A Sonoma County judge ruled that Petaluma Police twice violated the Miranda rights of a Piedmont oncologist arrested in a sex sting in a home on the 1800 block of Castle Drive in August 2006. A prosecutor is now trying to determine if this will have any impact on the case.
Judge Andy Wick said in a ruling filed on Dec. 23 that police officers twice improperly interrogated Maurice Wolin, 50, after he invoked his Miranda rights by asking to speak with an attorney. The Miranda requirement refers to an individual’s right to counsel, and was based on a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1966 to protect Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.
Wick ruled that the booking officer should have advised Detective Steve Nelson not to start an interrogation after Wolin requested counsel, and should not have subsequently tried again to interrogate him without defense counsel present.
The ruling didn’t exclude other evidence, such as sexually charged Internet chats, as well as film footage showing Wolin talking at the home with a female decoy pretending to be the girl he allegedly arranged to meet with to have sex, and starting to leave when he saw television monitors.
Wolin, along with 27 other men, was arrested at the Petaluma home on Aug. 25-27 in an operation conducted by the Petaluma Police Department and Perverted Justice, an online watchdog group. The men previously had chatted online with a decoy pretending to be a 13-year-old girl, and then made arrangements to meet “her” at the home, allegedly to have sex.
In a related development, Xavier Von Erck, the founder of Perverted Justice, recently told prosecutors that the hard drive of the computer he used to chat with Wolin while pretending to be the 13-year-old girl “experienced a complete failure” in February 2007, and cannot be copied. Wolin’s attorney, Blair Berk, said that this was not conveyed to her by prosecutors or during Von Erck’s testimony at Wolin’s preliminary hearing in August and September 2006.
Hearings in the case are scheduled for January, and the trial is scheduled to begin on Feb. 6. Wolin, who was freed after posting bail, is facing the felony charge of attempting lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14 years old. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to four years in prison, be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life and have the suspension of his medical license extended. ..News Source.. by DAN JOHNSON, ARGUS-COURIER STAFF
January 1, 2009
Mom and Dad are afraid. Very, very afraid.
One in five kids have used their cell phone to send sexy or nude photos of themselves, according to an online poll by Teenage Research Unlimited (TRU), a trend analyst firm in Chicago.
The poll surveyed 1,200 kids online. The kids had signed up as volunteers to take TRU surveys. The study was sponsored by CosmoGirl! magazine and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
The results became national news and adults dubbed it "sexting." Newspaper and television headlines asked worried parents, "Is your teen sexting?"
No one asked: "Is this a real trend or adults just totally freaked out?"
Adults may just be nervous, according to the results of an academic study. The Digital Youth Report was the result of a three-year project in which 28 researchers studied new media and teens. The researchers interviewed 800 kids and young adults in person. They also observed more than 5,000 hours of online activity.
Sociologist CJ Pascoe and her research assistant interviewed 80 kids for the project and said sexting was not a major issue. "No one brought it up," said Pascoe, an assistant sociology professor at Colorado College. "I had them go through their last 10 messages, their last 10 photos and I never saw it."
Sexting was not a common enough practice to make it into the report. Instead, Pascoe suggested that adults have fears about teens and the Internet.
"I think what makes adults nervous about new media is they have a window into a teenager's world for the first time, " Pascoe said. "Teen culture has been around since the 1950s and teens have been pushing the boundaries since the 1950s but adults haven't seen it."
Before the digital age, parents had to snoop through a teen's diary or spy on them with their friends to get a glimpse into their kid's private life. Now parents can easily see how teens interact with their friends by visiting their Facebook or MySpace page.
The vast majority of kids are not likely to take nude photos and press "send." There are some kids, however, who have taken suggestive photos and sent them to peers.
In his clinical psychiatry practice, Louis Kraus has seen middle and high schoolers who have sent racy photos by phone or computer.
"Boys do it for exhibition, girls do it in response or request from a boy. That's what I've seen repeatedly," said Kraus, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
Both boys and girls don't realize the consequences because there isn't an immediate response. "They don't realize how quickly they can be put on the Internet and where it can be sent," Kraus said.
Photos taken on the cell phone can be quickly transferred to a computer. Once posted online, control is completely lost, said Michelle Collins, executive director for the exploited child division at the National Center for Exploited and Missing Children.
"I have heard case after case of teenagers who have sent a photograph to someone and fully expect it to stop there," Collins said. "They learn the consequences."
One teenage girl learned the consequences after she used her cell phone to take a nude photo of herself. "It was forwarded to the full school," Collins said.
The father approached Collins at a conference and shared his story. Collins said the experience was humiliating for both the girl and her family.
Still, Collins finds the results in the TRU survey to be a bit high. "I was shocked when I saw that number," Collins said. "But it is something that is going to become more of a problem." ..News Source.. by EMILIE LE BEAU, McClatchy-Tribune News Service
December 31, 2008
MI- Owosso man's Internet case spawns charge from attorney general's office, legal debate over online meetings
6-14-2008 Michigan (Phase-II):
OWOSSO, Michigan -- It's a familiar script.
Man chats up 13-year-old girl online, makes a date for sex and ends up in handcuffs when he shows up for his interlude to find a cop waiting to arrest him.
An Owosso man, however, has found himself in the middle of a plot twist.
While ____ never showed up for a tryst that police say he made with an underage girl he met on the Internet, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox took the rare step of sending police to arrest the 21-year-old at home.
Cox claims his office is the first to bring charges against suspected child predators who arrange sex with minors online but never follow through on the meeting.
One Oakland County defense attorney believes Cox has gone too far.
"Where do you draw the line between policing thought and conversation?" said Gail Benson, who specializes in defending sex-related crimes.
_____ recently was arrested as part of state-sponsored Internet sting involving the group "Perverted Justice," a controversial online organization that uses volunteers to pose as minors online and has risen to fame through the Dateline NBC show "To Catch A Predator."
Using the screen name "___2001," investigators allege _____ began chatting online Jan. 21 with a Perverted Justice decoy posing as a 13-year-old girl.
The chats -- five in all -- continued until March 7 when _____ allegedly agreed to meet the girl at a home in Wayne County.
While nearly 30 men braved bad weather in March and went to a decoy house in Wayne County to meet his "date," prosecutors said _____ was among 11 others who stayed away.
So Cox had traced the men through their Internet service providers and had them arrested at home.
_____ now faces two 10-year felony charges of communicating via the Internet to commit a crime -- accosting & soliciting a minor for immoral purpose, as well as a 4-year felony of using the Internet to disseminate sexually explicit material to a minor.
His attorney, Charles E. Quick of Owosso, said he still is reviewing the case and hopes it will be resolved "favorably for everyone."
_____ is currently free on $5,000 bond.
A spokesman for Cox said there is a certain amount of irony and justice to the cases involving _____ and the other men.
"Internet predators disguise who they are to gain trust by lying through their teeth," said Rusty Hills.
"In this case, they find out it's a special agent reading the material. The worm has turned."
Although the recent sting was the attorney general's first involving Perverted Justice, Hills said the state always intended to pursue men who didn't show up for meetings with decoys.
"I don't know why other agencies don't go after non-travelers," said Hills.
While the decision to pursue such cases may be rare in Michigan, a Perverted Justice official said other states pursue individuals who don't show.
"Being arrested while not showing is not unique. However, what is unique (in the recent Michigan operation) is how many they arrested that did not show," said Xavier Vom Erck, director of operations for the California-based Perverted Justice.
The Michigan sting ended up with the fourth-highest arrest tally the group has been involved with, trailing only three stings in California.
Von Erck noted the group was able to snare men despite so much national exposure of similar operations in other states.
"You see some people are more paranoid ... but we've had individuals who have already been arrested for this crime once and are awaiting trial ... hit us up again," said Von Erck, in an e-mailed response to The Flint Journal.
