Sunday, March 23, 2014

Scrutiny suspends websites' dealings (Extortion)

ExtortionOriginal Article

03/22/2014

By Robert Anglen

A shadowy network of Arizona-based Internet companies that used public records to demand money from sex offenders and harass those who complained has imploded amid lawsuits, court hearings and new standards enacted by banks, social media and technology companies.

The websites, including Offendex.com, SORArchives.com and Sexoffenderrecord.com, in November stopped seeking payments from people in exchange for removing profiles, blaming the change on "many conflicts, threats, unreasonable requests and false accusations about this website."

The move followed decisions by MasterCard, Visa, Discover and PayPal to stop processing transactions from what many describe as extortion websites. Google also changed its formula to prevent sites from using search-engine algorithms to increase viewership and monetize on public records such as police mugshots.

A Call 12 for Action investigation, published in May, found that the Arizona-based sex-offender sites mined data compiled by law-enforcement agencies across the country and used it to collect money. Operators of the sites did not always take down profiles after payments were made and launched online harassment campaigns against those who balked at financial demands or filed complaints.

The investigation found the websites listed individuals as sex offenders who no longer were required to register or whose names had been removed from sex-offender databases. The sites also included names and personal information of people who had never been arrested or convicted of a sex crime.

In an interview with Call 12 for Action last month, website operator Brent Oesterblad accused owner Charles "Chuck" Rodrick of taking elaborate steps to conceal his ownership of the websites and misleading state and federal judges about it. Oesterblad's comments were backed by court testimony and banking records.

"I have personal knowledge that Rodrick has misrepresented the facts of his ownership of the sex-offender websites to his former wife, to the Maricopa County Superior Court and to U.S. District Courts in California and Arizona," Oesterblad said in a affidavit filed last month in federal court.

Rodrick, 52, of Cave Creek, has refused interviews for more than a year and would not speak about the websites after a Feb. 19 court hearing in Maricopa County Superior Court.

Rodrick and Oesterblad, both of whom were convicted on fraud-related charges in the early 1990s, are at the center of several state and two federal lawsuits. Sex offenders and others named on the websites have accused them of running an extortion racket. Rodrick and Oesterblad are also accused of posting inaccurate or old information and using the threat of exposure as leverage in their operation.

Rodrick responded to allegations by filing defamation lawsuits against some of his detractors, including his ex-wife and her boyfriend, both of whom were profiled on the sex-offender websites even though neither has a criminal record. Rodrick has also sued their lawyers.

In court filings, Rodrick repeatedly has denied owning the websites. In a federal declaration last year, he said he lacked "ownership interest in any of the companies that own the websites" and does "not have control over the websites as an owner."

Oesterblad told Call 12 for Action he helped disguise Rodrick's ownership interest by opening bank accounts and filing corporation papers for him. He said Rodrick further hid his role by registering website domain names in foreign countries and running them through proxy servers. His claims are backed by court records and testimony.

Oesterblad, who defended his work managing the sex-offender sites, said they did not start out as a way to demand money from offenders.

"It wasn't supposed to be a 'take-down' service. It started purely as an alert service," he said in the interview, adding that when the sites failed to make money "(Rodrick) made a command decision ... to do something to generate revenue."

Financial records lay out connection to websites, forensic computer specialist says financial records, including checks, credit-card receipts, tax documents and bank-account data, presented in court last month provided a picture of Rodrick's involvement in the websites.

"Whoever is receiving money would have control over the websites," according to Phoenix forensic computer specialist Juan Lorenzana, who testified against Rodrick in Superior Court in February. "Revenue is flowing to him through the websites."

Lorenzana, president of JEL Enterprises Inc., testified it was impossible to track the websites themselves to Rodrick. But money going from the sex-offender websites painted a road map that led directly to Rodrick, Lorenzana testified.

Among the financial transactions detailed in court were tens of thousands of dollars to Rodrick's girlfriend, Traci Heisig.

