Saturday, April 12, 2014

AUSTRALIA - False abuse claims are the new court weapon, retiring judge says

Justice David Collier
Justice David Collier
Original Article


By Harriet Alexander

Allegations of child sexual abuse are being increasingly invented by mothers to stop fathers from seeing their children, says a retiring Family Court judge.

Justice David Collier, retiring from Parramatta Family Court at the end of the month after 14 years on the bench, sees unprecedented hostility infiltrating the Family Court, and a willingness by parents to use their children to damage one another.

If a husband and wife really get down to it in this day and age, dirt flies,” Justice Collier said.

The worst are those mothers who direct false allegations of abuse against former partners.

When you have heard the evidence, you realize that this is a person who’s so determined to win that he or she will say anything. I’m satisfied that a number of people who have appeared before me have known that it is one of the ways of completely shutting husbands out of the child’s life.”

It’s a horrible weapon.”

Such cases are fraught for Family Court judges. Once an allegation has been made it is impossible to ignore. The court must deem whether there is an ”unacceptable risk” of abuse occurring in the father’s care.

Sometimes the allegations are obviously fabricated, other times they are probably true.

It’s that grey area in the middle that you lose sleep over at night, and you do lose sleep,” Justice Collier said.

They’re difficult to disprove. The allegation lingers there.”

Barrister Esther Lawson, who sits on the family law committee at the NSW Bar Association, said anecdotally there appeared to be an increase in allegations of sexual abuse coming before the court, but the reasons were unclear.

She also warned that the consequence of false allegations could return to haunt the accuser, including the loss of time with their children.

Clearly there are cases where there is reliable evidence that sexual abuse has taken place and these matters need to be properly ventilated,” Ms Lawson said.

But if the court finds that allegations have been maliciously motivated then there may be potential consequences, including a change in the child’s primary residence.”

It is rare for Family Court judges to speak publicly about their views. Many are still haunted by the 1980 murder of Justice David Opas and 1984 bombings of the Parramatta Family Court building and homes of two judges.

Judgments are now more involved, partly so the losing party can understand the reasoning behind decisions. Justice Collier said the cases were also more complicated, as litigants raise more matters and run each of them to Earth. Facebook pages are frequently called into evidence.

A mother declares she lives a chaste and modest life and then on Facebook says, ‘Guess what I did last night’, and Dad’s only too happy to put it before you.”

He puts much of the venom down to a generation of people more assertive of their rights, and now entering relationships.

But it disheartens him to leave the court so, after a satisfying career. He used to keep a magic wand, which he has now passed on to his colleague Justice Bill Johnson.

I wished I could wave that magic wand and say, ‘Be nice to each other’,” Justice Collier said. ”That’s the only order I would have to make.”

TX - Collin County Officer (Keith Michael Duncan) Arrested On Child Porn Charges

Keith Michael Duncan
Keith Michael Duncan
Original Article


COLLIN COUNTY - A detention officer in Collin County has been arrested on charges of possessing child pornography.

Members of the Collin County Sheriff’s Office Child Abuse Task Force arrested 52-year-old Keith Michael Duncan on Thursday evening.

Authorities received a tip involving a user uploading child pornography to an online account. The suspect account was traced to a residence in Parker, Texas.

A search warrant was obtained, and 41 images, all of them consistent with child pornography, were located on the owner’s computer. Some of the images showed nude girls as young as 4-5 years old.

Authorities say the pictures were loaded to Microsoft’s SkyDrive and reported by a Microsoft staff member to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children one month ago.

NCMEC forwarded the tip to Dallas Police, which tracked the IP address to Duncan.

Duncan, who has been employed by the Collin County Sheriff’s Office as a Detention Officer since 2008, is being held on $50,000 bond.

CO - Adams sheriff disappointed after deputy's (Henry Ford) arrest on sex assault charge

Henry Ford
Henry Ford
Original Article (Video available)


By Yesenia Robles

BRIGHTON - Adams County Sheriff Doug Darr on Friday expressed disappointment about a deputy who has been arrested for suspicion of sexual assault on a child.

"This is a violation of the public trust," Darr said at a news conference. "It's always disappointing when one of our own is accused."

Henry Ford, 37, who was arrested on Thursday, is an eight-year veteran of the department who was assigned to the detention facility. Darr said the incident was unrelated to Ford's work.

Documents in the case were immediately sealed, and Darr said that limited his ability to say much about the case.

The investigation started Wednesday, although it is unclear what information prompted the investigation. Darr also did not answer questions about the victim or whether the alleged assault constituted a pattern of abuse.

Evidence was gathered quickly enough to make an arrest Thursday. Darr said the deputy was not placed on leave before the arrest was made, and the sheriff would not comment about where or how the arrest took place.

The investigation is ongoing but will be turned over to the district attorney's office so prosecutors can evaluate what charges to formally file.

MN - Big win for college coach wrongly accused of child porn

Original Article

Whatever happened to being innocent until proven guilty?


