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November 24, 2015

Kentucky governor restores voting rights of most felons

11-24-15 Kentucky:

FRANKFORT, Ky., Nov 24 (Reuters) - Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear on Tuesday signed an executive order restoring voting rights to most felons in state in an action that he said will affect some 180,000 people.

Once felons have completed their sentences, including any probation or parole, and have made court-mandated restitution, they will have their rights automatically restored as long as they have no additional cases pending, Beshear said.

Previously, felony offenders needed to apply to the governor's office to have their voting rights restored. Now, Beshear said, the Department of Corrections will make the determination.

"The old system is unfair," Beshear said. "It's counterproductive. We need to be smarter in our criminal justice system. Research shows that ex-felons who vote are less likely to commit new crime and return to prison. That's because if you vote, you tend to be more engaged in society."

The outgoing Democratic governor, speaking to reporters in the state capital, said the order does not cover those convicted of violent, sex-related, bribery or treason crimes.

Kentucky is one of four states that requires its governor to sign off on the restoration of a felon's voting rights.

The issue has long been debated in Kentucky as the state House of Representatives, controlled by the Democrats, has passed a restoration bill 10 times in the last nine years only for it to die in the Republican-controlled Senate. However, the issue does have broad support as U.S. Sen. Rand Paul urged the passage of a bill that would have restored the right to non-violent felons.

However, even Republican officials who support restoring rights criticized the governor's approach.

"My issue with today's action is not about the restoration of those rights, but the fact once again this governor has chosen to usurp the authority of the Kentucky General Assembly through executive order," state House minority leader Jeff Hoover said in a statement.

Hoover questioned the legality of the governor's action, saying that an amendment to the state constitution was required.

Beshear responded by saying the state constitution gives him the right to restore voting rights.

Beshear has served two terms as governor and was prohibited from running for a third straight time. Earlier this month, Republican Matt Bevin won election and will be inaugurated next month.

A call to Bevin's office has not yet been returned. ..Source.. by MSN News

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November 23, 2015

Bill targets teacher pensions for child pornography convicts

11-23-15 Massachusetts:

Lawmakers are starting to line up behind a bill that would strip teachers convicted of child pornography crimes of their taxpayer-funded pensions, closing a controversial loophole in what one leading lawmaker calls a “no-brainer.”

The legislation, filed by the Massachusetts Teachers Retirement System, had a hearing last week before the Committee on Public Service, and the Senate chairman wants to see it moved for a full vote in “short order.”

“A crime against a child, direct or indirect, is, I think, one of the most egregious offenses in the commonwealth or anywhere,” said state Sen. James Timilty, the committee chairman and a Walpole Democrat, who is backing the bill.

“A teacher is a position that we hold very highly in this commonwealth and in this country, and it comes with responsibilities,” Timilty said. “And an offense against the child should be dealt with directly. ... When it was testified on, I thought it was a no-brainer.”

The Herald reported yesterday that at least five teachers are still receiving pensions despite child pornography convictions. Current law allows retired teachers convicted of sex offenses involving children to still collect their pension, as long as the crime wasn’t committed while they were working in classrooms or directly related to their teaching duties.

The MTRS has argued that certain offenses involving children “are so contrary to the role of educating children, that convictions of these crimes are indeed ‘fundamental’ to the job,” according to testimony it submitted to lawmakers.

House chairman James Murphy (D-Weymouth) said he hadn’t staked out a position on the bill, saying it’s still under review by the committee. “But clearly,” he said, “the facts that are presented to the committee are disturbing.”

“I wouldn’t even call this pension reform. I would call this the right thing to do for any clear-thinking person who cares about kids,” said state Rep. Shaunna O’Connell (R-Taunton). “These are people that we entrust the care of our children to each and every day at school. And they’re leading this secret, sick life.” ..Source.. by Matt Stout

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November 21, 2015

Charge of not registering as sex offender tossed against son of Iwo Jima flag-raising sculptor

11-21-15 Rhode Island:

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Prosecutors in Rhode Island have dropped a charge against the son of the sculptor who designed the iconic Iwo Jima flag-raising sculpture.

Byron de Weldon is a third-level sex offender with a history of child molestation charges. He was jailed in October because authorities believed he had failed to register as a sex offender as required.

But prosecutors said in Providence federal court Thursday that they received incorrect information from de Weldon's mother that he had gone on a lengthy trip through several states without notifying authorities. They say the trip was only about 15 days, and he was not required to update his registration.

