Thursday, April 10, 2008

ME - Senate OKs changes in Maine sex registry

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04/10/2008

AUGUSTA — The Maine Senate has given initial approval to a bill making changes in the state's sex offender registry.

The changes address concerns raised after two men listed in the registry were murdered in 2006.

The bill says those who offended from 1982 to 1992 and have not re-offended or have a prior history of offenses can be removed from the registry. It also changes the definition of lifetime registrant so it applies prospectively from 2005.

In addition, the bill makes changes to address flaws raised by the state supreme court last year. The bill faces further votes.


DC - Bush Signs Substance Abuse Law, Reflects on Past Drinking Problem

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So basically this law is saying everyone counts, except sex offenders. Typical hypocrisy! Read the "Second Chance For All Except Sex Offenders Act" here. Read more about this here.

04/09/2008

ABC News' Jennifer Duck Reports: For the third time in recent months, President George W. Bush publicly reflected on his past drinking problem.

"I quit drinking -- and it wasn't because of a government program. It required a little more powerful force than a government program in my case," Bush said after signing the "Second Chance Act" -- a government program to aide recovered substance abusers -- into law.

The law is a prisoner re-entry program that helps convicted felons transition back into society and provides additional federal funding to reduce prison populations by creating job training programs, along with substance abuse and family stability support.


"Everybody matters," Bush said. "We believe that even those who have struggled with a dark past can find brighter days ahead. One way we act on that belief is by helping former prisoners who've paid for their crimes -- we help them build new lives as productive members of our society."

This isn't the first time Bush has discussed his past substance abuse -- a subject that was not often discussed earlier in his presidency or two elections.

In an interview with ABC News' Martha Raddatz in December 2007, Bush admitted, "I doubt that I would be standing here if I hadn't stopped drinking whiskey, beer, wine and so on."

The president told ABC News he quit drinking over 20 years ago -- cold turkey.

"I had too much to drink one night, and the next day I didn't have any," Bush said. "The next day I decided to quit and I haven't had a drink since 1986."

"And you did it just cold turkey?" asked Raddatz.

"I'm a better man for it," Bush said.

The president said his alcohol problem wasn't severe, but said he still had a hard time quitting.

"I wasn't a knee-walking drunk," Bush said. "It's a difficult thing to do, which is to kick an addiction."

In another, more recent event on January 29, 2008, Bush told reporters, "Addiction is hard to overcome," after meeting with two participants in the Jericho program, a faith-based outreach program. "As you might remember, I drank too much at one time in my life. I understand faith-based programs. I understand that sometimes you can find the inspiration from a higher power to solve an addiction problem."

President Bush has been showing a bit of emotion in this, his final year in office.

He openly wept on Tuesday when awarding the Medal of Honor posthumously to Navy SEAL Petty Officer Michael Monsoor, who was killed in Iraq in September of 2006 when he fell on a grenade to save comrades during fighting in Ramadi.


OH - Sex offenders challenge law

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04/10/2008

ELYRIA — In the first day of hearings on complaints from sex offenders who have been reclassified under a new state law, prosecutors and defense attorneys got through nine cases Tuesday.

That leaves at least 361 objections from Lorain County offenders challenging the constitutionality of the new law.

Defense attorneys Laura Perkovic and Kenneth Lieux both argued that the law, which took effect at the beginning of the year, unfairly applies the new registration requirements retroactively.

“There is additional punishment,” Perkovic said. “This is all punitive.”

Under the new law — known as Adam’s Law for Adam Walsh, a 6-year-old Florida boy abducted and killed in 1981 — every state must impose uniform sex offender classifications by 2009 or lose federal funds. When Ohio’s version of the law took effect, the state had to reclassify every sex offender in the state to meet the new guidelines.

Lieux said the state and federal constitutions prevent additional criminal sanctions from being imposed after someone has already been convicted and sentenced for a crime.

The law would be fair if it only applied to those who committed sex crimes after it took effect, critics have said.

Assistant County Prosecutor Robert Flanagan said the law wasn’t a criminal sanction and reflected only a minor change.

