Showing posts with label Texas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Texas. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

TX - Sheriff’s Office sergeant (Chad Hightower) arrested for improper photography

Chad Hightower
Chad Hightower
Original Article


A Wise County Sheriff’s officer was arrested Friday morning for improper photography related to sex offenders who had been jailed. Sgt. Chad Hightower was charged with improper photography or visual recording. He posted $25,000 bond and was released. The investigation began from a complaint by a man who was registering as a sex offender. According to the arrest warrant affidavit, Hightower told the man a new state law required him to take photos of offenders in the nude. The complainant was photographed naked twice, the second time in an office at the county’s impound yard. The investigation revealed nude photos of other men as well, according to the affidavit. Look for a full story in the weekend Wise County Messenger.

See Also:

Saturday, August 2, 2014

TX - We can do better on sex offender laws

Morning paper an coffee
Original Article


By Steve Blow

Let’s face it, we’re more sympathetic to the plights of some than others.

Lost puppies and sad children rank right up there atop the sympathy scale. And at the bottom.

Well, can you think of a group lower than sex offenders?

It’s a tough sell, but a national conference is meeting this week in Dallas with the goal of making things a little easier for those convicted of sex-related crimes.

Hang on! Don’t stop reading. You may not be brimming with sympathy, but the truth is that the reformers have a point. And this doesn't just affect the sex offenders.

Our laws have become expensive and ineffective. In our zeal to protect against sexual predators, we might even be making things worse.

The national conference of RSOL — Reform Sex Offender Laws — began with a social hour Wednesday night. It gets down to business Thursday through Saturday, meeting at Skillman Church of Christ in East Dallas.

About 125 people are expected. Virtually all of them are like RSOL executive director Brenda Jones. They come because of a personal connection.

I have a family member still serving time,” she said. “One of the things I promised him is that I would make sure he could have a life when he got out.”

The group’s central message is that sex offender registries have become an enormous burden on the individuals required to register, and they yield no safety benefit for the public.

There’s no statistical evidence that it’s doing any good at all,” Jones said. “And there’s growing evidence that it could actually be doing harm.”

Those on sex offender registries often can’t find a job or a place to live. It drives many into hiding. The pressures can make those with sexual addictions more likely to offend, not less.

As with most things, this began with a good idea: Law enforcement should know where convicted child predators live. But in our zeal to protect kids, the movement went overboard.

The list was made public. Registry was required for more and more offenses. The result: Texas has almost 80,000 people on its sex offender registry.

It was sold as a parent having the right to know there’s a predator next door. But the vast majority of the people on that list never touched a child, never had an offense against a child and may not have even had a sexual offense,” Jones said.

Even public urination sometimes ends up as a sex crime requiring registration.

Mary Sue Molnar of San Antonio leads the reform effort in Texas. She is founder of Texas Voices, an affiliate of RSOL.

Several years ago, my son made some really bad choices. He was 22. The girl was 16,” Molnar said. “He would be placed on the sex offender registry for the rest of his life. He would never be able to serve his time and move on with his life, like any other offender.”

California has almost 100,000 on its sex offender list. And its oversight board wants to make a change. In a recent policy report, the board said:

Research on sex offender risk and recidivism now has created a body of evidence which offers little justification for continuing the current registration system.”

The California report estimated that local governments spend $24 million a year maintaining the sex offender registry. Yet most people never consult it. And most who do take no action as a result.

Nobody is making excuses here for people who commit crimes of any sort. But if safety is what we’re after, we’re not getting our money’s worth.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

TX - Sex offender agency under fire

Morning paper and coffee
Original Article


AUSTIN (AP) - State officials say the Texas agency that oversees violent sex offenders must undergo an overhaul because for years it didn't operate according to basic management practices.

The new director of the Office of Violent Sex Offender Management, Marsha McLane, says she's found that employees worked from home and had little supervision. Personnel and contract files could not be found. The Houston Chronicle reports these and other problems have conspired to slow efforts to bring order to the agency.

The former director, Allison Taylor, has been criticized by lawmakers and others for relocating about three-dozen sex offenders to neighborhoods in Austin and Houston without notifying residents. She later moved another two-dozen offenders to a minimum security halfway house, again without notifying nearby residents.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

TX - Teens Keep Vandalizing a University Park Sex Offender's House, and He's Getting Sick of It

Teen valdalizing a car
Original Article


By Amy Silverstein

When _____'s house got egged, he called the University Park police. It was a Saturday night in September 2012. Officers came to the crime scene but found no leads, other than the splattered egg yolk. _____ realized that his patio umbrella was also missing, according to the police report.

The following Saturday night, the eggs hit again. A neighbor told the cops that he saw two teenagers walking nearby around the same time.

_____ installed a video camera security system, hoping to catch the egg-throwers. But when his house got hit again, the vandal spotted the camera and slapped it down.

Soon the vandals moved onto tougher objects. _____ was sitting in his home one night when he heard the sound of glass breaking. His window had been hit with "an unknown object," according to a University Park Police Department report.

