Sunday, August 10, 2008
JEFFERSONVILLE (AP) - A Clark Circuit Court judge has rejected a request from a convicted sex offender who wanted to watch his son play baseball despite a city ordinance banning sex offenders from parks.
- I believe the law says you cannot loitering in parks, but doesn't say you cannot be there at all. I could be wrong though.
Thirty-6-year-old Eric Dowdell had requested the exemption at a hearing Thursday, saying he wanted to enter parks to watch his 11-year-old son's baseball and football games.
But Clark Circuit Judge Abe Navarro denied the request. He says Dowdell still presents a danger to the community.
- So they do not go into this much, why do they still think he is a danger? I know nothing of this case, but am just curious. Did they do some evaluation on him or something? Or is the judge taking it upon himself to say this?
The American Civil Liberties Union was representing Dowdell and could consider an appeal.
Court records show that Dowdell was put on the sex-offender registry after admitting that he engaged in sexual activity with a 13-year-old girl when he was 21.
Parma police are no longer looking for a registered sex offender they say broke into a woman's apartment and tried to rape her Thursday night. The man led Brunswick police on a short chase, which ended in a fatal crash Friday evening.
John E. Melchior was riding a motorcycle westbound on SR 303 in Brunswick around 4:30 p.m. Friday, when he fled from police. The chase was terminated at SR 303 and US 42 due to Melchior's high speed of travel and traffic conditions.
Melchior continued northbound on US 42, where he died in a three-vehicle crash at the intersection of US 42 and Grafton Road. Melchior was taken to Medina General Hospital where he was pronounced dead. No one in the other vehicles was injured.
Police say Melchior broke into a unit at the Parma Woods Apartment complex and attacked a 26-year-old woman around 10 p.m. Thursday. She was awakened to discover Melchior completely nude and walking into her bedroom. Police say the victim tried to call 911 but the suspect knocked her phone from her hand. As he tried to force himself upon her, she put up a struggle and was able to fend him off.
Members of the Parma police department identified John Melchior as the suspect Friday, and issued a warrant for aggravated burglary and attempted rape. Police say Melchior had a history of arrests for similar offenses dating back to 1982 and was a registered sex offender.
EATONTOWN — The Borough Council has directed its lawyer to prepare an ordinance repealing the local law that regulates where convicted sex offenders may live because it violates state law.
A discussion about the ordinance — which bans convicted sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school or child care facility, 500 feet of a park or playground — took place among the council and Borough Attorney Gene Anthony at the Borough Council's workshop session on Wednesday.
A July 15 state Appellate Court decision has invalidated all municipal sex offender ordinances, Anthony said.
"We cannot violate the state statute," Anthony said.
Mayor Gerald J. Tarantolo and the council were reticent to repeal the ordinance. Several asked questions of Anthony about modifying it.
Anthony was steadfast.
"We have to rescind the local ordinance and rely upon the state statute," he said.
The council directed Anthony to prepare an ordinance repealing the current sex offender ordinance, which was adopted in 2005.
The court decision in the consolidated cases of G.H. vs. Galloway and Cherry Hill vs. James Barclay and Jeffrey Finguerra agreed with two trial court decisions that found municipal residency ordinances often were too strict.
"The ordinances interfere with and frustrate the purposes and operation of the statewide law," according to the decision.
"Well, I guess we don't have a choice," Tarantolo said.
Keith Brown: (732) 643-4076 or email@example.com
CA - Big bill for sex offender reviews Psychiatric contractors catch windfall under state mandate for Jessica's Law
Tax payer dollars going down the drain, making folks very rich!
These are the 10 highest-paid psychologists and psychiatrists hired by the state of California to evaluate sex offenders in 2007.
