Wednesday, April 2, 2008

MI - Husband of Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow Caught in Sex Sting

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04/02/2008

The husband of Sen. Debbie Stabenow (Email), D-Mich., told police he paid a prostitute $150 for sex in February.

Troy, Mich., police were investigating an Internet-based prostitution ring when they stopped Stabenow's husband, Thomas Athans, whom police believed had just met a prostitute at a hotel and paid to have sex with her, according to The Detroit News. Athans admitted to paying the 20-year-old woman to perform oral sex on him.

Athans was not arrested, but agreed to cooperate with the investigation, the paper reported, citing police documents.

"This is very disturbing and serious. Obviously, it's a deeply difficult and personal matter," Stabenow said, according to a statement from her office.

Troy police Lt. Gerry Scherlinck would not confirm that Athans was working with police, telling FOX News his agency does not release names of investigation witnesses — which Athans would be if he were cooperating with the probe.

Scherlinck confirmed, however, that department detectives did go to a Residence Inn to investigate unusual activity on Feb. 26, and stopped a man coming out who agreed to testify in court.

Athans also is co-founder and former CEO of the liberal Democracy Radio.


WA - WSP finds no child porn on firefighter's computers

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So in other words, if someone decides to steal your identity, be on the look out for the cops to bust down your door, potentially!

04/02/2008

SPOKANE -- The Washington State Patrol says investigators have found no evidence of child pornography on computers used by Spokane firefighter Todd Chism.

Chism was arrested in late January, accused of using his credit card to buy child porn. Chism has always maintained his innocence. His attorney says Chism's credit card had a problem with fraudulent charges over the past year.

The State Patrol has forwarded its report to Stevens County prosecutors. Detectives are leaving the decision of whether to pursue charges up to prosecutors.

Chism's attorneys paid for an independent analysis of Chism's computers, which also failed to find any evidence of pornography.


MD - Legislators take a pass on stronger sex offender laws

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04/02/2008

ANNAPOLIS — Two years after Maryland adopted Jessica’s Law to clamp down on child-sex predators, top Democrats are taking a pass on efforts to further strengthen laws against convicted pedophiles.
- These laws are about sex offenders... Not all sex offenders are "child-sex predators" or "pedophiles"!

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle sponsored bills this year aimed at eliminating good behavior credits that shorten prisoners’ sentences. But the chairmen of the House and Senate committees that handle criminal law want to see what effect the tougher laws adopted over the past two years will have before making changes.

‘‘We haven’t had an experience that we can evaluate from extending the prison terms and reducing the possibility of parole, so to extend the amount of time they spend in jail further may be a little early,” said Senate Judicial Proceedings Chairman Brian E. Frosh (Email) (D-Dist. 16) of Bethesda.

The issue has been a cause célèbre for Republicans who contend there are few more important laws that the General Assembly can take up than protecting children.

‘‘Why we protect these criminals who prey upon our children is beyond my understanding and that’s what we are doing if we allow diminution credits,” said Sen. Nancy C. Jacobs (Contact) (R-Dist. 34) of Abingdon, a leading voice on strengthening penalties against child-sex predators.

Prisoners can earn up to 10 days per month in ‘‘good time” credits, meaning they can shave more than three years off a 10-year sentence. That, supporters say, is unacceptable.

‘‘What do we have to do, wait a couple years to see how many of our kids are going to get victimized?” asked House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell (Email), who pushed the diminution bill in his chamber. ‘‘We’ve got a loophole in Jessica’s Law and the powers that be for some reason don’t want to close it.”

House Republicans saw their hopes extinguished when O’Donnell (R-Dist. 29C) of Lusby tried to tack his bill on to a measure sponsored by Del. Curtis S. Anderson (Email) (D-Dist. 43) of Baltimore that would have extended diminution credits for certain drug offenders.

That bill was moved back to committee and has been withdrawn.

‘‘He was trying to put a bill on that had already failed,” said House Judiciary Chairman Joseph F. Vallario Jr. (Email) (D-Dist. 27A) of Upper Marlboro.

