Sunday, June 3, 2007

Sex peddled as power in pornified girl culture

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06/03/2007

Does the trend build confidence in young women — or diminish it?

CHICAGO - Porn used to be relegated to a video hidden in the bottom drawer, or a magazine under the mattress. Today, it’s part of everyday life.

Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends have become TV’s “girls next door.” Porn stars have MySpace pages and do voiceovers for video games. And while “porn on demand” is standard for hotel TVs and upgraded cable packages, it’s even easier to find it with a few clicks on the computer.

In April, more than a third of the U.S. Internet audience visited sites that fit into the online “adult” category, according to comScore Media Metrix.

So the message is clear: In today’s world, sex doesn’t just sell. The pervasiveness of porn has made sexiness — from subtle to raunchy — a much-sought-after attribute online, at school and even at work.

Many agree that the trend has had a particularly strong influence on young women — in some cases, taking shape as an unapologetic embracing of sexuality and exhibitionism.

“I am one of those girls,” says Holly Eglinton, a 31-year-old Canadian who recently won a talent search competition to appear as an unclothed newscaster on the Internet’s “Naked News.” She auditioned after meeting a producer for the show on a social networking site where she’s posted provocative photos of herself — an increasingly common practice.

For Eglinton, taking off her clothes for an Internet audience was freeing, fun and a little rebellious.

“It’s something that sort of suits my personality,” she says. “I’m kind of an extrovert and a bit of a camera hog, a poser.”

It’s a prevalent sentiment in our look-at-me culture. But many wonder if it really is empowering, especially for younger women and girls who try to emulate what’s already on the Web.

Too often, educators and health professionals say, the results are cases of “Girls Gone Wild” — gone wild.

Michael Simon, a therapist and high school counselor in the San Francisco Bay area, has seen an increasing number of girls and young women in his private practice after episodes in which they undressed or masturbated in front of a Web cam for people they met online.

“Instead of pornography or performative sexuality being one choice among many ways of being sexual, it’s essentially become the standard of sexiness,” says Simon. “It’s also the standard by which a man or woman is a prude, depending on how much they embrace that kind of sexuality.”

Yvonne K. Fulbright, a sexologist and author who co-hosts the “Sex Files” program on Sirius satellite radio, also has seen the shift in attitude.

She’s posted messages on Craigslist looking for people who want to comment on various topics for the show — and, instead, often receives responses from young women who send descriptions of their breast and waist sizes.

“They’re under the impression that they can be the next big thing,” Fulbright says. “Unfortunately, for a lot of females that means taking off your clothes and being sexual.

“It’s a really warped sense of what it means to be sexy.”

Indeed, there was a time when dancing for the masses in barely there outfits was the realm of music video stars and strippers. Then the Internet and reality TV came along, providing new platforms for young women to flaunt it for a shot at fame.

In one hit prime-time series, for instance, eager young contestants perform soft-core porn dance routines in hopes of becoming the next member of The Pussycat Dolls singing group.

The fascination with being “hot” also has made its way into the workplace, where confidence is often conveyed in the way one looks and dresses.

“I would say that, in the world of Washington, D.C., power brokers, it’s important to be sexy, but in a more sophisticated, muted way,” says Charles Small, a 25-year-old young professional who works in the nation’s capital. That’s in contrast, he says, to cities such as Los Angeles and Miami, “where overt sexiness is more the status quo.”

Some employers — taken aback by the trend — have responded by setting tougher dress codes. Many school administrators have done the same.

“As a high school teacher, I see 14-year-old girls dressing in a way that makes me shake my head. Where do they get that?” asks Dennis Brown, an educator and parent in Huntley, Ill., outside Chicago.

Recently, he says his own 5-year-old daughter proclaimed, “Daddy, I look fat.”

“And I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, here we go,”’ he says. “Now I have to start deconstructing that mind-set.”

It’s a big topic of discussion among researchers. A 2007 report from the American Psychological Association compiled the findings of myriad studies, showing that the sexualization of young women and girls, in particular, can hurt them in many ways. Problems can include anything from low self-esteem and eating disorders to depression and anxiety.

Simon, the California therapist, has seen those symptoms in several of his young female patients.

While boys tend to seek out porn for their own sexual pleasure, he sees a sexual disconnect with girls who exhibit provocative behavior they’re not ready for — from undressing online to performing oral sex on boys.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with their sexual pleasure,” says Simon. “It has to do with pleasing somebody else — the grasping for attention.

“As a parent, it makes me want to cry.”

And while they tell him they feel empowered, too often, he says they end up getting pegged as “sluts.”

Julie Albright, a sociologist at the University of Southern California, has noted that dynamic in her research. She’s working on a book about “players,” men who juggle more than one sex partner and earn a title of esteem for behavior that much of society still frowns upon for women.

“If you ‘act like a man,’ in that sense, you’re trying to grab hold of that same kind of power, that same kind of lifestyle — and claim male privilege,” Albright says.

“The problem is, you’re still female and it’s still a man’s world.”

Anna Stanley, a 25-year-old in Madison, Wis., knows all about that double standard. She also wonders if she and her peers place too much importance on the power of sexiness.

