Monday, December 3, 2007

WA - Senate aide faces child exploitation charge, is fired

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12/03/2007

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A former aide to Sen. Maria Cantwell is in federal custody after being arrested on a charge of attempting to sexually exploit a minor.

James Michael McHaney was fired Friday from his job as a scheduler for Cantwell, D-Washington, hours after he was arrested by FBI agents. The FBI said in a charging document that McHaney allegedly tried to set up a meeting with an undercover witness posing online as a teenage boy.

McHaney, who appeared in federal court Saturday, was being held without bond pending a court hearing Wednesday, said Channing Phillips, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office for the District of Columbia.

According to court papers, McHaney, known as Mike, tried to arrange a lunchtime meeting with an unidentified person posing as a 13-year-old boy. When the witness asked whether McHaney was interested in sex with a 13-year-old, McHaney allegedly replied, "I'll be there," the court papers said. He later asked for a photo of the child.

News of the arrest was first reported on The Smoking Gun Web site, www.smokinggun.com.

Congressional records show McHaney had worked as a scheduler in Cantwell's Washington, D.C., office since at least July 2006.

Cantwell's chief of staff, Michael Meehan, issued a statement Monday night saying McHaney had been fired.

"Late Friday afternoon the FBI informed our office that a Senate employee was arrested. The employee was immediately fired. Our office has and will continue to fully cooperate with the ongoing federal criminal investigation. Sen. Cantwell has zero tolerance for crimes against children," Meehan said.


VT - Vermonters help offenders find their way back home

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12/03/2007

BARRE — Vermont corrections officials are trying a radical new strategy to reintegrate the state's worst offenders into society: Team them up with groups of students, parents, businesspeople and retirees in the towns they return to after prison, and let these surrogate families and friends show them how they can fit in again.

Modeling their efforts on a successful Canadian program, towns across Vermont are matching convicted felons who have served time in prison for sexually abusing children, beating up family members, dealing drugs and other offenses with artists, barbers, lawyers, teachers and retirees.

They volunteer to help the returning offenders find jobs and apartments, give them rides and advice, and socialize with them. The idea, which is backed by studies of the Canadian program, is that former inmates who feel connected to people in the places where they live are less likely to break laws again.

The Vermont Department of Corrections is one of the first in the United States to embrace the approach, using a three-year, $2 million federal grant it received in 2003, said Derek Miodownik, the grant manager.

Support teams, called "circles of support and accountability," meet weekly to check on former prisoners in Brattleboro, Barre, Montpelier, St. Johnsbury and Newport. Each offender works with a small team of volunteers, who begin meeting with the offender before he or she leaves prison. The teams are supervised by local community justice centers, state-funded agencies that work with crime victims and offenders. Paid coordinators, who are employed by the centers, lead the groups and help make sure offenders stay on track. The offenders have been released from prison under state supervision; all have counselors or probation officers who also keep tabs on them.

To make them feel part of the team, the volunteers refer to the offenders as core members. The teams discuss the effects of the crimes the offenders committed on their victims and the community. But the volunteers also help the felons search for jobs, talk with them about their problems, and socialize with them.

Eric Horowitz, 45, a sex offender in Brattleboro, said he would probably be back in prison if not for his four team members.

When he saw that the members of his team did not condemn him, ''it was a great surprise to me," he said. He said the group has boosted his self-esteem and taught him an important lesson: "When you do something to society, it loses trust in you, and you have to rebuild that trust."

For now, Vermont has set up 23 trained support teams in five towns and cities. Most of the offenders have returned to the towns where they lived and committed their crimes.

The new initiative has attracted volunteers such as Howard and Elinor Yahm, 64-year-old retired psychotherapists who moved to Vermont almost a year ago from New York. They said they have grown close to the young man their team is trying to help, a 20-year-old who recently served 18 months in prison for possession of child pornography. The couple has accompanied the man to a Thai restaurant and to a movie; they have brought him home for dinner and introduced him to their friends.

