Wednesday, December 5, 2007

FL - Debra Lafave charged with violating probation

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12/05/2007

Ex-teacher discussed sexual issues with teen, officials say.

OCALA - Debra Lafave, the former Hillsborough County teacher on house arrest for having sexual relations with a 14-year-old boy, was arrested Tuesday and accused of violating a court order by talking about personal matters, including boyfriends and sex, with a 17-year-old girl.

Authorities say the conversations occurred at Danny Boy's Restaurant in Ruskin, where Lafave and the girl worked.

"She was allowed to work alongside minors but have no non-work-related contact with them," Department of Corrections spokeswoman Jo Ellyn Rackleff said. "They talked about high school boyfriends, sexual content, and her probation officer arrested her after an investigation."

In November 2005, Lafave pleaded guilty in Hillsborough County to two counts of lewd and lascivious battery. Authorities said she and the boy had sex at their school and in her home.

As part of a plea deal, she agreed to serve three years of house arrest and seven years of probation.

Lafave also was charged in Marion County. Authorities said she and the boy had sex while another teenager drove them around Ocala in a sport utility vehicle. The state dropped those charges in March 2006.

As part of her probation, Lafave must comply with all sexual offender restrictions, cannot live near schools or day cares and cannot be alone with anyone younger than 18 - except for the work allowance that Rackleff mentioned. She was forced to give up her teaching license.

According to a report that probation officer Michael Cotignola filed, Lafave talked with the 17-year-old co-worker about "family problems, friends, high school, personal life, boyfriend issues and sexual issues. The subject received no permission from the court to have any contact with minors."

Lafave, 26, worked at Danny Boy's from January 2006 until November of this year, when Cotignola told her to resign.

Lafave could technically be sentenced to prison for up to 15 years for a probation violation, but people close to the case say it's unlikely she'll serve any time behind bars for such a minor offense.

Her attorney, John Fitzgibbons, said he was disappointed that her probation officer ordered her arrest for what he called an "insignificant" violation. He characterized the conversation between Lafave and the 17-year-old girl as "typical workplace conversation that women have with their women colleagues."

"It was a workplace friendship - no more, no less," he said.

Danny Boy's manager Dennis Cutini said Lafave was a model employee.

"She did everything by the book. I've got nothing but good things to say about her," Cutini said during a telephone interview Tuesday. "We were all buddies and everyone would talk, but at the end of the day, when others would go out, she would go home.

"We were all shocked when we found out she got arrested. No one here considered her doing anything wrong."

Lafave now works as a receptionist at a barbershop in Ruskin, where she lives, the report said. The report notes that she is attending sex-offender treatment and is making "steady progress."

Lafave was arrested at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday and taken to the Hillsborough County Jail. She was released on her own recognizance at 3:05 p.m., according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. A judge eventually will review the case and determine if Lafave violated her probation terms.


MT - Judge to weigh whether 13-year-old must be registered as sex offender

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12/05/2007

CONRAD — District Judge Laurie McKinnon will consider whether a 13-year-old Conrad boy convicted of sexual assault should be required to register as a sex offender and have his picture posted on the state's notification Web site.

At a Monday hearing, defense lawyer Nathan Hoines asked McKinnon to pull Colt Harris' information off the Internet immediately. McKinnon wasn't willing to do that, but with no objections from Pondera County prosecutor Mary Ann Ries, she agreed to hear arguments on the issue on Dec. 17.


The 2007 Legislature passed a law requiring juvenile sex offenders to register their addresses and information.
Harris, who pleaded true to charges of forcing a 4-year-old to give oral sex and was sentenced in July, was the first juvenile to be posted on the state's sex offender notification Web site under the new law.

In sentencing Harris, McKinnon gave elaborate instructions that allowed him to continue to go to school and get out-patient counseling. He was forbidden from going on the Internet and his parents were not allowed to have pornography in their homes.

Harris was also required to go immediately to class and return home immediately after school. He must be supervised by his parents or grandparents around the clock.