“It seems like it stems out of the ‘Girl Power’ thing of the ‘90s gone awry — men objectify us, so let’s objectify ourselves and get something out of it. It’s not really progress,” she says. “But it’s something I have mixed feelings about — because sometimes I do it, too.

“Sometimes you do dress up to get noticed and attention, and you do feel more confident when you do that.”

She wishes there was more focus on helping women develop a healthy sense of their own sexuality.

Missy Suicide — founder of the “Suicide Girls” pinup Web site — couldn’t agree more.

“I think that women shouldn’t be afraid of their sexuality. It’s a part of who we are. You shouldn’t be embarrassed and ashamed of your body and yourself,” says the 29-year-old entrepreneur, who lives in Los Angeles. But, she says, it shouldn’t be the sole focus.

She and the women on her site are known for challenging the stereotypes of beauty, with their tattoos and piercings and varying body types.

“I get messages from girls all the time saying they never felt beautiful before because they never saw girls like themselves in magazines or on TV. Then they saw a girl like them on ‘Suicide Girls,”’ she says of the site, an online community that attracts a worldwide audience of both admirers and women who want to become nude pinups.

Victoria Sinclair, the lead anchor on “Naked News,” also sees herself as a role model. She left a job in the corporate world to join the show as lead anchor in 1999 — and never looked back.

“Sometimes, there are moments when I think, ‘Oh my goodness what am I doing?”’ says Sinclair, who recently turned 40. “But I’m really OK with it.”

She says it works for her because she has control over what she does on the show and has been allowed to age gracefully, without plastic surgery.

Still, many skeptics remain.

“To be sure, it can make you feel powerful to know that you are arousing strong feelings in other people, that you have their attention and admiration,” says Eileen Zurbriggen, a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who helped compile the APA report.

“This is the same sense of power experienced by charismatic rock stars and politicians. But politicians also wield other kinds of power. They can make actual changes to the legal, economic, and geopolitical landscapes — changes that have far-ranging impacts.

“Women,” she says, “might be better off developing other sources of power.”


Victims’ Rights and Law Enforcement Groups File Amicus Brief Urging Ohio




Cincinnati, Ohio – Several victims' rights and law enforcement groups joined forces to file an amicus (or friend of court) brief on behalf of Hamilton County resident Gerry Porter, a sex offender, whose case is before the Ohio Supreme Court. In October 2005, Mr. Porter was forced to move from his home pursuant to Ohio's sex offender residency restriction, which forbids sex offenders from living within 1000 feet of schools.

Signing onto the brief were the following organizations: the Jacob Wetterling Foundation, the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA), the Iowa County Attorneys Association, the Iowa State Sheriffs & Deputies Association, the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault and the Rosenthal Institute for Justice at the University of Cincinnati College of Law.

The amicus brief argues three things: (1) that there is no evidence that sex offender residence restrictions protect children from sexual abuse; (2) that such laws are driven by fear, not facts; and (3) that these laws potentially increase the risk of harm to children by giving parents and their children a false sense of security and by driving sex offenders "underground," where they are more difficult to monitor by law enforcement.

"We welcome this brief," says David Singleton, who is representing Mr. Porter in the Ohio Supreme Court. These laws do not protect our children and actually have made things worse. Look at the situation in Iowa," Singleton added.

Singleton is referring to the recent call by the Iowa County Attorneys Association and the Iowa State Sheriffs and Deputies Association to repeal Iowa's sex offender residency law because of all of the unintended consequences, including the difficulty monitoring the whereabouts of sex offenders who have been forced to move and have dropped off the registry.

The Jacob Wetterling Foundation is a victim advocacy agency that was established in 1990 after eleven-year-old Jacob was abducted near his home. The Wetterling Foundation was instrumental in passing Jacob's Law in 1996, which facilitated the registration of convicted sex offenders in all states.


Hustler offers $1 million for sex smut on Congress

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06/03/2007

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Hustler magazine is looking for some scandalous sex in Washington again -- and willing to pay for it.

"Have you had a sexual encounter with a current member of the United States Congress or a high-ranking government official?" read a full-page advertisement taken out by Larry Flynt's pornographic magazine in Sunday's Washington Post.

It offered $1 million for documented evidence of illicit intimate relations with a congressman, senator or other prominent officeholder. A toll-free number and e-mail address were provided.

The last time Flynt made such an offer was in October 1998 during the drive to impeach President Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

In the following months, the pornographic publishing mogul threatened to expose one or two members of the Republican Congress pushing for the impeachment, according to media reports at the time.

That long-awaited expose, published months after Clinton's trial, dropped no bombshells, according to a 1999 Slate.com article, but Flynt's efforts played a role in the resignation of House-speaker designate Bob Livingston of Louisiana.

Flynt's target this time, if he has one, was not immediately known.


'Sometimes I wonder if death ain't better'

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06/03/2007

Inmate still maintains innocence 16 years after being convicted of kidnapping and raping three women.

FAIRBORN — After 16 years, Roger and Juana Gillispie of Fairborn know better than to dream too much about their son getting out of prison.