Asked about his progress, the Yahms said proudly that the young man is doing "terrifically," thriving in the job they helped him find as manager of a deli, and dating a new girlfriend.

"The more successful he is, the more protected the community is," said another volunteer, Jeannie MacLeod of Barre, about the Yahms' offender.

A trained mediator and the mother of a young son, MacLeod, 40, is on a team that is helping another convict, a man who served nine months for assaulting a family member.

MacLeod said she volunteered to help because she knew the family of her offender. But she quickly found herself riveted by the drama of helping another person struggle through the adversity of returning from prison.

"It's juicy," she said, laughing, of the experience.

Wilson said recruiting volunteers has been the toughest task facing the program in Canada. In Barre, a blue-collar city of 9,000 people, project leaders said recruitment took off, driven by word of mouth, after Katherine Paterson, the local author of the bestselling children's novel ''Bridge To Terabithia," decided to volunteer. About 30 volunteers now serve on nine support teams.

Colorado and a handful of other states are also setting up volunteer teams, and there are other signs that the model may be gaining momentum. Canadian psychologist Robin Wilson, a leading proponent, was in Boston last week to explain how the program works in Canada to clergy members, legislators, and social workers.

Getting residents involved in the lives of felons improves public safety, says Wilson and other proponents. The volunteers become invested in the successful reintegration of the former inmates, and serve as role models who help steer their charges away from activities that could lead to crime. In an interview, Wilson said former prisoners fare better under the Canadian approach than when they are shunned in their communities.

"We have to get our heads around the idea that most of them are going to come back to the same places they left," he said. "We can't put them on an island somewhere."

Between 150 and 200 of the circles are operating in Canada, where they serve mostly sex offenders. Another 40 to 50 are in place in the United Kingdom, Wilson said.

A Canadian study compared 60 convicted sex offenders who were deemed most likely to reoffend, but who had the help of support teams, with 60 felons convicted of similar crimes who lacked such support. The study, conducted by Wilson in 2005, found that the returning felons without support teams were more than three times more likely to commit new sex crimes than those with support teams, and more than twice as likely to commit any violent crime, within four to five years of their release from prison.

Vermont corrections officials say it is too soon to judge the outcome of the program, which started teaming volunteers with felons in 2005, but they are encouraged by the picture. Of the 23 offenders currently participating in the project, some of whom have been in the program for more than a year, only two have been charged with new offenses. One of those two was convicted of providing alcohol to a minor, a lesser crime than his original drug offense, said Miodownik, the grant administrator.

Nationwide, about two-thirds of people released from prison were arrested for another serious crime within three years of their release, according to a 1994 government study.

The effort in Vermont has drawn little criticism, but some supporters of crime victims say the state should make sure that their needs receive equal attention.

"We hope this is helpful in preventing future victims," said Sharon Davis, special projects coordinator for the Vermont Center for Crime Victims Services. "But on the other side, we should also worry about what we're doing in the longer term for victims."

At a dinner for members of the nine support teams in Barre in a church basement this month, Howard and Elinor Yahm looked on, smiling, as their young charge dashed back and forth in a Red Sox T-shirt, delivering steaming bowls of squash and potatoes from the kitchen to the table. The former prisoner, who asked that his name not be published, said he hopes one day to be a chef and own a restaurant.

In and out of the criminal justice system for years, the young man said a lot of people have tried to help him, but his group members are different.

"They're not paid to help," he said. "They do it of their own free will."


FL - Lauderdale woman (Valerie Parkhurst) faces charges after confrontation with sex offender

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If the man/women did not threaten her in any way, then she doesn't have a right to just pull a gun on someone and threaten to kill them, regardless of who they are.  If they threatened her, then she has every right to protect herself.

12/03/2007

Davie - As Valerie Parkhurst (aka Valigator) was warning neighbors about sex offenders, one of them turned down the street.

She confronted him at gunpoint, and ended up in jail.