Heisig, who is a court reporter and owns Desert Hills Reporting in Phoenix, is a joint plaintiff in the defamation suit against Rodrick's ex-wife, her boyfriend and a sex offender in Washington.

Financial records presented in court showed $80,000 from the websites went to help Heisig buy a condominium in Rocky Point, Mexico, and $13,000 to buy her jewelry. The account was also used to make multiple payments of about $5,000 for Heisig's office lease on Camelback Road and for a $5,000 personal check, records showed.

Heisig did not respond to an interview request made through her lawyer.

Lorenzana said in court the sex-offender websites generated revenue through two sources: removal fees and ad revenue generated by the sites. Money to Rodrick could be tracked through ClickBank information provided on the websites, Lorenzana said.

ClickBank is a mechanism that generates revenue for websites based on traffic and product promotion. Lorenzana said money from the websites went to bank accounts used by an affiliated company called Civic Sentry, which does business as Web Express Ventures.

According to corporation documents, Oesterblad is the sole manager of Civic Sentry.

Rodrick, who doesn't have a lawyer, repeatedly suggested in court he wasn't the owner of the sites because his name is not on corporation filings. But Lorenzana maintained Rodrick's singular control of the money proved his control and ownership of the websites.

Maricopa County Superior Court judge sets deadline to remove all posts about defendants

Rodrick has been aided in document preparation for his legal fight by a felon who works at a polygraph school, claims to have a background in paralegal work and lists J.D. after her name in a school catalog, implying she has a law degree.

Court records show Kelley Bradbury served eight years in a Colorado prison for theft beginning in 1997.

In her resume for the Polygraph School of Science in Phoenix, Bradbury lists among her credentials a degree in paralegal studies from Rio Salado College. In the current school catalog, she lists her name as "Kelley Bradbury, M.S., J.D."

The State Bar of Arizona has no listing for Bradbury, meaning she is not licensed to practice law in the state. Rio Salado College officials also say records show Bradbury took paralegal classes but never earned a degree.

Officials say she obtained a "certificate of completion in airline operations."

Bradbury did not return multiple calls seeking comment about her background.

E-mails and computer records show Bradbury has assisted Rodrick with court motions. On a Web page, a person named Kelley Bradbury posted comments about one of the people involved in the federal suit against Rodrick and defended the sex-offender websites.

"I feel much safer knowing that sites like www.offendex.com are out there!" a person identified as Bradbury wrote. "If you didn't want your information made public you should not have committed a sex crime!!"

The post could become problematic for Rodrick. The February court hearings involved a request for sanctions against him for posts on websites about defendants in the defamation cases.

In an e-mail this month, a plaintiff in the federal-racketeering case whom Rodrick sued for defamation wrote an e-mail telling Rodrick to remove the content.

"I would request that your ... document preparer remove the slime she has up about me," _____ of Washington wrote. "She's a part of this case. If she does not remove this I will be informing the court."

While cross-examining witnesses during the hearing, Rodrick repeatedly asserted no evidence existed to show he posted the information to the sites.

But later in the hearing, Rodrick tried to broker a deal, offering to take down the offensive posts.

Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper responded by imposing a deadline for Rodrick to remove all posts about the defendants or face arrest.

On. Feb. 24, Cooper issued a civil arrest warrant for Rodrick, which she later rescinded.

No law-enforcement action taken against operators of sex-offender websites.

Call 12 for Action last year found that not all of the people listed on the sex-offender websites are registered sex offenders. Some have no criminal records. Yet their names, addresses and other personal information were put on the sex-offender websites for anyone with an Internet connection to view.

Those who challenged Rodrick and Oesterblad said the interactions frequently turned ugly, with intimidating calls, vitriolic e-mails and threats of lawsuits. Pictures of offenders' family members were posted on the websites along with their addresses. In another case, an offender's Facebook friends were added to the sites.

"Since you like Facebook so much ... we have added your 65 friends to your page on Offendex," an e-mail from website operators stated.