But as Roger Dean Gillispie's case went before the Ohio Parole Board this spring, his parents allowed themselves a sliver of hope. After all, Mark Godsey, a former federal prosecutor, had given the board a thick binder of material, detailing weaknesses in the original case, unearthing circumstantial evidence pointing to another suspect and illustrating Gillispie's unparalleled community support — eight job offers if he were released.

The binder reflected nearly four years' worth of research by the Ohio Innocence Project, a legal clinic at the University of Cincinnati law school that has freed other inmates, including Clarence Elkins.

But unlike Elkins, who was released from prison after DNA evidence implicated another man in the murder and rape of his mother-in-law and rape of his 6-year-old niece, Gillispie doesn't have scientific evidence to fall back on.

And at least so far, that's meant he hasn't had a prayer.

"It's been hell for us," Juana Gillispie said shortly before the Ohio Parole Board denied her son's release in May. "It's like someone comes and just legally kidnaps your child. And every day in the world, you're dealing with the kidnappers trying to get information that they should have found themselves."

Perhaps only Roger Dean Gillispie knows for sure whether he kidnapped and raped three area women in 1988. But his case illustrates the long road ahead for inmates who insist they're innocent but can't use DNA to bolster their cases. In Gillispie's case, biological evidence collected nearly 20 years ago is already tested and proved inconclusive or is long gone. A semen-stained T-shirt was returned to the victims years ago, before anyone knew how sophisticated DNA testing technology would become.

Martin Yant, a Columbus-based private investigator who specializes in wrongful convictions, estimates it's 10 times more difficult to prove innocence without DNA testing.

"The more DNA is successful, the more it seems the system is not going to listen to people who don't have DNA (evidence.) It's sort of a two-edged sword," Yant says.

In 1991, a Montgomery County jury found Gillispie guilty of kidnapping twin sisters at gunpoint from a strip mall and raping them on Aug. 20, 1988. He was also convicted of a third woman's rape and kidnapping that occurred on Aug. 5, 1988.

Defense attorney Dennis Lieberman got him a second trial when untested evidence surfaced just after the first trial. Although no physical evidence tied Gillispie to the crimes, jurors gave more weight to the emotional, detailed testimony of the three victims, all of whom identified Gillispie as the rapist. The second jury found Gillispie guilty too.

Montgomery County Assistant Prosecutor Paul Folfas, who tried the case both times and opposed parole, said there's been no mistake: Gillispie is the attacker.

"We could argue this case forever. But the fact is we argued this case twice. Twenty-four people convicted this particular individual in a very well-tried defense by the two defense attorneys," Folfas said. "It was not a slipshod defense. It was an excellent defense. The jury was still convinced beyond a reasonable doubt to convict this man. And it was affirmed on appeal too."

Gillispie has steadfastly maintained his innocence, even as it appeared to hurt his chances for parole. An inmate who doesn't admit responsibility for the crime is not likely to get out on his first try for parole, attorneys and former prisoners say.

Gillispie, 42, says, "If I wanted to admit something, I'd have admitted it back when they offered me 30 days in jail. Take 30 days, plead it down. Well I didn't do nothing. I didn't do nothing. Why would I say I done something that I didn't do?"

In denying his request for parole, the Parole Board set the next hearing for Feb. 1, 2011, which would mark Gillispie's 20th year in prison. But there's a chance the board will reconsider. One of the reasons the board gave for denying parole this time is that Gillispie did not participate in a sex offender program — when, in fact, he had.

Chairwoman Cynthia Mausser confirmed that Gillispie completed a short mandated program, a fact she said she would bring to the board's attention when it meets June 11 and 12. Mausser said the board will then vote whether to rehear the case, although she said she personally doesn't think it merits a rehearing.

Aug. 20, 1988

The kidnapping happened so fast no one even saw the gunman get into the car. The 22-year-old twin sisters from Sidney were on a mission to buy a bridal shower gift near the Dayton Mall when, at about 7 p.m., they ducked into a store on Springboro Pike, leaving empty-handed a few minutes later.

As they hopped into their car, they were approached by a man about 6-foot, 3-inches tall and 250 pounds who said he was from store security. In a matter of seconds, the man pushed his way into the backseat, pulled out a small, silver handgun and jabbed it against one sister's right ribs.

"I need a ride out of town. I want to go to Columbus," the man said, smelling of alcohol. While the one sister drove, the other sister stole brief glances at the man's face and began committing details to memory: mustache, brown hair that curls at the end and has a reddish tint, wide face, suntanned, acne along the jaw, bushy eyebrows above the large sunglasses that hid his eyes.

"If you do everything I say, I won't hurt you or kill you," the man said again and again.

When they came to Bear Creek bridge in northwest Miami Twp., he ordered them out of the car, grabbed two bandanas from the rearview mirror and marched the sisters single file more than 60 yards into heavily secluded woods.

No one saw them. No one heard them.

After forcing them to perform oral sex on him, the rapist blindfolded the sisters and walked them back to the car, told them to lie down in the back seat, and made small talk as he drove them back to the mall parking lot — asking about their jobs and love lives as though he had just met them in a bar.

He parceled out details about himself as well, saying his name was Roger, that he was a contract killer from Columbus and Corpus Christi, Texas, and that he was raped by his grandfather at age 12.