Parkhurst, 52, said Monday she was surprised police arrested her after the confrontation with [name withheld], 49, in the Playland Village neighborhood on Saturday. She was charged with aggravated assault and two counts of carrying a concealed firearm without a permit.

"I had a convicted sex offender, kidnapper who cornered me," Parkhurst said. "I don't expect to be convicted on any one of those [charges] because I was in the right."

[name withheld] was convicted in 1996 of abducting and raping a Walton County woman, according to state records. He served nine years and was released from prison in May 2005

Lt. Wayne Boulier, Davie police spokesman, said he can understand that neighbors are concerned when a registered sex offender moves into a community.

"Still, that doesn't justify pulling out a gun and threatening to kill people," he said.

Police said in a report released Monday that [name withheld] and [girlfriend name withheld] were driving on the 4600 block of Southwest 66th Avenue at 1:50 p.m. Saturday. They were headed to a thrift shop to buy clothes when they came upon Parkhurst, who was posting fliers of sex offenders in the area. Parkhurst recognized [name withheld] and thought he was following her. So she got out of her Chevy SUV, pulled 9-millimeter Glock from a holster, and told [name withheld] she would kill him, police said.

[girlfriend name withheld], who was behind the wheel, froze and could not drive away, police said. Parkhurst went back to her SUV, grabbed a 12-gauge shotgun, pointed it into the pair's car and again threatened to kill [name withheld], police said.

"It's a vigilante-style move," [name withheld] said Monday. "She has no right to blow me away."

Parkhurst disputes the police account, saying that [name withheld] and [girlfriend name withheld] stalked her after they saw her put up the fliers at [name withheld]' complex hours earlier. Parkhurst said they blocked her in at a dead-end street. When she got out of her truck to ask what they were doing, Parkhurst said [name withheld] threatened her in a profanity-laced rant.
- So it's Valerie's word against two other people and probably others who witnessed it?  Valerie accuses people of BS all the time.

Valerie at a local bar
That's when Parkhurst, mother of an adult son, threatened to shoot him if he touched her, she said. When [name withheld] continued to swear at her, she grabbed the shotgun she keeps in her SUV for her and her boyfriend's weekly clay shooting practice.

"I figured if the pistol didn't scare him, maybe the shotgun would," Parkhurst said. "I stood there with the shotgun and said, 'If you come near me, I promise you, I will shoot you.'"

[name withheld] called police. The officer arrested Parkhurst because she does not have a permit for either fully-loaded gun, police said. [girlfriend name withheld] and [name withheld] were "terrified that she was going to kill them," the police report states.

Parkhurst posted $6,000 bond and was released from jail Sunday, according to the Broward Sheriff's Office.

Parkhurst said she didn't think she needed permits, because they weapons were not concealed. Also, this is the first time she's had such a confrontation with an offender, in the many years since she's been posting fliers in Playland Village, where she owns a home, she said. She lives in Fort Lauderdale.

"The Department of Corrections will drop them off anywhere and hope that nobody notices," she said. "But I scream. I'm not going to have [Playland Village] be a dumping ground for sex offenders."

[name withheld]' rap sheet goes back to 1977 and includes other convictions for trespassing, cocaine possession, culpable negligence, battery, theft and carrying a concealed weapon. He said he became a law clerk while incarcerated and has been working off-and-on in different cities since his release.
- So what about Valerie's criminal record?  I'm sure she has one, and if I recall, last I checked, she has an extensive rap sheet herself.

[name withheld] said he's dealt with angry residents before, in many neighborhoods he has lived in. He said many people mistake registered sex offenders for pedophiles.

"I don't hold it against anybody to protect their children," [name withheld] said. "I just wish that all this money spent... some of it would be spent on educating the community."

Nancy Cotterman, director of Broward's Sexual Assault Treatment Center, said the confrontation represents a conflict between those who want to help their communities, and offenders who are trying to help themselves.

"You don't want people taking the law into their own hands, because that could jeopardize well-meaning people's safety," she said. "But at the same time, we are each other's keepers and we all have the responsibility to keep each other alert."

