October 5, 2015

Funding comes as a relief to local cyber crimes task force

10-5-15 Missouri:

COLUMBIA, Mo. - A Mid-Missouri cyber crimes task force is now getting the funding it needs to fight cyber sex crimes over the next year.

Gov. Nixon recently released $1.5 million to 13 similar programs in Missouri.

Last fiscal year, the Boone County Sheriff's Department Cyber Crimes Task Force had to wait eight to nine months before the Governor released its funding.

Last October, Sheriff Dwayne Carey told ABC 17 News if the grant was not released, the task force would likely be shut down.

But that is no longer a worry for the task force this fiscal year, since it recently received more than $141,000 from the state.

"I'm tickled pink that it's well on it's way and we don't have to worry about trying to figure out how we're going to balance this out to make it work until the funding is released," Detective Tracy Perkins with the Cyber Crimes Task Force said.

The task force investigates internet-related crimes, especially those exploiting children, in seven counties across Mid-Missouri. Last year, the task force had to use money from open positions in the corrections department to keep it afloat.

The delay of funds set back the team's progress, Perkins said.

"Since I had two new folks under my belt to train, I couldn't send them to any training," she said. "So we were just kind of at a standstill. I mean everything was kind of at a halt."

The grant money pays for the salaries and benefits of three full-time employees and a part-time employee plus some training, supplies and licensing fees.

But the task force is still about $20,000 short, Perkins said. The Governor has released the same amount of money to cyber crimes task forces statewide since 2007, but it is not quite keeping up with the current needs.

"We're seeing a problem with the funding of $1.5 (million) because of the factors of cost of living will always continue to increase, benefits will always continue to increase, and so they're not able to sometimes be able to support all that," Perkins said.

The $20,000 shortfall will have impacts on the current year.

"We're going to see a shortfall on training, Perkins said. "And in this field training is a must, keep certification up and also to keep up on the trends of what's going on in the technology world.”

The task force has relied on private donations to buy things the grant does not cover like ink cartridges and undercover cell phone minutes.

But so far this fiscal year things look good for the task force, according to Perkins it has already made six to seven arrests in the first quarter. ..Source.. by Lindsey Berning, Reporter

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October 4, 2015

Outcasts: Level III sex offenders in R.I. can't live within 1,000 ft. of schools

10-4-2015 Rhode Island:

The General Assembly tripled the distance this summer. Experts say that move could backfire.

PROVIDENCE -- Most of them knew what was coming, but the words still left them shocked and dismayed.

Dozens of Providence men, all convicted of sex crimes, learned Wednesday from the Providence police that they had 30 days to find a new place to live.

For the most part, they'd lived quietly in the neighborhoods for years, checked on by probation officers and police who knew them by name.

They begged for more time.

The law won't allow it, the police said.

"The state has got to stop punishing us!" said Joseph Sorel, an Army veteran convicted of molesting children who has to move from Olneyville Square. "We've paid for our crimes. What's next?"

Since 2008, all convicted sex offenders in Rhode Island have been banned from living within 300 feet of public or private school property. In June, the General Assembly expanded that ban to 1,000 feet for Level III sex offenders, those deemed most likely to re-offend. A map of Providence built by The Journal shows just a few slivers of the city left open to offenders.

Remarkably, law enforcers, civil-rights advocates, supporters of victims of sexual assault and experts who study sex-offender management say the expanded ban could actually decrease public safety by forcing offenders to move frequently or become homeless, destabilizing their lives.

Jill S. Levenson, an associate professor of social work at Barry University in Miami and an expert on the impact of laws like Rhode Island's 1,000-foot ban, said there's no evidence that residence-restriction laws improve public safety.

"The laws are passed with good intentions. It seems like it makes sense: if they're not living close to where children are, they'll have less likelihood to form a relationship and be tempted," said Levenson,

"The irony is," she said, "in some ways it exacerbates factors that contribute to risk."

