Sunday, May 6, 2007

Behind the Picket Fence

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I agree with every part of this article. It's about time someone said what all this BS is about! AMEN!!


Pushing sex offenders to the edges of society may sound like a good way to keep communities, and especially kids, safe. But what if residency restriction laws - which are gaining ground in Massachusetts - have the opposite effect?

All across the state, they’re getting out their maps. Citizens and elected officials are holding meetings and proposing laws, carving up communities into zones in which convicted sex offenders may and may not live when they reenter society. They are penciling in lines around schools, day-care centers, playgrounds, and other places where children congregate in the hope of preventing repeat offenses, unspeakable crimes against children. This phenomenon is by no means unique to Massachusetts. Residency restrictions are the latest fad in sex-crimes legislation, and they are popping up all over the country, creating a domino effect: When one community adopts a residency restriction law, neighboring towns, fearing a migration of sex offenders over city lines, move to adopt their own. It sounds to many like a good idea, but it may turn out to be just the opposite.

The residency laws bring up serious civil liberties concerns, including that these measures apply to convicts after they have been punished and released and served their parole, and that in many cases, homeowners are exempt while renters may be required to move. And then there’s the fact that this type of post-release regulation doesn’t exist for other criminal classes: We don’t prohibit arsonists from living near gas stations.

But a less-discussed argument against the laws is that they don’t actually work to prevent sex crimes against children. Studies have shown, for example, that the majority of these crimes are perpetrated by family members or acquaintances, that many sex crimes are never reported, and that sex offenders often molest outside the area where they live. Some scholars go so far as to say that the measures could put children in greater danger, not less – because the sex offenders go underground, because therapy works to prevent re-offense, and because limited resources are wasted enforcing the laws. “There is no evidence that residency restrictions work, and there are some pretty good arguments why they are not likely to be effective,” says David Finkelhor, the director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. “No one who has any real professional experience in the management of sex offenders thinks these laws make much sense.”

Still, they are growing in popularity. According to an analysis by the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 23 states have passed residency restrictions for sex offenders – as have hundreds of individual cities and towns across the country, at least five of which are in Massachusetts. In addition, local governments in communities around the state are in various stages of considering the laws, and there are several bills before the Legislature calling for statewide residency restrictions.

The laws are offshoots of a legislative movement begun in the 1990s. In 1994, the federal Jacob Wetterling Act required states to track the whereabouts of released sex offenders. Wetterling, a Minnesota boy, was abducted in 1989, when he was 11 years old; he has never been found. An amendment to the Wetterling Act, Megan’s Law, was passed by Congress in 1996 and made the contents of state sex-offender registries public. It is named for 7-year-old Megan Kanka, who was raped and murdered in New Jersey by her neighbor – a registered sex offender. Just last year, the Wetterling Act was amended further by the Adam Walsh Act, which requires states to post their registries online. Walsh was 6 when he was abducted and killed in Florida in 1981.

Once public notification was enacted and average citizens started to find out where sex offenders lived, some of them weren’t too happy about who turned up down the street, and the first residency restriction laws were enacted in the late 1990s. Then, according to Charles Onley, a research assistant with the national Center for Sex Offender Management, in 2005 two highly publicized murders of young girls by sex offenders – one in Florida and one in Iowa – brought the issue to the forefront of the nation’s consciousness. When the Iowa Supreme Court upheld that state’s residency restrictions after a class action suit said they violated the rights of offenders, the laws began to grow in popularity and increase in severity. Where states had mandated that offenders couldn’t live within 500 or 1,000 feet of a school, Onley says, communities began to cast the net wider, to 2,000 or 2,500 feet, and to include libraries, churches, school-bus stops, and community swimming pools.

Revere councilman George Rotondo is a nurse and the doting father of two young girls. Affable and outgoing, he seems motivated by a genuine desire to make the world – or at least his corner of it – a safer place for children. Merely contemplating the possibility that one of his daughters could fall victim to a sex offender is enough to move this burly man to tears. In 2005, Rotondo spearheaded the city ordinance that became Massachusetts’s first residency restriction for sex offenders.

