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I would've made them come and get me. Hell, he just made their jobs easier.
CLEVELAND -- A man who fled from Cleveland last October rode his bicycle 400 miles to turn himself in to police on Friday, U.S. marshals said.
John McKinney, 36, failed to register as a sex offender after serving 15 years in prison for rape.
He told authorities that he was tired of being on the run for 11 months.
McKinney rode his bike from Dudley, Mass., to Buffalo, N.Y., where he got a bus ticket to return to Cleveland, marshals said.
He turned himself in at the Justice Center.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
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It's legal in this state, but some experts say it's unethical -- and unnecessary.
Offended by a masseuse's offer to go beyond routine rubbing into something downright unprintable, the spa customer went to the state police and offered his services: He would take on the role of confidential informant and gather evidence of prostitution at North Whitehall's Shiatsu Spa.
He ended up having sex four times in the name of justice.
When that fact emerged this week during a Lehigh County Court hearing for one of two spa employees charged with prostitution in the 2006 case, it cast light on a surprisingly common and irony-rich investigative procedure: having civilians pay for sex during crackdowns on sex-for-pay.
The same technique was used in a massage parlor crackdown in August, when state police at Fogelsville repeatedly used an informant to build a case against Hana Massage Therapy in Lower Macungie. A month earlier, Hilltown Township police arrested the owner of the 7 Day Spa after an informant paid $40 for a sex act.
Defenders of the practice, which also has been used in Virginia, Tennessee, Arizona and other states, say it is often necessary to make solid cases against what are essentially brothels in disguise. And with police generally -- though not always -- barred from engaging in sexual behavior during investigations, civilians are the only alternative.
But do informants have to have sex to make a case?
Not in California, which prohibits the use of paid informants in vice operations and has a specific protocol for street-level and massage parlor prostitution in which suspects must verbally offer sex for money. An officer may not ask for sex or offer to pay.
"You don't have someone go in and actually have sex with a suspected prostitute," said John Lovell, legislative advocate for the California Peace Officers Association. "That would cross the line into entrapment. Prostitution is a crime for both parties in the transaction. That's why I'm frankly puzzled by that kind of procedure."
So is defense attorney Maureen Coggins, representing Shiatsu employee Sun Cha Chon. She has asked Judge Robert L. Steinberg to throw out the charges. She said the informant, by engaging in intercourse and other acts, went far beyond what was legally necessary to make a case and further victimized women who are almost certainly involved in prostitution against their will. Steinberg continued the hearing to November.
"In my opinion the probable cause for an arrest is a situation where someone asks for money and they say what specific act they're going to do for the money," Coggins said. "There's no requirement that a sexual act be performed."
But Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli said the completion of sexual acts allows police to bring more substantive charges against suspects -- felony-level prostitution rather than misdemeanor attempt, for example. That can give authorities ammunition to close a spa.
While the Shiatsu informant's four visits may seem excessive, they may have been necessary, said Charlie Fuller, executive director of the International Association of Undercover Officers, based in Brunswick, Ga. Police may have wanted to build a case strong enough to allow authorities to seize and close the business.
The case is further strengthened if the informant has sex with multiple employees because it shows prostitution is prevalent and not the work of a maverick, added Fuller, a retired undercover agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Coggins said the tactic further victimizes women. "I guess you can argue it can make the case stronger, but at what cost? If you have to engage in outrageous behavior to make your case stronger, is that what people want police to be doing?"
In some cases, police officers themselves have built cases at spas by engaging in sexual behavior. In 1992, detectives from Bucks County went undercover at four spas in North Penn, receiving nude massages and other sexual services but stopping short of intercourse.
Last year, prosecutors in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, were ridiculed by conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, among others, after they acknowledged undercover sheriff's deputies were told to allow sex to occur during a parlor investigation.
"It's not proper having police officers having sex as part of the job whether you have to complete the act or not," said Morganelli, who began discouraging the practice years ago.