MANKATO - An emotional saga that began with a child pornography accusation 18 months ago ended in final victory Thursday for the ex-football coach of Minnesota State University-Mankato who was fired even though the charges against him were found groundless and dismissed.

A state arbitrator ruled the university wrongfully terminated football coach Todd Hoffner last May for videos found on his school-issued cellphone of his nude and partially clothed young children acting playful after bathing at home.

The arbitrator ordered Hoffner’s reinstatement to his four-year contract along with back pay for lost earnings from his six-figure salary.

Hoffner was suspended in August 2012 when a school technician noticed the videos on his phone while repairing it. He was arrested four days later on child pornography charges, but three months later a judge threw out the charges, ruling the videos did not meet the legal definition of child pornography.

The videos under consideration here contain nude images of defendant's minor children dancing and acting playful after a bath,” said Judge Krista Jass. “That is all they contain."

But Hoffner never regained his coaching job. Upon dismissal of the charges he was assigned to administrative duties in the athletic department, and then fired six months later. He was hired by Minot, N.D., State University as head football coach in January.

Hoffner insisted all along there was nothing inappropriate in the videos. He said his children – then ages 9, 8 and 5 – were simply acting silly. He said he was an innocent victim of authorities acting overzealously in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal at Penn State University.

Christopher Madel, Hoffner’s arbitration attorney, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune the overseers of the Mankato university should now “clean house” and remove those officials who pursued the pornography charges and then fired Hoffner.

CA - City of Carson sex offender ordinance challenged in federal court

Original Article


A sex offender ordinance adopted by Carson, a city located within Los Angeles County, is the subject of a lawsuit filed today in Federal district court. This is the fourth lawsuit to be filed in four weeks challenging a city’s sex offender ordinance that includes restrictions regarding where more than 105,000 individuals can be present.

Specifically, the Carson ordinance prohibits registered citizens from being present in or within 300 feet of a wide range of locations including schools, parks, library, swimming pools, and bus stops. A registered citizen who violates the ordinance is subject to incarceration for a period up to one year and a fine of up to $1,000 for each day of violation.

The lawsuit filed against the City of Carson is the unfortunate result of two failed attempts to reach a settlement agreement,” stated CA RSOL President Janice Bellucci. “The City offered to stay enforcement of the presence restrictions in the ordinance, however, that offer was made available to some, not all, registered citizens. The lawsuit was filed in order to protect the state and federal constitutions by restoring the civil rights of all registered citizens.”

The sex offender ordinance was adopted by Carson in 2008 and is in violation of both the federal and state constitutions. The provisions of the ordinance directly affect all registered citizens in the state of California as well as indirectly affect an additional 400,000 individuals who are family members.

The Carson ordinance is based upon two myths: (1) that registered citizens have a high rate of re-offense and (2) that strangers commit sexual assaults. The true rates of re-offense*, according to state and federal government reports, are 1.9 percent for registrants on parole and 5.3 percent for registrants overall. More than 90 percent of sexual assaults upon children are committed not by strangers but by family members, teachers, coaches and clergy.**
- More studies can be found here and in our archives.

The presence restrictions within the Carson ordinance are inconsistent with recent decisions of the California Court of Appeals which invalidated two ordinances – one by the City of Irvine and the other by the County of Orange – as being preempted by existing state law,” stated CA RSOL board member and attorney Chance Oberstein. “The court held that the state statutory scheme imposing restrictions on a sex offender’s daily life fully occupied the field.”***

California RSOL sent a letter to Carson and more than 70 additional cities within California on January 20 notifying them of the recent Court of Appeal decisions and that the sex offender ordinances the cities had adopted were inconsistent with those decisions. California RSOL requested in those letters that the cities repeal their ordinances within 60 days or face a potential legal challenge.

Subsequent to issuance of the California RSOL letter, the cities of Costa Mesa and El Centro repealed their sex offender ordinances. Several additional cities, including Anaheim, Grand Terrace, and South Pasadena have agreed in writing not enforce their sex offender ordinances pending a decision from the California Supreme Court whether to grant review of the California Court of Appeal decisions.

Future legal challenges by sex offenders can be expected of cities that have failed to either repeal their sex offender ordinances or agree in writing to stay enforcement of those ordinances,” stated Bellucci.

The first in a series of legal challenges to city ordinances was filed on March 24 against the City of Pomona; the second on March 31 against the City of South Lake Tahoe; and the third on April 8 against National City. All lawsuits have been filed in Federal district courts.

  1. (*) See 2013 Outcome Evaluation Report, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation dated January 2014 at page 26 and Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from Prison in 1994, U.S. Department of Justice dated November 2003 at page 24.
  2. (**) See Homelessness Among California’s Registered Sex Offenders, California Sex Offender Management Board dated September 2011 at page 10.
  3. (***) See People v. Nguyen, 222 Cal. App. 4th 1168 (Cal. App. 4th Dist. 2014) and People v. Godinez, Case No. G047657, Cal. Court of Appeals, January 10, 2014 (unpublished)].