In other cases, the websites profiled offenders whose names had been removed from state sex-offender registries.

State police and departments of correction generally are responsible for maintaining official sex-offender registries, which can include an offender's name, photograph, physical characteristics, addresses and description of the crime.

Sex offenders are sometimes removed from state registries because their crimes have been reclassified and no longer are considered serious enough to require registration. Some offenders are required to register only with law enforcement, and their names would not appear on public registries.

Others have done their time and have sought court orders to remove their names from state and national registries.

The websites advertised records for 750,000 sex offenders. The sites promised to protect families from the menace of sex offenders in their neighborhoods by providing access to present and past criminal records.

Complaints about the websites have been made with attorneys general in at least five states, including Arizona. Complaints also have been submitted to the FBI, the Federal Trade Commission and the Internet Crime Complaint Center, which works with the FBI to refer Internet criminal cases to various agencies.

As of this month, no law-enforcement agency has taken action against Rodrick and Oesterblad over the websites, records show.

Rodrick, 52, and Oesterblad, 53, both have felony convictions on fraud-related charges.

Rodrick pleaded guilty in 1993 to selling illegal cable-television descramblers with fraudulent intent. In 1996, he was sued in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for his role in an Alaskan Ponzi scheme that cost investors as much as $50 million. A final judgment of $58,900 was entered against him. Court records do not show any payments were made.

Oesterblad pleaded guilty in 1992 for his part in a frequent-flier scam operated out of his family's Phoenix travel agency and spent 10 months in a federal prison.

Websites' employee said a dispute over money spurred him to testify in civil cases.

The sex-offender websites were built using data copied directly from official law-enforcement websites, Call 12 found.

Eric Souhrada, a former Tempe software developer and computer engineer now living in California, said in an interview last year that he designed the sex-offender websites for Rodrick as subscription services, not as vehicles to target offenders for cash.

Souhrada said he designed the sex-offender sites from data he scraped from official registries maintained by law-enforcement agencies across the country. He said he reformatted the data into his own templates that Rodrick used for websites such as Offendex.

Oesterblad said the origin of the sex-offender sites goes back to 1999 when he and Rodrick owned an Internet-based subscription service to access public records called Spyheadquarters.com. The name was later changed to Onlinedetective.com.

In 2006, the demand for subscriptions to search public records plummeted. Oesterblad said he and Rodrick didn't have another company together until 2011, when Rodrick approached him about a new website called Offendex.com to collect money from sex offenders.

Oesterblad said Rodrick was in the middle of a divorce case and asked him to register the new company with the Arizona Corporation Commission and open bank accounts.

"I did not know then, but believe now, that Rodrick established the name Web Express Ventures in order to hide income and other assets from his estranged wife," Oesterblad wrote in his federal court declaration.

At its peak, the sex-offender websites were bringing in an estimated $35,000 per month, Oesterblad said during last month's interview.

Oesterblad described his role in the website as a contract employee. He said Rodrick paid him 50 percent commission on money he collected from sex offenders through the removal process. He also said his job was to communicate with offenders.

"I'm the one who had to talk to the angry perps on the phone," Oesterblad said, adding that he has no regrets about firing off angry e-mails to offenders and rubbing their faces in the graphic details of their crimes. "I was the zealot."

By the end of 2012, Offendex was getting a lot of negative attention on the Internet and elsewhere. Days after Call 12 for Action sought interviews with Rodrick in December, he changed the name of the site to SORArchives.

Oesterblad said the real blow for the company came after complaints from around the country about similar websites led credit-card and payment-processing companies to reject payments on behalf of the websites. Google also changed its formulas so the sites were buried on the Web.

"Rodrick subsequently learned that he and the SORArchives.com website was under investigation for possible criminal activities," Oesterblad said in his declaration.

Oesterblad said that Rodrick told him he learned Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery's office had opened a criminal investigation into the websites.

No criminal charges have been filed.

