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April 27, 2015

Registered sex offender turned away at library

How did he get a library card, if he is not allowed in the library?
4-27-15 Iowa:

A Newton man is charged with violating the sex offender registry when he went to the Newton Public Library Thursday.

Timmy L. Sholley, 44, was flagged in the libraries system as a sexual offender when he presented his library card. Employees contacted the Newton Police Department and told Sholley he could not use the library. He was instructed to wait outside until the police arrived but left before any officers were at the library.

He was arrested after attending a meeting at 4:15 p.m. Friday at the Jasper County Sheriff's Department.

Sholley was convicted on two counts of third degree sexual abuse of a minor in Jan. of 2001. He was not to be on library property because it is an exclusion zone and did not have permission from the Library Director. ..Source.. by Jamee A. Pierson

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April 26, 2015

Texas Voices standing against sex offender residency restrictions

4-26-15 Texas:

From Grits for Breakfast:

Texas Voices, a group made up of families of people on Texas' sex offender registry and others who support reform of Texas sex offender statutes, has been quite active this session, and it's a good thing.

As Grits told their indefatigable leader Mary Sue Molnar when the organization began, every other criminal justice reform group and activist in the state, including me, will inevitably sell them out at the Legislature. When someone says of a proposal, "well, we can do that but we have to exclude sex offenders," reform advocates routinely will jump at the deal without a second thought. And in general, rightly so. One cannot succeed in legislative politics by making the perfect the enemy of the good.

And yet, what that means as a practical matter is that nobody will consistently, much less passionately stand up for the interests of people on the sex offender registry except their own family members. Not their lawyers, not the ACLU nor any other advocacy group, no legislator nor state official, and (if we're honest) not even this blog ... nobody. If Texas Voices didn't exist, a lot of bad, barely vetted bills would slide through the process without a whiff of opposition, not because they weren't recognized as bad but because those in a position to vet them made a political calculation that opposing them would harm other interests. I'm not particularly proud that that's true - it doesn't speak very well of the criminal justice reform movement in this state - but it's the way it is. ..Continued..

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April 22, 2015

Shelter that housed bar ‘rapist’ ousts dozens of sex offenders

4-22-15 New York:

The Kips Bay men’s shelter that was home to serial sex fiend Rodney Stover before he allegedly raped a woman in a bar bathroom has booted all of its Level 3 sex offenders, it was announced Tuesday.

The Bellevue Men’s Shelter removed about 25 of the perverts because the facility is only 650 feet from a school for learning-disabled children and about 1,000 feet from a Montessori school, according to Councilman Daniel Garodnick.

The sex creeps have been relocated to shelters that are not near schools. “These are things I’ve been pushing for years, like relocating these [sex offenders] to other sites,” Garodnick said.

The law prohibits Level 3 offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school. But City Hall cited a loophole that the residency requirement is waived for those not on parole or probation. ..Source.. by Matt McNulty and Rebecca Rosenberg

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A Violent Sex Offender Is Released Into the Public Spotlight

See earlier story HERE
4-22-15 Vermont:

One week after completing a 23-year prison sentence for a violent sexual assault, Richard Laws walked through downtown Burlington on a sun-drenched afternoon — a "free" man.

Major media outlets had covered his release on April 9, and television crews filmed a state van dropping him off in Vermont's largest city. In anticipation, police in Burlington and Winooski printed up flyers of his mug shot with the accompanying all-caps warning: "NOTIFICATION OF NON-COMPLIANT HIGH RISK SEX OFFENDER." In the ladies' room at Burlington City Hall, the notices were affixed to the backs of every bathroom stall door.

Out on the street, the occasional passerby appeared to recognize the tall and powerfully built 49-year-old. One woman glared at Laws as she walked past, and glanced back twice before ducking into a store.

Inside the Burlington Housing Authority headquarters on lower Main Street, Laws seemed to find a sympathetic ear. "I was released from prison 23 years ago ... I mean, I was just released," he stammered nervously to the female receptionist. Laws explained that he had been staying with friends in Barre since he got out of prison, but, fearing that his hosts would encounter backlash, he didn't think he should stay there for long.

"I'm trying to see if there's any programs I'm eligible for," he said.

In fact, the receptionist said, the housing agency has someone specifically tasked with helping recently released inmates. "Why were you incarcerated?" she asked.

"Aggravated assault ... rape and kidnapping," Laws answered.

