March 16, 2008

20/20 Age of Consent Series

John Stossel brings us a new series on the Age of Consent. Each week he has addressed a specific issue, a video and a written story. Also, don't forget to check the readers' comments as we found that even the well known vigilantes were harassing the commenters with their misconstructions and other nonsense. Finally, it was nice to see commenter telling their stories of how their lives were affected by the registry. So, sit back and enjoy, if new ones are posted we will update:

Age of Consent: Where it all begins.

Sex Abuse Laws: Unintended Consequences? Frank and Nikki Rodriguez are married with four children. He is on the Texas State Sex Offender registry because the couple had sex when he was 19 and she was 15, below the age of consent in the state.

Parents Turn to Police When Daughters Have Sex Mark Putorti called the police when he found out that his daughter Alexis,15, was having sex with her boyfriend. The age of consent in Connecticut is 16 and Alexis' boyfriend was arrested.

Having Sex, Legally: Which Age Is Best? Age of consent laws vary from state to state and from nation to nation.

Double Standard When It Comes to Underage Sex? Although Debra LaFave, Mary Kay LeTourneau and Pamela Rogers were criminally prosecuted, many people view the women's sex crimes very differently than they view similar crimes committed by men.

Sexual Abuse or Harmless Horseplay? Kids Treated Like Cons as Schools Crack Down on Minor Infractions

Sex, Laws and Politicians Eliot Spitzer Is the Latest Example of Politicians Not Practicing What They Preach

Age of Consent: Sex Offender Laws Do tough sex offender laws in states ruin some lives while saving others?

Which Laws Are Necessary for Consenting Adults? 20/20 Is Looking for Interview Subjects for a Future Show

The following from ZMan's YouTube Site

20/20) - Age of Consent - Practice What You Preach

Age of Consent - Sex Laws Gone Too Far

The 'Deterrent Effect' <

Age of Consent - Vigilante Justice

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Patty Wetterling: The harm in sex-offender laws

9-14-2007 Wisconsin:

ST. JOSEPH, Minn. -- My son Jacob was kidnapped on Oct. 22, 1989. Neither his brother nor his friend saw the man's face. He was masked, he had a gun and he ordered them to run to the woods. By the time they looked back, Jacob was gone and so was the man. Since that day, I have been on a journey to find him and to stop this from ever happening to another child, another family.

But I'm worried that we're focusing so much energy on naming and shaming convicted sex offenders that we're not doing as much as we should to protect our children from other real threats.

Many states make former offenders register for life, restrict where they can live, and make their details known to the public. And yet the evidence suggests these laws may do more harm than good.

Jacob's Law was the first federal attempt to prevent convicted sex offenders from repeating their crimes after release. It was the outcome of my unwanted education in sexual violence against children.

Soon after Jacob was taken, I learned that sexual motives are usually behind child kidnapping. That was a thought totally out of my realm of consciousness. Who would do that? Who would sexually harm a child? As the search for Jacob went on, I asked law enforcement, what do you need? An investigator told me: A ready list of potential suspects, a central database of offenders convicted of sexual violence against children.

The Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children Sex Offender Registration Act was part of the 1994 Crime Bill signed by President Bill Clinton. Our goal was to give law enforcement a tool to help build safer communities. Back in 1990, when we first recommended registering convicted sex offenders, we were met with resistance: "You can't do that. These people have rights!" How times have changed. Few people today are concerned about the rights of sex offenders. Most now complain our laws are not tough enough.

But they might be missing some basic facts. First, in most states "sex offender" covers anyone, including juveniles, convicted of any sexual offense, including consensual teenage sex, public urination and other non-violent crimes. Second, Jacob was the exception, not the rule: more than 90 percent of sexual violence is committed by someone the child knows. And third, most shocking to me, sex offenders are less likely to re-offend than commonly thought. A Department of Justice study suggested ex-offenders have a recidivism rate of 3 percent to 5 percent within the first three years after release.

Another study found that, after 15 years, three out of four do not re-offend.

Shortly before Jacob's Law was passed, Megan Kanka was kidnapped, raped and murdered. Her parents felt it wasn't enough for law enforcement to know where sex offenders were: they thought we should all know. Maybe, if they'd known that there was a convicted sex offender living next door, their child would be alive today. Megan's Law was created to let people know when a violent offender was released into their community, so they could talk to their children and perhaps save another child from sexual violence. But the law has been expanded so that now anyone with an Internet connection can download details about almost any offender, whether or not they pose a risk, and whether or not they live nearby.

Are these policies working? Are our "get tough on sex offenders" laws having the desired effect? Human Rights Watch has taken on the challenge of looking at sex offender policy to see what parts are working and what aren't.

This week it published a 143-page report, "No Easy Answers: Sex Offender Laws in the United States." The researchers examined whether we are building safer communities with these laws, and what issues policy-makers should consider. HRW found that many laws may not prevent sexual attacks on children, but do lead to harassment, ostracism and even violence against former offenders. That makes it nearly impossible to rehabilitate those people and reintegrate them safely into their communities -- and that may actually increase the risk that they'll repeat their crime.

We need to keep sight of the goal: no more victims. We need to be realistic. Not all sex offenders are the same. Not all sex offenses are the same. We need to ask tougher questions: What can we do to help those who have offended so that they will not do it again? What are the social factors contributing to sexual violence and how can we turn things around? None of us want our loved ones to be victims of sexual violence. None of us want to be the parent or sibling or child of a sex offender. But since the vast majority of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the family, sexual violence becomes personal very quickly. It affects all of us.

We need better answers. We need to fund prevention programs that stop sexual violence before it happens. We need to look at what can help those released from prison to succeed so that they don't victimize again -- and that probably means housing and jobs and treatment and community support. Given that current laws are extremely popular, taking truly effective measures may exact a high political price. But that's surely not too much to pay to prevent the kidnap, rape or murder of another child. ..more.. Opinion by Patty Wetterling

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When Do Courts Think Base Rate Statistics Are Relevant?

April 2001:

Sometimes courts regard probability evidence to be relevant and sometimes they do not. This paper identifies a set of the conditions under which appellate and supreme courts are more and less likely to treat background probabilities (i.e., base rates) as relevant evidence. Base rates identify the relative frequency with which an event occurs or an attribute is present in some reference population (e.g., “eighty to eighty-five percent of child sexual abuse is committed by a close relative”). Following an introductory section that reviews the relationship between base rates and Bayes’ theorem, the following section is a critical review of the historical mistrust courts have exhibited toward probability evidence in general and base rates in particular. Next, the probabilistic reasoning literature and high court opinions are used to identify a series of conditions under which courts are likely to view base rates as relevant. This tends to occur when base rates (a) arise in cases that appear to have a statistical structure, (b) are offered to rebut an it-happened-by-chance theory, (c) are computed using reference classes that incorporate specific features of the focal case, or (d) are offered in cases when it is difficult or impossible to obtain evidence of a more individuating sort. The final section is a conclusion. ..more.. by Jonathan J. Koehler, The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business and School of Law

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March 15, 2008

Investigating Potential Child Abduction Cases A Developmental Perspective


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UT- Sexual Violence in Utah


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States reconsider life behind bars for youth

With nearly 2,400 inmates sentenced to life as juveniles, the U.S. is the only nation imposing the mandate on children.

3-12-2008 National:

Chicago - How should a society treat its youngest criminal offenders? And the families of victims of those offenders?

Half a dozen states are now weighing these questions anew, as they consider whether to ban life sentences for juveniles that don't include a option for parole – and whether those now serving such sentences should have a retroactive shot at parole.

Here in Illinois, proposed legislation would give 103 people – most convicted of unusually brutal crimes – a chance at parole hearings, while outlawing the sentence for future young perpetrators.

The proposal has victims' families up in arms, angry that killers they had been told were in prison for life might be given a shot at release and that they'd need to regularly attend hearings in the future, reliving old traumas, to try to ensure that these criminals remain behind bars.

Advocates of legislation, meanwhile, both in Illinois and elsewhere, note that the US is the only country in the world with anyone – nearly 2,400 across the nation – serving such a severe sentence for a crime committed as a juvenile. They criticize the fact that the sentence is often mandatory, part of a system devoid of leniency for a teenager's lack of judgment, or hope that youth can be reformed.

"Kids should be punished, and held accountable. The crimes we're talking about are very serious crimes," says Alison Parker, deputy director of the US program of Human Rights Watch and author of a report on the issue. "But children are uniquely able to rehabilitate themselves, to grow up and to change. A life-without-parole sentence says they're beyond repair, beyond hope."

The sentence is automatic for certain crimes in more than half of all states, part of a wave of "get tough" laws aimed at cracking down on rising crime rates during the 1980s and '90s. Which means judges often have little to no discretion when they mete out punishment. In many instances, they are prohibited from considering age or even whether the juvenile was the one who pulled the trigger. About a quarter of the juveniles serving life without parole sentences nationally were convicted of what is known as "felony murder," says Ms. Parker. They participated in a felony in which murder was committed, but they weren't the ones who did the actual killing.