“If you are an alcoholic, it’s not wise to live near a bar or liquor store,” he says. “We had sex offenders living across the street from a school where my daughter goes. There is something wrong with that. If you put kids near them, sooner or later they are going to get aroused and they are going to offend.” Rotondo is not alone in his conviction. Carol Willoughby, of Southborough, is trying to push officials there to adopt a residency restriction. She runs a day-care center in her home and until very recently had a registered sex offender living two doors down. It was a situation she likens to “putting steak in front of a dog.”
- And yet drunks can live near a liquor store, murderers can live next to you, drug dealers can live near your kids to sell them more dangerous drugs, DUI offenders can still drive and do what they want, so this is not fair. If sex offenders cannot live near places like this, ALL CRIMINALS should be faced with the same restrictions, period, or it's discrimination.

There is a problem with this thinking, however. The perception that sex offenders can’t help but re-offend, which for many is the central justification for residency restriction laws, is incorrect. Sex offenders have some of the lowest recidivism rates of any class of criminal – as few as 5.3 percent re-offend within three years, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, as opposed to rates in the 65 to 80 percent range for drug offenders and thieves. Experts think this misperception persists because people conflate sex offenders with predatory pedophiles, who have higher rates of recidivism but represent only a fraction of sex offenders. “Are there men who might lurk in schoolyards?” asks Dr. Martin Kafka, a psychiatrist with Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital and the president of the Massachusetts Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers. “Yes, but they’re extremely exceptional.”

As Kafka explains, sex offenders are a heterogeneous group that includes, among others, rapists, flashers, and young adults who have sex – usually consensual – with slightly younger teens. The category also encompasses child molesters, the criminal designation for adults who have any sexual contact with children, including, says Kafka, those who inappropriately touch a child a single time, perhaps under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or out of depression, anger, or alienation. Pedophiles, on the other hand, are adults who are persistently sexually aroused by children or are obsessed by them as sexual objects; they make up about half of child molesters, according to Kafka.
- You see, not all sex offenders have even touched a child, yet all sex offenders are treated as if they were like Couey and killed some kid. This is wrong!

The State of Massachusetts sex-offender registry does differentiate among types of sex offenders. Released offenders belong to one of three tiers, with Level 1 representing those deemed to present the lowest degree of danger to the community and risk for re-offense and Level 3 the highest. The levels are determined on an individual basis by a state board that looks at a sex offender’s criminal record as well as by his behavior in prison and on parole; his work, treatment, and counseling records; victim-impact statements; and many other factors. Residency restrictions in Massachusetts towns have so far been drafted to apply only to Level 2 and 3 offenders, and in some cases, only Level 3. (In some other states all offenders are seen as equal, and are subject to the same restrictions.) Nevertheless, Kafka believes this tiered system is by no means perfect. “It’s a blunt tool,” he says.

Tiers or no, the idea that telling the public where sex offenders live – and keeping them out of certain places – can prevent sex crimes is based on false premises. “Sex offender registries and restriction zones are built on the concept that the person you must fear is the person you don’t know,” says Richard Wright, a criminologist who teaches at Bridgewater State College in Bridgewater. But even though the laws were spurred by and are often named after the victims of high-profile cases where the harm to children was “awful, tragic, and real,” he says, “these cases of stranger child sexual assault are the minority.” Statistics from the US Department of Justice show that more than 90 percent of the juvenile victims of sex crimes know their assailant, and that child abductions by strangers – which are usually presumed to have a sexual component – are very rare; there were 115 such incidents nationwide in 1999, the latest year for which data are available.