Lauded in some circles for its work, Von Erck's group also has been the target of harsh criticism from others who have labeled members cybervigilantes.
Two years ago, the group was involved in a sting operation involving a Texas prosecutor who killed himself when police tried to arrest him at his home for soliciting sex with a decoy posing as a 13-year-old boy.
Flint defense attorney Michael P. Manley said it used to be harder for prosecutors to prove cases in which suspects didn't actually show up for their "dates," but the laws have been increasingly modified to the point where someone is guilty of planning sex with a minor.
"It's almost as if you think about it, you're guilty," said Manley.
Manley said he believes changes need to be made to differentiate hardcore pedophiles from Web surfers who have what he calls "morbid curiousity."
But it does not appear that many groups are lining up to lead that charge.
An ACLU spokeswoman declined to comment on the case, while a group that has dealt with Internet freedom issues also declined to address it.
"Nobody wants to get behind a pedophile," said Benson.
Ultimately, Benson believes police are creating crime by using decoys to pose as victims.
"It's not just sex. ... I don't know where it ends," she said.
Police operations using online decoys to snare child predators still are relatively rare in Genesee County because few departments have the resources for them, but county Prosecutor David S. Leyton lauds Cox's aggressive approach.
Leyton said there may be concerns taking such cases to trial when no physical meeting with police takes place, but believes it's worth taking that chance in order to send a strong message to predators and potential predators.
"We need to discourage people from thinking they can patrol the Internet for young people," said Leyton.
Although the attorney general's office hasn't decided if it will partner with Perverted Justice again, it promises more stings are on the way.
"We will still go after predators," said Hills. ..News Source.. by Bryn Mickle | The Flint Journal
12-31-2008 New York:
The state Department of Health is investigating whether an employee at a Rochester nursing home sexually abused a resident, health officials said today.
The health department received a complaint last week about a Shore Winds Nursing Home staff member, according to spokesman Jeffrey Hammond. He said health department officials visited the nursing home on the same day the complaint was made and are continuing to investigate the incident.
Hammond said law enforcement is involved.
No one at the Shore Winds, 425 Beach Ave., was immediately available to comment this afternoon. ..News Source.. by Justina Wang • Staff writer
OTTAWA COUNTY -- The presence of a fellow sex offender on a jury did not deprive a man accused of abusing a child of a fair trail, according to the Michigan Supreme Court.
Michael Allen Miller was convicted in March 2006 by a unanimous Ottawa County Circuit Court jury of first-degree criminal sexual conduct for forcing a 7-year-old girl to perform oral sex. The incident happened near Holland. The 31-year-old is serving a 14- to 30-year prison sentence.
Not long after sentencing, his lawyer, Damian Nunzio, discovered that one juror, Jesse Lara, had failed to disclose his criminal past. According to court records, Lara was convicted in 1991 and in 1999 of assault with intent to commit sexual penetration.
In August 2006, Lara testified he didn't disclose the information because it occurred years ago and he figured it wasn't anything that "would still carry on today." Court records show Lara thought the conviction would be on his record for seven years or so. Felony conviction records are permanent.
Ottawa Circuit Judge Calvin Bosman ruled Lara's thinking, while muddled, did not indicate an attempt to deceive and did not appear to impair his ability to fairly render a verdict. But the State Court of Appeals determined Miller deserved a new trial.
Today, the state Supreme Court decided Miller did not prove the jury was prejudiced by Lara's presence, and that his inclusion on the jury was a "harmless error."
Justices Marilyn Kelly and Michael Cavanagh dissented from the majority, saying there is a fundamental problem with having a convicted felon on a jury and that Miller was due the benefit of the doubt when it came to determining whether Lara tainted the jury and, therefore, deserved a new trial. ..News Source.. by The Grand Rapids Press
ST. PETERSBURG — The family of Josiah Wineberger, the 5-year-old injured by a falling speaker at BayWalk last year, said Tuesday that they could be in a new home within days.
The family is struggling financially and living in a motel after electrical problems forced them from their rental home. But thanks to the public's help, the family said they soon could afford to rent a new house.
But a St. Petersburg Times reader raised this question in an e-mail: "Everyone wants to help the child but may not want to aid a sex offender."
The writer was referring to father John Wineberger's criminal record. In 2006 he pleaded no contest to charges that he had sex with three teen girls.
But Wineberger denied Tuesday that he had sex with them. He said he took a plea deal because it allowed him to stay with his kids — and because he couldn't afford a court fight.
"I was accused of something I didn't do," Wineberger said, adding: "There was no choice."
Court records show a judge adjudicated him guilty of two counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor and one count of committing a lewd and lascivious act in the presence of a child under the age of 16.
The incidents took place in 1998 and 1999, according to court records. Wineberger was 27 at the time of the 1998 incident. The girls' ages were not disclosed in records, but the two sexual activity charges apply to minors ages 16 to 17.
Wineberger believes the allegations arose from a business dispute over control of an 'NSync-like boy band that he belonged to called Second Nature.
He said he left the band in 1999 after a detective questioned him about the sex allegations. A warrant was issued in 2000, but he wasn't arrested until 2005, when he already had a family.
Wineberger was sentenced to the 75 days he spent in jail after his arrest. He said he took the state's plea bargain despite being labeled a sex offender because it came without restrictions, namely that it would allow him to be around all children, including his own.
"I can be with my family," he said. "I can go to my kids' school."
The Winebergers have four children. Sandy Wineberger works in accounts payable for a local company, but her husband, a former electronics salesman, is looking for a job.
He cares full time for Josiah, who was left brain-damaged and requires constant care. They are suing BayWalk.
The public came to their aid after their rental was declared a hazard Friday night. The Times has received 22 e-mails and 69 phone calls from people who want to help the family.
The father hopes the public will still want to help his family.
"I don't worry about me," he said. "I worry about them."
Times staff writer Sherri Day contributed to this report. ..News Source.. by Jamal Thalji, Times Staff Writer
December 30, 2008
SAN FRANCISCO—A federal appeals court has ruled that a convicted sex offender's 28-year prison sentence for failing to properly update his home address with authorities was too harsh.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ordered a lower court to reconsider the punishment of Cecilio Gonzalez. He was handed the lengthy term under California's three-strikes law, which requires a minimum prison sentence of 25 years after a third violent or serious felony conviction.
Gonzalez had failed to check in with authorities five days after his birthday. Sex offenders are required to update authorities annually of their home addresses.
The appeals court said that failure to update his Burbank address was a technical violation and didn't count as a third strike. ..News Source.. by Mercury News.com
Decision available in our SO-News Group "Files" area: Gonazlez -v- Duncan
COURTHOUSE — A Bridgeport man who decapitated himself jumping off the Dannehower Bridge Saturday afternoon had apparently accidentally strangled his live-in girlfriend while the two were having sex, according to the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office.
Just before 2 p.m., 43-year-old James F. Goeke drove a burgundy minivan halfway across the northbound side of the bridge that crosses the Schuylkill River, and parked the vehicle on the shoulder.
The man tied a rope to the minivan’s back seat and put the other end around his neck and jumped off the bridge, and after “falling a great distance,” the rope decapitated him. His body and head landed on Barbadoes Island, according to District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman.
Upper Merion and Norristown police were the first on the scene and saw the man on the railing with a rope around his neck.
“Upon arrival of police officers, (Goeke) jumped off the bridge,” the DA said.
When investigators later went to Goeke’s Belmont Village apartment on Ross Road, they immediately smelled “the odor of death” even before entering the unit, Ferman said. Minutes later, police found a woman’s badly decomposed body under a blanket in the master bedroom.
Investigators determined the dead woman was 42-year-old Michelle Kavenaugh, who lived in the apartment with Goeke. She was naked and lying on her back and had a belt from a cloth robe around her neck, according to authorities.