In Illinois, that list includes Marshan Allen, a 15-year-old who accompanied an older brother and some friends on a drug-related mission, and says he didn't know they were going to kill several people.

In California, another state considering doing away with the sentence, it includes Anthony, a 16-year-old painting graffiti with a friend when the friend produced a gun and decided to rob an approaching group of teenagers. His friend pulled the trigger, but Anthony – who turned down a plea bargain because he couldn't imagine paying for a crime he didn't feel he'd committed – got a life-without-parole sentence.

"There are people in prison for crimes they committed as juveniles that should never see the light of day," says Rich Klawiter, a partner at the law firm DLA Piper and part of the Illinois Coalition for the Fair Sentencing of Children, which produced a report on the issue last month and advocates reform. "But those that show themselves worthy of redemption ought to be given an opportunity before a parole board."

The frequent citing of cases like Allen's bothers supporters of the sentence, who say such examples are hardly representative. Generally, the mandate is saved for such extreme offenses as multiple murders, killing of a police officer, aggravated sexual assault, and murder of a child.

"These guys are the worst of the worst," says Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins, whose pregnant sister and brother-in-law were murdered by a 16-year-old in their Winnetka, Ill., townhome in 1990. She acknowledges automatic sentencing has probably punished a few juveniles unfairly, but notes that such individuals can always appeal for clemency. What she doesn't understand is bringing offenders back for hearings that, in her mind, would only unearth the past for the families of victims who thought they'd seen their loved ones' killers put away forever.

Ms. Bishop-Jenkins and her sister, Jeanne Bishop, are both prominent victim activists against the death penalty, and helped in the case that got the juvenile death penalty overturned by the Supreme Court three years ago. Now, they both say, they feel betrayed by the same allies with whom they fought against the death penalty, who never sought their input on this issue.

"Once you say this person could get out someday through this mechanism, you've just placed a crushing burden on the hearts and minds of the victims' families," says Jeanne Bishop, a Cook County public defender who has also defended juveniles. She and her sister both support getting rid of the mandatory sentencing and giving judges more discretion, but worry that in all the talk of the human rights of juvenile offenders, the rights of victims are being forgotten.

The current legislation in Illinois is unlikely to go anywhere, with its key sponsor backing away last week and saying more time is needed to dialogue with victims. Reform advocates hope to have new legislation introduced in the near future. Colorado outlawed juvenile life without parole in 2006, and legislation is pending in Michigan, Florida, Nebraska, and California, while a few other states are experiencing grass-roots efforts.

Some activists against the sentence say they hope they can work with victims' families to take their concerns into account even as they do away with the sentence. In Michigan, where a set of bills is before both the Senate and the House, activists have had some success building dialogue with victims, says Deborah LaBelle, a human rights attorney based in Ann Arbor and director of the ACLU's Juvenile Life Without Parole Initiative.

"We need to allow both voices to be heard," says Ms. LaBelle. But she feels strongly that the sentence is inappropriate for youth. "As every parent knows and as every social scientist understands, this is a time of ill-thought-out, impulsive lack of judgment, problematic years… To throw them away and say you're irredeemable as a child is a disturbing social concept." ..more.. by Amanda Paulson | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

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CO- 'Sexually Violent Predator' tag debated

Attorneys, offenders debate Colorado's use of 'sexually violent predator' designation

3-8-2008 Coloado:

Longmont resident Dwight Jackson says the term "sexually violent predator" conjures up images of a 50-year-old man hiding behind a bush and snatching up 4- and 5-year-old children -- not his 22-year-old son.

What is a sexually violent predator?
A sexually violent predator is defined by Colorado law as someone 18 or older, or tried as an adult, who pleaded guilty or was convicted on or after July 1,1999, of one of the following crimes occurring on or after July 1, 1997: sex assault in the first or second degrees, unlawful sexual contact or third-degree sex assault, sex assault on a child, or sex assault on a child by a person in position of trust.

The perpetrator could be a stranger or a person who promoted a relationship with the victim for the purpose of the crime.

When the court finds a defendant to be a sexually violent predator, it is determined through the pre-sentence report the court gets at the time of sentencing. A sexually violent predator risk assessment is supposed to be part of that report, and the judge makes the determination after the prosecutor and defense attorney get a look at the report.

A person being considered for parole from prison also can be administered the sexually violent risk assessment tool and labeled by the parole board before he or she is set free.

The SVP test
The Colorado Sexually Violent Predator Assessment Screening Instrument was developed by the state's division of criminal justice with help and approval by the state sex offender management board.

"Yes" answers count as one point. The weight of the last three questions are measured by a "scale criteria" system based on more questions and actions by the offender.

A score of 4 or above means the label gets attached.

1. If there is a juvenile criminal history, would it have been considered felonious as an adult offense?

2. Does offender have any type of prior felony convictions?

3. Did the offender fail first or second grade?

4. Was the offender employed less than full time at the time of the offense?

5. Did the offender possess a weapon at the time of the offense?

6. Did the offender use drugs or alcohol to reduce the victim's ability to resist?

7. If the offender reports that he or she was not sexually aroused during the crime, add a point.

8. Scale criteria that relates to the offender's level of denial.

9. Scale criteria that relates to the offender's level of motivation for treatment.

10. Scale criteria that relates to the offender's level of deviancy.

Colorado's SVPs

354 offenders designated SVP:

187 through the court system at the time of sentencing

167 by parole board at the time they exit prison

Of those SVPs:

300 are currently incarcerated

2 are in community corrections settings (halfway houses)

24 are under parole supervision

28 have been discharged

Source: Department of Correctionsas of September 2007

Yet that's the unsavory title Sean Christopher Jackson will carry for the rest of his life after denying to Colorado's parole board that he's a rapist.

Arrested in 2004 on suspicion of sexually assaulting two girls, aged 14 and 15, Sean Jackson insisted the sex was consensual. He took a plea deal to avoid a possible life sentence, his father said, and spent three years in prison. Now he's barred from even seeing his two younger sisters until they turn 18, thanks to the predator tag.

"It's a real twisted law that is costing taxpayers," Dwight Jackson said in a recent interview. "We just think it's ridiculous. ... He's just an immature teenager -- a stupid kid."

Colorado's sexually violent predator label was created in 1999 to warn communities -- through public meetings and frequent registration with police -- of those offenders most immutable to treatment and, according to research, most likely to reoffend.

Despite those intentions, the designation -- which can be affixed by a judge at sentencing or the parole board at the conclusion of a prison sentence -- has attracted its share of naysayers, including those bearing the label and inside the criminal-defense community, as well as some police and prosecutors. One local legislator is even trying to change the law so that only a judge -- and not the parole board -- can affix the sexually violent predator tag to offenders.

Just hearing the phrase "sexually violent predator" can strike fear in neighbors, notes former Boulder County sex-crimes prosecutor Ingrid Bakke.

"That does a lot in terms of scaring people and making the offender equally afraid of more repercussions when tagged," said Bakke, who is now a private defense attorney.

"And I think we have yet to see if it works or not."

Crimes of violence

At the end of 2007, there were 354 people designated as sexually violent predators by the state of Colorado, according to the Department of Corrections. Of those, 157 were labeled by the state's parole board. Three hundred remain incarcerated.

Currently, two sexually violent predators call Boulder County home -- and both say their crimes involved consensual sexual relationships with underage girls.

Friday, a bill designed to change the way people convicted of sexual crimes receive the label was approved on a second reading by the Colorado House of Representatives. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Dianne Primavera, D-Broomfield, seeks to require that the judge handing down an offender's sentence also determine whether that person gets the sexually violent predator label.

"It's intended to make sure a SVP is assessed at the right place at the right time," Primavera said. "It's really important they get labeled appropriately"

Boulder defense attorney Mary Clair Mulligan said the label shouldn't be slapped on men who are just older than the legal limit who are convicted of having consensual sex with underage girls.

"I realize there is an element of community safety involved," Mulligan said, "but it does sort of boil down to how (the state) defines sexually violent predator compared to the rest of the community."

While the tag includes the word "violent," those bearing it may not necessarily have been convicted of violent crimes. Of the five sexually violent predators who have ever lived in Boulder County, two were convicted of touching victims over their clothing.

"It's such a misnomer," said Julie Brooks, a Boulder police spokeswoman. "There can be no violence involved (and people can still be) labeled."

Sex offenders are the lepers of the 21st century, said Denver defense attorney Phil Cherner, even though two-thirds of them are sentenced to serve time in the community, not prison.

"We need to find a rational way to deal with them, not overreact," Cherner said.

Yet sex assault survivor Renee Dulany does not think Colorado's predator law is broad enough.

