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MIAMI -- The bridge overhead is so close there isn't room for a man to stand.
All the neighbors are felons and everyone lives in Wal-Mart tents, except the oldest man, who is 82. He lives in a shack.
There's no running water, no sewer system and one gasoline-powered generator.
The camp of sex offenders beneath the Julia Tuttle Causeway made news in February, when probation officers began passing out notices that said the men -- largely barred by local ordinances from living almost anywhere else in Miami-Dade County -- might be charged with trespassing if they stayed under the bridge.
But two months later, the Florida Department of Transportation, which manages the land, isn't pursuing charges. Many of the men haven't moved and say they won't.
And while no one would mistake the camp for a home, there are signs of permanence: a weight bench, a pair of composting toilets, a television.
The view of the downtown Miami skyline is fabulous, if you look past the pile of rusted empties. The air smells of old beer and dust and the roast chicken from dinner. Electric lanterns glow through tent walls. A TV is tuned to the news. Salsa blares on a radio until early, early morning, and when it stops there is only the rushing wharf of cars clicking over the seams of the bridge overhead. That never, ever stops.
Curfew for most men is 10 p.m. If the electronic tracking device each wears shows he's not back by then, he can get sent back to prison.
So the men drift back at dusk, hitching rides with girlfriends or walking the highway shoulder from the mainland.
Pooling their resources
On this night, an elderly, deaf man shuffled down the steep concrete embankment, gripping the wire mesh fence for balance. He is Manuel Perea, sentenced to 10 years' probation for groping three children in the neighborhood where he used to live. He didn't want to talk about it.
Patrick Wiese started the generator. Wiese is 46, served 18 months for molesting his 9-year-old stepdaughter, something he did at least three times but says he regrets.
It costs a couple hundred dollars to fuel the generator each week, Wiese said, and the men pool their money. It powers the three fluorescent lights hanging from the bridge overhead, the television he watches at night, everyone's cell phone chargers.
More important, it powers the chargers for the tracking devices. Another way a man can get sent back to prison is by letting his device's battery run down.
There are 2,050 registered sex offenders and predators in Miami-Dade, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Web site. The predator category includes felons whose crimes -- usually related to kidnapping, rape, sexual battery or child prostitution -- are deemed more serious than the lewd and lascivious behavior with which many offenders are charged.
Two hundred forty-five are said to have absconded, meaning the department can't find them.
And, over the last year, at least 32 have called the camp under the Julia Tuttle Causeway their "permanent residence," in department parlance.
'They don't allow us in there'
Several of the men say they were told to go there by their probation officers. Court records for one man back that up, though Gretl Plessinger, spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections, wrote that "it has never been a policy of the Department to tell offenders where to live."
Others came because they couldn't find anywhere else to legally live in Miami-Dade.
Most of the county has been off-limits since 2005. That's when the rape and murder of Florida third-grader Jessica Lunsford prompted many municipalities to bar sex offenders whose victims are minors from moving within almost half a mile of a school, day care center, park or playground, extending the 1,000-foot zone in existence in state statute.
The patchwork of overlapping no-go zones excludes most of the county.
Bills under consideration in the state Legislature would repeal municipal residential restrictions and extend the statewide residential exclusion zone to 1,500 feet, while strengthening penalties against certain offenders for loitering or prowling within 600 feet of children's gathering places. The bills also would make it legal to rearrest an offender for not securing an acceptable address before leaving prison.
It's not easy to find places besides their own family homes that will accept sex offenders, even if it were legal to do so.
"I looked at halfway houses, drug treatment centers, religious places," Wiese said. "They don't allow us in there."
Forthcoming about offense
Wiese had just returned to the camp after work. He makes sandwiches for $6.75 an hour.
For a sex offender, everything about a job -- from getting hired to talking with coworkers -- is fraught with danger. Failure to inform an employer of one's sex offender status is a felony, and many won't hire a sex offender. "I told him straight out," Wiese said.
Sooner or later he will get out from under the bridge, he said. He wouldn't be making sandwiches for the rest of his life. He would go back to school. He would win back some of the life he had lost, maybe the love of the woman whose child he abused.