The sentence did not specifically mandate he register as a sex offender.

McKinnon noted that registering as a sex offender is a requirement of the state law and therefore doesn't have to be listed as a sentence requirement.

Hoines said Harris has faced threats and humiliation over the last year, and added that putting his information on the Internet makes him a potential victim for adult sex offenders.

"The whole goal of the juvenile judicial system is rehabilitation," Hoines said. "Can you imagine what it's like to go to school? This is a small community, everybody knows about it."

Several family members of both Harris and the victim were in the courtroom Monday. They could be asked to testify at the Dec. 17 hearing.


OH - State Sen. Tim Grendell wants to test 'sex offender radar'

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12/05/2007

Columbus - A state lawmaker is promoting a Cuyahoga County company's idea for a new electronic device that could warn people when a sex offender is near.

The personal alert system, called Offendar (short for offender radar), would be about the size of a key fob and would vibrate when an offender wearing a monitoring bracelet is within 50 yards.

Supporters say the untested system could be a non-intrusive, real-time way to alert users when an offender is close and let them take steps to protect themselves. But opponents, including a spokeswoman for a rape crisis center, said the device could cause unnecessary panic while not guaranteeing any level of safety.

State Sen. Tim Grendell, a champion of lock-'em-up-and-throw-away-the-key legislation, has invited the Chagrin Falls company behind the technology to demonstrate it today during a Statehouse hearing.

"If there is someone in your area that the state has decided should be wearing an ankle bracelet, you have no idea," said Jerry Pignolet, one of the principals in Offendar LLC. Offendar "is not going to deter him, but it gives you an opportunity to gather your family, get in the car and lock the doors."

But David Singleton, executive director of the Ohio Justice & Policy Center, said the system plays on fears in the community while penalizing people who have already served time in prison for their crimes.

Singleton called Offendar "utterly ridiculous and absurd."

"What are we trying to do, make it impossible for people to get on their feet again and be productive citizens?" he said. "This is crazy, and I'm outraged by it, because it doesn't make my daughter any safer."

Lindsay Fello-Sharpe, of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, said 90 percent of sex crime victims are assaulted by a person they know or trust.

"This just plays on the great myths out there, such as the stranger-danger myth that's not true," said Fello-Sharpe. "It's sending the wrong message and setting people up with a false sense of security."

Grendell, a Chester Township Republican, envisions Offendar helping to monitor the worst offenders, such as pedophiles.

He noted that a bill that would force sex offenders to display bright green license plates on their cars lost momentum this year because police and prosecutors thought it would invite attacks on offenders and afford them too little privacy.

While the state has an online database of registered sex offenders, lawmakers have been looking for a way to more quickly alert people when they are going about normal business away from a computer.

Offendar could be it, Grendell said, because it does that while still offering offenders a measure of privacy. When the alerts go off, for both the offender and the person with the device, neither knows who the other is.

"It doesn't point to the Joe over there and say 'There he is' or 'Shine a light on him,' " Grendell said. "But it gives you the idea that you may not want to let your children go out unattended.

"I'd like to test it out and see if it can work."

Grendell is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Criminal Justice Committee, which meets today. He invited Pignolet and his three business partners to present the idea to other lawmakers.

If his colleagues support it, Grendell said he could propose legislation to bring Offendar to Ohio. But many questions need to be answered.

A big one would be determining which of the state's 16,000 registered sex offenders would have to wear the bracelet and whether to automatically put the alert devices at places like schools and day care centers.

The company, which is trying to patent its system and won't divulge the specific technology behind it, would need up to 18 months to further develop it. It's not used anywhere, so no one is certain how well it really will work. And cost estimates are still fluctuating. The company expects that a personal alert device would cost between $15 and $45 a year.

Also, other companies out there might want to pitch their own monitoring systems to try to win a private contract with the state.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio said Grendell shouldn't waste state taxpayers' time or money on such a system.

"The assumption that someone once did something bad and is still a danger to everyone else is simply false," said Jeffrey Gamso of the ACLU. "It's going to keep people scared, when the majority of these people are unlikely to ever offend again."


