Sunday, September 2, 2007
Another article with audio
CHATTANOOGA - Individuals convicted of sex crimes in Tennessee are less likely to reoffend than other types of felons, a recent study shows.
For the study, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation followed 1,116 male offenders for three years after their releases in 2001, said TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm. Half the offenders had been convicted of sex crimes and the other half nonsex crimes, she said.
Results released last month showed 28 percent of the sex offenders were recommitted to the prison system, compared with 52 percent of other felons.
Helm said the study's findings are similar to results of two previous TBI recidivism studies, one conducted in the early 1990s and a second in 1997.
"It goes against normal public perspective because people believe they are always going to reoffend," said Tim Dempsey, chief executive officer of the nonprofit Chattanooga Endeavors, which seeks to help those released from prison transition back into society. "But if you're just looking at risk, sex offenders have always been in that lower-risk category."
Some skeptics, however, wonder whether there are other factors affecting the reported dichotomy in repeat offense rates.
"They may offend less, or their victims may be less likely to report, as sex offenses are very difficult to prosecute," said Dr. Charlotte Boatwright, president of the Coalition of Domestic and Community Violence of Greater Chattanooga and coordinator of the Chattanooga Family Justice Alliance.
"Victims often feel that it is useless to report it, as their character is put on trial to distract from the case against the (perpetrator), and they are terribly revictimized in the process."
In analyzing the results, Helm said, experts have pointed to an important difference between sex crime cases and other cases - the fact that sex offenders might have less opportunity to reoffend because they spend more time behind bars.
"Sex offenders tend to 'flatten' their sentences," said Helm, citing the study. "Other felons tend to be let out on probation or parole."
This also means that sex offenders are more likely to be older upon their release, Dempsey noted.
"They're coming out at an older age, and that dramatically affects recidivism," he said.
Yet another variable is the intensive supervision involved after sex crime convictions, Dempsey said, both from the public and from the justice system.
"We require them to go through an awful lot of therapy, and it's not short term," he said. "In a lot of cases, it's lifelong, and they can't get out of it."
Cyberstalking is the use of the Internet or other electronic means to stalk someone. This term is used interchangeably with online harassment and online abuse. Stalking generally involves harassing or threatening behavior that an individual engages in repeatedly, such as following a person, appearing at a person's home or place of business, making harassing phone calls, leaving written messages or objects, or vandalizing a person's property. Most stalking laws require that the perpetrator make a credible threat of violence against the victim; others include threats against the victim's immediate family; and still others require only that the alleged stalker's course of conduct constitute an implied threat.
A number of key factors have been identified:
- False accusations. Many cyberstalkers try to damage the reputation of their victim and turn other people against them. They post false information about them on websites. They may set up their own websites, blogs or user pages for this purpose. They post allegations about the victim to newsgroups, chat rooms or other sites that allow public contributions, such as Wikipedia or Amazon.com.
- Attempts to gather information about the victim. Cyberstalkers may approach their victim's friends, family and work colleagues to obtain personal information. They may advertise for information on the Internet, or hire a private detective. They often will monitor the victim's online activities and attempt to trace their IP address in an effort to gather more information about their victims.
- Encouraging others to harass the victim. Many cyberstalkers try to involve third parties in the harassment. They may claim the victim has harmed the stalker or his/her family in some way, or may post the victim's name and telephone number in order to encourage others to join the pursuit.
- False victimization. The cyberstalker will claim that the victim is harassing him/her. Bocij writes that this phenomenon has been noted in a number of well-known cases.
- Attacks on data and equipment. They may try to damage the victim's computer by sending viruses.
- Ordering goods and services. They order items or subscribe to magazines in the victim's name. These often involve subscriptions to pornography or ordering sex toys then having them delivered to the victim's workplace.
- Arranging to meet. Young people face a particularly high risk of having cyberstalkers try to set up meetings between them.
Cyberstalkers target victims using search engines, online forums, bulletin and discussion boards, chat rooms, and more recently, through online communities such as MySpace, Facebook, Friendster and Indymedia, a media outlet known for self-publishing. They may engage in live chat harassment or flaming or they may send electronic viruses and unsolicited e-mails. In some cases, they have been known to create fake blogs in the name of the victim containing defamatory or pornographic content. Victims of cyberstalkers may not even know that they are being stalked. Cyberstalkers may research individuals to feed obsessions and curiosities that they possess. Conversely, the acts of cyberstalkers may become more intense, such as repeatedly instant messaging their targets. More commonly they will post defamatory or derogatory statements about their stalking target on web pages, message boards and in guest books designed to trigger a reaction or response from their victim, thereby initiating contact.
When prosecuted, many stalkers have unsuccessfully attempted to justify their behavior based on their use of public forums, as opposed to direct contact. Once they get a reaction from the victim, they will typically attempt to track or follow the victim's internet activity. Classic cyberstalking behavior includes the tracing of the victim's IP address in an attempt to verify their home or place of employment.
Stalking does not consist of single incidents, but is a continuous process. Similar to stalkingpsychological trauma, and possible physical harm. As Rokkers writes, "Stalking is a form of mental assault, in which the perpetrator repeatedly, unwantedly, and disruptively breaks into the life-world of the victim, with whom they have no relationship (or no longer have)....Moreover, the separated acts that make up the intrusion cannot by themselves cause the mental abuse, but do taken together (cumulative effect)." (For a list of effects, see Stalking) off-line (physical stalking), cyberstalking can be a terrifying experience for victims, placing them at risk of
Some cyberstalking situations do evolve into physical stalking, and a victim may experience abusive and excessive phone calls, vandalism, threatening or obscene mail, trespassing, and physical assault. Moreover, many physical stalkers will use cyberstalking as another method of harassing their victims.
