Saturday, December 22, 2007

IL - Man wrongly accused of killing his 3-year-old daughter awarded $15.5 million

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CHICAGO (AP) — A man who spent months in jail after being accused of sexually assaulting and drowning his 3-year-old daughter before DNA evidence cleared him was awarded, with his wife, $15.5 million Thursday.

The couple's attorney had argued in a federal lawsuit against Will County that sheriff's deputies fabricated evidence and accused detectives of arresting Kevin Fox even though they knew he didn't kill his daughter, Riley.

Hikers found Riley's body in a creek four miles from her Wilmington home on June 6, 2004; the case remains unsolved.

Kevin Fox and his wife, Melissa, wiped tears from their eyes and hugged their attorney after the verdict was read in a federal courtroom in downtown Chicago.

"Everybody should be happy about this verdict," the couple's attorney Kathleen Zellner said. "They tried to ruin these people's lives and they didn't succeed."

The couple sued four sheriff's detectives, the estate of a fifth detective and the county.

An appeal is planned, said Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow in a written statement.

Glasgow, who was not the prosecutor at the time of Fox's interrogation, said the jury was not allowed to hear "critical evidence" on the reasons for Fox's arrest. He said the county had made motions for a mistrial.

"It has always been our contention that the sheriff's deputies acted properly during the interview of Kevin Fox and that they had probable cause to arrest him," Glasgow said.

The lawsuit alleged detectives subjected Kevin Fox to threats, lies and promises of a deal during a 14 1/2-hour overnight interrogation in which he implicated himself in the killing.

Kevin Fox testified that he lost hope during the interrogation and gave a false story when promised leniency. Detectives denied the couple's claims and insisted Kevin Fox's statements were made voluntarily.

Fox spent eight months in custody charged with first-degree murder and criminal sexual assault. Charges were dropped, and he was released in June 2005 after tests on DNA from a rape kit showed no link to him.

In the civil case, jurors agreed Will County authorities violated Kevin Fox's civil rights. But they sided with defendants in rejecting claims of a conspiracy.

The jury, which began deliberating Tuesday morning, awarded $9.3 million to Kevin Fox and $6.2 million to Melissa Fox. Zellner had asked the jury for a total of $44 million.

Kevin Fox, 30, told reporters the wait for the jury's verdict was nerve-racking.

"It's over now, and it feels great," he said. "They found that I wasn't in the wrong, that I did everything right."

FBI to collect biometric information on British visitors

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No SO related, but this is just the beginning, IMO. We will ALL be added to this database, in the name of security, mark my words on this. Big Brother is here, and he's wanting to track you, in case you might be a terrorist...


British visitors to the US will have details of their physical characteristics added to a new billion dollar database under plans drawn up by the FBI.

Fingerprints, iris scans and even details of the way people walk, their scars and the size and shape of their ear lobes will be collected.

British intelligence agencies and police will also be able to access the information – giving them potentially more biometric data on British citizens than the Government collects at home.

Under the plans, revealed by the Washington Post, the FBI database will include details on everyone who applies for a visa to enter the US.

Fingerprint information on British tourists is already collected and held by the US Department of Homeland Security.

But the FBI database will also include iris identification, which is being slowly introduced at some ports of entry.

Researchers at West Virginia University are working on technology for the FBI that will let them capture images of people's irises at distances of up to 15 feet, and of faces from as far away as 200 yards, without them even knowing.

The database will allow the FBI to check all entrants to the US against the faces, fingerprints, palm prints and irises of known terrorists and wanted criminals.

More than 900,000 American police and law enforcement officials will be able to access the data.

A contract to develop the database will be awarded next month. Critics say that peoples’ bodies will effectively become their international identity card – with the downside that if criminals steal your identity and were able to, for example, mimic your iris with a contact lens, you can’t just go and get a new eyeball like you would a new credit card.

Civil liberties campaigners criticised the plans. Barry Steinhardt of the American Civil Liberties Union said: "It's enabling the always-on surveillance society."

TX - Texas brings in $5 levy for strip club customers

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Why don't we just charge people $5.00 for doing anything and help the homeless? So if you fart, they is $5.00, if you speak, another $5.00. This is just taking advantage of a situation to bring the government more of YOUR money, under the disguise of helping victims. It would be ok, if it was voluntary instead of mandatory.


Texas, where strip clubs have given rise to Anna Nicole Smith and many other less generously endowed performers, is about to make it more expensive to watch a little bump and grind.