Another night, _____ told police, he saw a car drive over his yard. The vehicle fled when he stepped outside.

The next year, _____ was awakened by the sound of a bang. Cops, in _____'s house yet again, found his front window was shattered and the kitchen had a strange smell. A smoke grenade rested on the ground.

_____ counts at least 12 vandalism attacks on his home in the past three years. He says he's likely being targeted because he's a registered child sex offender. Now, _____ has hope that some of the attackers will face harsh consequences.

University Park police have recently identified seven teenagers who egged _____'s house this past April. "Threw a couple eggs at the side of his house then drove away. It was a stupid mistake that I regret doing," says a statement written by Austin Roberts, a 17-year-old Highland Park High School student. Police say he drove one of the getaway cars that night, a Porsche. "I am truly sorry for any damage, glad to help," he wrote.

_____, pushing for prison time, has told police that if the perpetrators aren't charged with a felony, he "will be put in the crosshairs of an escalated attack and will not feel safe at home, and it will signal open season to other non-heterosexuals, RSO's, and the elderly."

_____ is classified by the state as a low-risk sex offender. He was convicted of sexual assault of a child in 1980 and 1983. He was charged for the offense again in 2006 in Dallas County after an alleged victim went to police, reporting a relationship he had with _____ dating back ten years earlier, when the victim would have been 15. The case resulted in a hung jury, as the News reported in 2010. "There's nothing say. It's a matter of public record," he tells Unfair Park, declining to speak further about any of the cases.

He's lived in University Park for over 30 years, and he said his neighbors never gave him trouble for his criminal history, perhaps because they didn't know. That all changed in 2010, after _____ encountered teenage boy playing saxophone in the street. He filmed the boy performing. "I said, 'You mind if I film a video of you playing a song?' And he said, 'No problem,' and that's what that was all about," _____ says, describing the encounter as totally innocent.

But the footage disturbed a mother, who then notified the police, according to a local news report at the time.

Though _____ wasn't charged in connection with that incident, it alerted the University Park PD to the fact that he was required to register as a sex offender under a law that had recently gone into effect in Texas. The news, obviously, didn't go over well. ("Bryn Mawr Resident Registers as Sex Offender with University Park Police Department," was the headline on Park Cities People in 2010, and the case also got write-ups in the News).

And now his house is a popular target for eggs and other stuff.

University Park police say that they have no evidence the attacks were coming from the same group of people. Though they never caught the people behind the previous attacks, UPPD Lieutenant John Ball says he's proud that detectives were finally able to identify suspects in this case.

"I'm very pleased that we spent many hours looking for these offenders, and making sure that they're brought to the courts for prosecution," Ball tells Unfair Park.

The police originally tried to turn the case over to the Dallas County district attorney, after _____ provided a bill showing that it cost him more than $1,500 to remove the egg stains and repaint his house. But prosecutors declined to prosecute. The teenagers are instead being charged with Class C misdemeanors in municipal court. The trial isn't scheduled yet.

With their addresses posted online, registered sex offenders can make easy targets of crime. Last year, a man in South Carolina went on a killing spree, selecting child abusers his victims. _____ argues that charging the teens with a felony will send a message to the others tempted to have some fun at his expense that they're not above the law.

The attacks have stopped recently. Word got around, _____ says, that people are getting caught. But it will only stop for good if those caught are punished. Otherwise, he wrote, "HPHS students with easy access to cash from their rich parents in Park Cities may feel entitled to break the law with impunity."

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

TX - Remember – National Conference is just around the corner!

National Reform Sex Offender LawsOriginal Article

Please enjoy a special video message from our guest speaker, Lenore Skenazy, for all of you, about our “Hope-Courage-Reform” conference July 16-19 in Dallas. I also want to strongly encourage anyone who is still “on the fence” to consider booking a hotel room NOW. Deadline for that is JUNE 15, after which the rates will go WAY up. No cost to reserve, and you can cancel later. Visit our conference site for details! – Brenda Jones, Executive Director

Friday, May 30, 2014

TX - Council member proposes new ordinance to place signs at sex offenders homes

Signs in offenders yards
Original Article (Video available)


By Daniela Fierro

LAREDO (KGNS) - A city leader is proposing an idea to put signs in the yards of local sex offenders, to identify where they live.

Enter your county on the state sex offenders registry and it'll show you the names and addresses of all the people on that list.

But according to Councilman for District 1, Mike Garza, it's not enough and local families need more protection.

He also hopes a new ordinance will provide that.

Arturo Calabaza is a father of two, he is concerned about the possibility of a sex offender living in his neighborhood.

That could be a reality with a new proposal made by Councilman Garza.

He wants to place signs on the sex offender's property, but there are some legal issues.

Currently sex offenders have to register either with the county of Laredo Police Department.

Webb County probation officer Robbie Adams has to keep track of 60 local sex offenders.

But not all the cases have the same requirements.

The Department of Public Safety Registry shows 198 registered sex offenders in Webb county alone.

And with this new plan, Councilman Garza is hoping more people will be aware.

Garza says he got the idea from a community in Florida.