A 2007 study, led by Paige Padgett from the University of Texas Health Science Center, found that there was a false degree of safety assumed by women looking for love online.
In the United States
The first U.S. cyberstalking law went into effect in 1999 in California. Other states include prohibition against cyberstalking in their harassment or stalking legislation. In Florida, HB 479 was introduced in 2003 to ban cyberstalking. This was signed into law on October 2003.
States in the U.S. that have begun to address the use of computer equipment for stalking purposes, include:
- Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, New Hampshire and New York have included prohibitions against harassing electronic, computer or e-mail communications in their harassment legislation.
- Alaska, Florida, Oklahoma, Wyoming, and California, have incorporated electronically communicated statements as conduct constituting stalking in their anti-stalking laws.
- A few states have both stalking and harassment statutes that criminalize threatening and unwanted electronic communications.
- Other states have laws other than harassment or anti-stalking statutes that prohibit misuse of computer communications and e-mail, while others have passed laws containing broad language that can be interpreted to include cyberstalking behaviors
Cyberstalking has also been addressed in recent U.S. federal law. For example, the Violence Against Women Act, passed in 2000, made cyberstalking a part of the federal interstate stalking statute. Still, there remains a lack of legislation at the federal level to specifically address cyberstalking, leaving the majority of legislative prohibitions against cyberstalking at the state level.
Most stalking laws require that the perpetrator make a credible threat of violence against the victim; others include threats against the victim's immediate family; and still others require the alleged stalker's course of conduct constitute an implied threat. While some conduct involving annoying or menacing behavior might fall short of illegal stalking, such behavior may be a prelude to stalking and violence and should be treated seriously.
Online identity stealth blurs the line on infringement of the rights of would-be victims to identify their perpetrators. There is a need to debate how internet use can be traced without infringing on protected civil liberties.
Cyberstalking law enforcement
Law enforcement has often not caught up with the times, and officials are in many cases simply telling the victims to avoid the websites where they are being harassed or having their privacy violated. Some assistance can be found by contacting the web host companies (if the material is on a website) or the ISP of the abuser. Many victims note that persistence is a key. At times the seriousness of the impact of this type of violation is not comprehended and the third party facilitators of cyberstalkers tell the victim to work it out with their harasser.
Current US Anti-Cyber-Stalking law is found at 47 USC sec. 223.
- Harassment by computer
- Hate group
- Online predator
- Online dating
- Internet fraud
- ToS violation
- Search engine
In the last 18 months, NBC’s investigative segment “To Catch a Predator” has received wide attention, rejuvenating ratings for the network’s “Dateline NBC” news magazine and making a celebrity of Chris Hansen, the show’s host, who confronts men trolling online chat rooms hoping to meet teenagers for sex.
So why does NBC seem to be scaling back its commitment to “To Catch a Predator”? The network has filmed only one sting operation so far this year, compared with seven in 2006. In several ways, the high ratings for “Predator” have come at a high price for NBC. Some advertisers say they are wary of being associated with the show’s content, in which men lured to a house by the promise of a sexual encounter are instead surprised by Mr. Hansen and then arrested.
Critics have also raised ethics questions about the series because NBC coordinates the investigations with a private watchdog group and local police departments. And two lawsuits are pending against the network, one by a former producer and another by the sister of a man who committed suicide as police officers approached his house, accompanied by NBC camera crews.
But the show’s success underlines a growing problem for television executives looking to push the envelope of good taste in search of hits: how to pursue high ratings without alienating advertisers or provoking negative public opinion. In 2005, similar concerns prompted ABC to cancel a reality show called “Welcome to the Neighborhood,” in which conservative couples selected new neighbors from a pool of diverse contestants.
- Everyone tries to push the envelope further and further, this is why the morals in today's world are so screwed up. They see sex, drugs, violence and everything else on TV 24 hrs a day. What ever happened to teaching good morals, values, etc? Now all we see is scantily clad women, shaking their a$$e$ for money, people beating other people, death, murder, etc. What has happened to this society? It's all about ratings, money and greed.
The criticism and lawsuits directed at “To Catch a Predator” have led to negative news coverage of the show, online and in magazines like Esquire and Rolling Stone. ABC News recently confirmed that its prime-time news magazine program “20/20” is preparing a report about “To Catch a Predator.”
An NBC producer denied that the network was trying to distance itself from “Predator.” “We’re really proud of it,” David Corvo, executive producer of “Dateline,” said in a telephone interview. “We’re not running away from it.” Officially, the network said it is “discussing future investigations” and declined to comment further.
Some media buyers were hesitant about buying ads on the series even before the recent spate of bad press reports. Andy Donchin, director for national broadcast for the advertising agency Carat USA, said advertisers could be wary of the show’s unsavory theme. “We’re all concerned with what content we’re associating ourselves with,” he said.
The most recent “Predator” episode, on July 25, included six national spot ads, significantly fewer than at other hours during NBC’s prime-time periods.
“NBC’s probably thinking about what their return on investment is, and might be thinking it’s better to move on,” said Brad Adgate, senior vice president for research at the ad-buying agency Horizon Media.
“Dateline” first explored the idea of Internet predators in 2004. “There was a time not long ago when stories about Internet crimes were a tough sell for TV newsmagazines,” Mr. Hansen said. “Executive producers were wary because images of people typing on keyboards and video of computer monitors did not make especially compelling TV, even when combined with emotional interviews with victims.”
But the network discovered that face-to-face conversations with would-be predators did make compelling television. The program’s producers work with a pedophile watchdog group, Perverted Justice. Members of the group pose as underage Web surfers and chat with adults and, if the conversation turns sexual, agree to meet in person. When the adults arrive at the meeting place, they are confronted by Mr. Hansen and then arrested.