Oesterblad said he decided to testify in the civil cases after he and Rodrick had a dispute over $808. Oesterblad said Rodrick refused to pay him for work he did on the websites and then pushed him out of a future project.

He said he felt betrayed and as if he had wasted two years of his life.

"I agreed to talk to everybody. I agreed to tell the truth," Oesterblad said in the interview. "I can acknowledge my naivete and stupidity for being a patsy."

In fall 2012, Call 12 for Action received a complaint call from a consumer alleging that a Valley-based company was engaged in online extortion. Reporter Robert Anglen set out to investigate those claims and found that sex-offender websites were demanding money to remove profiles from the Web. To trace the operators of those websites, Anglen combed through hundreds of pages of court records, business filings and property records.


OH - 'Let me live my life': Registered sex offender shares his side of story

Depressed man
Original Article

03/22/2014

By Hannah Sparling

NEWARK - _____ is a registered sex offender.

He’ll admit to that, no problem.

He is not, however, a pedophile. He is not a child molester, and he has no interest messing with anyone’s kids, he said.

A lot of people don’t know the story,” said _____, 44, from his West Main Street home. “They figure, because someone’s a sex offender, ‘Oh, he likes little kids.’ But that’s not always the case.”

Before you go judge someone, do your homework.”

_____ is one of three sex offenders who were registered as living within 1,000 feet of Par Excellence Academy, a local elementary school. By law, registered adult sex offenders in Ohio are not allowed to live within 1,000 feet of a school, preschool or day care facility, but that restriction applies only to people convicted after July 1, 2003.

_____ says his offense was in late 2002 and his conviction in early 2003. Newark Law Director Doug Sassen said officials are still working to determine _____’s exact conviction date — it was out of state, which makes tracking down records more difficult — but if _____’s story holds up, he can stay put.

Par Excellence officials said they want _____ and the other two offenders to move, but _____ doesn't think he should have to. Moving is expensive, he’s happy where he is now, and he’s not causing any trouble, he said.

This past week, _____ sat down with The Advocate to share his side of the story.

Trying to move on
It started back in 2002. _____ was 31 at the time, living in New York, and he met a girl from Connecticut online. The girl told him she was 18, and one day, _____ and a friend picked her up to hang out, he said.

_____ said he spent one day with the girl. He kissed her, but they never had sex, he said. He put her on a train to go home, and that was that, he said.

Then _____ found out the girl was only 17. The girl’s grandmother pushed the issue, and authorities responded and arrested _____, he said.

Ultimately, _____ was charged with sexual abuse in the third degree, a class B misdemeanor in New York. He spent 45 days in jail, and he pleaded guilty to that charge only to avoid a legal battle that might have taken more time and cost him his job, he said.

_____ accepts some blame — “It was my fault because I should have checked the ID,” he said — but at the same time, he doesn't feel his offense is one that should haunt him for life. The girl willingly went with him to New York, he was under the impression the entire time she was an adult, and the two only kissed, he said.

I’m still shocked why I gotta report for life (as a sex offender) when I only did 45 days (in jail),” he said. “It’s a misdemeanor.”

_____ is considering going back to New York to try to get his conviction overturned, but for now, he’s happily living on West Main Street with his soon-to-be wife, _____.

_____ was skeptical of _____ when they first met — she told him she was fact-checking everything he told her — but his story checked out, and now she trusts him and is sticking by him no matter what, she said.

Facing difficulty
The sex offense makes life difficult sometimes — it’s hard for _____ to find work, for example, and anytime the couple moves, everyone in the new neighborhood gets notified about _____’s sex-offender status — but _____ knows what kind of man _____ truly is, she said.

For _____’s part, he tries not to let his status get to him.

It doesn't really bother me because I know what happened that day,” he said. “I’m not bothered by it. I’m still going to continue to live my life.”

_____ moved into his house about two years ago, and he checked with officials at the time to make sure the location was OK, he said. He thinks he’s within his rights, but if people still try to make him move, he’ll do his best to fight, he said. The way he sees it, he pleaded guilty, he did his time and now he should get to start fresh.