She told him he could return the next day to set up an appointment. "Bring your Social Security card," she told him. She had one more question.

Are you on the sex offender registry?" she asked. He nodded yes.

"Are you on the 10-year registry or the lifetime?" she asked.

"The lifetime," he said.

"Then we can't assist you, unfortunately
," she answered abruptly. "If you were on the 10-year, we could."

"OK," Laws said quietly. "OK ... OK." He shuffled outside and headed up Main Street with no specific destination in mind.

There are 1,361 registered sex offenders in Vermont, and almost all of them were released from custody without fanfare or public notice. Many are required to be on the public sex-offender registry for 10 years. More serious offenders, such as Laws, are on it for life.

"I took a plea ... to put this behind me," Laws said on Church Street. "The registry didn't even exist then. It wasn't part of the deal. It's a second, third punishment. They say it's about public safety," he said, predicting he would likely end up homeless. "How does that help public safety?"

Since 2009, when the Vermont Department of Corrections drafted new rules, the release of every high-risk offender who skipped sex-offender treatment has been publicly announced. Laws is one of a handful to trigger a statewide media blitz.

Such offenders do not qualify for parole or early release: They serve every day of their maximum sentence. Once they're free, they don't get probation supervision. They are only required to provide their address and comply with registry rules.

The DOC says such notifications help keep the public safe from people over whom they have little control. Critics say the public and media attention make it all but impossible for those offenders to successfully reenter society.

"They make people homeless; that's often the endgame," Vermont prisoner's rights attorney Seth Lipschutz said. "In every era in humanity, there's somebody that the public loves to hate. It's been Jews, Catholics, African Americans ... when I was a kid it was communists and homosexuals. Now, in our politically correct society, there is no one we can hate except for terrorists and sex offenders."

Complicating this particular case, Laws says he should never have been labeled as "non-compliant, high risk." He insists that he tried to get into sex-offender treatment for years but was rejected, and supplied court and DOC documents to Seven Days to support his claims. He even filed a lawsuit — later dismissed on a technicality — that sought admittance to treatment programs.

Records also show that Laws had completed the two-day assessment to get into treatment, while DOC officials told the parole board that he had refused. A lawyer from the Vermont Attorney General's Office acknowledged the error in a 2008 letter, which stated Laws was "eligible to participate in rehabilitative programming." But Laws maintains the DOC still wouldn't treat him.

"This is a shell game," Laws said. "They say I refused to do my assessment. They wanted it in writing that I refused to program. I would not."

In an email, Commissioner of Corrections Andy Pallito declined to discuss Laws' treatment status, citing federal privacy laws. "I can say that Mr. Laws was given the same access to our programs as all people within our custody are given," Pallito wrote. "Each program that we run, however, has certain requirements that an individual has to adhere to for successful participation and completion. I will say that the overwhelming majority of people participate and complete these programs during their custody with the DOC."

The program, which takes several months to complete, involves both group and one-on-one counseling designed to prevent subjects from reoffending. Had Laws been treated, he might have been released early on parole and avoided public notification.

Laws also said that the DOC offered him early release if he'd abandon his initial plan to move to Washington County. "I hope you understand the publicity that will surround your scheduled release," DOC official Darryl Graham wrote to Laws in June 2013. "Just a thought, have you considered relocating in another county in Vermont or possibly to another state?"

DOC records portray Laws as having a troubled life: abused as a child growing up in Chittenden County towns, placed in foster care, later convicted of crimes including DUI, marijuana possession and simple assault. Although he held jobs sporadically as a dishwasher and builder, he also had problems related to alcohol.

Authorities paint a grisly picture of what happened on a June night in 1992. Laws, then 27, came on to a woman inside the Mad Mountain Tavern in Waitsfield, but she rebuffed his advances. Later that night, he punctured her tires. When she tried to drive home, she was forced to pull over down the road from the tavern. Laws, who had followed her, offered to help. He then raped her in his car and beat her with a tire iron, fracturing her skull to the point of near death.

In a plea agreement, Laws was sentenced to what amounted to 23 years. He served every day of all 23, the DOC says, because he refused to undergo sex-offender treatment.

Now on the outside, Laws faces multiple restrictions. To keep him from contacting the victim, who lives in the Mad River Valley, the towns of Warren, Waitsfield and Fayston obtained court orders barring Laws from crossing their borders.