The first sting, filmed on Long Island in 2004, was startlingly successful, as 18 men came to the decoy house. NBC almost immediately began planning additional investigations, Mr. Hansen said. The third sting, in February 2006, was the first to involve a local police force. That year, “Dateline” produced a total of eight multiday stakeout shows in Ohio, Georgia, Texas, Florida and California.
The 2006-7 television season’s 11 episodes of “Predator” have attracted an average of 7 million viewers, compared with 6.2 million for other “Dateline” programs. The series has also been a boon for MSNBC, NBC’s cable news channel, which replays episodes in prime time and on weekends. In July, 19 of MSNBC’s 25 highest-rated hours were late-night “Predator” reruns.
- I find it very disgusting at what people have become. They love to watch other peoples miserable lives unravel on TV. Shows like Jerry Springer, Oprah, TCAP, COPS, etc. This is just SICK, IMO.
The confrontations and arrests made for dramatic television and “Predator” quickly became a favorite water cooler topic of conversation. The format — Mr. Hansen waiting with a crew as the unsuspecting man approaches — has been parodied endlessly on late-night television and on YouTube.
But after the cameras stopped rolling, the men charged with felonies made their appearances in court — and those were often decidedly less dramatic.
As a result of three-day sting last September in Long Beach, Calif., for example, 38 men were arrested on camera — the most of any sting that year. Judge Bradford Andrews in Superior Court, who heard 30 of the cases, said most of the men entered a plea and were placed on probation. “Most of them had no prior criminal record whatsoever, not even traffic citations,” he said. Under California law, they are now registered as sex offenders.
- And they were entrapped, enticed into something they probably would've never have done, but because of Perverted Justice egging the people on, they finally submitted and showed up. Granted, they are idiots for doing so, but it still doesn't make it right what these shows are doing, IMO. I feel like shows like this are only fueling the hysteria over sex offenders, and they are exploiting people all for ratings and money.
Over all, 256 men have been arrested in the operations, NBC said. Slightly fewer than half have been convicted of a crime.
- And Perverted Justice claims a 100% conviction rate. How can that be, when only half have been convicted? Sounds like a 50% rate to me.
A four-day sting in Texas last November led to 25 arrests and involved one death. Louis Conradt, a local prosecutor, Perverted Justice alleges, engaged in sexual conversations with minors online but did not show up to the decoy house, so the police obtained a warrant for his arrest. As officers and camera crews approached Mr. Conradt’s home in Terrell, Tex., he shot himself in the head. Last month, his sister, disputing the Perverted Justice transcripts, filed suit against NBC, seeking $105 million in damages. None of the men arrested in the investigation have been prosecuted.
- So now, they entrapped a person who probably would not have done this if not confronted by a "fake teen" and seduced into showing up. He was smart and did not show up, and since he's now dead we will never know. I believe they basically killed this man. Yes, he should not have been talking sexually with a teen, but he never showed up, so no crime was committed except the chatting, and now this man is dead because he knew his life was over. Who is the predator here? Sounds like Perverted Justice is the predator out seeking people to ruin, and they have shut down many web sites who advocate against the insane sex offender laws, so yes, who is the predator here?
“Dateline” has participated in two stings since the Texas one, most recently in New Jersey in March. The investigation was broadcast in July and averaged 7.1 million viewers.
While remaining popular, the program is also expensive to produce. NBC spent tens of thousands of dollars on each sting, installing hidden cameras and microphones. It has also paid Perverted Justice a consulting fee of roughly $70,000 for each episode. Questions about the network’s relationship with Perverted Justice are raised in a lawsuit filed in May by a former “Dateline” producer, Marsha Bartel, who contends that she was fired because she opposed what she called the program’s unethical production practices.
Her suit said that Perverted Justice did not keep accurate, verifiable transcripts of conversations with potential predators. Lawyers for some of the men arrested in the stings have focused on this point, claiming entrapment.
Ms. Bartel’s lead lawyer, Roger Simmons, said NBC had violated “one of the fundamental canons of journalism. “The line between what journalists do and what law enforcement officers do got fuzzy,” Mr. Simmons said. “The difference between what these reality shows do and what ‘To Catch a Predator’ does got fuzzy, too.”
NBC has said it will defend itself vigorously in both suits.
Perhaps hoping to capitalize on the distinctive “To Catch a Predator” format while softening the show’s unpleasant edge, “Dateline” producers are applying the show’s hidden camera style to a variety of other topics. In March, Mr. Hansen investigated e-mail swindles in “To Catch a Con Man.” In April and again in July, he hunted for criminals who exploit personal data in “To Catch an ID Thief.” The most recent iteration, titled “To Catch an iJacker” and broadcast Aug. 1, tracked down missing iPods.
Mr. Corvo said “Dateline” has an unofficial unit working with Mr. Hansen on other projects incorporating the “To Catch” concept. Half a dozen investigative pieces are in the pipeline, exploring adoption, insurance ploys and financial fraud.
“We feel like we’ve raised awareness of this issue a lot,” he said. “We want to make sure that, going forward, we complement what we’ve done in the past, not just repeat it.”
NBC viewers, meanwhile, are beginning to see other takes on Mr. Hansen’s investigations. Two weeks ago, the late-night host Conan O’Brien imagined the evolution of the brand: he presented mock commercials for “To Catch a Soda Refiller” and “To Catch a Cold.”
This is a point I've been trying to make for a long time now. No where can these people go. You move from one place to another, and the neighborhood (which is legal), raises hell you are living there, so then they start harassing you and making your life hell and forcing you to move, or they harm you physically. LEAVE THESE PEOPLE ALONE!!! They have been sentenced and have served their time. They need to start suing everyone who harasses them, then they'll no longer be poor due to suing everyone. Were is all the so called Christians and religious people? Do we have this many hypocrites in this world? If so, then the Lord was right, not that many will enter the kingdom of Heaven.
