April 30, 2009

Female Sex Killers: The Devious Predators

4-30-2009 National:

They are the world’s most elusive hunters. Using their looks, their status, and their personalities, female sex killers can be the most difficult to catch. I have studied serial killers all of my adult life and am the only profiler to interview a large group of female serial killers and create their profiles. I work with police on such cases around the United States, and from first- hand experience, I can attest to the fact that female rape murderers are clever.

Though rare, such predators are more common than the general public knows. Why? In most instances, when a female rapes and kills a victim, the act is done in conjunction with a male partner. As such, when caught, the females play innocent and blame the male. This strategy has proven highly effective over the years because people are hesitant to believe that a woman could rape and murder. But it does happen, and sometimes, the female will act alone.

Out of all the interviews I have done with male and female serial killers, the only offender who ever made me uncomfortable was a female sex killer. She had a long history of violence and killed with no remorse. What made her unique is that she was very open about her love for drawing blood using knives, and she said if she ever got out of prison, she would kill again.

These offenders are a unique breed in that they have a real taste for hurting helpless victims. They enjoy the feeling they get when using objects to rape. In fact, female rape killers will often use jagged instruments when they attack. These women are especially brutal with female victims, and almost always, they will mutilate the genitalia. Such women have told me that they chose to hurt their victims so viciously because it turned them on. Like their male counterparts, it was sexually exciting.

To capture their prey, these women use a rouse to trick their victims who are always smaller in size. They use their gender as a cover for their evil intentions because most people find it hard to believe that the fairer sex could rape and kill a child. However, children are not their only victims. Such offenders have been known to target adults since everyone is less wary of a woman. This allows these super predators access to almost any type of victim.

The killers are drawn to traditionally “feminine” jobs such as nursing, caregiving, teaching, or the sex trade. These fields give them natural cover to get close to victims. Like their male counterparts, female sex killers fantasize about rape and murder. However, unlike men, women tend to be less selective about the type of victims they choose. For instance, male sex killers typically prefer certain types of victim such as 20-year-old blondes. But for the women, victim age and gender are less important than opportunity. Female predators search for that which is easy to get. If she works in a nursing home, she may go after the elderly and rape them in their beds. If the woman works as a prostitute, she will target customers. If she teaches, she often sets her sights on students. These women crave what is familiar to them, and they watch their prey over time to assess how easy it would be to attack.

The killers tend to have spotty work histories as well as a string of failed relationships. They dabble in sexual relationships and will try everything from lesbianism to child molestation. Emotionally they find it hard to be “centered,” and family will cover for the women when they engage in strange behavior. In looking at their backgrounds, their life pattern tends to be as follows:

Child abuse (victim of)
Acting out (violent against animals & other children)
Sexually promiscuous
Psychopathic behavior (stealing, fire setting, lying)
Attaching to steady figure (older male)
Increased time alone
Practicing violence

The interesting part of this pattern is that when looking back, it is easy to see how the women progressed. And there is almost always someone who knew about the increasingly dangerous behavior but did nothing to stop it. There is a tendency in families to hide problems, and those that produce female rape murderers are no exception. The crimes are so aberrant that even those close to these women find it hard to believe that their child/friend/spouse could do such things. The women are well aware of this and use it to their advantage. At every turn, they will plant doubt into the minds of those who question. They will act strange on purpose to try to confuse people. Then they turn on the water works and cry to appear innocent. The thing that tends to be consistent with these killers is that people around them will say that the women were “strange” or “unusual.” Others will even say that the women made them feel uncomfortable at times, but again, because of their gender, people are reluctant to be suspicious.

Once caught, the women go to emotional extremes and will do everything from attempting to seduce investigators to acting out in an almost psychotic like way. When female rape murderers are cornered, they are more likely to talk than other female killers. However, their ‘confessions’ will be self serving and filled with lies. They will be flamboyant and spin tales of their own horrific abuse in order to garner sympathy. However, make no mistake, such women are devious and know exactly what they are doing. They use the rarity of their crimes to hide the truth of what lies beneath their fa├žades. These types of crimes are actually becoming more common, so parents must become educated about this ‘newer’ predator that is stalking their children. As awareness grows, expect to see the discovery of more of these types of crimes. When society realizes what has been hiding in its midst, an innocence will be lost, but protection will be gained. People will be shocked when they discover what happened in the Sandra Cantu murder case. But the horror will provide the necessary wake-up call and education that parents need in order to be forearmed in the future. ..News Source.. by Deborah Schurman-Kauflin, Ph.D., heads the Violent Crimes Institute, and is author of The New Predator, Vulture and the soon-to be published Disturbed: Terrorist Behavioral Profiles.

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April 29, 2009

FL- Mom Finds Porn on New PSP

4-29-2009 Florida:

TAMPA, Fla. - Like most kids, Eliso Tovar loves video games. So his mom, Tamatha, bought him a PlayStation Portable for a late Christmas present at a Wal-Mart in Manatee County, Fla. What happened next would shock the entire family.

Saturday, when the 6-year-old boy turned on the PSP for the first time, he said a naked woman appeared on the screen saver. Afraid he would be grounded, Eliso ran to his mom crying.

Tamatha said she found a memory card inside the PSP containing hundreds of pornographic pictures. She claimed it's not hers and it was in the PSP before she opened the box.

She then called the store wanting to speak with a manager about the problem. "I explained the situation and his response was, 'well, bring the machine down and we'll let your son pick out a new game,'" she said. "And I was like, no I don't think you heard what I said."

A spokesperson for Wal-Mart said they're concerned about the situation and are looking into what happened. Tamatha says she wants a new PSP and an apology. ..News Source..

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IA- Your Capitol Voice: Nothing good happened after midnight in Iowa House

Another Laurel & Hardy "Now look what you got me into" mess by the Iowa legislature with the revised sex offender law bill. As with its forerunners it does nothing to protect children nor does it make anywhere more safer for children.

4-29-2009 Iowa:

Last week was simply exhausting. We adjourned at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday following a 4 a.m. adjournment the evening before.
This was the culmination of a seven-day run to end the 2009 legislative session.

The week began with two important bipartisan bills. I was appointed to a ten-person conference committee to finalize the 2009 health care bill. My thanks to Des Moines Democrat Rick Olson for fully including Republicans in the negotiations. In the end we continued to advance the goal that every Iowa child should have health insurance coverage as well as mandating a comprehensive commission to offer recommendations for the next step. We still have a problem with access to affordable health care for the working poor and middle class families.

The House also passed a tougher, more sensible sex offender law on a 95-3 vote. It didn’t look like there would be a bill this session, but a 10-person bipartisan committee offered their recommendations late in the session. These recommendations were endorsed by law enforcement, the Attorney General, and victim’s rights groups across the state. (The only group to complain about the tougher law was the ACLU.) Both political parties agreed to leave politics out of the process, which was key to successful passage.

Right, no political reasons, I don't believe that for one second. However, they should have left out "It sounds good," and their failure to do so is why this will again become a problem for the state. The entire concept of "loitering within 300 feet" fails to recognize how crimes are committed. Crimes are not committed by RSOs loitering within 300 feet of places where children gather. The failure of the legislature to review how crimes are committed before enacting this "sounds good" logic will be the downfall of this law as the 2,000 foot law failed as well. Both fail to look at how crimes are committed.

The last phone call I made before voting was to a local law enforcement officer. I asked him one question: “Will this make our children safer?” His answer was “yes.” I also sent out a review of the bill to all of my law enforcement officers, mayors, supervisors, and city council members before I voted. Those that wrote back were unanimous in their desire to reform the current laws.

Right, desire to reform the current law, not that this new version does that in any way.

The new law retains the 2,000-foot rule for only the worst predators and replaces it with much more effective exclusionary zones. These zones can be schools, parks, libraries, or any place where children gather a 300-foot barrier where sex offenders are not allowed without permission.
Therein is the first problem (300 feet), law enforcement can arrest any RSO anywhere in the entire state simply claiming it is a place where children gather. The entire world is not owned by children or for their own personal enjoyment. Like the Rockerfeller laws of the 50's this law will incarcerate many when they should not be incarcerated and destroy families of thos so shammed into alleged violations.

The old law permitted sex offenders to loiter around a park or school. It was also much more difficult to track them. Also troubling was the side-effect of driving offenders from the urban areas to the rural areas where there is a chance for even less monitoring. The Department of Corrections is now empowered to make decisions as to which offenders will be forced to wear a GPS tracking system.

