Saturday, November 24, 2007

The serial bully



View the article here

Sound like any people you know? Read the rest by clicking the link above.

How to spot signs and symptoms of serial bullies, sociopaths and psychopaths
including the sociopathic behaviour of the industrial psychopath and the corporate psychopath

Types of serial bully: The Attention-Seeker, The Wannabe, The Guru and The Sociopath

"All cruelty springs from weakness."
(Seneca, 4BC-AD65)

"Most organisations have a serial bully. It never ceases to amaze me how one person's divisive, disordered, dysfunctional behaviour can permeate the entire organisation like a cancer."
Tim Field

"The truth is incontrovertible; malice may attack it, ignorance my deride it, but in the end, there it is."
Winston Churchill

"Lack of knowledge of, or unwillingness to recognise, or outright denial of the existence of the serial bully is the most common reason for an unsatisfactory outcome of a bullying case for both the employee and employer"
Tim Field

I estimate one person in thirty, male or female, is a serial bully. Who does the following profile describe in your life?

The serial bully:

  • is a convincing, practised liar and when called to account, will make up anything spontaneously to fit their needs at that moment
  • has a Jekyll and Hyde nature - is vile, vicious and vindictive in private, but innocent and charming in front of witnesses; no-one can (or wants to) believe this individual has a vindictive nature - only the current target of the serial bully's aggression sees both sides; whilst the Jekyll side is described as "charming" and convincing enough to deceive personnel, management and a tribunal, the Hyde side is frequently described as "evil"; Hyde is the real person, Jekyll is an act
  • excels at deception and should never be underestimated in their capacity to deceive
  • uses excessive charm and is always plausible and convincing when peers, superiors or others are present (charm can be used to deceive as well as to cover for lack of empathy)
  • is glib, shallow and superficial with plenty of fine words and lots of form - but there's no substance
  • is possessed of an exceptional verbal facility and will outmanoeuvre most people in verbal interaction, especially at times of conflict
  • is often described as smooth, slippery, slimy, ingratiating, fawning, toadying, obsequious, sycophantic
  • relies on mimicry, repetition and regurgitation to convince others that he or she is both a "normal" human being and a tough dynamic manager, as in extolling the virtues of the latest management fads and pouring forth the accompanying jargon
  • is unusually skilled in being able to anticipate what people want to hear and then saying it plausibly
  • cannot be trusted or relied upon
  • fails to fulfil commitments
  • is emotionally retarded with an arrested level of emotional development; whilst language and intellect may appear to be that of an adult, the bully displays the emotional age of a five-year-old
  • is emotionally immature and emotionally untrustworthy
  • exhibits unusual and inappropriate attitudes to sexual matters, sexual behaviour and bodily functions; underneath the charming exterior there are often suspicions or hints of sex discrimination and sexual harassment, perhaps also sexual dysfunction, sexual inadequacy, sexual perversion, sexual violence or sexual abuse
  • in a relationship, is incapable of initiating or sustaining intimacy
  • holds deep prejudices (eg against the opposite gender, people of a different sexual orientation, other cultures and religious beliefs, foreigners, etc - prejudiced people are unvaryingly unimaginative) but goes to great lengths to keep this prejudicial aspect of their personality secret
  • is self-opinionated and displays arrogance, audacity, a superior sense of entitlement and sense of invulnerability and untouchability
  • has a deep-seated contempt of clients in contrast to his or her professed compassion
  • is a control freak and has a compulsive need to control everyone and everything you say, do, think and believe; for example, will launch an immediate personal attack attempting to restrict what you are permitted to say if you start talking knowledgeably about psychopathic personality or antisocial personality disorder in their presence - but aggressively maintains the right to talk (usually unknowledgeably) about anything they choose; serial bullies despise anyone who enables others to see through their deception and their mask of sanity
  • displays a compulsive need to criticise whilst simultaneously refusing to value, praise and acknowledge others, their achievements, or their existence
  • shows a lack of joined-up thinking with conversation that doesn't flow and arguments that don't hold water
  • flits from topic to topic so that you come away feeling you've never had a proper conversation
  • refuses to be specific and never gives a straight answer
  • is evasive and has a Houdini-like ability to escape accountability
  • undermines and destroys anyone who the bully perceives to be an adversary, a potential threat, or who can see through the bully's mask
  • is adept at creating conflict between those who would otherwise collate incriminating information about them
  • is quick to discredit and neutralise anyone who can talk knowledgeably about antisocial or sociopathic behaviors
  • may pursue a vindictive vendetta against anyone who dares to held them accountable, perhaps using others' resources and contemptuous of the damage caused to other people and organisations in pursuance of the vendetta
  • is also quick to belittle, undermine, denigrate and discredit anyone who calls, attempts to call, or might call the bully to account
  • gains gratification from denying people what they are entitled to
  • is highly manipulative, especially of people's perceptions and emotions (eg guilt)
  • poisons peoples' minds by manipulating their perceptions
  • when called upon to share or address the needs and concerns of others, responds with impatience, irritability and aggression
  • is arrogant, haughty, high-handed, and a know-all
  • often has an overwhelming, unhealthy and narcissistic attention-seeking need to portray themselves as a wonderful, kind, caring and compassionate person, in contrast to their behaviour and treatment of others; the bully sees nothing wrong with their behavior and chooses to remain oblivious to the discrepancy between how they like to be seen and how they are seen by others
  • is spiritually dead although may loudly profess some religious belief or affiliation
  • is mean-spirited, officious, and often unbelievably petty
  • is mean, stingy, and financially untrustworthy
  • is greedy, selfish, a parasite and an emotional vampire
  • is always a taker and never a giver
  • is convinced of their superiority and has an overbearing belief in their qualities of leadership but cannot distinguish between leadership (maturity, decisiveness, assertiveness, co-operation, trust, integrity) and bullying (immaturity, impulsiveness, aggression, manipulation, distrust, deceitfulness)
  • often fraudulently claims qualifications, experience, titles, entitlements or affiliations which are ambiguous, misleading, or bogus
  • often misses the semantic meaning of language, misinterprets what is said, sometimes wrongly thinking that comments of a satirical, ironic or general negative nature apply to him or herself
  • knows the words but not the song
  • is constantly imposing on others a false reality made up of distortion and fabrication
  • sometimes displays a seemingly limitless demonic energy especially when engaged in attention-seeking activities or evasion of accountability and is often a committeeaholic or apparent workaholic