Rhode Island's 1,000-foot law is the work of Joseph M. McNamara, a Warwick state representative who chairs the state Democratic Party and the House Health, Education and Welfare Committee. Warwick Democrat Sen. Michael McCaffrey sponsored the companion bill in the Senate.

McNamara, who drove the amendment through the General Assembly, said he did so because "parents were panicking" when a sex offender moved into an apartment building 400 feet from a Warwick elementary school -- and another moved into McNamara's neighborhood in a home 800 feet from an elementary school.

Both offenders were complying with state law, but McNamara felt they were too close for comfort. "Being a retired school administrator, when you have a school community in a panic over these situations and children who believe they are going to an area that is insecure, it's not conducive to education."

Thirty states including Rhode Island have residency restrictions on sex offenders, with some ranging up to 2,500 feet from schools, parks and playgrounds. I thought 1,000 feet was reasonable. It's three football fields," he said. Those who violate McNamara's law face up to five years in jail and a $5,000 fine.

The Department of Correction's Sex Offender Board of Review and the Sex Offender Community Notification Unit evaluates the sex offenders and determines their levels before they are released. The levels -- I, II and III -- are based on a felon's likelihood to re-offend, with Level III being the most likely.

the new law, the 300-foot ban still applies to Level I and II offenders.

When he introduced his bill to the House Judiciary Committee in April, McNamara told the other members that it was "very simple, cut and dry."

Richard Ferruccio, president of the R.I. Brotherhood of Correction Officers, also voiced support for the bill, saying it would create a "buffer zone" between offenders and schools. "We think families shouldn't have to live in fear of crime in their communities," he said. "School areas should be safe zones.

No one else supported the bill. The Rhode Island Public Defenders Office, The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island, Rhode Island Homeless Advocacy Project, and a case manager who works with the homeless all raised concerns that the legislation would send offenders into shelters or the streets. ..Continued.. by Amanda Milkovits

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September 30, 2015

The social costs of juveniles on sex-offender registries far outweigh benefits

9-30-15 National:

WASHINGTON (Sept. 29, 2015) – The net social cost of applying sex-offender registration and notification laws to those who commit offenses as juveniles could be as high as $3 billion a year, with most of those costs incurred by neighbors of registered offenders, according to a new benefit-cost analysis from the R Street Institute.

Author and R Street Associate Fellow Richard B. Belzer found that including juveniles in sex-offender registries produced net costs of between -$40 million and -$1 billion per year, while only reducing sex-offense recidivism by about one-eighth.

“Registration would have to reduce incidence by at least 60 percent to yield positive net benefits,” Belzer wrote. “Incidence reductions of this magnitude has not been observed anywhere, or even suggested by committed registration advocates.”

Applying notification laws to juvenile offenders produces no identifiable social benefits, with social costs that range from $400 million to $2 billion per year. About 75 percent of notification costs are actually incurred by neighbors.

“The analysis shows that public notification is almost certainly a highly cost-ineffective way to reduce future sex offenses,” Belzer wrote. “No evidence has been found indicating that there are any social benefits. Thus, reform of notification laws appears to be the most plausible class of reform alternative that warrants consideration from an economic-efficiency perspective.”

The paper offers a retrospective analysis the draws from the literature on the effects of federal laws like the Adam Walsh Act and Megan’s Law, as well as state sex-offender registries, to outline costs borne by various entities, including the registrants themselves, their families, homeowners, renters and landlords, businesses, schools and the public.

Belzer also uses a prospective benefit-cost analysis that could use reforms to lessen some of the costs associated with the registry. These include exempting certain groups of offenders, terminating new registrations for certain kinds of offenders or enacting stays of notification pending future good conduct.