“It’s like changing a name from Coke to Pepsi,” he said.

Visiting Judge William Coyne, who will decide the cases, disagreed.

“That’s not necessarily accurate,” he said. “It’s more than just changing a name.”

Coyne also rejected Flanagan’s argument that the only thing he should consider in the hearing was whether the sex offenders had been properly notified by the state, saying he would at least consider the constitutional arguments of the sex offenders.

Flanagan also argued that the changes were designed to protect the public from sex offenders, not sex offenders from the embarrassment of community notification.

Lieux said the state was effectively breaching the contracts it entered into with his clients when they agreed to plea bargains in their cases. He said if the law is allowed to stand and punish sex offenders whose cases were already concluded, it means the state could impose harsher and harsher penalties on sex offenders at a later date.

“What’s to say the legislature won’t do something more draconian in the future?” he said.

Lieux and Perkovic also complained that the state hadn’t followed the law when it notified the state’s approximately 30,000 sex offenders of the changes. Instead of using registered mail, as the law required, they said the state used certified mail.

According to the U.S. Postal Service, certified mail costs $2.65 plus postage and provides a receipt that the addressee has received the letter. Registered mail is a more secure means of sending mail and costs $9.50.

Jennifer Brindisi, a spokeswoman for Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann, whose office sent the notification letters, said the state complied with the law because state law defines the two types of mail as being the same thing.

“We are complying due to the definition under Ohio law of what certified mail and registered mail is,” she said.

Coyne said the state had made an effort to comply with the spirit of the law and he wouldn’t consider that a reason to overturn the changes.

Flanagan said Coyne plans to hear about 25 cases per month.

It’s a pace that could drag the hearings well into next year.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or dicken@chroniclet.com.


TX - Sex Offender Mayor

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I originally added the audio to this blog item, but I'm posting it here as well. It's very good, and I recommend everyone listen to it.

03/29/2008

Show Description: Did you see the case of the mayoral candidate in Texas who is a convicted sex offender...sort of. He pleaded guilty and worked out an parole agreement with the prosecutor so that he wasn't a felon and didn't serve jail time. But here is the kicker: he is running for mayor. Needless to say, it has been quite the controversy. So do you think you could live in a town with a sex offender as mayor? Join the conversation.


CT - Police, Homeless Advocates, Disagree on Police Access to Shelter Residents

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04/10/2008

HARTFORD (AP) - Hartford police, seeking greater access to emergency shelters in search of sex offenders, are meeting resistance from homeless advocates.

City police say they need more authority to enforce the law requiring sex offenders to maintain up-to-date residency registration and contact offenders living in shelters.

Advocates for the homeless say it would be an invasion of their clients' right to privacy.

"It's the Constitution of the United States," said Carol Walter, executive director of the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness. "It's not legal for the police to gain access to a private entity without due process."

Hartford police have had mixed results seeking access to shelters.

Detectives recently got permission to confirm the whereabouts of 17 registered sex offenders who listed an emergency shelter as their residence. But at a nearby shelter, officers were not allowed in as they tried to locate 43 registered sex offenders who listed it as their home.

Police say increased access to shelters might help avoid a crime such as the deadly home invasion in New Britain on March 30. Leslie Williams, a registered sex offender who listed the Stewart B. McKinney Shelter in Hartford as his address, has been charged with attempted murder, kidnapping and other offenses.

Hartford police Lt. Mark Tedeschi says Williams might have been less likely to commit a crime if police were able to make contact with him in a shelter and let him know they were aware of his location.

"It's a deterrent factor. It certainly wouldn't have hurt," Tedeschi said.

Walter said city shelters have no interest in harboring criminals. However, changing the law to allow police greater access would communicate to the homeless that "they don't have the same rights as anybody else," she said.

Walter faulted the state Department of Correction for placing sex offenders in homeless shelters, saying the shelters cannot provide proper services and counseling for offenders.

"They are there to provide respite from the elements. DOC should not be placing people in shelters," she said.

Hartford Police Chief Daryl K. Roberts said shelters should be the last resort after other efforts to find a place to live are exhausted. But the lack of oversight is why his department needs access to the shelters when a decision has been made to place sex offenders, he said.