Responsibility

The serial bully appears to lack insight into his or her behaviour and seems to be oblivious to the crassness and inappropriateness thereof; however, it is more likely that the bully knows what they are doing but elects to switch off the moral and ethical considerations by which normal people are bound. If the bully knows what they are doing, they are responsible for their behaviour and thus liable for its consequences to other people. If the bully doesn't know what they are doing, they should be suspended from duty on the grounds of diminished responsibility and the provisions of the Mental Health Act should apply.


Show’s vision of justice seems, well, perverted

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03/08/2007

On Tuesday, Dateline NBC aired the latest in what has become an ongoing series of Internet crime reports titled “To Catch a Predator.” Hosted by Chris Hansen and employing the smut-talking prowess of volunteers from civilian group Perverted Justice, the series ensnares would-be sex offenders and exposes them on national television. But during its growing number of installments, this increasingly sensationalist program has worn out its welcome. Its problems are too serious to ignore.

The premise is straightforward. Volunteers from Perverted Justice pose as underage Internet users and hang around popular chat rooms. When hit up for chat, they freely wander into explicit territory, swap photos and lure their target to a real-life meeting. The unwitting mark arrives to find himself pinned both by hidden cameras and Chris Hansen’s local-affiliate swagger; this terrifying one-two punch sends the “predator” staggering into the sunlight, at which point he is thrown to the ground and arrested by porky local sheriffs wearing tactical vests. The result is a curious cross between Candid Camera and COPS, with some Sunday-morning proselytizing thrown in.