But for Arturo, the proposal hits close to home, and hopes it becomes a reality.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

TX - Mart May Pass First-Ever Sex Offender Ordinance

Sex offender residency zones
Original Article (Video available)


By Matt Howerton

City Council members in Mart will be voting on a new sex offender ordinance Monday night. The town has never adopted a sex offender ordinance before and if passed, this would be the city’s first ever.

The proposed law comes on the heels of a sex offender registration in town. In April residents’ living near the city’s elementary and high schools were notified via postcard that a registered sex offender was residing in the area.

Since Mart currently has no sex offender ordinance whatsoever, the offender only has to comply with state law, which states that a sex offender can’t live within 500 feet of places where children commonly gather only if he or she is on parole or probation.

Offenders can live wherever they want if they aren’t on parole or probation and there is no city ordinance in place.

Since April, council members have been under the gun to adopt a sex offender ordinance.

I was bombarded with emails and phone calls and that's what made me realize we needed to do something about this pretty quickly," Mart Mayor Pro-tem Henry Witt said.

I was just as appalled as some of the other members of the city council.”

Witt and other city council members have since drafted a sex offender ordinance for Mart that states registered sex offenders with violations against children 16 and under cannot live within 1000 feet of where children commonly gather.

If passed however, current sex offenders living near child safety zones like schools or parks would be grandfathered into the ordinance and wouldn’t be forced to relocate.

But new offenders coming into the city could be fined each day they live in a prohibited child safety zone.

Mart’s city council meeting starts at 6:30 pm Monday night.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

TX - Dublin passes its first sex offender ordinance

Police Chief Shawn Fullagar
Police Chief Shawn Fullagar
Original Article



Residents of Dublin have lived for years without a sex offender ordinance, but not anymore. On Monday the Dublin City Council heard from residents and Police Chief Shawn Fullagar on the issue.

Fullagar said when he discovered the city was without a sex offender ordinance, he began researching other cities with sex offender ordinances and policies in place. Armed with the information, Fullagar drew up an ordinance he and City Administrator Nancy Wooldridge presented to the council.

"When I discovered the city did not have an ordinance involving these situations I set about doing some research and working one up to present because your city administrator and I believed we needed one," Fullagar said. "I looked at ordinances in Coppell, Alpine, Stephenville, Keller and Carrollton. I wanted to make sure we got everything we needed covered, covered, without going too far."

The ordinance is similar to Stephenville's, restricting a sex offender's ability to live or own property within 500 feet of a school, public park, daycare center or other place where children gather.

The ordinance does not require sex offenders already living or owning property within those limitations to sell the property or move. Fullagar said of the nine to 11 sex offenders living within the Dublin city limits, none are currently living within 500 feet of those locations.

The ordinance restricts where sex offenders can be, and who they can communicate with. For example, the ordinance Fullagar recommended prohibits sex offenders from being within 500 feet of any event, meeting, celebration or gathering where minors are present.

"Another component of the ordinance will make it unlawful for a sex offender to approach a minor on the sidewalk, street, in any public area including local businesses and public buildings like the library," he said. "All of these components apply to all children or minors except those minors who are the offender's own children. The goal of this ordinance is to protect the children of Dublin, not to restrict people from being good parents to their children."

One resident, _____, spoke in regards to the ordinance. He admitted that at 19 he made a mistake. _____ said his life is different now and asked the council to consider an ordinance that allows him to continue being a part of his eight-year-old son's life.

"I know I made a mistake and I'm not trying to get around that," _____ told the council. "All I'm asking is that you make sure there is a way I can continue to be a part of my children's lives, that I can continue to support them as they grow and participate in local events."

Fullagar assured council members the ordinance would not limit parents like _____ from attending their children's events. He did say when at those events, any offender there to support their child cannot make contact with other minors.

"The maximum consequence for a city ordinance violation is a citation for $500," he said. "However, if the subject warrants contact from an officer in these situations, it could escalate into something more. But this ordinance would only be a citation."

After the discussion, council member Mac McMullen said he had reservations about voting for an ordinance that was "trying to regulate morality."

"I just have a problem voting in favor of an ordinance that would be, in effect, regulating the morality of others," McMullen said.

Fullagar said he didn't see it that way.

"I see it more like there are people in our community who have committed crimes involving minors," he said. "I see this as keeping those minors in our community away from someone who has committed such a crime."

Following a lengthy discussion, the council passed the measure 4-2 with McMullen and John Johnson voting against it.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

TX - Collin County Officer (Keith Michael Duncan) Arrested On Child Porn Charges

Keith Michael Duncan
Keith Michael Duncan
Original Article


COLLIN COUNTY - A detention officer in Collin County has been arrested on charges of possessing child pornography.

Members of the Collin County Sheriff’s Office Child Abuse Task Force arrested 52-year-old Keith Michael Duncan on Thursday evening.

Authorities received a tip involving a user uploading child pornography to an online account. The suspect account was traced to a residence in Parker, Texas.

A search warrant was obtained, and 41 images, all of them consistent with child pornography, were located on the owner’s computer. Some of the images showed nude girls as young as 4-5 years old.