Name Location Pay
Robert Owen Central Coast $1,540,225
Dawn Starr Central Coast $1,153,057
Mohan Nair Beverly Hills $977,384
Jeremy Coles SF Bay Area $891,790
Shoba Sreenivasan Los Angeles $877,567
Michael Musacco Bakersfield $803,716
Mark Schwartz Orange County $748,517
Mark Miculian Central Valley $677,225
Craig Updegrove Central Coast $666,251
Nancy Rueschenberg Central Coast $658,265
*Includes payment for services, reimbursement for expenses.
Source: California Department of Mental Health
A 2006 law intended to crack down on sex offenders has proved a bonanza for a small group of private psychologists and psychiatrists, 14 of whom billed California taxpayers last year for a half a million dollars or more each, a Los Angeles Times investigation found.
Among the 79 contractors hired by the state to evaluate sex offenders, the top earner was Robert Owen, a Central Coast psychologist who pulled in more than $1.5 million in 2007, according to state records reviewed by the Times.
The No. 2 earner, psychologist Dawn Starr, billed the state $1.1 million in 2007, including $17,500 for a single day in April.
"It's been a boatload of money, to put it colloquially," psychologist Shoba Sreenivasan said during court testimony in November. Working only part time, she billed the state nearly $900,000 last year and at least $290,000 this year.
A civil servant doing the same work earns $101,000 to $110,000 annually.
Passed overwhelmingly by voter initiative in 2006, Jessica's Law mandated evaluations for thousands more sex offenders than in the past to determine whether their conditions warrant hospitalization after criminal sentences have been served. All told, evaluators hired by the state earned more than $24 million in 2007.
It's unclear, however, what benefit the investment has yielded.
There has been a nearly ninefold increase in evaluations and a threefold increase in recommendations for hospital commitment. But the actual number of commitments has remained about the same: 41 in the 18 months before the law was passed, 42 in the 18 months afterward.
As the state confronts a budget shortfall of $15.2 billion, legislation to fund contractors to evaluate offenders through 2010 is expected to be voted on in the California Assembly as soon as this week. Costs from Jessica's Law are expected to rise to several hundred million dollars annually over the next eight years, according to projections by California's legislative analyst.
State officials defend their approach.
"The public needs to appreciate how seriously we took the 70 percent vote for Jessica's Law, and public safety," said Stephen Mayberg, director of the California Department of Mental Health, which manages the program. "Was it like a crisis? Yes. . . . Anybody who was willing to take on evaluations at any time and in any place could literally work around the clock."
Mayberg said the backlog of imminent parolees has diminished, so cases now can be distributed more evenly. But fees will remain high and the overall costs about the same.
Jessica's Law required evaluations for convicts nearing parole for a single sex offense -- even if committed as a juvenile -- in any of 35 categories. Before that law passed, at least two offenses were required in any of nine categories.
To induce contractors to work more and to attract new ones, the Department of Mental Health roughly doubled its compensation to $3,500 for an initial evaluation and $200 per hour for legal testimony and travel.
In 2005, state evaluators -- almost all contractors -- reported on 244 individuals. In 2007, the first full year after passage of Jessica's Law, they evaluated 2,201.
"They were shoving these things down our throats," said psychologist Thomas MacSpeiden, an evaluator who earned more than $400,000 last year. "They were just saying, 'Take them, take them, take them!"'
MacSpeiden said he and others maintained high standards despite the need to shoehorn prisoner assessments around their day jobs. He called the pool of evaluators -- highly experienced medical doctors or Ph.D.s who receive special training from the state -- "the creme de la creme."
Even if it prevents only a few additional sex crimes, the broader net cast by Jessica's Law is necessary, said James Cahan, a Santa Clara County deputy district attorney who cochairs the sexually violent predator committee of the California District Attorneys Association.
"I've seen 5-year-olds curled up on the witness stand," he said.
"Anyone who does this work knows that it's worth the money."
Prosecutors use the expert evaluations to argue that offenders should be confined indefinitely, in most cases to Coalinga State Hospital, for treatment as sexually violent predators. An inmate can be so designated if a jury affirms such a diagnosis by two psychologists or psychiatrists.