It is tempting to dismiss the show as televised entrapment. Addressing this issue on the Dateline blog, NBC anchor Stone Phillips ’77 admits that “in many cases, the decoy is the first to bring up the subject of sex.” He goes on to assert that “once the hook is baited, the fish jump and run with it like you wouldn’t believe.” This does little to excuse the underlying charge: Do Perverted Justice decoys entice men to type things they otherwise would not? It’s impossible to know for certain — but provided it fuels more episodes, Dateline doesn’t seem to mind.

The stings depend upon the efforts of Perverted Justice, the civilian group that specializes in aping minors online. It seems such work would demand of volunteers a certain clinical detachment; though they may mimic capricious, uneducated ’tweens on Instant Messenger, in reality — one hopes — they are anything but.

I visited Perverted-Justice.com to find out. I was dismayed to find sandbox rhetoric and perhaps the most petulant FAQ section online today. Click the question “How is this a crime? There was no actual minor!” and you are treated to a meandering hypothetical response, which begins: “Such a stupid statement. If you’re reading this and you’ve uttered this at any point of your life, feel free to smack yourself for ignorance right now.” They also caution that they’re very powerful and well connected, and that “threatening us is a very, very bad idea.”

Interestingly, Dateline busts are just a fraction of the group’s activities. Their main trade appears to be independent baiting expeditions in chat rooms followed by extensive online information gathering and “outing” of targets on the Web. This might include posting the street address, telephone number and other details about a mark in an online forum. Such information could then be used to humiliate and harass the individual and their family.

One might argue that pedophiles and “predators” deserve such punishment, but even so it is hardly the place of pseudonym-sporting civilians to dole it out.

Any group entrusted with assisting criminal investigations should be professional, accountable and free of amateurish posturing. Perverted Justice would do best to confine its efforts to supporting law enforcement, not striking out alone to lynch citizens without due process. One certainly hopes their volunteers are driven by genuine concern for children, not the giddy rush of power that accompanies the public “outing” of Web users.

The group also highlights its rate of return. “Riverside, California: 51 predators in three days. Darke County, Ohio: Completely rural, two hours from anything … 17 predators in three days.”

I’d like to see evidence that Perverted Justice excludes false positives: Once caught in a chat with a decoy, does anyone escape being branded a “predator?” I could find no chat log or statistic reporting this outcome, although the “Info for Police” page does mention a “100 percent conviction rate.”

Frankly, I’m reluctant to accept that Internet-savvy pedophiles are as utterly ubiquitous as Perverted Justice would have us believe. If they are not, care should be taken in our efforts to snare them; most users online are still innocent bystanders. Teen chat rooms are not sanitized by populating them with garrulous, lewd-minded decoys.

Moreover, myriad pitfalls exist. Age is routinely misrepresented online; what if a 24-year-old “predator” turns out to be 17? In that case, the Perverted Justice approach is equivalent to seducing a minor with lascivious chat, or soliciting sexual photos from an underage user. Which network will air that sting?

For now, “To Catch a Predator” continues. We can lament its slide into shock journalism, but a program that catches deviant men seeking to prey upon underage victims does have some claim to a moral high ground. Few criminals are as despised as pedophiles, and the public will tolerate exceptional means of capturing them. Nonetheless, the national news media has obligations beyond sating the raucous mob.

We would like to believe that NBC and its bedfellows are not only doing the right thing, but doing it properly. Online predators are a real problem, but as any preteen knows, two wrongs don’t make a right.

Michael Seringhaus is a sixth-year graduate student in the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry. His column appears on alternate Thursdays.


CT - State Grapples With Housing, Treatment Of Sex Offenders

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11/24/2007

General Assembly Scheduled To Consider $10 Million Bill

Serial rapist David Pollitt celebrated Thanksgiving at home with his family for the first time in a quarter-century.

