Sunday, July 1, 2007

DEFINITION - Unintended consequence

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Unintended consequences are situations where an action results in an outcome that is not (or not only) what is intended. The unintended results may be foreseen or unforeseen, but they should be the logical or likely results of the action. For example, it is often conjectured that if the Treaty of Versailles had not imposed such harsh conditions on Germany, World War II would not have occurred. As such, war was an unintended consequence of the Treaty of Versailles.

Unintended consequences can be classed into roughly three types:

Discussions of unintended consequences usually refer to the third situation of perverse results. This situation often arises because a policy has a Perverse incentive and causes actions contrary to what is desired.

Iowa offender law creating 'islands'

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6 sex offenders at trailer park illustrate broken legal system, some say

They board up the bottom of the windows on their mobile home at night to keep out the "predators."

It's not the coyotes Scott and Stacy Puccio worry about: It's the sex offenders.
- Not all d**n sex offenders are predators.

The Dubuque-area couple has three children and they're not about to take any chances. Their nearby neighbor is a man convicted of false imprisonment of a minor and assault of a woman with intent to commit sexual abuse.

Two other sex offenders live on the narrow drive, at 17795 Peru Road, where the bus picks up the Puccios' children.

"We have to take her and put her on the bus and be there to pick her up every day," Stacy Puccio, 32, said of her 8-year-old daughter.

In all, the worn trailer park across the road from John Deere Dubuque Works is home to at least six registered sex offenders, the densest population of registrants in Dubuque County.

For the Puccios, the mobile home community feels more like a prison than a neighborhood.

"The kids can't go play," Scott said.

"We can't go anywhere. We can't do anything," Stacy said.
- Yes you can! You are letting the media scare you. Enjoy your life, watch and protect your children like anyone would do.

The Puccios' dilemma underscores the systematic flaws of a stringent Iowa law in dire need of repair, according to a vocal group of police officers, prosecutors and victims' rights advocates.

Opponents of the so-called 2,000-foot rule again found their charge falling on deaf ears in the Iowa Legislature in the past session, with lawmakers balking at changing a politically charged residency restriction requirement that remains popular with much of the public.

But the Puccios and others say they have to live with the consequences of the law -- every day. At the Peru Road trailer park, people like the Puccios and at least one sex offender say lawmakers need to revisit the requirements, but they have different arguments for demanding change.

Living on the 'island'

Iowa's residency laws bar registered child molesters from living within 2,000 feet of schools or day care centers. The concept, law enforcement officials say, is sound. Keeping sexual predators away from where kids frequent is common sense, they say.
- Not by creating buffer zones, they don't work. You can just make a restricted zone. Say sex offenders cannot go here or here instead of 2000 feet within here, that makes it almost impossible to find a place to stay.

The trouble, many say, is when theory collides with practice.

"I believe the 2,000-foot rule does not mean anything -- it does not protect children," said Dubuque County Chief Deputy Don Vrotsos.
- And yet the politicians do not listen to this man, or the experts. They will tell you it doesn't protect anybody, it's a false sense of security.

He's responsible for keeping track of Dubuque County's registered sex offenders, 84 of them as of Thursday. Vrotsos said the state law has complicated that effort, with several registrants failing to check in, going underground despite the consequences.

More so, the chief deputy says the law makes it nearly impossible for sex offenders to find accommodations fitting the 2,000-foot requirement. The Peru trailer park is one of the few places near the city that is removed from schools and child care centers.

"My gut feeling is that's the only place they can afford to live," Vrotsos said. "There's not a whole lot of areas in the city of Dubuque that would meet their economic need."

Dubuque County Attorney Ralph Potter, a vocal proponent of changing the residency requirement, said the law is creating "islands," and the Peru Road trailer park proves the point.

He worries about the impacts of "packing" sex offenders together in a dense area.

"It's like trying to put a bunch of drug users in the same neighborhood and trying to keep them straight," Potter said.
- I think sex offenders and drug dealers do not compare like you are saying. Sex offenders usually tend to keep each other inline, where drug users do not. Yes, there is some who will not do this, but not in most cases.