Then there’s the problem of underreporting. “Most sex crimes are never known to the authorities,” says Rutgers University criminologist Michelle Meloy, who has studied sex offenders as an academic and supervised them as a probation officer. “Estimates are that, at best, registration lists are looking at 10 to 15 percent of all ‘sex offenders’ in your area.” Put another way, even if there is a stranger somewhere in a community who intends to sexually assault a child, the chances are slim that he (the majority of sex offenders are male) is on the registry.

Worse than the prospect that the restrictions don’t work, some experts say, is the very real possibility that they could put children in more danger, not less. Authorities in Iowa report that the number of sex offenders whose whereabouts are unknown has more than doubled since statewide residency restrictions went into place there. Recent news reports have spotlighted five registered sex offenders who live under a highway bridge near Miami – with state approval – because city and county residency restrictions have made it so difficult for them to find housing. Numerous studies have shown that slipping to the fringes of society is a potentially dangerous outcome, because community reintegration, therapy, and stability help reduce recidivism among the majority of offenders. Residency restrictions can make these men feel like outcasts and force them to live in isolated environments away from therapy and support systems, and so could actually be setting them up for re-offense. “They put added stressors and disruptions in the lives of these men, many of whom are trying to get their life together,” says Kafka, the Harvard psychiatrist. “You don’t want to put stressors on people who have a stress-responsive vulnerability.”

John, a registered sex offender living in Massachusetts who asked that his last name and city of residence be omitted because he says he fears notoriety, echoes this sentiment. He was released from prison in 2004 after serving six years for raping two young children to whom he is related. He has been designated a Level 3 offender by the state – the highest level of risk for re-offense. Although the town where he lives doesn’t have a residency restriction, he is concerned about the trend. “We are being scrutinized,” he says, “segregated from the general public, and it’s all counterproductive. There are a lot of feelings of rejection, isolation, and loneliness in my past. I wouldn’t say they caused what I did, but these feelings help create a risky emotional state. I have done my time and I continue to do time – I am on probation and I suffer emotionally for what I did every day, as I am sure my victims do too. I am trying to do everything possible to be a productive member of society.”

There has been some backlash brewing around the country against residency restrictions. The state prosecutors’ association in Iowa has called for the law there to be repealed, and restrictions are the subject of court challenges in other states.

But these developments aside, there may not be an end to the current wave of panic over sex crimes – and the attendant legislative responses – any time soon. In fact, experts predict that it will only get worse. Steven Levy, an accountant, the father of two school-age girls, and a member of Marlborough’s City Council, has been pushing a residency restriction there since late last year. His ordinance was passed but not signed by the mayor, who wanted to redraw some of the lines and make several other changes; at press time, a new version was coming up for a vote. Levy says that since Marlborough started debating the ordinance, he has been contacted by people in some 20 towns and cities around the state interested in getting similar measures implemented in their communities. He hopes that a groundswell of support will eventually convince Beacon Hill lawmakers to address the issue.
- This is because the politicians do not have the BALLS to step up and say enough is enough. They feel they will be looked down on as being soft on crime instead of fair. This is the wrong way to go about making new laws. And it's a shame that what was once a wonderful country has become not so wonderful. I'm sure if you gave sex offenders a passport, they'd leave this country in a heart beat..... And I'm sure the hateful public would be all for it. We are a nation of hate now, not the freedom loving country we once were. What has changed? I think it's mainly because the ACLU and other people are constantly pushing God out of everything and a moral decline is occurring, and everybody wonders what is going on. I wonder?

If that happens, House Minority Leader Bradley Jones Jr. will be ready. For four legislative sessions, including the current one, he has presented a bill that would ban Level 3 offenders from living or working near schools, among other places. He said he’s not sure whether his measure will fare any better this year than it has in the past, but it’s clear to him under what circumstances it could. “Unfortunately,” he says, “what causes this issue to advance are some very sad stories. As I often say, there are some bills that are one or two tragedies away from becoming a law.”
- Why don't they talk with ex-offenders and get the other side of the story? That might help them see the light on what they are doing to society.