"I'm going to leave the radio on," he told them after pulling to a stop and rifling through their purses. "After two songs play, you can get up. ... If you bob your heads before that, I'll kill you."

Fearful he might be watching them, the twins didn't go to the police. Instead, they drove to a nearby gas station for soda pop and cigarettes, and then went home to Sidney. Their father drove them to the Miami Twp. police station at about 1 a.m., and within a few days, the police had a composite drawing of the attacker.

After the media picked up the sensational story, a Harrison Twp. woman reported that she too had been forced at gunpoint by an attacker to drive from a strip mall to a secluded area and perform oral sex. Her attacker smoked, wore a gold medallion around his neck, and was tall, heavy, very tan, and mustached.

Police concluded the same man pulled off both attacks.

'You've got the wrong person here'

Despite all the initial publicity, the case went cold.

Then, after nearly two years, the investigation took a turn. Rick Wolfe, a GM security supervisor at Harrison Radiator where Gillispie worked as a part-time guard, handed over Gillispie's employee ID photo to Miami Twp. Police Officer Scott Moore. Wolfe, a former Miami Twp. cop himself, said co-workers thought Gillispie, who had just been fired, resembled the composite drawing.

Moore passed it along to Detectives Gary Bailey and Steve Fritz, who quickly ruled Gillispie out as a suspect: He didn't fit the physical description and had no criminal history. By mid-June, though, Fritz had left the department to become a private detective and Bailey had retired. It was Moore's turn to take a crack at the case, and he decided to put Gillispie back on the suspect list.

Moore assembled a photo lineup and called the twins in for a look, telling them he had a possible suspect. In the lineup, Gillispie's photo was all but circled and starred. His face was bigger in the frame than most of the others, the photo was on a yellow background and it was a matte finish. The other photos were on blue backgrounds and were glossy.

With Moore beside her, one of the twins picked out Gillispie, initially saying she was 90 percent sure. The next morning, she drove her sister to the station to look at the same photos. She, too, picked out Gillispie. Moore then visited the Harrison Twp. woman in her home and she picked out Gillispie as well.

Meanwhile, every time Moore tried to reach his suspect, he was told he was camping in Kentucky. When he finally sent a letter threatening Gillispie with arrest if he didn't show up for questioning, Gillispie went to the police station — without a lawyer.

A month later, Gillispie was sitting on his front porch on Spruce Drive when five Fairborn police cars screech to a halt in front of his house with their guns drawn.

Two friends fetched Juana Gillispie.

"What are you doing! What are you doing! You got the wrong person here," she yelled at the officers.

It is a refrain she would use for the next 16 years.

The trials

For a while, Gillispie's chances for an acquittal appeared strong. Fritz, the former Miami Twp. detective hired by Lieberman to dig into the two-year-old case, started uncovering things that convinced him Gillispie was innocent.

He thought the photo lineups were unreliable. Gillispie's photograph stood out, the sisters viewed the photos on different days — allowing one sister to tell the other which photo she picked — and there was a two-year gap between the crimes and photo lineup. Plus, the police department never arranged a physical lineup.

Gillispie also didn't resemble the victims' initial description of their attacker. The attacker had reddish-brown hair, no chest hair, a loud commanding voice, no accent, bushy eyebrows and a dark suntan. He was also a smoker, wore cologne and smelled of alcohol. Gillispie had brown hair that grayed at the sides, a cleft chin, thick chest hair, pale skin, a Kentucky drawl and rarely wore cologne. Friends say he rarely drank and never smoked.

Gillispie also is pretty sure he was camping in Kentucky the night the twins were attacked. But Lieberman struck out trying to prove Gillispie's alibi — in part because he couldn't find campground records from that weekend — and in the end, the eyewitness testimony from the victims was too much to overcome.

"That's him. I'll never forget that face," one of the sisters told the jury in the first trial.

Prison time

Now at London Correctional Institution, Gillispie busies himself with art projects, creating detailed dioramas of scenes now out of his reach: a corner gas station, a backwoods still, a restored Victorian home.

He's logged 12,000 hours of community service, organizing projects such as ordering and selling pies to inmates to raise $10,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation — volunteer work the Parole Board elected not to recognize.

And he hopes Godsey can win him a new trial, resigned to the reality that it's not promised and that even if it happened, there is no guarantee of the outcome.

Roger and Juana Gillispie have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on lawyers, telephone calls, prison visits and postage on packages. Their life savings is gone, and they're buried in debt.

They were relieved — and hopeful — when the Ohio Innocence Project agreed to take on Gillispie's case in 2003. Innocence Projects nationwide have freed more than 200 wrongfully convicted inmates.

But Godsey and his law students soon learned that the biological evidence in the Gillispie case either was returned to the victims or is long gone. Still, Godsey says he believes in Gillispie's innocence and is investigating a number of angles, including one involving another suspect.

Fritz, who now lives in Arizona, still shares tips with Godsey that he has received over the years. Among them: that an anonymous caller told him the real rapist was a guard at Lebanon Correctional Institution.

Fritz investigated the guard, confirming his job, interviewing his family members and finding him to be a dead ringer for how the twins described their attacker. Fritz also learned that guard had been arrested on Sept. 27, 1990, in Fairfield for an incident involving taking a drunken woman outside a bar to his apartment, pretending to be a police officer and handcuffing her. The case was dismissed when the woman refused to cooperate.