That part, at least, didn't seem likely -- "I want no contact whatsoever with him," she once said -- but he had hope. "I'm a wishful, hopeful person," he said.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
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JEFFERSON CITY (AP) -- The Missouri House has voted to require sex offenders get a driver's license with a special code identifying them as such.
Sex offenders would need to get the special driver's license to be released from prison on parole or probation. The license would need to be renewed annually and costs $7.50.
The bill needs another vote before moving to the Senate.
Anyone who doesn't register as a sex offender when they're supposed to would be barred from getting a driver's license.
Bill supporters say only law enforcement would know what the special code on the license means. They argue it would make it easier for officers to identify sex offenders.
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"If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed." - Adolph Hitler
"Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it." - Adolph Hitler
By Jenna McWilliams
ALBANY - Darton College held a symposium to highlight the justice system’s response to sexual offenders and victims of sexual assault and violence since women ages 16 to 24 experience the highest per capita rates of intimate violence.
Dougherty County Assistant District Attorney Chris Cohilas said it is something they always take very seriously because sex offenders tend to repeat their crime. Sexual assault nurses said the level of intimacy involved in these crimes is very high which leads victims to all levels of emotion.
- This is a flat out lie.... Study after study after study shows this is a lie... You can check the many studies out yourself, here. See the quotes at the top of this article! It is good they are doing this, but stop spreading lies...
Dougherty County officials want all residents to be aware of their surroundings because nine times out of ten the offender is someone you know.
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The man whose Internet use at Amboy's Pankhurst Memorial Library touched off a county-wide debate on whether to ban sex offenders from many public places walked free Wednesday after nearly four months in county lockup.
Judge Ron Jacobson acquitted Steven C. Manning, 38, of Amboy, who had been charged with violating a provision of the Sex Offender Registry Act that requires offenders to register all Internet-related addresses, such as Web logs and e-mail accounts, with local police.
The judge ruled that Manning's failure to disclose a social networking Web page wasn't his fault because police did not notify him of his responsibility to do so.
"The court understands exactly why there are sex offender laws ... and I have no quarrel with them ... but it's a struggle for me to understand why the State Police did not update their forms," Jacobson said.
The Internet provision, which took effect in August, affects 228 sex offenders in the Sauk Valley, including 57 in Lee County, 67 in Ogle and 104 in Whiteside. Manning was the first in Lee County to be charged under the new provision.
Between August and his arrest in January, Manning continued to register with Amboy law enforcement under the old requirements because no one informed local police of the changes, according to testimony from Amboy Police Sergeant Jeff Blake.
Lee County State's Attorney Paul Whitcombe, who led the prosecution, called Jacobson's opinion "outrageous" and reiterated the argument he used in court that "ignorance of the law is no excuse."
Manning's attorney, Public Defender Bob Thompson, pointed to a line in the act that requires the state police to notify convicted offenders of their responsibility to register. He said prosecution without notification is like having the state change the speed limit without changing the road signs.
"It's like saying, 'I didn't know I wasn't supposed to commit murder' ... If I had to prove in every case I tried that the defendant knowingly broke the law, we'd never convict anybody," Whitcombe said.
- Exactly! You are suppose to prove someone committed a crime, not them prove they didn't commit the crime. The justice system is backwards now. You are guilty and must prove you are innocent. And this man admits, if he had to prove all cases, he'd never convict anybody, that is basically what he is saying, IMO.
Manning's arrest was the result of a two-month investigation and provided the impetus for a controversial ordinance proposal in Amboy and Lee County that would have banned registered sexual predators from all libraries, parks, day care centers, public pools and other places where children are likely to congregate. State police consider Manning a sex offender, not a sexual predator Ã‘ a term that indicates the offender is likely to repeat.
Although it would have been the first of its kind in the state, the ordinance had support of some Amboy City Council members through December.
The ordinance was put on hold at the advice of city attorneys, who cited potential liabilities, and the City Council did not meet again until after Manning's arrest the following month.
Whitcombe said he isn't certain whether Manning's release will cause him to brush the dust off the proposal or not.