When Strangers Contact Teens Online

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So how many of these stranger contacts are from adults and not just other teens trying to hook up with someone? Why doesn't anybody show this? Seems kind of obvious to me. From other studies done, most teens are contacted by other teens, very few are contacted by adults, but it does happen.

10/15/2007

Most Such Experiences Are Neither Scary Nor Uncomfortable, but Certain Traits or Activities Can Invite More Interactions with Unknown Persons

While the number of teens who have been made uncomfortable by an online experience with someone they do not know is relatively small,1 certain traits and activities are more likely to attract interactions with unknown individuals, whether unwanted or otherwise. In particular, teens who have created profiles on social networking sites (SNS) and those who have posted photos of themselves online are more likely than others to be contacted online by strangers. Girls are more likely than boys to report online contact that made them scared or uncomfortable.

Figure

These findings are based on a survey of 935 teens age 12-17 by the Pew Internet & American Life Project taken from October 23 to November 19, 2006.

Other key findings include:

Among teens who have been contacted online by someone they do not know, gender is the primary predictor of contact that is scary or uncomfortable.

Sample size limitations, and the fact that the majority of teens' online contacts are benign, make it difficult to disentangle all the factors that are associated with an increased prevalence of scary or uncomfortable online encounters. However, among the factors evaluated in this study, gender consistently has a strong correlation with contact that is scary or uncomfortable. Among teens who have been contacted by someone they do not know, girls (27%) are significantly more likely to report feeling scared or uncomfortable as a result of the contact compared with boys (15%).

Despite popular concerns about teens and social networking, our analysis suggests that social networking sites are not inherently more likely to invite scary or uncomfortable contacts than are other online activities. Among teens who have been contacted by a stranger online, 21% of profile-owning teens say they felt scared or uncomfortable as a result of this contact, compared with 28% of non-profile owners. This result is not necessarily surprising since nearly half (49%) of social networking teens use these sites to make new friends -- in other words, connect with people they do not currently know. It may also be the case that profile-owning teens see some level of unwanted contact as a known downside of maintaining a social networking profile and view it as a relatively minor "cost of doing business" in this environment.

Several factors are associated with an increased likelihood of online contact, whether it is uncomfortable contact or not.2

On the general issue of online contact, statistical modeling shows that posting photos online and creating a profile on a social network site3 are the activities most strongly associated with stranger contact, whether it is scary or not.

Although the creation of profiles on social networking sites is strongly predictive of stranger contact among online teens, the specifics of a person's social networking profile have little influence on the likelihood of being contacted by an unknown person. For instance, there is no consistent association between stranger contact and the types of information that is posted in an SNS profile such as a person's first or last name, his school name, or his email address. There is also no statistically significant association between stranger contact and having a public SNS profile -- that is, a profile that is visible to anyone. Once factors such as age, gender or posting photos online are controlled for statistically, there is little difference between public profile creators and those whose profile information is available only to those designated by the profile creator.

Teens who use social networking sites to flirt are more likely to be contacted by people they do not know once other factors are controlled for, although a similar effect is not seen in teens who use social networking sites to make new friends. The magnitude of this "flirting effect" is roughly comparable to the impact of gender. Girls are significantly more likely than boys to be contacted by someone they do not know when other factors are held constant. However, the association between contact by strangers and gender is not as strong as the association with profile ownership or posting photos online.

Interestingly, while the presence of internet monitoring software on the computer a teen uses at home is associated with a somewhat lower likelihood of stranger contact once other factors are controlled for, there is no similar effect for internet filters that block certain websites. Some explanations for this discrepancy may relate to the different features offered with monitoring versus filtering software, or the fact that parents who use monitoring software may be relatively more likely to take an active role in observing their child's internet usage habits than parents who rely on filtering software.

Find further information on the analytical approach employed in the study and the survey methodology underlying the study at pewinternet.org.