"For those sex offenders who are making every attempt to be law-abiding and to re-engage and be fully-functioning citizens, you have to support them. There's a balance to be found there somewhere," she said.

See Also:


NY - Sex offenders sue over residency laws

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12/03/2007

ALBANY - A group of convicted offenders have filed a lawsuit against the counties they live in.

The attorney who represents the sex offenders, Terry Kindlon, says they're suing over county laws that state where they can and can't live. Kindlon says laws that say how far a sex offender has to live from schools and day care centers is unconstitutional. He says it's doesn't help and that if anything it's causing more problems.

Five sex offenders are suing the counties they live in -- one in Albany County, three in Rensselaer County and one in Washington County.

Kindlon won't reveal his clents' names, but says the majority are Level 3 sex offenders. He says they've all had trouble getting their lives back on track since these laws have been put in place.

Kindlon says his client in Albany County is a Level 3 offender who's now elderly and disabled.

"He's diabetic and he needs some place to keep his insulin and it turned out under the Albany County law about the only place he'd be able to live is in a motel out on Central Avenue in the town of Colonie," Kindlon said.

Kindlon's client in Washington County has a family and recently bought a home.

"And after he moved in he discovered there was a day care center with no sign within 900 feet of his home he told them and their response was, 'Sorry, you'll have to move,'" he said.

"It's like the Sheriff of Nottingham banishing you from the kingdom. You're being driven out," Kindlon added.

Kindlon argues that there's already state law that regulates where sex offenders can live. The county laws, he says, conflict with the state law and make it more difficult for sex offenders to live a normal life.

"Ultimately the people we're trying to protect, the children, aren't protected because what you do is you drive the sex offenders underground," Kindlon said.


GA - SCHR Statement on Mann Ruling

View the article here | Statement (PDF)

12/03/2007

Hello friends,

Please find attached a statement from the Southern Center for Human Rights in response to the Mann ruling and Rep. Jerry Keen’s subsequent remarks. We hope that you find it helpful. Both the statement and the previous listserv posting are now also available on our website, www.schr.org, under Latest News. At this time, we do not have any further updates, but we will be sure to notify you as soon as we do.

All the best,

Sarah, Sara, Lisa, James, Gerry, Shareef and Mica

Mica Doctoroff
Southern Center for Human Rights
83 Poplar St.
Atlanta, GA 30303
mdoctoroff@schr.org
www.schr.org


SC - Sex offender ruling considered

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12/02/2007

Aiken decision affected by Georgia court's striking of portion of statute

AIKEN --- The upheaval in Georgia over where sex offenders can live could trickle across the river and affect similar restrictions being considered in Aiken County.

Council members had halted plans to ban sex offenders from living or working within a thousand feet of certain places where children might be, with the hope that such restrictions would deter Georgia sex offenders from moving here to escape similar prohibitions there.

They had planned to revisit the issue early next year, but with a recent Georgia court ruling that struck down part of that law, council members say it could affect how they tackle their own proposed ban when it comes up again.

Councilman Scott Sanger vows to continue pushing for an exemption for sex offenders already living here so those who own their homes and are established wouldn't be forced to move if it turns out they live too close to a school or day care.

He said he agrees with last week's ruling from the Georgia Supreme Court, which said sex offenders could not be forced to move if they own a home that meets the requirements and then a new school, day care or bus stop is located within the thousand-foot boundary, putting them in violation of the law.

Justice Carol Hunstein wrote in the ruling -- which called the law a "statutory scheme" designed to banish sex offenders -- that "sex offenders face the possibility of being repeatedly uprooted and forced to abandon homes in order to comply with the restrictions."

Mr. Sanger, who'd criticized Aiken's proposed law for several reasons, said the court ruling was consistent with his position on the matter anyway.

"I'd already taken that tack that the purpose of doing this was to prevent people from moving into South Carolina, so we needed to grandfather people in," he said.