"They can disappear from shelters for days at a time with no accountability," Roberts said. "These guys know that. It's a game."


WI - Kenosha judge sends man back to jail over home problems

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04/10/2008

KENOSHA (AP) - A man deemed a sexual predator has been ordered back to jail until authorities can find a place for him to live.

Former Silver Lake resident Darcy Powell is being evicted from his home in Somers.

With the 55-year-old Powell facing homelessness, Kenosha Circuit Judge S. Michael Wilk adopted the only alternative from the Department of Health and Family Services - to send him to jail until a new home is found.

Reports show Powell has done nothing wrong in the more than two years he has been on supervision. He also is monitored electronically and through a global positioning system, and is escorted to and from work.

Wilk described the decision to send Powell to jail as unfortunate and unacceptable in the long term.

Powell's attorney Robert Peterson said it also is probably unconstitutional.


LA - Senate approves sex offender registration bill

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04/09/2008

BATON ROUGE (AP) — The Louisiana Senate on Wednesday approved a bill to force those convicted of sex crimes against children to register with the state as sex offenders for the rest of their lives.

Under current law, such offenders must register as sex offenders for 15 years. The bill by Sen. Jody Amedee (Email), D-Gonzalez, would raise that requirement to life.

Wednesday's unanimous vote sends the bill to the House.

Amedee is sponsor of a package of bills, all supported by Gov. Bobby Jindal (Contact), aimed at cracking down on sex offenders.

Awaiting House action is an Amedee bill to raise the minimum penalties for those convicted of using a computer to entice a juvenile into a sex act. It would raise the minimum jail term from two to five years when the victim is between 13 and 17, and from two to 10 years when the victim is 12 or younger.

Also in the House are Senate bills to lengthen the minimum prison terms for those convicted of sex crimes involving children, from one to five years, and to criminalize the act of using text messages to arrange a sexual meeting with a juvenile.


GA - Rules remain harsh

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04/10/2008

When people get into trouble with the law, their way back to safe ground is often paved by supportive family and friends.

This is perhaps doubly true for sex offenders because of the restrictions they face.

Scores of offenders and their families were holding their breath, hoping legislators might be less stringent when they took another look at HB 1059.

That didn't exactly happen.

"Despite the valiant efforts of many legislators, criminal justice lobbyists, and advocates for the safety of women and children, the General Assembly re-passed a modified version of the sex offender residence restrictions," said Sara Totonchi, public policy director of the Southern Center for Human Rights.

The bill, SB 1, will become law immediately once it's signed by the Gov. Sonny Perdue (Contact).

Once signed, SB 1 reinstates all of the same residence restrictions that were in effect under HB 1059, with the following exceptions for some homeowners, Totonchi said:

• A homeowner who established ownership of his residence before July 1, 2006, will not be required to move.

• A homeowner will not be required to move if a day care center, church, park, etc. moves to within 1,000 feet of his or her residence.

• It adds "public libraries" to the list of "areas where minors congregate," meaning that people on the registry cannot live within 1,000 feet of a public library.

• It forbids anyone on the registry from volunteering at or living within 1,000 feet of a school, church, or child care center.

• It prohibits people on the registry from intentionally photographing a minor without the consent of the minor's parent or guardian.

With the exception of the homeowners described above, Totonchi said, people on the sex offender registry will have to comply with all of the same residence restrictions as in HB 1059 as soon as the governor signs the bill.

"This does not, however, include the school bus stop restriction, which is not being enforced at this time," she said.

As disheartening as SB 1 might be to people on the sex offender registry and their loved ones, the law is the law. And it benefits no one to scheme or complain or try to find ways around doing the right thing.

Loved ones need to be especially mindful of not putting thoughts into an offender's head. Loved ones may need to vent. But they do not need to do it if the offender is present or in close proximity.

It's not out of the ordinary for an offender to complain; venting can serve a purpose. Loved ones, however, don't need to join in.

Mounting stress can result in any one of us making a dumb decision. But offenders can ill afford to be placed in such positions.