Notes

1About a third of online teens (32%) have been contacted by "someone with no connection to you or any of your friends", and nearly a quarter of those contacted say that they felt scared or uncomfortable as a result. Please note that this definition of stranger contact may include a range of direct and indirect communications, including but not limited to: social networking site friend requests, spam email, or comments on a personal blog or photo sharing site.
2For the analysis reported here, multivariate regression analysis was used to further evaluate these and other key relationships between teenage behaviors and online stranger contact. For more details, please see the analytic approach section of this report.
3Among profile-owning teens in this study, the overwhelming majority (85%) have profiles on MySpace. While differences may exist between MySpace and other social networking sites, our sample of non-MySpace users is too small to analyze stranger contact as it relates to different social networking platforms.


AR - NBC's Hansen visits GHS

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Sure is a mighty long "investigation!" It's NOT an investigation, it's exploiting people for money, ratings and sick entertainment. I also cannot believe these people are still showing up..... So when is this "investigation" going to end, and you present us with the data and results of this "investigation?" And how many of these people were prior sex offenders? I know of one. So these are unknown sex offenders who have not been caught. I'd like to see the analysis of this "investigation!"

12/05/2007

On the fifth anniversary of the kidnapping and murder of their friend and classmate Kacie Woody, students at Greenbrier High School were visited by Chris Hansen of NBC's "To Catch a Predator."

In the 12 "Predator" investigations, Hansen said he had seen it all. During the first investigation, 17 people arrived at a decoy house, including an emergency room doctor, a teacher, an army intelligence officer and a chaplain. One man arrived at the house naked. "All he had on was a cold six-pack of Budweiser," Hansen said.

Over 300 men have shown up at the various decoy houses, with 128 of the men being convicted. Sentences have ranged from probation and registration as a sex offender to 13 years in prison. "The majority of these men don't stand out," Hansen said. "They could be the guy you're standing next to in the grocery store. They don't have 'pedophile' tattooed on their forehead."

During the third investigation, men caught in the sting began to recognize Hansen from previous airings of the program. "One man walked into the house and said 'You're Chris Hansen'," Hansen told the students. The man had watched both previous investigations.

Hansen said that despite the high profile nature of the shows, the predators continue to contact minors and show up for meetings because they don't think it can happen to them. "The odds are in their favor," Hansen said, noting that even though there are police departments all over the country conducting their own Internet stings, that the chances of a predator being caught are slim.

The best defense against being victimized by an Internet predator is education. Hansen stressed the importance of being cautious with strangers met through social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. "You don't know who you're talking to," Hansen said. "They may tell you they are a 15-year-old boy, but they could be a 56-year-old man, sitting in his basement in his underwear, surrounded by pizza boxes."

"The Internet is a great thing," Hansen said, "But there really isn't a reason to be online longer than an hour or two a day." Hansen stressed that being online for long stretches of time increased the risk of teens surfing to inappropriate sites and making bad decisions, like posting inappropriate pictures or engaging in risky online behaviors. "Bad decisions explode on the Internet."


MD - Sex, Lies, and Legal Red Tape

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12/05/2007

Accuser of Jailed Sex Offender Kenneth Barnes Says He's Innocent

Marian says she's dope sick.

The 20-year-old sits on the top step of a two-story building in an industrial park in Catonsville, sucking on a menthol cigarette. Her thin frame is lost in oversized jeans and parka. She says she first began using heroin when she was 10, and she feels like she's headed down the same path as her sister Tabby, who died of an overdose in 2006.

Marian is taking a break after her first lie-detector test, which she failed. Inside a vacant office behind her, private investigator Mike McQuillan waits with his equipment for the girl to return for a second round of questions. McQuillan is there at the request of a woman Marian knows as "Miss Pat," who is watching nervously between the closed venetian blinds of the office. Marian has not yet been told that Miss Pat is Pat Winchild, the mother of Kenneth Barnes, a man who pleaded guilty to molesting Marian almost a decade ago. Winchild has been trying to clear her son's name ever since ("The Boogeyman of Roland Park," Feature, Aug. 8).