In his 1998 book Moral Panic: Changing Concepts of the Child Molester in Modern America, historian Philip Jenkins argues that this kind of attention to sex crimes has come in waves in American history, and that our current period is reminiscent of the panic between the late 1930s and the early 1950s, when a series of “sexual psychopath” laws were enacted in response to some high-profile crimes and to exaggerated claims made in the press and by J. Edgar Hoover that the country was in the grips of a sex-crime epidemic. That cycle ended in the 1960s, Jenkins says, when thinking about the penal system shifted from a focus on punitive measures to rehabilitation and treatment. This time around, he doesn’t foresee an ending. “It has ceased to be a cycle and has now been institutionalized,” he says. “That has sabotaged the off switch.” Jenkins believes that for a change to occur, there would have to be a major shift in the way citizens and lawmakers think about sex offenders. They would need to differentiate between the offenders who shouldn’t be let out of jail and those who can be rehabilitated.

Criminologist Michelle Meloy agrees. “We continue in the opposite direction of what empirical evidence suggests is our most likely option for success,” she says. “Because we have this misconception that these folks are all dangerous, and therefore the only way to address them is with punitive measures, using resources for therapy has become less popular. The public needs to know that if we treat them in prison and supervise them in a community setting, they’re less likely to re-offend.”

The public also needs to know that children are getting safer. According to the Children’s Bureau of the Department of Health and Human Services, sex crimes of all kinds have dropped substantially since the mid-1990s, after increasing between 1977 and 1991. Between 1991 and 2005, the most recent year for which data are available, substantiated sexual abuse cases dropped by 51 percent. The decline, says David Finkelhor of the University of New Hampshire, is due to the increased incarceration of sex offenders, more intervention and prevention efforts, and better mental health treatment, including more widespread use of antidepressants and other psychiatric medicines. Residency restrictions didn’t do a thing to help.

Sex Offenders Forced Under Miami Bridge

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Ordinances Intended to Keep Them Away From Children Make It Next to Impossible for Them to Find Other Housing

Miami's South Beach is known around the world for its glamorous lifestyle and decadent parties. One of the bridges you can take to get there is the Julia Tuttle Causeway, but most drivers on the bridge don't know what's lurking beneath them -- eight convicted sex offenders who have taken up residence with the official blessing of the authorities.

The men committed such crimes as sexual battery and molestation. Many of the offenses were against children.

Watch Gigi Stone's report on the sex offenders under the bridge on "World News."

Kevin Morales, one of the homeless predators under the bridge, went to prison for 10 months for assaulting three girls. He said he served his time, and this is just another sentence.

"I would ask anyone to come here and sleep from 10 to 6 and live the mental torture that I live every day," Morales said. "You hear the rats coming your way, nibbling at your bags to any little food you may bring."

Morales and the other men are required to be there every night from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. The state lists their official address as the Julia Tuttle Causeway, and parole officers come by regularly to make sure the predators show up each night.

An ordinance intended to keep predators away from children has made it nearly impossible for the men to find housing.

Miami Dade County has one of the strictest sexual predator laws in the country. Once predators are released from prison, they are required to live more than 2,500 feet from anywhere children congregate. But they are barred from leaving the county while they are on parole.

In a county as dense and as expensive as Miami-Dade, there is no place the men can legally live that they can also afford.

Morales actually found one apartment he could afford, but the state did not allow him to stay there because the building had a pool where children sometimes congregated.

He then joined several homeless sex offenders living in a Miami parking lot -- until state officers realized it was across from a center for sexually abused children and moved them under the bridge.

"Look at this act that they've imposed what they are creating is a nightmare, is making people to become homeless, not the productive members you worked for us to be," Morales said.

Along with some of the offenders, he is required to wear a GPS tracking device that runs on electricity. However, there are no outlets under the bridge to charge it.

Corrections officials admit the ordinance could actually make the community less safe because it may they drive the offenders so far underground that parole officers can't supervise them.