He also wants to distinguish between sexual predators who are a threat to children, and sex offenders who may have gotten caught having sex as a teen with someone slightly younger than them.

"It doesn't matter if they later got married and had children, they're still a sex offender ... I didn't think that was right," he said.

Those were two of the three main concerns that led council members to put off making a decision on the proposed law.

They were also worried that the cities in Aiken County wouldn't implement similar bans, which meant that sex offenders living in unincorporated areas could simply move into one of the municipalities -- where they could live where they wanted.

Sheriff Michael Hunt, whose department handles sex offender registration countywide, has said he would not be in favor of a law that is not enforceable inside the cities.

The proposed Aiken County law would prevent sex offenders from living within a thousand feet of child-care facilities, churches, schools or parks, and from loitering within that same distance of anywhere minors congregate. They would also be banned from working for a child-care facility, church, school or park.

Councilwoman Kathy Rawls said she's not sure what the county will do now.

"It was like the more we talked, the more problems arose that needed to be addressed," she said. "So I'm just not sure."


PA - Legislator going after sex offenders

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12/03/2007

Assemblywoman Marcia Karrow introduces bill to curtail where they live in relation to children.

TRENTON - In one of her first moves since returning from the Legislature's five-month recess, Assemblywoman Marcia Karrow introduced a measure to help cement local laws that restrict where sex offenders can live.

The proposal comes after a string of Superior Court decisions reversing local laws in the state since they trumped the state's Megan's Law. It was prompted by concerns in Washington Borough.

Officials there had joined a growing number of municipal leaders across the state questioning whether residency restriction ordinances barring sex offenders from living a certain distance from day care facilities, schools or playgrounds would be enforceable after the court decisions.

"What my bill does is gives municipalities the ability to zone," said Karrow, R-Hunterdon.

In the decisions to overturn local laws -- in Galloway, Cherry Hill and Lower townships -- the courts found the residency restriction ordinances to be unconstitutional since they violate offenders' rights to live where they choose.

Karrow believes that since her bill would only allow zoning, a residency restriction of 1,000 feet from day care facilities, schools or playgrounds, it would hold up to a court challenge.

But the courts also found that the restrictive laws punished offenders a second time for their crimes.

Assemblyman Mike Doherty, who signed onto the bill as a sponsor, acknowledged the possibility of a court challenge if the measure were passed.

"Some individuals who have issues with this bill have recently contacted me," said Doherty, R-Warren/Hunterdon, "and I am confident that we can adequately address their concerns during the upcoming committee hearing process."


FL - Judge frees sex offender

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11/29/2007

TALLAHASSEE - An appeals court has ordered that a sex offender be freed from prison early, ruling that the 30-year-old man was wrongly convicted of breaking a law intended to force sex offenders to report their location to the state.

Levi Griffin was sentenced last year to 21 months in jail by an Alachua County judge, who ruled that Griffin failed to tell the state within 48 hours that he had moved. Lawmakers two years ago toughened penalties against sex offenders after the murders of Jessica Lunsford and Carlie Brucia.

But Griffin had a unique defense: He said that he could not register within the 48-hour time period because the imminent landfall of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 had prompted the state to shut down driver's license offices in his home county.

The First District Court of Appeal ruled late Tuesday that there was no ''substantial evidence'' to support Griffin's conviction -- noting that the state did not dispute Griffin's account.

The order, written by Judge Brad Thomas, a one-time aide to former Gov. Jeb Bush, ordered Griffin immediately released from the prison in Columbia County, where he is being held.

State prison records show that Griffin was convicted in 1999 of attempting to molest a child and he spent almost three years in prison.

In August 2005, Griffin was evicted from his home.

Nancy Daniels, the Second Circuit Public Defender who handled Griffin's appeal, said Griffin spent one day finding a new place to live.

But when he tried to report his new address, state offices were closed due to the storm.

Griffin did register with the state on the first day that driver's license offices reopened.

''It was impossible for him to register within 48 hours,'' Daniels said.