That idea has crossed Stacy Puccio's mind. She claims two of the registrants at the trailer park are constantly together. She questions the safety and legality of the "friendship." Vrotsos said unless the sex offenders face probation restrictions, there is nothing in the law preventing them from hanging out together.
- What is wrong with them hanging out together as long as they are not committing crimes?

Stacy Puccio, who works at a child care center in Asbury, Iowa, said she's long had her heart set on opening her own center. She and her husband had considered buying the mobile home next door for that purpose, but she doesn't see much hope in opening a business catering to children in a neighborhood filled with sex offenders.

If she did open a child care facility, the registered sex offenders wouldn't have to leave. They would effectively be "grandfathered in."

"There's other places they could put these people," Scott said.
- Where? If they've served their time, then they are entitled to live anywhere within the law. If you move them, then the place you move them to will do the same thing, thus shuffling them around and around and around.

Second chances

Others see the laws as compassionately flawed.

Ron and Ann Schaal, longtime residents of 17795 Peru Road, Lot 19, live next door to Anthony E. Pfab Jr., convicted in 1993 of third-degree sexual abuse of a teenage girl (age 14-17).

The Schaals say their neighbor and the other registrants have been nice.

"They've really been open and friendly and helpful," Ann said. "The only reason we know that they're on (the registry) is because a lot of neighbors have the Internet."
- And most are friendly and not the "monsters" everyone portrays them as being. Yes, some are monsters, but most are not.

Iowa's sex offender registry is just a mouse click away, pinpointing where registrants live and giving an indication of their crimes.

The law leaves little room for second chances, Ron said, especially for people he said have been on the registry for years without incident.
- Amen! You get fired from your job which you've had for years, cannot find another job, get kicked out of the house or apartment you are in and cannot find another one, thus you either go underground or become homeless. These laws are doing nothing except creating a new class of citizens.

"I feel they are trying to straighten their lives out, and I think they need a chance to do that," he said. "I think they are unfairly shunned by society. I don't condone what they've done, but both of us attend churches and we believe God offers a second chance."

A registered sex offender at the park, who asked not to be identified, said the system unfairly lumps sex offenders together -- mixing the worst predators with people who made a mistake a long time ago.

"I think they should categorize it by certain individuals, certain cases, and take those certain individuals into consideration," the man said. "If there's somebody that's a habitual offender, that has repeatedly committed a sex offense or crime, then they should not be allowed to live in society, around children."
- I agree. Here is an example. If a person goes into a store and steals a candy bar or something small and another person robs a bank, they are both thieves, but they are sentenced and punished differently, so the same should apply for sex offenders.

The registrant says he got caught up in a "wrong situation" when he was 17. He said he got drunk at a college "kegger" and had sex with a minor girl who lied about her age. According to the state registry, he was convicted in 1996 of assault with intent to commit sexual abuse of a female (age 0 to 13).
- Almost every case of the "Romeo & Juliet" cases I've heard, the "victim" lied about their age, and they were usually consensual. So this is another example of stupid laws gone awry.

The man said he served nearly four years in prison, but he refused to go through sexual abuse treatment programs because he couldn't sit in a room with "people who actually touch on children."

He said he lost his home in the city because it was within the 2,000-foot restriction and he couldn't afford to keep his trailer and the house.
- And did the state who forced him from the home, repay him for the looses? No! And they should have to... These people are not millionaires who can afford to move 10 million times.

"I stayed with my wife as long as possible, but they told me I had to go," the man said. "They put us all on one little thing and kick us out of town.

"I'm stranded."

Vrotsos said the registrant has been in a lot of trouble with the law over the years. The registered sex offender has a lengthy rap sheet, according to the Iowa courts system, and Vrotsos said any jail time he served for other crimes could extend the offender's time on the registry.

Political suicide?