The man went to prison in 2001 after he was arrested for burglarizing his ex-girlfriend's house in Bellevue, Ky. When Godsey and his investigator tracked him down outside a halfway house in Kentucky, they became even more convinced that he should have been the prime suspect. He had a commanding voice, dark complexion and brown hair with a reddish tint. Although he claimed ignorance about the Gillispie case, he seemed overly curious about it, Godsey said, and referred to the "ladies" without the attorney once telling him there were multiple victims.

Folfas remains unconvinced, saying Godsey's information on the ex-prison guard is speculative and doesn't merit reopening the case.

"I understand why the family is fighting for (Gillispie) and what their beliefs are as far as him being innocent," Moore said. "I just find it hard to believe that he is innocent due to the fact that I have three victims, and all three positively identify him without issue and within taking no time at all."

Folfas echoes Moore.

All three victims saw the attacker up close, for a long time and in good lighting. "You go through something that traumatic, I'd think that would leave an indelible memory in your mind as to what this rapist did to you," Folfas said.

All three victims declined to comment for this story. But after reading Godsey's brief to the Parole Board, the twins' father said, "It looks to me like the man is innocent."

Godsey said he will keep fighting. His team will turn the binder submitted to the Parole Board into a motion for a new trial sometime this summer. After that, it could be Thanksgiving by the time the courts make a ruling.

Meanwhile, Gillispie yearns for a chance to reclaim his life.

"This is the worst thing you can do to anyone without killing them," he says. "Send them to prison for something they didn't do. Sometimes I wonder if death ain't better."


Sex Offender Bill Passed

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06/03/2007

The Nevada Senate has unanimously passed a bill to prevent certain sex offenders from living within one thousand feet of schools.

The bill now goes to the assembly. It mandates that out-of-state sex offenders moving to Nevada provide DNA samples to local authorities.

SB-471 also creates a GPS monitoring system for sex offenders. Under the proposal, only sex offenders who have committed serious crimes against children will be restricted from living near schools or areas where children gather, including parks, day care facilities and bus stops.


GPS tracking of offenders

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06/03/2007

Utah firm's TrackerPAL sets 'invisible fence'

SANDY — "Do you have permission to be outside of this area?" the operator asks, staring at the computer screen and talking into her headset.

After a moment of listening to the excuse, she frowns and makes a few mouse clicks.

"Your supervising officer will be notified," she says.

The man on the other end of the conversation is getting the bad news from the TrackerPAL device strapped to his ankle. He's stepped into an area designated out-of-bounds, and now he's being called on it.

The TrackerPAL is a newly released offender monitoring system that merges GPS, computer and cell phone technology in one tiny unit powered by a 20-hour battery.

"Let's take a sex offender," said Randy Olshen, the president of Utah-based SecureAlert, which makes and markets the TrackerPAL.

"They are told they need to stay away from schools and parks. So the officer goes into our software and sets exclusion zones around those areas," he said.

The small, blue, waterproof device straps to an offender's ankle and tracks their movements using GPS technology.

"They get near that park and, ultimately, they cross that invisible fence. It immediately sends an alarm to the monitoring center, and within a matter of a minute or two, the monitoring center is now on the line with them — live," Olshen said.

At a 24-hour monitoring center in Sandy, employees track dozens of offenders' whereabouts. If they step someplace they shouldn't, an alert pops up on the screen. The cell unit in the TrackerPAL allows operators and offenders to converse and can get police or probation officers involved. It also puts out a 95-decibel siren if the offender goes into a forbidden area or is hiding when the police are actively searching for them.

"At the end of the day, that immediate response helps them rethink whether they're going to re-offend or not," Olshen said.

SecureAlert started out making cell-based alert and GPS systems primarily for elderly people who fall and can't get up.

"We had an investor that was on a parole board in his state," said Peter Derrick, the company's marketing director. "He expressed frustration for what's currently out there."

That led to the creation of the TrackerPAL.

The software can customize out-of-bounds areas to include parks and schools. It can also be used to track curfew and whether someone is early or late to their job.

"It's a drug park. He's not supposed to be in this area," Heather Fischer said as she tracked a man on probation who just left a school zone in another state.

She placed a phone call to the local sheriff's office, alerting them about the status of the offender.

"These are our alarms that we get if they go somewhere they're not supposed to be," she said as she alternated between offender alarms. "Or if they have a zone and they leave early. We get an alarm if their battery starts getting low."

The TrackerPAL has been used as an electronic leash for gang members.

"They'll put exclusion zones around places that are gang hangouts," Derrick said. "To try to help keep them from getting together."

Olshen said they have tried to make the device tamper-proof. It has a heavy duty plastic strap with steel bands and a fiber-optic line inside that sends an alert to the monitoring center if it is messed with.

An offender can be tracked to within 50 meters, but the technology does have its limits.

"You do run into the limitation of the 'urban canyons.' You're in downtown New York and you're limited in the ability to see three satellites to get a location," Derrick said.

He said it makes it difficult to track, but not impossible. Olshen cautions that TrackerPAL cannot stop someone determined to commit a crime.