But some defense attorneys aggressively have questioned state evaluators, suggesting that their judgments were swayed by high fees.
New research also shows far lower rates of recidivism by sex offenders than previously thought, an issue often raised to juries.
In 2005, John Couey, a sex offender who had completed parole, raped and murdered 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, the law's namesake. He buried the girl alive in a shallow grave.
Jessica's Law was intended to keep such criminals from reoffending.
But the mental health system was ill prepared for soaring workloads.
Evaluations often require review of thousands of pages of medical, legal and prison files and interviews with inmates, Mayberg said.
Reports are usually 20 to 30 pages and require an average of 20 hours to finish, he said.
Dr. Michael First, editor of the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the standard reference for mental disorders, said most reports require at least 30 hours.
"It's often hard to get into a person's head," he said. "I don't think there is any way to do shortcuts and do a decent report. You have people's lives and liberty at stake."
Yet on a single day, Nov. 13, 2007, No. 2-earner Starr billed for five evaluations. On April 23, 2007, she billed more than 17 hours for a range of court-related work and still found time to complete an evaluation, according to her invoices, which were reviewed by The Times.
Starr declined to comment. Owen, the top earner, did not return calls for comment.
Dr. Mohan Nair, a psychiatrist, earned nearly $1 million last year under the state program. He also saw private patients, provided forensic testimony and evaluation for other government agencies, directed a diagnostic lab and supervised residents at two medical centers.
Nair completed as many as 20 sex-offender evaluations a month in 2007. Including time billed for legal matters, they represented just 20 percent to 30 percent of his professional practice, he said.
Even at 100 hours per week, he would have had no more than six hours to complete each of five evaluations.
Jessica's Law made fast work possible, Nair said, by requiring evaluations of offenders with "thin files."
"The less data you have, the less criminal history, history of offenses," he said, "it's going to take less time."
Mayberg, director of the Department of Mental Health, said some high earners increased their volume by interviewing as many as three inmates in a single prison visit and hiring assistants to organize documents and fill in boilerplate portions of reports.
The vast cost of the evaluations and the system's reliance on contractors have prompted concerns by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents state psychologists.
"There is going to have to be some kind of adjustment in what the contractors are making if (the state) is going to recruit (staff psychologists)," Judi Herman, who chairs the union's psychologist committee, said in an interview.
The State Personnel Board recently took up the issue, ruling that the use of contractors violated state law by failing to make an adequate effort to fill evaluator jobs with regular employees. The board ordered mental health officials to replace the contractors with civil servants. Despite an increase in pay to as much as $110,000 annually, Mayberg said, just four jobs out of 80 have been filled.
Since then, the department and the union helped to craft a bill to permit the use of contract evaluators until January 2011.
The legislation, sponsored by Jessica's Law co-author Sen. George Runner, a Republican, would require that state officials report to the Legislature twice a year on hiring efforts and on the costs and effects of the program.
The data could help determine whether the evaluation process is operating as voters intended. One high-earning evaluator is among those voicing doubts.
Nair said that since Jessica's Law, the proportion of inmates he recommends for commitment has plummeted. That shift convinced him that the law's criteria are overly broad. Asked whether Jessica's Law is a good law, Nair paused.
"I have to wonder," he said. "There may be a better allocation of resources."
OGDEN -- Just before Christmas 2002, I wrote a column about Jerry Green, founder of Ogden's Christmas Village, and a troubled boy named Ray Marshall.
It was a nice story about nice people helping Ray back in 1962.
Green said people still ask him whether Ray went on to have a good life.
He didn't. Ray has had a tragic life. When I told Green how tragic, he wondered what else he could or should have done in 1962.
Ray's life shows how a bad childhood can make a man go very wrong.
Ray was sexually abused as a child.
As an adult, Ray went on to sexually abuse two teenage boys.