Nearly a dozen businesses in downtown Barre, including bars, a candy store and a jewelry store, have taken out no-trespass orders against Laws. If he enters any of those establishments, he could be arrested.

Laws initially hoped to take the bus from Barre to Burlington to access treatment providers and social services. But a few days after his release, University of Vermont officials took out a no-trespass order banning him from campus, where the bus makes a stop.

Last week in an Addison County court, his former girlfriend and adult daughter took out restraining orders against him. His victim, too, has been in the news. In Waitsfield, Sue Russell spoke out at a community forum organized to support her. "I know the community has my back and has my family's back," she told WCAX-TV in a news report that blacked out her face. Even after 23 years, she said, she still looks over her shoulder. (Seven Days does not usually identify sexual assault victims, but Russell has allowed other news outlets to use her name.)

Back in Burlington, Police Chief Michael Schirling urged "general vigilance, not hyper-vigilance" in an email. "There are, unfortunately, many violent offenders in our communities. Some have served their time. Others have yet to be identified or caught ... Mindfulness about personal and community safety is the most important tool."

In addition to public scrutiny and no-trespass orders, Laws faces more mundane challenges related to being incarcerated since 1992.

Laws bought a cellphone with money left over from his prison account, but he had no idea how to use it. When a reporter had lunch with him at Panera, he wondered if the notification buzzer was a tracking device. Walking through downtown Burlington made him thirsty. In front of the Rite Aid, he pondered aloud, "You think they have drinks in there?" He was wondering if he could buy an RC Cola, a brand that was prevalent on grocery store shelves decades ago.

For now, Laws is living with friends in a dilapidated house not far from downtown Barre. The place is so grimy that Laws bought a $20 tent and pitched it in the spare bedroom. Inside the tent is an air mattress, a chest where he stores his legal papers, a lamp, a tin of biscotti and a half-empty jar of Nutella.

While in Barre, Laws says, he's homebound, fearful that someone will file a police report accusing him of wrongdoing. Laws said prison taught him to aggressively defend himself, which could get him in trouble on the outside. "If I feel threatened, I swing first," he said. "In prison, there's nowhere to run, there are no cops to call. It's an instinct I am trying to turn off. That's not going to work for me in public."

Laws occasionally takes day trips with his girlfriend, whom he met through a prison pen pal program. She lives in Winooski and needs oxygen because of a health problem. Two weekends ago, while driving in Franklin County, she fell ill, according to Laws, so he took the wheel. Someone had already called the police about the erratic driving on Route 105 in Sheldon. The cops stopped the car and charged Laws with driving with a suspended license. That case is pending.

Laws says he wants to get a job and an apartment in Burlington, where he can get help. A few days a week, his girlfriend drives him there so he can pick up his mail at the post office and meet with social service agencies, including the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity and the Howard Center.

There have been other acts of kindness, too, Laws said. He figured the police would be his "worst enemy," but said they've been exceedingly polite and helpful — they even set up the voicemail on his phone.

A few days after his release, Laws decided to get a haircut. He came upon a barbershop and was surprised to find a woman working alone inside. He didn't want to scare her, he said, nor did he want her to accuse him of doing anything wrong.

The barber later told Seven Days that she recognized Laws from media coverage. Her heart started racing, she recalled, but she cut his hair anyway, and they talked. He told her he'd been in prison. When another customer finally walked in, she said she felt a lot better. ..Source.. by Mark Davis

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April 21, 2015

Franklin County sheriff fined for refusing to allow sex offender on work release

4-21-15 Washington:

Franklin County Sheriff Jim Raymond was fined $100 after refusing to allow a sex offender into work release.

Raymond said the jail’s rules for work release do not allow sex offenders to take part in the program. But Superior Court Judge Cameron Mitchell ordered a man who pleaded guilty to felony sex crimes to be allowed to leave the jail to go to work with GPS monitoring.

Raymond and jail Commander Stephen Sultemeier discussed the issue and decided not to honor the order because of the risk the offender posed to the public, Raymond said. Mitchell reversed the order on April 14, saying it was improper to order work release. But he fined the sheriff’s office $100 for disobeying the original order.

Raymond payed the fine out of his own pocket Tuesday, saying the fine would be an improper use of taxpayer money. ..Source.. by Tri-City Herald

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Council toughens sexual predator ordinance

4-21-15 Florida:

The Marco Island City Council passed a tough new ordinance Monday that council members say has made Marco Island a less likely home for a registered sex offender or sexual predator.