"Right now I'm just focused on this one issue," Whitcombe said. "Let's just hope he doesn't hurt another kid."
- I think everyone wants that, but you cannot lock someone up for something they "might" do, or for "thoughts!" Does Minority Report sound familiar to this man? Apparently not.
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This reporter is an idiot, and clearly has not done his homework to see what this offender is talking about. Like usual! And for this reporter to come out with this article, which is basically a personal attack instead of news, shows what an idiot this "reporter" is, IMO!
One of the responses to the April 12 column, "Rules remain harsh," was from a person on the sex offender registry who said sex offenders are treated unconstitutionally. He wants the situation rectified.
It's no secret that those on the sex offender registry and their families hoped SB1 would give them more latitude than HB1059. When that didn't happen, it didn't sit well with the reader:
"What I found interesting was the part where registered sex offenders should keep quiet and do what they are told because 'it's the law.'... As a registered sex offender now for 10 years, I refuse to remain silent and allow lawmakers to tell me where I can and can not go, live or work. And I encourage ALL sex offenders to stand up and fight back. I have paid my debt to society."
This person appears to have some issues that come with severe consequences. Lawmakers can indeed tell offenders where they can work and live. It's up to the courts -- not offenders who have served their time -- to determine what is or is not unconstitutional.
- Severe consequences after the fact, which is a direct violation of the Constitution, which this reporter apparently does not know what it's about. This violates ex post facto as well as other portions of the Bill of Rights and civil/human rights.
Prisons may be overcrowded, but I have no doubt that cells will be found to house renegade sex offenders. Few people outside this offender's friends and family will support his efforts to essentially do as he pleases.
The very nature of a sex offense -- especially child molestation -- takes away the offenders' rights to say when they think they have been punished enough and "paid their debt to society."
As a sex offender, you don't have the right to cry uncle.
- Yes he does.. All people have rights, read the damn constitution, idiot!
This is not to say the person who wrote the e-mail is the same person he was when he committed the sex offense 10 or more years ago. Maybe he is. Maybe he isn't.
Again, it's not his call. There are situations in life when people don't get a do-over and they don't get to pick up where they left off. And when he committed a sex offense, he placed himself in that category. Now that he's in, sex offenders can't just whine their way out.
"What is going on is a declaration of war on sex offenders by the government to eradicate this class of people from the face of the earth," the reader wrote.
He said the rest of us don't understand: Sex offenders are not alone, they have family and friends who will stand behind them.
That may be, but, as I wrote in the previous column, the law is the law. And it benefits no one to scheme or complain or try to find ways around doing the right thing.
Like others I heard from, this reader seems to believe he had done enough research and informally studied enough law to spearhead a movement, which he likened to a civil rights movement.
- That is exactly what it is going to take, IMO! Those who are not labeled a sex offender will never see what they are talking about.
Whatever people say about lawyers who are their own client probably goes double for offenders attempting to take back rights they think they're being wrongfully denied.
Contact Kaffie Sledge at 706-571-8585 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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Hell, they've made tons of money from his false arrest already... This is why I think all people should submit DNA to the police, so people are not thrown in prison like this and their lives ruined over a whim!!! This is a he said, she said world. Someone accuses you of something, you are guilty and must prove your innocence, if possible!!!! This world is going to hell!!!
He spent 23 years in a Texas prison for a crime he did not commit
DALLAS - A man who spent nearly 23 years in prison in Texas for a rape and burglary he did not commit was set free Wednesday.
A judge overturned the convictions of 49-year-old Thomas Clifford McGowan. He was convicted for a crime that took place in 1985 and got life sentences on both the rape and burglary counts.
Lawyers said he was convicted largely on eyewitness misidentification by the victim. Now a DNA test has shown that McGowan could not have been the man who committed the rape.
McGowan became the 17th man since 2001 whose Dallas County conviction has been overturned on DNA evidence, more than any other county in the nation.
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ARAPAHO — Custer County Sheriff Mike Burgess resigned Wednesday upon being charged with 35 felony counts involving an alleged sex-slave operation at his jail.
The allegations include having sex with female inmates and threatening to have a drug court participant in his custody sent to prison if she didn't comply with his demands.