“The mere presence of information in the public domain means that the costs to juvenile offenders of public notifica­tion are, for all practical purposes, already sunk,” Belzer writes. “Nearly all benefits from reform will accrue from the non-registration or nondisclosure of registry status of new juvenile offenders.” ..Source.. by Nicole Roeberg

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September 28, 2015

Owner of Polygraph.com Sentenced to Two Years in Prison for Training Customers to Lie

9-22-15 Oklahoma:

WASHINGTON—A former Oklahoma City law enforcement officer and the owner of Polygraph.com has been sentenced to two years in prison for training customers to lie and conceal crimes and other misconduct during polygraph examinations.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Assistant Commissioner Matthew Klein of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Internal Affairs and Special Agent in Charge Scott L. Cruse of the FBI’s Oklahoma City Division made the announcement.

Douglas G. Williams, 69, of Norman, Oklahoma, pleaded guilty on May 13, 2015, to two counts of mail fraud and three counts of witness tampering. Chief U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange of the Western District of Oklahoma imposed the sentence.

According to admissions made in connection with his plea, Williams owned and operated Polygraph.com, an Internet-based business through which he trained people how to conceal misconduct and other disqualifying information when submitting to polygraph examinations in connection with federal employment suitability assessments, background investigations, internal agency investigations and other proceedings.

In particular, Williams admitted that he trained an individual posing as a federal law enforcement officer to lie and conceal involvement in criminal activity from an internal agency investigation. Williams also admitted to training a second individual, posing as an applicant seeking federal employment, to lie and conceal crimes in a pre-employment polygraph examination. Williams also admitted to instructing the individuals to deny receiving his polygraph training.

The investigation was conducted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Internal Affairs and the FBI’s Oklahoma City Division. The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Heidi Boutros Gesch and Brian K. Kidd of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. ..Source.. by FBI Press Release

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September 26, 2015

These Two Teenagers Were Charged with Sex Crimes. Check-Out the Ridiculous Reason WHY

9-26-15 North Carolina:

Our legal system is a mess. Without a shred of logical congruency, America’s legal system is a wacky quagmire of differing penalties and contradictory laws.

The same country where all fifty states recognize driver’s licenses from the other states in the union is patched-together with a hodgepodge of different laws concerning the recognition of another state’s concealed carry permit.

The Southern states are disallowed from enforcing border security as it is considered an issue under the jurisdiction of the federal government. Still, the federal government refuses to enforce the laws of the nation.

The First Amendment provides for the freedom of religion. But try practicing your Christian faith, and see what happens…

Some laws are good in nature, but are being poorly implemented. While we can all agree that perverts and predatory deviants are unwelcome in society, today’s laws concerning sexual offenses can make little to no sense.

What is a “sex offender”? Certainly, for instance, a man who forces himself upon a woman is a sex offender. But what of an 18 year-old who has sex with his 17 year-old girlfriend? While many states allow for such a relationship, some do not. What is allowable in one state may brand a man for life as a sexual criminal in another and rob that man of any potential for gainful employment for the rest of his life.

Take, for example, the recent case of Cormega Copening, 17, and Brianna Denson, 16, two teenagers in a relationship. When they were both 16, they “sexted”- sent nude photos of themselves to each other on their phones.

Okay- it’s not the most-wholesome thing to do. However, now these kids are engulfed in a legal nightmare as they have both been charged with child pornography charges. They were charged as adults in February for sending “sexually explicit” photos of minors to each other’s cell phone.

However, these were not “children”; they were photos of themselves.

The duo faced felony convictions under the law in their state of North Carolina. If convicted, the two would not only face jail time, but also a lifetime of employers and neighbors discovering that they were peddlers of kiddie porn. That’s also assuming that neither of them got “shanked” in prison for being a sex offender.

In reality, their “crime” did not warrant being lumped-in with deviants.

The two were able to secure a plea bargain to escape jail time and the dreaded scarlet letter that is the sex offender registry. They pled it down to a misdemeanor offense and a year of probation.

Thankfully, this worked out (this time). Many will note that this was a fluke and not representative of the law that threatened them.