His release from prison last month to his sister's home in Southbury infuriated neighbors, who are still pushing lawmakers to remove the 54-year-old ex-con from their midst.

“Preppy rapist” Alex Kelly, infamous for fleeing to Europe in 1987 to avoid trial for sexually assaulting two teenage girls, is home in time for Christmas, having been released from prison Friday to live with his parents in Darien.

Local residents say they fear the 40-year-old Kelly, who served 10 years of a 16-year sentence, will rape again.

Nobody wants sex offenders in the neighborhood, but the reality is that more than 4,600 sex offenders are listed on the state registry. Another 700 are to be released from prison within the next year, according to the state Department of Correction.

Most of the 3,200 sex offenders in Connecticut prisons eventually will be released from prison, despite increasingly strict sentencing guidelines.

They have to live somewhere.

On Tuesday, the General Assembly will consider $10 million in funding for 200 secure beds for sex offenders on probation or parole. The state-funded housing could include inpatient beds for high-risk offenders, transitional programs for those trying to re-establish themselves in the community and permanent housing for those who should not or cannot live on their own.

People who work with the sex offender population, including judges and public defenders and parole and probation officers, would welcome the new housing option.

Many sex offenders have nowhere to go upon their release from prison because family members have disowned them or cannot house them. They are not allowed to live in government subsidized housing or halfway houses. They cannot live near their victims, and many are under court order to have no access to minor children. About 50 sex offenders are currently living in homeless shelters, an arrangement that makes it difficult for parole or probations officers to supervise them adequately. Seventy-five-year-old Thomas White, who raped and molested boys in six states over a period of 35 years, is living in the Oakdell Motel in Waterford, an arrangement that is approved by the state Department of Probation only because there is no alternative.

Though Pollitt's and Kelly's neighbors would not agree, professionals who work with sex offenders consider a family placement, in most cases, the best option, because someone who is living in a caring environment and is not isolated would be less likely to commit another crime. The supervising officials are able to establish a relationship with family members and the success of the offender becomes a team effort.

“We want a sponsor that will offer some type of support for re-entry that will be cooperative with us,” said Eric Ellison, a parole and community service manager for the Department of Correction who works exclusively with sex offenders. “We want to establish a rapport with the sponsor where we can share our concerns and conditions.”

Heightened public awareness of sex offenders has prompted new laws to protect the public, including online registries, but has sometimes backfired when people trying to rebuild their lives following conviction have been excluded from housing and job opportunities.

Dale W. Gooder, convicted of risk of injury to a minor after police caught him in a car with a 15-year-old boy five years ago, told The Day in August that he was camping in the woods of Westbrook, because nobody wanted him to live with them.

The 46-year-old Gooder was homeless and jobless as a result of his offense, he said. He had been working at a pizza restaurant when somebody recognized him from the sex offender registry and complained. Probation officers went to his workplace, and he lost his job.

Discrimination exists from the minute you're arrested for a sexual assault,” said Eileen Redden, who oversees the Department of Correction's sex offender treatment program. One of the goals of treatment is to equip the offender to deal with being ostracized and alienated.

“We work on the fact that it's something they're going to face,” she said. “The bottom line is, we encourage inmates to always be honest, that when they're going into a work situation or a new social situation or housing, that they be honest with people.”

For every person who reports being turned away because of his offense, another reports being given a second chance because of their honesty, she said.

Connecticut and other states have taken huge steps, like the creation of the sex offender registry, in an effort to protect the public from sexual predators. No other offenders are as strictly supervised as sex offenders after they are released into the community. But all the laws and supervision in the world won't prevent sex crimes. The most chilling sex offender “statistic,” perhaps, is that an unknown number of rapists and child molesters who have never been charged — because their victims have not come forward — are living in the community at any given time.

“People would like sex offenders to be the few, the perverted and the far away,” said David A. D'Amora, director of the Center for Treatment of Problem Sexual Behavior in Middletown. “The reality is that we catch the people who do it the most often or are the unluckiest. The idea that we catch most people is simply not true.”