The ordinance and its more restrictive nature was a request made by councilman Amadeo Petricca.

The new law is reflective of language found in a similar legislation enacted by the Miami-Dade County Commission and found to be valid upon appeal to the Florida 3rd District Court of Appeals in 2010.

"I believe we need to provide our families and children with the best protection we can when it comes to the potential for harm to them," said Petricca.

The ordinance will prohibit a registered sex offender or sexual predator from living within 2,500 feet of any school, child-care facility, park, playground or public school-bus stop.

It also places the responsibility on a landlord to ensure a person seeking to lease or a short-term rental is not a sexual offender. It requires landlords to apply reasonable due diligence to determine if a person falls into that category. Failure to do so will be a code-enforcement violation and violators will be cited under the city of Marco Island Code Compliance Ordinance.

Violation of the new ordinance may bring a $500 fine or imprisonment for up to 60 days, or by both a fine and jail time.

The ordinance itself applies to both temporary and permanent residences. Temporary is defined as a place where the person abides, lodges or resides for 14 or more days during any calendar year and is not the person's permanent address, or a place where the person routinely abides, lodges or resides for four or more consecutive or nonconsecutive days in any month and which is not the person's permanent residence.

Any person falling under the definition of a sexual offender or sexual predator and already in an established permanent residence would be exempt from the ordinance, but would be required to adhere to the new standards should they choose to move.

A person who was a minor when an offense was committed and was never tried as an adult is also exempt.

The new ordinance went into effect upon its passage on Monday evening. ..Source.. by Steve Stefanides

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Richard Law challenges Corrections department claims

See earlier stories HERE and HERE
4-21-15 Vermont:

BARRE — Richard Laws, the sex offender recently released from prison after serving his sentence, disputes the Department of Corrections’ claims that he refused treatment, claiming that the Department instead wouldn’t allow him to participate in treatment, including during his 10-year relocation to a prison in Kentucky.

Laws spent about 23 years behind bars for kidnapping, raping and beating a woman in the early 1990s. According to court records, Laws pleaded guilty in 1993 to kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault and aggravated assault. He was sentenced to serve 25 to 30 years.

He was released earlier this month, but before he was freed police conducted a public information campaign to educate people about him, including his alleged refusal to seek treatment and his being deemed a high risk to re-offend. Police distributed flyers with Laws’ picture and some of his criminal history to local businesses.

In an interview Monday, Laws said the Department has misled the public regarding his efforts to get treatment.

“That’s just not the truth,” he said. “The truth is they left me out of state until I was seven months from maxing out and they wouldn’t let me program out of state. They just left me out there. By the time they brought me back there wasn’t even any time to program.”

Laws was eligible for release on his minimum date back in April 2005, but because he had not had treatment, he spent 10 more years behind bars.

“You’d have to be pretty foolish to believe that I would choose to spend an extra 10 years in prison because I didn’t want to do some 18-month program,” Laws said. “There’s nothing I wouldn’t have done to avoid spending an extra 10 years in prison. Think about it, I’m 49 years old, I would have been out when I was 38. How could you even consider that to be plausible?”

In an effort to reduce overcrowding in its prisons, Vermont sends some of its inmates to Kentucky and Arizona under a contract with the private, for-profit Corrections Corporation of America. The Department had no comment about Laws for this story, saying he is no longer under their supervision. However, Commissioner Andrew Pallito said Monday that Vermont inmates housed in other states who need treatment for substance abuse or sex offender treatment are brought back to Vermont to get that treatment in time before the inmates complete their sentences.

Laws has sued the state multiple times for treatment-related reasons. In one case, Judge Helen Toor dismissed a suit in 2009 in which Laws claimed the Department of Corrections gave the parole board inaccurate information about his willingness to get an assessment that would get the ball rolling for treatment.

According to court records, the Department told the board in 2007 that Laws had refused to take the assessment twice. However, by the state’s own admission, it neglected to tell the board that Laws had indeed done the assessment at a later date. Court records show Laws had declined the assessment at first because he had appealed his case and didn’t want to disclose information that could hurt that appeal. Once that case was finalized, Laws took the assessment.

After the state made that admission, Toor dismissed the case because the state had rectified the error. The state noted that the parole board denied Laws parole because of major violations he committed while behind bars, not because of what it had said to the board about Laws. Court records did not go into detail about what those violations were.