He was a victim of, and perpetrator of, a crime that society, today, severely condemns.
But knowing Ray, knowing his life, knowing who he was and how he lives now, makes it hard for me to condemn him.
Ray Marshall's life was already hard when he started hanging around the volunteers building the first Christmas Village.
It was 1962, and Ray was 12.
"The social services people checked and said it's a sad case, his parents really didn't care," Green told me.
Green said Ray was an endearing kid but had one annoying habit -- he was always asking what time it was.
So, the volunteers chipped in and bought him a watch.
"A couple days later one of us asked him, 'Hey, Ray, what time is it?' and he said his father had taken the watch and sold it."
The volunteers bought the family Christmas anyway.
Years passed, and the last time Green saw Ray it was when Ray looked him up after joining the Army.
Green never knew that, after Christmas Village, Ray stole money from a laundry and was sent to reform school. There, Ray was sexually abused.
Ray went to the Clearfield Job Corps, where he was sexually abused again. Then it was Vietnam, where Ray was badly wounded.
Out of the Army, Ray was married and divorced three times.
He descended into alcoholism and depression.
When my column ran, ending with its question of where Ray might be, he was in the Utah State Prison for sodomy on a child and sexual abuse of a child.
He was released in early 2007 and remains on parole, living at Ogden's Homeless Veterans Fellowship.
Ray's therapist, Bill Gardiner, clinical director of the Regional Treatment Center for Sex Offenders, said Ray is a classic example of the sex abuse cycle: An abused child grows up to abuse others.
Ray did abuse others, Gardiner said, but the abuse Ray suffered locked his sexual maturity around 10 years of age.
Ray is a man outwardly, he said, but inside "he's still that little boy."
Gardiner insists abusers like Ray can live successfully outside of prison.
"The old notion of 'Once an offender, always an offender' is gone," he said. "We are successfully treating them. There's the rest of the story. The amazing thing is, the Ray you're talking about there (he pointed to the column in Ray's case file) is still there."
But don't take his word for it, he said. Go see Ray.
So I did.
Ray is 58, medium height, overweight and in bad health.
He recently had open heart surgery.
He wears thick safety glasses and a Vietnam veterans cap.
He talks haltingly and tends to change subjects.
His room is not much larger than his cell in prison.
It is crowded with a bed, cabinet, plastic storage drawers, a desk with a TV and computer, and a cage for Boo, his cockatoo.
Ray doesn't mind telling his story in the paper because, he said, he has changed: "I'm not the monster. I've got the monster under control."
He did abuse those two boys, "and hurt pretty bad about that," but, "I'm not going to do it any more. I didn't think I was hurting them by touching them."
He paused, thought, and went on: "I was really drunk and smoking heavy, drinking a gallon (of hard liquor) every two days."
That's why he's in treatment, he said. And counseling. He's gone seven years clean and sober.
Plus, as a registered sex offender, he lives under more severe restrictions than just about any other released convict.
How severe? In 1990 I interviewed a man who raped and strangled a woman and was sentenced to death.
When the U.S. Supreme Court did away with the death penalty, he was given life, then paroled and set free.
That man, who died several years ago, walked the streets of Ogden anonymously.
Nobody could look him up and harass him. He could visit whom he pleased.
He led a relatively normal life.
Ray, whose crime was bad but didn't involve killing anyone, is far less free.
Anyone can look up Ray's address and picture on the state's sex offender database.
His parole conditions won't let him go near children. He can't visit his sister's house in Ogden because of her children.
His sister takes him shopping or to movies, so he's never alone.
Ray is fine with that. He'd like his own place, but he still feels unsure, wants to take no chances.
"I'm going to stay here a little bit longer, because I feel I need some more taking care of responsibility and stuff."
Ray remembers Jerry Green.
"That was one of my better times," he said. "I loved to work for those people. They treated me like I was an individual. I remember they trusted me."