Some Republicans agree that it’s too soon to eliminate diminution credits.

‘‘Just like Jessica’s Law, it will take some time to form a critical mass,” said House Minority Whip Christopher B. Shank (Email) (R-Dist. 2B) of Hagerstown, who favors a legislative study of diminution credits before eliminating them.

The credits may have a purpose in the correctional system, said Shank, whose district includes three medium-security prisons — Roxbury Correctional Institution, Maryland Correctional Training Center and Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown.

‘‘Diminution credits do have a role in prison management because it’s a carrot-and-stick approach that my correctional officers tell me is important to maintain the discipline in the institutions, but it has grown so incredibly complex that it’s an area where the General Assembly rightly should ask some questions about how these credits are being applied,” he said.

Other Republicans complained that the bill was shelved because of the influence of defense attorneys in the legislature, a roster that includes Frosh, Vallario and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (Email) (D-Dist. 27) of Chesapeake Beach.

‘‘Lawyers tend to side with judges on judicial discretion, and they consider this judicial discretion and I don’t,” Jacobs said.

It also illustrates how Democrats will not allow Republicans to grab hold of the legislative agenda, O’Donnell said. ‘‘They don’t want to continue to have us dragging them across the line on this stuff.”

Republicans were the chief advocates for the passage of Jessica’s Law during the 2006 special session and its expansion last year. The law sets mandatory minimum sentences for convicted sex predators and reduces the possibility of parole for the most serious offenders.

Some sex offender legislation has progressed this year, particularly bills to require stricter registration and supervision of past offenders. A bill that strengthens penalties against possessors of child pornography also met little resistance in the chambers.

Still outstanding are measures that aim to help victims, which is long overdue, advocates said.

Copyright © 2008 Post-Newsweek Media, Inc./Gazette.Net


GA - Sex offender restrictions pass

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04/02/2008

ATLANTA – A bill reinstating restrictions on where registered sex offenders can live and barring them from taking photos of minors without parental permission easily passed the House on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson (Email), R-Savannah, passed 133-32 after a brief debate.

Johnson’s original measure barred registered sex offenders from taking pictures of minors unless they got permission from the child’s parent first. Johnson filed the legislation last year after a constituent complained about a sex offender taking a picture of her daughter.

But this past summer, the Georgia Supreme Court struck down the state’s residency restriction on sex offenders, which barred those on the state registry from living within 1,000 feet of a day-care center, school, church or other place where children gather. The court said the standard was too broad because it might require an offender who already owned his or her property to relocate if one of the restricted buildings moved in near the offender.

The new law exempts offenders who own their property from having to move if it was legal for them to live there when they purchased their home.

Rep. David Ralston (Email), R-Blue Ridge, who handled the bill in the House, said the General Assembly needed to act to protect its children.

"I think it’s important that we ask ourselves today: Do we want to stay in that posture and not have these restrictions and then become sort of a safe haven, if it were, for these individual to live where they want?" said Ralston, who chairs the House panel that oversees criminal law.

But Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield (Email), D-Atlanta, said studies in other states had failed to prove that residency restrictions prevent offenders from repeating their crimes. She argued that the rules could actually backfire by isolating sex offenders or making them avoid telling law enforcement where they live.

"Residency restrictions in sex offender cases do not work," Benfield said.

If the Senate agrees with the House changes, the bill would go to Gov. Sonny Perdue (Contact) for his signature or veto.

Brandon Larrabee can be reached at brandon.larrabee@morris.com or (678) 977-3709.


GA - House Revives Sex Offender Restrictions

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HB-1059 - Original Bill
HB-908 - New law to "fix" the issues!
Other Georgia Laws

04/02/2008

ATLANTA -- Georgia lawmakers took another step toward reviving vast restrictions that limit where sex offenders can live and work, passing a proposal aimed at fixing a part of the law that the Georgia Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional.

But the measure's backers refused to address other portions of the law challenged by critics who say the strict new rules render vast portions of the state off-limits to sex offenders.