Many also don't realize that they should be most wary of family and friends, not strangers, D'Amora said. Eighty-five to 90 percent of offenders in Connecticut know their victims. Rapes by strangers or random attacks such as those carried out in the 1980s and early 1990s by the likes of David Pollitt and serial rapist/killer Michael Ross, are relatively rare.

What we've done is taken a small percentage of very scary people and created massive public guiding principles based in fear,” D'Amora said.

People who work with sex offenders say the public's perception that offenders are bound to rape or molest again is not based in fact. State and national studies show sex offenders consistently have lower reconviction rates than those who commit other crimes.

A Central Connecticut State University study, published in 2006, found that 22 percent of sex offenders released from Connecticut prisons in 2000 were reconvicted, the lowest rate of reconviction when compared to all crimes, including burglary and drug and weapon offenses.

When Pollitt was released from prison, members of the public were outraged that he had received no sex offender treatment during his quarter-century of incarceration. The Department of Correction offers treatment, but the law prohibits prisoners from being forced to participate. About 300 inmates participate, at any given time, in group therapy and receive case management services.

Pollitt was ordered to undergo sex offender treatment as a condition of his release and is now among about 800 people treated by Connections Inc., a state-contracted agency that has been working with sex offenders since 1983. New clients take several tests to determine risk of re-offense and overall risk of violence. They undergo behavioral modification treatment, most frequently by attending group sessions with others who have committed similar offenses. The re-offense rate among people who are under supervision and in treatment is extremely low, according to D'Amora.

It's just over one percent,” he said.

The perception that sex offenders cannot be “cured” is not true, he said. Sexual offending is a behavioral problem, not an illness, he said. The treatment is “victim-centered,” meaning a victim advocate participates to keep the offender focused on the impact of the crime.

“People commit sexual assault because they have a variety of cognitive distortions that allow them to do it,” D'Amora said.

Child molesters might think, “It's not a bad thing I'm doing,” he said. Rapists might think their victims deserved it. And the true psychopath, somebody who probably can't be helped by treatment, thinks, “She didn't deserve it. I just felt like doing it,” D'Amora said.


NV - Flawed sex offender tracking leads to wrong door

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More proof the public cannot handle the registry, and the registry contains false info.

11/18/2007

It's worse during the holidays. Christmas, New Year's, Halloween. That's when they really start knocking. Calling him out in the middle of the night. Showing up at his stoop in angry packs.

"Christopher," they wheeze through the front door, "Christopherrrrrr - we know you're in there ... "

Christopher Risdon is a 35-year-old sex offender who was busted for child porn. But Risdon doesn't live at this Tropicana Avenue apartment. Hasn't for years. So when the curious (if that's really all they are) come calling, they're now ringing the wrong doorbell. Despite what sex offender-tracking Web sites say, this apartment belongs to Harry Berlin, 71 years old, frail and, frankly, petrified.

"I'm a nervous wreck," he says, holding out his hands. They quake like palsy.

For nearly two years Berlin's address has been reported as Risdon's on a Nevada Web site. Two months ago it popped up again, this time on Metro Police's new sex offender watch Web site.

Now whenever the Web site gets TV attention, Berlin says, people come looking for Risdon. Maybe to rough him up. Or at least give him a good scare. Instead, they terrorize Berlin.

Depending on whom you ask, this is either a disturbing example of why the Web site should be taken down or an inevitable and easily remedied occurrence when dealing with sex offenders. It's a debate complicated by changing laws and different notions about what is necessary to protect a community, and at what cost.

Berlin first saw his address posted on the Nevada Public Safety Department's sex offender Web site in January of last year. Aghast, he called the agency's headquarters in Carson City to have the error corrected. He was told to take it up with Metro. He did, and was told to go back to the state.

So while Christopher Risdon was relocating to parts unknown, Berlin's complaint was suffocating in a bureaucratic morass.