Last summer, Rudy Gaytan was convicted of brutally raping Dulany at knifepoint in Longmont in 1996 -- but he cannot earn the sexually violent predator label because his crime occurred before that law went into effect. He was sentenced to 72 years in prison earlier this month.

"If you've been convicted, I think you are a sexually violent predator," Dulany said. "The justice system is still lacking in protecting future victims."

Dulany said victims of sex assault can't be healed with medicine or treatment -- it is something they live with every day.

"To have these people on the street -- they're dangerous," she said. "We have every right to know."

Janine D'Anniballe, the executive director of Boulder's Moving to End Sexual Assault, said the intent of the law is to give a "heads up" to the community.

"That's always a good thing," she said. "I think the way it's done is to try and capture people's attention and give people a forum to learn and ask questions."

However, D'Anniballe said, the label has a lot of focus and fear attached to it, when, in reality, the majority of sex offenses are perpetrated by people the victim knows -- not strangers jumping out of the bushes.

"The perpetrator could just as easy be someone in the family -- that's closer to them than any (sexually violent predator) in the neighborhood," D'Anniballe said.

Inflammatory label

Michael Dell said he's seen overreaction to the predator label firsthand.

Dell was convicted of sexual assault in Boulder in 1999. He does not carry the sexually violent predator label, but as a board member of Colorado CURE -- a national organization that advocates on prison issues and also acts as a clearinghouse to help former inmates -- he talks to lawmakers about the effects of the legislation they pass.

"The purpose is good," Dell said of Colorado's predator label. "There is a certain percentage of sex offenders who will never manage themselves, and that's basically what the predator group is."

But the problem lies in how the system identifies that group, he said. Not distinguishing between those who seek out strangers and those who are familiar to their victims, and also not separating those who have multiple victims or those who attack strangers is troubling, Dell said.

"If you overdesignate everyone, then you lose the people who are dangerous in the crowd," Dell said.

And the label itself is so inflammatory it makes living on the outside of prison walls very tough for its designates and drives some underground, meaning they fail to register.

"We're back to the boogeyman syndrome," Dell said. "People need to realize unless you know the individual circumstances ... just because someone a sex offender, they're not going to be drooling over your kids as they walk to school."

Laurie Kepros, a public defender in Arapahoe County who specializes in sex cases, said when sex offenders are given the predator label by a judge in court at the time of sentencing, they at least can have help from an attorney to dispute the designation.

However, she said, when the parole board labels offenders there is nobody advocating for the defendant.

That is problematic, Kepros said, and she is hearing more and more "horror stories" -- people being given the label even after the court deemed they were not qualified for it, and others slapped with the label when their crime doesn't fit the definition.

"That's really alarming," she said. "We're trying to figure out if we can help or not. "

But David Michaud, chairman of Colorado's parole board, defended the post-prison labeling.

He said the parole board is just following the law, using the Colorado Sexually Violent Predator Assessment Screening Instrument, which was developed from research collected by Colorado's division of criminal justice and approved by the sex offender management board.

"You've got some discretion, but if it were me doing them, I'm not going to go against that risk assessment ... unless I see there is a blatant mistake," Michaud said.

When the label is applied in court, it happens at a public hearing -- but the parole board meeting is closed.

Offenders are given at least 24 hours' notice of the possible label and have a chance to submit evidence or call witnesses to try and fight the designation, Michaud noted.

Michaud said he knows there will always be people not happy with how they were labeled, but the real retribution to his board will come when an offender passes the assessment test, leaves prison without the sexually violent predator tag -- and then reoffends.

"Then someone's going to be screaming and hollering that this doesn't work," he said. ..more.. by Christine Reid

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Criminal Law in Virtual Worlds

March 2008

When does conduct by an online player in a virtual world game trigger liability for a real-world crime? In the future, will new criminal laws be needed to account for new social harms that occur in virtual worlds? This short essay considers both questions. Part I argues that existing laws regulate virtual worlds with little or no regard to the virtual reality they foster. Criminal law tends to follow the physical rather than the virtual: it looks to what a person does rather than what the victim virtually perceives. This dynamic greatly narrows the role of criminal law in virtual worlds. Existing law will not recognize virtual murder, virtual threats, or virtual theft. Virtual worlds will be regulated like any other game, but their virtualness normally will have no independent legal resonance from the standpoint of criminal law.

Part II turns to the normative question: Are new laws needed? It concludes that legislatures should not enact new criminal laws to account for the new social harms that may occur in virtual worlds. Virtual worlds at bottom are computer games, and games are artificial structures better regulated by game administrators than federal or state governments. The best punishment for a violation of a game comes from the game itself. Criminal law is a blunt instrument that should be used only as a last resort. The state's power to deny individuals their freedom is an extraordinary power, and it should be reserved for harms that other mechanisms cannot remedy. Online virtual worlds may seem real to some users, but unlike real life, they are mediated by game administrators who can take action with consequences internal to the game. Internal virtual harms should trigger internal virtual remedies. It is only when harms go outside the game that the criminal law should be potentially available to remedy wrongs not redressable elsewhere. ..more.. by ORIN S. KERR
George Washington University - Law School

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CO- Law's eye on sex-offender digital trails

A Dumb Method: Offenders are told to bring in their computers to allow them to be searched by a technician. I wonder how many offenders DO NOT bring in the computer that they use to do things prohibited by probation, instead bring in the clean one? Yes, the offenders could easily be smarter than those who monitor them without much thought!

3-14-2008 Colorado:

For three days each month, dozens of sex offenders parade into the Centennial probation office lugging their computers.

Have they traveled online to social sites like MySpace and Facebook trolling for victims? Have they been to XXXTeens or Nickelodeon or Toys "R" Us? Have they chatted with other pedophiles or sexual offenders?

Most probation officers, more at home keeping criminals away from bars and other criminals, would have a hard time telling. So in Centennial, a forensic specialist comes in to go over the computers with the high-tech equivalent of a fine-toothed comb.

Between 70 percent and 80 percent of first-time sex offenders get probation, which means officers have their hands full watching for any trips they make to the dark side of the virtual world. And while sex offenders make up the majority of computer-related criminals on probation, there are also hackers, forgers, identity thieves and gang members who need to be watched.
Some counties have officers trained to monitor computers. Others have thrown up their hands over cyber tracking and rely on polygraph exams, given regularly to offenders, to catch online misdeeds.

"We have some offenders with way more computer expertise and knowledge than I have or most of my officers have," explained John Odenheimer, probation supervisor for the 18th Judicial District based in Centennial, which brings in the forensic specialist.

Taking computers away is rarely an option. Judges seldom allow probation officers to deny computer access. They can only place restrictions on computer use.

"It's obviously a big problem with the Internet being so ubiquitous," said Joe Russo, assistant director of the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center in Denver. "It's a concern that was unanticipated."

Russo's center has helped departments with training and research. And Boulder forensic computer consultant Jim Tanner has done much to improve monitoring by working with the center to develop a program that is distributed free to probation offices.

But the numbers are overwhelming. There are 2,604 sex offenders on probation now. Of those, 1,062 are considered "high risk," which means they (and their computers) must be monitored for the rest of their lives.

Even the probation office that is credited with doing the most with computer monitoring — the 20th Judicial District in Boulder County — keeps hitting new technological stumbling blocks.

Offenders can now make end runs around some monitoring programs by using cellphones, Blackberrys, iPods and video games to access the Internet. Programs are also available to wipe hard drives clean.

"We are going through gyrations to stay ahead," said Tanner, a con sultant with the Boulder department and developer of the Field Search program that is most widely used to scan probationers' computers in Colorado.

Digital trails a deterrent

In Boulder County, where offenders sit down with an officer as their computers are scanned, Chief Probation Officer Greg Brown said they are asked on the spot why they have gone to certain sites.

"When they see what we can pull up, most of them will stop doing what they are doing," Brown said. "It's a huge deterrent."

Colorado keeps no data on how many offenders on probation used computers to commit their initial crimes or whose probation is revoked because they continue illicit computer use.

Many violations are minor and warrant only warnings. But a case in Boulder showed monitoring can avert serious crime.

A man on probation for luring a minor through a social site and having sex with her wiped his hard drive clean and claimed it was inadvertent. Later monitoring showed he was on MySpace contacting underage girls and trying to set up meetings. He is now in prison for that violation.

Probation computer specialists say they are constantly working to tweak the monitoring to cover more data and devices. They are attempting to send trainers into rural areas and probation officials are developing a statewide policy on computer monitoring.

Meanwhile, probation officers concede that offenders are also at work on their own upgrades as they attempt to sneak undetected into the virtual netherworld of crime.

"They are always going to be a little bit ahead of us," Brown said. "We're not catching them all, but we're certainly increasing our probability." ..more.. by Nancy Lofholm:

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March 14, 2008

MA- SJC says low-level sex offenders have right to hearing


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House vote rejects cuts to law enforcement grants

3-14-2008 Washington D.C.:

Washington, D.C. - The budget approved by the U.S. House on a 212-207 vote Thursday rejected proposed administration cuts to law enforcement grants as well as changes in the program, said Rep. Dave Loebsack, a Mount Vernon Democrat.