Even so, not all law enforcement agencies and observers consider civilian informants a good alternative, especially in the inherently dangerous realm of vice.
"There's potential for corruption and misconduct not only by the police but by the people police are delegating to," said Eugene O'Donnell, a professor of police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. "And any undercover investigation, even in a brothel, can take a wrong turn. What if one of these guys gets hurt?"
O'Donnell, a former New York City police officer and prosecutor, said many states and municipalities have attacked massage parlor prostitution civilly by imposing regulations -- for example, requiring massage rooms to have windows so the activity inside can be observed -- and licensing requirements on massage therapists.
Forced into prostitution
Mary Anne Layden, a clinical psychologist with the University of Pennsylvania Health System who served as an expert witness at the Shiatsu hearing, said the debate over how prostitution investigations are conducted obscures a far more serious issue: the exploitation of women whose backgrounds, research shows, almost always include sexual and physical trauma.
Most prostitutes are forced into the lifestyle when they are little more than children and about 70 percent suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result -- a higher percentage than researchers have found among soldiers at war, she said.
Layden said the most effective way to stem prostitution and related crimes such as human trafficking is to "flip" the standard approach by treating prostitutes as victims -- giving them psychotherapy and job training instead of jail -- and targeting johns as criminals.
In Sweden, this approach was been credited with reducing prostitution by 50 percent within a decade. Conversely, Germany and Australia saw massive increases in prostitution after legalizing the practice, with increasing numbers of children forced into the lifestyle to meet the demand.
"You have to aim at the john," Layden said. "Until we target the real source of the problem, the demand end, we're not going to make any headway."
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Mobile County commissioners and Sheriff's Office officials said they don't have the authority to do anything about a trailer park in Theodore that is housing more than a dozen registered sex offenders.
The property, on the corner of U.S. 90 and Shasta Way, is home to 14 registered sex offenders, according to state records.
A 15th offender is still registered at that address, but is currently in jail after being arrested on another sex charge last month.
Mobile County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Kate Johnson said the owner of the Theodore property is Bonnie Wells. She could not be reached for comment.
Several nearby residents have expressed concern about the trailer park.
Bill Ross, co-chairman of the Theodore Improvement Association, recently asked the Mobile County Commission whether it could fine the property owner for allowing the congregation of convicted offenders the same way the county can fine property owners for allowing large amounts of junk to pile up in their yards.
"This falls under the definition of a nuisance," Ross said. "I request that you consider revising the ordinance to protect the unincorporated parts of the county from this kind of activity."
Last year, the county received the authority to create ordinances to deal with nuisances like junk, weeds, litter and animals. But Commission President Stephen Nodine said the county does not have the authority to do anything about sex offenders.
"That would be a civil rights issue," he said.
Unlike a city government, which can enact laws restricting the areas where convicted sex offenders can live, county governments can only enforce state laws with regard to residency restrictions.
Under state law, a registered sex offender may not live within 2,000 feet of a school or child care facility or near his victim, but may live anywhere else. There is no law barring multiple sex offenders from living on the same property.
Johnson said deputies have met with community members about the property and constantly patrol the area and keep in touch with the owner to make sure all the registered offenders are in compliance with the law.
Outside of that, she said, there is nothing sheriff's deputies can do.
"We've got to keep a close eye on them," she said. "But the fact is, they've got their rights, too."
In August, a resident of the property named Richard Nelson was charged with enticing a minor for immoral purposes after a mother alleged that he had sent text messages to her 11-year-old daughter.
In 2001, residents protested against the Peach Place Inn, a weekly hotel that was housing 10 registered sex offenders. The owner of the establishment eventually evicted all 10.
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About 75 percent of Mobile's housing is off-limits to sex offenders because of residency restrictions, a Press-Register analysis shows. That leaves pockets inside the city, or less populated areas outside it, for local offenders to live, officials agree.