Green, who now lives in Rio Vista, Calif., said he did hear, after the column ran, that Ray was in prison, but not why.
When I told him, he cried.
"My wife and I talked about adopting him at one time," he said. "We decided, with both of us working full time and our own children, we couldn't."
As for what Ray did, "He's paid for it," Green said.
"He touched the heart of a lot of people -- people with children who were well off. They were the type of people who were working in the garage every night for the village, and it was a sad, sad story."
A sad story, he said, that ought to end.
"He sure deserves a break."
Wasatch Rambler is the opinion of Charles Trentelman. You can reach him at 625-4232, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
View the article here
In a federal criminal case involving an internet sex crime, a federal judge recently ruled that the phrase "minor victim" does not include an undercover detective posing as a minor. The decision in the case interpreted provisions of the recently-enacted Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, as well as a previous Act.
As part of the Adam Walsh Act, Congress amended the Bail Reform Act (PDF) by establishing that for certain offenses involving a "minor victim", defendants should not be released on bail unless they are subjected to electronic monitoring and a host of other mandatory conditions. In addition, in an Act which predated the Adam Walsh Act, Congress amended the Bail Reform Act by creating a rebuttable presumption in favor of detention for certain enumerated offenses involving a "minor victim". In many cases, these two provisions, particularly the latter one, make it virtually impossible to secure the release of an individual facing a federal internet-based sex charge.
This recent decision, however, appears to provide some hope for those individuals. In United States v. Kahn, the federal magistrate judge presiding over the matter pointed out that Congress failed to define the phrase "minor victim" in either the Adam Walsh Act or the Bail Reform Act. Accordingly, based on fundamental principles of statutory interpretation, the court interpreted the phrase in accordance with its plain meaning. Significantly, based on such an interpretation, the court concluded that "the plain meaning of the term 'minor victim' does not encompass the undercover detective or her fictitous thirteen year-old daughter." I anticipate that the Government will appeal this decision and this issue of statutory interpretation will be an interesting one to follow as it develops further.
Like I've said, anyone intent on committing another crime, nothing will prevent them from doing so, these laws are cruel and unusual punishment, unconstitutional, draconian, immoral and wrong, plain and simple!
PANAMA CITY — The strict sex predator laws enacted in Florida and Panama City did not save 13-year-old Melinda Hinson.
Authorities said her accused killer, Matthew Caylor, a sex offender from Georgia, broke probation and violated Florida's sex offender laws when he came to live at the Valu-Lodge on U.S. 98 in late June. Caylor, who previously had been convicted of molesting a child, was supposed to register with the Bay County Sheriff's Office before taking up residence in town. There also was a restriction in Panama City as to where he could live.
Instead of following the law, authorities said Caylor went on a crime spree that ended a few hours after Melinda's death.
While law enforcement officials stress the importance of the sex offender laws, groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida contend the laws actually are making communities less safe, said Courtenay Strickland, director of public policy for the ACLU in Florida.
"I think we are certainly in agreement with law enforcement and other advocates out there that the goal is to protect our communities from violence," Strickland said.
- But that is the problem, you will NEVER protect the community from violence! What fantasy world are you living in?
However, she said research has shown that residency restrictions in Florida's municipalities and counties do not work.
In Florida, sex offenders and predators have to register with a local sheriff's office and notify authorities if they move. Although sexual predators essentially qualify as sexual offenders, as well, sexual predators' crimes are more serious, usually involve violence and they generally face longer sentences.
Investigators are supposed to keep tabs on the offenders, and authorities often turn to this group as suspects when crimes are committed. Their mug shots and addresses are kept on national and statewide databases.
Florida law also bans sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school, or other places where children congregate. Panama City, like several other Bay County municipalities, enacted a stricter restriction, saying the offenders could not live within 2,500 feet of a place where children congregate.