The second test is the same as the first. McQuillan, his voice soft but insistent, asks Marian questions about Barnes, interspersed with simpler questions to test for truthfulness. "Are you wearing jeans?" comes in the same tone as "Did Kenny Barnes rape you?" And the same flat answer comes back: "yeah."

After she has failed another test and smoked another cigarette, McQuillan calls Marian back into the room. This time he asks Winchild, who has been listening in the hallway, to join them. Inside, McQuillan tells the girl he believes she is lying and introduces Winchild as the mother of Ken Barnes. McQuillan asks Marian what really happened between her and the man she knew as Kenny.

The answer comes in one word: "Nothing."

That is what Winchild has been waiting for years to hear. She begins crying and leaves the room in tears.

"He didn't do anything to her," she says between sobs. "She told the truth. . . . Oh my god. Oh my god.

"All this that Ken has gone through," she says, "all this that he has gone through in prison . . . I don't know how parents-even when their son or daughter is guilty-how they live through this, but to know he's innocent-"

Kenneth Barnes, who is mentally ill, has been in solitary confinement and unable to receive visitors for the past six months since refusing a drug test, a refusal his mother says has more to do with his paranoia than any drug use. He is listed, under the incorrect name "Julius J. Barnes," as an inmate at the Roxbury Correctional Institution in Hagerstown.

In 1998 Barnes pleaded guilty to molesting Marian when she was 8. Barnes took an Alford plea, under which he did not confess to the crime but admitted that the prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him. His mother, who was his guardian at the time, says she agreed to the plea, after a brief meeting with his attorney, because it meant Barnes would serve no jail time. Going to court, she felt, was a gamble: his word against Marian's. The girl's word was the only evidence against him. That decision has haunted her since.

Barnes stayed out of jail until 2005, when his presence near a Roland Park school alarmed neighbors, who found him listed on the state sex-offender registry. He had failed to change his address on the registry and went to jail for a year and a half. Shortly after his release, he was arrested again and sent back to jail for violating his parole-for "presenting a danger to others"-after being seen at area sno-ball stands. Barnes' attorney, Flynn Owens, called the offense "a thought crime."

After the story appeared about Barnes in City Paper earlier this year, Winchild redoubled her efforts to clear her son's name. She began frequenting the Pigtown and Morrell Park neighborhoods where Marian had been seen. In September, she found Marian, who says she was working as a prostitute on Washington Boulevard. Winchild attempted to place Marian in drug-rehab programs, taped interviews, and arranged a meeting with McQuillan, who never accepted any money for administering the lie-detector test. Winchild says she never paid the girl for her time or information. Winchild says she lived in fear that Marian, who is homeless, would wind up dead or in jail before the meeting.

In October Winchild contacted her state senator, Delores Kelley, who in turn wrote a letter to Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler asking him to look into the Barnes case. Assistant Attorney General Stuart Nathan, in a response to Kelley, wrote that the revocation of Barnes' parole seemed "reasonable" under the circumstances, and declined to comment on attempts to vacate Barnes' original guilty plea. A motion by Owens seeking a new trial on the grounds that Barnes had not been told about the sex-offender registry when he took the plea remains undecided in Baltimore City court. At an August hearing, Barnes proclaimed his innocence on the original charge despite a prosecuting attorney's objections and a judge's warnings.

"I didn't do it," he said then. "The court has ignored all that from the beginning."

Contacted for this story, Owens says he hasn't had time to fully research the new development, but from a legal standpoint he isn't sure whether it changes anything, unless the original Alford plea is overturned. If the motion to vacate Barnes' guilty plea is granted, he says, the state's attorney would have the choice whether to re-prosecute Barnes. Last week, McQuillan said he had sent his files to the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office.

When Marian first accused Barnes, in 1996, he was dating her sister Tabitha, who was using drugs and working as a prostitute. Marian now says it was jealousy over her sister's closeness with Barnes, and a desire to break them up, that led her to accuse him of rape.