The restrictions were designed to protect children by keeping sex predators away from schools and day cares. But some researchers and studies report that such restrictions are pushing sex offenders into more rural areas, creating clusters of former convicts who live in isolation, have no ties to their communities, and lack work, education and treatment options.
In addition, some fear that the strict regulations are causing offenders to try to evade detection or drift into homelessness.
Local law enforcement officials say the Alabama Community Notification Act is effective in keeping sex offenders -- including pedophiles, who often reoffend -- from living or working within 2,000 feet of a school or day care.
"This legislation is resulting in the isolation of these criminals. Good," said Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson Jr. "That's where my sympathy is, with the victims."
But Charles Onley, a research associate at the Maryland-based Center for Sex Offender Management, said, "Unfortunately, most sex offender laws are not based on research. They're based on fear and reaction."
Sex offender registration laws came into being -- and residency laws soon followed -- after the 1994 rape and murder of New Jersey 7-year-old Megan Kanka by a twice-convicted sex offender.
Alabama passed laws regulating sex offenders in 1996. Today, about 350 live in Mobile County, according to the state's online registry.
Of the more than 85,000 residential addresses in Mobile, about 67,000 are off-limits to sex offenders under terms of the residency restriction.
Altogether, 18,343 addresses would be available if a sex offender were able to acquire or rent the property. As probation officers explain, recently released inmates typically have few resources to attain affordable living places.
Alabama sex offenders, in fact, must find an acceptable residence before being allowed to leave prison.
The Press-Register conducted its research prior to last week's annexation, and did not factor in new city neighborhoods.
Sex offenders are most limited east of Interstate 65 and north of Interstate 10 -- where there is a high number of schools and day cares -- and have more options in suburban west Mobile and south of I-10.
While sex offenders are frequently arrested in the Mobile area for failing to register, Nancy Johnson, a police spokeswoman, said that the city does not have a problem with offenders trying to drop out of sight.
Johnson and Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran expressed support for the residency restrictions, although they noted imperfections. Both said that the restrictions cause concentrations of sex offenders in certain areas.
Cochran said many sex offenders consult the online sex offender registry to see where other offenders are living, and go there, too. "That's created some problems or perceived problems by residents in the county," Cochran said
Beth Blair, an adult outpatient coordinator at Mobile Mental Health, said that the key to keeping sex offenders from reoffending is accountability -- treatment, probation officer involvement and family support.
She said people in rural areas have a tougher time getting access to treatment. "Transportation is one of our biggest problems," Blair said.
Lillian Spencer said she is not sure where her son will live when he leaves Bibb Correctional Facility in Brent, Ala. Eric Tate, 44, was convicted in 2004 of first-degree sexual abuse and is set to be released in 2009.
Spencer said she wanted her son to move into her house on Baltimore Street in Mobile. But St. Peter Vision Village Day Care on Broad Street shares the neighborhood.
"They make it so hard to find a place to stay," Spencer said. "If we put sex offenders out in the woods, they can still come into the city and do what they want."
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Lawmakers are struggling to make the state's sexual predators law mirror the federal Adam Walsh Act, named for the 6-year-old snatched from a Florida store in 1981. Authorities never found his body, just his head in a canal 120 miles away. Suspects in the unsolved crime have included the infamous Jeffrey Dahmer and a Florida mass murderer, Otis O'Toole, who died in prison in 1996 for another crime. O'Toole twice confessed to killing Walsh, but later recanted and authorities never charged him.
- I believe Jeffrey Dahmer was a mass murderer as well, who also was a cannibal. He was killed in prison as well.
The federal law posts an Internet profile of most sex offenders, including their photo, age, home address, license plate number, identifying features, and employer's name and address, if they have a job. Those felons also give the police a DNA sample.
Each person is assigned to a reporting tier based on the severity of his crime. Tier III is for the worst threats, people who register four times a year for life.