It’s true; this does not happen a lot. However, the fact that this can and has happened demands that we, as a society, examine what it means to be a sexual predator.

Some areas are clear. A man having sex with an 8-year-old is repugnant and an abhorrent scumbag by virtually everyone’s estimation. But because of this justifiable societal hatred, we must be careful who we label as this pervert’s equal.

Did Copening and Denson commit a crime? Technically, yes. If they had not found the legal escape hatch that they did, they would be labeled as a sex offender, an umbrella term that also harbors the aforementioned hypothetical pervert.

Is this right?

Like so many good ideas, the laws concerning sex crimes have become convoluted in a black-and-white paradigm that allows for no “gray area.”

That Copening and Denson escaped the legal system with only a misdemeanor charge does not mean the system worked; it means the system nearly crushed two innocent people with a lifetime of hell and, thankfully, they managed to escape Lady Justice’s swift and terrible vengeance.

No, we should not be loosening the laws to allow the perverts to roam free; we should, however, examine our classification system so that we may separate those who are truly disgusting animals from those who made a mistake. ..Source.. by Greg Campbell

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Area woman convicted for harassing sex offender

3-13-15 Virginia:

FRONT ROYAL – All she wanted to do, Delores Ann Harris told a jury Friday, was to protect herself and her granddaughter from a man who had been convicted 21 years ago of aggravated sexual battery, a man who has been on the state’s sex offender registry since 1997.

But the convicted sex offender in the courtroom was the victim in the jury trial. And Harris, 61, was the defendant, charged with misusing information from the sex offender registry.

It took the jury only 23 minutes to find Harris guilty and even less time to impose a $1,500 fine on her for actions that the prosecution described as a campaign of harassment against Scott Costello, 43.

“The commonwealth realizes that Mr. Costello is not a sympathetic victim,” Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Fleming told the six-member jury during closing arguments.

But, Fleming said, the state law is clear: The state sex offender registry, including details about Costello, can be easily viewed on a website but the information displayed must not be used “for purposes of intimidating or harassing” another person. Violations are categorized as class one misdemeanors carrying penalties of up to one year in jail and a maximum penalty of $2,500.

Harris represented herself at the trial. In an interview after the jury verdict, she continued to deny she had done anything wrong.

“I was dumb for thinking the judicial system would work,” Harris said.

The jury heard testimony from Costello and Rebecca Griffin about a contentious relationship between them and Harris, who was Griffin’s neighbor in an apartment building in Front Royal at the time of the offense.

No one disputed that Harris informed the state police that Costello was staying in an apartment with Griffin, his fiancée. At the time, Costello had a different address on the sex offender registry, which would have required him to re-register if he had moved in permanently with Griffin.

In his closing argument, Fleming recounted testimony from Master State Trooper Jerry Bosserman, who could not find evidence that Costello had moved in permanently with Griffin.

Fleming said Harris persisted in her complaints, but Bosserman couldn’t determine that Costello’s visits to Griffin’s residence had violated any laws.

“Trooper Bosserman said he felt he was on the verge of harassing Mr. Costello,” Fleming said.

Harris denied earlier testimony from Griffin that she had yelled out the window at Griffin that Costello was going to prison for 20 years and asking how her sex life would be after he was gone.

“My only concern was the safety of myself and my granddaughter,” Harris told the jury.

The guilty verdict was costly for Harris. She had been convicted of the same offense in general district court and fined only $50 and sentenced to one year unsupervised probation.

Harris appealed her conviction to circuit court, where her combined fine and court costs from the jury trial will exceed $2,000.

Harris, who has moved out of the apartment building, said she plans to file an appeal with the state Court of Appeals. ..Source.. by Joe Beck

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September 25, 2015

UPDATE: Sheriff’s Department gets $1.5 million to combat human trafficking

9-25-15 California:

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department was awarded a $1.5 million grant to aid the agency in its efforts to combat human trafficking in Los Angeles County, the U.S. Justice Department announced Thursday.