Housing difficult in county's cities, officials say
Ross Wollschlager is perhaps Ventura County's most unwanted person.
Chased out of seven hotels by a flurry of law enforcement fliers, the 43-year-old rapist is now homeless, living in a state-provided tent in a riverbed.
And that worries everyone from the prosecutor to the state doctors who tried to treat him.
"Being homeless makes him harder to keep track of, it's more stressful for him, and all these circumstances combined together make it more likely for him to re-offend," said Margaret Coyle, the deputy district attorney who argued against Wollschlager's release from civil commitment at Atascadero State Hospital last year.
Wollschlager's case is far from unique as counties up and down the state grapple with the return of their most reviled criminals: sexually violent predators. From Sacramento to San Diego, communities are shunning these sex offenders whose crimes evoke a special kind of fear and loathing.
As a result, they are winding up homeless or constantly on the move.
And while Wollschlager is Ventura County's first designated sexually violent predator back in the community, he likely will not be the last. Release hearings will be conducted in the next few months for at least 11 of the county's 15 court-designated sex offenders, Coyle said. All completed their prison sentences but have been kept under lock and key since then under a process known as civil commitment, which means at least two state doctors have diagnosed them as mentally disordered.
"This is a problem that is only going to get larger," Coyle said.
No one was interested
Liberty Healthcare Corp., which contracts with the state Mental Health Department to supervise sexually violent predators in the Conditional Release Program, spent 17 months searching for housing in Ventura County for Wollschlager. He remained in Atascadero during that time, even though a judge had ordered his release on the condition that he get treatment and supervision.
The company, which received $1.68 million from the state this year, took out want ads in local newspapers, personally contacted more than 1,000 potential landlords and sent letters to an additional 14,000, said Ken Carabello, Liberty's director of regional operations for California and the western United States. No one was interested, he said, even though Liberty offered to pay well over market rent values.
In Sacramento, it took 465 days to find child molester Timothy Boggs a permanent residence. Temporary ones included motels, an attorney's office for bunking down at night, and a trailer on a bail bondsman's rural property.
Recently, a landlord in the capital city agreed to rent to Boggs a standard three-bedroom apartment for $1,700, the going rate. Boggs, 52, completed the Sexually Violent Predator program at Atascadero State Hospital after serving 13 years in prison for molesting a Sacramento boy.
"There is significant resistance in county after county," Carabello said. "We look under every stone to try and find placement, and sometimes there are landlords willing, but once the community finds out they mount a great resistance. Not many stand up to that pressure."
'Aren't a lot of options'
While the state continues its search for more stable housing, Wollschlager is equipped with a Global Positioning System tracking device, and a security team hired by Liberty keeps an eye on his movements around the clock. He must take polygraph tests to monitor his risk of re-offending and wears an alcohol monitoring device.
- Polygraphs are junk science. If they are not admissible in court, why are they ok to potentially violate someone because they are said to be lying when they are not?
He attends several therapy sessions each week and spends much of the day at a friend's house in Oxnard.
He cannot live there, however, because the house is within 2,000 feet of a school or park, said his public defender, Todd Howeth, whose office filed a petition Friday challenging the restriction in Wollschlager's case. The 2,000-foot limit was set by Proposition 83, passed by state voters in November, a restriction that is effectively pushing sex offenders out of many cities altogether and into rural communities or homelessness.
- So you see, most sex crimes occur in the family or close family friend. So why does banishing where they sleep at night have to do with this, except to banish? They can be there all day long, but just cannot go to sleep there. Who the hell thought of that?
That concerns Sheriff Bob Brooks, who has the task of keeping the public safe in the vast stretches of unincorporated land in the county.
- Our own government cannot keep us safe, and nobody can keep you safe except yourself. So why is everyone letting the government run their lives for them? Everyone is walking robots and does not want to take responsibility for their own lives, so when something does go wrong, they have a scapegoat (someone to blame).
"In Ventura County, when looking at where to place these offenders, there just aren't a lot of options," Brooks said. "Most cities have virtually nowhere you can place them, forcing them into unincorporated areas."
- And this makes the laws unconstitutional, because you cannot make it so the entire state is off limits. So repeal the laws and fix the thing. It was working fine 10 years ago, now we are just breaking something which worked.
Putting sex offenders out in remote areas is not the safest alternative, either, Carabello said. The area must have cell phone reception for contact and for GPS tracking.
Brooks also believes hotels are a bad idea because "women stay there, children stay there," he said.
Death threats made
Sgt. Jack Richards with the Ventura Police Department said his agency would rather see Wollschlager in a hotel than transient.
"In all my years as a police officer, I've seen worse criminals than this guy, but I still would feel better knowing where he is at all times," Richards said. "In a hotel, we know where he's coming back to, where we can contact him if we suspect anything at all. The public is safer, and he's safer."
Death threats have been made against Wollschlager.
- Thus this is CRUEL & UNUSUAL punishment. It's a crime against humanity, period! Yet nobody cares. We truly are an evil society!!!!
Carabello said placing Wollschlager in hotels was the only alternative after the state was forced to let him go in August. Wollschlager was found fit for release in 2006 but languished in Atascadero State Hospital while Liberty searched for suitable placement. A court of appeal found last month that the state's inability to find housing was not legal grounds to keep him committed.
Wollschlager, who grew up in Ventura, was 19 when he sneaked through unlocked doors into the homes of two women and raped them in 1983. At the time, he was addicted to a stew of drugs, including cocaine and heroin. His alcohol addiction was so severe he was injecting it, said Howeth, his public defender.
After serving half of an eight-year prison sentence, he was released and two years later burglarized a home. He fondled a 10-year-old girl as she slept before he was discovered and ran away. He was imprisoned for 13 years and then civilly committed in 1996 to the state's mentally disordered offender program.