Loebsack said the budget would provide full funding for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program. In Iowa, the grant money is used for drug investigations, and Iowa law enforcement officials have been vocally unhappy in recent weeks about cutbacks.

House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt, D-S.C., said in a statement that Loebsack's testimony to the committee asking for more money for the grants "played a valuable role" in the committee's decision. The grants are important to local law enforcement officials as they fight drugs, Spratt said.

Full funding would mean the program would receive about $1 billion during the upcoming budget year, about the same as it received in 2005, congressional aides said. However, the budget is a blueprint and actual spending levels have yet to be determined.

President Bush's proposal eliminated all direct grants for the program and replaced them with $200 million in competitive grants, which would have pitted law enforcement agencies against each other and left Iowa $1.6 million short compared to previous allocations, aides said. The program has faced repeated cuts during the past five years.

The Byrne program is named for a rookie New York City police officer killed by drug dealers in 1998. ..more.. by Reporter Jane Norman can be reached at (202) 906-8137 or at

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AZ- Your Views: It's easy to hate sex offenders

3-14-2008 Arizona:

It's easy to hate sex offenders


I am a counselor who has worked with sex offenders every week for years. I have put in more hours than anyone I know in northern Nevada working to help prevent new sex crimes in our state, so it is with an informed opinion that I read Mr. Lindberg's February 22, 2008, comments on the topic.

I can tell you that both he and the irresponsible decision-maker who posted such a self-serving rant did nothing to serve the community's interests in publishing such thinly veiled vigilantism.

I, too, am a businessman in the community; I, too, am a father and a grandfather. I, too, am outraged by the same events that horrify all of us.

But never in my wildest dreams did I ever think as a man that it would be right to glorify my own darker self-indulgent revenge fantasies in a public display of self-righteousness. Such violent fantasies are viscerally satisfying, but represent a childish approach to public policy.

First of all, the vast majority of convicted sex offenders are hardly up to the standard of "predator." Face it, the word "predator" is overused.

Consider: a 17-year-old teenager who turns 18 after a year of having sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend is guilty now of Statutory Sexual Seduction and is required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Consider: a pathetic drunk who, in his inebriated stupor, steals booze, gets in an altercation and then exposes himself to passersby is hardly worthy of the word "predator," yet he, too, will have to register for the rest of his a sex offender.

Surely I am not the only one out there old enough to remember "Laugh In" and the actor in the trench coat who made us all laugh by exposing himself?

How have we been so easily manipulated to fear and hate what we once found pathetic or even humorous?

Many sex crimes are far more serious than these, but Nevada does an incredibly good job of incarcerating virtually forever those sex offenders who are not amenable to treatment or whose crimes are so horrific that we cannot abide their release.

Others who do not meet this level are released because their crime is hardly deserving of the death penalty--particularly at the hands of enraged family members wielding baseball bats as Mr. Lindberg suggests would be best.

Treatment does work. It's always sensational to seek out the naysayers and urban mythmakers who profess to know because the truth is far less titillating.

For the last six years the recidivism rate in our program has been hovering at 1%. That's a 99% success rate.

Just read about the next 100 sex crimes in our community (as easily found in the newspaper)--you'll find that over 95% were committed by first time offenders. It is not the previously convicted offender who poses the greatest risk, it's the unknown future offender.

By so stigmatizing sex offenders as Mr. Lindberg has done, we create vast public reservoirs of shame which contributes to our inability to even discuss sexual thoughts, feelings and behavior that might not be to Mr. Lindberg's liking.

If sex offenders are sick, an idea of Mr. Lindberg's that I agree with, then sex crimes are a public health problem. Like AIDS, cholera, smoking, and every other public health problem, our tools are information, education and rational thinking.

Getting mad and indulging in baseball bat fantasies is useless, self-defeating and counterproductive to community safety.

Like Mr. Lindberg. I am a conservative. I am a Republican, I own guns, I'm against abortion; but I do not see a problem with an overabundance of liberal judges as does Mr. Lindberg. Our judges in Nevada generally do a pretty good job--their knowledge of the offense and the law make it clear they are the ones to make the tough sentencing decisions.

What's really going on here though, if you stop and just think, is that we Americans have some sort of weird blind spot when it comes to sexual crimes.

Sure, as a parent, I'd like to know about the dangerous people in my neighborhood: but so long as we're outing sex offenders why wouldn't we list convicted drug abusers, meth manufacturers, those convicted of domestic violence, and why not all the drunks convicted of drinking in public and DUI?

Aren't all of these people dangerous to our children?

If we made such a list. of course. eventually we'd find it easier to list those good folk not on the other least not yet.

It's easy to hate sex offenders. We've made it easy by using sex offender registries and public exposure to label them the way the Nazi's did the Jews with their yellow stars.

In this way, we've created the last class in society that it's politically fashionable to hate.

But since when has hate and fear ever informed public discourse?

When has hate and fear ever protected future victims from attack?

When has hate ever solved anything?

To jail the 300 men and women I've worked with over the last 10 years would have cost our state $90 million. Couldn't we do something better with that money?

Sex crimes are crimes of secrecy, and when the secret ends, the criminality generally ends with it.

We all need to be better informed about sex crimes and what is being done about them. To that end, I challenge the editors of this paper, and Mr. Lindberg himself, to sit in on a group therapy session of men previously convicted of sex crimes who are working to better themselves.

These men look forward to letting you see who they are and what they are doing--all they want is a chance to put their mistake behind them and build a life with their families.

Call me and I'll set it up.

P.S. You can leave the baseball bats at home, they're a very civilized crowd.

Steven Ing

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Is the Fifth Amendment Password Protected?

3-14-2008 National:

We are cautioned to create undecipherable passwords and personal identification numbers to protect our privacy, identity and property. On the flip side, these protections may be put to the test in a criminal investigation.

Until recently, the Fifth Amendment provided guidance in responding to demands for keys to lock boxes and combinations for safes. Now suspects are being asked to disclose information that will access computer hard drives and open encrypted files. How far will the Constitution protect the right against self-incrimination in light of increasingly sophisticated means of securing computer contents?

Secret writing is as old as writing itself, underscoring the longstanding interest in the privacy of communications and records. Even those early Americans who conceived and ratified the constitutional protection against self-incrimination lived through an era of ciphers and codes spawned by the Revolutionary War.

Now, the steady evolution of electronic privacy measures is leading us into new territory and new interpretations of that constitutional protection.

In Doe v. United States,[FOOTNOTE 1] the U.S. Supreme Court decided that a grand jury subpoena compelling petitioner to sign a dozen bank disclosure forms for any records of accounts in three different institutions did not violate the Fifth Amendment. Although conceding "acts that imply assertions of facts" are testimonial, Justice Harry Blackmun concluded that the forms were not communicative since they did not refer to specific accounts, confirm their existence or demonstrate control by petitioner -- in other words, no authentication.

The Court also pointed out that the consent form did not represent the contents of petitioner's mind. They analogized the disclosure document to a key used to open a strongbox as opposed to a combination to a wall safe.

The wall safe has been the classic repository of people's most private and treasured assets and documents. And as the forerunner to the password protected hard drive, it offers a glimpse of where lines might be drawn in assigning the Fifth Amendment privilege. ...much more to go... by Ken Strutin, New York Law Journal

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March 13, 2008

CA- Sex Offenders React To Tougher Residency Restrictions

3-13-2008 California:

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- Local sex offenders said they are fed up with yet another round of proposed restrictions on where they can live.

The ordinance being drafted by the Kern County Board of Supervisors would enhance Jessica's Law, passed in 2006, and would limit newly paroled sex offenders from living near school bus stops, churches, day care facilities, and other places where children gather. The ordinance would apply to all offenders regardless of whether they committed crimes against children.

"I don't expect pity," Hamilton Oser, a man who has been on the sex offender registry for 10 years, said.

"But I expect fairness. I expect freedom, what this country is based on."

Oser turned himself in to authorities in 1997, admitting to a lewd act with a minor seven years earlier. His admission led to an eight-month jail sentence and a lifetime on California's sex offender registry, an issue many sex offenders call excessive punishment.

"Haven't I done my time? Haven't I paid my price? How is it that one incident can totally define a person's character?" he asked.

The outcry for even tougher restrictions began after community activists found locations like the El Don Motel and Bakersfield Lodge were housing dozens of newly paroled sex offenders, since the state could put them nowhere else.

Sex offenders are concerned further residency restrictions will force them to live in the middle of nowhere. The U.S. is one of eight countries with public sex offender registries, and is the only country with residency restrictions on sex offenders, according to Human Rights Watch.