"Certainly, it's not ideal, it's not a situation we like, and we're working very hard to remedy it and find places for them to live," said Bruce Grant, the assistant secretary for community corrections at the Florida Department of Corrections. "To push sex offenders under a bridge or into a homeless status is to set them up for failure and for reoffending."

Morales sees no solution either. That is why he is asking the county to send him back to jail.

"I plead with anyone before they act, think, 'Is it worth it?' -- because for me it hasn't been," he said. "This has been a living hell."

Unconstitutional - The War on Our Civil Liberties

Man, Stepdaughter Try to Heal Relationship After Her False Molestation Charges Put Him in Jail

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MARLOW, Okla. — A man says he wants to move on with his life after his stepdaughter recanted charges that he had molested her — a charge that landed him in prison for more than two years.

Kenneth Austin, 60, spent two years and two months in a prison in McAlester after being convicted in 1995 of molesting his then-12-year-old stepdaughter, Mandy Cowart. But Cowart, now 25 and living in Midland, Texas, recanted her story last fall.

Cowart said under oath that she had made up the story so that she could gain some freedom.

"I feel stupid now," she said this week. "I lied. Back then, I felt like I didn't have everything other kids had. When I made the allegation, I felt it was my only way out of the house.

"I felt guilt. At the time even, I had a lot of deep regrets. I just couldn't live with it anymore. I had to make things right."

Stephens County prosecutor Dennis Gay said he doesn't believe Cowart's new story.

"I didn't attend the trial, but I read the transcripts," Gay said. "I have reviewed the evidence. Do I think an innocent man was put behind bars? No."

But in January, Gay dropped the charges after a judge ordered a new trial after Cowart recanted the allegation. The conviction has been expunged from Austin's record.

Gay also decided not to pursue perjury charges against Cowart, saying it would serve no purpose because Austin already had served his sentence.

"Besides, did she tell an untruth then? Or is she telling an untruth now?" he asked.

Austin now owns and operates four radio stations. His wife and Cowart's mother, Sherry Austin, said she always believed Austin was innocent. Sherry Austin, 47, made six-hour roundtrips every weekend to visit her husband in prison.

"My daughter was an avid reader," she said. "She took those allegations straight from the pages of the books she had been reading. She felt we were too strict. She wanted out, and she felt like that was her only way."

Both mother and stepfather say they still love Cowart.

"I'm the only father she has ever known," Kenneth Austin said of Cowart. "People have asked me why I didn't seek retribution and press charges. Why? She admitted she lied. Why drudge it up all again?

"Why not let the past stay in the past? I'm 60 years old. I want to live the rest of my life in peace."

Cowart, who now has two children, said she claims Austin as her father.

"He's my dad, and you can't have him," she said. "He's an outstanding man. After all I have put him through, after all the time he spent in prison, you know he still welcomes me into his home and gives me a hug around the neck.

"Can you believe that?"

N.J. study scrutinizes Megan's Law effect

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The declining trend of sex attacks against children began several years before the measure started in 1994. Researchers are weighing the expense.

New Jersey's pioneering Megan's Law, which costs millions of dollars to alert citizens when sex offenders move nearby, may not make children safer, new research suggests.

A federally funded study under way in Trenton is trying to determine whether Megan's Law is worth the cost of its "enormously expensive" monitoring and enforcement requirements, said Phillip Witt, a consultant on the study.

A declining trend of sex attacks on children began before the law took effect and has continued, raising the suggestion that New Jersey's Megan's Law - one of the first laws of its kind in the nation - may not have influenced the trend, researchers say.

"We don't know whether Megan's Law really works," said Witt, who helped create the risk-assessment system used by New Jersey's courts to classify sex offenders.

"Just a few studies have looked at whether community notification laws are effective," he said. "I believe they have very little effect."

The 1994 law is named after Megan Kanka, a suburban Trenton girl who was raped and murdered by a convicted sex offender living across the street. It has been a model for dozens of state laws across the country.