The 45-year-old de Weldon is the son of the late Felix de Weldon, who sculpted the U.S. Marine Corps Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. ..Source..

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November 20, 2015

Sex-offender registry requires reboot in Ohio and the nation: editorial

When the powers that be say it is not working, and th wrong people are on it, what more needs to be said; get rid of it!
11-20-15 Ohio:

Title 1 of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 created an all-inclusive state-by-state registry of convicted sex offenders.

Known as the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, Title 1 also attempted the impossible: to protect the public, particularly children, from convicted sexual predators who had done their time and were now back on the street.

It was well-intentioned, codifying rules that mandate states monitor and track sex offenders by having them publicly register their addresses.

Parents, guardians, caregivers, and anyone else can access those records online, or by contacting their local sheriff's department, to see where released sex offenders are living in their neighborhoods.

States were given three years to implement the registry. Noncompliance with the federal law would be punished by a 10 percent cut in millions of dollars of annual federal criminal justice funding.

Ohio, which had a less-rigid sex-registry law already, complied -- creating what critics now call a one-size-fits-all behemoth of a sex registry that wrongly limits judicial discretion, penalizes young people and costs sheriff's departments hundreds of thousands of unneeded dollars to monitor.

In fact, SORNA – as the federal registry law is known colloquially -- is today under attack by the very people who advocate for the rights of survivors and victims of sexual assault as well as the judiciary that rules on the consequences of such predatory behavior.

"It's like using an Atom Bomb when a stick of dynamite would do the job," said Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Michael Donnelly.

"It creates this false sense of security," said Sondra Miller, head of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center.

Even the Ohio Supreme Court has weighed in, declaring sections of the state's version of SORNA unconstitutional, according to assistant state public defender Brooke Burns. In 2012 the court ruled that imposing automatic lifetime registration requirements on juveniles was cruel and unusual punishment. ..Continued.. by Editorial Board

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November 18, 2015


Another foolish lawmaker that needs to be recalled. His proposal does nothing to protect anyone, and he does so only to foster his position with the public.
11-18-15 New York:

Assemblyman says Level One offenders will be taken off the list

Assemblyman Brian Curran (Lynbrook-21st AD) today called for the extension of the statewide sex offender registry that requires registration for Level One sex offenders who registered in 1996. Curran said these individuals were the first offenders to register with the system and were required to register on the statewide registry for a 10-year period at that time. This was extended in 2006 for an additional 10 years, for a total of 20 years, which ends in January of next year. Curran noted that a new roster of Level One sex offenders entered into the registry today would be required to register for a 20-year period, ending in 2035.

“While the registry itself is not expiring, the requirement for offenders who have been registered since 1996 for the 20-year period is. Therefore, those Level One offenders will be taken off the list next year because the law suggests they have done their time,” said Curran, a father of four. “I am calling on the legislature to enact another 10-year extension (for a total of 30 years) of this requirement; this should have been done before the end of last session. The safety of our communities is imperative for our children and families. As a parent, I would like to know who is moving into my community or who will be my neighbors upon settling in an area. It’s an unfortunate stigma to be classified as a sex offender, but it is better for everyone in the communities in which we live.”

Curran said he is signing on to be a sponsor of Assembly Bill 908, which requires the registration of sex offenders for the duration of their life, regardless of risk classification, as well as Assembly Bill 8503, which requires certain Level One sex offenders to register for life, allowing them to petition for release of the registry after 30 years of registration. ..Source.. by Press Release

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November 17, 2015

Brunswick looks to extend rehab program for sex offenders

11-17-15 North Carolina:

BOLIVIA -- Brunswick County is trying to renew its grant funding for a sex offender rehabilitation program that might be the only one of its kind in the South.

This week the board of commissioners signed off on the courts' applying for a $200,000 grant that would fund the Sex Offender Accountability Rehabilitation Court and Domestic Violence Court for a year or two. The measure passed four to one, with Commissioner Pat Sykes casting the lone no vote.

Most of the commissioners approved of the court after learning that it would not import sex offenders who were convicted elsewhere to Brunswick County. Sykes, though, grilled Ola Lewis, the senior resident Supreme Court judge who oversees the program, on various details -- including the county's liability if a participant commits another sex crime and whether funding it would take away from victim therapy.

"My main concern is having grant money that is constantly available for the defendant, but nothing is for the victims," Sykes said.

