Sunday, January 6, 2008

IL - Illinois man says typo in his file led to unfair treatment

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01/06/2008

A typo in court documents led to a domino effect of unfair treatment for a convicted sex offender, the man and his attorney said Friday in Sauk County Circuit Court.

Bronson D. Hughes, 25, Sterling, Ill., admitted he was "babbling" at times as he argued his motion to have a 2003 felony child sexual assault charge thrown out.

In 2005, the Sauk County District Attorney's Office agreed not to prosecute Hughes for that felony charge as long as he didn't violate terms of an agreement for four years.

As part of the agreement, Hughes pleaded no contest to two other misdemeanor child sexual assault charges and was sentenced to probation and listed on the state sex offender registry.

Court documents and the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access Web site listed Hughes as a convicted felon, although he only had been convicted of the misdemeanor charges.

Hughes tried to tell probation officers, defense attorneys and others he was not a felon sex offender, but "at every turn, it appeared (to them) he was lying," said his attorney, Maura Melka.

Hughes was charged in February with a sex registry violation, and Sauk County prosecutors since have gone forward with prosecuting the 2003 felony, saying he didn't comply with terms of the agreement.

He was in court Friday for sentencing on that charge.

But Melka said Hughes was treated differently by authorities because they thought he was a felony offender. She said if the typo hadn't occurred, his probation wouldn't have been revoked and his 2003 deferred prosecution agreement would have remained intact.

"I think what we've found ourselves in is a dilemma that defies a remedy," Melka said.

Hughes, who shivered at times in his orange jump suit, quoted court decisions, state and federal laws as well as the Wisconsin Constitution while arguing his motion to dismiss the 2003 felony charge, which Judge James Evenson ultimately denied.

"I go to prison, everybody tells me I'm lying. Then, it turns out that what I say, I ain't lying," Hughes said.

Sauk County District Attorney Patricia Barrett said there was no evidence that Hughes was treated any differently in Illinois because of the clerical error.

She said she noticed the error in court documents in April 2007, and had the record corrected.

When she notified Hughes' probation agent of the error, he was surprised, Barrett said. But he told her Hughes was treated the same as a felon offender as he would have been as a misdemeanor offender.

Evenson convicted Hughes of the felony charge and sentenced him to time already served. But he will remain incarcerated on separate charges of violating terms of the sex offender registry.

He has pleaded not guilty to that charge, and the case is scheduled for a jury trial Jan. 29.


MA - Former prison guards sentenced in inmate-sex case

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I wish there was some way to see, out of the 630,000 sex offenders, how many are cops? From what I've been seeing, it appears to be close to half, but that is just what it seems. I know it is a lot, and these are the people everyone says, "You can always trust a cop!" Yeah right!!!

01/03/2008

A former Hampden County prison guard has been sentenced to up to three years in prison for having consensual sex with a female prisoner, while another guard has been placed on probation.

Thirty-five-year-old Stanford Norman was sentenced today to serve two to three years in prison after being convicted of having sex with the inmate in 2006 while he was a corrections officer at the Hampden County Correctional Center in Ludlow.

Another former guard, 53-year-old Brian Murphy, was given two years probation. Prosecutors say Murphy called the inmate to the facility’s medical unit so Norman could have sex with her.

A 1999 state law says any sexual contact between guards and inmates is a felony.

Norman’s attorney says they plan to appeal the verdict. A message was left today for Murphy’s attorney.


GA - Ex-Coweta prison officer pleads guilty in sex case

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01/06/2008

A former corrections officer at the Coweta County Prison who was caught having sex with an inmate in July 2007 pleaded guilty Friday under the First Offender Act to felony Violation of Oath of Office.

The employee, Michelle Robinson, who was represented by attorney Mike Kam, was sentenced to three years probation. Robinson must also surrender her Peace Officer Standards and Training certification, according to Coweta Judicial Circuit Senior Assistant District Attorney Ray Mayer.

Following the incident, when prison officials learned of the sexual misconduct, Robinson was relieved of duties and the State Department of Corrections began an investigation. At the conclusion of the investigation, the case was turned over to the Coweta County District Attorney's Office to determine whether Robinson would face criminal charges.

Based on the law, an employee involved in a sexual relationship with an inmate can also be charged with sexual assault. Georgia Code Section 16-6-5.1 states that "a person commits sexual assault when such person has supervisory or disciplinary authority over another person and such person engages in sexual contact with that other person who is either in the custody of law, or is detained in or is a patient in a hospital or other institution."

Mayer described Robinson as "remorseful" and "cooperative" throughout this process.