Authorities say the pictures were loaded to Microsoft’s SkyDrive and reported by a Microsoft staff member to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children one month ago.

NCMEC forwarded the tip to Dallas Police, which tracked the IP address to Duncan.

Duncan, who has been employed by the Collin County Sheriff’s Office as a Detention Officer since 2008, is being held on $50,000 bond.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

TX - Midland Man (Joe Garza) Addresses City Council For New Sex Offender Ordinance

Joe Garza
Joe Garza
Original Article


By Justin Kree

MIDLAND - It's a story NewsWest 9 has been following since the beginning. A registered sex offender caught twice masturbating in a Midland neighborhood, in front of the same family.

"I want a law to pass, or something to pass for all these sexual predators to have a sign posted in front of their house, or if they live in an apartment complex to put in front of the door. We need to protect our children," Joe Garza said.

Joe Garza is on a mission to make sex offenders like _____, more visible in the community.

On March 10th, _____ was arrested for masturbating across the street from Garza's home, in plain sight of his 5 year old daughter.

NewsWest 9 has been following this story, we first spoke to Joe and his wife, Sandra a few weeks ago when this happened.

_____ was arrested again on April 3 committing the same act.

Mayor Jerry Morales addressed Garza's concerns at Tuesday's meeting.

"What will happen is legal will do the research on that and give us an opinion on if we have any jurisdiction on that, creating those types of ordinances. There still a lot of research to do on that law. We definitely want to take the seriousness of that issue and see what legal has to say about it." Mayor, Morales said.

"I'm glad that he recognized what was going on and that I brought it to their attention. Hopefully the city council can see that we need to change something for the children," Garza said.

So what are the restrictions placed on sex offenders living near a school zone?

"They cannot be within a 1000 feet. If they live within a 1000 feet of the time of their offense, they can live there but under severe restrictions," Sheriff, Painter said.

Midland County's Sheriff, Gary Painter says if sex offenders are allowed free they must fill out this pre-release notification form which goes into extensive detail.

Authorities keep an even closer eye on sex offenders when Halloween rolls around.

"If they are at home, their light cannot be on. We'll go around, we'll make contact with all of our offenders to make sure they are compliant with the law. Also make sure there are no kids at the residence or coming up to the residence," Painter said.

As far as Garza's idea for putting up signs in a sex offender's yard, Mayor Morales believes it's a good idea.

"Most definitely, if any constituents can speak their mind, we are definitely going to listen. We want to take a matter of that magnitude very seriously and so we will get some good definite answers," Morales said.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

TX - Dallas County Schools Unveils the "School Bus of the Future," Complete with "Pedophile Finder"

School Bus of the Future
Original Article

Sounds like they got this hair-brained idea from John Walsh and his pedophile bus surfing (Article, Video)


By Eric Nicholson

Dallas County Schools - the local school district with no schools or students but lots and lots of school buses - sent word last Friday that it was preparing to unveil the "School Bus of the Future," and that this futuristic vehicle will "will revolutionize school bus transit and exponentially increase the safe passage of students to and from school." We were intrigued.

My money personally was on some sort of armored personnel carrier, which the Department of Defense is handing out like peppermints. Web editor Gavin Cleaver, a deeply cynical British man, speculated that it's "probably just some unemployed guy in a battered old Ford Galaxy," which would be more in keeping with tradition.

It turns out the School Bus of the Future looks very much like the school bus of the past, i.e. big, yellow and ungainly with a retractable stop sign.

That, Dallas County Schools explained today in a press release, is because the improvements are mostly invisible from the outside.

A brief glance won't tell you the new buses are equipped with voice-over-IP communication systems, or that they transmit data on speed, location and acceleration in real-time. The "Thumbs-Up!" thumbprint scanner, which keeps track of which kids are on the bus and whether they're supposed to be there, is also hard to see unless you're really pressing your face to the glass, as are the multiple interior security cameras.

Slightly easier to notice is the rear-facing camera, dubbed -- no joke -- the "Pedophile Finder."

"I wish we could have come up with a better name for it," says Dallas County Schools spokeswoman Allison Allison. (Yes, that's the correct name.) The camera, mounted on the top portion of the school bus and positioned to capture the license plate of tailing vehicles, isn't just to catch pedophiles. It could be a parent who lost custody of their child, or a kidnapper. But "Pedophile Finder" was the name that stuck.
- So if there is a vehicle behind the bus, how does it film their license plate that is on the back of their vehicle?

"The bus driver can't tell if somebody's tailing him but if they recognize a pattern of a car following a bus" based on video, they can take appropriate measures.

The whole setup is called BusGuard, which was developed by DCS and Louisiana-based Force Multiplier Solutions. DCS provides buses for all Dallas County school districts, serving some 425,000 students. All 1,900 buses will be outfitted with the equipment by the fall, Allison says.

A full list of specs can be found here, along with the comforting reminder that "in the event of a serious terrorist or hi-jacking emergency, the control of the management system can be transferred to the appropriate law enforcement agency."