Iowa's county attorneys and law enforcement leaders pushed for changes to the 2,000-foot rule in the last legislative session, most notably a provision that would have created safe or protected zones, where registered sex offenders could not go.
- And this makes perfect sense to me. Buffer zones could be 50 or 100 miles, and if a predator or someone else is intent on committing another crime, they will do so whether it's a buffer zone or not. The buffer zones only force people into exile.

To Potter and other proponents of change, it's not a matter of where the offenders live, but where they frequent that's the real problem. Under the existing law, there is nothing to prevent offenders from hanging out at a park or a swimming pool for hours on end -- they just can't sleep there.
- Yeah, who the hell thought up this nice idea?

And Vrotsos said the residency restriction doesn't get to the heart of the problem of sexual abuse.

"That 2,000-foot rule does not mean jack to perpetrators because they usually know who their victim is," the chief deputy said.

And Vrotsos and other law enforcement officials agree that the code should have some kind of structured system so that it's not lumping all offenders together.
- Amen! All sex offenders are lumped into one worse case scenario as if they all killed Jessica Lunsford or the other children who have been murdered. Which is totally wrong. They did not kill these kids, some predator did.

Politicians like Rep. Steve Lukan, R-New Vienna, said there is no political will to change the law. He said both parties have been reluctant to tackle the politically charged issue, but the Democratic leadership failed to move forward with what Lukan said were some pretty commonsense suggestions by law enforcement officials in the last session.
- It's because they'd be looked down on as being "for the sex offenders" which is BS! It's about being fair and legal. Every time someone tries to help, some idiot like Bill OReilly gets their panties in a wad and starts saying crap like "This person is for pedophiles and doesn't want to punish them!" I'd love to see some politician with the balls to step up to the plate.... Which I doubt will happen until something drastic happens.

"The reason this stuff doesn't come up is that the leadership is scared to death of it," he said.
- Why? Afraid they might get hounded by Bill OReilly or Nancy Disgrace? Be a person who upholds the Bill of Rights and Constitution like you took office to do, and ignore the wolves!!

A majority of Iowans, at least according to the last polls, supported the residency requirements. Politicians don't want to be perceived as weak on crime, especially crimes that involve the state's most vulnerable citizens. In the often cynical world of politics, some see voting in favor of changing the sex offender residency law as political suicide.
- And this is the whole problem!

"It is certainly a political hot button and nobody wants to be soft on this issue," said Sen. Roger Stewart, D-Preston, who said he'd like to see the law strengthened, but he declined to go into specifics about any changes he'd like to see.
- You would not be seen as soft on the issue if you'd provide TRUE statistics and facts instead of myths, and stand up for EVERYONE'S rights, victim and criminal. They both have rights, period! Just like I'm doing with this blog. I don't give a rats a$$ what people think, I am telling the truth and trying to get people to listen to all the BS flying around! But everyone in politics are a bunch of wimps!

Underscoring the egg shell of public perception surrounding the controversial issue, Lukan prefaced his statements by saying he doesn't want people to think he's "fond of sex offenders."

"I just think in some cases we've made people possibly less safe, and that was not the intent of the law," he said. "Just because we push them 2,000 feet away from schools doesn't mean we're going to stop (offenders) from being predators."

For the Puccios, the realities of the law are forcing the family to consider leaving the home they've lived in for eight years.
- And nobody should have to be faced with this, it's morally wrong!

"I don't want to have to move out of a home we've done so many renovations to and put an addition on," Stacy said.
- And you shouldn't have to.


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A Letter From Thomas Jefferson To James Madison

Shays' Rebellion--- a sometimes-violent uprising of farmers angry over conditions in Massachusetts in 1786--- prompted Thomas Jefferson to express the view that "a little rebellion now and then is a good thing" for America. Unlike other leaders of The Republic, Jefferson felt that the people had a right to express their grievances against the government, even if those grievances might take the form of violent action.

Jefferson airs his sentiments in a letter to James Madison on January 30, 1787, expressing justification for the series of protests led by Daniel Shay and a group of 1,200 farmers.