“It appeared the two were involved in consensual sexual relations,” the DA said. “This appears to be an accidental killing.”
Investigators believe the homicide inside the Belmont Village Apartments unit occurred within the past week.
Goeke left behind a signed suicide note on a computer table in the residence’s living room that read: “I’m sorry. It was an accident. It was too late to save her. I’m going to join her now. I’m sorry.”
“He was so devastated, he took his own life,” Ferman said. “Clearly, this is a tragedy all the way around.”
An autopsy performed Sunday concluded Kavenaugh’s death was caused by ligature strangulation. ..News Source.. by KEITH PHUCAS, Times Herald Staff
Look at the picture above and you can see where this driver broke through the guardrail, on the right side of the culvert, where the people are standing on the road, pointing. The pick-up was traveling about 75 mph from right to left when it crashed through the guardrail. It flipped end-over-end, bounced off and across the culvert outlet and landed right side up on the left side of the culvert, facing the opposite direction from which the driver was traveling. The 22-year-old driver and his 18-year-old passenger were unhurt except for minor cuts and bruises.
Just outside Flagstaff , AZ on US Hwy 100.
Now look at the picture below...
If this guy didn't believe in GOD before, do you suppose he believes now? Share this with your family and friends. Let this be a reminder to all of us, GOD is in control!
This law violates the U.S. Supreme court precedent which holds that every citizen has the right to anonymous free speech. Further, a federal court in Utah has already declared this unconstitutional. The same was held true in Indiana also by a federal court.
Privacy advocates are questioning an aggressive Georgia law set to take effect Thursday that would require sex offenders to hand over Internet passwords, screen names and e-mail addresses.
Georgia joins a small band of states complying with guidelines in a 2006 federal law requiring authorities to track Internet addresses of sex offenders, but it is among the first to take the extra step of forcing its 16,000 offenders to turn in their passwords as well.
A federal judge ruled in September that a similar law in Utah violated the privacy rights of an offender who challenged it, though the narrow ruling only applied to one offender who had a military conviction on sex offenses but was never in Utah's court or prison system.
No one in Georgia has challenged the law yet, but critics say it threatens the privacy of sex offenders and burdens cash-strapped law enforcement officials.
"There's certainly a privacy concern," said Sara Totonchi of the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights. "This essentially will give law enforcement the ability to read e-mails between family members, between employers."
State Sen. Cecil Staton, who wrote the bill, said the measure is designed to keep the Internet safe for children. Authorities could use the passwords and other information to make sure offenders aren't stalking children online or chatting with them about off-limits topics.
--Note: An excuse to ILLEGALLY spy on registrants, children have again been used as a pretext to enact another unconstitutional law!
Staton said although the measure may violate the privacy of sex offenders, the need to protect children "outweighs a lot of the rights of these individuals."
"We limit where they can live, we make their information available on the Internet. To some degree, we do invade their privacy," said Staton, a Republican from Macon. "But the feeling is, they have forfeited, to some degree, some privacy rights."
Most states already make the addresses of sex offenders available online. Georgia is one of at least 15 states that have adopted laws requiring sex offenders to detail their e-mail addresses, user names and other Internet handles, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
But researcher Sarah Hammond said Georgia and Utah appear to be the only states that require sex offenders to also hand over their passwords.
The new requirements are far from watertight. While offenders who don't report their user names and passwords could face probation violations — and possibly a return to prison — supporters admit it isn't hard to skirt the law's requirements.
"My hunch is, where there's a will, there's a way," Staton said. "If people are intent on violating this law, there are many different ways. What's important is we have given law enforcement a tool."
For offenders like Kelly Piercy, convicted of child pornography charges in 1999, the password requirement is the latest example of "pre-emptive justice."
Piercy, who suffers from a degenerative disease that has left him blind, said he already struggles to keep track of the roughly dozen screen names he has created, and he doubts deputies would have much sympathy for him if he forgets to report one.
"I made a mistake and I need to pay for it. And I did. But now we're the target of pre-emptive justice — and that concerns me," he said. "How much further down the road can sex offenders be chased?" ..News Source.. by AP
Florida's Civil Commitment Center, a facility that holds prisoners convicted of sex offenses after they have served their time is entering its fifth year. But there is no evidence that it serves its intended purpose--curing the pedophile or sex offender who has already served his time.
Those who agree to treatment -- and many don't -- take lie-detector tests to squelch their biggest obstacle, denial. They smell noxious fumes, hoping to reprogram their criminal urges with mental tricks. One therapy involves fitting their genitals with a plethysmograph -- a device that monitors desire by measuring blood flow.
While such centers are growing as part of a national trend, many say they are nothing more than high priced prisons. Consider these statistics from the Florida facility:
Only 143 of the 408 residents have consented to be treated for sexual disorders. Most residents refuse treatment on the advice of lawyers because accepting it requires that they admit they're predators, an admission that can be used against them in court in the future.
• Sexual predators who agree to be treated enter a four-step program, but the fourth step, which prepares them for release into the community, does not exist because the Florida Legislature has neither provided the money nor shown the will to create outpatient treatment.
• Staff turnover and lack of state funding keeps even longtime, eager-to-be-treated residents from progressing. Actual sex-offender treatment lasts no more than 12 to 13 hours a week. Many residents receive no more than six hours a week.
....''It's, in effect, the Legislature practicing medicine or practicing psychology without a license,'' says Dr. Fred Berlin, a psychologist and psychiatrist who founded the sexual disorders clinic at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Florida law allows for the continued incarceration of sex offenders after they have finished serving their criminal sentences,
...if it is deemed likely they would commit the same crime again. It is a controversial concept: confining people not for what they did, but for what they might do in the future. Thirteen states have similar laws.
Many of these inmates are denied basic rights.
In a written opinion last year, Senior Circuit Judge Vincent Hall of DeSoto County said the center was denying a resident his constitutional rights when officials locked him in the equivalent of solitary confinement without his personal belongings and denied him the right to contact his attorney. The resident was being punished for protesting a broken air conditioner in the middle of summer heat.
How effective is the program?
Residents say some idle time here is filled having sex, especially among detainees who have not entered treatment. That's officially forbidden. A full-time staff of guards is supposed to prevent it. But administrators concede it happens, especially among residents who reject treatment.
Only eight people have been released from the center in five years, and those were released due to plea bargains in which prosecutors agreed to their release.
Critics say judges tend to want to keep people locked up forever rather than risk the public backlash that would result should a freed detainee re-offend.
Each "resident" costs the state $50,000 a year--more than twice what the state pays to house a prisoner.
''If people are just too dangerous to be out there, we ought to say that's what we think and not pretend it's treatment,'' Berlin says. ``If you're going through the motions and one percent are ever going to get out, it might not be worth it.''
Not suprisingly, we dont' like these centers. While appellate courts disagree with us, we think they are an unconstitutional infringement on due process rights. The maxim has been, "you do the crime, you do the time" These prisoners did the crime and the time and should be going home. If they reoffend, lock them up again. But what authority gives the government the right to lock people up after they have served their time simply becuase the bureaucrats believe they might reoffend? We say, let them out. If they reoffend, the state can file new charges, try them , and if convicted, give them a long sentence. But to make them do these sex classes (which our clients tell us are pretty worthless), repetitively take polygraphs about other prior conduct and their state of arousal, and make them hook their penises up to a plethysmograph to see if they get aroused when watching pictures of young girls, seems to us to be unseemly and ouija board justice. ..News Source.. by Jeralyn, FCCC
NASHVILLE — Sex offenders will face tougher restrictions and professionals will no longer be exempt from jury duty under two of the new Tennessee laws that take effect on New Year’s Day.
The omnibus sex offender law seeks to bring the state more in line with the “Adam Walsh Act,” the sweeping federal law named after the murdered 6-year-old son of “America’s Most Wanted” host John Walsh.