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

TX - Former Odessa Police Officer (Salvador Becerra) Now Faces Sexual Assault Charge

Salvador Becerra
Salvador Becerra
Original Article


Odessa (Big 2 News) - "What has occurred is disgusting and it's not tolerated within this department," said Cpl. Steve LeSueur, communications officer for the Odessa Police Department.

Former police officer Salvador Becerra was arrested early in March.

Three different women came forward saying they were touched inappropriate during traffic stops.

"Becerra went through a background check just like every other officer did. He had to take every other test throughout the entire background process," LeSueur said.

Now, three weeks later, Becerra was arrested again after state troopers say two additional victims were identified.

This adds one count of sexual assault to Becerra's list of charges.

"The reality is that this is involving one officer. We have 182 sworn officers here in the Odessa Police Department, this is involving one officer," LeSueur said.

Even with a system to enforce guidelines and rules for officers to follow, Becerra's acts still went unnoticed.

But, police officials say this was a disappointing decision made by one former officer that does not represent the entire police department.

"There's a system in place and as long as you know, that system is followed, then it would work. However these are the actions of one individual who chose to take a certain path," LeSueur said.

According to affidavits obtained by Big 2, Becerra approached the latest victim that came forward claiming he needed to search her motel room after finding an open container of beer in her vehicle.

The affidavit states the victim was afraid if she did not perform sexual acts on Becerra, she would be arrested and taken to jail.

"We work so hard to get the trust of the citizens and Becerra's actions just made it extremely difficult for us to accomplish that," LeSueur said.
- Are you forgetting that everybody is innocent until proven guilty?  You've pretty much thrown him under the bus already!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

TX - ‘Failure to register’ nets sex offender 60 years

Cruel and unusual punishment
Original Article

This punishment is extreme and doesn't fit the crime! He did not sexually assault anybody, and this is more punishment than if he did! He could have murdered several people and got less than this, and this for not registering an address?


A Willis man was convicted to 60 years in prison Tuesday for failure to register as a sex offender.

A Montgomery County jury in the 435th District Court found _____, 59, guilty of failure to register as a sex offender Monday, and District Court Judge Michael T. Seiler sentenced Smith to 60 years in prison on Tuesday.

We are very pleased with the jury’s verdict and the judge’s sentence,” said assistant prosecutor Shanna Redwine. “Both the jury and the judge obviously appreciate the danger of having a convicted sex offender just roaming about in Montgomery County unsupervised.”

Redwine prosecuted the case along with assistant county prosecutor Tyler Dunman.

In June 2012, the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office was assisting the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies in conducting a random sex offender compliance check throughout Montgomery County, when it was discovered _____ had relocated away from the location where he had previously registered as a sex offender. _____ failed to notify the Montgomery County Sex Offender Compliance Unit prior to his move.

During a follow up investigation, MCSO detectives discovered that several months prior _____ had moved from his then registered address in Conroe to separate addresses in Willis and in Spring.

_____ was previously convicted of felony aggravated sexual assault in 1989 for the brutal rape of a Harris County woman.

Following parole from prison for his 1989 criminal conviction, _____ was required to register as a sex offender for life and ordered to follow certain regulations and laws applicable to sex offenders in the state of Texas.

Those regulations included providing law enforcement with information about where he lived and, if he decided to move, he was also required to notify and meet with law enforcement prior to any move. _____ failed to comply with either requirement.

Sex Offenders are the most dangerous types of offenders and it is paramount that they follow the rules placed upon them for if or when they are released from prison,” said Redwine.
- Not based on facts!

Monday was not _____’s first ‘failure to register as a sex offender’ conviction. In 2006, _____ was convicted and sentenced for failure to meet with and provide information to law enforcement as required by the sex offender law.

In addition, _____ has prior convictions including aggravated assault, possession of a controlled substance, driving while intoxicated, and other offenses.

_____ had been to prison three other occasions prior to committing his most recent felony offense.

Monday, March 3, 2014

TX - Comments (User submitted)

User submitted story
The following was sent to us via the "Tell us your story" form and posted with the users permission.

By Anonymous:
Dear SOI,

I have been following your blog for several years now as I am a RSO. There have been many times I wanted to leave a comment on the stories you post, but have been very reluctant due to the fact that you have to have an email account, Facebook account or some other registered account in order to leave a message. Here in Texas (and I am sure in many other states), a RSO has to report EVERY online account that they have. So, while I do trust you and your site, I am still very reluctant to leave a post that contains my email address. There is a political blog here in Texas called Grits For Breakfast that allows readers to anonymously leave comments to their articles and it does not require any kind of an email address. Can you also put something like that in place?

Thanks and keep up the good work!!!!!!!!!!!!

Our Comments:
You do not have to have a valid email address. Just enter some name and fake email address, as in the following example. Just remember, ALL COMMENTS ARE MODERATED so they will not appear until they are approved.

Make sure you check the box at the bottom as well!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

TX - San Antonio's sex offender ban takes effect Saturday

Park Bench
Original Article



SAN ANTONIO - A city ordinance banning registered sex offenders from parks and part of the River Walk goes into effect Saturday.