In what some have dubbed the "pole tax," the Lone Star State will require its 150 or so strip clubs to collect a $5-per-customer levy, with most of the proceeds going to help rape victims. The tax goes into effect on New Year's Day.

Club owners and some customers say the money is going to a noble cause, but argue the tax infringes on their First Amendment right to freedom of expression, that it will drive some bars out of business and that it unfairly links their industry to sex crimes.

The strip clubs are suing to block the tax, which state officials estimate will raise more than $40 million a year.

CA - Two big stories out of California today

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In what would probably be the largest mass release in U.S. history, prison doors could swing open early for more than 22,000 prisoners. The governor's plan to release nonviolent offenders with less than 20 months to go on their sentences would ease prison overcrowding and save the state almost $800 million over the next couple of years with little risk to the public. California has the largest prison population in the nation, with 172,000 prisoners. The guards' union, a major influence in this prison-heavy state, will undoubtedly try to halt the move, which would cost more than 4,000 prison jobs. The full story is here.

In another development, officials admit they are removing GPS tracking devices from sex offenders who have completed parole, in violation of a state law that requires lifetime monitoring. That's because Jessica's Law, enacted by voters in 2006, doesn't specify who is responsible for the monitoring or who will pay the exorbitant costs. Nor does it penalize ex-offenders for removing the GPS devices.

Both state and local officials say they don't have the funds to monitor the offenders. "We don't know what it's going to cost, and the conservative estimates are hundreds of millions of dollars" as more offenders complete parole, said Nancy O'Malley, chief assistant district attorney in Alameda County.

The state's Sex Offender Management Board is pondering a solution. The full story is here.

OH - Sex Offenders and Supporters Rally in Ohio

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And the Geek Squad says they hijacked the rally... Yeah right!


By Alex Marbury

What some are calling the first public demonstration in America for sex offender rights took place last week. More than 50 sex offenders and their families as well as other civil liberties advocates rallied on Saturday, Dec. 1, on the steps of the state capitol in Columbus, Ohio. The groups present were protesting what they call, "Draconian, unconstitutional laws that undermine the whole American legal system," commented one participant in response to an email interview question.

In particular, the demonstrators singled out public sex offender registries where offenders must post their photographs and personal information online, leading to humiliation and sometimes to vigilante actions that result in injury or death to the offenders. They also opposed new Ohio laws that severely limit sex offenders' movements and residence, so that there are very few places offenders can live in the state - like the laws recently exposed in Florida where sex offenders could only live under a bridge in the middle of a river.

"Such laws do nothing to protect children," said Tom Madison, founder of Soclear, an organization supporting rights for sex offenders. "But they harm thousands of family members, including children, and they undermine the rights of all citizens. Only parents can protect children. And when offenders have served their time, they should be left alone," continued Madison - himself a registered sex offender from Oregon.

For more than three hours, speaker after speaker exposed the humiliation and public harassment suffered by offenders and their families. Speaking to another law the groups want to reform, the public registration of children for alleged sex with other children, 16-year-old Ali Metz spoke on behalf of her older brother, currently serving a prison term for sex with his slightly younger girlfriend when he was himself under age, and specifically for "pandering explicitly sexual material" with her. "He's just a teenager, and even when he gets out of prison, he'll have to be publicly registered for at least fifteen years. The laws have to be changed so people like him can live a normal life. All he did was fall in love with a girl!" Ali told the rally, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

For weeks before the rally was held, opposing groups urged a counter demonstration. Absolutezero, a group that says it "fights pedophiles on the web," said the rally was organized by sex abusers and their supporters who are "cognitively distorted." Among other groups opposing the sex offender rights rally was "Women Against Sexual Predators."

Altogether, fewer than 25 people were in the counter demonstration. One of the speakers carried a sign saying, "Cry me a river, sex offender." She told her crowd, "Sex offenders should have no rights!" She expressed surprise that so many came out to support the rights of the more than 16,000 registered sex offenders in Ohio.

Though state after state, including Maryland, has rushed to make sex offender registries more punitive, more comprehensive and more invasive of privacy, there may be some change coming. The Supreme Court of Maine recently allowed a sex offender there to challenge posting of his picture and address on the web in the light of a recent vigilante killing of a sex offender in that state. The Court noted that such laws harked back to the public humiliation putting people in stocks in colonial Puritan New England.

Meanwhile, as reported recently in OUTloud, sex offenders detained for lifetime civil commitment in California, continued their protest inside Coalinga State Hospital. According to their support group, a public rally will be held outside the hospital in early January. At Coalinga, a survey of about 600 detainees has indicated that more than half are gay men convicted of nonviolent offenses.