The law requires sex criminals to report their whereabouts to law enforcement authorities, who must maintain a catalog of the offenders and notify residents when a high-risk offender moves nearby. The tracking and notification apparatus in New Jersey costs county and local governments millions of dollars.

The $38,252 study by the state Department of Corrections appears to be one of the nation's first attempts to analyze whether Megan's Laws make children safer from sex criminals. The study, funded by the National Institute of Justice, the Justice Department's research branch, is expected to be finished early next year.

One phase has ended. It charted sex offenses against children in the decade before 1994 and in the decade after. Researchers said they were surprised to find that a steady decline in sex crimes across New Jersey had begun in 1991 - three years before Megan's Law.

Sex offenses against children have also declined since Megan's Law was enacted, but there has been no way to know whether that's because of the law.

"Sex-offender rates are down, and we can't attribute it to Megan's Law," said Kristen Zgoba, a Corrections Department researcher leading the study. "Is it worth the amount of money and manpower we're pouring into it?"

Nationally, sex offenses against children fell 49 percent between 1990 and 2004, according to the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. Meanwhile, the broad category of violent crime in the United States also plunged, according to government figures.

"Something obviously changed that needs to be explained," said Lisa Jones of the Crimes Against Children Research Center.

Any number of factors could have led to the declines, Jones said. She cited economic prosperity during the 1990s; increased numbers of police, social workers and offenders in jail; and widespread introduction of antidepressant drugs in the late 1980s.

The decline in sex offenses has led some researchers to question whether Megan's Law has had any impact, and whether its enormous cost can be justified.

In the year after its adoption, only in Ocean County did sex crimes fall significantly, "but we don't know if that was due to Megan's Law," Zgoba said.

Sex offenses against children statewide rose slightly in 1998 and 1999, but resumed their decline in subsequent years.

"Megan's Law is riding the coattails of the natural downward trend," Zgoba said.

Megan's mother, Maureen Kanka, who campaigned for the law, said she believed it would withstand the study's scrutiny.

"Is the law perfect? No. Does it make a difference? Absolutely," she said.

"If I had known there was a pedophile living across the street, Megan would be alive and well today," she said. "I know the effectiveness of the law because I get e-mails about it all the time."

Trenton enacted Megan's Law amid the outrage that followed the murder. Two years later, Congress passed a federal version.

Lawmakers reasoned that if parents could take steps to keep their children away from pedophiles, convicted sex offenders would be less likely to commit new offenses.

New Jersey is home to about 11,300 registered sex offenders, according to state police records. About 2,190 are regarded as high risk. Their pictures and addresses appear on the New Jersey State Police Sex Offender Registry Web site. Local authorities are supposed to have notified people living near them.

To maintain the Internet registry, state police employ seven full-time civilians who earn between $35,000 and $52,000 a year, excluding benefits, according to state records.

Though the state orders local governments to monitor offenders' whereabouts and notify communities when a high-risk offender moves nearby, local and county taxpayers foot the bill, Assistant State Attorney General Jessica Oppenheim said.

Routine door-to-door notifications can cost thousands of dollars. Police in Voorhees, for example, said they had expected to spend about $3,000 to alert people in the sparsely populated Ashland development that a high-risk sex offender had moved in. The offender moved again before police started the notification.

The bill for the police notification would have soared higher had the sex offender's neighbors included people in a high-rise apartment complex, police said.

Most of the costs of monitoring sex offenders fall to the 21 county prosecutors' offices across the state.

Camden County, with 256 high-risk sex offenders, spends about $232,000 a year in salaries and benefits to administer Megan's Law, according to the Prosecutor's Office.

Essex County, home to 341 high-risk offenders, spends more than $1 million a year, said Paul Loriquet, spokesman for the Prosecutor's Office.

One of the remaining phases of the Megan's Law study will try to calculate the statewide costs.