The ordinance prohibits registered sex offenders from entering a city park, living 1,000 feet from a park or loitering within 300 feet of a park. Current residents are “grandfathered in” and are not being asked to relocate.

The lower level of the River Walk between Lexington Avenue and South Alamo Street is included in the ban.

Texas law allows judges and parole boards to impose similar restrictions on offenders that are on parole or probation. State law, however, does not give judges or parole boards the same authority once the offender is off parole or probation.

San Antonio's ordinance would apply to registered sex offenders after their probation and parole restrictions have expired.

Violating the ordinance is a misdemeanor with a fine of up to $500 per offense.

Sex offenders are exempted if they were minors when the offense was committed, or if a court of pre-eminent jurisdiction or parole board issues an order permitting the person to enter the zone. The chief of police can also grant special exemptions.

Golf courses, cemeteries and official meeting or polling places located in parks are not included in the ban.

Police Chief William McManus has said the new law will make parks safer.

City Council adopted the law in December over the objections of some, who cited studies showing such restrictions do not improve safety.

See Also:

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

TX - A teacher, sexting and the right to free speech

Original Article



He was 30 and she was 13 — a teacher and his student — but their relationship went far beyond the classroom, authorities say.

In six days in October 2012, they sent 688 text messages to each other, and the conversation became sexual, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

The messages — known as “sexting” — included descriptions of sexual preferences and fantasies and discussions of dreams about each other, the affidavit says.

_____, now 31, who was a junior high school teacher in the Everman district, was eventually arrested on a charge of online solicitation of a minor, which was later changed to improper relationship between an educator and student.

But this month, based on a recent appeals court ruling dealing with a similar case in Harris County, Tarrant County prosecutors dismissed his case.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in October that a 2005 statute, which made sexually explicit online communication between an adult and minor illegal, violates the First Amendment right to free speech. The court examined the case of _____, who was arrested in 2010 after being accused of sending sexually explicit text messages to a student he met while working as a choir director in a school district outside Houston.

It’s OK for adults to talk dirty to children,” said Mark Bennett, the Houston attorney who defended _____.

Bennett had argued that the statute is too broad because “simple profanity or vulgarity — not rising to the level of obscenity — is constitutionally protected speech.”

Lawyers for the state contended that without the law “perverts will be free to bombard our children with salacious emails and text messages.”

The court’s opinion said sexual expression that is indecent but not obscene is protected by the First Amendment, and includes sexually explicit literature such as 50 Shades of Grey and Lady Chatterley’s Lover, as well as Miley Cyrus’ “twerking” during the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards.

Jurisprudence experts say the ruling, depending on the appellate process, could throw other cases into a legal black hole and could force state legislators to rewrite the law.

Bennett said that in the meantime, prosecutors should contact those convicted under the 2005 statute and tell them they have an avenue for redress, Bennett said.

I believe they have a duty to go back and set things right,” Bennett said.

Tarrant County prosecutors dismissed their case against _____ on Feb. 10.

The recent opinion by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has certainly caused us to re-examine a handful of cases and, where appropriate, seek to re-indict them under … online solicitation of a minor,” said Melody McDonald, spokeswoman for the Tarrant County district attorney’s office. “In this particular case, however, the facts didn’t fit that statute and that wasn’t an option.”

Attempts to contact _____ were unsuccessful. His attorney, Jim Shaw, said the statute is clearly unconstitutional.

It’s like having a 16-year-old talking to a 20-year-old and although 16-year-olds aren’t naive I guess state lawmakers figured they need protection,” Shaw said.

Used ‘bad judgment’

The student, identified in court documents by the pseudonym Mary Swan, had two classes with _____ at Baxter Junior High, which is located in Fort Worth and is governed by the Everman school district.

After school officials found that _____ had been sending the text messages to the student, they called the enforcement authorities and contacted her mother.

The mother contacted Fort Worth police, who interviewed the student. The student told police that she had exchanged phone numbers and began texting with _____ on Oct. 2, 2012. The messages became sexual, she said, and she told detectives that he had asked her not to tell anyone about their conversations, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.

The text messages included “talking about if either of them walked around naked in their homes, keeping the relationship secret until the victim graduates, dreams that each of them had about each other, virginity and showing restraint while they are in the classroom,” the affidavit says.

Photographs were exchanged, including one of the student wearing a bra with no shirt.

In November 2012, police interviewed _____, who said that he had used “bad judgment” in sending the messages and that he knew she was a minor. He said he had not touched the student or met with her alone, according to the affidavit.

He was arrested Jan. 18, 2013, on a charge of online solicitation of a minor and was booked into jail on the improper relationship charge May 20. He was released on bail after three days, according to court records.

Still has teaching certificate

_____, who began working in the Everman district in August 2007, left the district Nov. 30, 2012. District officials declined to discuss the reasons for _____’ departure or the district’s response to the criminal investigation of his behavior.

_____’ teacher certification remains valid until July 2017 for teaching secondary history and social studies classes. But _____’ certification is under review by the State Board of Education’s Professional Discipline Unit, according to Texas Education Agency records.