The House's 133-32 vote on Wednesday aims to fix a law adopted in 2005 banning sex offenders from living, working or loitering within 1,000 feet of just about anywhere children gather -- schools, churches, parks, gyms, swimming pools or one of the state's 150,000 school bus stops.

The state's high court overturned portions of the law in November, ruling that it failed to protect the property rights of offenders who could be forced to move if a facility catering to children pops up near their home.

House Republican leaders quickly vowed to retool the measure to answer the court's concerns.

Their response is a proposal that would allow a sex offender who owns his or her home to stay there if a center where children gather later opens up nearby. It carves out a similar exception for sex offenders who work near such a center.

The measure also would ban sex offenders from taking pictures of children without approval from a parent or guardian. The Senate has already agreed to a similar measure, and both chambers must work out differences before the bill can be sent to Gov. Sonny Perdue (Contact).

Rep. David Ralston (Email) warned that Georgia could become a "safe haven" for sex offenders if the measure isn't adopted. But his proposal failed to address other legal challenges lodged by critics, who have won several court battles.

A federal judge initially delayed its enforcement in 2006 by ruling that the school bus stop provision could not be enforced unless school boards officially designated them. Few boards have since done so.

That lawsuit is still pending, along with another challenge against a provision that could evict offenders who live near churches. Critics warn the legal challenges will continue if the concerns are not addressed.

"They create a shortage of housing options, and they force offenders to live in isolated rural communities where they have little resources and support," said state Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield (Email), D-Atlanta. "We're making it much more likely that these offenders will commit again."


CT - No responses to state's call for sex offender housing plan

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04/02/2008

HARTFORD - State officials are struggling to locate community housing for sex offenders leaving prison.

Besides the difficulty of finding a community willing to host a facility, no one responded to a recent state request for an expert to help develop a statewide plan for housing, residential treatment and support services for those charged and convicted of sex crimes in Connecticut.

Officials had hoped that a consultant would come up with a comprehensive profile of the sex offender population and examine everything from the effects of homelessness to how other states are handling the housing problem.

"We had no responses and we sent it everywhere," said William H. Carbone, director of the Court Support Services Division of the state Judicial Branch. The deadline for bids was Jan. 25.

While Carbone's division provides community based outpatient sex offender evaluation and treatment services through a private contractor, there is still a large need for inpatient treatment and housing for sex offenders. Many sex offenders, like the suspect in this week's deadly New Britain home invasion, are placed in homeless shelters.

Police say Leslie Williams, 31, released four weeks ago after serving eight years for assaulting a 5-year-old girl, walked into an unlocked New Britain home Sunday morning to steal money and a car. He allegedly shot and injured the homeowner and abducted her friend, who was later found dead in a wooded area in Bristol.

"If he was in a supervised, staffed, secure residential transitional (facility) ... he would not be out roaming around, breaking into people's houses in New Britain," said Rep. Michael Lawlor (Email), D-East Haven, co-chairman of the legislature's Judiciary Committee.

Shelters typically don't allow people to stay all day, requiring them to leave in the morning and allowing them to return around 4 p.m. or 4:30 p.m.

In Williams' case, he was living in two shelters in Hartford after a sister refused to allow him to move in with her once he finished his prison term, Carbone said. While he met regularly with his probation officer and was putting together a resume so he could look for a job, Carbone said the case does highlight a gap in the community system for managing sex offenders.

"There's this heavy reliance on local shelters," he said.

"The important thing to be successful in reintegration is to deal with the basic needs and the most basic is housing," he said. "You have to have people securely settled somewhere."

Carbone said Williams' situation was the opposite of serial rapist David Pollitt, who was released from prison in October after spending 24 years behind bars. In that case, Pollitt's sister took him in despite an outcry from their Southbury neighbors. He was released to her with strict probation terms.

There are more than 1,700 convicted sex offenders on probation, like Williams. There are several hundred on parole and about 2,500 registered sex offenders not on parole or probation in Connecticut, according to Lawlor. It's unclear how many are living in shelters.