Finally the new law categorizes sex offenders into three tiers in order to differentiate between people who truly pose the greatest risk to our children. Categorizing the offenders will help our police officers to better protect our children. I would have liked changes in the bill regarding local control and the inclusion of more offenders on the old 2,000-foot rule list, but the amendment failed. No law is perfect, but the law that passed will help keep our children safer. In the end, regardless of political and philosophical differences, the safety of those that are most vulnerable is a core function of government.

If safety of children was their goal then this classification system would not have passed. This system fails to classify registrants as to what risk they may be today, and only looks at registrants at the point of the initial crime. Such is a misclassification and fails to protect anyone, but places more registrants in higher risk groups than they should be. The result of which is again a waste of law enforcement resources looking at registrants who pose little to no risk and failing to focus on those who TODAY pose a risk.

One thing that is interesting and may give registrants grounds for a lawsuit is, given this new system misclassifies registrants, it places registrants in a false light before the public eye, in so doing may -hand registrants on a silver platter- grounds for a lawsuit. Where is the sharp lawyer willing to take such a case?

The last two days of the session were as disappointing as the beginning was successful. Filled with closed meetings and straight party line votes, we ended up spending more money than ever before in Iowa history. Be skeptical of the reports that budgets were cut and balanced. Those reports intentionally leave out the hundreds of millions of stimulus dollars used in our state budget and ignore future implications.

To set a new record for spending at a time like this does not make good economic sense. In 2011 when the federal dollars run out, we will have a $900 million spending gap. Even using well spun Des Moines math, this is a fiscal train wreck. It is hard to comprehend how we can do this in good faith with the people of Iowa.

The Governor’s bonding plan also passed on a party-line vote. In addition to the billions in state and federal dollars, we will now borrow over 600 million more. The Legislature knew that 71 percent of Iowans opposed this, but at 4 a.m. last week, the will of the people was ignored. One legislator quipped that nothing good happens after midnight. In this case, he sure was correct.

Such was my last week at the Capitol. Some great bipartisan initiatives and some very troubling fiscal decisions. ..News Source.. by Jeff Kaufmann, State Representative

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UT- Woman sent to jail for texting in court

4-29-2009 Utah:

TOOELE -- A Utah woman is in jail for sending a text message. She's being held for contempt of court.

Susan Henwood, a mother of four, has been sentenced to 30 days in the Tooele County Jail because she sent a text message about a court hearing she was observing.

"She shouldn't be there. She did nothing wrong," her husband, Joshua Henwood, said.

In early April, Joshua was sick and couldn't make his court appearance in a debt collection case. He sent Susan to ask for a continuance and to keep him updated, so she sent a text that said: "It doesn't look good for you" and "They're coming for the Polaris Ranger."

The Polaris was one of several items the other side of the case wanted to sell to recoup supposed losses. Henwood says his wife's text wasn't a warning to hide anything, just a heads up.

But Judge Stephen Henroid caught wind of the text and held Susan in contempt of court. She started her 30 day sentence Monday.

"You see drunk drivers and what do they get? A few days. She texts and she's in jail for 30? No, no," Susan's grandmother, Dolores Kyle, said.

Judge Henroid wasn't available for comment. A spokeswoman with the court system says the problem wasn't that Susan texted in court but the content of her text, but the spokeswoman was unable to provide further detail.

Back in Grantsville, Joshua says he still doesn't understand why his wife must spend a month in jail. He feels powerless to help. "I think this was an unfit punishment for the crime," he said.

The court spokeswoman says while everyone in a courtroom is asked to turn off their cell phones, sending a text message will usually just get you a reprimand from the bailiff. In this case, she reiterates, it was the content of the message. ..News Source..

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How Should Teens' "Sexting" – the Sending of Revealing Photos – Be Regulated?

4-29-2009 National:

Recently, the Wall Street Journal and its law blog reported on a Pennsylvania controversy over "sexting" – the practice of sending nude or semi-nude photos of oneself or others via cellphone. After some "sexted" photos were confiscated from students at a high school, the local District Attorney threatened to file broad child-pornography charges if the teens were not willing to enroll in a five-week compulsory educational program covering topics such as "what it means to be a girl in today's society." (This topic is telling; sexting controversies often seem to be connected to adults' discomfort with girls' expression of their sexuality. It seems likely, too, that discomfort with gay teens' sexuality will eventually lead to a sexting controversy as well.)

The ACLU rightly responded with a lawsuit. Because First Amendment rights were at issue, the suit could properly be filed prior to charges being brought, in order to address the ongoing "chilling effect" on speech of the threat of prosecution hanging overhead. A federal judge has temporarily enjoined the D.A. from filing charges, with a hearing to occur in June.

These particular charges are ill-grounded in law, as the ACLU has pointed out. The photos at issue show teen girls in their bras or, in one case, topless. In contrast, child pornography laws typically cover lascivious displays of the genitals and/or sexual activity. Thus, this is likely to be an easy case -- as the judge's initial ruling, granting an injunction in the ACLU's favor in part because of its high likelihood of success on the merits, indicates.

This is not the first time that old laws have proven to be a bad fit with recent technology. But it's an especially worrying example of a general problem, because both criminal charges and First Amendment rights are at issue.

In this column, I will consider how the law should respond when much harder cases regarding sexting come along, as they inevitably will. These cases would involve photos of underage teens having sex, displaying their genitals in a lascivious way, or both. Accordingly, these cases could validly form the basis for child-pornography charges. But should they always trigger charges? Or should the law be adjusted to take into account the factual nuances of the case?

Should There Be "Romeo and Juliet" And Age-Specific Exceptions for Sexting?

There is no question that if an adult traffics in photos that fit the child pornography laws – that is, photos that include a lascivious display of an underage person's genitals, or show an underage person having sex -- it is a very serious crime, as well as despicable behavior. Indeed, the Supreme Court recently issued an opinion allowing the prosecution of even those traffickers who offer virtual child pornography (involving no real children) but believe it is real – as I discussed in a prior column.

But what if teenagers take the photographs and do the trafficking, and the subjects and recipients of the photos are exclusively the teenagers themselves? Should the crime – and the penalties – be the same?

My answer is a strong "No." We should craft new laws specifically for sexting before old laws -- designed for graver and much more morally bankrupt, dangerous, and exploitative contexts -- are applied to sexting, and serious injustice results.

One good model for the regulation of teens' sexting might be the statutory rape laws – which sometimes offer a so-called "Romeo and Juliet" exception when the two parties to an act of sex are close in age (say, 18 and 16, or 17 and 15). If a 16-year-old "sexts" a photo of himself or herself at an 18-year-old high school classmate's invitation, surely that is far less disturbing than if the 16-year-old does so at the invitation of a 40-year-old adult.

Such exceptions might accord well with our sense of when sexting is really disturbing, and appropriately deemed a crime, and when it is better addressed (if at all) with non-criminal remedies such as school suspension, parental punishments, and the like. Notably, the ACLU, in the Pennsylvania case, has suggested that "sexting," in some cases, is not innocuous and may perhaps be penalized – but not through the criminal law.

The Tricky Issues of Consent that Sexting Raises, Especially with Respect to Forwarding

"Romeo and Juliet" exceptions in the sexting context probably will do more good than harm, in practice. But they will also have costs, if they are applied as bright-line rules.

That's because sexting is, in a way, more complicated than statutory rape. Statutory rape, by definition, comes out of a consensual act of sex; if it didn't, it would just be rape. The argument is that the young person's consent is not valid due to his or her immaturity, not that consent was not given. Thus, defining a crime as statutory rape moots out the consent issue. But often, the nature of sexting is intertwined with issues of consent and lack of consent that cannot be so easily put aside.

For instance, a 16-year-old sophomore girl might "sext" a nude photo she has taken of herself to her 18-year-old senior boyfriend, yet not intend that he share it with his 18-year-old friends. In my view, the girl's sexting the photo to the boyfriend would and should be immune from prosecution under a Romeo and Juliet exception – but one might argue that his forwarding of the photo to his same-age friends should not be immune (especially, but perhaps not only, if the girl did not consent to the forwarding). In other words, with respect to sexting, a pure age-based Romeo and Juliet exception, one that renders consent irrelevant, could be a refuge for scoundrels.

This example shows a strong tension between simple, bright-line age-based safe harbors for sexting, and a nuanced inquiry into whether the original "sexter" consented to forwarding. And there may be another nuance as well: Based on my admittedly limited knowledge as a member of Generation X and a viewer of the documentary "American Teen" (which covers a sexting story, among others), it seems to me that sexting in high school may be intimately bound up with issues of popularity, insecurity, and humiliation. And that explosive mix could lead to important and tricky issues regarding consent, particularly consent to forwarding.