There are instances when a teacher is under a criminal investigation and we suspend our investigation until the criminal investigation plays out,” a TEA spokeswoman said. “There also have been instances where a person might be exonerated in a criminal investigation but his certificate becomes invalid because of something that comes out during a school district investigation.”

A legislative matter?

Though the case against _____ has been dismissed, a motion for rehearing _____’s case is pending at the appeals court level.

Because the appellate jurists voted 9-0 to overturn the statute, Bennett, who defended _____, said he doubts that the petition for a rehearing will be successful.

If the Court of Criminal Appeals denies the petition, the state could petition the U.S. Supreme Court.

Alan Curry, chief of the appellate division for the Harris County district attorney’s office, said his staff is awaiting a decision on the petition before deciding on the next step.

He said the best option may be for state lawmakers to rewrite the law so that it satisfies the courts, “but that’s way down the road,” Curry said.

State Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, said the 2005 statute was originally proposed to keep children from being groomed by sexual predators. If the courts continue to block the law, lawmakers may have to sit down with the attorney general and come up with acceptable language, Zedler said.

The purpose of the First Amendment was to allow political dissent, not to allow adults to be vulgar with minors,” Zedler said.

‘Vague or ambiguous’

Shaw, _____’ attorney, said it would not matter whether an adult sent 2,000 sexually explicit text messages to a minor or just one, unless the adult is trying to get the minor to do something illegal, such as a meeting for sex, or is texting something obscene or pornographic; nonetheless, the state cannot get a conviction using the 2005 statute.

This is not the first time lawmakers in Austin have written a law that did not pass constitutional muster.

A lot of times these statues are vague or ambiguous,” Shaw said. “A lot of times they fail to say what’s illegal.”

Chad Ruback, an appellate attorney who worked at the Fort Worth office of the Court of Criminal Appeals, said the court’s message is directed to state lawmakers, saying they need to rewrite the law so that it achieves its stated purpose of protecting minors against sexting.

Our courts have ruled that limits on free speech are permissible but those limits need to be reasonable,” Ruback said. “I know lawmakers are disappointed in this opinion but they would be better off drafting new legislation that is more narrowly tailored and more likely to pass constitutional scrutiny.”

Thursday, February 20, 2014

TX - Detention Officer (John Timothy Spears) Charged With Improper Sex With Inmate

John Timothy Spears
John Timothy Spears
Original Article


By Paul J. Gately

WACO - A man who was employed as a detention officer at the Jack Harwell Detention Center was in county jail Wednesday after he was arrested for having an improper sexual relationship with an inmate.

John Timothy Spears, 27, was listed on the McLennan County Jail roster as being held facing a charge of having improper sexual activity with a person in custody and was awaiting arraignment and bond.

McLennan County Chief Deputy Matt Cawthon told News 10 Spears was arrested Tuesday after deputies obtained a warrant for him on the charge.

Cawthon said deputies believed Spears, who had just resigned his position at Harwell, was about to flee the county so investigators expedited the warrant so he could be taken into custody before he disappeared.

Spears is just the latest of several former detention officers at the facility who have faced similar charges, Cawthon said.

The Harwell facility is operated by a private company that oversees its own employees and Spears was not employed by McLennan County, Cawthon said.

Spears is the fourth correctional officer arrested since 2011 on an improper relationship charge.

Regina Antoinette Edwards, 44, Dorothy Pennington, 22, and Whitney Fleming, 27, all have been arrested on similar charges stemming from improper relationships in McLennan County detention facilities.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

TX - Former Longview officer (Leland Carver) arrested on child sex assault charge

Leland Carver
Leland Carver
Original Article


By Sarah Thomas

A former Longview police officer was arrested Wednesday afternoon on charges he sexually assaulted a child in late December.

Leland Thomas Carver, 69, was booked into jail about 5:30 p.m. on a charge of aggravated sexual assault of a child, according to Gregg County Jail records.
His bond has been set at $50,000, jail records show.

Longview police spokeswoman Kristie Brian was unable to provide the specifics of Carver’s employment but confirmed he retired from the Longview Police Department more than 10 years ago.

According to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday in the Gregg County District Clerk’s Office, Carver assaulted the child while she spent time visiting him at his home.

The report, written by detective Audrey Wright, states the child was in the second grade when the abuse started.

Police said the child lives with her father in Louisiana.

A forensic interview was held Jan. 27 at the Gingerbread House in Shreveport and a video of the interview was sent to Wright, who reported the child described various sexual acts Carver made her perform.

The child told investigators she found inappropriate videos of herself on Carver’s cellphone, according to the report, and she waited to report the assault because Carver said she would be taken away from her family and “go to a place where they send kids who are bad” if anyone found out.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

TX - Dallas man says he was wrongly included in sex offender database

Original Article



DALLAS - _____ says the City of Dallas wrongfully made him register as a sex offender for 13 years.

Now he wants the city to pay up.

"I just feel like I deserve to be recompensed for what's done happen in all this," said _____, 43. "I just feel like it's wrong."