Wollschlager completed two phases of the five-phase treatment plan in Atascadero, served on several patient boards and worked hard on a substance abuse treatment program, Howeth said.
He was diagnosed with a sexual disorder that led him to rape adult women, but psychiatrists say he's not a pedophile.
In 2006, at a hearing to determine his fitness for release, a jury voted 8-4 to release him unconditionally. Three experts and several staff members testified he was ready. Unconditional release means he would have gotten out with no supervision or terms that he seek further treatment, Howeth said.
Howeth and Coyle polled the jurors afterward and found the four who opposed Wollschlager's release only did so because they wanted him to continue treatment.
17 months of searching
Instead of a retrial warranted by the jury's inability to reach a unanimous decision, Wollschlager offered to enter the Conditional Release Program for at least two years, Howeth said. Judge Rebecca Riley agreed and ordered his release pending provision of suitable housing.
But 17 months of searching produced nothing.
The state has sometimes resorted to putting state-bought trailers next to county jails or state prisons to house difficult-to-place offenders after release.
Douglas Badger, who sexually assaulted male hitchhikers at gunpoint over a 20-year period, is living in a trailer on the grounds of a state prison in San Diego County. After 15 years in prison, Badger completed eight years of treatment in Atascadero State Hospital before his release in 2006.
On Thursday, a San Luis Obispo County Superior Court judge ruled that Frederick Hoffman, a sex offender who served an 11-year term in state prison, may live near the county jail upon his release. Hoffman was convicted of two sexual assaults against children in the 1980s. Like Wollschlager, he was ordered released into the state's Conditional Release Program in 2006 but was kept at Atascadero while Liberty searched for housing.
'A state responsibility'
Liberty and the state Mental Health Director Stephen Mayberg approached Brooks about putting a trailer for Wollschlager on Todd Road Jail property, between Ventura and Santa Paula. Brooks refused, citing conditional-use-permit requirements that prohibit any residential use of the property dating back to when the jail was built amid protest from nearby residents.
"And even if we could, there would be liability and other concerns," Brooks said. "From the broader perspective this is a state responsibility. They also have state property that is buffered from residential areas they could use. It is not a county responsibility to protect and register and follow up on violations of these offenders, it's the state's. Nor is it the county's responsibility to assume the burden of residential care."
State property in the county that could be used includes equipment yards for the Department of Transportation and industrial building complexes, Brooks said.
Mayberg said placement must be suitable under the law. It must meet codes and be safe for both the community and the sex offender.
"It has to be a safe place and pass building codes; we are not going to put someone in a storage shed," Mayberg said. "We understand why any elected officials including the sheriff wouldn't say, We endorse this place for a sex offender to live.' We can't expect them to find a place, but we can expect them to give us their expertise. We will only succeed with the engagement of the community."
- Yet you put them in tents and living under bridges. What kind of reasoning is that???
What passes for virtue is often just lack of opportunity.
My Inquirer colleague Jeff Gammage reported Aug. 28 on the artistry of Michele Deery, who stalks pedophiles online for a task force in Delaware County. Deery patrols Internet chat rooms for would-be child molesters. She has no trouble finding them.
"When she logs in to a sex-themed chat room, she is quickly contacted by five or six men," Gammage wrote.
On occasion - and this is her goal - Deery will lure one of these men from the virtual world into the real one, arranging an assignation that, if it were real, would be illegal. Last month, she engaged a prime sucker in Hamburg, Pa., named Drew Weidner in a fantasy that was apparently too vivid for him to confine to cyberspace. Drawn by Deery's promise - she was pretending to be a lascivious woman eager for a sexual romp with Weidner and her two (imaginary) daughters, ages 11 and 14. You run into people like this all the time.
Deery says it isn't easy these days to draw men like Weidner from their fantasy world. She says her targets often ask, "Are you a cop?" - a question so stupid one fears for the future of the human race.
We are in the midst of open season on those weak and troubled souls who are aroused by the thought of sex with a child. Few people today, especially those with this particular bent, have not seen Dateline NBC: To Catch a Predator or another of the proliferating programs that do work like Deery's in the name of home entertainment. Suckers like Weidner are lured not just to their arrests, but to humiliation on national television.
One target of To Catch a Predator, an assistant prosecutor, of all things, shot himself in the head at his home in Texas as the network cameras approached his house to unveil his darkest imaginings to the world. This sad fellow had resisted enticements to act on his fantasy, so the show's producers came to his door.
I have watched an episode or two from that show. The bewildered, guilty, astonished-at-my-own-stupidity, my-life-is-over looks on the faces of the would-be pedophiles make for compelling TV. It is also enough to make me, a father of five, feel sorry for the first time in my life for a would-be child molester.
From time to time, our society indulges in binges of criminal hysteria. Fifteen years ago it was "satanic cults." Scores of people were rounded up and prosecuted for bizarre sexual transgressions on the basis of testimony essentially coached from small children. There were theories of "repressed" or "recovered" memories flying about - theories that are largely disputed today. Day-care workers all over America were suspected of devil worship. There were books and TV specials filled with alarming statistics and ribald tales. What is needed for these periodical public spasms are targets - be they witches, communists, devil-worshipers, terrorists or pedophiles - implicated in crimes so indefensible that they are not entitled to fundamental rules of fairness and due process.
The current hysteria over sex offenders rests on two widely held but dubious assumptions: 1) They are incurable recidivists, hence irredeemable; 2) Those who indulge sick fantasies on the Internet always (or at least usually) act upon them.
The first assumption is demonstrably false. According to a study of sexual offenders released from prison in 1994 in 15 states by that notorious defender of pedophilia, the U.S. Department of Justice, just over 5 percent were arrested for committing another sex crime within three years. The usual recidivism rate for released prisoners three years on is 67 percent.