For instance, a teen might authorize forwarding, but then later falsely claim that he or she did not consent, if the forwarding was accompanied by the forwarder's humiliating commentary on his or her body or if such commentary by recipients led to humiliation at school. Parental disapproval – or ignorance -- of teen relationships could lead to lying, too. In addition, a good-looking teen could deem it cooler to pretend that he or she was not, in fact, the driving force ensuring that a particularly flattering and explicit photo of him or her had ended up being "sexted" to the whole school but was "shocked, shocked to discover" that this had occurred.

In sum, I suspect that there is a whole complex anthropology here that it will be difficult for adults to fully understand. High-school communities might have unspoken "default rules," such as: "You can forward, but only with the photographer's – or subject's – okay." Or, "You can forward, but only to our clique, not to outsiders."

It's worth considering, here, that the worst sexting abuses, among teenagers, might lead to a civil claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, or to expulsion from school. In light of these possible remedies, as well as the chance that parents will take action, it's possible that Romeo-and-Juliet exceptions, although not ideal, might be good enough.

Such exceptions would still allow authorities to crack down on the 18-year-old senior who takes and "sexts" a photo of a 13-year-old eighth-grader, and who truly is engaging in child pornography. Yet these exceptions would also avoid imposing stiff criminal penalties on more-or-less same-age kids for what is, in essence, ugly immaturity, not crime. Alternatively, a compromise solution would create low-level misdemeanor offenses relating to sexting – offenses that would ensure that teenagers, who are often impulsive, could not ruin their lives with a single, ill-considered forward. ..News Source.. by Julie Hilden, who graduated from Yale Law School, practiced First Amendment law at the D.C. law firm of Williams & Connolly from 1996-99 and has been writing about First Amendment issues for a decade. Hilden, a FindLaw columnist, is also a novelist. In reviewing Hilden's novel, 3, Kirkus Reviews praised Hilden's "rather uncanny abilities," and Counterpunch called it "a must read.... a work of art." Hilden's website, www.juliehilden.com, includes free MP3 and text downloads of the novel's first chapter.

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MI- Flint Journal Editorial: Law, civility lag behind 'sexting'

4-29-2009 Michigan:

Most adults would agree that teenagers who engage in "sexting" play a foolish game that could haunt them in the years ahead, if not sooner. But even the most disapproving critics of this raging fad must be taken aback at Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton's threat to lodge felony charges against at least one youthful "sexter."

While not sharing all the lurid details, Leyton apparently is relying on child pornography laws that protect children and youths younger than 18 -- penalties being up to seven years in prison for distribution of sexually provocative images of an underage person and 20 years for creating the images.

While an offender might dodge the maximum sentence, especially in a first conviction, he or she would have to register publicly as a sex offender, with ruinous results to reputation and the potential elimination from many future opportunities.

Leyton would need a high standard of justification to impose such a burden on a teen who did not believe he was being criminal or even malicious. The prosecutor addresses that concern by implying such charges should be brought rarely and with great caution but are sometimes justified nonetheless -- all of which suggests reasonable restraint.

Surely the presence of a clear victim needs to be the basic component.

But in most cases, proving victimization could be tricky. "Sexting" has spun out of control because many teens are creating and distributing pictures of themselves in various states of undress, usually via their ubiquitous camera-equipped cellphones. Thus they think it's all in innocent, good, clean fun -- or for some, part of a mating ritual.

So let Leyton's recent announcement serve as a lesson that "sexting" can have legal consequences, even for those blind to any personal ones.

We see the law getting involved, for instance, in a Grand Blanc High School case that involved transferring a photo of a topless female student to many cellphones, leading to suspensions and a police investigation.

Perhaps in a worse case, Holly police investigated into a complaint against a 16-year-old who took cellphone photographs after crawling into the high school girls locker room.

But most "sexting" is less abusive, and by some estimates, a full 20 percent of teenagers have indulged in the practice in some manner. It points to a coarsening of culture, enabled by high technology that has developed so rapidly that neither law nor common civility has kept apace.

One thing that has not changed is the role of good parents, who would like to spare their children from choices that can backfire and do them great harm.

Talking honestly about sex has been one way to give guidance, but now it seems necessary to talk about technology, too, and to monitor and limit its uses. ..News Source.. by Flint Journal Editorial Board

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PA- Wyoming County DA appeals ‘sexting’ charges ban

Hummm, kinda sounds like the DA is correct; this time. He just may win this appeal.

4-29-2009 Pennsylvania:

The Wyoming County district attorney has appealed a decision by a federal judge to temporarily bar him from charging three teens involved in a “sexting” scandal that has grabbed headlines around the nation.

George Skumanick said U.S. District Judge James M. Munley’s ruling in March interferes with his ability to decide whether to bring charges in a criminal case. He is concerned the ruling could set a precedent that “allows anyone in the 33 counties that make up the Middle District of Pennsylvania to commit a crime and then run to federal court and say their civil rights were violated.”

The American Civil Liberties Union represents the three teens, who are among 20 Tunkhannock Area School District students threatened with child pornography charges after officials discovered nude or seminude photographs on cell phones confiscated from students. Mr. Skumanick told the Tunkhannock teens he would not prosecute them if they signed up for a five-week educational program.

The three girls represented in the ACLU lawsuit refused. ACLU lawyers are arguing the photographs in which the girls appear are not pornographic and should be protected under the First Amendment. One photo shows two of the girls wearing bras. The second shows the third girl wearing a towel, her breasts exposed.

The phenomenon of sending and trading provocative photos via cell phone, or sexting, has caused problems for other teens around the country. The Tunkhannock case also has led to charges being filed against a 52-year-old Georgia man who saw sexually suggestive photos of a 14-year-old Tunkhannock Area girl and allegedly contacted her over the Internet for more intimate photos of herself, and then to engage in sex with him. ..News Source.. by ERIN L. NISSLEY, STAFF WRITER

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April 28, 2009

KY- Nursing home staff took inappropriate photos of residents

4-28-2009 Kentucky:

Bluegrass Care and Rehabilitation Center in Lexington has been cited by state officials who allege that the staff used personal cell phones to "inappropriately photograph and make audio recordings" of residents without their knowledge, according to documents from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

The staff attached songs with sexual lyrics to the photographs and circulated them to other staff members, said Cabinet spokesperson Beth Fisher.

On April 10, 2009, the facility on Pimlico Parkway received a Type A citation, the most serious that a nursing home can receive, according to documents the Herald-Leader received under the state Open Records Act.

."There was no evidence that the facility had identified or trained staff that using residents' pictures and/or recordings of a sexually exploitative nature were a form of abuse," the citation said.

Lets see, when does common sense apply? According to these rules, common sense only applies IF employees are told to use common sense!

"Interviews with facility staff, including aides, licensed staff and housekeepers revealed this was a usual event that was not recognized or identified as abuse; therefore staff failed to report the abuse to their supervisors," it said.

Jo Ann Lovell, the facility's administrator, issued a statement Tuesday saying that the nursing home administration conducted "a thorough investigation which resulted in the dismissal of several employees."

"Bluegrass Care and Rehabilitation Center's foremost concern is the care and protection of its residents and we have taken this matter very seriously," Lovell said.

The citation given by the state said the facility was not enforcing its policy that staff members could not have cell phones in resident care areas.

Lovell said Tuesday that facility officials had re-educated the entire staff on the existing policy regarding the strict prohibition against employees' use of electronic devices in resident care areas.

The Type A citation said that, as a result of the recordings and photographs, the state considered seven residents to have been abused.

"The facility failed to have an effective system in place to ensure residents were protected from abuse," the citation said. "The facility's failure placed residents in imminent danger."

Fisher, the Cabinet spokesperson, said a civil monetary fine of $6,550 per day wasimposed by the federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services because residents were found to be in immediate jeopardy.

Lovell said Bluegrass Care's administration "is currently working in conjunction with state and federal agencies to insure that our residents are protected now and in the future." ..News Source.. by Valarie Honeycutt Spears

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SC- Full appeals court to hear sex offender case

4-28-2009 South Carolina:

ATLANTA — The full 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear the case of an Alabama man who failed to register as a sex offender after being convicted of sending obscene material to minors over the Internet.

An appellate panel split 2-1 in January, ruling Matthew Mason Dodge was not required to register because his particular crime was not on the federal list mandating registration. On Monday, the court agreed to an en banc hearing, vacating the panel's ruling.

U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade of Mobile, Ala., sentenced Dodge on Jan. 17, 2008 to 18 months in prison and required him to register as a "tier 1," offender, the lowest level, after Dodge admitted providing links to nude photos of himself to what he thought was a 14-year-old girl. ..News Source.. by

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VA- The vindication of Ting-Yi Oei, an assistant principal at Freedom High School, in South Riding, Va.,

This is a followup of an earlier report: "My Students. My Cellphone. My Ordeal."