Then, in September, Metro launched its own Web site. Visitors started showing up at Berlin's doorstep in groups. Once a woman and a child came for Christopher. Through the peephole, Berlin saw a handful of men lurking in the shadows behind her. He stayed inside.

"I'm getting paranoid," he said. This from a man who has never had so much as a traffic ticket.

Frustrated and scared, Berlin decided he wasn't going to take his complaint to Metro. Instead, he took it to the Nevada American Civil Liberties Union, which quickly found fault with the department's Web site. As ACLU Executive Director Gary Peck explains it, even one address incorrectly listed as the home of a sex offender is a grave problem, one that exposes Metro to serious civil liability and, more important, suggests the Web site is fundamentally flawed.

"It's deeply disturbing to me that the (address) reporting is not accurate," Peck said. "At the very least, it's benign neglect."

Metro Sgt. Steve Rossi, who works in Metro's Sex Offender Apprehension program, disagrees. The Web site is a public service tool, he said. The law puts the burden on sex offenders to report their addresses, and because convicted felons aren't always eager to update police on their whereabouts, the Web site comes with a disclaimer that the information should not be used to harass or terrorize anyone, he said.

Implicit in this disclaimer is the fact that information online isn't 100 percent accurate. Rossi says it's an unavoidable reality when dealing with sex offenders.

"We are taking information from convicted felons to populate these databases," Rossi says. "In a perfect world, we would be able to go out on a regular basis and physically confirm (the data), but with more than 4,000 offenders, that's just not possible."

This partially explains the numerous problems that can be found on sex offender registries across the country, said University of Louisville professor Richard Tewksbury, who researches registries and community response to sex offenders.

Although police are charged with checking the information provided on these Web sites, that task often takes a back seat to more pressing concerns, such as crimes in progress.

Besides, Tewksbury says, "we know that government databases of any and all forms are replete with problems, errors and inaccuracy. It's not at all surprising."

(On the state's site, Risdon was described as 5 feet 8 and 200 pounds. On the Metro site, he was 5 feet 10 and 175 pounds. But both sites had one thing in common: Berlin's address.)

Citizens occasionally call to report that their address is wrongly listed, Rossi says, and Metro sends detectives to the location and corrects the Web site when necessary.

So, Peck wants to know: Why is Berlin still being harassed?

Nevada law requires that a central state agency maintain one searchable online sex offender registry - this is the Public Safety Department's site. Any other Nevada sex offender-monitoring Web site is just a different version of the same thing.

Metro's site is run by a private company, Watch Systems LLC, at a cost of $14,000 a year, covered entirely by a Justice Department grant.

That a private company has been hired to handle the sex offender database is another bone of contention for the ACLU, and not just because the information is sensitive.

"It seems pointless given that the state has a perfectly good Web site," said ACLU staff attorney Maggie McLetchie. "Why even do it?"

Metro decided to launch its own sex offender Web site to increase public awareness, Sheriff Doug Gillespie said. Watch Systems was hired to avoid "burdening our technology section" with the task of maintaining a constantly changing Web site.

The department also wanted "to look to the future," Gillespie said, by taking advantage of new laws that require Metro to take a bigger role in monitoring sex offenders.

Effective July 1, Metro will be responsible for keeping track of local sex offenders, a task historically managed by the state's Public Safety Department.

"The offenders no longer have contact with the state," Rossi said. "They do everything with us, and we supply the state everything."

So if Metro will be the first to collect the data, why not put that information on Metro's Web site? Because the site is not just for citizens, Rossi said, but has been built to include additional information on each offender for department use only.

A situation, by the way, that also makes the ACLU uncomfortable - a private database of personal information, run by a for-profit company.

Tewksbury says private companies might do a better job of managing databases than the government could. And although he has not heard of another police department subcontracting a sex offender Web site, the professor is not concerned.

"The fact that for-profit entities are managing the sites gives us some degree of optimism that they will have an efficient database," he said.

The Web site is not the only responsibility Watch Systems handles for Metro. The company also sends out community notification letters to citizens living near sex offenders deemed dangerous.