Assistant Attorney General Ann Rice warned that New Hampshire could lose up to $200,000 in crime-prevention grants unless its law substantially conforms to Adam Walsh.
- This is a problem. They give these people incentives to pass the law (i.e. Blackmail). If they don't pass the Adam Walsh Act, they do not get the funding. And from what I've been reading, even those who have passed the laws are not getting funding either. And some states are trying to extort money from the offenders by making them pay registration fees every time they register. Pure corruption!
Study debunks sex predator laws
Recently, Human Rights Watch, a national research and advocacy group, issued a damning report on the spate of sex offender laws that swept the country after the 2005 murder of Jessica Lunsford in Florida.
The 146-page document said the popular Internet offender registries endanger children by driving the few intractable pedophiles underground. The study tried to debunk several alleged myths: that all sex offenders are like Dahmer and O'Toole and prey on strangers; that they have many victims; that they commit new sex crimes after release from prison; and that treatment programs are useless.
- I don't think they said "intractable pedophiles!" Not all sex offenders are pedophiles. Why don't you keep your personal feelings out of the report and just report the news, like a good little reporter? And I don't think it "tried to debunk", it did debunk. If you are unbiased and do your own homework, you will see what they say is a FACT! Correct, about 5% or less of ALL sex offenders are dangerous predators who kill children, so that is a FACT! Stranger danger is a myth. Study after study proves that. And many recidivism studies show the recidivism rates are VERY LOW, and sex offenders are LESS LIKELY than other criminals to reoffend. And they DID NOT say treatment programs are useless, where did you see that?
The report, "No Easy Answers: Sex Offender Laws in the United States," found the vast majority of offenders against children have a single victim well known to them. It also said sex offenders are the least likely of all parolees to re-offend, and therapy cuts that risk even more.
- All facts!
The report criticized municipal ordinances like the ones in Dover, Franklin, Tilton and Northfield that keep offenders from living near schools, parks and day-care centers. The study said these bans can cost sex offenders their friends, jobs, spouses, families and mental health. It also makes them more dangerous, being homeless and with no address to report.
- Not exactly, they are saying buffer zones do not work, and are basically banishing, exiling people way out into the country where they are less likely to get the help they need, or they become homeless because of no where to live. The more stress you add on to someone, the more danger everyone is in.
Reams stands by law
Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams serves on a national executive task force of prosecutors, helped draft New Hampshire's child predator law, lobbied for it, and found the Rights Watch study biased. He said the country has more than 600,000 registered sex offenders, and only a handful have been murdered. The county attorney opposes residency restrictions on sex offenders, but said they have passed constitutional muster so far.
- So what did he find biased about it? Where is his facts to back up what he calls a biased report? Human Rights Watch is a HUGE organization who fight for Human Rights, and they are not biased, they have nothing to gain or lose from the laws, yet Jim Reams probably does, like money or something else. Read it for yourself, verify their statistics, they cite many reports, which you apparently did not read. Compared to 600,000 yes, not many have been murdered, but the point is, it does happen, and has happened, just check out my site under the Death, Suicide, Vigilante links, and see for yourself. Also eAdvocate has tons of these issues as well. So Jim Reams doesn't know what the hell he's talking about. Anybody can say it doesn't happen, but can you show me proof it doesn't happen? All you have to do is look around.
Reams said a recent study of pedophiles at the federal Butner Corrections Center in North Carolina found that most had multiple victims. The report said 132 men had confessed to sexually abusing 1,777 young children. A Canadian study of sex offenders showed much the same thing, Reams said, and the lifelong recidivism rate was more than 90 percent.
- Why don't you check out my Myths & Facts section, which has state specific recidivism studies as well as the Bureau of Justice studies on recidivism. Again, he doesn't know what he's talking about. Where is this study? You apparently did not review the Canada studies, the above is total BS. Check here, it has various studies from Canada, this one from 2004. So again, Jim Reams doesn't know what the hell he's talking about. Check out the studies for yourself, don't take his lies at face value.