The second assumption, cited in Gammage's story by state police Cpl. Michael McTavish, rests on a worthy and controversial study conducted by psychologists Andres E. Hernandez and Michael L. Bourke at the Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, N.C. Working with 155 male volunteers serving time for Internet sex offenses, they found that 85 percent admitted to having abused at least one child. Mind you, these were men already in prison for sexual offenses, certainly a hard-core sample of child-porn enthusiasts. The work does suggest that serious consumers of child porn will eventually molest a child, but it is hardly conclusive, and rests on a sample that is hardly representative of all those who dip into such sites. Given the ease and anonymity of Internet use, a more likely assumption is that far more people will access it than will ever victimize a child.
Yet these two assumptions are used to justify stings like the one that named Drew Weidner, who, according to the latest reports, is in a Delaware County prison on $250,000 bail, charged with attempting to corrupt minors, aggravated indecent assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, statutory sexual assault, and criminal solicitation. I mean no disrespect to Deery and McTavish; they are clearly dedicated and well-meaning public servants, who no doubt rest better knowing that Weidner is less likely today ever to actually molest a child. But based on the reports made public, he may be guilty of nothing more than having evil thoughts and of succumbing to Deery's imaginative offer to act on them.
I suppose one might argue that anyone in this day and age who would fall for an implausible trap like Deery's is a danger to himself and society, and the world is safer with him behind bars. But there is a fallacy at work here. If the world were strictly divided between normal decent people, who have no such desires, and evil people, who do, then casting the net far and wide to reel in the sinners only makes sense.
But morality isn't that neat. A soul never breathed who has not strayed into dark fantasy from time to time, be it sexual, murderous, adulterous, larcenous or otherwise. The computer has done many wonderful things for society, but it has also created a devil's playground of the imagination. Fantasy blends viscerally into quasi-reality on the monitor, complete with images, videos and chats. Whatever your predilection, no matter how bizarre, on the Web you can find someone who shares it, who encourages it, and who might even offer to help you act it out - but remember, make sure you first ask, "Are you a cop?"
How likely is it that in normal life Weidner, a 40-year-old man who clearly spends too much time with his computer, would have ever encountered the fantasy conjured by Deery: a salacious young mother and two prepubescent daughters? Not one, mind you, but two? One marvels at the sheer scale of erotic ambition, and might chide Deery for overreaching, except for the fact that she snared another bug-eyed sap with the same fantasy three years ago. He is now serving a 20-year prison term. It may be that Weidner would have someday sought out a child to molest. He may already have. But it is also entirely possible that his predilections, without Deery's bizarre seduction, would have remained confined to the cyber-gutter.
"Law enforcement tends to go after the easy targets at the low end of the problem," says Phil Jenkins, a professor of religion at Pennsylvania State University and author of several books on the subject of sexual molestation, including Moral Panic: Changing Concepts of the Child Molester in Modern America and Beyond Tolerance: Child Pornography Online. Jenkins argues that the real targets ought to be the providers of illegal pornography who cater to sordid appetites, but this would require a higher level of computer skills than most local police possess.
"So they go after the idiots," Jenkins says. "It shows they are doing something."
When the police enter this netherworld, they are treading into the gray area between crime and sin, between action and thought. The same is true in terror investigations. Is it a crime for someone to vent his anger toward the state and society in words and images, and fantasize about taking violent action? Must we wait for the crime to occur before acting to prevent it? It is not a new dilemma, but it is one given special urgency by the remarkable modern tools of private communication.
In the old days, when those seeking child pornography (or porn of any kind) had to walk into a store and buy it, the potential for public shame was enough to discourage many if not most sales. The allure of Internet porn, and the reason for its booming success, is anonymity. You can peek and dream and not get caught.
So maybe the answer is not to lure gulls like Weidner into arrest or televised humiliation, but to simply warn them, and pose the potential for public shame. If Deery can lure someone like Weidner to meet her in Upper Darby, she could probably learn enough to send two uniformed officers to his door to scare the wits out of him. Something like this is being tried in the United Kingdom, where those snared online are both warned and offered treatment. Such an approach is less dramatic, but in many instances may be more humane and appropriate.
Deery's current approach will always meet with success, for the same reason that in most neighborhoods a truckload of stolen goods sells fast. Dangle temptation before a large enough crowd, and a few would-be sinners will step forward. Why not start trolling the Net for customers willing to hire a discreet assassin who, for a modest and untraceable fee, would eliminate troubling ex-spouses, or bosses, neighbors, or public officials? I'll bet you could find people out there with murder in their hearts. It may have already been done.
News flash: There is evil in the souls of men.
John Stolpe is charged with nudity, resisting arrest at Griffith Park in 2006
HOLLYWOOD - Whether a former Long Beach police officer was exposing himself at a public park or is a victim of an overzealous park ranger will be decided at the conclusion of a criminal trial that began Friday at the Hollywood Superior Court.
John Stolpe, 50, is charged with resisting arrest and being nude at Los Angeles' Griffith Park in April 2006. The third charge related to the alleged April incident, misdemeanor battery on a police officer, was dismissed Thursday, said Stolpe's lawyer Robert Schwartz.
Stolpe has pleaded not guilty to both charges.
Prosecutor Yong W. Sohn's brief version of the story during his opening statement began with park Ranger Douglas Kilpatrick on patrol at about 1:15 p.m. on April 6, 2006.
Through foliage, Kilpatrick allegedly observed Stolpe, with his pants down, with another man in a clearing, Sohn said.
As Stolpe tried to flee by running down the trail, Kilpatrick used pepper spray and a collapsible baton on the allegedly noncompliant Stolpe, who tried to hide in the brush on the side of the hill, Sohn said.
Stolpe was quickly found and arrested, Sohn said.
Schwartz began his opening statement by telling jurors that his evidence would show that Kilpatrick was not a credible witness, alleging that the ranger had a violent temper and a history of false accusations.
