Monday, January 7, 2008

WI - Man Accused Of Sexual Assault Commits Suicide

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MADISON -- A Stoughton-area man scheduled for trial on Monday on charges of repeatedly sexually assaulting a preteen girl has committed suicide.

Jury selection was to begin in Dane County Circuit Court for Terry Karna, 48.

He was charged with one count of repeated sexual assault of a child under 13.

Judge Patrick Fiedler dismissed the case after the assistant district attorney informed him Karna had taken his life at his trailer home over the weekend.

His family in Minnesota called the Dane County Sheriff's Department after receiving a letter that indicated he planned to take his life. Deputies found Karna had fatally shot himself.

The criminal complaint said that Karna began molesting the girl when she was in preschool and continued until the summer between sixth and seventh grade.

GA - Court to look at banishment as punishment

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Another article using the word punishment, which is what these laws are, yet they call them restrictive, so they pass constitutional muster. Just another word but still means punishment.


When authorities notified Gregory Mac Terry he was scheduled to be let out of prison in June 2001, they said he must successfully complete a work-release program before being paroled.

But Terry soon learned it would be all but impossible to complete the program. When sentencing Terry in August 1995 for aggravated assault and aggravated stalking against his wife, a Douglas County judge also banished Terry from all of Georgia's counties, except for Toombs County, for the duration of the sentence.

Unable to meet the conditions of his release, Terry was returned from a halfway house back to prison, he said in a lawsuit challenging the terms of his banishment. Terry also was given a new parole date: June 2009.

Terry is now challenging his banishment restrictions in a case that has been accepted for review by the Georgia Supreme Court. So far, Terry has succeeded in getting the state Attorney General's Office to concede that his sentencing judge may have exceeded his authority by extending Terry's banishment throughout the time of his parole.

But state attorneys continue to argue that the banishment is appropriate for the time after Terry is released from prison and put on probation. Terry was sentenced in 1995 to 20 years in prison to be followed by 10 years on probation.

Under the Georgia Constitution, "neither banishment beyond the limits of the state nor whipping shall be allowed as a punishment for a crime."

But some Georgia judges have done everything but banish defendants from the state — ordering them to stay out of all but one county. In DeKalb County, for example, scores of defendants have been banished to Echols County in South Georgia near the Okefenokee Swamp.

"Georgia is one of the very few jurisdictions in America that has sentences of banishment," said Donald E. Wilkes, a University of Georgia law professor. "The county to which people are banished don't want it at all. They don't want criminals dumped on their county. In almost every respect, it's a self-defeating, bygone punishment."

But the state Attorney General's Office contends that Terry's banishment from 158 Georgia counties for 10 years was reasonable, considering the facts of his case.

On May 13, 1994, Terry violated a protective order forbidding him from approaching his wife by entering her home and laying in wait for her return, according to a transcript of his guilty plea. When she arrived home, Terry got her to get in his car. After he made her drive down a dirt road and stop, Terry pulled out a pair of scissors and held them to her chest, saying he was going to kill her and then himself.

Terry's wife tried to fight him off and finally persuaded him to settle down. He then asked her to drive some more and when she pulled into a store to get some gasoline, she asked the clerk to call 911. Terry fled, leading police on a high-speed chase until he finally pulled into the parking lot of the Douglasville Police Department and was arrested.

At Terry's guilty plea, Douglas County Superior Court Judge David Emerson said he was imposing a fairly lengthy sentence based on Terry's "obsession with [his wife] and the fact that he just won't turn her loose."

Emerson's concern for the victim's safety as well as the safety and emotional well-being of the couple's children was "rational" and justified the banishment, the state told the state Supreme Court in its legal brief.

Since filing his lawsuit, Terry hired Atlanta attorney McNeill Stokes, who contends that the widespread banishment sentence should be declared unconstitutional. Banishment to just one of the state's 159 counties is "de facto banishment" from the state of Georgia because he will be distant from his family, place of employment and his roots, Stokes argued.