"There is no silver bullet. But that's not the majority. The majority are the people who comply," he said.

SecureAlert said the units cost about $400 apiece to make. They are offered to law enforcement agencies for $8 per person, per day. Compare that to the $65 average daily cost to house a person in jail, Olshen points out.

Former astronaut Lisa Nowak, who is accused of plotting to kidnap and kill a woman in a bizarre love triangle, is wearing a TrackerPAL. Olshen told the Deseret Morning News that at one point, he was talking with Paris Hilton's attorneys about equipping the heiress with a new accessory in lieu of jail time. Hilton has been ordered to serve at least 23 days behind bars.

The devices have been used on adult and juvenile probationers, but Olshen said the growth industry is sex offenders.

"A lot of the laws that have been passed are for sex offenders," he said. "The demand for using this technology on sex offenders is huge."

The TrackerPAL has been out for less than a year. A growing number of corrections departments, probation offices and police agencies across the nation are contracting to start using TrackerPAL systems. About 3,000 units are in 35 states scattered across the United States. Several hundred of them are used by the Utah Department of Corrections and the Utah County Sheriff's Office.

The Weber County Sheriff's Office recently acquired one for a probationer who is on home confinement.

"The man we have it on has some serious medical problems. It's hard to keep him in jail," Weber County Sheriff's Capt. Bert Holbrook said.

The sheriff's office is using it on a trial basis, but so far is having no problems with the device.

"I see no problem with it at this point," Holbrook said. "Probably for our minor offenders, it would be a good thing."

SecureAlert said it plans to expand its invention to alert victims of an offender's movements, such as domestic violence.

"The woman gets this," Olshen said, holding up a phone-like device near the TrackerPAL. "If he gets too close to her ... if the court order says 2,000 feet and this device gets too close to this device it sets off an alarm to us and to her. We're on the phone alerting her where he's at. At the same time we're on the phone to him telling him to stop in his tracks or we set of an alarm."


Garden Grove police probe LAPD officer over photos

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06/02/2007

GARDEN GROVE - Police are investigating an off-duty Los Angeles police officer who allegedly took questionable photographs of young girls at the city's Strawberry Festival last week.

On Saturday, Garden Grove police officials confirmed the ongoing probe and identified the officer as Ralph Cameron Lakin II, who works at Los Angeles Police Department's Parker Center administrative headquarters.

Garden Grove Police Lt. Ben Stauffer said officials were planning on submitting their conclusions to the district attorney who would then decide whether to file charges. Stauffer said that initial reviews of the photos did not indicate a crime had been committed, but officials felt a further review was justified. "It's a very close call," he said.

An LAPD spokesman also confirmed that an internal investigation has been launched into the actions of Lakin, who could not be reached for comment.

Lakin came under police scrutiny last week after being tackled at the festival by a father who accused him of taking lewd photographs of his daughter.

While Lakin was not arrested at the scene, Det. Pete Arellano, a Garden Grove detective in charge of tracking sex offenders, said the images he saw on Lakin's camera indicated that "there may be something wrong."

Arellano said that in his opinion, "This is definitely outside the lines of what he should be doing as a police officer or as an adult."

Mark Dornan was helping his wife run a festival booth at the Strawberry Festival selling belts for kids. A neighboring vendor, who ran a jewelry booth, told Dornan she saw a man aiming his camera up his daughter's skirt.

Dornan, the son of former Orange County Congressman Bob Dornan, said Lakin fled and appeared to be deleting photos from his camera when he noticed him approaching. A wrestling match ensued. Dornan got the upper hand and pinned Lakin, who was dressed in camouflage shorts and a Special Forces T-shirt. During the melee, Dornan said he found a handgun in a pocket of Lakin's shorts. After Garden Grove police arrived, Dornan got off Lakin, grabbed the camera and looked at the photographs.

"The first picture was my little girl sitting in a wagon," Dornan said.

Det. Arellano, who works in the sex crimes unit registering and monitoring sex offenders, said detectives are actively investigating Lakin and superiors have put a high-priority on this case.

Arellano said the photos on Lakin's camera were of "young female children" but they also included pictures of boys and adults. They were not only taken at the Strawberry Festival but also at piers of some local beaches.

Yet Arellano said there is one fact that is troubling: "It's not normal to photograph other people's children and keep them on your camera."

The key, Arellano said, may lie with what photos were deleted from the camera.

"There were possible images deleted from the camera," said Arellano. "We've sent the cameras to be analyzed and to see if there are images to be retrieved off the smart card or the camera itself. We're looking for any child porn or anything that would be against the law."


In Broward, questions about effectiveness of restrictions

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06/03/2007

Tough laws limit where they can live, but critics doubt effectiveness

The message was clear: No child molesters allowed.

The 2005 rape and murder of a 9-year-old Central Florida girl at the hands of a convicted sex offender shocked the nation. So South Florida city officials drew circles around schools, playgrounds, day-care centers, school bus stops -- and told those convicted of sex crimes against children they could not live there.

In Pompano Beach, Commissioner George Brummer took the position that this was a bad idea. "City commissions and city councils are prone to put into effect ordinances that are feel-good-type things, even when they're not realistic," said Brummer.