I’m not moving. I’m fighting,” he said. “I already know I got the charge. Just leave me alone already. Let me live my life.”

Everyone makes mistakes. I did my time for it. I’m not gonna keep doing time.”


NM - San Juan County Sheriff's Office turn sex offender registration into a circus

Deputy Ed Madson
Deputy Ed Madson
Original Article

This is just a sheriff, in our opinion, out trying to make a name for himself by exploiting ex-offenders and fear.

03/22/2014

By Ryan Boetel

Drawing attention: Publicized process attracts neighbors' attention during routine checks

AZTEC - San Juan County Sheriff's Office Deputy Robert Tallman slowly drove a truck — one with a sign that read "Sex Offender Registration Unit" on the tailgate and the side door — through a Crouch Mesa neighborhood on Wednesday.

Two deputies followed in cars with their police lights flashing.

The purpose of the visit was to verify sex offender registration information. The sign and the flashing lights are meant to draw attention to the convicted sex offenders and warn neighbors, Sheriff Ken Christesen said.

Christesen said he has ramped up the sex offender registration program since taking office in 2011. He said he has increased the number of registration checks, improved the program's technology and publicized the process.

"I'm not going to ever be soft on sex offenders," Christesen said. "I want to make sure everybody knows where they live. If the sex offenders don't like it, maybe they should move to a different state."

Making sex offenders' addresses readily available serves the public because sex offenders have a high rate of recidivism, Christesen said. If a child goes missing, police can quickly check people who live near the area and have committed a sex crime against a child, he said.
- As usual they are spreading lies.  The facts are that sex offenders have one of the lowest recidivism rates of all other criminals, except murderers.

But a sociologist who works with sex offenders locally said the registration list falls short because not everyone with a sex crime conviction is on the list, and friends and family members — not strangers — commit most of the sex crimes against children.

On Wednesday, there were 309 registered sex offenders living in San Juan County. Of those, 277 lived in the community and 32 were in jail or prison, Tallman said. About 80 percent of the sex offenders on the list were convicted of a crime involving a child, he said.

The list only includes registered sex offenders on the Navajo Nation if they are employed off the reservation, Tallman said.
- So is he discriminating against these people because they are Navajo?

Depending on their conviction, convicts are registered sex offenders for 10 years or life, Tallman said. Either each year or every 90 days, they must go to the sheriff's office and provide law enforcement with their address, place of work or school, vehicle and other personal information.

Each week, Tallman, the director of the sex offender registration unit, and other deputies randomly check the homes of several sex offenders to make sure the information they provided is accurate.
- That could be seen as excessive and basically harassment!

On Wednesday, there were four men on Tallman's list.
  • _____, 40, who was convicted of manufacturing child pornography in 2011,
  • _____, 29, who was convicted of criminal sexual penetration in 2004,
  • _____, 46, who was convicted of attempted sexual battery in 2004, and
  • _____, 33, who was convicted of three counts of possession of child pornography in 2011.

_____, _____ and _____ were all home, and Tallman met with them briefly.

_____ wasn't at his home, so Tallman left a note on his door asking him to call the sheriff's office. When a message left on a sex offender's door goes unreturned, it could mean the person isn't being truthful or is failing to register, which is a felony, Tallman said.
- It is your job to verify they live there, not their job to contact you if they are not home possibly at work, that doesn't mean they are being untruthful or failing to register!

Mike Castenell, a Farmington sociologist who works with sex offenders, said New Mexico's sex offender registry laws aren't as stringent as laws in several other states, which require sex offenders to send out fliers to nearby neighbors with their photos and information about their crimes. And New Mexico courts often allow people convicted of a crime that may land them on sex offender registration list to get off the list as part of a plea agreement, he said.

There are 12 crimes that can land a person on the registered sex offender list. Those crimes include criminal sexual penetration and contact, aggravated indecent exposure, sexual exploitation of children, possession or manufacturing or child pornography and kidnapping or false imprisonment against a minor, as long as the suspect isn't a parent.