"The only way I knew how to stop him," she says in an interview after the tests were over, "was if I made it to where she was never able to see him again."

By the time she made her accusation, rumors had already been swirling around Barnes, a strange man living in a close-knit neighborhood who invited neighbors, including children, into his house for Kool-Aid, and who had taken pictures of Marian at her sister's birthday party. Marian says that the idea to accuse him came when a woman with the local neighborhood watch approached her with a question. "I was a little kid, but I was thinking hard about how I could get him away from my sister," Marian recalls. "And [the neighbor] came up to me out of the blue one day and was like, 'Has Kenny ever sexually touched you?' And I'm like, 'Yeah-he raped me. He beat me and raped me.' And the police came. I told the police the same story.

"Kenny was changing my sister. She wasn't getting high as much. I think-I know-that if I hadn't made that lie up that she'd be alive today, because Kenny calmed my sister down a lot. She didn't have to go out and trick because he did anything and everything for her-he gave her everything. The only thing he asked of her was that she slowed down getting high, and she slowed down. Eventually, he could've gotten her to stop. I could see it in my sister's eyes-she was starting to fall for Kenny, and I wasn't going to let that happen. I was just so jealous of my sister. Me and my sister Tabby, out of the whole family we were the only two that stuck together, all our lives, me and Tabby. Until she died."

Marian says she was unaware of Barnes' current incarceration; she says she saw him in the neighborhood a few months after the trial and assumed that the affair was all over. She acknowledges that once she agreed to take a lie-detector test she knew the truth would come out "that I lied about Kenny."

"He did all those years for something he didn't do," she says. "I didn't know he did all them years. I should have known he was going to do time. Rape is not a petty charge. It's serious."

Marian has been arrested several times for charges of drugs and prostitution since entering the adult criminal justice system in 2005, but prosecutors have declined to pursue most of the charges against her. She was found guilty of assault in 2007. "I got drunk and beat somebody, apparently," she says. "Beat somebody up with a wrench. I don't remember doing nothing until I woke up in a holding cell. It's not funny, but that's what drinking does to me. I'm a violent drunk."

Outside the conference room where Marian sat for an interview, Winchild embraces her, thanks her for telling her story, and says she will do her best to find a rehab program that will take her. Marian says she is homeless and pregnant but has been living with a friend who recently received an eviction notice. On Wednesday, Nov. 28, when Winchild tried to contact Marian about placement in a pregnancy and addiction-treatment facility, she found that the girl had been arrested the previous night. As of Friday, Dec. 30, she was being held at Baltimore's Central Booking facility, according to Division of Pretrial Detention and Services spokeswoman Barbara Cooper, for violating her probation on drug-possession charges."

Barnes has developed a small but vocal group of supporters over the years. In addition to his mother, Owens, and McQuillan, Dr. Robert Fiscella-a Department of Veterans Affairs psychiatrist who has treated Barnes over the past 10 years-has written that he does not believe Barnes is a sex offender. After accusing him of rape years ago, Marian also has nothing but praise for Barnes.

"Kenny was the best person you'd ever want to meet," she says. "He needs to be home with his mother. . . . I give it to her, though, she didn't give up on her son. That's one hell of a mother right there. All those years, anybody else would have given up. I just can't believe it took her eight years to find me. I was down on Washington Boulevard. Same place where she first found me. Five years now. Five years. Since I was 15. I'm out there every day."


FL - County To Charge Sex Offenders For Required Registrations

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More extortion. They people are not funding the laws they want passed, so they exploit sex offenders to make them pay or go back to jail or prison. What other criminal offense is made to PAY TO OBEY THE LAW?

12/05/2007

FORT MYERS -- Sex offenders in Lee County will be charged a fee to register with the state -- which they are required to do by law.

County commissioners approved the fee Tuesday.

The sheriff's office said Lee County will be the first in Florida to require sex offenders and predators to pay a fee each time they register. Some offenders must register multiple times each year.

The fee is intended to cover administrative costs.

Some registered sex offenders living in the county say the fees violate their constitutional rights.