Moreover, Metro's Web site offers a feature the state's site does not - users can sign up for e-mail alerts if an offender moves to their community.

But none of this matters if the information can't be trusted, Peck said.

And it's a second disclaimer, one written by Watch Systems, that reminds the user nothing online can be taken as absolute truth:

"(Watch Systems) has not and will not verify, warrant, vouch or confirm the accuracy of the data posted and makes no warranties whatsoever that the data is accurate or timely when posted by the related agency ..."

If the site is for community protection, Peck asks, isn't that goal undermined by Berlin's terror? And what happens if Berlin, or someone else in his circumstance, is attacked - who's at fault then?

"This whole system really does encourage a kind of vigilantism," Peck said. "There is potential here for real harm to come to real people."

The police see things differently.

Isn't there potential, Rossi says, for real harm to come to people living near dangerous sex offenders? And isn't it better they have more information? Even if that information can't always be absolutely guaranteed?

On Wednesday, two Metro detectives went to Berlin's apartment to verify that he is, in fact, not Christopher Risdon. They checked his ID and, satisfied he isn't the sex offender, asked Berlin to sign a waiver saying as much.

Berlin refused to sign. He was scared and didn't want to do anything without consulting with the ACLU first.

Barry Berlin, explaining Harry Berlin's decision, said, "My brother believes that in America you do not have to sign papers stating that you are not a sex offender just so that you can live in your own apartment without police interference."

But police were satisfied enough with what they found that Berlin's address has been taken off the Public Safety Department's and Metro's sex offender Web sites.

Meanwhile, local TV news anchors are still putting on their serious faces to suggest Joe Citizen go online and search his neighborhood for predators.

And Berlin is still spooked.

"I'm afraid to stay in my apartment," he said, "and I'm afraid to come out."


MO - In wake of teen's suicide, city council criminalizes online harassment

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11/23/2007

DARDENNE PRAIRIE — City officials unanimously passed a measure Wednesday making online harassment a crime, days after learning that a 13-year-old girl killed herself last year after receiving cruel messages on the Internet.

The six-member Board of Aldermen made Internet harassment a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $500 fine and 90 days in jail. Mayor Pam Fogarty said the city had proposed the measure after learning about Megan Meier's death.

"It is our hope that by supporting one of our own in Dardenne Prairie, we can do our part to ensure this type of harassing behavior never happens again, anywhere," Fogarty said, adding, "after all, harassment is harassment regardless of the mechanism or tool."

Several dozen people broke into applause after the measure was passed.

Authorities have said they could not find a crime to charge anyone with in the case of Meier, who thought she had met a good-looking 16-year-old boy on the social networking site MySpace last year. But he began sending her mean messages and others joined in, her family said, then abruptly ended their friendship.

Megan hanged herself within minutes of receiving the last messages on Oct. 16, 2006, and died the next day.

Megan's parents, Ron and Tina Meier, learned about six weeks after Megan's death that the boy, Josh Evans, was not real. The boy was created by a mother down the street who wanted to know what Megan was saying about her own daughter, who had had a falling out with Megan.

Her father said he found a message from Josh, which he said law enforcement authorities have not been able to retrieve. It told the girl she was a bad person and the world would be better without her, he has said.

The four-page measure defines both harassment and cyber-harassment, essentially making it illegal to engage in a pattern of conduct that would cause a reasonable person to suffer "substantial emotional distress," or for an adult to contact a child under 18 in a communication causing a reasonable parent to fear for the child's well-being.

City attorney John Young said constitutionally protected activity would be exempt. The measure would apply when one of the people communicating was in Dardenne Prairie.

During a break in the meeting, Fogarty embraced Megan's mother with tears in her eyes. She said she was sorry there had not been a law previously in place to prosecute Megan's harassers.

Tina Meier said she was thrilled that the city had passed the new measure.

"This is not a stopping point," she said. "We're not done."