Signed in 2006, the Walsh act requires states to adopt strict standards for registering sex offenders and provide public information about their crimes and whereabouts. States that fail to do so risk a 10 percent cut to their share of funds in a congressional grant program used to fight crime.
The new Tennessee law requires a sex offender to register within 48 hours with the appropriate law enforcement agency after being released from a nursing home, assisted living facility or mental health institution.
It also requires the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to verify an offender’s death by obtaining a copy of death certificate, checking the Social Security death index, or obtaining a copy of an accident report before removing the offender from the registry.
“Tennessee will nearly be in complete compliance with the national standards with these additions,” said TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm. “The last portion remaining to be passed is in regards to the juvenile portion of the registry.”
Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle said the law is necessary for the welfare of the state’s children.
“I’m pleased that we were able to put in place another layer of protection for Tennessee’s children,” said the Memphis Democrat.
Also on Thursday, some laws governing juries, jurors and judicial commissions will change.
Professionals such as doctors and lawyers, who were once automatically exempt from jury duty or required to perform only limited service, will no longer be exempt. However, the law does make exceptions for hardship cases.
“It puts us all in the same jury selection pool,” said David Haines, general counsel for the Administrative Office of the Courts.
Other new laws are aimed at stiffening the penalty for drunken driving and boosting confidence in the election process.
The DUI law increases the punishment for vehicular assault and vehicular homicide if a child is injured or killed as a result of drunken driving.
And the voting law — called the “Tennessee Voter Confidence Act” — requires any voting machine bought or leased after Jan. 1 to be able to create a paper trail that could be used in recounts and random audits.
A report released last year by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations showed only two of Tennessee’s 95 counties keep a paper trail of voters’ ballots. The report recommended all counties adopt the practice. ..News Source.. by Lucas L. Johnson II
The Idaho Court of Appeals has overturned a state court order banning a convicted sex offender from being within 100 feet of any minor, including his two young children.
The appellate court ruled last week the no-contact order imposed on Brian C. Cobler went too far, violating his parental rights. The no-contact order included letters, phones and e-mails.
Cobler was arrested in 2006 and convicted of having a three-month sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl. He was sentenced to serve a minimum of 2 years in prison.
In his decision earlier this month, Idaho Court of Appeals Chief Judge Sergio Gutierrez says denying Cobler his rights as a parent "oversteps the authority of the state."
Cobler and his wife have two children, a boy and girl, who were both under the age of 6 at the time of his arrest. ..News Source.. by KTRC.com
Court Decision: Idaho -v- Cobler, Idaho Court of Appeals
12-30-2008 United Kingdom:
A man who police believe was murdered - even though they have not found a body - was a registered sex offender, officers have confirmed.
Blood found at a house on 21 December on Stockbridge Road, Padiham, matched that of Alan Street, 26, although his body has not yet been discovered.
Keiran Davison, 20, of Stockbridge Road, has been charged with his murder.
Police are searching for Alan Palmer, 43, and Peter Leonard, 51, who they say "could be anywhere in the country".
Lancashire police confirmed that Mr Street was a registered sex offender, but were not releasing further details.
Det Supt Neil Hunter, of Lancashire police, said: "We need to speak to both Mr Leonard and Mr Palmer in relation to this incident as a matter of urgency.
"I would urge them both or anybody who knows of their whereabouts or has been contacted by them or been in their company recently to contact police immediately. I do believe that the two men may be together.
"I would like to make people aware that Mr Palmer is a long distance lorry driver and has strong connections in Padiham and Oswaldtwistle, but due to his employment I cannot rule out that he and Mr Leonard may well have travelled out of the county and could be anywhere in the country."
Police also want to trace Mr Palmer's car, a blue five-door Mitsubishi Colt saloon, registration PE58 OJY.
Mr Leonard is white, about 5ft 8ins tall, of medium build with blue eyes and light brown hair, cut very short.
He has a two-inch scar on his nose and the words "LOVE" and "HEIDI" tattooed on his hands.
Mr Palmer is white, 5ft 11ins, of medium build, with receding dark brown hair. He has brown eyes and several tattoos on his left arm, including a snake head, a bull, an eagle and a swallow. On his right arm he has tattoos of a snake and a skull, as well as the words "MAM" and "LUCKY".
Mr Street is described as being of medium build, about 5ft 11ins tall with blue eyes and light, straight brown hair, which was cut short. He had a local accent.
Police know he went from Burnley to Oswaldtwistle on 19 December and are appealing for anyone who saw him to contact them.
Mr Davison has been remanded in custody to appear at Preston Crown Court on 18 March. ..News Source.. by BBC
12-30-2008 New Hampshire:
After living in Concord garage, he's found help
Two months ago, convicted sex offender Jonathan Perfetto alarmed Concord and beyond when he left prison homeless and broke, moved into a downtown parking garage and admitted to the news media that he was afraid of reoffending.
Perfetto's story forced a tough question: What to do with sex offenders who leave prison totally free - without the guidance and supervision of a parole officer - because they've "maxed out" by serving their entire sentence? Not many re-enter society that way, but some do.
The immediate answer, Perfetto has found, is to cobble together assistance and generosity from whoever is offering it. Now living in a Manchester rooming house, Perfetto has relied on Concord and Manchester welfare departments for rent, a soup kitchen for meals, a donated bicycle for transportation, a church for boots and a therapist willing to forgo payment for counseling.
He talks now not of reoffending but of returning to school and putting off romantic relationships until he's spent more time in therapy. And each day, he reads a Bible someone left at his door.
"Each and every day I feel blessed," said Perfetto, 34, last week. "I feel a good presence guiding me."
That's not to say it's been easy. Or that the challenges are over.
Perfetto's criminal record, by his own admission, is a troubling one. The 3½- to 7-year prison sentence he finished in October came after he pleaded guilty in 2002 to 61 counts of possession of child pornography. Before going to prison for that, Perfetto served time when he was 17 for molesting a young male relative and again when he was older for assaulting adult women.
During his most recent stint in prison, Perfetto signed up for the sex offender treatment program several times but was repeatedly kicked out for breaking rules or not taking the program seriously, according to court records. He was never granted parole because he never finished that treatment program.
It's exactly that type of situation prison officials try to avoid: Not only was the prison forced to release Perfetto in October without parole supervision, but he left without the offender treatment he needed. And when homeless shelters turned the newly-released Perfetto away because of his record, he began sleeping in Concord's downtown parking garages.
Perfetto wasn't the only one who disliked the idea.
Concord city officials alerted employees to be on guard while trying to find a better housing solution. Readers vilified Perfetto on news websites; comments to one Monitor story alone ran 40 pages. Downtown business owners circulated Perfetto's photo to staff like a "Wanted" poster.
Then Perfetto got a break.
He said Concord city officials helped him finding a rooming house on Bridge Street in Manchester and paid November's rent of about $520. The Community Action Program paid the security deposit, and Manchester's welfare department paid December's rent, he said. Manchester has also helped Perfetto with money for his medications and hygiene supplies. And the city provided him goods from its food pantry.
In his small room, which is about big enough for a single bed, small table and bureau, Perfetto cooks pasta and soup in his microwave and hotpot. His specialty, he said, is cream of mushroom soup with spinach and cream cheese. "It's fattening, but it's good," he said.
Perfetto is working with various social service agencies in Manchester to search for a job and apply for Social Security disability benefits. (He said before prison his bipolar disorder qualified him for some assistance.) He's found a sponsor for his Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous program, and he is seeing a counselor weekly.
One of those agencies gave him a gift basket of food for Christmas. It was the only present he received, and he cried. "I've never gotten a gift basket before," he said. Thanksgiving was similarly lonely, although another resident of the rooming house shared his turkey leftovers with Perfetto.