The money will help the Sheriff’s Department form a multi-agency task force with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other federal law enforcement agencies that would “investigate high-priority trafficking crimes — particularly the sex trafficking of minors,” according to a Justice Department news release.

The money awarded was a part of a $44 million federal grant that was given to 16 law enforcement agencies around the country.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said in a statement that the department needs such a task force because it gives the agency the ability to rescue and address the needs of victims, investigate and punish criminals and prevent human trafficking crimes in the future.

“As those who commit this horrible crime and prey on trafficking victims become more sophisticated, we must work together to find new and comprehensive strategies,” McDonnell said. “If we are to truly make a difference in combatting human trafficking, we must do more than simply prosecute the wrong-doers.”

Thursday’s announcement received praised from U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich.

“I’m confident that L.A. County and Sheriff McDonnell can use these funds effectively to combat sex trafficking,” Feinstein said in a statement. “Sheriff McDonnell has a great team in place and is prepared to launch an aggressive task force to arrest and prosecute those who engage in the inhuman trafficking of young girls.

“Sex trafficking must be stopped and Los Angeles has the team to do it,” Feinstein said.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department already operates its Human Exploitation and Trafficking Team, which operates investigations and sting operations throughout the county. That department is in the process of adding more than 50 personnel to its current staff, according to a news release. ..Source.. by Jonathan Smith

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September 23, 2015

One in four Ohio prisoners are sex offenders

9-23-15 Ohio:

About one in four Ohio prisoners are serving time for a sexual offense, most for rape, a new report shows.

The Correctional Institution Inspection Committee, a legislative watchdog agency, reported 7,707 inmates are doing time for sex offenses, with another 2,415 incarcerated for parole and other violations accompanying prior sex offenses.

The vast majority are male. Just 137 sex offenders are female, 2 percent of the total.

The agency said the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has been working to improve programs and treatment for sex offenders, but gaps still exist. There are no programs for sex offenders in the highest-security level in state prisons, mainly due to the potential for “ disruptive behavior.”

The report also noticed that released sex offenders have more problems than other ex-inmates in finding housing and jobs. That often leads to new offenses, the report said.

After rape, with 4,768 inmates incarcerated, the other crimes with the most offenders were gross sexual imposition (736), failure to register (508), sexual battery (476), pandering obscenity (425), unlawful conduct with a minor (419), felonious sexual penetration (147), and promoting prostitution (68).

Among women, rape was the highest category with 77 offenders. Woman outnumbered men, five to two, in just one category -- soliciting.

Ohio began a three-tier post-release registration system for sex offenders in 2008, with the most serious offenders, Tier 3, required to register their address with the state every 90 days for life. Those with less serious offenses must register every 180 days to 12 months.

The report showed the average time served for sex offenders dipped slightly to about 10 years between 1998 and 2013. ..Source.. by Alan Johnson

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Homeless Palmetto man charged with punching child molester

9-23-15 Florida:

MANATEE -- Deputies arrested a homeless man after he hit another man who was kicked out of an Ellenton bar for being a child molester, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

Staff of the Three Oaks Bar in Ellenton told the victim to leave the property because he was a convicted child molester, according to an arrest report. The victim left the bar at 4:50 p.m. Saturday and was followed by William Wagner.

Wagner, 53, confronted the victim outside the bar and called him a child molester several times, deputies said. The victim responded that he had committed the crime 30 years ago and "he has never done it since."

Wagner then punched the victim in the face and the man fell on his right knee, according to the report. A witness came over to help, and Wagner asked why he would help a child molester before walking off.

The witness and the victim talked to deputies at a Dollar General store nearby about the incident, and the victim identified the suspect walking out of the bar towards the store.

Wagner was arrested and charged with battery. He was released Sunday on $500 bond. ..Source.. by Herald staff report

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