Blog Commentary: Nick 2.0 Talks Sex Offenders

Over the last year, the debate was focused on whether the state could house multiple offenders in the same location, according to Gordon Hinkle, spokesperson for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. But now, even that may not be enough to appease residents.

In January, state officials met with the community regarding residency restrictions on sex offenders.

An estimated 1,500 registered sex offenders live in Kern County, and around 80 percent of those live in Bakersfield.

Residents in smaller towns said residency restrictions are forcing sex offenders to outlying areas, Tehachapi police chief Jeff Kermode said during the January meeting.

That prompted cities like Taft and Shafter to enact their own ordinances limiting where sex offenders can live, and now the county is considering its own restrictions.

The manner in which residents handle neighbors who are registered sex offenders vary by community.

In the last year, there have been multiple reports of violence nationwide by citizens against sex offenders, although there have been no reports of this in Kern County.

Instead, the activism has been mainly limited to flyers containing sex offenders' information being posted on churches or handed out to residents, or pranks committed against offenders' homes.

Oser recalled one recent event, in which his children were handed flyers with his information at their school bus stop by a parent.

"The lady at the bus stop passed a picture of me around without knowing my circumstances, and passed it to other kids right in front of my kids," he said.

He claims his house was subsequently littered with eggs several weeks later, believing that the children who received the flyers were resonsible.

"Where's the justice for my kids?" he said.

When asked about a recent account of a female victim who came to Bakersfield to post flyers about her attacker at his church, he offered some advice for what people should do.

"Hold me accountable for my actions, not my wife and kids, not my house," he said.

Oser said the time for sex offenders to keep quiet about the way they're treated by politicians and neighbors needs to end.

He said explaining to his children what he did was one of the hardest things to do in his life, but it helped him atone for his mistake.

He believes that politicians will not stop at sex offenders; that they will continue with registries for drug dealers, murderers and arsonists.

"Let them know that this isn't you," he said, referring to fellow registered sex offenders.

"What [strangers] want to say about you, whatever you did in the past doesn't define you as a person." ..more.. by Turn to 23 staff

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CA- Some prisoners are vulnerable to crime behind bars


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VA- Should The Police Be Allowed To Attach A GPS Tracking Device To Your Car Without A Warrant ?

3-13-2008 Virginia:

The Liberty Papers blog has quite an indepth discussion on this question, here are the facts of the case:

When Fairfax County police were trying to catch a man last month who had molested 11 women, they examined the Virginia sex offender registry and found a possible suspect. They looked at his background, which included a series of similar assaults, and his residence, which was not far from where the attacks were occurring.

Then, to try to catch him in the act, police slipped a small Global Positioning System device inside the bumper of the van driven by the suspect and began tracking him — without a search warrant and without consulting a prosecutor.

The tactic, officers say, was an almost instant success. The GPS device placed the van driven by David L. Foltz Jr., 40, in the vicinity of a sexual assault Feb. 5. And when officers began surveilling Foltz the next day, a Fairfax detective saw him drag a woman into a dark area in Falls Church and attack her. The officer rescued the woman and arrested Foltz.

Foltz’s attorney, Chris Leibig, said yesterday in Falls Church General District Court that placing the tracking device on the vehicle was a violation of Foltz’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Arlington County General District Court Judge Richard J. McCue disagreed, denying Leibig’s motion to suppress police testimony about events that occurred after the device was placed on Foltz’s van.

In the preliminary hearing that followed, a 46-year-old Falls Church woman testified that she was grabbed from behind and pulled into a dark area. Detective Matthew Charron said he saw the attack and knocked Foltz off the woman. McCue certified Foltz’s charges of abduction with intent to defile and sexual battery for the Arlington grand jury, which meets next week.

Foltz has not been charged in any of the 11 other similar assaults that have occurred in Fairfax and Alexandria, but police said no similar attacks have happened since he was arrested.

CLICK for the rest of the discussion. This is clearly worth the time to review if the 4th amendment interests you.

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March 12, 2008

ME- Bucksport sex offender seeks to move back home with his parents; prosecutors object

3-12-2008 Maine:

Travis White wants to move back home to Bucksport. His aging parents need his care. And, his attorney contends, the 37-year-old convicted sex offender could benefit greatly from a familial support system.

Hancock County prosecutors see his situation differently, however, and don’t think White should be allowed to return to a community they say he devastated with his misconduct.

White’s case evokes a question whose answer has been elusive both in Maine and across the country: How should society deal with sex offenders once they are outside prison walls?

"I think we’re starting to get better at addressing these questions, and we’ll continue to get better," said Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, chair of the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. "But it’s an ongoing battle, and the fact is, there’s no easy answer."

White, a former baseball and basketball coach in Bucksport, was convicted in 2002 of sexually assaulting young boys during a decade-long stretch dating back to 1991. He was released late last summer after serving six years in prison, including the time he was held in jail before the trial.

He’s on probation now, and one of his conditions is that his probation officer approve all living arrangements. But finding housing has been difficult, according to White’s attorney, Stephen Smith of Bangor, who revealed that his client has even spent significant time in a homeless shelter.

With his options running out, White is turning to perhaps the only people who can see past his criminal conduct: his family.

Smith recently filed a motion in Hancock County Superior Court to amend his client’s probation conditions and allow him to move back into his parents’ Bucksport home.

"I think it’s entirely reasonable for someone who has served time and who is still under strict supervision to be allowed to stay with family," said Smith, who didn’t represent White at his trial but has taken over the case since.

White’s probation officer opposes the request on the basis that his parents’ home would be an unhealthy environment. Hancock County District Attorney Michael Povich agrees and said the man’s relocation would be traumatic for the victims and the Bucksport community at large.

And so, later this month, Travis White will return to the same courtroom where he was sentenced for his crimes years ago.

Once again, a judge will help decide his fate.

A painful trial

Neither White nor his parents agreed to be interviewed for this story. The following account is based on court documents and previously published reports in the Bangor Daily News.

White’s weeklong trial in March 2002 featured extensive media coverage and standing-room-only crowds in the Ellsworth courtroom.

The most pointed testimony came from the four male victims — all under the age of 12 when the misconduct occurred — who recalled in painful detail how their one-time coach took advantage of them.

Each story was the same. He invited them to his basement apartment, they said. He gave them alcohol. When they fell asleep, he made his move. Each victim told jurors that they awoke during the night at White’s apartment to find the man either fondling them or performing oral sex on them.

After five days of testimony, the jury needed only about an hour to find White guilty of multiple counts of gross sexual assault, unlawful sexual contact and endangering the welfare of a child.

It’s important to note that White maintained his innocence throughout the trial and in fact took responsibility for his crimes only at sentencing, about three months after he was found guilty.

"What I did was wrong, hurtful and disgusting," he told the court on June 26, 2002. "I’ll continue to pray for those I’ve hurt and hope someday that they will forgive me."

Justice Thomas E. Delahanty II, who presided over White’s trial, was critical of the man’s sudden remorse at sentencing.

"His denials required those people to come into court to embarrass themselves and humiliate themselves in public," Delahanty said before handing down a sentence of 38 years in prison with all but eight years suspended.

White later filed a motion for a new trial, claiming that his attorney at the time, Donald Brown of Bangor, provided an insufficient defense. That motion was denied, and White spent six years at the Down East Correctional Facility in Machiasport.

He earned time off his sentence for good behavior and was released late last summer with nearly three decades of probation following him like a shadow.

The risks of returning

Now that he’s on the other side of prison walls, White, like most sex offenders, has a close relationship with his probation officer.

He’s in regular counseling. He has a job with an excavation company in Bangor. His attorney says White genuinely wants to rebuild his life. The only problem has been finding a suitable place to live.

White appealed recently to his probation officer, Donald Muth, to explore the option of moving back to Bucksport. Smith said the request has two purposes: to provide his client with a support system and to allow White to help care for his aging parents.

According to court documents, Muth was hesitant and solicited input from Dwayne Hogan, a clinical social worker in Bangor, about White’s request.

In a letter to Muth, Hogan wrote that he didn’t think it was a good idea for White to live with his parents. Hogan alleged that the parents have consistently doubted their son’s culpability in the crimes, and he worried that they would not monitor his behavior.

Mary Kellett, the assistant district attorney who prosecuted White’s case in 2002, agreed with that assessment.

"He wants to live in the same basement apartment where he perpetrated this abuse," she said, even suggesting that White’s parents enabled his conduct.

The district attorney’s office has been in contact with the victims since White’s release, Kellett said, but she declined to speculate about their opinions of the man’s desire to return to Bucksport.

The prosecutor also indicated that while only four victims came forward for trial purposes, she believes others may have been assaulted by White several years ago.

"He’s still a risk, and he’ll always be a risk," Kellett said. "We need to do everything we can to make sure he’s properly supervised and that he doesn’t reoffend."