Legislators and Gov. M. Jodi Rell have agreed to create a new commission that will spend the next year examining incentives the state could offer to municipalities to encourage them to host transitional supportive housing for sex offenders and other types of offenders.

The commission is expected to report back on Jan. 1, 2009 about possible locations for housing and the ramifications for each one.

Rell said this week that the new commission will investigate locating sex offender programs on state property, possibly inside a state prison. But she said the idea could still face challenges from the public.

"It still is in a municipality, no matter whether it's state owned or not," she said. "And you need to have at least the discussions with the municipal leaders before you proceed in that direction and I would want to do the same thing."

Lawmakers had approved $2 million to create a 24-bed transitional housing facility for sex offenders. But half of that funding was reduced in the Democrats' budget and shifted to related services.

Lawlor and Carbone said it's doubtful that a municipality will volunteer to host a facility for sex offenders. Both said the state should consider building something on state-owned property.

"Having people in that category _ just got out of prison, homeless, unemployed, having nothing _ is a bad idea," Lawlor said. "And only bad things can happen."


GA - Senate votes to restrict release of sex tapes involving minors

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I want to know why David McDade was not charged with receiving and distributing child porn? If the tape was deemed child porn, he received it, and then sent it out to various news media and other people. So if it's a crime, why isn't he being charged with a crime? See this article.

04/02/2008

ATLANTA - The Senate voted unanimously on Wednesday to place new restrictions on the copying and inspection of sexually explicit material involving minors used as courtroom evidence.

The bill comes after a Georgia prosecutor came under fire last year for releasing copies of a videotape showing Genarlow Wilson engaging in sex acts with two underage girls. District Attorney David McDade said the state's open records law required him to release the footage to anyone who requested it. U.S. Attorney David Nahmias labeled it child pornography and ordered him to stop.
- So by his own comments, if some pedophile or someone else requested the tape through the open records act, would he have gave them a copy of the tape?

The Wilson tape was released to members of the media. Several state lawmakers watched the tape at the Capitol as they considered legislation that would help Wilson.

Wilson was serving a mandatory 10-year sentence for having oral sex with a 15-year-old when he was 17. The Georgia Supreme Court freed him last year, saying the steep sentence amounted to unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment.

Under the bill that passed the Senate Wednesday, a judge could allow for public inspection of sexually explicit materials for inspection under open records law, but they couldn't be copied. A version of the bill has already passed the House.

The bill's original sponsor, Rep. Rich Golick (Email), R-Smyrna, said it was primarily designed to bring the state into compliance with the federal Adam Walsh Act. States that don't meet the mandates of the child protection law passed by Congress can forfeit federal funds.

Golick said additional child protection legislation related to the Adam Walsh Act is expected next year.


NY - Restrictions of Sex Offenders in Niagara County

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04/01/2008

A Niagara County legislator is proposing legislation to limit where sex offenders can live and visit in Niagara County.

Paul Wojtaszek (Contact) (R-North Tonawanda) is proposing a local law called "The Niagara County Pedophile-Free Child Safety Zone Act".

Wojtaszek tells us it would prohibit sex offenders in Niagara County from coming within 1,000 feet of places where children gather, like schools, public pools and parks.

It would also prohibit them from moving that close to those areas, however, if a sex offender already lived there, they would not be forced to move.

On first offense, sex offenders could face a "B" misdeamenor. On a second offense, they could face an "A" misdeamenor.

Wojtaszek says the law has bi-partisan support, but will probably be further discussed in committee before it's voted on.

The law is based on a similar measure passed in Rockland county.

Do you think more restrictions should be placed on sex offenders?

Is 1,000 feet away too far, or too close?


FL - Senate Committee OKs Sex Offender Bill

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04/02/2008

TALLAHASSEE - The national media swarmed last year around a group of homeless sex offenders living under a bridge linking Miami to Miami Beach.

The men were forced to live there because of strict local laws that didn't let them live within 2,500 feet of schools, day care centers or other places children might gather - essentially eliminating any legitimate housing options for them.