_____ filed a $3 million federal lawsuit early last month, saying police violated his civil rights by refusing to recognize that he did not have a legal obligation to register. He filed the lawsuit after the city ultimately agreed that he did not have to register as a sex offender.

In _____' case, a judge set aside his conviction for sexual assault in 2000. But the City of Dallas long contended that he had to register as a sex offender.

City officials did not respond to a request for comment.

"A lawsuit over this is extremely rare, and success is probably even more rare," said Scott Smith, an Austin attorney with extensive expertise in the state’s sex registration laws.

That _____ was successful in his effort deeply concerns Courtney Underwood, a rape victim’s advocate. She believes that state laws needs to be revised so _____ and those like him would be required to register.

"[It's] the entire reason for having the sex offender registry and required reporting; and having that last over a long period of time; so that even once someone finishes probation or once they finish their jail time, then there's still a way for the community to track them," Underwood said.

_____’ legal problems began in 1995 when he said he picked up a 15-year-old teenager from a bus stop and had sex with her. He was soon arrested.

In 1996, _____ pleaded guilty to sexual assault.

A judge ordered that he serve five years' probation. As part of the deal, he agreed to register as a sex offender for 10 years upon completion of his probation.

_____ went into sex offender treatment and "accepted full responsibility for his sex crime," his therapist wrote in 1999. "Mr. _____ has been an active participant in-group and gives constructive feedback to the other members. His performance has been excellent."

At the time of _____' sentencing, state law let judges set aside convictions in cases like his.

That is no longer permitted under state law. In 1999, legislators amended the statute to preclude judges from setting aside convictions in cases for "a defendant convicted of an offense for which on conviction registration as a sex offender is required."

But since he was sentenced under pre-1999 laws, the judge was able to set aside _____' conviction in 2000.

_____ said he repeatedly showed his court paperwork to Dallas officials, telling them that he was not required to register.

A detective told him that "that he didn’t care what a judge said; I was his for life,” _____ said. “I was going to have to register."

_____ started studying the law. He earned several bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of Texas at Dallas. He wanted to go into social work, but hasn’t been able to find a steady work.

He thinks it’s because he was having to register.

"It’s going to make anybody say, 'He’s convicted. He’s a rapist,'" _____ said.

Smith said he represented two clients in the last year who were in a similar situation as _____ in that they were being forced to register even though they were not legally obligated to do so. He succeeded in getting the Texas Department of Public Safety to remove them from the registry.

I am sure that I have not just happened to find the only two cases here that that has ever happened,” he said.

But Smith said the _____ case points to another longstanding problem.

"The idea of the sex offender registry is to provide a helpful list to the public and law enforcement of people who are high-risk," Smith said. "The problem is that registration requires those people and many, many people who are very low-risk."

_____ filed a lawsuit against the city in 2010. He contended that he was not legally obligated to register.

In court filings, the city cited court rulings that sex offender registration is not punishment; can be extended; and can be made retroactive. The city argued that imposing a lifetime registration on _____ was legal.
- It IS punishment, that is obvious, and anything that is extended and retroactive is an unconstitutional ex post facto law and violates the contracts clause of the US Constitution!

Attorney General Greg Abbott intervened in the case, filing a brief in support of Dallas’ position.

The case wound its way through the courts for several years.

In December 2013, _____ won when the city agreed that he was right and settled with him.

"It is further ordered, adjudged and decreed that _____ has no duty or obligation arising from his former conviction … to register as a sex offender,” the final order stated.

These days, _____ works odd jobs and drives trucks. He lives with his common-law wife and twin nine-year-old girls.

_____ agrees that there’s a need for sex offender registration laws, but believes he has simply been done wrong and that's why he's filed his latest lawsuit.

"I've never hid the fact that I've had my offense to nobody who knows me, and I’ve never made no complaint and crying about it," he said. "It's just the fact that I don’t have a conviction and I haven’t had a conviction for 13 years, and I just think that’s fundamentally unfair."

See Also:

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

TX - McGregor Passes New Sex Offender Ordinance

Morning paper and coffee
Original Article

NOTE: The officer in the video said it also includes bus stops which we doubt, but someone needs to clarify that before assuming it's true. Bus stops are on every corner in many states.


By Mike Iliopoulos

MCGREGOR - The city of McGregor passed a new ordinance that will prohibit sex offenders from living close to schools, daycare centers and parks.

Police say multiple sex offenders moved into McGregor in the last two weeks. The ordinance was introduced to the city four years ago. Some cities in Central Texas have a similar ordinance, but it took McGregor a few years to pass the rule because of administration changes.

McGregor Police Chief Steve Foster says six sex offenders moved into the area within the last two weeks. Sex offenders are required to register with authorities when they move in to a new town. Foster took notice of it and revisited the ordinance.

The city council discussed the issue on Monday night saying, "We've got to give them a place to stay, but we can make it smaller."

Foster says the new rule says sex offenders cannot live within 1,000 ft. of schools, parks and daycare centers.

The sex offenders who are already registered and living in town cannot legally be told to move.

The ordinance will take effect immediately.