Smith disputed the fact that his client is a risk. When asked if White is being discriminated against, the attorney said, "Yes, in the sense that all sex offenders have a thumb put on them. And maybe that’s appropriate, but at some point you have to ask, ‘Is it more than necessary?’"

On Tuesday, March 25, inside the Hancock County Superior Court, that’s exactly what Justice Delahanty will be tasked to decide.

Maine’s sex offender laws

White would not be the first sex offender living in Bucksport. According to Maine’s Sex Offender Registry, 15 are listed with Bucksport addresses, a relatively high number for a town of only about 5,000 residents, Sen. Diamond said.

Like every state, Maine has a version of the federal Sexual Offender Act of 1994, also known as Megan’s Law for a Florida girl who was raped and killed by a violent sex offender who lived next door. It requires law enforcement agencies to make information available to the public regarding sex offenders, but it allows states to determine how to disseminate that information.

As of 1999, Maine’s sex offender registry has been maintained by the Maine State Police and the State Bureau of Identification. The public can access the registry online or request information about offenders at local municipal offices.

Communities also are free to institute further restrictions specific to where offenders can live. Some communities, like the southern Maine city of Westbrook, have passed laws so restrictive that they effectively ban sex offenders from living anywhere in town. Diamond said he thinks many of those restrictions could be challenged in court as unreasonable.

Bucksport has not yet instituted any such restrictions.

Maine’s sex offender laws have been under serious debate since the brutal slayings of John Grey of Milo and William Elliot of Corinth in April 2006. A Canadian man, 20-year-old Stephen Marshall, shot and killed both men after finding their names and addresses on the online registry. Marshall later committed suicide as police were trying to apprehend him.

Rep. Joseph Tibbetts, R-Columbia, one of Diamond’s colleagues on the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, said legislators are in the midst of overhauling the sex registry bill.

The changes likely will include instituting classifications for offenders based on the severity of the crimes they have committed, Tibbetts said.

By classifying former offenders by the crimes of the past that ignores, possibly purposefully by lawmakers, the effects of prison, probation, parole and any therapeutic or other programs the former offender may have taken. Accordingly, the system of classification is a farce and misleads the public. Further, by ignoring the rehabilitative effects says, that those systems were in place for show and were never intended to help society in the long run. It is a sad society that simply ignores rehabilitation and the classification system continues to mislead the public as to these former offenders, such protects no one! eAdvocate

Diamond added that housing restrictions might need to be considered as well.

Both legislators said cases like White’s are common but difficult for lawmakers who have to weigh the rights of victims against offenders who are trying to reintegrate into society.
Once the former offender completes what is statutorily prescribed for the crime committed, is there really a diference in the rights of victims and former offenders? According to current law, NO! They are on equal footing in society.eAdvocate

"From a legislative side, what we’re trying to do is get sex offenders back into some form of productive society," he said.

Still, any law changes wouldn’t affect White’s case, since his fate is tied to probation conditions outlined by the court.

No easy answer

Bucksport police Sgt. Sean Geagan, who was the primary investigator in White’s case, said his department will monitor White closely if he’s allowed to move back.

"But I don’t think we can take a position on where he can live," he said. "We are going to continue to keep people safe, whether it’s victims or the perpetrators."
If it is true that former offenders are somehow being protected, how can lawmakers explain the vigilantism and murders former offenders are facing? Lawmakers have zero in place to protect former offfenders or their familes, that issue is simply ignored by lawmakers!eAdvocate

Bucksport Town Manager Roger Raymond also responded diplomatically when asked about White’s situation.

"Our position [as a town] is that we respond to our citizens," he said. "If they came to us and said, ‘Look, this isn’t something we want,’ we would respond. Absent of that, it’s not fair for me or anyone else to pass judgment."

Raymond pointed out that White’s parents live in a house that is away from the center of town. It’s not near a school or any other place where children might congregate.

Although there hasn’t been significant public outcry yet, the town manager conceded that Bucksport is a small community where White could easily run into a victim or victim’s family members.

Rep. Tibbetts agreed that in White’s case the family is the ultimate support network, but he also said he would never question the judgment of a probation officer.

Sen. Diamond said the fact that White has been staying in a homeless shelter is particularly troubling, and he wondered if the state could come up with a compromise.

He offered the suggestion that White wear an ankle monitor, which has become a more common law enforcement tool in other states to track sex offenders.

"The alternative is that he’s going to be on the street where, in my opinion, he’s at more of a risk to reoffend," he said. "New victims are no less important than the existing victims."

No matter how Justice Delahanty rules in White’s case, the issue of what to do with sex offenders who have been released from prison is not going away, Tibbetts said.

"At some point we need to ask, ‘Are we going to maintain them the rest of their life?’" he said. "It makes for a very difficult situation, that’s for sure." ..more.. by Travis White

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OK- Court rules cut off online access to records

What about the Sex Offender Registry which is a list of court records?

3-12-2008 Oklahoma:

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has adopted rules cutting off public access to court records now available on the Internet.

When the rules go into effect on June 10, online access to court documents in the Supreme Court and district courts would be limited to court dockets only.

"The individual pleadings and other recorded documents filed of record in state court actions shall not be publicly displayed on the Internet," according to an order signed by Chief Justice James R. Winchester and four other justices.

The order, released on Tuesday, described the new rules as an effort to balance the rights of privacy of individuals and public access.

Besides eliminating Internet access, the order puts new restrictions on what information the public can access from legal documents filed with court clerks.

The ruling was criticized by Joey Senat, past president of FOI Oklahoma and a journalism professor at Oklahoma State University, and Mark Thomas, executive vice president of the Oklahoma Press Association.

"It sounds like a knee-jerk reaction to technology that gives the public greater access," Senat said.

Thomas said the rules will allow court clerks to make money off copying fees and cause an inconvenience to the public. "I think the court and the court clerks are underestimating the popularity of electronic access to court records," he said.

Justice Steven Taylor dissented and two justices issued a separate opinion disagreeing with part of the decision.

The new rules mandate that lawyers omit "personal identifiers" from all court documents, including home addresses, dates of birth, taxpayer identification numbers, Social Security numbers, names of minor children and financial account numbers.

"What I disagree with is the instantaneous restriction of public access to current public court documents on line," Justice Yvonne Kauger wrote in a separate opinion. She was joined by Justice James Edmondson.

"The court made this decision with input only from the court clerks. Others directly affected by the decision - the bar, the bench, the Legislature, the public - were not consulted," Kauger wrote.

She said the court recently increased court costs by $15 to improve computerization of all 77 county clerk dockets.

"However, as a result of this order, not only is the court taking a giant, 30-year leap backwards to a time when the personal computer was nonexistent, the public is now paying for access to a system which is made inaccessible by the order," Kauger wrote.

Senat said the order did not explain why the court feels a lot of information previously available should now be omitted from court documents.

"This is giving far too much weight to what they consider to be sensitive or private information," he said. "Some information is certainly personal, but that doesn't make it private."

Thomas said the rules open the door for a private company to begin selling information for a profit to people who do not want to go to the courthouse, "go through a metal detector, stand in line and take out their wallet" to pay for copying records. ..more.. by AP

Chief justice defends secrecy action

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice James Winchester says protecting individuals from identity theft is the main reason for the adoption of rules cutting off Internet access to court records.

Winchester says the court is concerned about publicizing someone's Social Security numbers, bank account numbers and other personal information.

The court's decision is being criticized by spokesmen for journalism organizations. Winchester says the rules are not permanent and more information may be put on the Internet when the court's computerized system is fine tuned.

The chief justice could not cited a specific instance where someone's identity was stolen through use of the court's information system in Oklahoma. ..more.. by AP

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KY- Kentucky Lawmaker Wants to Make Anonymous Internet Posting Illegal

How do these people get elected? The first amendment allows free speech -everywhere in society- and doesn't require that one FIRST announce who they are. This is absurd, but lately, so are many of the laws that get enacted.

3-12-2008 Kentucky:

Kentucky Representative Tim Couch filed a bill this week to make anonymous posting online illegal.

The bill would require anyone who contributes to a website to register their real name, address and e-mail address with that site.

Their full name would be used anytime a comment is posted.

If the bill becomes law, the website operator would have to pay if someone was allowed to post anonymously on their site. The fine would be five-hundred dollars for a first offense and one-thousand dollars for each offense after that.

Representative Couch says he filed the bill in hopes of cutting down on online bullying. He says that has especially been a problem in his Eastern Kentucky district.

Action News 36 asked people what they thought about the bill.

Some said they felt it was a violation of First Amendment rights. Others say it is a good tool toward eliminating online harassment.

Represntative Couch says enforcing this bill if it became law would be a challenge. ..more.. by Kellie Wilson

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WI- Assembly outlaws tampering with sex offender signals

3-11-2008 Wisconsin:

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The state Assembly has passed a bill that would outlaw tampering with the signal from a sex offender's Global Positioning System unit.