The inmate involved in the incident will not face additional charges.


AZ - Former UA Police officer charged with stalking

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01/05/2008

Only on 4, a former University of Arizona Police Officer has been arrested for stalking and News 4 has learned this isn't the first time he's been in trouble.

The News 4 Investigators have learned Gary Bluemke, 53, was a police officer with the University of Arizona from 1996 to 2004.

He was arrested in 2004 and accused of exposing himself.

Soon after, Bluemke voluntarily gave up his peace-officer certification.

Now, the Tucson Police Department says Gary Bluemke is facing charges of stalking.

Police say Bluemke was stalking a woman in the 1300 block of East Seneca Street in midtown.

"Mister Bluemke was subsequently arrested for a class five felony; stalking," said Sergeant Fabian Pacheco with the Tucson Police Department.

Sgt. Pacheco says the victim called T.P.D. after seeing Bluemke outside her home on several occasions.

"He was in that area and he was not supposed to be, nor did he have a right to be; doing things he shouldn't be doing," said Sgt. Pacheco.

Tucson Police are investigating this case and asked News 4 not to show Bluemke's picture yet since Detectives think there are at least three more victims.

Sgt. Pacheco added, "An individual that's involved in this type of activity, not all of them, but many of them tend to graduate into more serious crimes."

The former University of Arizona police officer was arrested on a public sexual indecency charge in January 2004 after police say he exposed himself to someone at an east side Target department store.

News 4 will continue to follow this story as more information comes in.


HI - TV Bounty Hunter's Sidekick Surrenders to Police in Lewdness Case

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01/05/2008

HONOLULU — A sidekick of TV bounty hunter Duane "Dog" Chapman turned himself in to authorities after a shopping center security guard reported seeing him naked in his pickup truck, performing a lewd act, police said.

But Tim Chapman's lawyer insisted Friday that his client spilled juice on himself and was just changing clothes Thursday night.

The guard told Chapman to put on his clothes and get out of the truck, police said. After dressing, Chapman started his truck and drove over a sidewalk, nearly hitting the guard, then drove off, police said.

The guard told police that he recognized Chapman from Duane Chapman's show "Dog the Bounty Hunter" and that he was performing an unspecified lewd act. Duane Chapman and Tim Chapman are not related.

Tim Chapman's attorney, Brook Hart, said it was all a misunderstanding.

"It was simply a man who wet his pants with orange juice inadvertently and was changing them, doing nothing wrong at all and believing he had sufficient privacy to do it," Hart said.

Police said they were investigating whether to charge Chapman, 42.

The A&E television network put the show on hold indefinitely in November after the release of a private phone conversation in which Duane Chapman repeatedly used a racial slur to describe his son's girlfriend. He has apologized repeatedly.


CA - Ex-officer's jury selection to begin

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Notice when a cop is arrested for molestation or some other sex crime, they hardly put what the officer is charged with in the subject line? Why? Because most people would not even read it, but if it had "child molestation" in the subject line, they would. They are hoping it goes unnoticed.

01/06/2008

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday in the trial of a former Desert Hot Springs police officer accused of molesting an underage relative and her friend, both of whom were in a police ride-along program.

The 37-year-old officer was arrested Sept. 26, 2006 in Marina del Rey.

He faces multiple counts of aggravated sexual assault on a child, rape, lewd acts with a child and other charges. If convicted, he could get life in prison.

The Desert Sun has not released the name of the officer to protect the identity of one of the possible victims who is his relative.

Both of the possible victims were in the Explorers Program, which enables teenagers to ride along with police and help out around the station.

Prosecutors claim the officer molested the relative, who is now 18 years old, over a 10-year period between 1996 and 2006, and the other girl over a yearlong period while she was a police Explorer.

The officer started and supervised the program in Desert Hot Springs. He also worked as a resource officer at Desert Hot Springs High School and Desert Springs Middle School.

He denies all the charges, according to his attorney, John Patrick Dolan, who said he would look for jurors who could be ''fair and impartial and able to listen to the evidence, and not be prejudiced by the nature of the charges.''

Jury selection will likely take a week, he said, and the trial could take two or three months.

Dolan said he and the deputy district attorney assigned to the case had a witness list with nearly 100 names on it.

Dolan said he planned to call the officer's friends and family to testify on his behalf, as well as his teenage son and the boy's girlfriend.

Dolan said several Desert Hot Springs police officers had been subpoenaed to testify, and the department had been uncooperative.

"It appears that Desert Hot Springs police officers have been ordered by someone in authority not to make any statements to my investigator ... and we know officers have certain information," Dolan said, adding he also planned to call several expert witnesses who could testify on the nature of the offenses.