4-28-2009 Virginia:

NPR Story: Please listen to this..

When Ting-Yi Oei, an assistant principal at Freedom High School, in South Riding, Va., tried to investigate a sexting incident at his school, he never imagined that ultimately, he would be arrested and charged with possession of child pornography. The charges were tossed out by a judge earlier this month. Ting-Yi Oei talks about his case, and how it raises a number of issues, including questions of how the law is being used to go after sexting offenses.

Official Statement: Office of the Commonwealth's Attorney

Across the country we're seeing an outbreak of this "sexting" issue. Loudoun County is not immune from this. The question is what do we do about it. I believe that the parents need to be involved in the solution. I also expect that parents expect to be informed when the schools obtain information that their student is involved in this type of behavior.

When a school official finds out about it, what should they do: open discussion, counsel them, discipline them, notify their parents....these are all options, but none were done here.

In this case, the Assistant Principal, charged with discipline of the students, found out about it and didn't inform the parents of any of the children involved. In fact, he specifically told one student not to tell his parents.

Although he claims that he didn't know the identity of the young lady in the image, the evidence strongly contradicts this. At the end of the day, the sum total of his action toward helping these children was to do nothing, exempt keep a copy of the image on his personal cell phone for weeks, even after his supervisor told him to destroy it. That's irresponsible. It also raises specific questions as to why he retained the photo for such a long time.

-Jim Plowman, Office of the Commonwealth's Attorney, Loudon County, Va.
..News Source.. Also important are the reader's comments at the site, a few below:
A) District Attorneys are notorious for outrageous, ill conceived misuses of their power. There has to be a better way of selecting district attorneys and then monitoring and regulating their activities. See also US attorneys office for abuse/misuse of power to persecute/harrass.

B) I listened to the program...carefully, and read the statement by the Prosecutor, which was absolute nonsense. It sounds like another prosecutor jumping the gun trying to make a name for him or herself. I think disbarring him isn't really too harsh. Look at what he almost did to an innocent individual. One less attorney is a good thing. Texting is bad enough, putting pictures of yourself on a phone, in this preditory environment is dangerous. Teens aren't done being "cooked" yet. They need education. They need guidance. Discipline for this kind of stuff is the wrong approach. We...don't need any more "shoot from the hip" attornies. Thanks for the great programming.

C) The plight of Ting-Yi Oei and his family is the gravest tragedy of this sad ordeal. But also infuriating is the wholly irresponsible use of country resources by Mr. Plowman's office. Loudon residents should take the next opportunity to replace Mr. Plowman with a prosecutor committed to enforcing the law, not pursuing high-profile but illegitimate cases for personal gain.

D) As a representative of the Loudoun Education Association, I note that we proudly stand behind Mr. Oei. He did everything he should have done in his role as Assistant Principal. We are pleased that the judicial system summarily dismissed the unsupportable charges against him. The ongoing comments from the Commonwealth's Attorney are nothing more than an attempt to justify the improper charges he brought against Mr. Oei.

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Is It a Violation of Privacy Law to Reproduce a MySpace Posting in a Context Where the Very People It Targets Will See It?

4-28-2009 National:

Is It a Violation of Privacy Law to Reproduce a MySpace Posting in a Context Where the Very People It Targets Will See It? A California Court Says No, But Allows An Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress Claim to Stand

Earlier this month, a California appellate court issued an interesting ruling in a case in which a plaintiff's online writing was republished -- without her permission, and with her surname added – in a context where it predictably was seen by a different and very hostile audience.

The events at issue began when Cynthia Moreno, while away at college at U.C., Berkeley, posted a poem she had written entitled "An ode to Coalinga" – her hometown – on her MySpace page. While the poem's title might suggest that it praised the town, in fact it excoriated it; Moreno expressed "how much I despise Coalinga."

Six days after posting the ode, Moreno de-posted it, for reasons the court's opinion does not explain. But in the interim, Moreno alleges, Roger Campbell, the principal of Coalinga High School, submitted the ode to the local paper, the Coalinga Record. There, the editor, Campbell's friend Pamela Pond, published the ode in the "Letters to the Editor" section and signed Moreno's full name to it -- without ever contacting Moreno to procure her permission to do so.

The community's response to the "Letter" was not just hostile, but actually violent, according to Moreno's allegations: Moreno's family, who still lived in Coalinga, received death threats, and a shot was fired at their house. Fearful, the family left town.

Meanwhile, Moreno's father had to close down the business he had run in Coalinga for twenty years after suffering severe losses. Granted, boycotts to protest objectionable speech are fair game – but it was not Moreno who had published the ode in the Coalinga Record and ensured the whole town would see it; and the business was not Moreno's, but her father's. Moreover, one would hope that mature adults would understand that a young college student might be immature, and might forgive her for one rude poem – especially a poem that she had not meant for them to read.

Overall, I believe that many readers would judge what was allegedly done to Moreno and her family by supposed community leader Campbell (and by Pond) to be highly unethical – as I do. But was it also illegal?

The Privacy Claim

The court began its opinion by discussing Moreno's claim for violation of privacy – and, specifically, for the public disclosure of private facts. The court quickly – and correctly – concluded that the ode itself was not private; it reasoned that Moreno could have no expectation of privacy since literally anyone with Internet access could read the ode.

But what about the fact of Moreno's surname – which Campbell inferred, and Pond added to the "Letter" without Moreno's permission? Could the surname be the private fact that was publicly revealed? In my view, the court's analysis of this argument was too cursory – though perhaps still on balance correct.

This was an important argument because there is a First Amendment right to speak anonymously. (I discussed this right in a prior column.) That right made this a case that pitted free speech (Campbell's and Pond's right to speak and publish) against free speech (Moreno's right to speak anonymously). Although no government censor was involved here, the way a state defines its common-law privacy torts can have serious ramifications for free speech, just as its rules for defamation claims can.

But was Cynthia's surname really a private fact? Granted, the court pointed out that Cynthia's picture was on the site, so that anyone who knew her could recognize it. Still, it was Campbell and Pond – not Cynthia Moreno -- who actually disclosed the surname to the Coalinga Record's readers, and it was the disclosure of the surname in the paper that caused the damages in the case.

Moreover, the omission of Cynthia's surname from her MySpace page indicates that even if the MySpace page was technically available to all and sundry, her expected readers were likely those who knew her on a first-name basis. That is important because the court itself cited a precedent noting that the right of privacy is the right "to define one's circle of intimacy – to choose who shall see beneath the quotidian mask."

This idea – the idea that there are levels of privacy – suggests that perhaps transforming an online semi-anonymous disclosure into a local, signed disclosure could be a privacy violation after all. Yet there is also a strong case for drawing a bright line – as the court did here – and suggesting that speech is not really anonymous, and a surname is not really a private fact, if the speaker can be identified by many due to her attached photo. (Online personals users: Beware!)

The Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress Claim

Although that ruling may have been the end of the privacy claim, it was not the end of this case. The court separately let the intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) claim stand, expressing its sense that "a jury should determine whether the alleged conduct was outrageous," because reasonable minds could differ as to whether the allegations regarding Campbell's actions, if proven, would meet that standard.

That's a pretty strong ruling since the court was well aware of – and quoted – the exceptionally high standard an IIED claim must meet: The conduct alleged must "exceed all bounds of that usually tolerated in a civilized community." And here, the court is not talking about the violence that ensued; it is only discussing what Campbell (with Pond's assistance) did to Moreno. The ruling is also notable because courts are well aware that the IIED standard is written to be extremely demanding, and only to apply in cases at the thin, bad end of the Bell Curve of behavior. Clearly, this court thought this case might quality.

One factor that the court specifically mentioned was the allegation that Campbell was still Moreno's younger sister's high-school principal – and thus, one would think, supposedly her role model and protector – at the very time he was launching this attack on her older sibling. After all, a principal can be said to serve in loco parentis while a high school student is in school. Did Campbell's attack on Cynthia mean he betrayed his quasi-parental role toward her sister?

Could a Copyright Claim Have Succeeded Here?

Finally, this case might seem to readers to be missing a crucial claim: It might seem to be an open-and-shut copyright case. The court specifically noted in a footnote that no copyright claim was brought, and that it thus expressed no opinion on the copyright issue. If one had been brought, would it have succeeded? And was such a claim worth adding to the complaint?

The problem with adding a copyright claim here would be the modest damages that would likely be awarded. None of the most serious damages that the Morenos suffered could be awarded under a copyright theory. The copyright claim would look mainly to the value of Cynthia Moreno's work – for which there likely would have been no market, and which Cynthia was giving any Internet user the right to read for free, at least during the six days the posting was up.