Officials with the court agreed with Sykes that treatment for victims is also important, but noted that funding is available through victim advocacy programs. They also said the knowledge that their attackers are seeking help can be a relief to some victims.

"We teach (offenders) victim empathy and victim impact and how they are going to prevent another victim," Katherine Henderson, a Wilmington therapist who has worked with offenders in the program, said Monday in response to Sykes.

Since September 2012, 17 people have participated in the program, which is modeled on drug courts. For a full year, participants attend biweekly court sessions, weekly therapy and have multiple visits with a probation officer per month.

Of those, 17, 11 have successfully completed the program, said Carrie Menke, Brunswick County's mental health treatment court coordinator. One person participating in the program was "discharged" after committing another sex offense, she said.

Lewis, who said the program is the only one of its kind south of the Mason-Dixon Line, told the commissioners there are currently 10 people in the sex offender rehabilitation program.

Many sex offenders in Brunswick County find it difficult to afford or travel to court-mandated treatment, Menke said, creating the necessity for the rehabilitation court.

"Offenders just weren't going to the treatment," she said, "which gets them a probation violation, which gets them revoked, which gets them sent to prison, which costs huge amounts of money and they're still not getting treatment."

Preston Hilton, a Supply defense attorney who works with the treatment courts, said defendants who don't receive treatment are often caught in a cycle of crime and punishment without addressing the root causes of their actions. There are 197 registered sex offenders in Brunswick County, including the 10 currently in the program.

"If the concern is the victim, then in my mind there are 187 more sex offenders who need to be in our treatment court," Hilton said.

Other than Sykes, the commissioners on Monday praised the drug court. Commissioner Randy Thompson praised Lewis and other court employees for setting a model.

"I understand needing to step out and do a program where it's not offered somewhere else," he said. "It takes a lot to be that individual who steps out."

Commissioner Marty Cooke agreed with Thompson, noting that it can be difficult to try to innovate in a government setting.

"I can't see anything other than just great praise for what you're trying to accomplish," Cooke said.
by Adam Wagner, StarNews Staff

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November 16, 2015

5 Things You Should Know About the Colorado Sex Offender Registry

11-16-15 Colorado:

Whether it’s due to media, urban legends, or word-of-mouth, many fail to realize the real impact that a sex offense conviction will have on their life.

Even after your criminal sentence is served, conviction for a sex offense can continue to have a devastating impact on your life in many unforeseeable ways. Though technically not part of your criminal punishment, sex offender registration serves as a social stigma, makes it difficult to find jobs and housing, and includes associated fees and fines that can do tremendous damage to your quality of life.

In large part, these consequences are due to Colorado’s public sex offender registry. Many sex crimes require offenders to put their name and identifying information in these records—sometimes for several years, sometimes for life. In the hope of clearing up some of the misinformation around sex offense registration, here are a few things you should know about a registering as a sex offender in Colorado.
Even Misdemeanors Can Require Registration. Though many believe that only felony charges can land someone on the registry, this simply isn’t true. There are number of misdemeanor sex offenses that can require registration.
According to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the following misdemeanor offenses can require sex offender registration: ..Continued.. by Kevin Cahill A graduate of the University of Denver School of Law and a member of both the Denver Bar Association and the Colorado Bar Association, Kevin Cahill has been in private practice since 2005.

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Canton woman pleads guilty to stabbing Akron man during fight over salsa, sex offender status

11-16-15 Ohio:

AKRON, Ohio — A Canton woman admitted Monday to stabbing a man in the groin and side after the man said she became enraged that he ate all of their salsa.

Phyllis Jefferson, 50, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, a fourth degree felony. Summit County Common Pleas Judge Amy Corrigall Jones will sentence Jefferson on Jan. 4 after a background check.

Her attorney, Noah Munyer, said the argument that led to the stabbing stemmed not from salsa but because she learned her boyfriend was a sex offender.

Munyer said the charge, reduced from a second-degree felonious assault, was more in line with the facts of the case. Both Jefferson and the man mutually fought, he said.

Jefferson's then-61-year-old boyfriend on March 29 told police that Jefferson complained about him finishing off their salsa. She yelled and jammed a pen in the left side of his pelvis.

She then knocked over his television but the man saved it before it hit the ground. As he did so, Jefferson grabbed a small kitchen knife and stabbed the man in the left side of his stomach, police said.