The prosecution's case is expected to rely heavily on the testimony of the possible victims.

The officer is locked up in lieu of $2 million bail at the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.


IN - New sex offender laws


Man Facing Jail For Adultery


NY - Inmate, 17, hangs himself at Rikers

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01/06/2008

A Mount Vernon teen hanged himself at Rikers Island after the jail failed to follow a Queens judge's order to place the inmate under suicide watch, lawyers charged Saturday.

David Mercado, 17, was supposed to be placed under round-the-clock protection after a Dec. 17 arrest in Queens on statutory rape charges that said he had sex with a 14-year-old girl.

But within 24 hours he hanged himself, attorneys for Mercado's family said.

"A judge ordered that he be placed on suicide watch," said lawyer Andrew Stoll, who will file a claim this week against the Correction Department.

"The Corrections Department knew that, and the level of care they gave him was plainly below standard."

Mercado, who lingered in a coma at Elmhurst Hospital for nine days before dying Dec. 30, was not diagnosed as depressed, but was put on suicide watch by Judge Gene Lopez after recommendations from Mercado's legal aide attorney.

Correction Dept. spokesman Stephen Morello said Mercado was not placed under suicide watch, insisting that a medical exam found he was not a threat to himself.

"Every inmate is given a medical examination - both physical and psychological - and this inmate was cleared to be housed in general population," said Morello, who noted that the death remains under investigation.


CO - Privacy and secrecy: Inconsistency on both

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01/06/2008

Last year, state lawmakers very nearly succeeded in allowing court records of certain criminal convictions to be sealed. Those in favor of that bit of noxious censorship argued that after a convict had paid her debt to society and after a certain interval had passed, the slate should be wiped clean.

Never mind that the records that would have been censored chronicled the successful prosecution by publicly paid prosecutors against citizens who had committed criminal offenses against the people of Colorado. Such censorship has myriad implications for the First Amendment.

Some of the same people who would engage in this brand of government secrecy, one suspects, are the same sort strongly opposed to the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program, which involves spying on American citizens without court approval. That use of unchecked presidential power has grave implications for the Fourth Amendment, which is supposed to protect us against unreasonable searches.

As legal scholars routinely note, the U.S. Constitution does not explicitly recognize a right to privacy. But that right is certainly implicit in our founding document. And Americans tend to make passionate proclamations about their privacy.

Their conception of what is truly private and what is legitimately public, perhaps never well-defined, may have been confused by government leaders who, alternatively, try to turn public information into secret files or dive blithely and unwarrantedly into legitimately private conversations.

The internet explosion further muddies the confusion about the demarcation between the "public" and the "private." In recent years, state legislators made inscrutable and inconsistent moves in this regard. On one hand, they've closed motor-vehicle registrations, drivers-license records and concealed-weapons permit lists. On the other, they've opened sex-offender lists, quasi-public college fund-raising groups and charitable-solicitation campaigns to greater public scrutiny. There's neither rhyme nor reason there.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration practices widespread censorship, dragging its feet on legitimate requests for public information under the Freedom of Information Act. That has the effect of keeping citizens increasingly less informed, and the government progressively more immune from accountability.

Last week's allegations that Homeland Security funds in Colorado have been squandered underscores the point. The use of those funds was, initially, not subject to public scrutiny, thereby inviting the kind of abuse now being uncovered.

That such censorship occurs while the government continues to spy on American citizens with no court oversight (as the Constitution requires) indicates that Americans are inconsistently indignant about privacy invasions and a separate but related sin, unwarranted secrecy.

As the new state legislative session approaches and the presidential campaigns lurch forward, we can only hope that our leaders take more care in preserving our right to know, and our right to be left alone.


IN - Judge rejects challenge to federal sex registry

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01/06/2008

A federal judge has thrown out a local challenge to the constitutionality of a federal sex offender registry law, which claimed in part the law illegally treads on rights reserved for the states.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Robert Miller Jr. said the law, which requires sex offenders to keep their registration current no matter where they live, does not interfere with individual state's handling of offenders.

The law attempts to protect the public against offenders who may frustrate efforts to monitor them by traveling between states, he wrote.

"SORNA's (Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act) registration requirements acts upon the offender, not the states," according to Miller.

Valparaiso attorney Bryan Truitt, who filed the challenge on behalf of client accused of violating the law that went into effect in July 2006, believes the challenge still has merit and plans to appeal the case to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago and then on to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

The same issues raised in this challenge have been held up in other district courts, he said. The arguments, however, have not been ruled on by the appellate courts, which have signaled they should be the ones handling constitutional challenges, he said.