Last year, the General Assembly enacted legislation limiting the extent to which judges can banish criminal defendants. The law now says a judge must banish a defendant to at least the geographic area of an entire judicial circuit, most of which encompass several counties. A defendant also cannot be banished to a place where there are no programs available to help the defendant fulfill the conditions of probation, the law says.

"Banishment in the 21st century is absurd," Stokes said in a recent interview. "Georgia is trying to dump its prisoners — and dump its problems — on other states. It's a damnable outrage."

GA - Judge: It's senseless to banish man to one county

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State Supreme Court questions sentence given to Gregory Mac Terry

Georgia Supreme Court justices questioned Monday whether banishing a criminal defendant from all but one of the state's 159 counties is constitutional — if not physically impossible.

When Gregory Mac Terry was sentenced for aggravated assault and aggravated stalking, a Douglas County judge banished Terry from all Georgia counties, except for rural Toombs County, which comprises 367 square miles in southeast Georgia.

Justice Harris Hines wondered how Terry could even get to Toombs from prison without going through other counties and violating the law. "If you're banished to one central county, how do you get there?" he asked. "If you're banished, you're banished."

"You could fly," suggested Justice Robert Benham. But Hines countered that some rural areas don't have airports.

Atlanta lawyer McNeill Stokes, arguing on Terry's behalf, said confining Terry to Toombs was unconstitutional. It is tantamount to a "de facto banishment" from the state of Georgia, which the state's Constitution forbids, he said.

"This is a throwback to the Middle Ages," Stokes said of banishment. "It's a device to force your problem on another county, or on another state....This has got to stop."

Terry was released from prison in 2001 and allowed to begin a work-release program in Fulton County. But when officials realized Terry was banished only to Toombs, he was returned to prison and given a new parole date: June 2009, Stokes said.

Senior assistant attorney general Paula Smith told the justices that Terry's banishment was reasonable and legal. Terry was obsessed with his wife and wrote letters to her vowing that, no matter how long it took, he was going to come back and find her.

Douglas Superior Court Judge David Emerson carefully crafted his sentence to protect Terry's wife, Smith said. "He was giving her the right to travel throughout Georgia without finding Mr. Terry on her heels."

But Justice Carol Hunstein noted that if Terry had to move to Toombs, he would be in a place where he did not know anyone, where he had no family, no job and no place to stay. "And you can't leave the county?" she asked.

Stokes noted that the Legislature passed a law in 2006 limiting the extent to which judges can banish criminal defendants. Defendants can now only be banished to at least a judicial circuit, most of which encompass several counties. Defendants also cannot be banished to a place where there are no rehabilitation programs, like a work-release plan.

Stokes urged the court to follow the same reasoning it used last year to free Genarlow Wilson, who was serving a 10-year sentence for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl in Douglas County. After Wilson was sentenced, the Legislature later changed the law to make a case like Wilson's a misdemeanor. But the General Assembly did not allow the "Romeo and Juliet" provision to be applied retroactively — the same as the Legislature's amendment passed in 2006 that changed the conditions of banishment.

Freedom of Speech and H.R. 1955

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OR - Mayor's Racy Lingerie Photo on MySpace Upsets Residents

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ARLINGTON — Mayor Carmen Kontur-Gronquist's name is sure to be mentioned when Arlington holds its annual town meeting Wednesday.

Some of the mayor's roughly 500 constituents will want to know her views on the issues affecting the Eastern Oregon community; others will want to talk about her underwear.

The mayor's lingerie is a hot topic here, with some residents upset that she posted pictures of herself wearing only a black bra and panties on her MySpace page. She was on one of the town's fire engines.

Kontur-Gronquist's MySpace page is blocked to all but her friends, but the pictures were at one time available to all users. In an interview with the (Pendleton) East Oregonian, the mayor said she did nothing wrong and those who are offended need to get over it.