Sheriff Mike Scott said similar fees in 19 other states have withstood constitutional challenges.

Sex offenders and predators must register with their local sheriff's offices under the Jessica Lunsford Act.


PA - Former Warminster cop seeks appeal

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12/04/2007

A Montgomery County judge intends to dismiss the latest appeal filed by a former police officer convicted of trying to set up a sexual liaison with an underage girl.

Judge Steven T. O'Neill said in court papers that John Philip Powell's appeal, in which he alleged his trial lawyer, Jack McMahon, was ineffective, "contains no claim of arguable merit" and that no purpose would be served by any further court proceedings.

The judge's ruling comes on the heels of a finding by Adam D. Zucker, Powell's court-appointed appellate lawyer, that the allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel that Powell raised in the appeal "lack legal merit," according to court documents.

On April 6, 2005, a jury convicted Powell, 33, of charges of attempted statutory sexual assault, attempted involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, attempted unlawful contact with a minor, attempted indecent assault and attempted corruption of a minor in connection with allegations Powell pursued sexually explicit Internet conversations with an undercover detective he believed to be a 13-year-old girl.

In July 2005, O'Neill sentenced Powell to three to eight years behind bars and ordered the former Warminster and Philadelphia police officer to report his address to state police for 10 years when he's paroled in order to comply with the state's Megan's Law. The sentence included the mandatory three-year term sought by prosecutors for the crime.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court previously upheld Powell's conviction and sentence.
In his most recent appeal, Powell claimed McMahon was ineffective by having Powell's wife, mother and mother-in-law leave the courtroom while Powell testified at trial.

Powell argued that move may have led jurors to surmise that his testimony was reprehensible and prejudiced jurors against him.

"There was a reasonable strategy for this decision," O'Neill found. "The defendant was going to testify about sexual relations he engaged in with two women he met online."

The judge said it's reasonable that McMahon would want to ensure that Powell did not hold back any such vital yet embarrassing testimony because his family was present in the courtroom. O'Neill said it is "irrational" to deduce that such a minor action prejudiced jurors against Powell.

During a two-day trial, prosecutors James Staerk and Tonya Lupinacci claimed Powell, a Warminster officer for more than four months who previously worked as a Philadelphia officer for eight years, engaged in an online chat with a member of the county's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, who was posing as a 13-year-old girl, on Feb. 3, 2004. During the sexually explicit chat, Powell, of Chandler Street, Philadelphia, stated he wanted to meet and engage in sex with the girl. He was nabbed by authorities when he showed up at Willow Grove Park mall a day later to meet whom he thought was the underage girl but in reality was a detective.

When Powell was arrested, detectives found a vibrator, a 10-pack of batteries and a bottle of male sexual performance enhancement pills in his Dodge Durango.

Powell testified he is not attracted to 13-year-old girls. Powell, who maintained he was engaging in a little bit of Internet role playing, testified he believed he was conversing with a woman pretending to be a 13-year-old girl.

However, O'Neill wrote in a previous opinion upholding the conviction that the online communications between Powell and the detective, during which Powell indicated he likes "young hotties" and that he wanted to teach the girl how to become a woman, "insinuate that he perceived his communications to be with a 13-year-old girl."


AR - Sheriff: Former Greene County Jailer Had Sex With Inmate

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12/04/2007

Authorities say a former Greene County jail supervisor has been arrested after acknowledging he had sex with a state prison inmate serving as a trustee there.

William Shaw faces a felony sexual assault charge stemming from the incident. Meanwhile, Sheriff Dan Langston says the county likely will lose state trustee labor until at least February as officials investigate the second such incident in a year.

Langston says 35-year-old Shaw admitted to having sex with a female inmate in the last year inside an office at the jail. Langston says Shaw told a deputy he had "deep regrets" about what he did.

The sheriff says the allegations involving Shaw were never brought to his attention before.

This is the second time this year a Greene County jailer has faced allegations over trustees. Officials say former jailer John David Dupwe was arrested for felony sexual assault after meeting a female prisoner for sex while she was on a furlough.