Jefferson also writes of his concern over John Jay's impending negotiations with Spain. Under consideration would be proposals to extend privileges in Spanish ports to American ships, while providing navigation rights on the Mississippi River to Spain.

In his letter to Madison, Jefferson expresses his belief that the agreement might be interpreted as opening up the Mississippi to Spanish rule, thus provoking a war between settlers in the west and Spain, and eventually, dividing the nation.

Paris, January 30th, 1787

Dear Sir,

My last to you was of the 16th of December; since which, I have received yours of November 25 and December 4, which afforded me, as your letters always do, a treat on matters public, individual, and economical. I am impatient to learn your sentiments on the late troubles in the Eastern states. So far as I have yet seen, they do not appear to threaten serious consequences. Those states have suffered by the stoppage of the channels of their commerce, which have not yet found other issues. This must render money scarce and make the people uneasy. This uneasiness has produced acts absolutely unjustifiable; but I hope they will provoke no severities from their governments. A consciousness of those in power that their administration of the public affairs has been honest may, perhaps, produce too great a degree of indignation; and those characters, wherein fear predominates over hope, may apprehend too much from these instances of irregularity. They may conclude too hastily that nature has formed man insusceptible of any other government than that of force, a conclusion not founded in truth or experience.

Societies exist under three forms, sufficiently distinguishable: (1) without government, as among our Indians; (2) under governments, wherein the will of everyone has a just influence, as is the case in England, in a slight degree, and in our states, in a great one; (3) under governments of force, as is the case in all other monarchies, and in most of the other republics.

To have an idea of the curse of existence under these last, they must be seen. It is a government of wolves over sheep. It is a problem, not clear in my mind, that the first condition is not the best. But I believe it to be inconsistent with any great degree of population. The second state has a great deal of good in it. The mass of mankind under that enjoys a precious degree of liberty and happiness. It has its evils, too, the principal of which is the turbulence to which it is subject. But weigh this against the oppressions of monarchy, and it becomes nothing. Malo periculosam libertatem quam quietam servitutem. Even this evil is productive of good. It prevents the degeneracy of government and nourishes a general attention to the public affairs.

I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical. Unsuccessful rebellions, indeed, generally establish the encroachments on the rights of the people which have produced them. An observation of this truth should render honest republican governors so mild in their punishment of rebellions as not to discourage them too much. It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government.

If these transactions give me no uneasiness, I feel very differently at another piece of intelligence, to wit, the possibility that the navigation of the Mississippi may be abandoned to Spain. I never had any interest westward of the Allegheny; and I will never have any. But I have had great opportunities of knowing the character of the people who inhabit that country; and I will venture to say that the act which abandons the navigation of the Mississippi is an act of separation between the Eastern and Western country. It is a relinquishment of five parts out of eight of the territory of the United States; an abandonment of the fairest subject for the payment of our public debts, and the chaining those debts on our own necks, in perpetuum.

I have the utmost confidence in the honest intentions of those who concur in this measure; but I lament their want of acquaintance with the character and physical advantages of the people, who, right or wrong, will suppose their interests sacrificed on this occasion to the contrary interests of that part of the confederacy in possession of present power. If they declare themselves a separate people, we are incapable of a single effort to retain them. Our citizens can never be induced, either as militia or as soldiers, to go there to cut the throats of their own brothers and sons, or rather, to be themselves the subjects instead of the perpetrators of the parricide.

Nor would that country quit the cost of being retained against the will of its inhabitants, could it be done. But it cannot be done. They are able already to rescue the navigation of the Mississippi out of the hands of Spain, and to add New Orleans to their own territory. They will be joined by the inhabitants of Louisiana. This will bring on a war between them and Spain; and that will produce the question with us, whether it will not be worth our while to become parties with them in the war in order to reunite them with us and thus correct our error. And were I to permit my forebodings to go one step further, I should predict that the inhabitants of the United States would force their rulers to take the affirmative of that question. I wish I may be mistaken in all these opinions.