The state Department of Corrections uses GPS to track the movement of serious sex offenders after they're freed. Meddling with an offender's tracking device already is illegal.

The bill would make tampering with the devices' signals a felony punishable by up to three years and 6 months in prison and $10,000 in fines.

The bill goes to the state Senate. ..more.. by AP

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March 11, 2008

NH- Court deals a blow to sex-predator bill

People can’t be charged with child porn if images are digitally created, court rules

3-11-2008 New Hampshire:

CONCORD – A state Supreme Court decision forces Attorney General Kelly Ayotte and Gov. John Lynch to scale back a proposed crackdown on predators who use the Internet to prey on children, Ayotte said Monday.

The state cannot charge someone with child pornography if the images used were digitally created and did not represent an "actual child," according to the ruling.

Ayotte told the Senate Judiciary Committee the bill (SB 495) is still badly needed to increase penalties for those who peddle child pornography and close a loophole to make it a crime to expose oneself to a child with the use of a webcam."None of these are mandatory penalties, judges are still left with discretion," Ayotte stressed.

Gov. John Lynch called for this legislation by creating a task force Ayotte led that worked for nearly 18 months.

"We will not allow sexual predators to hide in the shadows of cyberspace. We must modernize our laws to protect our children from the threats of the 21st Century," Lynch said.

"It is clear these laws are outdated and insufficient in many respects."

This proposal splits the child pornography law into three separate offenses of possession, distribution and manufacture.

Each separate offense would carry enhanced penalties for repeat offenders.

Someone convicted of possessing child pornography can now face up to seven years upon a first offense; this proposal would increase that to as long as 15 years in prison.

Under current law, someone convicted for making child pornography a second time can face up to 15 years in state prison under current law. This plan would have the same person facing up to a life sentence in state prison.

The proposal requires convicted sex offenders to register their e-mail and online identity.

But Michael Iacopino, who heads up the New Hampshire Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said the measure violates First Amendment rights of defendants and seeks to deny them due process.

"It is unconstitutional and unnecessarily creates an unfair balance in the criminal justice trial process," Iacopino wrote in a legal brief for the Senate panel.

"The bill needs significant revision in order to survive constitutional scrutiny and to ensure that due process is provided to citizens accused of these offenses."

Iacopino said it can cost defendants up to $100,000 to defend themselves against a child pornography allegation.

Meanwhile, a lawyer from the Motion Picture Association of America said without changes, this could lead to prosecution for depiction of child sex scenes such as in "The Kite Runner" and "Juno."

Jeanne Herrick said movie studios typically use adult body doubles in these sex scenes and urged the Senate to remove the word "simulated" from the proposed, child pornography law.

"We believe that the statute as drafted captures more than necessary," Herrick warned.

Ayotte said she thought the lobby's fears were unwarranted and said she saw no need for the change.

Hudson Police Chief Richard Gendron said he thought prosecutions would drop once a Southern Hillsborough County law enforcement task force formed and started cracking down on cases in late 2006.

"We don't see this every changing," Gendron said. "We see it getting worse because there are more and more people online trying to solicit sex with children."

Merrimack County Attorney Daniel St. Hillaire and Enfield Police Chief Richard Cray also pressed support for the bill.

"With the creation of the Internet, a whole new predator has emerged," said Cray who heads the Association of New Hampshire Police Chiefs.

"Their intentions are clear. They come to harm our children." ..more.. by Kevin Landrigan

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CA- Offender auto plates are a bad idea


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March 10, 2008

CA- Homeless Sex Offenders Difficult to Keep Track

Probation officers have to keep track of "boxes" and "park benches" and "parked cars" which may be places where RSOs sleep to verify if that box, bench, or car is in compliance with state law. How does one spell absurd: "Lawmakers" is the real spelling of absurd. Does this mean children should be taught to be fearful of boxes or park benches because it may be a home of a RSO?

Further, upon review of the law I find there is no requirement placed on the offender to be anywhere at any specific time. The only requirement on the offender is to report where s/he calls home (box, park bench or parked car). Accordingly, s/he may sleep whenever they chose, be it, morning, afternoon, or evening and be in compliance with the strict wording of the law. Should the state wish to verify the address, the law does not even require the offender to be home, there is absolutly zero steps for the offender to perform in the process of the state verifying the home.

3-7-2008 California:

As many as 42 states have adopted a form of Jessica's Law -- the piece of legislation that restricts and cracks down on where and how a sex offender must live.

The intention is a stricter recourse in keeping convicted offenders from committing sex acts again.

And the punishments according to the law are supposed to keep repeat offenders in prison for a long time.

But with all the stipulations, including a requirement for offenders to live at least 2,000 feet from a school or park, it has reportedly made it difficult for offenders to live anywhere.

And that, according to California's Sex Offender Management Board, has forced hundreds into homelessness.

That, in turn, has made it difficult to track down where those sex offenders are located during the day.

With that, San Bernardino County probation officers are keeping close tabs on registered offenders in the county.

Many of the convicted offenders in San Bernardino County are already registered on the Megan's Law website. Many of them already are subjected to the strict Jessica's Law regulations.

Officers spend hours and hours making sure the offenders are not living someplace that violates their probation, even if their residence is a car or a box.

But if an offender says he's homeless, it won't be always easy to account for him.

One probation officer says they still need to know where the convict is at all times.

"We ask them ‘where do you park your car?' or ‘where do you sleep at night?'" says probation officer Michael Aguilar. "If they live at a park, we ask them ‘which park bench do you sleep on?' ‘Can you be there at 10 o'clock?'

"They may evade that. They may say ‘I'm at a different park all the time.'"

State officials say Jessica's Law has in fact made it much harder for sex offenders to find someplace to live.

And because of that, the number of transient offenders has gone up considerably.

Some probation officers say that's not necessarily true. They say many offenders claim to be homeless so they won't have to move.

"If they're living in a cardboard box, that's fine," says probation officer Greg Levers. "But we need to know the location of the cardboard box.

"We need to know where they are every night...where they lay their head down. If they don't adhere to that, they are going to go into custody."

But there are some disturbing loopholes.

One sex offender officers keep tabs on was convicted of molesting his step-granddaughter.

He now lives in an R.V. usually park inside a San Bernardino park where families often picnic. And at least one other known sex offender also lives in the park.

But probation officers say the two men may not have to move.

Officers say there's not much that can be done to restrict the sex offenders from the park.

"Everywhere, there's going to be kids," says one officer. "We'll do the best we can to control any situation. We'll have them leave if it is a huge concern."

Another offender lives in a car parked on a busy street in a neighborhood in which an ice cream truck drives through often.

Children often walk-by the neighborhood in what officers refer as an "ant trail" -- basically, walking, talking temptation for a child molester. Officers say those kids could wander off close to sex offenders' homes going or leaving school.

Despite the heightened patrols, some people believe there are too many ways to bypass Jessica's Law, especially if an offender reports he is homeless.

Many people say they are even more concerned about what sex offenders may wind up doing once they are off probation or parole, and no one is checking up on them. ..more.. by Sheryl Kahn and Matt Guillermo, News Channel 3

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March 9, 2008

Federal Prosecution of Child Sex Exploitation Offenders

December 2007 NCJ 219412


Presents Federal criminal case processing statistics on child sex offenses, including sex transportation, sexual abuse, and child pornography. The report includes data on case processing, such as the number of cases referred, prosecuted, and convicted. Defendant characteristics at initial hearing for the three types of offenses are provided. Data are also presented on changes in the number of defendants charged from 1994 to 2006.

Highlights include the following:

--A total of 2,039 suspects were prosecuted for Federal sex offenses in 2006, representing about 2.5% of the 83,148 suspects prosecuted in Federal courts.

--The main sex exploitation offense referred to U.S. attorneys shifted from sex abuse (73%) in 1994 to child pornography (69%) in 2006.

--Convicted sex offenders sentenced to prison increased from 81% in 1996 to 96% in 2006. ..Source DOJ..

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March 8, 2008

FL- Arrest In Fatal Stabbing At Sex Offender Park

3-8-2008 Florida:

ST. PETERSBURG Pinellas County sheriff's deputies arrested a transient early today in the fatal stabbing of a woman at a mobile home park for registered sex offenders.

Christopher Robertson, 41,((is not a registered sex offender nor is he part of that Park's RSO Program) was arrested at 12:15 a.m. while he was sitting in the carport of Lot 348 at the Palace Mobile Home Park, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. A witness had reported seeing him at the park, 2500 54th Ave. N., near Interstate 275.

Robertson is charged with second degree murder in the stabbing of 22-year-old Anna Marie Kasvicis about 1 p.m. Friday. Sheriff's detectives said Robertson admitted in an interview his involvement in the crime.

The investigation continues.

Deputies said Robertson knew Kasvicis and that they were arguing when the stabbing occurred in Lot 274. Deputies have not said what the argument was about. They said the pair was not dating.