Sending a copyright claim to the jury, along with the other claims, could also have been a strategic disaster for the plaintiff, for a jury might have found consensus on the low-dollar copyright claim, and stopped there. Now, instead, a jury will have to decide the real question here: If Moreno can prove Campbell did what she alleges, were his actions beyond what civilized people typically tolerate?

This case isn't really about copying words; it is about exposing a family to the wrath of its community. Defining the claims to reflect the core of the case was therefore a wise move. ..Source.. by Julie Hilden, who graduated from Yale Law School, practiced First Amendment law at the D.C. law firm of Williams & Connolly from 1996-99 and has been writing about First Amendment issues for a decade. Hilden, a FindLaw columnist, is also a novelist. In reviewing Hilden's novel, 3, Kirkus Reviews praised Hilden's "rather uncanny abilities," and Counterpunch called it "a must read.... a work of art." Hilden's website, www.juliehilden.com, includes free MP3 and text downloads of the novel's first chapter.

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OH- Proposed law would ensure nursing homes be informed when a sex offender moves in

This proposed law makes no sense because it puts the onus on law enforcement to do something (administrative clerical type work) that takes them away from law enforcement work. To take time to personally notify nursing homes when a registered sex offender moves into an address which is classified as a nursing home. Further, LE would have to keep track of every nursing home as well. It would be far easier and more cost justified if nursing homes would check the public registries on some regular basis for their new admissions, or on preadmission. If families of nursing home residents are concerned they can do the checking as well.

4-28-2009 Ohio:

You don't have to wait for a new Ohio law to pass to find out if a sex offender is living in the same nursing home where your mom or dad or other loved one lives.

You can find out right now.

The legislation, House Bill 98, introduced last month by State Rep. Courtney Combs, Republican of Hamilton, would require local sheriff's offices to notify nursing homes -- and other long-term care facilities -- when a sex offender moves in.

The facilities, in turn, would be required to tell patients and whoever looks out for them.

Combs introduced the law because an 18-year-old mentally retarded woman was raped by the man in the next room at a long-term care facility in his district. He doesn't want that to happen again.

The way the existing law is written, schools, day-care centers and homes -- but not long-term care facilities -- that are within 1,000 feet of where an offender lives are notified.

That means a sex offender could be sharing a room with Grandma or Grandpa and you'd never know it.

So how can you find out now? All you need is the address of the nursing home and a computer.

Go online to the Ohio attorney general's website and you can search for sex offenders. Type in the address of the nursing home. You'll get the name, photograph and address of each registered sex offender who lives within -- and you can choose this -- a quarter-mile, a half-mile, one or two miles.

Click on the offender's name, and you'll get a little more information on his or her crime.

The problem with the system, says John Saulitis, is that you have to keep checking back. A sex offender may not live in your mother's nursing home today, but he could move in next week. And that, Saulitis says, puts an unrealistic burden on nursing home residents and their families.

Saulitis runs the Youngstown office of Ohio's Long-Term Care Ombudsman Programs, part of a state and national system of people who look out for the rights and safety of those living in group homes, nursing homes and assisted-living centers, as well as those who receive in-home care.

He's also the guy who spent weeks combing through the registry to find out how many sex offenders live in Ohio's nursing homes.

It's a changing number. But when he finished his research on March 23, he'd discovered 107 offenders living in 47 nursing homes across the state.

Keeping tabs on them is a time-consuming process. That's one reason Saulitis wants to see the law changed.

He knows you can go to the attorney general's Web site listed above and sign up for an automatic e-mail alert whenever a sex offender moves close to any address -- including a nursing home's -- that you type into the site. The problem, he says, is that you get an alert whenever an offender moves into the surrounding area, not just the nursing home.

"The more notifications you get," Saulitis says, "the less you're going to pay attention to them."

And when you stop paying attention, what good is the notification?

That's another reason he's pushing for passage of House Bill 98 and urging all of us who have a loved one in long-term care to call our lawmakers.

"Contact your legislators," he says, "and say 'Look, there's a simple solution to this. It's called House Bill 98. We want to you support it.'

"It simplifies the system incredibly for the families and relatives," Saulitis says. "It's just much more efficient."

If you want a more complete picture about the safety and quality of a nursing home, make sure you go to the Department of Aging's Long-Term Care Consumer Guide.

Follow the instructions and the site will tell you how people who live in nursing homes feel about each facility. You can see, for example, what percentage of patients actually said they liked the home and what percentage would recommend it to someone else.

Not only will you get that from the patient's perspective, you'll get it from the family's, too.

You'll also find more specific survey results about things like clothing getting lost, residents being treated with respect, and how satisfied people are with the food and medical care.

What's more revealing, though, are the inspection reports you'll find when you click on the "Inspections" tab. That will lead you to a description of what Medicare/Medicaid inspectors found when they stopped by the facility -- unannounced and sometimes at night or on weekends -- to visit.

From those reports you can learn, for example, if a nursing home was cited for not providing a safe, clean environment; for medication errors that caused harm; for allowing pressure sores to develop; or for failing to notify family members when a resident was injured.

The information is even more helpful, says Beverley Laubert, the state long-term care ombudsman who oversees Ohio's 12 offices, when you click on the date under "Most Recent Annual Survey" and see the details of what officials call the "deficiencies."

What the Web site doesn't provide, though, is what action the nursing home took to solve the problem.

Each home is required to have that on hand, in an easy-to-see spot, says Laubert. Look for it at the front desk, nurses station or on a bulletin board.

If it's not there, ask for it, says Laubert. If you're not comfortable doing that, contact the state ombudsman's office at 1-800-282-1206 and someone will put you in touch with the office closest to you.

But don't stop there.

Spend some time at the nursing home and check it out for yourself.

"Nothing beats going there and visiting," says Kathy Keller, spokeswoman for AARP Ohio.

"You need to see it, you need to get the feel for the institution, you need to be able to walk around and see what is going on, you need to smell it, you need to see if the residents there seem to be happy or if they're not very happy."

That's the only way you'll know for sure if it works for you and your loved one. ..Source.. by Diane Suchetka/Plain Dealer Reporter

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CA- Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal defends city on sex offenders

4-28-2009 California:

LONG BEACH - Second District Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal appreciates the passion of her constituents in Alamitos Beach, but she takes "umbrage" when she is criticized for not doing enough when it comes to the issue of the clustering of sex offenders in the neighborhood.

Part of what caused Lowenthal to take umbrage was a commentary in Sunday's Press-Telegram written by Mike Wilson, president of the Alamitos Beach Neighborhood Association, accusing the City Council and mayor for failing to act decisively.

Lowenthal says it is because of her that the issue has become a priority in the city.

"We've done more than any city in the state," Lowenthal says of addressing sex offender residency.

Lowenthal said she has spent hundreds of hours with police and city attorneys drafting and redrafting a city sex offender residency ordinance that is legally viable.

She says she shares the frustration of residents, but says sniping does no good.

"(Critics) need to talk to us instead of taking shots," Lowenthal said. "They need to work with the city to take it to the next step."

Alamitos Beach has become a flashpoint for the issue because of its high instance of sex offenders who have taken up residence in the neighborhood.

And Wilson isn't backing down.

He professes to have respect for Lowenthal and says she has done good work in the area but adds that "events here have overtaken her."

"She tends to be reactive rather than proactive," Wilson said, "and in the last three months we've have 30 more (parolees) move in here."
In his letter to the Press-Telegram, Wilson says more than 140 registered sex offenders reside in just one ZIP code in Alamitos Heights, including 55 in a four-block stretch.

Wilson says there are also a couple of apartment buildings in his neighborhood with 16 and 11 registered sex offenders, respectively.

There is some legal movement afoot. The city has begun a suit against a notorious property at 1149 E. First St.

However, it is using nuisance and other charges rather than the sex offender ordinance to prosecute, according to Cristyl Meyers, deputy city attorney.

She expects to be enacting the ordinance, which was only completed in December, in the near future.

"We are actively viewing a number of locations," Meyers says.

In the meantime, the frustration mounts on all sides.

Lowenthal says the Megan's and Jessica's laws are "broken" because they lack provisions to allow cities to seek criminal rather than civil penalties against those who violate ordinances about housing sex offenders.

She also complains about the cottage industry that has grown among unscrupulous property owners who receive money from the state to provide housing for parolees at four to a room with exorbitant rents.

Lowenthal says until the state begins to enact tougher requirements and harsher penalties, local control will be constricted and undermined. ..News Source.. by Greg Mellen, Staff Writer

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UK- Children behind bars: The young murderers, arsonists and rapists at Britain's forgotten jails

4-28-2009 England:

They are Britain's forgotten jails, housing some of the country's most serious criminals.