Since his release from prison, Laws said, he has been overwhelmed by all the attention focused on him. Most of the media attention directed at Laws has focused on the fact that Laws is an “untreated” sex offender and therefore presents a bigger risk to the community than a sex offender who has undergone treatment.

“Corrections is sounding the alarm for a situation they completely created themselves,” he said, adding he was absolutely willing to participate in treatment programming.

Laws is currently spending nights in Barre and traveling to Burlington during the day to look for work and get mental health treatment. Because of the heightened attention on him, he says he avoids downtown Barre because people recognize him from fliers that were posted just prior to his release from jail and yell at him.

Laws said seven businesses have issued no-trespass orders against him. He also says he can no longer take the bus to Burlington because it stops at the University of Vermont, which also has a no-trespass order against him.

“You couldn’t do more to alienate me from the community than you’ve done,” Laws said. ..Source.. by Eric Blaisdell

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April 18, 2015

Nevada Legislature: Senate OKs bill cracking down on teacher-student sex crimes

4-18-15 Nevada:

Nevada senators have passed a bill that would toughen penalties against teachers and other school workers who have sexual relationships with students.

Senators unanimously approved SB192 on Friday. It now heads to the Assembly.

The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Becky Harris would require a school worker to register as a sex offender for life if they were convicted of a sexual crime involving a student.

It would also criminalize sexual conduct between school employees or volunteers and college students who are as old as 18 if the student hasn’t already completed high school.

The provision aims to protect young college students who are enrolled in high school and college classes concurrently. ..Source.. by

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April 17, 2015

FSCJ changed policy to restrict sex offenders, bar sex predators from campuses

4-17-15 Florida:

Florida State College at Jacksonville has implemented a policy that mandates sex offenders go through an additional application process while baring sexual predators from enrolling.

The change comes after a state database indicated more sex offenders enrolled at FSCJ than at any other Florida college or university.

That unflattering distinction occurred when the Florida Department of Law Enforcement created a database that allowed the public to search college campuses for enrolled sex offenders in the fall of 2013.

A person is classified a sex offender if they are found guilty of crimes including child pornography and sexual performance of a minor. A person is classified as a sex predator if he or she is found guilty of sexual battery on a child or two lessor sex crimes.

The database identified 53 sexual offenders or predators enrolled at the college. About 52,000 students are enrolled at FSCJ.

FSCJ officials said the college is one of 28 open-access colleges in the state. Open-access means there are no set requirements besides a high school diploma or its equivalent to enroll in classes. Other programs, such as adult high school and post-secondary education, don’t require a high school diploma.

By law the college is mandated to educate anyone who would be a benefit to the community. However, the college also is bound by law to provide a safe environment.

FSCJ already began looking at how it enrolled sex offenders and predators before the FDLE’s database became public, according to a November 2013 Times-Union report.

FSCJ’s provost Judith Bilsky said 17 sexual offenders and three sexual predators currently take classes at the school. All of them were grandfathered into the college, but will be required to meet with the dean of student success and a security officer, according to the new policy.

She said the college spent about five months discussing the policy with campus presidents, security staff and risk management among other officials.

Jill Johnson, FSCJ spokeswoman, said the new policy took affect April 2014. She said all employees were notified of the policy change.

There wasn’t college-wide awareness effort for students, she said.

However, each sex offender or predator meets with campus security at the beginning of a semester, and security officers are well aware of the offenders and predators.

The policy requires all sex offenders who want to enroll to apply by April 1. They can only start taking classes in the fall semester.

“Required documents include the sexual offenders’s criminal history, arrest reports, letters of reference, judgement and sentences for all offenses the applicant is subject to, any supporting documents that applicant deems appropriate and an authorization executed by the applicant to conduct a criminal and other appropriate background checks,” the policy reads.

Completed applications will be forwarded to a Threat Assessment Team for review, which will provide a recommendation to the vice president of the college. The vice president will make the decision to accept or deny the application.

“There is no appeal of a decision to deny admission or enrollment,” the policy reads.

Bilsky said the new policy doesn’t deviate from the college’s mission as an open-access educational institution. She said of the number of sex offenders at the college is a miniscule amount compared to the full student body.

“Quite frankly, the only segment of the population that we have cut down access for is sexual predators,” she said. “Those people who have been deemed not able to be rehabilitated and could be a threat to facility and staff.” ..Source.. by Derek Gilliam

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