"That's my personal life," she said. "It has nothing to do with my mayor's position."

Kontur-Gronquist, who is also the fire department's executive secretary, said the photos were taken before she was elected mayor three years ago, and she saw no reason to remove them from the Internet after taking office.

"I'm not going to change who I am," she said. "There's a lot of officials that have a personal life, and you have people in this community who have nothing better to do than scrape up stuff like this."

Lorena Woods is one of those residents who say the photos of a scantily clad mayor reflect badly on Arlington.

"It's a picture of her in bra and panties on a rural protection fire truck in a rural protection fire hall," Woods said. "This isn't the way we want our city to be portrayed."

Councilman Jeff Bufton said he's heard a lot of negative comments about the pictures, but declined to say whether the council plans to address the topic.

OH - Sex-offender law could trigger flood of petition filings

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Athens County Common Pleas Court may soon see a flood of petitions from convicted sexual offenders, fighting their re-classification as more serious sexual predators under a new state law that went into effect Jan. 1.

"There could be a large number of cases," predicted Keller Blackburn, an assistant prosecutor in the Athens County Prosecutor's office.

Blackburn suggested that Athens County, which is home to both a multi-county regional jail and the SEPTA Center, a correctional facility for non-violent felons, may have a higher concentration of resident sexual offenders affected by the new law than other nearby counties.

A local defense attorney, who is already handling a legal challenge related to Ohio's Senate Bill 10, agreed that the law will trigger an avalanche of legal challenges.

"There have been a lot of (attorneys) working on this since last summer, because we saw it coming," reported attorney David Winkelmann Friday. "There's going to be a mass filing in southeast Ohio next week."

Even before the Sex Offender and Notification Act (SORN) took effect, four people had filed petitions in Athens County Common Pleas Court, fighting their re-classification as more serious sexual offenders, based on their past convictions.

Last year the Ohio Attorney General's office sent letters to all the people it believes will be re-classified under the new law.

The Ohio General Assembly passed SORN to implement a federal law, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006.

Ohio's new law creates three tiers of classification for sexual offenders, based on which section of Ohio law they were convicted under. Its practical effect will be to bump many lower-level offenders to the top tier, requiring them to register annually for life with the sheriff in their counties of residence.

Before SORN, Ohio had eight levels of sexual-offender classification, and about 23,000 people registered as sexual offenders.

Formerly, some lower-level offenders were required to register for shorter periods of time, such as 10 years. It is estimated that around 60 percent of low-level offenders will be raised into the top tier by the new law.

Included in the AG's letters to convicts was a notice that they have the right to ask for a court hearing on their re-classification. Also included was a form people can fill out to request a hearing pro se (acting as their own attorneys), and an affidavit of indigency, to claim they cannot afford a private attorney and need court-appointed counsel.

Anyone convicted of a sex offense after the law went into effect is covered by its guidelines. Anyone whose mandatory reporting period as a sex offender ended before July 1, 2007, is not. A third group of convicts will probably generate most challenges to reclassification.

If a convict's less-than-lifetime reporting period was scheduled to end between July 1, 2007 and Jan. 1, 2008, that person could face re-classification to a new tier, based on the original offense.

Last month in Athens County Common Pleas Court, two Athens County residents filed pro se hearing requests, and two more had attorneys file their requests for hearings.

One man was convicted of aggravated sexual battery in Vinton County in 1992. Another man was convicted of corrupting a minor in Athens County in 2002. A third man was convicted of sexual battery and abduction in Franklin County in 2002. The fourth petitioner, a woman, was convicted in Wisconsin in 2002 of sexual assault of a student by an instructional staff member.

In some cases, Winkelmann said, convicts may challenge re-classification based on specific facts of their cases. With the Wisconsin woman (his client), he said, there is some question as to what offense in Ohio law is equivalent to the section of Wisconsin law she violated.