Castenell said the convicted sex offenders he works with have come to expect sex offender registration checks. He said he hasn't heard of complaints the sheriff's office treats the convicts unfairly.

"When the guys I work with talk about (the sheriff's office) coming to their homes, they say it's routine," Castenell said. "It's something that my guys have come to expect."
- The Jews and others expected the Gestapo to come knocking down their doors as well, but that doesn't mean it was right or that they agreed with it!

_____, one of the sex offenders whose home deputies checked on Wednesday, said the registration checks are expected and no longer interfere with his life.

"It's all there for everybody to see. It's on the website. All you gotta do is look it up, and you can see where everybody is in the whole state or the country," he said of information on sex offenders.

_____ said the sex offender registration program is a good one. His only complaint was that all of the people on the list are treated the same, and the sex offender list doesn't do enough to differentiate among degrees of crimes.

"It's basically like being in jail, but you're not in jail," _____ said of being a registered sex offender. "Prison's a lot worst. But you're not like every other citizen walking around. And it doesn't matter what you did. You're all lumped together in one big, happy group. It doesn't matter what you did, how major or how minor, you're treated the same. But the way I see it, all sex crimes are serious."

He said the registration and routine checks haven't been what has stopped him from re-offending. He said he made a lifestyle change and hasn't had any legal problems since his conviction 10 years ago.

"It's probably a good program. My feeling is if you are (on the registration program) then you are not going to re-offend," _____ said. "The ones you got to worry about are the ones that aren't doing all that. Those are the ones that are going to cause you trouble. There's thousands of them around here that are lurking that people don't even know about."


WI - Circles of Support helps ex-offenders after prison

Circles of Support
Original Article

03/22/2014

By CHARLIE MATHEWS

MANITOWOC (AP) - For convicted drug dealer _____ and child sex abuser _____, Circles of Support is a lifesaving program they believe can help prevent them from going back to prison.

"Circles is mentoring for your life guiding you in the right direction," _____, released from prison last April, said after a recent weekly meeting at the Salvation Army of Manitowoc County. It offers the program in partnership with Goodwill North Central Wisconsin.

"If it wasn't for this program and the Salvation Army, I don't know where I'd be or what I'd be doing," said _____, who works several days a week at its pantry on Ninth Street. "My best friends and family are here."

Among them is Lt. Jeff Olson. "When these folks are coming out of prison or jail, they don't have a lot of support," said the Corps officer. "We look to help the whole person ... helping them to find jobs, a place to live, the right friends, reconcile with family ... many have destroyed what should be good relationships."

_____ got teary-eyed when talking with his mentor, Jerry Schubring, that one relationship he's repairing is with one of his three children, a daughter he hadn't seen for years.

"I want to raise my kids to know what dignity and integrity are, to have self-respect and self-love, and, most importantly, to have a life that will endure all adversity," _____, 33, said.

"You can't give up on a person," said Schubring, 72, who knew _____ before he was imprisoned, introducing the ex-offender and daughter to Emanuel United Methodist Church in Two Rivers where they were baptized.

"I stuck with him all the while when he went to prison, accepted his phone calls just about every week," said Schubring, who added he's "gotten hooked" on serving as a mentor with Circles of Support.

"It gives you a lot of pleasure seeing young fellows like _____ try to make a change in their life ... prison is not doing anything for them," said Schubring, an accountant before retiring.

He said _____ is working hard on turning his life around. "It is hard for those with drug problems to stay clean the rest of their life, they re-offend so easy ...we want to keep them stay clean, out of prison," Schubring said.

"To see lives being healed is huge for a mentor," Olson said. "You put in a lot of time with an individual, mentoring them, helping them with action plans and tasks. Seeing them get back to being a viable member of society, as a mentor there is great joy to see that."

Olson said mentors need to not view it as a defeat if participants violate parole and end up back in jail. "We are going to help this person again, not give up on them," he said.