Today, while the restrictions still have many supporters, some experts and unlikely critics, such as some law enforcement officials and advocates for tough sex offender laws, agree with Brummer. They argue it's difficult to tell whether the laws are working. Besides, they say, the laws are difficult to enforce and have made it almost impossible for some offenders to find places to live.

Eric Kemper, a convicted sex predator, spends his nights by a palm tree, by decree of the state.

Kemper, 32, was found guilty in 2001 of lewd and lascivious molestation on a child under age 12. Originally released in 2004, he did not stay in touch with police, as required by law, and was imprisoned again last year, state records show. He was released in February under state supervision.

His parents live within 1,000 feet of Deerfield Beach High School, and a friend's home where he otherwise could stay is within 1,000 feet of a Pompano Beach church that provides day care.

Kemper and probation officers agreed he could stay at the tree near North Cypress Creek Road and North Andrews Avenue in Fort Lauderdale after several failed attempts to find him a residence that complied with state and city residency restrictions.

"If it rains, I have to stay right by the tree and I can't go under a bridge," Kemper said in April, shortly after being assigned to the tree.

Since then, his father, Mike Kemper, got a used 1991 Dodge Caravan from a family at his church. Eric Kemper, who works odd jobs but has not found a steady job since his release, uses it to look for work during the day and sleeps in it at night, his father said.

"At least he's not under the tree any more," Mike Kemper said. "It's not a very good situation for him. I'd love to help him, but I can't."

Momentum for tougher residency restrictions started when John Evander Couey snatched 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford from her bed in the middle of the night, raped her and buried her alive in early 2005. Couey, a registered sex offender, lived near Jessica's home in Homosassa, in Central Florida. He was tried and convicted in Miami earlier this year. The jury recommended he be put to death.

Florida, like many states, already kept a registry of addresses of sex offenders under Megan's Law, named for 7-year-old Megan Kanka, who was murdered in 1994 by a neighbor who had a record of sex crimes. Florida went a step further, pushing the offenders away from places children can be expected to gather. The state prohibited some offenders on probation and parole from going within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds and daycare centers. Months before Jessica's murder, they added school bus stops.

After Jessica's murder, many local governments got even tougher. In Florida, 92 ordinances now keep more offenders and predators -- whose crimes were either more numerous or serious -- up to 3,000 feet away.

Jessica's father, Mark Lunsford, became an activist for the new restrictions. His lawyer, Herbert Cohen of Fort Lauderdale, said they were necessary.

"If you limit these people that they can't be around where children play and go to school, that will take away the enticement," Cohen said. And if the laws prevent even one incident, he said, "that's one child whose life won't be destroyed."

But Don Ryce, whose son Jimmy was abducted, raped and murdered in 1995, doubts residency laws can work.

"I think this gives a false feeling that you have the problem under control," he said. "It's hard work to truly protect your children from these predators, and it takes a lot of different systems and it takes a lot of money. So the temptation is to do something where you pretend, and some political figures pretend, it's going to solve the problem once and for all."

Bruce Bauer was convicted in 2002 of fondling a 7-year-old girl a year earlier. He was released from prison in 2003 and is on probation until 2008. After staying in hotels and a halfway house, in September 2006 he got an apartment on the 100 block of East Blue Heron Blvd. in Riviera Beach.

When police told him he had to leave, he was puzzled. His probation officer told him he was within state guidelines. But Bauer was in violation of a newly passed city ordinance. So in November, Bauer moved to a place just outside of Lake Park, in the county's jurisdiction. It was the 14th place he's lived since his prison term ended in 2003. Shortly after he moved in, he was told he'd have to go because he was too close to 11 school bus stops.

"I want to stay here, I don't want to bother anybody," said Bauer, who is challenging the county ordinance in court. "I just want to live here in peace."

"Speaking from a parent's point of view, I don't really care [where sex offenders live], as long as it's not my neighborhood," said Ronni Leon, immediate past president of the Eagle Point Elementary PTA in Weston and a mother of four.

Leon said she is concerned that a sex offender could turn into a repeat offender. "I don't think they truly can be rehabilitated," she said.

But it's tough to measure whether residency restrictions can cut the rate of repeat offenses.

"[The Florida Department of Law Enforcement] does not have a mechanism to track how effective they have been," said Jackie Boswell, the agency's legal advisor for southeast Florida. "Even if these numbers existed … it would be difficult to attribute that to the residency restrictions alone."

Dennis Siegel, head of the Sex Crimes/Child Abuse unit at the Broward State Attorney's Office, supports the laws but adds, "the only true way to track the [laws'] effectiveness is to find out how many sex offenses have not been committed, which would be hard to do."

Mario Morbeth, 32, of Lauderhill, was convicted of performing a lewd and lascivious act on a child under 16, according to Broward County court records. He was labeled a sex offender and given 10 years probation.

"I've lost two jobs," said Morbeth, a father of five. "Once you're under this label, you can't work to feed your kids."

He lived in a Lauderhill apartment with his girlfriend, but moved because it was within 1,000 feet from a school, he said. He finally found a place he could stay -- his aunt's apartment, also in Lauderhill.