The difference between these institutions and normal prisons, however, is that the criminals housed in these jails are still just children. For more than 40 years, there have been secure units in Britain to contain the tiny minority of children who commit the very worst crimes.

In 1968, Mary Bell, then aged 11, was sent to Red Bank in St Helens for the manslaughter of two small boys.

Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, the children who murdered James Bulger, served their eight-year terms in secure units. And the 10 and 11-year-old brothers recently accused of attempted murder in Doncaster have also been remanded in secure care.

The units are usually hidden from view, their work with some of Britain's most troubled and troublesome youngsters conducted in strictest privacy.

But I was allowed into one - Vinney Green in Bristol - to make two documentaries for BBC Radio 4, interviewing children and staff.

'One here has just got life for murder'

Vinney Green is tucked away down a track behind a private housing estate on the outskirts of the city.

Purpose-built for 24 boys and girls, aged from 10 to 17, it looks like a cross between a school and a sheltered housing block, arranged on one level around a central courtyard, with lots of pale wood and plate glass.

Entrance is through an office where we had to hand over our bags and mobile phones. Inside, it is light, clean and welcoming, except that every single door is locked and has a buzzer on the inside to call for attention.

In a staff room, the names of all the youngsters are displayed and alongside them coloured dots indicate their crimes. Assistant psychologist Amy Ostrowski ran through the current intake: 'One here has just got life for murder. We have four sex offenders and one is a rapist. The majority, though, are in for burglary, robbery and actual bodily harm.'

The boy accused of rape is 14 and was arrested for an attack on a young child at a family party. He has severe learning difficulties and has been judged unfit to plead. I met him, a big, shy, gangly youth.

He was at a computer screen, sitting alongside a teacher, who was explaining that a verb is a 'doing word'. He seemed to be trying to comprehend. According to staff, he has the reading age of a six-year-old and no grasp of the gravity of what he has done.

'If he wasn't here,' asked Tina Morgan, the resettlement officer, 'then where would he be?'

But while this boy will spend years in secure care, the average stay for the 290 children currently locked up in units in England and Wales is just four months. Most are aged about 14. Ten years ago, only two out of ten were girls. Now it is four out of ten.

All the children I interviewed in Bristol looked like any other group of 10 to 17-year-olds. Some were small and slight; others were big for their years, towering over the staff.

There are two routes in - from the courts as punishment or as a social services welfare placement, when a child is considered a danger to others or themselves.

But, in practice, there is not much distinction between the two groups - the welfare children have criminal records and the criminals have deeply unhappy pasts. Physical and sexual abuse and neglect are common experiences among them, according to psychologist Amy.

'You are shocked that people can do that to their children and also a lot of them have been in care and claim to have been abused,' she says.

'They can be real Jekyll and Hyde characters, you can read their file and they can have a history of violent, aggressive behaviour and then you meet them and they seem like the most polite, pleasant young people. Obviously, you have to be aware of the potential risks.'

Chaotic family backgrounds have left some of the youngsters unfamiliar with even the most basic tasks. An area at Vinney Green is set aside to demonstrate to youngsters how to vacuum and make the bed.

Toddler-type temper tantrums

'Some children can't look after themselves at all,' Tina Morgan says. 'We had one teenager here who couldn't even make a cup of tea. Some tell us they love it here because they get regular meals.'

I was introduced to one 12-year old boy whose ten-day disappearance from a care home led to a nationwide alert. Before he came to Vinney Green he had been brought before the youth courts 65 times.

When the time came for him to go, he did not want to leave. He confided that he had quickly committed another offence, just to get back.

While these children can be easy enough to engage in quiet conversation, away from their peers, it is what happens when they are crossed or disappointed that sets them aside from the law-abiding majority.

Rage and an inability to control it is the common personality trait. One teacher estimates that 98 per cent of youngsters who end up at Vinney Green have been expelled from mainstream school, many of them at the primary stage.

It is as if a vital behavioural development, which usually occurs when children emerge from the toddler stage and start school, is completely missing.

So what you have at Vinney Green are big, adultsized teenagers who throw toddler-type temper tantrums - with catastrophic results.

'I bounced his head off the f***ing wall'These are the children still pushing at the boundaries long after they should have learned when to give up on a destructive course of action.

An uncontrollable temper makes it impossible for them to make friends, except with others like themselves, and it leads to exclusion from school and to aimless hanging out on the streets where cannabis and cheap alcohol offer an easy diversion.

The parents of Jimmy Mizen, the 16-year-old schoolboy murdered in a bakers' shop in Lee, London, have spoken of rage as the curse of our age. Their son's throat was slashed when another teenager hurled a glass tray at him for failing to stand aside in the queue.

Therapy sessions, aiming to offer practical strategies for cooling down tempers, are held weekly at Vinney Green. Suggestions include taking deep breaths, standing back and thinking problems through before wading in, or removing yourself mentally by picturing a favourite place.

I watched Amy Ostrowski in action with one boy, who is aged 12 but looks much older. He has been in care since he was eight and was sent to Vinney Green by social services for his own protection because he had joined a drug-dealing gang.

Sprawled on a sofa he recounted, with obvious enjoyment, a situation where he had separated two boys fighting and then been bitten on the arm for his trouble.

Compliant'I bounced his head off the f***ing wall,' he boasted. In a later interview when I suggested his swearing was disrespectful, he demonstrated how quickly his mood can turn. 'Who the f*** do you think you are?' he shouted before standing up, ripping off his microphone and kicking the walls. Nothing I said afterwards could rescue the situation.

And although we regard children as more malleable than adults, that is not always the case. Amy joined Vinney Green after leaving her job at an open prison where offenders were preparing for release. 'The guys that I worked with before were a lot more compliant,' she reflected.

'Here, they present me with a lot more difficult behaviour. People who are young often don't have an awareness of their situation. A lot of them are caught up in gang culture and the people they hang around with have a massive influence on them.
'They use violence as a way of gaining acceptance in peer groups and they find it exciting. It can be very hard to work with that.'

There are breakthroughs, though. Jess, a small, slight, very pretty girl with huge brown eyes and a mane of straight black hair is 14 and has been at Vinney Green since January. She has made such good progress that she will soon move on. Her criminal record dates back to when she was 12 and attacked a shopkeeper who accused her of theft.

'The shopkeeper grabbed me by my shoulders and threw me out. I started booting the door, the shopkeeper locked it, but I was shouting "I'm gonna get in". And it ended with me sticking my leg through the window. I cut up all my leg, but I was still going mad.'

Gang cultureJess went on to commit arson and assault, and earned a reputation for attacking adults trying to help her - including a foster mother, who she punched in the face.

She described how at Vinney Green she learned to recognise the triggers to her anger and discovered how to back off. 'In here,' she added proudly, 'the staff care about you and they are really good. They haven't had to restrain me once.'

For staff such as resettlement officer Tina Morgan, the biggest anxiety is what happens to children when they leave. 'We have one boy here who can be very difficult, but he has come on leaps and bounds. He has two brothers in prison and his dad has been serving a long stretch,' she says.

'How do you stop that cycle? It's all he knows. When he gets out in October, that is what he is going back to. You just have to keep going and do what you can.'

The other limitation is money. New plans drawn up by Tina are often rejected by social services teams in areas where funding is tight. Secure units, with their high staff ratios of four per child, are an expensive option compared to young offenders institutions which typically house hundreds at a time.

So is the investment in secure units worthwhile for any but the most dangerous children? One thing is certain: these units are disappearing - and fast.

A period of rapid growth in the early Nineties - designed to deliver a new get-tough policy towards very young prolific offenders, the children police describe as 'mobile, mini crimewaves' - has been followed by an equally swift contraction.

'I used to get stoned...and come in and smash the house up'

There are 19 secure units remaining in England and Wales, compared with 28 four years ago and more closures are planned.

A recent report for the Government looked at why the units are closing and put it down to two factors: cost and ideology.

Places are expensive, typically £500 a night. And some social workers now regard locking up children as a failure and a breach of children's human rights. The authors warned that if the closures are allowed to continue, the danger is that some children will be denied secure care - when that is just what they need.

We traced one boy whose experience suggests that it is worth keeping the units open. He is 16 and has a criminal record for assault, attacking a police officer, carrying a knife, criminal damage and breach of an Antisocial Behaviour Order.

'We used to get bored and drink and stuff, and then we would go out and some people would rob cars, some people would smash things up. We just didn't care,' he said. 'I used to get stoned on cannabis and come in and smash the house up. My mates were like my family, and I loved it.'