The appeal will be filed within 10 days of Marcus Dixon's sentencing in this case, which is scheduled for Feb. 29 before Miller, Truitt said.

Dixon was found guilty late last month of failing to register as a sex offender when he cut an electronic monitoring bracelet off his ankle and moved from South Carolina to Michigan City during May 2006. He now faces up to 10 years behind bars under SORNA, as compared to 90 days under South Carolina law and up to one year under the former federal law.

Miller's ruling also threw out the argument that Congress improperly delegated to the attorney general the power to decide how to apply the law to defendants accused of violating the requirements before they took effect.

He also rejected claims the case should be dismissed because Dixon never was made aware of the new registration requirements and that the requirements had never been adopted by either Indiana or South Carolina and it was "therefore impossible for Dixon to have registered."

Miller ruled that Dixon could have violated the law even if he never was informed it took effect.

Citing a federal ruling from Florida earlier last year, Miller wrote, "Sex offenders ... must comply with the law even when it changes suddenly and without notice, and they are well advised to periodically check for changes because they are particularly subject to regulation."


OH - Judge: Hire own lawyer in sex offense lawsuit

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01/06/2008

LISBON — A Lisbon man who filed a petition to challenge his sex offender reclassification will have to get his own attorney, a judge ruled.

Billy Brown of 10601 Endley Road filed the petition on his own Monday, with no attorney, but requested Columbiana County Common Pleas Court appoint him counsel at state expense.

Judge David Tobin denied the motion for court-appointed counsel, saying he had no authority to do that since it’s a civil matter. Brown filed the case against the state of Ohio. His criminal case was handled in Macomb, Mich., which is where he was convicted of a sex-related offense and ordered to register as an oriented sex offender for 10 years, according to court documents.

Under the new sex offender rules which took effect Tuesday, he was reclassified as a Tier III Sex Offender and told that he must register with the local sheriff’s office every 90 days for life, a letter from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office said.

Tobin also denied Brown’s motion for immediate relief from the community notification requirement, stating a status hearing must be held before any relief can be granted from the requirement.

Brown was the second county resident to file a petition in Common Pleas Court to challenge the new reporting rules, which reclassified sex offenders and lengthened some of their reporting times.


CA - Sex-offender law in need of reform

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01/06/2008

WHEN 70 PERCENT of Californians voted for Proposition 83 in 2006, there was little doubt that their intention was to protect children from sex offenders. But the measure, known as Jessica's Law, has had some unintended negative consequences that cry out for correction.

Prop. 83 was unnecessary because the Legislature already had enacted stricter laws against sexual predators. Penalties were increased, loitering laws became tougher. Former prisoners were required to wear GPS units while on parole, and they had to stay a quarter mile away from schools and other places where children congregated.

Despite the tougher laws, Prop. 83 passed overwhelmingly. Fortunately, courts and prosecutors decided the initiative's lifetime restrictions did not apply to criminals who already were on parole before the law passed. But that would not prevent the foreseeable problems from sprouting and becoming more apparent since last August, when parole agents started to enforce the law.

Felony sex offenders are required to wear a satellite tracking device for life. Also, all sex offenders are prohibited from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park where children regularly congregate. The California Supreme Court is expected to rule on this restriction in the spring. We trust it will require some changes.

The residency restriction, especially the one related to parks, needs to be changed, whether the court does so or not. The limitation forces offenders to live outside most urban areas, areas with jobs and where they had homes.

It also mindlessly extends the residency restriction to offenders even after they complete parole. The law also disregarded the victims' ages.

As a result, a large and growing number of offenders are unable to find housing that complies with the law and instead are registering as transient.

About one-fifth of the state's approximately 4,000 sex offender parolees are transients, and about one-third of those are in the Bay Area.

With 700 sex offenders being paroled each month, the number of transients easily could grow by 140 a month indefinitely.

While most sex offenders have to report to parole agents weekly, transients must do so daily. That is needlessly costly and time-consuming for parole agents.

In some instances, the registered transients do have homes and families, but they are forced to wander away from their residences during the night to comply with the letter of the law. This makes no sense from a crime-prevention viewpoint.

Rehabilitation rates are far higher when former prisoners live in stable homes with continued employment.

Prop. 83 undermines stability and does not keep potential predators from walking by parks and school campuses; it only prevents them from living near those areas.

No wonder opposition to the law is growing. Even its author, Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster, says he did not intend to create transients or to so strictly define restricted areas.