Jefferson drove away, but police stopped her on Interstate 77 near U.S 224.

Akron police found the man holding his stomach outside his apartment in the 100 block of Lake Street. The man's shirt and hands were covered in blood.

The man Jefferson stabbed has been convicted of two sex offenses since 1979 and spent 18 years in prison stemming from a 1985 conviction for felonious assault and gross sexual imposition.

A judge determined in 2003 that the man should be classified as a habitual sex offender and must register his address with the county sheriff every year for 20 years. ..Source.. by Adam Ferrise

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Old laws collide with digital reality in teen sexting cases

11-16-15 Colorado:

Educators in a small Colorado town say they had no choice but alert police when they discovered that many high-schoolers were using a cellphone app to collect and hide hundreds of naked photos of themselves.

The law in Colorado and many other states classifies any explicit photos of minors as child pornography, and requires school employees to bring in police the moment they learn of it.

Prosecutors are looking for evidence of coercion and to see if any adults were involved, saying they don't intend to file criminal charges against everyone.

Meanwhile, the teachers can't even counsel the students involved, because doing so would require their confidential conversations to be reported to police as well.

"You see the mess we're in, you know?" Canon City Schools Superintendent George Welsh said. "We have to watch out for the mental health needs of our children, yet we've kind of got a structure whereby they would be nuts to come and talk to us about it."

This kind of bind is increasingly common across the country as laws from the pre-smartphone era that were intended to protect children from sexual predators collide with the digitally saturated reality of today's teens.

Last year in Fayetteville, North Carolina, a boyfriend and girlfriend who exchanged nude selfies at 16 were charged as adults, with felony sexual exploitation of a minor. Their charges were reduced to misdemeanors following an uproar.

This week, two 14-year-old boys on New York's Long Island were arrested on felony child porn charges after one was accused of recording the other having sex with a girl. As many as 20 students at another school were suspended for either sending or watching the video.

And last week, 16 students in Greenbrier, Tennessee, were charged with sexual exploitation of a minor after exchanging explicit photos on their cellphones.

Canon City, a town of 16,000 in southern Colorado, is home to several state and federal prisons. Many of its students are children of prison guards.

Authorities say the students involved hid the photos in an application that appears to be a calculator, punching in a sequence of numbers to reveal them.

The case became a national story after the school forfeited the final game of its football season, saying too many players had violated ethical standards for athletes.

Some students think the school overreacted, since older teens can legally have sex in many circumstances, even if sending and receiving explicit photos is illegal.

More than a dozen states have reduced the penalties for sexting teens in recent years, but most still treat teens as adults when it comes to possessing child pornography, possibly even labeling them as sex offenders.

Teens will continue to share explicit images on their smart phones no matter what authorities do, said Canon City High School student Elizabeth Ellis, 18.

"We're not the only high school that does it and we're not going to be the only one that gets found out," she said.

Indeed, in Denver's western suburbs, District Attorney Pete Weir's office has handled more than 100 sexting cases in the past two years, most of them referred by schools or parents, usually after the images are shared beyond the intended recipient.

Even if it turns out that teens sent the images consensually, Weir's office requires them to take self-esteem and relationship classes to avoid prosecution. Parents must attend the first and last session, and are coached on monitoring their children's phones.

This strategy can backfire: In Pennsylvania, the ACLU won a $33,000 settlement in 2010 against a school district for violating the privacy of a girl whose principal confiscated her phone, found nude photos she had taken of herself, and alerted authorities. That prosecutor required sexting girls to attend his "re-education" program to avoid prosecution on child porn charges until an appellate court ruled it unconstitutional.

Some teens, parents and legal experts say law enforcement should adapt to the reality that sexting is increasingly common among teens — about 28 percent, according to a recent study.

Jeff Temple, an associate professor and psychologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston who did the study, sees sexting as a new form of flirting and said it mostly happens between teens who are in a relationship or want to be. This behavior is best addressed by parents talking to their children about healthy relationships and boundaries, he said.

Distributing photographs to others or coercing people to share explicit photos of themselves is more serious and could merit a tougher response, he said.

Potentially allowing the entire world to see your most intimate photos is a real danger, but not one that should be punished criminally, said Marsha Levick, deputy director and chief counsel for the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia.

"Sexting is a pretty dumb thing to do, but so is having sex at 14 in your parents' basement," she said. ..Source.. by Chicago Tribune

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