Sen. Dave Aronberg (Email), D-Greenacres, referred to this extreme example Tuesday to push for a statewide 1,500-foot buffer between where sex offenders live and places children gather. In doing so, his bill would repeal get-tough sex offender housing ordinances passed by more than 120 Florida communities in the past few years, including Miami Beach and New Port Richey.

"They're counterproductive because they force people to go underground or go homeless," said Aronberg before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee unanimously moved the bill forward. "I can't think of a more dangerous situation than to have a colony of homeless sex offenders roaming our streets."

In addition to extending state sex offender residency restrictions from 1,000 feet to 1,500 feet, Aronberg's bill also calls for the state to adopt the "no lingering zones" enacted by Hillsborough County last year. This law prohibits certain types of sex offenders from loitering within 300 feet of places like parks, schools and libraries.

Although Aronberg's proposal likely will face resistance from some of the cities that have tougher residency laws, the proposal also illustrates the slippery slope lawmakers and children's safety advocates straddle when it comes to dealing with those who commit sex crimes against children.

Although the public likes the idea of residency restrictions and no one wants to stick up for sex offenders or predators, experts say such laws do little to actually prevent sex crimes in the first place.

Jill Levenson, a nationally known researcher at Lynn University who studies sex offender laws, applauds the idea of repealing what she sees as some of the punitive housing restrictions in places like Miami Beach. She is not keen, though, about extending residency state laws by 500 feet.

"There is no research to support that sex offenders' proximity to schools or parks leads to recidivism," she wrote in a letter to the Senate committee.

There are other issues, too, about who really commits sex offenses, said Corwin Ritchie, executive director of the Iowa County Attorneys Association, a group of public prosecutors that has been vocal about sex offender laws since 2002, when Iowa became the first state in the nation to enact 2,000-foot buffers between sex offenders and schools.

"We have said all along that the residency restrictions and the safety zones are aimed mostly at the stranger-danger kinds of things and that while those are horrendous whenever they occur, they are a tiny percentage," Ritchie said. "We are spending all our time focusing on those while there are thousands of children being sexually abused in their own homes and at acquaintances' homes. We would like to see more effort in preventing those kinds of abuse."

Aronberg said in an interview he is aware of the criticisms about residency restrictions, but thinks that creating a streamlined state law would be a good first step.

"It's been a big mess - a big confusing mess that has undermined public safety," he said of the different Florida counties and cities that have their own residency laws. "So we're going to create one statewide residency restriction so there's no more guesswork."

In Miami Beach, the first Florida city to enact a 2,500-foot barrier, the mayor's chief of staff greeted Aronberg's proposal with caution.

It's hard to say whether any sex crimes have been prevented by the city's law, which was passed in 2005, but at the same time it gives people a sense of security, AC Weinstein said.

"What are we supposed to say to someone in an apartment complex?" he said. "'Guess what? The state Legislature just relaxed the laws, you're going to have 14 convicted child molesters moving in?"

Reporter Ellen Gedalius contributed to this report. Reporter Nicola M. White can be reached at (850) 222-8382 or nwhite1@tampatrib.com.


FL - State Could Loosen Restrictions On Sex Offenders

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04/02/2008

TALLAHASSEE -- State Sen. Dave Aronberg (Email), D-Greenacres, has introduced a bill that could relax the rules when it comes to where some convicted sex offenders can live.

The bill would ban sex offenders from living within 1,500 feet of places like schools, parks and playgrounds, but if it becomes a law, the tougher, 2,500-foot restrictions some local cities and towns already have in place would disappear.

"I've had people call me to say that there is a sex offender who is sitting in a park, watching our kids, and there's nothing that can be done about it. That's right. The Polk County ordinance allows that to happen. The state law would not," Aronberg said.

Aronberg said a 1,500-foot ban would make it easier for sex offenders to find a place to live. That could help wipe out what he called dangerous colonies of homeless offenders.