Jackie Sparling, chief operational officer of Soclear ( was pleased with the crowd. Though she praised police attitudes and helpfulness before the rally, some felt there were far too many police. "There were eight cruisers at one point, encircling the demonstrators. This intimidated some sex offenders and their families, with several people not braving the police line," a participant told this reporter.

Three different groups had speakers at the rally: Soclear, SOSEN (a group which works with families of sex offenders) and Roar for Freedom, which is an anti sex abuse organization that also opposes what it feels are counterproductive sex offender laws. Although the counter-demonstrators booed loudly, speakers could be clearly heard by those who watched from the capitol and nearby streets.

Alex Marbury writes for

OH - LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- A judge will decide whether a state law that can force sex offenders to move protects children or unduly punishes offenders.

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Kenneth Hailey, a sex offender now free, wants to spend his last days with his sister, but she lives near a school.

Terminally ill with a brain tumor, convicted sex offender Kenneth Hailey, 51, wants to spend the last months of his life living with his sister.

On Friday however, Hailey found himself stranded in the emergency room of a Veterans Administration hospital in Los Angeles as the medical staff argued with corrections officers over his fate.

In a case that underscores the difficulties inherent to a new state law that requires the tracking and segregation of released sexual offenders, Hailey could spend his final days in a medical and legal limbo. Unable to move in with his sister, who lives within 2,000 feet of a school, Hailey is too ill to live on his own.

His sister, Walnetta Hailey, 55, of La Mesa, east of San Diego, said she knows its difficult for people to sympathize with her brother, but that the law has, in his case, inflicted severe and unforeseen consequences.

"All I know is he's a human being," she said of her brother. "He has three to six months to live. A month of it he's spent being yanked around," she said.

When Hailey, a former Navy officer, was first released from prison, he was homeless until his then-estranged sister decided to take him in. But when parole officers learned that the proximity of her home to a school put Hailey in violation of Jessica's Law, officials said he had to return to Los Angeles County.

Because Hailey didn't have a place to stay in Los Angeles County, corrections officials put him in an Inglewood motel.

After a day and a half at the motel, Hailey disappeared and showed up two days later, disoriented and sick at the Los Angeles VA hospital, said Ken Rosenfeld, director of the palliative care services at the facility.

Rosenfeld described Hailey's condition: He's "not super steady. He has lots of problems with memory. He can't speak very easily. He has a difficult time concentrating on things. This is going to get worse over time."

Hailey was convicted of rape in Baltimore in 1982, his sister said. California sex offender data say he was convicted of lewd or lascivious acts on a child under the age of 14. His sister said the conviction did not involve a minor.

Even so, Walnetta Hailey said her brother has paid his dues and now needs to be cared for.

"He has already served his time for the crime. He has not committed the same crime. Yet he cannot just die with a little dignity and peace?

"I voted for these laws," she said. "I didn't realize just how it was going to affect me."

On Friday, as Rosenfeld handled Hailey's case, he seemed directly affected by the difficulties posed by the law's residential limitations on sex offenders.

"It's an amazing example of some of the challenges people are facing because of Jessica's Law," he said.

At one point Friday, authorities told Rosenfeld that Hailey would be arrested if they tried to send him back across county lines. After that, Rosenfeld picked up the phone and called corrections officers directly.

By afternoon a compromise had been struck: Hailey will be allowed to stay at a San Diego VA hospital.

The law makes things difficult for corrections officials trying to find a place for ailing sex offenders, said A.E. Smith, administrator with the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, who supervised those who handled the case.

"Jessica's law makes things extremely difficult," he said. "It makes my job extremely difficult."

On Friday afternoon, Hailey sat in the VA's emergency room waiting for corrections officers who were supposed to escort him to San Diego. He didn't remember how he got to the hospital or how long he'd been there. He pointed to the scar on the right side of his head, where doctors had operated to remove several tumors.

"It's messed up my mind," he said. "I find myself places I don't realize." He put his hands to his mouth as he tried to explain that he can't say what he thinks.

He said he was happy to be going to San Diego, even if it was to a hospital and not to his sister's home.

"My sister's down there. I feel safe down there."

At the end of the night, as Hailey made his way back to San Diego accompanied by corrections officers, his sister was told he might not be able to stay.

IN - Sex offenders test housing restrictions

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Lawsuits challenge restrictions on living within 1,000 feet of certain places

LAFAYETTE -- A judge will decide whether a state law that can force sex offenders to move protects children or unduly punishes offenders.