Perfetto can't pay for anything he's received because he hasn't been able to find a job, he has no savings and he's not yet received Medicaid coverage. He said the counselor explained the free treatment for his sexual impulses and bipolar disorder this way: "It's about public safety," Perfetto said. "It's about no more victims."
Since his release, Perfetto has returned to court to alter his living conditions but has been denied each time. As part of a second, 14- to 28-year suspended sentence on the child pornography charge, Perfetto can't use a computer or be around children.
He'd like to do both, with supervision. He told the court he needs to use a computer to find a job. And he wants to be permitted to be near children, in a supervised way, so he can return to church, he said.
The Hillsborough County Attorney's Office, which prosecuted the child pornography case, has objected to both requests, citing public safety concerns. Plus, prosecutors told the court, Perfetto agreed to those conditions as part of his negotiated plea in 2002.
Perfetto has dropped the request to use a computer. But he's appealing the other one involving children to the state Supreme Court on religious freedom grounds. He argues that the court is interfering with his right to practice his religion by making it impossible to be in a place where there are children.
Perfetto described his most immediate challenges as financial and social.
He'd like to find a cheaper place to live because he doubts Social Security assistance or a paycheck, should he find a job, will cover his current rent. Even more difficult, though, has been reconnecting with society.
His counselor has urged Perfetto to form healthy relationships, but he said he's nervous to do so. He spent seven years in prison where everyone had a record. Outside, he thinks many people recognize him from the news stories and know about his past. Or if they don't, he hasn't figured out how to tell them.
Perfetto saw an old acquaintance at a soup kitchen but decided against saying hello because the woman has children. "I didn't know how she would take that or if she would take it the wrong way," Perfetto said. He's been called unkind names because of his child pornography conviction, and while he no longer responds with anger, it's painful, he said.
So he's found something of a compromise. When Perfetto walks around downtown Manchester, he often wears headphones and listens to his radio. That way he can't hear what he doesn't want to. ..News Source.. by ANNMARIE TIMMINS, Monitor staff
12-30-2008 New York:
MARCY — The state still plans to civilly confine sex offenders at a newly renovated building on the grounds of the Mid-State Correctional Facility in Marcy, according to officials with the New York State Division of Budget.
Although the building currently remains empty after more than $30 million in renovations, budget officials said there has not yet been any need to start placing sex offenders at that site.
The plan always has been to start filling 150 beds available at the Mid-State facility as the Central New York Psychiatric Center in Marcy nears its capacity of 150 offenders, budget officials said.
But since the CNY psychiatric center has gradually accumulated only 127 sex offenders to date after beginning the process in July 2006, officials said there still is more room before the Mid-State facility must be utilized.
And because no patient has ever been released from civil confinement by completing the state's sex offender treatment program since it began, state Office of Mental Health and budget officials said they expect there will be a need to house offenders at the Mid-State facility in April.
“That number is totally dependent on the rate of commitment by the courts, and we anticipate that number will slowly grow,” state Office of Mental Health spokeswoman Jill Daniels said Monday.
As of Dec. 18, 185 sex offenders were being housed through the state's treatment program. In addition to 127 offenders housed at the CNY Psychiatric Center, 46 were being held at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center in Ogdensburg and 12 in a temporary unit in Manhattan, Daniels said.
Before any offenders can be housed at the Mid-State secure treatment facility, however, budget officials said the state still needs to hire 266 mental health staff, including psychologists, operation staff and security staff.
The CNY Psychiatric Center currently employees 272 staff members dedicated toward civilly confined sex offenders.
History of program
Initiated under former state Gov. George Pataki and signed into law in March 2007 under former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, the civil commitment program aims to keep violent sex offenders in state custody even after they've finished their prison sentences.
The law orders the state to evaluate sex offenders as they approach the completion of their sentences to determine if they still are dangerous to society. If so, a trial process would determine whether the offender should be locked up in a psychiatric facility or released under strict supervision.
The facilities in Marcy initially were proposed as supplements to a 500-bed state facility for sex offenders at Camp Pharsalia in Chenango County. But after current state Gov. David Paterson recommended closing the Pharsalia complex, the two local facilities will take on the lion's share of the civilly confined patients, state legislators said.
Opposition to Marcy site
State Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-Rome, is among the legislators concerned by that prospect.
“My philosophy has always been that they should house the offenders in one statewide facility as originally proposed,” Griffo said. “I don't believe in bringing them across the state, and I don't want to see this area become the place where they dump this population.”
As a result, Griffo said he's not bothered one bit that the renovated Mid-State facility has not yet been utilized.
“Not filling the additional space is not a bad thing because that means there's not a need, and I don't want to see them dumping that population here as opposed to other areas of the state,” Griffo said.
Once the Mid-State facility is used, however, Griffo said he hopes the security precautions are sufficient to protect staff members and the surrounding communities.
Most of the multi-million dollar renovations were related to establishing proper hospital standards within the facility and building a security fence, budget officials said.
At the CNY Psychiatric Center, there were 13 patient-related staff injuries that resulted in time out of work from July 2006 through November 2007, mental health officials said.
Then from November 2007 through November 2008, an additional 11 patient-related staff injuries were reported. ..News Source.. by ROCCO LaDUCA, Observer-Dispatch
Dr. Jill Levenson has released two NEW excellent studies about registered sex offenders, they are:
Levenson, J. S., & Tewksbury, R. (2009). Collateral damage: Family members of registered sex offenders. American Journal of Criminal Justice.
Levenson, J. S., & Zandbergen, P. & Hart, T (2009): Residential proximity to schools and daycare centers: Influence on sex offense recidivism. An empirical analysis.
Copies are in the Files area of our SO-News Group
Our thanks to:
Jill Levenson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Human Services
3601 N. Military Trail
Boca Raton , FL 33431
December 29, 2008
Teenagers Who Take Virginity Pledges No Less Sexually Active, More Likely to Forgo Birth Control, Condoms
Teenagers who take virginity pledges are no less sexually active than other teens, according to a new study.
But the results, published in the journal Pediatrics, suggest that virginity pledgers are less likely to protect themselves against pregnancy or disease when they do have sex.
Researchers say the findings suggest that virginity pledges may not significantly affect teenagers' sexual behavior. Instead, they may decrease the likelihood of teenagers taking precautions, such as using a condom or using birth control, when they do have sex.
Virginity Pledge May Lead to Risky Sex
Researchers say the federal government spends about $200 million annually on abstinence promotion programs, which include virginity pledges. Two previous studies have suggested that virginity pledges can delay sex, but researchers say those studies did not account for pre-existing differences between pledgers and non-pledgers.
In this study, researchers compared the sexual behavior of 289 teenagers who reported taking a virginity pledge in a 1996 national survey to 645 non-pledgers who were matched on more than 100 factors, such as religious beliefs and attitudes toward sex and birth control.
The results showed that five years after taking the virginity pledge:
82% of pledgers denied ever having taken the pledge.
Pledgers and matched non-pledgers did not differ in rates of premarital sex, sexually transmitted disease, and oral and anal sex behaviors.
Pledgers had 0.1 fewer sexual partners in the past year but did not differ from non-pledgers in the number of lifetime sexual partners and the age of first sex.
The biggest difference between the two groups came in the area of condom and birth control use. The study showed that fewer pledgers used birth control or condoms in the past year or any form of birth control the last time they had sex.
Researcher Janet Elise Rosenbaum, PHD, of Harvard University, says the findings suggest that health care providers should provide birth control information to all teenagers, especially virginity pledgers. ..News Source.. by Rosenbaum, J. Pediatrics, January 2009; vol 123: e110-e120.
Sex offenders can count their wives and girlfriends among the survivors of their crimes. Therapists say these women often feel blindsided and betrayed by their partners' behaviors.