Kasvicis was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Palace Mobile Home Park has Pinellas' highest concentration of sexual offenders and sexual predators, but Robertson isn't an offender or predator, sheriff's spokeswoman Marianne Pasha said.

A similar mobile home park in Palm River recently became controversial when nearby residents tried to force the sexual offenders living there to leave. ..more.. by TBO Staff Report

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FL- Suspect sought in stabbing death at Lealman mobile home park

3-8-2008 Florida:

LEALMAN -- A petty argument turned deadly Friday for a pregnant mother of two, who was fatally stabbed at a mobile home park for sex offenders.

Pinellas County Sheriff's deputies are searching for Christopher Robertson, 41, who they said stabbed Anna Marie Kasvicis, 22, about 12:40 p.m.

Robert Piccolo, 20, said his fiancee was dropping off groceries at his lot at the Palace Mobile Home Park on her way to a job interview. He said she commented to Robertson, who had been staying there since he got out of jail, that he wasn't to touch the food.

Piccolo said that triggered a back-and-forth that ended when Robertson, 41, grabbed a butcher knife from the kitchen and stabbed her in the chest. Piccolo witnessed the altercation.

"I wish he would have stabbed me," said Piccolo, who said he met Robertson in jail and was doing him a favor by taking him in. "She was a wonderful person."

Piccolo said Kasvicis was two months pregnant with his baby and leaves behind a girl and a boy, ages 7 and 4.

Robertson is described as a white man with short salt-and-pepper hair, about 6 feet tall and 170 pounds. He was last seen wearing a black shirt and blue jeans.

Neighbor Maribel Guzman, 44, said she saw Robertson running out of the park as she was on her way back from the store.

"She was a baby, a gorgeous young lady," said Guzman, who said she's known the victim for five years. "She didn't deserve this."

Kasvicis was taken by ambulance to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, where she was pronounced dead, said Cecilia Barreda, spokeswoman for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

The Palace Mobile Home Park houses nearly 100 sex offenders. They have found it a haven after manager Nancy Morais persuaded the owner to start admitting them a few years ago. The move was inspired by her son, himself a sex offender, who struggled to find a place to live.
Robertson has faced charges of aggravated battery and kidnapping and was released from the Pinellas County Jail last month, after which he started staying at the park.

But he is not a sex offender, and Palace manager Morais said the residents of lot 274, where the stabbing occurred, are not part of the sex offender program either.
Tucked in the southwest corner of 54th Avenue N and Interstate 275, the park was quiet Friday afternoon as deputies with cameras guarded three rows of mobile homes wrapped in caution tape.
Neighbor Richard Reckert, 59, said Robertson had been hanging around the park lately, sometimes walking the dog of the residents at lot 274.

He lamented the way the killing would appear to the public.

"This place is going to get buried," he said. "It's going to get blown up like some sex offender did it."
Morais said she has more trouble with the private owners in her park than with the sex offenders. Because offenders are on probation, they're easier to refer to police when they cause problems, she said.

Morais spoke to reporters before driving to Hillsborough County, where she's involved with a similarly controversial park. Her nonprofit organization, Florida Justice Transitions, runs a Palm River mobile home park housing a small group of sex offenders.

On Friday, county officials determined they could not remove the offenders based on a county ordinance.

"I'm very proud of what the guys have done here, and I don't want this to come up against them," Morais said.

Times researcher Angie Drobnic Holan contributed to this report. Stephanie Garry can be reached at or (727) 892-2374. ..more.. by Stephanie Garry, Times Staff Writer

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NY- Woman With a Mission: Keeping Tabs on Sex Offenders


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March 7, 2008

Age of Consent - Every Friday in March 2hrs

Twelve years ago, Frank Rodriguez pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a child.

Faced with two to 20 years in prison on the charge, he signed a plea bargain that gave him seven years probation. He was told he must never be near children. That meant he couldn't be any place where children gather, like playgrounds or parks, which made it tough to find work.

"They literally just break you down to nothing," Rodriguez said. "They tell me I can't do this, I can't do this, you know. It gets real bad."

Rodriguez completed his seven years' probation without another violation, but he will forever be on the Texas sex offender registry. And what was the nature of the sex crime he committed? Well, when he was 19, Frank had sex with his 15 year-old girlfriend, Nikki Prescott, at her suggestion.

"It was my idea," she said. "I would say I pushed it more."

Nikki, now 27, was a freshman in high school at the time. Frank, now 30, was a senior. She says the relationship was not at all unusual at their high school.

"All my friends were having sex, all of them," Nikki said. "All my friends, you know, were dating older guys."

'I Was Not Raped'
Nikki's mom, Melissa Wiederhald, knew her daughter was intimate with Rodriguez, and at one point even took Nikki to Planned Parenthood to get her birth control pills. She didn't like what the couple were doing, though, and she thought their relationship was getting too serious. One night, after an especially bad fight with Nikki, in a fit of anger, Nikki's mom made a fateful decision.

"I said, 'This is it,'" Wiederhald recalled. "I said, 'We're going to the police station.' I said, 'I've had it.'"

Wiederhald went to the police station because she knew that it was illegal for Rodriguez and her daughter to be having sex. The age of consent in Texas is 17, and Nikki wasn't quite 16. Wiederhald didn't think that Rodriguez was violating Nikki, but she felt she had no other way to make a point to her teenage daughter.

"She thought you go down, you file charges, slap on the wrist," said Prescott, "Ha, ha, taught you a lesson."

The police interrogated Nikki. She wrote a statement explaining that the sex between she and Rodriguez was consensual, but it didn't matter because at her age, having sex with a 19-year-old constituted sexual assault. The officers told her that she needed to have a rape examination.

"The doctor came in and started asking me all these questions," Nikki said. "And, you know, I just kept telling him over and over, 'I was not raped.' I was just so mad because I wasn't raped."

The next morning, Nikki's mom realized the mistake that she had made by going to the police. She tried to drop the charges, but the officers told her it wasn't possible.

"They just told me at that point that there was nothing that I could do about it," Wiederhald said. "They could prosecute or do whatever they wanted to at this point with the evidence."

When Rodriguez went to court to face the charges, his court-appointed attorney told him that he had two bad choices: plead guilty and do seven years of probation, or fight it and risk a sentence of two to 20 years in prison. Rodriguez felt he had no choice but to plead guilty.

"That's my girlfriend, you know," Rodriguez said, "I'm guilty. How am I gonna deny that?"

Frank took the plea bargain, which kept him out of prison, but it gave him a different kind of life sentence: as a registered sex offender. His name and personal information is on the Web, visible to everyone, on the same list with people like Wesley Wayne Miller, who murdered a high school cheerleader, and Larry Don McQuay, who molested more than 200 children.

As a term of his probation, Rodriguez was ordered to stay away from anyone under the age of 17. This meant that he had to move away from his family, because his 12-year-old sister lived at home and he was not permitted to be near even her. He moved into a mobile home, where he lived by himself.

Rodriguez was also ordered to go to sex offender rehabilitation classes, where he sat with men in their forties and fifties as they described horrible stories about their crimes against children and their deviant sexual impulses. "Some of these guys were the real deal," Rodriguez recalled.

And above all, Rodriguez was ordered to stay away from his underage victim,Nikki.

"They told me, if I were to see her, run. Run the opposite way," Rodriguez remembers. "I wasn't able to see her, they told me, until she was seventeen."

The very day Nikki turned 17 she moved in with Frank. They lived together, and a few years later, got married. They now have four young daughters, but marrying didn't change Rodriguez's legal situation. While he was on probation, he couldn't take the kids to parks and playgrounds because other children were there. He was told he'd have to get special permission to pick his own kids from day care.

Texas Senator Dan Patrick defends the tough law that labels Rodriguez a sex offender. "While it seems unfair, he was 19, she was 15," says Patrick, "That's the price you pay. Even if you end up getting married."

'It Just Breaks My Heart'
Still, Rodriguez is different from the child molesters and serial rapists that he's listed alongside on the Texas Sex Offender Registry. When he and his wife are an elderly couple, Rodriguez will still be listed on this registry as a man who victimized a 15-year-old child.

Patrick agrees that Rodriguez is different from the more serious offenders on the list, but says "we are a country of laws, and that's the law."

As a father, Rodriguez understands that these laws are meant to protect young kids. "I understand what they're doing. I mean, I have four little girls," he said.

Still, he thinks the law shouldn't cast such a wide net, especially when it comes to young couples in love. "It's been a nightmare," he said. "There's gotta be another way around it."

And Nikki's mother regrets going to the police. "If I would have known that the seriousness of what I was doing I would not have filed charges," she said. "I love Frank and he is good to my grandbabies and he is good to my daughter, and it just breaks my heart that for the rest of his life he's gonna be labeled a sex offender." ..more.. by JOHN STOSSEL, GENA BINKLEY and ANDREW G. SULLIVAN

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