City officials also passed a resolution encouraging state and federal officials to outlaw cyber-harassment and cyber-stalking. A state lawmaker has questioned how state law could be altered without running afoul of First Amendment issues.


TN - Lake County jailer accused of soliciting girl

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11/21/2007

A Lake County sheriff’s jailer accused of trying to solicit a girl for sex was charged Tuesday with 14 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, a Rutherford County detective reported.

Detective Mickey McCullough arrested jailer William David Pierce, 48, of Tiptonville in West Tennessee at his home after an investigation.

McCullough charged Pierce with 10 counts of soliciting a minor, three counts of soliciting a minor to observe sexual contact and one count of attempted especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor.

Pierce was accused of soliciting a 15-year-old Rutherford County girl for sex on the Internet, McCullough said.

McCullough executed a search warrant at Pierce’s home with assistance by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Officer seized a computer during the search.

Pierce was booked into Rutherford County Adult Detention Center where he is being held on $280,000 bond. A hearing is set Dec. 5 in General Sessions Court.


FL - Former Skynyrd Drummer Didn't Register As Sex Offender In NC

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11/23/2007

ST. AUGUSTINE -- A former drummer for legendary rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd has been arrested for not properly registering as a sex offender in North Carolina.

Authorities said Artimus Pyle had moved to Asheville, North Carolina, but never registered. He posted a $10,000 bond earlier this week.

The 59-year-old pleaded guilty in 1993 on charges including attempted capital sexual battery by an adult on a victim younger than 12.

He was sentenced to eight years of probation and designated as a sex offender.

Pyle use to live in Florida, and when he renewed his driver's license last month, he listed a Florida address.

Detectives attempted to verify Pyle's address and discovered he had not lived there for many years.

According to the Lynyrd Skynyrd's Web site, Pyle joined the band in 1975 and left in 1992.


OH - TPS officer arrested on charge of sex assault - Man accused of attack on 14-year-old girl

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11/22/2007

A Toledo Public Schools campus protection officer was arrested yesterday, accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old female student at Leverette Junior High whom he was supposed to protect, police said.

Harry Weatherholt, 51, of 1010 Bowlus Ave. was charged with one count of sexual battery, a third-degree felony. He was being held in the Lucas County jail pending arraignment Saturday in Toledo Municipal Court.

If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison.

Mr. Weatherholt is accused of taking the junior high student into a secluded room near the school's gymnasium and assaulting her during the school day, said Toledo police Sgt. Sam Harris of the special victims unit. Mr. Weatherholt used the room as his office.

Sergeant Harris said the incident occurred several months ago, but he declined to release specific details because of the ongoing investigation.

Police don't have reason to believe Mr. Weatherholt has assaulted other students, but Sergeant Harris said he "wouldn't be surprised" if others came forward as a result of his arrest.

The sergeant said it was not uncommon for students to help campus protection officers with daily activities throughout the day. But police are unsure why Mr. Weatherholt took the girl out of class the day he assaulted her, Sergeant Harris said.

Toledo Public Schools Superintendent John Foley said Mr. Weatherholt was suspended with pay yesterday and that it will convert to a suspension without pay Monday because criminal charges have been filed.

"I think that we all need to be mindful, diligent, and remind our employees regularly if there are any signs of inappropriate behavior to report it," Mr. Foley said.

Mr. Weatherholt began working for Toledo Public Schools in 1981 and has been at Leverette since 2003.

He was working yesterday before his arrest, but not with students, the superintendent said.

Mr. Foley said his personnel file included an incident involving "physically manhandling a male student and tackling him to the ground."

Mr. Foley said the incident resulted in a suspension without pay for five days, but he could not recall when it occurred.

A written statement from Mr. Foley said: "Toledo Public Schools has a zero-tolerance policy in place when it comes to the unprofessional behavior of an employee."

It also said "If it is found that an employee has acted inappropriately toward a student, swift and immediate action is taken, including the necessary and appropriate disciplinary action."