One count accuses Burgess, 55, of touching a female deputy inappropriately.
Special prosecutor James Boring said Burgess could be sentenced to 467 years in prison if convicted on all 35 counts.
The crimes are alleged to have occurred between October 2005 and April 2007.
Burgess surrendered to Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agents and appeared in court before a district judge, Boring said in a statement.
The judge set Burgess' bail at $50,000 and ordered the former sheriff not to have any contact with any of the witnesses in the case.
Immediately before his court appearance, Burgess resigned, effective immediately.
He had served as Custer County sheriff since 1994.
Burgess's attorney didn't return a phone message.
About the accusations
A federal lawsuit filed in October claims Burgess told one drug court participant he would have her sent to prison if she didn't comply with his sexual demands.
The lawsuit, filed by 12 former jail prisoners, alleges the sheriff's employees had them engage in wet T-shirt contests and offered cigarettes to those who would flash their breasts.
One prisoner claimed she became a jail trusty with more freedom after agreeing to perform a sex act on Burgess but lost that status when she later refused.
Tulsa attorney Thomas Seymour, who represents the former prisoners in the lawsuit, said in October the case "was one of the most disgusting things” he had seen.
State begins investigating
After learning of the charges filed Wednesday, Seymour said he was looking forward to seeing the case play out.
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation began looking into the matter in May 2007, said Boring, who also is the district attorney for the Panhandle counties.
His office was appointed to handle the possible charges after the local district attorney bowed out.
One of the bribery counts alleges Burgess asked a drug court participant in May 2007 to go to the home of one of the alleged victims and recover incriminating DNA evidence.
In return, the person's brother would be released from prison, prosecutors allege.
This happened on May 21, 2007, the day before the OSBI investigation began.
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And yet another perverted cop from Florida.
LAKELAND - A retired Lakeland Police officer and former president of the Florida Association of School Resource Officers has been arrested and charged with forcibly fondling a 13-year-old girl in 2006.
George Mort, 61, was arrested April 3 and charged with committing a lewd and lascivious act on a victim under 16 years old.
He was released April 4 after posting a $150,000 bail.
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Why not every citizen? Taking DNA after the fact is pointless. If we are going to do this, we need to start getting every persons DNA now, that includes John Walsh, President Bush, everyone! It seems like all bad laws come out of the Violence Against Womens Act. I would be willing to give my DNA, if ALL CITIZENS are made to do this. What about the criminals who have not been caught yet?
Samples would be taken from anyone arrested or detained by feds
The U.S. government will soon begin collecting DNA samples from all citizens arrested in connection with any federal crime and from many immigrants detained by federal authorities, adding genetic identifiers from more than 1 million individuals a year to the swiftly growing federal law enforcement DNA database.
The policy will substantially expand the current practice of routinely collecting DNA samples from only those convicted of federal crimes, and it will build on a growing policy among states to collect DNA from many people who are arrested. Thirteen states do so now and turn their data over to the federal government.
The initiative, to be published as a proposed rule in the Federal Register in coming days, reflects a congressional directive that DNA from arrestees be collected to help catch a range of domestic criminals. But it also requires, for the first time, the collection of DNA samples from people other than U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents who are detained by U.S. authorities.
Although fingerprints have long been collected for virtually every arrestee, privacy advocates say the new policy expands the DNA database, run by the FBI, beyond its initial aim of storing information on the perpetrators of violent crimes.
Critics: ‘We’re crossing a line’
They also worry that people could be detained erroneously and swept into the database without cause, and that DNA samples from those who are never convicted of a crime, because of acquittal or a withdrawal of charges, might nonetheless be permanently retained by the FBI.
"Innocent people don't belong in a so-called criminal database," said Tania Simoncelli, science adviser for the American Civil Liberties Union. "We're crossing a line."
She said that if the samples are kept, they could one day be analyzed for sensitive information such as diseases and ancestry.
Justice Department spokesman Erik Ablin said the collection of DNA samples "will provide an additional form of biometric identification from persons who would normally be fingerprinted." FBI rules preclude using DNA samples to determine a person's genetic traits, diseases or disorders.