Yours affectionately,

Th. Jefferson

Tuning the sex offender law

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This is a load of crap! Now they have federal legislation in the works to give Sheriff's the same power as a probation officer, so they can come in and search your house without a warrant!


Georgia sheriffs are sort of at attention.

Lawyers at the Southern Center for Human Rights are asking them questions about how their offices approached sex offenders regarding the 1,000-foot residential provisions in House Bill 1059, Georgia's sex offender legislation.

The law restricts sex offenders from working in a church, school or day care, or living within 1,000 feet of a church, school or day care.

SCHR lawyers "are asking questions like, 'How many people have you made move because of the 1,000-foot rule?' " said Lt. Mike Massey of the Muscogee County Sheriff's Office. "And it goes even further into it than that."

Maj. Joe McCrea said the Muscogee County Sheriff's Office has never made anyone move, but sex offenders violating the 1,000-foot provision were sent letters.

"We hand-delivered them -- just like we serve any civil paper or a warrant," Massey said. "A deputy went to their house and informed them they were in violation due to whatever it was -- too close to a school, a park... And basically that's all we did. We didn't go out and strong-arm anybody and tell them if they didn't move we were putting them in jail."

Massey said they worked with the sex offenders they dealt with, giving them time within the law to relocate.

"The law isn't specific about how much time a sex offender has between being notified and having to move to an approved location," Massey said.

But on the advice of the city attorney, offenders are given 30 days to relocate. During the 30 days, the sheriff's office is in constant contact with the offender, Massey said.

"They give us addresses, and we go out and verify those addresses and make sure they are not moving into another violation situation," he said.

A member of the Georgia Sheriff's Association Sex Offender Task Force, Massey said all Georgia sheriff's departments are operating the same way.

"With offenders being moved from county to county, it was important that we all stay in touch with each other and network on this thing," he said. "What we are trying to do is come up with a standard way that everybody does it, so nobody falls through the cracks."

Even so, Massey said we haven't seen the last of the changes to Georgia's sex offender law.

"The bill will continue to be worked on, and only minute changes are being made at the top," he said.

Then there's the federal legislation in the works, which Massey said would give sheriff's deputies the same authority as probation officers.
- A Sheriff is not a probation officer, and this is just to turn them into Gestapo so they can search your house without a warrant! WTF?

"Deputies can't knock on the door and go inside a sex offender's house and check anything... . But probation officers can go in, check offenders' homes, check their computers," Massey said.
- So now we'll have cops harassing us all the time wanting to search everything.

Something's got to change to stop drunken driving

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And so the tragic story continues, same stanza, same chapter. It does not matter the date; whether it is 2007, 1997 or 1977. A person who is blind drunk gets behind the wheel and plows into someone else, and the result is a life, or lives, either ended forever or forever altered.

It happens in Pace; it happens to a young couple visiting from Alabama who come here for a trip to the beach and go home making funeral plans for their little girl; it happens everyplace I've ever lived and it's happened everyplace you have ever lived.

And nothing changes.

Oh, sure, after each accident there is a cry for some type of change. Get tough! Wake up! More roadblocks! Lower the legal limit for blood-alcohol content! We posture, we gnash teeth. But in time the tragedies become dim memories to all but the immediately impacted. Meanwhile, the immediately impacted must return home and redo a baby's room into a guest room, or a teenager's room into a den. And the holidays become hell.

And nothing changes.

Friends don't let friends drive drunk? Apparently, many do.

Troopers who pledge to catch drunken drivers? Good thought, but there are too many.

Drunken drivers, that is.

This cannot be solved by law enforcement, although it has tried: tougher prosecution, tougher sentences and DUI patrols, to name a few steps.

Friends, we have some of the silliest debates in this nation while drunks are smashing into cars and killing people. It's a strange kind of socially tolerated genocide.

It's also a national crisis and a national tragedy. It's that simple.

It might be solved by auto manufacturers, who could keep a car from starting if a person is legally drunk. But for years auto makers have balked about safety and fuel economy standards under the false pretense of expense, so there is little hope from Detroit or Japan.