"There's no question there's a substantial price tag," said State Sen. Peter Inverso, a Republican representing parts of Mercer and Middlesex Counties who sponsored Megan's Law. He also sponsored another bill that passed in March requiring a study of whether Megan's Law is being implemented consistently across the state.

"It's hard to prove that children are safer," Inverso said. "But I firmly believe there's been a benefit, although there's been no empirical evidence to support it on either side."

Lawsuit names former deputy in sex case

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RIVERSIDE -- Saying that her civil rights were violated when she was sexually assaulted and threatened by an on-duty Riverside County sheriff's deputy, a woman has filed a lawsuit seeking damages from the former deputy as well as the Sheriff's Department.

John Wayne Leseberg, 43, of Sun City, was a highly decorated corporal with the department when he was arrested last year and charged with a number of felonies alleging he committed crimes while on duty involving three women. He was assigned to the Lake Elsinore station and resigned from the department May 24, 2006.

In December, he entered into an agreement with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to two felony counts of burglary and three misdemeanor counts of indecent exposure in exchange for a two-year prison sentence. He is scheduled to return to Southwest Justice Center in July to be sentenced.

Leseberg also must register as a sex offender for a minimum of seven years before he is able to petition to have that requirement lifted -- a decision ultimately made by the governor.

About three weeks ago, one of the women filed a civil lawsuit seeking unspecified damages from Leseberg, Sheriff Bob Doyle, the county of Riverside, the Sheriff's Department and numerous unnamed defendants.

The woman is not being identified because The Californian's policy is to not name victims of sex crimes.

One of her attorneys, Gregory Yates, said Friday that his client is going to need counseling for the rest of her life.

"She's paralyzed with fear," Yates said.

"Once something like this happens to a woman, particularly when committed by someone in authority, it has such a devastating impact that they never recover," he added. Yates said the woman still greatly fears men and authority figures because of what she says Leseberg did to her.
- No to minimize this, but this is BS. If they get therapy, they can become a survivor instead of a victim. Bad things happen to a lot of people, and we must stop dwelling on the past.

The lawsuit claims that, in November 2004, Leseberg arrested the woman, then sexually assaulted her against her will.

Leseberg followed that with threats that he would arrest her for a felony and "threatened her safety" should she tell anyone what happened, the lawsuit states.

"As a result of the aforesaid assault and brutalization," the court document continues, the woman was in fear for her life, went into hiding and "became a recluse in a room at the home of a family friend," staying a recluse for more than a year.

Joseph Cavalo, Leseberg's attorney in the criminal case, had this to say Friday about the woman who filed the civil lawsuit:

"The person is really nothing more than a conniving, back-stabbing drunk, a paid-informant" whom he says lied about people to place herself in a better position with police.
- Why are you trying to make this women look bad? What proof do you have of these allegations? This could be considered slander.

"She has no credibility," Cavalo said, and is filing the suit just for the money.

The woman's attorney said his client was very afraid to come forward and, according to the lawsuit, only did so after feeling safer once Leseberg pleaded guilty.

Yates said the Sheriff's Department is being included in the lawsuit because Leseberg's supervisors and those high up in the department should have known this was going on.

"It is unlikely that someone didn't know," Yates said. "Why wasn't this properly monitored? Why wasn't he properly supervised?"

He said he has not heard anything from either the county or the Sheriff's Department regarding the lawsuit.

Tom Freeman, executive officer for the Sheriff's Department, declined Friday to comment on the pending civil litigation.

In 2006, Leseberg received the sheriff's Lifesaving Award for his part in saving the occupants of two cars that overturned down a freeway embankment.

In 2005, he received two sheriff's Medal of Courage awards, which recognize those who put themselves at great personal risk.

Leseberg remains at Southwest Detention Center, where he is being held in lieu of $2 million bail while awaiting his sentencing.

If he had gone to trial and been found guilty as previously charged, Leseberg could have been sentenced to about 16 years in prison.