It should be noted the Butner facility is the only one in the federal system devoted to treating serial pedophiles. The Canadian study tracked 300 inmates arrested in the 1950s and 1960s when only fixated pedophiles went to prison. Even talk of incest was taboo, and modern therapies did not exist.
- And that is the whole problem, they are treating serial pedophiles only, and not ALL sex offenders. Of course recidivism rates will be very high among this group of individuals, any idiot could tell you that.
Carolyn Lucet of Conway has counseled hundreds of sex offenders in therapy over the last 30 years. She said only one has ever returned to prison on a new sex charge. She called the Human Rights Watch study reliable and urged lawmakers to classify sex offenders by rigorous clinical standards used in several states.
- So she knows what she's talking about. You can also review my blog by selecting the HRW label to see more facts, as well as other labels.
"The offenders I deal with are very frightened," Lucet said. "The man who murdered two offenders in Maine had New Hampshire names on his list. That man in Tennessee hasn't even been tried yet. And he's homeless."
Janis Wolak, a UNH researcher on crimes against kids, said the Rights Watch study is consistent with the scientific literature. Many sex offenders are treatable, and the incidence of sex crimes has declined for more than a decade, she said. The typical abusers are family members, close friends, babysitters, coaches, priests, teachers. Among teenagers, it's their peers. She said there are no studies to show if the new laws protect children.
"We desperately need research on it. The media is fixated on the stranger-danger idea," Wolak said. "Most are nonviolent. They use their authority as a father, stepfather or uncle."
- The media uses stranger-danger for ratings and thus more money. Politicians use it to garner votes for the next election, to look like they are actually doing something.
Defense lawyers widely predicted their clients would reject plea deals under the new law. That's because the state can hold an offender five more years in prison if they remain dangerous to society. But Reams has seen no major shift in the pre-trial process. Most cases went to trial in the past.
"They still do," he said.
Assistant Attorney General Rice told lawmakers the state should conform with federal law by classifying people by their crimes, not by their actuarial risk. In an interview, Rice said she was aware of clinical indexes that claim to predict whether certain types of sex felons are likely to re-offend.
Attorney Mike Iacopino heads the Defense Lawyers Association and told Rice, "Just do without the federal money."
The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006
NAESV did not take a formal position in support of or in opposition to the Adam Walsh Act as a whole. However, NAESV is concerned that the political discussion surrounding sex offender management issues, both on the national and state level, has become greatly skewed towards efforts to increase penalties for offenders and create more restrictive offender management programs in lieu of addressing the underlying issues which lead to sex offending behavior. While offender accountability and management are important factors in how our communities respond to sexual violence, it is critical that these issues do not replace or diminish efforts to provide victims with rights and services and to prevent future victimization. NAESV would like to stress the ongoing and critical need to provide victims with substantive rights, increase funding for direct victim services, increase funding for rape prevention education, and to pursue other victim and prevention focused policy initiatives.
What follows is an analysis of the Act that may help you with both the implementation of this legislation in your state as well as state legislation related to sex offenders. Summaries of each title are followed by notes for advocates and, where appropriate, NAESV’s position on particular aspects of the Act. NAESV also has a position statement on sex offender management issues that can be found on our website (www.naesv.org).
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Study shows county had most molestation reports per capita
AIKEN - Aiken County had the highest child-molestation rate in South Carolina in 2005.
And statistics from that year - the last for which information is available - show what many child advocacy experts and prosecutors already know: Children are more likely to be molested by someone they know rather than a stranger.
That person is often a family member, according to a study done by the South Carolina Department of Public Safety.
It just proves that parents should be very diligent about "not leaving their children unsupervised," said Brenda Brisbin, the assistant solicitor in Aiken County who prosecutes many of the child molestation cases.
Ms. Brisbin wasn't surprised by Aiken County's ranking. Although other counties had more reports of molestation, Aiken County had more per capita.