The Legislature needs to address the shortcomings of Jessica's Law before thousands of transient sex offenders are wandering around urban areas at night, living with unstable home and job situations and taking up parole agents' valuable time.

Prop. 83 clearly overreached and is counterproductive. Fortunately, it is a statutory measure, not a constitutional amendment, and it can be altered by the Legislature.

Stiff penalties against sex offenders should remain, as should long periods of parole with reasonable residency restrictions and GPS monitoring. But the current 2,000-foot limit regarding parks and the lifelong GPS monitoring need to be scrapped.

Sex offenders must be encouraged to live in stable homes and get decent jobs. That is the best way to prevent them from repeating their crimes.


OH - Roll call: sex offenders

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01/06/2008

The challenges to Ohio’s new sex offender registration law are mounting in Tuscarawas County.

So far, 10 petitions seeking relief from the new law have been filed in Common Pleas Court. Some are filed by the offenders themselves, while others are filed by attorneys representing the offenders.

On Friday, Judge Edward O’Farrell issued a stay in the case of a Magnolia man who sought to block his reclassification from a sexually oriented offender to a Tier II offender. According to court records, the man was convicted of two counts of gross sexual imposition in Stark County in 1997.

The change would have required the man to register twice a year for an additional 15 years. Under O’Farrell’s order, the man must continue to register as mandated under the old law.

A hearing has been set for Feb. 19. O’Farrell established a schedule in the meantime for the man’s attorney, Rick Pitinii of Canton, and prosecutors to file written documents addressing the legal issues raised in the man’s petition. Primary among Pitinii’s arguments is the assertion that the retroactive nature of the new law is unconstitutional.

This is the first case of this type to cross O’Farrell’s desk. He said Friday he plans to handle all other similar cases assigned to him in this way and prosecutors agreed with the move.

Judge Elizabeth Lehigh Thomakos has taken a similar position. On Thursday she issued a stay in the case of another sex offender challenging his reclassification. The stay will remain in effect until the Ohio Supreme Court reviews the matter.

Common Pleas Court judges in Stark County also have put a moratorium on reclassifications until March when prosecutors and defense attorneys will debate the constitutional issues of the law change.

Pitinii argued that if an offender who was not subject to community notification under the old law is reclassified and made subject to community notification, the offender will be irreparably harmed should the law later be found unconstitutional.

The new statute – which went into effect Jan. 1 – eliminates the previous registration categories of sexually oriented offender, habitual sex offender and sexual predator and implements a three-tier system with longer and more stringent reporting requirements. According to the Ohio attorney general, Ohio has about 17,000 registered sex offenders.

O’Farrell said the retroactive nature of the law, Ohio’s version of the federal Adam Walsh Act, will be argued many times relating to its constitutionality. While he declined to comment on it, he said he expects the matter to be decided eventually by the Ohio Supreme Court.

“For everyone who did not finish their period of reporting by July 1, 2007, those people are subject to retroactive reclassification,” O’Farrell explained. “For everyone who is no longer required to report, this won’t apply to them. But the majority of people are still reporting.”

The controversy doesn’t stop there, he said. Prior to 2008, first-time offenders convicted of sexual battery who were not likely to reoffend were considered sexually oriented offenders who were required to register annually for 10 years. Under the new law, sexual battery is considered a Tier III offense with lifetime registration and community notification.

“There won’t be a challenge as to whether the Legislature can declare sexual battery a Tier III offense,” he said. “There will be a challenge as to the retroactivity because they don’t have due process.”

The Act, named after the murdered son of television’s “America’s Most Wanted” host John Walsh, also makes people convicted of non-sex crimes subject to reporting. For example, a conviction for kidnapping a minor by someone other than a parent can result in a person having to register.

O’Farrell said the new law is offense-driven, meaning judges have no discretion in deciding what category to put an offender in based on the offender’s conduct or the offender’s likelihood of reoffending. Each sex offense is listed under one of the three tiers. However, a prior conviction under one tier automatically bumps the offender into the next tier regardless of the offense.

“It’s hard not to come to the conclusion that the legislation didn’t have faith that judges were declaring people sexual predators when they should have,” he said. “To a certain extent, it makes it simpler for me.

“But I’m a judge – I’m elected to use my discretion, to use discernment and contemplation on issues. I ought to be able to judge when an individual circumstance warrants a deviation from a certain penalty. But the Legislature has the right to make laws and we have the obligation to follow them.”

Under the new law, failure to comply with registration guidelines will result in a crime punishable by at least one year in prison. The new law also provides for reduction of registration periods for Adult Tier I and Juveniles Tier III if there has been a clean record and other criteria have been met.