Schwartz also said his evidence would show the jurors the good character of Stolpe, the 27-year veteran of the Long Beach Police Department.
Kilpatrick could not have seen what he claims to have seen, Schwartz said, because heavy rainfall in the Los Angeles area had spurred the growth of extra foliage at the park.
Stolpe had a day off work and decided to go hiking at the park, Schwartz said.
On the trail, Stolpe said he saw two men fondling each other, Schwartz said. Stolpe moved off the trail toward the men to tell them that what they were doing at the park was inappropriate, but this is when Kilpatrick came upon the scene.
Stolpe told the ranger he did nothing wrong and moved past Kilpatrick on the narrow trail, "and this is what enraged Kilpatrick," Schwartz said.
"Mr. Stolpe was not nude in any place in Griffith Park. He did not interfere with the duties of Ranger Kilpatrick," Schwartz said to the jurors.
Kilpatrick testified that he had been a park ranger for the city of Los Angeles for about 30 years and worked at Griffith Park for at least 10 years.
He said while he was on patrol that day, he saw through a bush two men, one of whom had the top half of his buttocks exposed. Though the man's back was to him, Kilpatrick identified that man as Stolpe.
However, when he went around the bush to approach the men, both were fully clothed with their hands on their waistbands.
He could not recall if Stolpe's pants were buttoned.
Kilpatrick told the men to stop and sit down on the ground.
While one man remained where he stood, Kilpatrick said Stolpe headed toward the ranger saying, "I haven't done anything wrong. I'm leaving."
"As he approached me, it was apparent that he was going to run me over because I was standing in the trail," Kilpatrick said.
Stolpe brushed the ranger's right shoulder with his right hand, as if to push him out of the way, and started running, Kilpatrick said.
After watching Stolpe fall down twice, Kilpatrick decided to pursue Stolpe, leaving the other man behind.
"The other gentleman didn't touch me with his hand," Kilpatrick said.
The ranger repeatedly ordered Stolpe to stop while chasing him downhill.
Stolpe fell again, but as he tried to get back up, Kilpatrick pushed him back down onto his side in an attempt to take him into custody, he said.
Kilpatrick said he held up his pepper spray and ordered the man to stay down, but when Stolpe attempted to get up, the ranger sprayed Stolpe's face for two seconds.
Kilpatrick said the spray had no effect, and Stolpe got up and ran again, only to fall and be sprayed two more times. Kilpatrick testified that Stolpe did not wipe the spray off his face as he continued to run.
Kilpatrick passed him and pulled out his collapsible baton so that Stolpe was now running at him.
When Stolpe did not stop, Kilpatrick said he struck Stolpe's upper right arm with the baton, but Stolpe's only response was, "That hurts."
Kilpatrick said that Stolpe never identified himself as a Long Beach police officer.
Kilpatrick added that before he struck Stolpe with the baton, he could clearly hear Stolpe saying, "My life is over."
Stolpe ran back up the canyon and the ranger put out a help call, which brought a helicopter and ground units in minutes.
Stolpe was taken to the police station, where Kilpatrick learned that Stolpe was a police officer.
During the cross-examination, Schwartz asked why the ranger continued to pepper-spray Stolpe if the spray had no effect, why the ranger didn't include Stolpe saying "My life is over" in his initial police report, and how the photos of Stolpe's injuries apparently disappeared.
When Sohn asked how he remembered the details of the incident so well, Kilpatrick explained that the case was "unusual because it involves a brother officer."
The trial continues Tuesday at 11 a.m. before Judge Leslie A. Swain.
Former Muskogee police officer David A. Abston was sentenced Friday to 30 years in prison on child pornography charges. He will be on probation the rest of his life if he is released.
Sentencing was in the Northern U.S. District Court in Tulsa by U.S. District Judge James H. Payne.
The sentence was the maximum possible in the case. Abston had pleaded guilty earlier to the two counts. In addition to the prison time, he was ordered to pay fines totaling $6,000.
In addition to the federal court cases, Abston also faces 28 counts in Tulsa County District Court of sexually abusing young boys.
Abston, now 56, served as a Muskogee police officer from 1972 through 1980. For the last two years with the police department, he headed the Community Relations Division.
A 1980 article in the Phoenix told how he was known by most elementary school children as “Officer Dave” because he had established good rapport with the children through his appearances in local schools.
He left the police department to become a security guard for the James Leake family. That relationship ended with the Leake family filing a civil suit alleging he misappropriated more than $3.8 million from Marjory Leake.
The jury found in favor of Abston in that case.
Abston’s most recent court battles began last year when he was accused of having molested several young boys. At the time, he had owned a Broken Arrow skating rink for about 18 months.
Abston is set to be back in Tulsa County District Court at 9:30 a.m. Dec. 18 for a district court arraignment.
A police officer assigned to maintain a safe campus at Federal Way High School was charged Thursday with inappropriately touching a 17-year-old student.
Federal Way police Officer Terry Wilson, 48, has spent four of his five years with the department patrolling the South King County school as its resource officer. He is now on paid leave after investigators say he sexually molested the girl at the high school June 1.
Police Chief Brian Wilson said that the officer, who is not related to him, had inappropriate contact with the girl during May. He couldn't say whether other teens may have been victims.
The girl is still a student at Federal Way High School.
Officer Wilson was charged with communication with a minor for immoral purposes and fourth-degree assault, both misdemeanors. He will be arraigned on the charges in Federal Way Municipal Court on Sept. 11.
"It's not the most egregious thing, but it constitutes criminal violations," said Auburn City Attorney Daniel Heid, who has been brought in as a special prosecutor to handle the case.
Details about what happened between Wilson and the girl have not been released. Heid said more information will be revealed at the arraignment. Officer Wilson has not been arrested.