"I would have sworn that we had more than everybody else," Ms. Brisbin said.
Finished in July, the recently released report sheds some light on what most people consider to be the most repulsive crime of all. Covering the years from 1991 to 2005, the study looked at trends, broke down the age and sex of victims and offenders and the relationships between them.
It is based on reports to authorities of molestation and does not include information on whether arrests were made or if the suspect was prosecuted and convicted.
The study found that:
- Aiken County had 193 reported cases of child molestation in 2005, a rate of 53.3 reports for every 10,000 people. Darlington County had the next-closest rate, 48.3.
- Most suspects between 1991 and 2005 were 16 or younger. People 17 to 24 ranked second, and the number of offenders declined with each older age group.
- Most sex offenders - 94.6 percent - during those 14 years were men.
- Only 8.9 percent of the nearly 39,000 cases of sexual assault on a child in South Carolina during those years were committed by someone who was a stranger to the child.
Most reports - 91.1 percent - named someone the child knew as the suspect, with family members listed 31.8 percent of the time.
Barbara Morgan, solicitor for the 2nd Judicial Circuit, said she believes sexual abuse of children is reported more in Aiken County than in other parts of the state, possibly because police and social workers cooperate more in Aiken County.
"There's a lot more follow-up here," she said.
But she and Ms. Brisbin say prosecuting child molestation cases can be very frustrating, simply because of all the dynamics that factor into how it happened and why it continues.
Preventing it is not easy, they said. Such abuse can cross generations, affects all income levels and is often something not talked about in families. Education would help, they said.
Parents need constant vigilance, Ms. Brisbin said.
"I've had so many cases of children sleeping over at a friend's house" and being molested there, she said.
Ms. Brisbin said that about 95 percent of her child molestation cases result in plea bargains - which she said is comparable to other criminal cases - and she has a conviction rate of about 80 percent for the ones that go to trial.
She said that the study's findings also prove that sex offender registries are not the solution to the problem and that limiting where sex offenders can live also doesn't provide much protection.
Aiken County recently delayed efforts to limit where registered sex offenders could live, something that Ms. Brisbin said "does no good." Officials had expressed concerns that Georgia offenders were crossing state lines to avoid the state's tough restrictions.
"The few that come over from Georgia are a drop in the bucket," Ms. Brisbin said. "We need to do something about the ones we have."
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A Waldron police officer whose conduct was deemed unbecoming an officer resigned from the department.
Gerald Heifner resigned a few days after an accusation of rape was levied against him Aug. 26.
Waldron Police Chief David Miller said Thursday an Arkansas State Police investigation found that the sexual relations Heifner had with a 21-year-old woman were consensual and not rape, as originally alleged. However, Heifner’s conduct was considered unbecoming an officer because he’d place himself in a position in which the allegations could be made, Miller said.
Miller said the woman is related to someone in a case Heifner was investigating.
No telephone listing could be found for Heifner, and he could not be reached for comment Thursday. Heifner had worked for the Waldron force for about two years, Miller said.
Scott County Sheriff Cody Carpenter said his officers were dispatched to the local hospital regarding an alleged rape by a Waldron police officer. Carpenter said Arkansas State Police investigators took over the case. Carpenter said the woman later told both his investigators and the ASP investigators that the act was consensual.
Carpenter said it is his understanding “it was an ‘if you do this for me, I’ll do this for you’ kind of thing. It’s always been that way, but now that we’re trying to address it, you hear about it more.”
Law enforcement officers are held to a higher standard, Miller agreed.
ASP Special Agent Ron Hitt said he couldn’t comment on the case because the investigation technically remains open and will until the prosecuting attorney decides whether to prosecute. He said the case had not yet been forwarded to the prosecutor’s office.
A call placed to 15th Judicial Circuit Prosecuting Attorney Tom Tatum’s office was not immediately returned Thursday.