Zink has requested offender information from the Washington State Patrol database and from Yakima County. Temporary injunctions are in place in King County and Yakima County preventing the information from being released.

The state American Civil Liberties Union has gotten involved in the case with the state patrol. ACLU spokesman Doug Honig said attorneys are reviewing Spanner's decision.

Zink also requested around 80,000 emails from Benton County. The emails contain sex offender information and other sensitive police information. Spanner ruled information in the emails not pertaining to sex offenders can be released to Zink.

Zink's county requests for sex offender information could slow down a potential appeal, Lukson said.

Zink can't appeal a decision in her case until the county is done reviewing the emails. Lukson said it could take several years to do that.

If Zink withdraws the email request, it could speed up her potential appeal, Lukson said.

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