However, he added, there are also broader constitutional issues - for example, whether SORN constitutes an illegal usurping of judicial powers by the Legislature, or an unconstitutional ex post facto (after the fact) increase in a convict's sentence.

"It's horrible, because these are people who as of, say, July of last year, were done (with reporting)," Winkelmann argued. "They got their 10 years in. And now they find out it's not 10 years. They're being told they have to report for life, and they thought they were done, and they have not re-offended."

Winkelmann also maintained that the new law is a blunt instrument that "takes discretion totally away from judges to judge individual situations," and may actually put into lower-level tiers offenders who pose more risk to the public than some top-tier offenders.

"It's not going to effectively inform the public of who's really dangerous," he claimed. "Basically all it's going to do is just punish people."

He also predicted that the prospect of life-long reporting will encourage more defendants to go to trial rather than accept plea bargains, and will encourage more convicts placed in the top tier to flee the state and stop reporting altogether.

The Buckeye State Sheriff's Association has indicated it supports the new law, despite the fact that it will increase county sheriffs' workload, because it provides more information to citizens about sexual offenders living in their communities.

Blackburn said the local prosecutor's office, like its counterparts in other counties, has gotten training from the state AG's office in how to respond to the expected torrent of challenges to SORN re-classifications.

He predicted that defense attorneys will be looking to get a judge somewhere in the state to rule on the larger constitutional issues raised by the law, with the ex post facto question a likely tack for a defense attorney to take.

"It's kind of new waters," he acknowledged.

GA - Ga. court to hear challenge to state's banishment policy

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ATLANTA -- Georgia's judges are barred from banishing criminals from the state, but some use a legal maneuver to get around the ban: Restricting the offenders from all but one of the state's 159 counties.

That often means confining selected offenders to remote counties in rural Georgia, or hard-to-reach spots near the Okefenokee Swamp. And even though the banished rarely move to these remote counties, the practice has become the subject of intense debate.

To some judges and prosecutors, the orders are ways to rid criminals from populous areas and protect victims from repeat offenses. But to others, they are thinly disguised efforts to skirt a Georgia constitutional provision that explicitly forbids courts from "banishment beyond the limits of the state."

The two sides will meet Monday in Georgia Supreme Court as justices hear the case of Gregory Mac Terry, who was banished from every county but one after pleading guilty to assault and stalking charges.

According to court records, Terry violated a restraining order by sneaking into his estranged wife's home, then forced her to get into his car when she returned. After driving down a dirt road, he pulled out a pair of scissors, held them to her chest and said he wanted to see if she still loved him.

She managed to calm him down and persuaded him to drive to a gas station, where she told a clerk to call 911. Terry fled, leading police on a high-speed chase, until he pulled into a police station parking lot and surrendered.

Terry was sentenced to 20 years in prison and 10 more years on probation - with the condition that he be banned from all Georgia's counties except Toombs County in southeast Georgia.

The banishment effectively blocked his release from prison in June 2001 when he was told he had a chance to be paroled if he completed a work release program. But he couldn't start the program because he was banned from living and working in Fulton County, a development that set his parole date back until June 2009, according to his lawsuit.

Prosecutors say the ban is reasonable because the victim would be in danger no matter how much time passed. They cite a letter Terry had written the victim that said he wouldn't forget her when he's released - "even (if) it's after a hundred years."

They also note that state law has long permitted banishment as a condition of probation. Although the practice is controversial - particularly in the "receiving" county - judges have used it over the last few decades to rid themselves of scores of defendants deemed undesirable. DeKalb County alone has banished dozens of offenders to Echols County, which sits on the Florida border.

But defense lawyers say banished offenders rarely move to these remote counties, and instead leave the state altogether.

Terry's attorney, McNeill Stokes, said the practice is an "unconstitutional outrage" that's aimed at getting his client - who has no family or job in Toombs County - to flee the state.

"It's a throwback to the dark ages," said Stokes. "The whole point behind this is zealous prosecutors wanting to get rid of problems in their counties."