Perhaps we need a different course.

On the government side, perhaps we need a drunken-driving registry, much as we have a sex-offender registry. I would want to know who in my neighborhood has more than, say, two DUIs. I'd also want to know where most of the arrests are.

Think merchants would demand a cleanup if that info was easily available?

On the private side, businesses must become more serious about driver background checks, from all states, and think twice about hiring people with multiple DUIs. Perhaps it needs to be similar to employer-employee immigration checks.

Businesses also have a responsibility to make sure people who leave their place of business, whether it's a bar, a restaurant, a marina or a canoe-rental place, are not drunk.

If churches can hire deputies to direct traffic on Sundays, why can't these places contract with deputies for a bit of a different service?

I'm told some do just that. More need to.

Hey, this might even be a revenue-generator for cash-short counties and cities. Instead of speed traps, you could have drunk traps.

But we must change.

For the 34 years I have been in this business the newspaper stories on DUIs remain chillingly similar.

Because nothing has changed.

People still die.

These are my ideas. What are yours?

More young sex offenders face long lockdowns

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It's not just serial sex offenders with long criminal histories Minnesota prosecutors are trying to lock away in state security hospitals these days. They are increasingly going after younger predators.

Ryan Mely was 18 when he admitted ambushing a St. Paul girl on a sidewalk, grabbing her breasts and shoving his hands down her pants.

Mely, the son of a convicted child molester, has since spent nearly three years behind bars for his first adult sex offense. Now, Ramsey County prosecutors want the 21-year-old with a history of disturbing sexual behavior labeled either a sexual psychopathic personality or a sexually dangerous person so he can be locked up indefinitely at a state psychiatric hospital.

The average age of a committed sex offender in Minnesota is 37, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services, but the number who are 25 and younger is on the rise.

Of the 30 sex offenders committed in 2003, about 16 percent were in that age bracket. That climbed to about 28 percent of the 118 sex offenders committed in 2007.

Mely is one of the youngest of the 24 sex offenders Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner has tried to commit since 2003.

"Without a doubt, he's at the young end of the continuum of the people we have filed against, if not the youngest," Gaertner said. "His youth is something we took into consideration. Given his pattern of harmful sexual conduct and the apparently ingrained nature of that behavior- even considering his youth - we thought a petition was appropriate."

Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said he has filed a civil commitment petition against a 19-year-old sex offender. Of the 22 commitments he's sought since December 2003, half were against sex offenders younger than 30. Backstrom said he takes these cases as seriously as murder cases.

Some critics say prosecutors, having cycled through the worst-of-the-worst sex offenders and committed 371 to state hospitals, are now reaching for more, often tenuous cases.

"As a practical matter, we've gotten rid of the old slam-dunk cases," said defense attorney David Kraker. "Most of the cases I've seen come through the system, the behaviors are not quite as bad and the cases are a bit more iffy."

Kraker says he has two 18-year-old clients who have been civilly committed as sex offenders. One was accused of assaulting a stepsister at age 16. Prosecutors never charged the teen with a crime, instead opting for civil commitment.

Psychologists will evaluate Mely, who is being held at the state security hospital in St. Peter, and a Ramsey County district judge ultimately will decide whether he should be indefinitely committed.

Mely started exhibiting sexual behavior toward other children at age 10 and told authorities in recent years he fantasized about sex with children, according to court documents. Mely's family says he's too young for prosecutors to lock him up indefinitely. Mely's biological mother, Vicki Wendorf, said she wished the state had sought help for her son as a child before his behavior escalated.

"I am sure if he was brought up in a different situation, I don't think none of this would have happened," said Wendorf, who struggled with drug addiction and was not involved in Mely's upbringing.


A 12-year-old St. Paul girl was walking home from school in the Merriam Park neighborhood on Sept. 17, 2004, when a stranger assaulted her on the sidewalk. The girl fled. An anonymous tipster later told St. Paul police that a composite sketch of the molester matched either Ryan Mely or his father, George Mely.