In Connections for Family Safety, a program of Reach Counseling Services Inc. in Menasha, the women work through their hurts and find healing as their partners undergo treatment for committing sex offenses against children.
"If they want to believe their partners can heal, there is a huge level of coming to understand what their partners did," said Reach Counseling executive director Lyn Sporleder.
United Way Fox Cities in 2009 is allocating $38,427 to Reach Counseling's sexual abuse treatment programs.
Connections for Family Safety helps women cope with the problems and stigma they face in their communities, said Kim Hlavka, Reach Counseling's clinic manager and the program's therapist.
Also among the women are mothers of young sexual abuse survivors who are not in relationships with sex offenders.
"Whether they are the mother or the partner or both, one of the things that's really common is from the moment of the disclosure, their relationship with the entire world is turned upside down," Hlavka said.
How it works
The 24-week program includes informational presentations, group therapy and peer support. Reach Counseling bases payment on a sliding fee scale.
"One of the outcomes of the group is everyone completes a pretty thorough safety plan," Hlavka said. "It's individualized for the family and includes prevention strategies, what are the things we need to do to prevent (abuse) from happening. We also talk about what happens if abuse happens again. We encourage both partners to work on this together, and that's an important part of the reunification plan."
Hlavka said her goal is for each woman to emerge feeling more confident and less isolated.
"What I've really seen, one of the things I've heard people report, is the level and quality of communication between the partners has improved," she said.
Sporleder said the nonprofit in 2009 plans to offer more sessions of Connections for Family Safety to take women off a waiting list.
She said the search is on for a building where it can run various groups simultaneously. ..News Source.. by Kara Patterson
Thousands of passengers travelling in and out of Scotland will be electronically screened next year under plans for the government's next-generation border control technology.
The £1.2bn e-borders scheme will link government agencies, travel industry systems and transport hubs such as ports and airports.
The database will start to count the majority of people entering and leaving the UK next year. Ultimately, travellers' details will be checked against government systems, with permission to enter the UK granted or denied before they leave foreign soil.
Scottish routes will be included for the first time from next spring and summer.
The scheme, which ministers described as an "offshore line of defence", could mean passengers having to book in earlier for flights to allow enough time for the data to be transferred.
Deputy Chief Constable Bill Skelly, the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland spokesman on aviation and maritime issues, said: "It is about advance notification. Airlines will have to notify e-borders with the details of passengers. That information then goes into a central database where it will be checked against the police national computer and those on the wanted index.
"If someone is flagged, then before they arrive in the UK an alert will go out. We have to consider how to respond. As the numbers go up we will have to look at prioritising them. We may not be able to chase every fine defaulter but if someone is wanted for murder or there is a European arrest warrant for them we can ensure we are there waiting for them when they land. The database also analyses information about patterns of travel behaviour.
"Until we know which routes are involved we cannot predict exact numbers but there will be thousands checked coming in and out of Scotland."
The multi-million pound Semaphore pilot project, run by IBM and started in 2004, covered 10 international routes, screened 29 million passengers and led to 1000 arrests. The new system will screen 120 million.
Like the Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system, used to track vehicles across the UK for crime and terrorism prevention and detection, the e-borders system has the ability to check thousands of details within minutes.
However, officers say it will have to be used within the confines of existing human rights legislation and will be focused on specific targets rather than all passengers.
"It is a bit like ANPR - once you switch it on you find that you could chase every single tax disc but that is not what the public expects," said Mr Skelly, deputy chief constable of Lothian and Borders Police.
"Resources are finite. There will be a tiered approach and we will be looking, for example, for sex offenders and those involved in human trafficking.
"It could be people wanted for arrest warrants or serious crime and will be preventative. We have to be sensitive to human rights issues "The routes concentrated on have been mainly those going to Heathrow and Gatwick but once it goes online next year we will be able to capture the Edinburgh and Glasgow routes. It is about working with individual forces on priority areas and checking we have the resources in place to meet people off flights if that is required.
"What we will get is far more detail on everyone. There will be a legal requirement for carriers to give the information to police.
"Flights may have to close earlier as a result. Currently, some domestic flights close 30 minutes before departure but they have to get the information to e-borders 30 minutes before the flight leaves.
"At the moment, the system screens about 20 million passengers but by the spring and summer of next year that will be 120 million-plus. Eventually the technology is there to apply it to every single passenger." ..News Source.. by LUCY ADAMS, Chief Reporter
There will be no charges filed against the 19 Pinckney Community Schools students who possessed or transmitted cell phone pictures or videos of a naked 14-year-old female student in October.
Although possessing and distributing the images is illegal, Livingston County Prosecutor David Morse said Monday that suspensions issued by the school district and parental discipline were sufficient punishment for the incident. He said he didn't believe any purpose would be served by putting the teens on the state sex offender registry for 25 years.
"We felt the school took appropriate actions by imposing suspensions," he explained. "Most of the parents in this case dealt with it appropriately. We didn't feel it was necessary for us to file any criminal charges. We didn't have any expectations there would be greater lessons learned by filing criminal charges and hanging sex-related convictions around some 14-year-olds' necks."
To illustrate the danger of the teens' behavior, Morse said his office received a Freedom of Information Act request from a 53-year-old convicted sex offender in a New York prison, who wanted a copy of the police report identifying the students and the images. By law, Morse has to respond to the request and said he will heavily redact the report so as not to release personal information or the images.
"I have repeatedly said that the danger in this sort of behavior is that predators are lurking on the Internet in hopes of finding information they can act upon," he said during a morning press conference. "It just takes one angry or jealous kid who receives sexually explicit pictures to post them on the Internet with names, addresses and phone numbers. Just the sort of information a predator would welcome."
The prisoner, Anthony Brandon, was convicted March 21, 1996, in Orange County, N.Y., for second-degree sexual abuse against a 13-year-old female — a conviction that landed him on the state's sex offender registry, according to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services Web site. He also was sentenced in December 2006 to 20 years to life in prison for first-degree sexual conduct, according to the New York Department of Correctional Services.
He also has a 1985 conviction for third-degree sodomy and rape, according to New York records.
Police said a 14-year-old Pinckney girl thought she was "clowning around" when she took 20 naked photographs of herself and two 30-second videos during the summer, which she sent to two male friends.
The images, with her face visible, then became a "hot topic" when school started after students learned about their existence and began asking to have them forwarded to their cell phones.
School officials learned of the photographs when someone left a copy of them and an anonymous note identifying the girl on an assistant principal's desk. A subsequent police investigation found the photograph was shared with more than 200 people.
"It was reported that the photos had been sent to several hundred other students," Morse said. "Detectives were unable to confirm that information, and with limited resources, were unable to mount the comprehensive investigation necessary to make that determination."
It is not believed the images made it to the Internet, he said.
Nineteen students were eventually disciplined — ranging from in-school suspensions to out-of-school suspensions — for violating the district's cell phone policy.
About two weeks later, a similar incident came to light at Fowlerville Junior High School when it was learned a 14-year-old student had transmitted a cell picture of her naked breasts to a couple of friends during the summer. As in the Pinckney incident, the photograph was shared when school started.
Fowlerville police were able to identify eight students who "admitted" to having or sharing the photograph. However, how far the photograph went past that was not known, police said, noting that the pictures had all been deleted before they could talk to the students.
Morse also declined to issue charges in the Fowlerville case, saying he believed the action school officials took was appropriate.
Similar stories of teens sharing sexual photographs of themselves with classmates have subsequently surfaced in Ingham, Washtenaw and Genesee counties, but no additional incidents have been reported in Livingston County.
"I'm hoping it was just kind of a fad thing and kids being kids, being impulsive (or) they thought it was a clever thing to do," Morse said. "I'm hopeful that by seeing that there are consequences both in school ... and I hope by the (Brandon) illustration, there are dangers. It's not a kid prank; it might be to them, but there are a lot of people out there who view it as an opportunity to prey upon kids."