He was sentenced to a year's youth custody for a serious wounding and transferred to Vinney Green from a Young Offenders Institution after he tried to take his own life. Six months later, he emerged skilled in bricklaying and plastering and has since begun a college course.

'It was the first time in my life that I was good at something, that I could see a future for myself that didn't involve always being in trouble,' he says.

Of course, this is not firm evidence that secure units are worth saving, but it is vital that we do not allow them to be abandoned without proper evaluation.
If we do, we may all end up paying the price.

• WINIFRED ROBINSON'S Inside The Child Prisons: Episode Two is on BBC Radio 4 on Monday, April 20 at 8pm. Episode one is available on the BBC iPlayer. ..News Source.. by Winifred Robinson

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TX- Texas man who died prison officially cleared of rape charge

4-28-2009 Texas:

A judge in a Travis County courtroom has formally cleared the name of a man wrongfully convicted of rape.

Timothy Cole died in prison in 1999 – 13 years into a 25 year sentence for the sexual assault of a Texas Tech University student.

Family members of Tim Cole said after Tuesday's hearing they’re pushing for new laws to be enacted at the State Capitol, as they mark the end of a two decade struggle for justice.

"The evidence is crystal clear that Timothy Cole died in prison an innocent man," said State District Judge Charles Baird, who formally exonerated Cole on Tuesday, after listening to testimony in the case in February.

DNA tests performed last year showed Cole was not the rapist, and those results implicated a man already in prison - who confessed to the crime in the mid-90s but was ignored by authorities in Lubbock County.

Four years after Jerry Wayne Johnson admitted he was the rapist – Cole died in prison from complications after an asthma attack.

But even with Tuesday's exoneration – Cole’s loved ones say their crusade is not over. They’re meeting with Governor Perry on Wednesday.

Cole's mother, Ruby Session, said she is "praying that he will sign the formal pardon. Tim has not been pardoned yet, because there’s no provision for someone who is deceased."

There is legislation calling for posthumous pardons that’s currently under consideration at the Capitol. Lawmakers are also considering measures to compensate posthumous exonerees’ families and provide living exonerees more benefits. Another bill calls for ensuring fair lineup procedures, which Judge Baird says did not happen in Cole's case. Cole's picture was different than the others shown to the victim in the photo lineup.

Cole’s loved ones say they're disappointed this exoneration had to happen in a Travis County court – a judge in Lubbock denied the request for a hearing. ..News Source.. by Reporter: Alexis Patterson

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April 27, 2009

VT- Man denies guilt in offender registry case

What is interesting here is, apparently in Vermont if one is homeless they are required to check-in with police DAILY which is totally absurd. Consider this, if one is NOT homless and on the registry, the police allegedly know where he MAY BE sleeping (his registered address), but the police do not know where he is any other time of day. What is so special about homeless offenders that the police must know daily where they have been? What we have is a case of discrimination!

4-27-2009 Vermont:

BENNINGTON – A man who has prior convictions for robbery, federal charges of gun possession and sex crimes was arraigned on Tuesday after police said he lied to local police and the Vermont Sex Offender Registry about where he was living.

Jamie R. Dunnells, 36, whose address is listed in court documents as Manchester, pleaded innocent in Bennington District Court on Tuesday to three misdemeanor charges of failing to comply with the Vermont Sex Offender Registry.

In an affidavit, Bennington Police Detective Lawrence Cole said Dunnells was convicted of sexual assault on a person younger than 16 in Windsor District Court in August 2001.

Dunnells was convicted of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl in 1996 in Bethel and sentenced to serve four to 12 years, but the sentence was to run at the same time as sentences from the federal court and the court in New York.

In 1997, Dunnells and his brother, Terry E. Dunnells, robbed a Stewart's convenience store in Hoosick, N.Y. Dunnells pointed an unloaded .22 caliber rifle at employees while his brother grabbed money from the back room, according to police.

Dunnells was convicted in New York of second-degree armed robbery in 1998.

He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2000 after he pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm while a convicted felon.

Dunnells "failed to report for supervised release as required" in November 2007 and was ordered to serve another year.

After being released from federal prison in November, Dunnells came to Bennington where he told officials at the Vermont Sex Offender Registry and Cole that he would be homeless.

Dunnells was required to check in daily and did so until March 31, but Cole said police learned that Dunnells had not been in the places where he said he stayed.

Cole said Dunnells had reported spending the night in a "smoking hut" on the grounds of the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington.

A Bennington police officer checked the area on March 24 and 25 and never saw Dunnells. Security officers from the hospital said they had never seen anyone in the smoking hut overnight either.

At the end of March, Dunnells told officials at the Vermont Sex Offender Registry that he was staying with his girlfriend on North Bennington Road.

Cole said he investigated the home and found that Dunnells had stayed there several times when he said was staying somewhere else.

According to Cole, Dunnells said he was concerned that if he admitted to staying with his girlfriend, it would affect the amount of financial support she received from the state.

When Dunnells was released from prison at the end of last year, Essex Police, believing he planned to live there while homeless, issued a release calling him a high-risk sex offender. While Dunnells is listed as "noncompliant" with treatment on the Vermont Sex Offender Registry, he is not described as high risk.

Dunnells was released without bail on Tuesday. If convicted of the charges against him, he could be sentenced to up to six years in prison. ..News Source.. by PATRICK McARDLE STAFF WRITER

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MI- Another murder by the drunks

4-27-2009 Michigan:

Apparently our system thinks it is a joke to have drunken drivers out there driving. There is no two ways about it, it is murder!! There has to be stiffer penalties for those driving intoxicated. If our lawmakers and our judges don't mind people getting killed on the road, we will continue as we are.

Instead of raising everyone's taxes, charge $5,000 for every drunken driving charge, including our elected officials. If we would let our police officers park down the street from the beer holes and arrest those driving drunk, we would have less funerals and maimed people. It would also increase our county and state revenue.

A person that has a minor sex offense has to register as a sex offender. Why don't we make a person that has had a DUI drive only a car with an orange plate and if they violate that, the punishment gets stiffer. Another way is to sentence them to mowing and fertilizing the grass around the cemetery lot of one murdered by a drunken driver. Or better yet, they can mow all the cemeteries in the county. That would save our taxpayers some more money.

So, are we going to be weaklings on these crimes? More than likely we will, because it only kills, injures, batters spouses, children, destroys property and causes divorce and unpaid child support.

By the way, I will be attending another hearing in our county courtroom May 14 of yet another murder by a drunken driver. Oh yes, last week five children died in Texas from a drunken driver. The week before, a pro baseball player and his two friends were murdered by another drunken driver.

Yes, isn't booze great?? Let's party!! ..Source.. by Doug Damon

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CO- Sexting mom nabs child predator

4-27-2009 Colorado:

When 19-year-old Derek Peisert propositioned a pair of 16- and 14-year old girls for sex, their mom wasn’t going to let him get away with it. She obtained his cell phone number and, pretending to be a 14-year-old girl, exchanging text messages with him.

The messages turned sexual in nature – often referred to as ‘sexting’ – and a clandestine meeting was arranged at a Loveland park late Friday night.

When Peisert showed up for the sexual encounter with the fictional 14-year-old, police were waiting for him. He was taken into custody without incident and booked on charges of child enticement and attempted sex assault on a child.

The woman and her daughters have not been named. Whoever this mom is, kudos to her for turning the tables on a child abuser. If you suspect child abuse is happening to a child you know, think of the sexting mom and do something – now. ..News Source..

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NC- 'You can't change the past. You just have to live with it'

4-27-2009 North Carolina:

Prisoner bides his time, finds a wife and is reunited with his daughters

Larry Murphy said he was shocked when a jury convicted him in April 1989 of sexually abusing his daughter.

He still struggles to understand his daughter Julie, who was 10 when she made the accusation.

"We were having a lot of arguments then," he said. "As to why she did it … her description was too graphic for her not to have been abused."

He believes, as his daughter would say years later, that she was targeting him for something that had happened months earlier, when she was living with her mother and her mother's boyfriend in Iowa -- before Murphy won a custody battle and took Julie and her sister, Stephanie, then 7, back to Yadkin County.

The case rested solely on Julie's words. No investigation, for example, was ever done of the mother's boyfriend, who months earlier had been found to have physically abused both girls.

Murphy wound up receiving three life sentences and three three-year sentences to be served concurrently.

After his conviction, Murphy began an appeals process. In 1990, the state Court of Appeals reversed his conviction on one count of first-degree sex offense for insufficient evidence. As the years went by, though, he ran out of appeals on the other convictions.

It was Julie Murphy's statement to a Yadkin prosecutor in 2002 that gave him hope.

She had sworn to the fact that she lied when she accused her father, and now said that it had been her mother's boyfriend who had sexually abused her.