Police talked to both the father and the son. George Mely had been convicted of molesting a family member and a family friend and had served five years in prison.

Police homed in on Ryan Mely, who was working as a school bus driver and had a history of juvenile sex offenses and behavioral and family problems.

He'd first come to the attention of authorities in Anoka County in 1993.

As early as age 10, Anoka County child-protection services noted Mely reportedly had inappropriate contact with a female relative - the same relative Mely's father was convicted of abusing.

It's unclear from court files what steps social workers took to intervene in Mely's life. The boy lived with his stepmother while his father served his prison term for molesting children.

At age 13, Mely started calling 1-900 sex lines and racked up a steep phone bill, according to court files. At ages 15 and 17, Mely was twice convicted in juvenile court of peeping at women in their homes.

Mely entered outpatient sex-offender treatment as a teen but was discharged without counseling because of "high risk factors that made him an inappropriate candidate for outpatient sex specific therapy," according to court files.

In November 2004, Mely pleaded guilty to second-degree criminal sexual conduct for the sidewalk attack. A Ramsey County judge initially sentenced Mely to a stayed prison sentence and a year in jail. He was to enroll in sex-offender treatment as soon as he left the workhouse.

In a presentence investigation, Mely told authorities that the 12-year-old girl was his "ideal victim" and that he intended to rape her if he could get her into his car, according to court documents. Mely also said he "fantasized and masturbated to kidnapping and raping much younger children, as young as 3 to 5," according to court filings.

As ordered, Mely served a year in jail, but he didn't get into sex-offender treatment after he had done his time. Officials cited his explanation that he had been coerced into confessing to the 2004 assault, rather than taking responsibility for it.

In July 2005, Ramsey County District Judge Marybeth Dorn ordered Mely to serve another 2½ years in prison.

He was released in March and taken to a security hospital pending his civil commitment hearing.

Gaertner said Mely's history - regardless of his number of convictions - makes him a danger to reoffend and a prime candidate for civil commitment despite his youth.

"There's more to a pattern of harmful sexual contact than convictions," Gaertner said. "We can and do use uncharged offenses if we can prove them."

Mely's court-appointed attorney, Kathleen Rauenhorst, declined comment, but the young man's father and fiancee say they're troubled by the efforts to lock him up.

"He's not the person the state is trying to bring him out to be," said Mely's fiancee, Crystal Ash. The couple plans to get married in August at the state security hospital in St. Peter.

George Mely said he's proof that treatment works and believes his son deserves that chance.

"I don't think what he did was extremely bad. It was only his first offense," George Mely said. "For a first-time offender, for them to throw the book at him and throw the key away is ridiculous."

AL - Moulton man facing child porn charges dies

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MOULTON — A Moulton man whom investigators arrested Monday on child pornography charges died Friday morning of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound, a sheriff’s investigator said.

Lt. Tim McWhorter said investigators found Stephen Elliott Dee Garrison, 38, of 20679 Alabama 33 near a pond at the back of the property. Investigators responded to calls from the family between 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m., McWhorter said.

“They (the family) found a letter indicating he was taking his life,” McWhorter said. “He died on the property.”

Lawrence County Coroner Micah Coffey was out of town and not available for comment.

“We’re completing the investigation, but it’s pretty evident that it was a self-inflicted gunshot wound,” McWhorter said.

The Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department arrested Garrison on Monday after finding 145 images of child pornography in his home, McWhorter said.

The arrest came after a resident expressed concern to sheriff investigators about inappropriate pictures of young children, McWhorter said.

The resident gave the Sheriff’s Department a compact disc containing some of the images.

During the search, McWhorter said, investigators found more discs containing pictures of children who appeared to be between 3 and 15.

McWhorter said it did not appear that Garrison produced any of the photos.

NM - TV show helps in capture of former county deputy Raymond Gates

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CARLSBAD — A former Eddy County Sheriff's Department deputy was arrested Thursday in Wichita Falls, Texas and is awaiting extradition to New Mexico, according to an America's Most Wanted report.