Shaw was being held on $25,000 bond Monday.


CT - Former police officer in Internet sex case asks for house arrest

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Sorry, you did the crime, do the time, like everyone else must do.

12/04/2007

HARTFORD - A former East Windsor police officer charged with using the Internet to lure an 11-year-old girl to have sex with him is seeking his release from federal custody.

Thirty-eight-year-old Darren Seligman was in federal court in Hartford on Monday to ask for his release. His attorney is asking U.S. District Magistrate Judge Thomas P. Smith to place Seligman on house arrest with electronic monitoring. Defense attorney William Paetzold says a psychological exam has shown that Seligman would not pose a risk to the community.

Smith did not make a ruling.

Seligman was arrested in October and resigned Nov. 9. Court records show that Seligman, who lives in Mansfield, had been exchanging sexually explicit instant messages with the girl since September.


TX - Grand Jury Indicts Georgetown Police Officer In Sexual Assault

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12/04/2007

A grand jury indicted a Georgetown police officer Tuesday on one misdemeanor and three felony charges after he was accused of sexually assaulting a detained woman.

Jimmy Lewis Fennell Jr. had detained the woman in connection with a domestic disturbance.

He was indicted on a misdemeanor charge of official oppression and felony charges of aggravated sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping and improper sexual activity with a person in custody.

Bail was set at $250,000.

Two years ago Fennell received a written reprimand for giving a ride home to Sgt. Lamont Navarette, who was found passed out drunk behind the wheel of his car.

In 1998 Fennell's girlfriend, Stacy Stites, was found murdered in Bastrop.

Rodney Reed is on death row for the strangling. Last year Reed's attorney argued that he deserved a new trial, because the prosecution withheld evidence that pointed to Fennell as a possible suspect.

So far, Reed has not been not granted a new trial.

Georgetown Responds To Fennell's Indictment
The city of Georgetown issued this statement at 5:20 p.m. Tuesday:

"Earlier today, Georgetown Police Sgt. Jimmy Fennell was indicted by a Williamson County Grand Jury on felony and misdemeanor charges. Any questions regarding the criminal case should be directed to the Williamson County District Attorney's Office.

Now that the criminal investigation is complete, the Georgetown Police Department will complete its internal affairs investigation. Sgt. Fennell is on administrative leave with pay pending the conclusion of the internal affairs investigation.

The Georgetown Police Department is taking this investigation very seriously to ensure the integrity of the organization and maintain the public trust."


NY - Catholic coloring book warns US kids of pedophile priests

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What about sexually assaulted by their own mother, father, brother or sister? This just seems wrong to me. Make all priests look like pedophiles.

12/04/2007

NEW YORK (AFP) - New York's Roman Catholic Church is trying a novel approach to alert children to the danger of being sexually assaulted by a priest, with an abuse-themed coloring book, officials said Tuesday.

"Being Friends, Being Safe, Being Catholic," was distributed earlier this year to several hundred schools in the New York area as part of the church's Safe Environment Program, a spokeswoman from the city's Archdiocese said.

One image in the book features a guardian angel hovering over an altar boy with a priest lurking in the background.

"For safety's sake, a child and an adult shouldn't be alone in a closed room together," the angel counsels. In another, the angel warns of a sexual predator attempting to chat with a child over the Internet.

David Clohessy, head of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, cautiously welcomed the initiative, but said it did not go far enough.

"We applaud the intent but worry a bit about the approach... it does still feel like almost every step taken by the hierarchy is one that's been prompted by external pressure," he told AFP.

The scale of child abuse by priests remained hidden in the United States for years until the Archbishop of Boston confessed in 2002 to protecting a priest he knew had sexually abused young members of his church.

According to the group "Bishop Accountability," some 3,000 priests out of the 42,000 across the country have since been denounced, some of whom have been investigated and convicted.

Since the scandal broke, US Catholic authorities have paid out close to 2.8 billion dollars in damages, forcing many dioceses to sell off their assets.