Morse said his decision in these two cases, however, does not mean he won't file charges in any future similar cases. ..News Source.. by Lisa Roose-Church
12-29-2008 South Dakota:
South Dakota laws defining the crime of indecent exposure will get another look this legislative session.
As written, indecent exposure cannot be prosecuted if it happens in someone's home or if the victim is too young or mentally incapable of taking offense.
State Sen. Sandy Jerstad, D-Sioux Falls, said a constituent complained that a plumber exposed himself while working at her home, but the man could not be charged because it didn't take place in public. Jerstad is looking into rewriting the law to make such a scenario a crime.
The lawmaker said she herself has been a victim of indecent exposure.
"It's a frightening and violating kind of experience," she said. "And the horror of it happening in your own home."
If it closes those loopholes, other Legislators said they're all for the proposed bill.
"Having not seen the bill, at first hearing of it, I'd be in favor of it," said state Sen. Gene Abdallah, R-Sioux Falls, a former head of South Dakota's Highway Patrol. "And I'd like to see the bill. But if it closes some loopholes in the wording, so be it. I know Senator Jerstad is very involved and very serious about these things. I support her and I'd probably be in favor of the bill, too."
Separately, deputy Minnehaha County state's attorney Hope Matchan wants to revise the crime of indecent exposure involving a child as it pertains to the victim.
In a case Matchan prosecuted, jurors in June acquitted 55-year-old registered sex offender John David Hatch, who was accused of exposing himself to a 29-month-old girl.
In a two-part defense, Hatch said the girl's grandfather misinterpreted what he saw and that the girl was too young to be a victim of indecent exposure. Exposing genitals to a child is a crime only if the accused does so with intent to sexually arouse or gratify someone and knows his conduct is "likely to annoy, offend or alarm some child."
In the case of the 2-year-old girl, Hatch's lawyer argued she was too young to be annoyed, offended or alarmed.
"Situations come up and that's how we learn," Matchan said. "We get cases and we say, 'That's wrong; that should be a crime.' "
Both Matchan and Jerstad acknowledged it will be tricky to rewrite the law in a way that will not criminalize innocuous interaction among family members, such as a father teaching his child how to shower or a mother who walks naked down a hallway while getting dressed. ..News Source.. by Josh Verges
Court weighs whether to identify authors of critical and anonymous postings on the Internet
You may not be as anonymous online as you think.
Maryland's highest court will soon decide how easy it is to unmask those who use pseudonyms to post critical comments on the Internet. So far, the state has been operating without a set of rules for identifying those people, but the issue has surfaced over criticism of an Eastern Shore developer.
The issue of Internet anonymity has cropped up in other courts around the country, but this is the first time that Maryland's Court of Appeals has confronted it. This month, the judges heard arguments that invoked the right to anonymous free speech and the right of defamed people to sue their attackers.
The outcome will have implications for the thousands of people who post critical comments, true or not, on Internet message boards, chat rooms and blogs.
Decisions in similar cases around the country have varied.
A Delaware Superior Court ordered Comcast to divulge the identity of an Internet poster critical of a councilman who filed a lawsuit. But the decision was overturned by the state's Supreme Court in 2005 "because the trial judge applied a standard insufficiently protective of [the poster's] First Amendment right to speak anonymously." A year earlier, a Texas court said an Internet poster couldn't file a lawsuit response anonymously even though he claimed the suit targeting him was intended to silence critics.
Web sites themselves, meanwhile, have not generally been held liable for carrying such critical comments - a policy enshrined in federal law and designed to encourage the free flow of opinion, information and ideas online.
Here's a primer on the Maryland dispute:
CASE: Independent Newspapers Inc. v. Zebulon J. Brodie; arguments heard Dec. 8.
LEGAL QUESTION: "May a court breach the constitutional right to speak anonymously and order the identification of Internet speakers who are alleged to have violated the plaintiff's rights without a factual and legal showing that the plaintiff has a supportable claim on the merits?"
In other words: If someone files a defamation suit over your anonymous online comments, can a court order that you be identified - even without evidence that you lied?
AT STAKE: The right to free, anonymous speech, which has a long history in the United States (think The Federalist Papers) and is credited with everything from shaping our government to uncovering Watergate. And the right to confront a person who has done you harm, so you can set things straight.
Appellant - Independent Newspapers, or INI, which runs community papers and Web sites in Maryland, Delaware, Arizona and Florida.
Appellee - Zebulon J. Brodie, a real estate developer who also runs several businesses, including a Dunkin' Donuts in Centreville.
BACKGROUND: On March 20, 2006, someone using the online handle "CorsicaRiver" posted a derogatory comment about one of Brodie's businesses on an Eastern Shore-focused message board maintained by INI. The comment: "I wouldn't go to that Dunkin' Donuts of Brodie's anyway ... have you taken a close look at it lately? One of the most dirty and unsanitary-looking food-service places I have seen."
A user self-identified as Suze responded: "I haven't seen the inside of a DD in a while, but have you seen the outside? I drove the through not long ago and was completely and utterly SHOCKED at the amount of trash that is and sides of that building. It's apparent no one is cleaning the outside of the building and the wafting into the river that runs right alongside."
Two months later, Brodie filed a defamation lawsuit against INI and some Internet posters in Queen Anne's County Circuit Court. The judge dismissed INI as a defendant but ruled that the comments about Dunkin' Donuts could be considered defamatory and ordered the newspaper publisher to give up the posters' identities.
INI: The court can't make it too easy for predators to unmask their critics, or too easy to hide behind a pseudonym. It should adopt a five-part test similar to that used in other jurisdictions before enforcing subpoenas requiring identity disclosure: (1) notify the posters so they can defend their anonymity, (2) require plaintiffs to specify which statements have violated their rights, (3) make sure the complaint has a cause of action against each defendant, (4) require plaintiffs to produce evidence supporting their claims, and (5) weigh the potential harm to plaintiffs if they can't proceed against the potential harm to defendants by losing their anonymity.
Brodie: Defamatory speech is not constitutionally protected; once a statement has been deemed potentially libelous, the writer should be revealed. Plaintiffs shouldn't have to prove their cases from the outset; that's too onerous. Moreover, they often need to know the identity of their defamers to produce evidence to support their claims.
DECISION: Expected in early 2009 ..News Source.. by Tricia Bishop
December 28, 2008
SACRAMENTO, CA - Ellie Nesler, the Sonora woman who gained national attention when she shot her son's accused molester in a Tuolumne County courtroom 15 years ago, died Friday after a long bout with cancer, family members said.
Nesler's daughter Rebecca Nesler told News10 her mother died Friday at the UC Davis Medical Center. The elder Nesler had suffered from Stage 4 cancer for the past four years while living with her daughter in Elk Grove. She was admitted to UC Davis last Monday.
Nesler gained notoriety in 1993 when she pulled a gun in a Jamestown courtroom and fired five shots into Daniel Driver. Driver was accused of molesting four boys, including Nesler's then-12-year-old Willie.
The shooting sparked a national debate on vigilantism. Nesler was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and served three years of a 10-year sentence before successfully appealing based on jury misconduct.
Nesler was back in the news in 2002 when she was sentenced to six years in prison after trying to buy 10,000 decongestant tablets from an undercover police officer. The pills contain pseudoephedrine, a chemical used to make methamphetamine.
At the time, Nesler said she wanted to fight the felony drug charges, but didn't think she could get a fair trial.
While serving her sentence, Nesler was diagnosed with breast cancer and said her condition had taken a turn for the worse.
"I'm in bad shape," Nesler told News10's Tim Daly in 2006. Nesler predicted she had no more than "a few years" of life left.