Raymond Gates, 48, worked at the Carlsbad branch of the sheriff's department from 1996 to 1999.

"When he worked with us he always presented himself in a professional manner," said a former sheriff's department co-worker, Tony Dominguez. "I don't know what happened to him. You just never know."

Gates appeared this week on the television show, America's Most Wanted, for fleeing from the police after failing to register as a sex offender.

The show caught the eye of a Texas rancher who had recently hired Gates to work for him.

The rancher called the police and they arrested Gates at a home in Wichita Falls, according to the report.

Gates was originally convicted in 2005 in Clovis of criminal sexual contact of a minor for abusing a girl under the age of 13, the report said.

He was sentenced to six years in prison, but a judge suspended the sentence and gave Gates five years probation. As a condition of his probation, Gates was required to register as a sex offender, the report said.

Gates never registered; he just vanished.

The police reportedly had information that Gates had ties to the farming and ranching communities in several states, and these clues eventually provided enough information to help capture him.

AL - You could live next to sex offender

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Whether residents of Dothan like it or not, registered sex offenders are permitted to move into some of their neighborhoods.

Carl Brooks, who lives near two registered sex offenders on Bradley Street, said he has concerns about this because he has three young girls.

“I don’t like it at all to tell you the truth,” Brooks said. “My wife and I are trying to get them out of there.”

April McDaniel, who lives near the recently registered sex offender and is also married to the other registered sex offender living in the neighborhood, said she was notified by the Dothan Police Department about the second sex offender moving in and she had some concern.

“I was a little worried because you don’t know people, but I was OK with it,” McDaniel said. “I just looked over (the notification) real carefully.”

While Brooks said he doesn’t believe the Dothan Police Department has kept a close enough watch on the offenders, McDaniel said they seem to do a good job.

“They don’t even ride through here,” Brooks said.

Cpl. Tim Odom said since the police department started the Sexual Offender Accountability Program in February, the city of Dothan has had a more secure watch on registered sex offenders.

“It gives them an extra check that they could say, ‘hey, I was here, and the police check on me, so I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing,’” Odom said. “Some of them have really taken to the idea that this is a good thing for them.”

The SOAP program has assigned certain registered sex offenders to different officers, who perform routine checks on them, making sure they are where they have reported to be living and working.

According to Odom, officers are required to check on the offenders a minimum of once a month to have them fill out a form, but there are no limits on how frequently they can make visits.

“They can check on them every day if they want to... as little as once a month or as many as 31 times,” Odom said.

Only four people have violated the accountability program since it began.

“Usually if they are in violation, they are not living where they are supposed to be or are not working where they are supposed to be. Both are felonies,” Odom said.

The police department has issued 10 felony warrants on registered offenders since the program started, but some of those have been for the same person.

The SOAP program, according to Odom, has not helped decrease the amount of sexual crime in Dothan, but has just helped officers keep a closer watch.

“It doesn’t necessarily go hand in hand. Our sex crime stays pretty level,” he said.
However, the program has helped officers to stay ahead of the game if they need to locate an offender.

“It gives us a little bit more of a jump,” Odom said. “It gets law enforcement to place eyes on them at least once a month so that they know they are being watched.”

While all sex offenders are required to register with the local police department where they live, it is not required that all are reported to the community. Juveniles and youthful offenders are not eligible for community notification under the Community Notification Act unless they have been deemed by court officials as an extreme risk.

However, Odom said Dothan police officers still keep a watch on juveniles and those with youthful offender status.

According to Lt. Susan Seay with the Houston County Sheriff’s Office, even some adult sex offenders are not eligible for community notification.

In Dothan, residents living near sex offender’s homes are notified by mail within seven days after they move into the neighborhood. In Houston County, officers put flyers up in the neighborhood. Both Seay and Odom said there have been no problems as far as notifying the community, but often residents will complain once they receive their notice.

“A lot of times they have to move because people make them unwelcome in the neighborhood,” Seay said. “People are real unkind to people who have sex offender (status).”