MO - Court: State can't require registry info from pre-1995 sex offenders

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04/01/2008

KANSAS CITY — A Missouri appeals court says the state can't require people convicted of sex crimes before 1995 to provide information for the state sex offender registry.

But the court says the state can still list their names and criminal history if they come from public records.

The decision today mostly upholds a Jackson County judge's decision preventing the Highway Patrol from requiring all sex offenders to provide their current home and work addresses, pictures and other information for the Internet registry.

The judge said the state could not enforce the law against people convicted of sex crimes before it went into effect in 1995.

Patrol officials say the ruling likely won't change the registry, which now lists the exempt individuals in a separate section.


CA - Murdered ASH patient worried about alleged killer who just lost major court appeal

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04/01/2008

The man suspected of strangling a fellow Atascadero State Hospital (ASH) patient to death with a towel over the weekend was on the losing end of an important, recent California Fourth District Court of Appeal decision upholding the constitutionality of Proposition 83, the so-called Jessica’s Law.

Also, hospital officials reportedly ignored at least a week of repeated warnings from patients about violent and threatening behavior by the man, Richard Earl McKee, now held on suspicion in the slaying of Lawrence Paul “Shaky” Rael late Saturday or early Sunday. And the victim’s father told several patients he was initially informed by hospital officials that his son “had hanged himself.”

Rael, found in his bed Sunday morning by hospital employees, was killed sometime after 10:30 p.m. Saturday, after he talked on the telephone to another patient and was said to have expressed his increasing fear of McKee.

A second victim, Raymond Chester, was injured in the attack and was discovered unconscious in his own bed after suffering damage to his limbs and ribs, according to witnesses. No further report on his condition was immediately available.

The murder and assault occurred as a federal judge in another case was demanding ASH officials show cause why they should not be held in contempt of court in the aftermath of a finding that two employees violated the civil rights of a patient.

According to a woman who answered the phone at ASH, no spokesperson would be available to talk to media on Monday regarding any issue because it is a state holiday, Caesar Chavez Day. She additionally declined to identify, or to put UncoveredSLO.com in touch with, the hospital’s on-call medical director for comment.

Suspect McKee until recently was considered by the California Department of Mental Health to be a mentally disordered offender (MDO). As such, he would by law be separated from other patients in the facility not similarly designated. But in mid-March, McKee was reclassified for inclusion in the sexually violent predator (SVP) program and became, in hospital lexicon, a dual-confinement patient.

McKee, 35, originally imprisoned for lewd acts on children, had sought to be released from state custody by claiming he was not dangerous to the public. McKee argued that provisions of Proposition 83, the so-called Jessica’s Law, were inadequate to insure that only those persons with a diagnosed, current mental illness -- one making them dangerous to the public -- could continue to be confined.

The Court of Appeal decision confirmed McKee’s involuntary commitment at ASH March 21.

Immediately after that court decision, McKee was placed in Unit 22 at ASH, and others in the SVP program said they began to inform staff that McKee was bullying and threatening people in the unit, and becoming increasingly aggressive and violent. Their claims went unheeded, according to one patient, Peter Tolls.

Rael talked on the telephone to his friend, fellow patient Ron “Bear” Barrett, according to Tolls, at about 10:30 p.m. Saturday, sounding upbeat on the one hand but also expressing fear of McKee.

In a prior case involving a similar failure to protect a patient, a federal judge ruled that two ASH employees violated one patient’s civil rights and ordered the pair to pay $1,000 to that SVP patient. The judge now wants to know why the ASH employees have not yet done so.

U.S. Central District Judge S. James Sotero ruled in December that employees Melissa A. Roper and Michael C. Groom were found to have made “a substantial departure from professional judgment, practice and standards” and thus were responsible for injuries suffered by patient Theodric Van Smith in assaults on him by other two patients.

ASH officials in that case also had been repeatedly warned, by patients, staff and state and federal law enforcement agencies that Smith might become a target of attack for his testimony against two Pelican Bay State Prison guards. Peggy Phaklides, a litigation manager for ASH, said in January the hospital is considering appealing Smith’s civil judgment.