Chief Wilson said he became aware of the sexual allegations June 7, and he put the officer on administrative leave that same day. He said an internal police investigation was opened Friday.
The officer has never had "prior discipline or sustained complaint history," the chief said.
Before joining the department, Officer Wilson spent 20 years with the U.S. Marine Corps. He was honorably discharged with the rank of gunnery sergeant. He also spent two years as a police officer in Honolulu.
Federal Way School District spokeswoman Diane Turner said the district is cooperating with the investigation. Federal Way police have assigned a different officer to patrol the school.
"We have a very well-established program that has been very well-received in the school district and in the community," Chief Wilson said. "These are very serious charges. Our ability to maintain the public trust with our kids and parents is essential."
See map at the end.
PANAMA CITY BEACH - As other municipalities in Bay County this year moved to increase residential restrictions on convicted sexual offenders and predators, Beach officials grew concerned that without taking the same steps, the city might become the destination by default for newly registered offenders.
Under state law, unless a local ordinance dictates otherwise, sexual offenders and predators are prohibited from living within 1,000 feet of any school, day-care facility, playground or park.
Observing that other Bay County governing bodies have been increasing the restricted distance to 2,500 feet, Councilman Ken Nelson on July 12 recommended the City Council enact an ordinance with those tougher standards.
“We don’t want to be known as a haven for sexual predators,” Nelson said Thursday.
Council members conducted a first reading of Ordinance 1089 at a meeting on Aug, 23, and they are poised to formally enact the measure after a second public hearing at the next Council meeting on Sept. 13.
See a detailed map here where sex offenders could not reside in under the proposed ordinance. (1.23MB file)
FORT WORTH -- A Fort Worth police officer who was arrested last week on accusations of spanking the rear of a woman he caught engaging in sexual conduct in a car in Oakhurst Park was charged with official oppression.
If convicted of that charge, a Class A misdemeanor, officer Craig Murrah could be sentenced to up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
Prosecutor Kurt Stallings confirmed Thursday that Murrah had been charged but said the case will also be presented to a grand jury.
Police have said that about 1 a.m. June 22, Murrah found a couple engaging in sexual conduct inside a vehicle at the park at 2300 Daisy Lane in north Fort Worth. The officer ordered the couple out of the car and placed the 18-year-old woman, who was nude from the waist down, in the back of his patrol car. At some point during the investigation, Murrah is accused of spanked the woman on the rear, police have said.
The woman said the officer let them go with a warning.
When the woman told her boyfriend what the officer had done, he called 911. Police conducted an internal investigation and a warrant was issued for Murrah's arrest.
Wes Ball, Murrah's defense attorney, said Thursday that they will wait to see all the details, but he said they intend to plead not guilty. He also pointed out that the couple, by their own admission, were engaged in sexual conduct in public.
"They were violating the law," Ball said. "This is a grave thing for [Murrah], his future and his career."
ONTARIO -- A female state corrections officer in Eastern Oregon is accused of having sex with an inmate at an all-male prison and smuggling in diet pills, the Oregon State Police said Friday.
Her husband, also a corrections officer, was arrested and charged with growing marijuana, the police said.
Tomi Sue Fowler, 39, and James Fowler, 29, were indicted Thursday and arrested at their Ontario home, the police said. They are to enter pleas in October, said Erin Landis, deputy district attorney for Malheur County.
Tomi Sue Fowler was accused of custodial sexual misconduct as a result having sex with an inmate in May and June at the Snake River Correctional Institution, according to the indictment.
She also was accused of growing marijuana found at the couple's home, bringing contraband diet pills into the prison and official misconduct, the police said.
She was hired in 1999, he in 2000. Landis said he did not know when they were married.
The medium-security Snake River prison is an all-male facility, Landis said.
The police said she was put on administrative leave in June. Officials of the Department of Corrections were either unavailable Friday to say whether any disciplinary action was taken against the inmate, or said they didn't know.
No, that is not here to the left, just a generic Therapy photo.
Jefferson County Circuit Judge Rob Wyatt Jr. disregarded the recommendation of a Lincoln County jury Friday when he sentenced a former therapist at the Cummins Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction to a term of three years in prison.
Anna Clark, 55, the former therapist, had been convicted of two counts of third-degree sexual assault for having sex with a prison inmate following a trial in Star City on Aug. 14 and 15.
The jury had recommended probation and/or a fine of $5,000 on each count, and in the alternative three years in prison.
Wyatt ruled that after hearing the evidence presented, especially testimony from prison officials about the security problems that were caused by Clark’s actions, he was going to disregard the jury recommendation.
“I am hereby remanding you to the custody of the sheriff of Lincoln County for transportation to the Arkansas Department of Correction where you will serve a three-year sentence,” Wyatt told Clark.
At the request of attorney John Wesley Hall, who represented Clark, Wyatt set a $5,000 appeal bond for Clark, stipulating that the bond must be posted in cash.
Hall’s request that Clark be able to post a secured bond rather than cash only was denied by the judge, as was a request that Clark be allowed to remain free on her own recognizance.
Clark was fired shortly after the incident at the prison in April 2006 and has since surrendered her license to practice.
Deputy Prosecutors Karres Manning and Cymber Tadlock, who represented the state during the trial, handled the brief sentencing Friday morning.
Video is available at the site above. And yet another perverted cop from Florida. Florida is infested with pervert cops!
FORT LAUDERDALE - A corrections deputy with the Broward Sheriff's Office was accused of rape by an inmate, and charged Friday with rape and kidnapping, according to jail records.
Charles Edward Floyd, 37, was being held without bond at the Broward County Jail late Friday on one count of kidnapping and two counts of sexual battery.
A female inmate told detectives that Floyd forced her to have sex while she was handcuffed. He allegedly did this after he picked her up from a Broward jail on June 13th.