The ACLU has asked Gov. Charlie Crist (Email) to convene a task force to look into these laws. Strickland said the state needs to enact a law that will invalidate all of the sex offender laws created in Florida's towns. It would be replaced with a new law that should be uniform, easy to understand and give offenders a fair chance to comply, she said.
Instead of being monitored, sex offenders are being "pushed underground because they cannot find a way to live in compliance with the rules and restrictions," Strickland said.
This seems to be the case, at least to some degree, in Bay County, where several times public notices have been sent out that inform the public that a sex offender will be living under a local bridge. If they are homeless, sex offenders are harder to track, Strickland said, and more likely to commit another crime instead of establishing a "lawful lifestyle."
Local law enforcement officials disagree and said two local cases show the need for residency restrictions and monitoring.
Caylor is accused of attacking two women in a Panama City Beach condo on July 8. The women fended him off, and he came back to the Valu-Lodge, where he raped and killed Melinda, according to police.
- OK, so how did a residency restriction prevent Melinda from being killed?
Caylor was captured by the Sheriff's Office just hours after the slaying. His place of residence and status as a sex offender made him the prime suspect in Melinda's case, and he ultimately confessed to that crime, investigators said.
"Let's say Caylor would have been stopped the day before in a traffic stop," said Sgt. John Corley of the Bay County Sheriff's Office. Because of the current sex offender laws, "he would have been incarcerated and the crime would never have occurred."
- But the crime did occur, so the registry and residency restrictions DID NOTHING TO PREVENT A CRIME!
The laws also give law enforcement an advantage in the tense, early moments of homicide, rape and missing-person investigations, said Capt. Jimmy Stanford of the Bay County Sheriff's Office. If a crime has been committed in a certain area, investigators will know if any sex predators live in that area and will check in on them, Stanford said.
- So what about the sex predators who goes elsewhere to commit their crime? You are going to find someone dead and question everyone who lives around the crime scene, when the person could be from another town or state. So once again, these laws do nothing!
"You never know which one of these guys is the ticking time tomb," Stanford said.
- You are right, and you never know who in society is a ticking time bomb, ready to gun down many people in a school, shopping center, or become some suicidal terrorists. So what is your point?
Although the state's sex offender law does apply, Bay County does not have its own ordinance that forces the suspects to live more than 1,000 feet from schools and similar places where children gather. The Sheriff's Office has asked the county to enact such a law, but so far the commission has not obliged.
Stanford also said he would be in favor of longer prison sentences for sex offenders, but officials can only enforce the law as written.
- Longer prison sentences will not prevent any crime either, it's just a feel-good move, to get someone out of your hands. And, 90% or more of all sexual crimes, occur by someone WHO IS NOT ON THE REGISTRY!
"You read it every day around the state, around the nation," Stanford said.
- It's because it's more in the public eye now. These crimes have been around since the dawn of time, but the hysteria is blown out of proportion by the politicians with an agenda, and the media, for viewers, ratings and entertainment, like To Catch a Predator.
Stanford said the Edward Lee Brown case, like the Caylor case, prove the necessity of the sex offender laws.
- How does it prove anything? If it proves anything, it proves the laws do not, and are not working, and will not work.
Investigators said Brown, a Panama City Beach resident, detained a child who was riding her bicycle for several minutes on July 18. Brown, who had just been released from prison for attempted sexual battery on a child under 13, was arrested and charged with false imprisonment of someone under the age of 13 and failure to register as a convicted felon.
And while most in the law enforcement community seem to be in favor of the sex predator laws, it was not investigators who called for the change.
"It's the general public" who wanted the laws, said Lt. Mark Aviles, of the Panama City Police Department. He added that most people do not care if they are living near a convicted burglar, but they do care if a child molester is living next door.
- And the general public has been FORCE FED bogus statistics and lies, to increase the fear-factor, to get their attention diverted from the real issues, like the draconian war in Iraq, corrupt government, and much more. There is NO PROOF these laws are or will work, none.
"I've got two kids," Aviles said. "I support (sex offender laws), too."