The issue is key to a lawsuit filed in Tippecanoe Superior Court by a registered sex offender identified in documents as John B. Doe.

Doe, who was convicted of child seduction in 2000 and released from probation the next year, was forced to move from his home near a church that offers youth programs. The move was dictated by a state law that prohibits convicted sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school, public park or youth program center.

His attorney, Earl McCoy of Lafayette, argued the law unfairly punishes sex offenders while doing little to protect children from molesters. McCoy said Doe is allowed to visit his home, where he had lived with his wife and stepchildren for about six years, any time of day.

"He can be there all day. He just can't sleep there," McCoy said. "Nothing about this law is protecting the children."

Attorneys for the defendants -- Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Pat Harrington and Sheriff Tracy Brown, who had moved to dismiss the lawsuit -- argued in a hearing this week that the law serves the community's best interest.

"If the law saves one, two or three children from being molested in a year, then that's rational," said Robert Wente, a deputy attorney general representing Harrington.

But McCoy argued the law is unfair because Doe could be forced to move again if his new neighbors decided to host youth programs such as Scout meetings.

Judge Thomas Busch, who will decide whether the lawsuit can proceed, asked during Monday's hearing where the line between punishing offenders and protecting children lies.

"Of course, there's extreme punishment where we could banish all of them to Australia or if you were to cut off the hands of a thief," he said. "But isn't there some point where even though the motive is protection of children, the action is punishment?"
Doe's lawsuit is one of three filed in Tippecanoe County challenging the law that forced 28 sex offenders there to move. Deputy Prosecutor Laura Zeman said all of them have relocated.

In a summary judgment hearing involving a different sex offender Monday in Tippecanoe Circuit Court, attorney Ken Falk of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana said his client has become homeless since he was forced to leave the childhood home he had shared with his mother.

"Even if there is not a punitive purpose behind the statute, it does have a punitive effect," Falk said.

Neither judge ruled immediately on whether the respective lawsuits can proceed.
A month ago, the Georgia Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a state law restricting where convicted sex offenders may live.

It forbade offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school, playground, church, school bus stop or other place where children might assemble. The court said the restrictions amounted to practical banishment.

FL - Problem Teacher List Made Public

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A confidential, nationwide list of 24,500 teachers who have been punished for a wide array of offenses was made available to the public Friday by a Florida newspaper.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune created a searchable database of the teachers' names after waiting for years to gain access to the list. The paper began seeking the material as part of its earlier reporting on teacher sexual misconduct in Florida. It obtained the list from the Florida Department of Education.

The list, gathered and maintained by the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, does not provide any information on why any of the teachers were disciplined. Sexual misconduct, financial misconduct, criminal convictions and other misbehavior all can bring disciplinary actions against teacher licenses.

A nationwide Associated Press investigation earlier this year sought five years of state disciplinary actions against teachers and the reasons behind them. In the years the AP studied, 2001 to 2005, roughly one-quarter of all disciplinary actions against teachers involved sexual misconduct.

The AP's seven-month investigation found 2,570 educators whose teaching credentials were revoked, denied, surrendered or sanctioned following allegations of sexual misconduct.

The association's list is the only nationwide effort by school systems to track teachers who get into trouble, but the association does not make the information available to the public. The group is a voluntary, nonprofit organization of state education agencies.

The database is made available to other state education agencies to provide a warning to states about teachers with past problems. NASDTEC has no ability to force education officials to list all the teachers who have gotten in trouble in their states. The list also does not provide details on what teachers got in trouble for, and leaves it to states or hiring school districts to dig for more information.

Roy Einreinhofer, NASDTEC's executive director, said the agreement with states that allows for the collection of the names of disciplined teachers is based on a promise that the list will be kept confidential. He opposed the newspaper's decision to publish the names.

"We've heard from some states that this violates their state law," he said. "It could very well cause the end of it. That's why we're so vitally concerned about it."

The list made available to the newspaper was incomplete, Einreinhofer said. The complete database includes roughly 37,000 names. About 4,000 Florida teachers were not included because of the way the state agency saves the data, the newspaper said. Einreinhofer said he couldn't explain why the other 8,500 were missing.

The list goes back 20 years and states could have included disciplinary actions dating farther back.

Robert Shoop, a Kansas State University professor who has studied teacher sexual misconduct and has called for tougher oversight and more openness by administrators, said a current list of problem teachers should be gathered by each state and made public to better protect students.

"Clearly the public does have a right to know and they should have access," he said.

The newspaper's Web site allows readers to type in a name and state to determine whether a person is in the database. The list provides no other information than a date of birth to confirm an identity.