Probation officials arrested Morbeth on March 21 after he ran awry of another method of preventing repeat offenses: He was accused of having pornography in the home, a probation violation. He remains in the Broward County Jail.

Various laws in different cities have created confusion for law enforcement personnel, who now have to track where offenders live, whether they're too close to designated areas or if they're exempt from the laws because they took up residence before the laws were passed.

Some cities in South Florida inadvertently worded their measures so they applied only to offenders convicted in Florida. Pembroke Pines and Plantation changed their laws this year to apply to convictions anywhere, and other municipalities, such as Deerfield Beach and Parkland, will consider doing the same, city officials said.

"I don't believe they're working," said Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office Detective Larry Wood of the residency restrictions. "They're assisting these guys in going underground."

In Broward late last year, the Florida Department of Corrections ordered three sex offenders to spend their nights on a Fort Lauderdale bus bench while they searched for places to live. In Miami-Dade County, some sex offenders on probation live under the Julia Tuttle Causeway, assigned to sleep there by the Department of Corrections.

Few are willing to help those targeted by the restrictions.

James Snowden, an assistant public defender in Palm Beach County who represents convicted child molester Bruce Bauer, says the county's restrictions are unconstitutional.

Palm Beach County Judge Paul Damico shot down Snowden's first challenge on May 21, but Snowden said he's considering an appeal. In the meantime, Bauer gets to stay where he is until at least June 28, his next court date. "It violates substantive due process," Snowden said of the restrictions. "No other crime bans a person from living anywhere."


Chief keeps job after rape accusation

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06/03/2007

He must submit to random alcohol testing, see psychologist

CORPUS CHRISTI — Corpus Christi Police Chief Bryan Smith will keep his job after being accused of sexual assault by an ex-girlfriend, but he must submit to random alcohol tests and see a psychologist under an agreement reached with the city.

Smith will end a voluntary leave of absence when he returns to work Monday, more than a month after his 32-year-old former girlfriend alleged that Smith forced her into sex after showing up outside her apartment at 2 a.m., according to a report in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

A grand jury last week found there was not enough evidence to indict Smith, 46, who became engaged to another woman two weeks before the alleged sexual assault.

"There is no doubt that I used poor judgment in my personal life through my interaction with a former girlfriend," Smith said. "As a result, I embarrassed my fiancée, my family, my fellow police officers and myself. . . . I blame no one but myself."

Smith has denied the accusation from the start, saying any sex was consensual and that the accuser was jealous over his recent engagement.

Smith became police chief last summer after 26 years with the force, which City Manager Skip Noe said was a factor in the decision to not fire him.

"The guy made a mistake," Noe said. "There's no doubt about that, and he admits that."

Under the agreement with the city, a 20-day suspension will be deducted from Smith's vacation time. He must also begin treatment with a psychologist, and he faces being fired without appeal if psychologists deem that Smith can't perform his duties as chief.

Smith is also prohibited from drinking alcohol to excess in public and must submit to random alcohol tests for five years. Smith's accuser told police he was intoxicated when he arrived at her apartment, but Noe said that there was no proof Smith was under the influence of alcohol.

Abraham Moss, the attorney for the woman who said she was assaulted, declined to comment to the Caller-Times about the city's decision.


Device will keep tabs on juvenile offenders

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06/02/2007

PALM BAY - Teen troublemakers here may soon be monitored 24 hours a day with high-tech ankle bracelets that use global positioning and cell phone tracking systems.

The first 30 teens will be fitted with the bracelets June 9 as part of new probation requirements. The 4-inch square devices, which the city bought as part of a pilot program, will allow police to keep track of the teens' whereabouts and to communicate with them, if necessary.

The device is the same that fired NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak was ordered to wear as she awaits trial on charges of attempting to kidnap a romantic rival.

"This is the most advanced system available now," Chief Bill Berger said at a Friday press conference introducing the program. "We hope this will get the message out if they go out and commit crimes, we'll know who did it."

The American Civil Liberties Union did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Palm Bay bought the cell phone-sized monitors with $15,000 from its Law Enforcement Trust Fund, which contains money seized from convicted criminals.

Tracker PAL, as the device is known, is made by Secure Alert, a Utah-based firm which claims to be able to track those wearing the device worldwide. The ankle units are tamper-resistant and have a fiber optic cable through them. Secure Alert is notified of any efforts to remove or damage the device.

Berger said Palm Bay decided to focus on youth because "we have a chance with kids, and we're trying to do something as a preventative measure."

Sgt. Steve Bland, who is overseeing a new Youth Services Unit within the police department, said judges can order use of the device as part of probation requirements.

Officer Ken Bash of the Youth Services Unit said there are about 300 teens on various forms of probation.

Police said the devices' primary use is for the most serious juvenile offenders on probation, such as those who have committed burglaries.

Berger said the department is also considering making the devices available for parents who worry that they can't control their children. He said that if parents can afford it, they might be asked to contribute toward the $8 daily cost.

Berger said his department is the first in Brevard County to use the units. Orange County also uses them, he said.

He said one probationer was required to stay away from another residence. He went there anyway and fled when police arrived. They found him behind a Dumpster, thanks to an audible alarm on the ankle unit.