The Manitowoc Salvation Army post began a Prison After Care program seven years ago with the same goals as the Circles of Support programming developed about two years ago with Goodwill Industries, which has a grant from the state Department of Corrections.

Olson said Goodwill has given the Manitowoc group training on how to be good mentors. It can also offer practical help like paying for special work boots if needed, or paying for books if the ex-offender is back in the classroom.

The Manitowoc Circles of Support has some 20 participants with local corrections agents strong supporters, encouraging involvement by parolees. Olson said more mentors are needed to be able to provide one-on-one counseling and support to "help participants stay on the straight and narrow, get their lives back together."

Gina Jensen became a mentor in September. "I get to love people and serve them," said Jensen, a member of Lighthouse Church Family in Two Rivers. "We'd love to have more people who can love the person and overlook the crime."

"Everybody deserves many changes in life," said Kathy Strickland, who attends Faith Church in Manitowoc, and went to the Gulf Coast several times in the wake of Hurricane Katrina as part of disaster relief efforts.

"It is a special gift to serve God ... I have a heart for these people," Strickland said. "Each life has value, it is not up to me to judge."

What would she say to prospective mentors? "You would be so blessed ... you get back more than you give," Strickland said. "Your heart would melt."

Darlene Wellner, a longtime volunteer, said mentors do have to be open and non-judgmental, willing to listen, but that doesn't mean they don't call them out for inappropriate actions.

"You are there to always encourage them, stress that hope is always there and that God is part of this whole thing, too," Wellner said. For those ex-offenders who grew up without a faith life, "it helps them to feel they can have a personal relationship with God and to also understand the values that come with that."

Before retirement, Wellner worked for Lakeshore Community Action Program as youth services director. She welcomes the involvement of lay volunteers with varied backgrounds who can provide links to different resources to help the ex-offender.

Kevin Mueller is the field supervisor in the Department of Corrections office in Manitowoc and Jennifer Zick is one of his probation and parole agents.

He said the ex-offenders may pay more attention to the guidance offered by the volunteers from Circles of Support rather than his-her paid parole officer.

"It is nice to have a group that helps me in my job," Zick said. "They take my people to the Job Center, get a library card."

"I can talk with the mentors, tell them what this guy could benefit from, 'can you help me out,'" Zick said. "We have the same goals, holding that person accountable ... giving them a positive place to go during the week instead of hanging out with friends" who may have been part of a destructive group of acquaintances."

"We need the community's help to do our job," Mueller said. "This program is a perfect example of that collaboration ... has certainly had a positive impact on the community. Manitowoc is a better place because of what Circles of Support has done."

_____, 38, said Circles of Support is helping him feel better about himself. He is trying to find work to help support his son that he said he has custody of, created through the relationship with the underage female that resulted in two years prison time. He was released in October and joined Circles.

"I'm not proud of what I did ... people have to understand that sometimes just because you are a sex offender ... doesn't mean you are the worst of the worst," said _____, who earned a one-year technical diploma in fundamentals of building maintenance and construction while housed at Oshkosh Correctional Institution.

_____ said he is a "great worker," had a couple long-term factory jobs and now just needs a chance to demonstrate his worth.

"When you're not working, you have time on your hands, there is the possibility of re-offending," _____ said.

He said Circles of Support is a critical component of re-entering society. "The mentors provide you with ideas for jobs, ways to talk with employers," _____ said. "They point out your good qualities, are willing to give their time to do that."

_____ has been in out of prison three times for drug offenses and arson. He believes with help from Circles of Support there won't be a fourth time. "This is the best thing that ever happened to me," he said.


A Falsely Convicted Sex Offender

Letter
The following was sent to us via the "Tell us your story" form and posted with the users permission.

By Steve O:
www.falseconvictions.com and I have petitions on it as well. I bet you have not seen a case like this. Look under the confession and victim impact tabs. You will see concrete proof that I am innocent. Please share my story with others.