Murphy had been in prison for 15 years when his motion for appropriate relief came before Superior Court Judge Melzer A. Morgan Jr. in 2004.

The only issue was Julie's recantation.

The prosecution made its case by presenting testimony from a psychologist who theorized that Julie suffered from "child sex abuse accommodation syndrome," one of whose key symptoms is denial. In short, the theory was that her recantation as an adult was a form of denial that she had been sexually abused or that her father did it. Under the theory, her new statement also represented an effort by her to restore a family relationship.

Richard McAnulty, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at UNC Charlotte, said he believes that the child-sex-abuse accommodation syndrome cited was a concept more in vogue in the late 1980s and early '90s, when hysteria about sex abuse at day-care centers nationwide led to some false allegations. One such case occurred in January 1989 at the Little Rascals Day Care Center in Edenton, where several people were accused, only to later see prosecutors drop all charges.

The child-sex-abuse accommodation syndrome is fraught with difficulties, both conceptual and empirical, said Stephen Ceci, a professor of developmental psychology at Cornell University who studies the accuracy of children's courtroom testimony in cases of physical and sexual abuse.

Some parts of child-sex-abuse accommodation syndrome are reasonably well supported by science, such as the idea that abused individuals often delay disclosing their abuse for very long periods.

In the Murphy case, the syndrome probably is of little relevance because Julie made a disclosure and then substituted another perpetrator, Ceci said.

"This is not to say she wasn't abused, or even abused by her father in the manner she alleged, but merely that there is no scientific basis for deciding which of her myriad assertions should be believed and which should not," he said.

"In such a situation, there is no magic bullet as far as science is concerned," he said. "The court must judge the case on its assessment of Julie's credibility, not on some presumed lurking underlying syndrome, especially one of dubious validity."

On April 7, 2004, Morgan denied Murphy's motion for appropriate relief, in effect deciding that Julie Murphy's statement as a 10-year-old was more credible than her assertion as an adult.

Yadkin County District Attorney Tom Horner said he believes that justice was done.

"Obviously, the evidence was heard by both sides.... Judge Morgan is as thorough a jurist as I ever tried in front of," Horner said. "Over time, obviously, you have issues with different motivations coming into play potentially. I think the judge factored all that in."

Murphy remains at Albemarle Correctional Institution, where he has been eligible for parole since January.

Sisters separated

Julie's younger sister, Stephanie, was adopted separately from Julie. She eventually changed her name to Torrie Root.

Today, Root, who lives in Asheville, has a daughter of her own and works for a company that puts together trade shows. She said she remembers nothing about the weekend in January 1989 when Julie alleges that the abuse occurred.

She said she doesn't believe that her father did anything to Julie. She did say she and her sister were physically abused by their mother's boyfriend.

"I honestly have blocked out our horrible childhood only because of the stuff that happened in Iowa with our mother," Root said.

For years, the sisters were estranged; Root said there was a good reason why they were not adopted together.

"Even to this day, Julie still has her own set of issues,'' Root said. "A lot of it stems from her needing and wanting to be the center of attention."

Indeed, in the years after her father's conviction, Julie Murphy was placed in several foster homes, only to have families ask that she be removed or to run away. She assaulted one foster parent.

She said she told social workers that she lied about her father abusing her long before her 2002 statement.

One such report was documented by Sherry Brock, a Yadkin County social worker, in November 1991, just two years after Larry Murphy went to prison.

"She tells lies to an extreme that we are not exactly sure to what degree the sexual abuse from her biological father occurred," Brock wrote.

What witnesses remember

The legal system is set up to assume that when a jury hears a case, it does so when events are freshest in witnesses' minds.

It shouldn't be easy to bring these cases back, said Kendra Montgomery-Blinn, a former prosecutor in Durham who is now the executive director of the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission.

"Of course, you don't want to just be able to throw out what a jury has heard," Montgomery-Blinn said. "If there's new evidence, maybe the jury's decision would have been different if they would have had this evidence."

Recantations are tough, though, because they raise so many questions, Montgomery-Blinn said.

What are the other motives behind a recantation? Is the victim's memory better now? Were they so young when making an initial statement that they really didn't remember? Or could they have gotten things confused? Or deliberately lied to punish someone, as children sometimes do?

They might even have been telling the truth both times, she said.

"Something happens to you when you're very young, as time goes on your memory does change. It means literally they are both trying to get the truth out both times."

In a recent interview, Julie Murphy said from her home in Jasper, Ala., that she has memories from a very young age of getting in bed with her mother and her mother's boyfriend in Iowa in 1988. And things would happen to her, she said. She would be touched and rubbed, she said.

At the time, she said, her mother had her call the boyfriend "Daddy." Neither Julie's mother nor her former boyfriend could be located for this story. Neither sister has had contact with their mother in at least 10 years, and they said they don't know where she is.

Julie said she had nightmares about the abuse while she was at her father's house after he was awarded custody in 1988. The nightmares were so real that she thought the abuse was still happening, she said, which is why said made the allegations about her father. That's what she had figured out by 2002 when she wrote the letter to the Yadkin County district attorney's office recanting her allegations against her father, she said.

At the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commision, a state agency established in August 2006 to investigate claims of innocence, about 425 prisoners have applied to have their cases reviewed, and 123 cases are in review. About 21 percent of those who apply are child-sex-abuse offenders, second only to those convicted of murder.

One of the two cases the commission has reviewed, and which led to a court hearing, involved a child-sex case in which a victim recanted. The hearing did not result in a verdict being overturned, Montgomery-Blinn said. But the former Greenville police officer who was convicted is pursuing a motion for appropriate relief based on newly discovered evidence, and the defense also is claiming ineffective counsel.

"Usually, with child-sex-abuse cases, the child says this happened, the adult says this didn't happen," Montgomery-Blinn said. "There's not a lot of physical evidence because the child doesn't come forward right away. It's our hardest one to look at."

Larry Murphy's case is not unusual, Montgomery-Blinn said. Cases such as this, in which another person is later accused, are as frequent as those in which defendants or victims claim there was never any abuse.

What is different about the Murphy case, Montgomery-Blinn acknowledged, is that the victim is leading the way.

Julie Murphy contacted the innocence inquiry commission about her father's case after Morgan denied her father's motion for appropriate relief in 2004. The commission declined to consider the case.

Mongomery-Blinn said that despite the daughter's stance, there was nothing new for the commission to consider beyond what Morgan had already ruled on, which is its criteria for considering whether to take a case.

Working on the case

These days, Julie Murphy has made working on her father's case a top priority.

She is on disability and is being treated for bipolar disorder and depression, but she spends much of her time keeping family members up to date about her father's parole eligibility.

She knows that even if the state paroles her father, he'll never have his full freedom.

"He'll be a registered sex offender the rest of his life," she said. "No matter what, he still has love and his eyes still twinkle. I also cry, too, because it's bittersweet."

Interviewed at Albemarle, Murphy said life in prison has been tough, especially when other inmates find out he's a convicted sex offender.

"I don't make it a secret. I don't have secrets," he said. He's had death threats, he said, but never been physically attacked.

He is now in a geriatric program, which means that he lives and works around other inmates who are 55 and older. They play games and do some arts and crafts. He reads a lot of military-history books and Tom Clancy novels in his spare time.

He has begun to think about how he will resume his life if he wins parole. He's engaged to a woman named Rose Mary Engel, whom he met in 1993 while she was visiting a family member at the prison.

Engel said she and her first husband, David "Tiny" Engel, believed that Murphy was innocent from the first time they talked. David Engel began to write Murphy letters, believing they could help by being his friend. When David Engel died in 2005, Rose Mary Engel continued writing to Murphy. A deeper friendship developed, then love.

"I never expected it," Engel said.

She said she knows that if Murphy is paroled, he will be a registered sex offender, but the thought doesn't bother her because she believes in his innocence. She already has June 6 as a wedding date if he is paroled, because both of their parents were married on that date. And she hopes for them to live at her home near Asheboro.

It was Engel who, after developing the friendship with Murphy, eventually got in touch with both of his daughters. She used e-mail to keep everyone in the family up to date.

Engel met Julie when she visited her father for the first time in prison in the fall of 2007.

It was an emotional reunion, Larry Murphy said.

"It was easy to recognize her," he said. "She was scared coming in."

They both cried. Julie and Torrie, who also have resumed their relationship and are closer, visit their father every few months, as well as keep in touch with each other.

Murphy said he has forgiven Julie but hasn't made peace with all that has happened.

"You can't change the past. You just have to live with it," Murphy said. "The anger will probably go to spading up a garden." ..News Source.. by Sherry Youngquist | Journal Reporter

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