Willie Nesler, who led a troubled life after his mother went to prison, was found guilty of first-degree murder in 2005 after beating Tuolumne County neighbor David Davis to death in a dispute over tools. Nesler was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Rebecca Nesler said her brother was able to speak to their mother by phone last week to say their final goodbyes.
A funeral service was tentatively scheduled next week. ..News Source.. by Jason Kobely
If there is -at least- some proof that unemployment is a precursor to crime (recidivism), why would lawmakers write laws that causes unemployment (for sex offenders)?? Guess I'm not smart politically. Check out the study that shows recidivism goes UP when folks are unemployed (see tag below).
FITCHBURG, Mass. — Nothing about the failed bank robbery here earlier this month was ordinary. The suspect, a 51-year-old woman, does not fit the typical criminal profile. The weapon, a crudely assembled fake bomb — a tangle of wires protruding from a handbag — is not often a weapon of choice. And the demand, $50,000, was relatively modest by some criminal standards.
The only thing about it that seemed to make sense to local Police Chief Robert DeMoura was Maria Oliva's explanation when she was caught a short distance from Rollstone Bank & Trust.
Frustrated by her inability to find a job, DeMoura says, Oliva told police she was pushed to the breaking point. The chief is not defending her alleged act, for which she has been charged. Yet it is only the latest in a rising number of offenses in this small northern Massachusetts city that DeMoura links to the failing economy.
Crime analysts differ over whether an economic downturn always precedes increasing crime. Since summer, when the first financial giants started to fall on Wall Street, law enforcement officials have been tracking domestic violence and property offenses — robbery, burglary and theft — for signs of trouble.
In the past 2½ months, Fitchburg has been hit by 22 robberies, an unprecedented number for any similar time period in a city where, the chief says, three or four robberies a month are the norm. Some of the targets have been stores where offenders have taken food and clothing in addition to money.
Thefts from cars have jumped by 164 from last year and car thefts have more than doubled. "This is something we've never seen before," the chief says. "There has to be some correlation" to the economy.
Abuse calls rose
So far, anecdotal evidence suggests crime is increasing in some communities, though the FBI's 2008 crime report from thousands of jurisdictions across the country will not be completed until next fall.
An October survey of 180 law enforcement agencies by the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, found that 75% cited a recent rise in at least one category of property crime.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline, an advocacy operation partially funded by the federal government, reported a 21% increase in calls for help in September and 18% in October from the same periods last year. There was no increase in November, but spokeswoman Retha Fielding says the "only thing we can put a finger on is a change in the economy" for the increases.
"We're not saying that the economy is causing domestic violence; we're saying it is putting more stress on families where violence is occurring," Fielding says.
Alfred Blumstein, a Carnegie Mellon University criminologist, says it may take a year or two to determine whether the economy has driven more people to crime.
The most vulnerable portion of the population, Blumstein says, are young adults "at the margins," many of whom have already been in trouble with police and trying to move into the workforce.
David Kennedy, director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, says the demand for illegal drugs drives crime more than a sagging economy. Major surges in crime, he says, have been traced to Prohibition and to the cocaine and crack epidemic of the late 1980s and '90s.
"The public concern is that a tidal wave is coming," he says. "Unless it is being driven by some other drug epidemic, that's not going to happen."
Follows economic woes
In Fitchburg, an old mill town along the Nashua River, the empty factories and shuttered businesses are more commonly blamed for the city's recent crime troubles.
"This all absolutely follows the economic problems," says Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early, whose jurisdiction includes Fitchburg and who has seen property crimes rise in other areas. "Desperate people do desperate things."
John Shammas, 58, whose Fitchburg restaurant was robbed at gunpoint last month, believes the economy is responsible for a local crime wave that "is out of control."
He says the incidents have instilled fear among his employees. "It's not just about the money," he says. "We're all having hard times."
The Dec. 5 attempted robbery of Rollstone bank is an unusual story of financial desperation, police say.
Oliva allegedly entered the bank with a note and a "large bag," according to the police report. "The note said she had a bomb and she wanted $50,000. If the police were notified then they would die," the report says.
Apparently flustered when asked to remove her hat and glasses, Oliva allegedly turned and walked out.
After she was arrested, police say she confessed.
"Her reason was one of desperation and despair," according to the police report, which noted that she had been out of work for "an extended period of time." ..News Source.. by Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY
So, all one needs is an enemy, a license plate number, a picture of a valid plate, and a computer to make a false plate which then can be used to trick these cameras. This type of vigilantism is more than disturbing, someone could target anyone if they wanted to. Hopefully, these cameras are modified to detect this serious problem.
As a prank, students from local high schools have been taking advantage of the county's Speed Camera Program in order to exact revenge on people who they believe have wronged them in the past, including other students and even teachers.
Students from Richard Montgomery High School dubbed the prank the Speed Camera "Pimping" game, according to a parent of a student enrolled at one of the high schools.
Originating from Wootton High School, the parent said, students duplicate the license plates by printing plate numbers on glossy photo paper, using fonts from certain websites that "mimic" those on Maryland license plates. They tape the duplicate plate over the existing plate on the back of their car and purposefully speed through a speed camera, the parent said. The victim then receives a citation in the mail days later.
Students are even obtaining vehicles from their friends that are similar or identical to the make and model of the car owned by the targeted victim, according to the parent.
"This game is very disturbing," the parent said. "Especially since unsuspecting parents will also be victimized through receipt of unwarranted photo speed tickets.
The parent said that "our civil rights are exploited," and the entire premise behind the Speed Camera Program is called into question as a result of the growing this fad among students.
The Speed Camera Program was implemented in March of this year and used for the purpose of reducing traffic and pedestrian collisions in the county. Cameras are located in residential areas and school zones where the posted speed limit is 35 miles per hour or lower. A $40 citation is mailed to the owner of the car for violating the speed limit in these areas.
The Montgomery County Police said they have not seen or heard of this prank occurring but said they will keep an eye out for people committing the crime.
"I hope the public at large will complain loudly enough that local Montgomery County government officials will change their policy of using these cameras for monetary gain," the parent said. "The practice of sending speeding tickets to faceless recipients without any type of verification is unwarranted and an exploitation of our rights."
Edward Owusu, Assistant Principal at Wootton High School, said that he heard of local students pulling the prank when the school received a call from a parent informing them of its occurrence. "I have not heard of this happening among students at Wootton," Osuwu said. "It is unfortunate that kids have a lot of time on their hands that they can think of doing such a thing."
Montgomery County Council President Phil Andrews said that the issue is troubling in several respects. "I am concerned that someone could get hurt, first of all, because they are speeding in areas where they know speeding is a problem," he said.
Andrews also said that this could hurt the integrity of the Speed Camera Program. "It will cause potential problems for the Speed Camera Program in terms of the confidence in it," he said.
He said he is glad someone caught it before it becomes more widespread and he said he hopes that the word get out to the people participating in this that there will be consequences. ..News Source.. by Joe Slaninka
12-28-2008 California (Related):
In a federal civil rights lawsuit filed today by the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, the agency says an upscale California seaside community is violating constitutional law and the Americans With Disabilities Act by treating disabled homeless individuals as if they were criminals.
"(F)or all intents and purposes, Defendants have made it illegal to be homeless in Laguna," contends the Central District of California suit (PDF). It seeks primarily injunctive relief, attorney's fees and costs, contending that government agencies of the city of Laguna Beach are violating the 4th, 8th and 14th amendments to the Constitution, as well as the ADA.
"In one instance, attorneys in the case said, a police officer was interrogating a disabled homeless woman and instructed her to put out her cigarette," reports the Orange County Register. "When she did, he cited her for putting it out in the sidewalk."
The Irell & Manella law firm is representing the plaintiffs, along with the ACLU. Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the new law school planned by the University of California at Irvine, is co-counsel. ..News Source.. by Martha Neil