Promoted as way to find violent offenders
The database expansion was authorized by Congress as an amendment to the Violence Against Women Act and was billed primarily as a way to track down serial rapists, murderers and other offenders. "We know for a fact that the proposed regulations will save the lives of many innocent people and will prevent devastating crimes," said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), a sponsor of the legislation. "These regulations are long overdue -- we should have done this 10 years ago."
- OK, they have someones DNA, if that person goes out and commits a crime and kills someone, how did that prevent a crime? So that last quote above, is a total lie!!!!
The proposed rule applies to all federal agencies with the authority to arrest or detain, including the FBI, the Border Patrol and the Internal Revenue Service. Although details of the policy have not been announced, officials said they expect the bulk of the new DNA samples to be collected through cheek swabs.
U.S. officials said that when the measure is fully implemented, roughly 1.2 million people a year could be added to the national database. About 140,000 of those would be people arrested for federal crimes. Many of the rest would be foreigners detained for being in the United States illegally.
Immigration rights advocates note that most illegal immigrants are detained for administrative violations, not federal crimes. By adding their DNA to the database, "it casts them all as criminals," said Paromita Shah, associate director of the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild.
Questions about scope
The rule's scope is still being negotiated, officials said, but it will not cover illegal immigrants picked up at sea; people being processed for legal admission to the United States, such as asylum seekers; and people undergoing secondary screening at ports of entry. It was unclear yesterday whether Mexican border-crossers who are briefly detained and then released in Mexico will be covered. The Border Patrol made 877,000 apprehensions in 2007, most of them of Mexicans.
The move comes as 13 states -- including Virginia and, recently, Maryland -- have passed laws to include many arrestees in their DNA databanks. California, which has more than 1 million profiles, will begin collecting DNA from all felony arrestees next year. The information will be uploaded to the national database, which today houses more than 5.9 million samples, making it the largest forensic DNA databank in the world.
The National DNA Index System (NDIS) was created by the DNA Identification Act of 1994 to store profiles of people convicted of serious violent crimes, such as rape and murder. A 2004 amendment expanded the collection to people convicted of any felony offense, and it allowed states to upload DNA profiles from people convicted of misdemeanors and from arrestees charged with a crime. In 2006, the law was changed again, enabling states to upload data from arrestees who had not been charged.
Victims' rights advocates hail plan
Over the years, the NDIS has yielded 66,750 hits in 67,285 investigations, FBI officials said. "I think by any measure, the program has been a success," said Thomas Callaghan, head of the database, adding that the best way to increase its effectiveness is to add DNA samples from arrestees.
Jayann Sepich of Carlsbad, N.M., said she applauds the federal rule change. In August 2003, after Sepich's 22-year-old daughter, Katie, was raped and killed, investigators found her attacker's skin and blood under her fingernails. But no samples in the state's database matched the evidence.
- So here, they admit someone was killed, but they did not have DNA. Even if they had the DNA, did it prevent this crime? Nope!
In 2006, moved by Katie Sepich's death, the New Mexico legislature passed "Katie's Law," requiring the collection of arrestees' DNA. That December, authorities arrested the man who had killed her -- a DNA sample had been taken from him when he was arrested on a charge of aggravated burglary. Jayann Sepich is now a prominent advocate of similar laws in other states.
Records can be expunged — on request
The new federal rule will conform to current law, which requires the removal of DNA profiles from the database when a conviction is reversed or when an arrest does not result in conviction. An individual must petition for expungement, Ablin said. Civil liberties advocates say removal should be automatic.
In Virginia, which in 2003 adopted one of the first arrestee laws, about 51 percent of arrestee profiles are eventually removed from the state database because charges are dropped or a case is dismissed, said Pete Marone, director of the Department of Forensic Science. He said it is the forensic lab's duty to remove the profiles, something that can take a year or two. "As long as the case is in process, they're still there," he said.
Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, warned of mission creep. "The natural path is to move from the dangerous criminals down the chain, to anybody who has contact with law enforcement, and after that you'll have DNA taken when people are born or first enter the country legally," he said.
The proposed rule will be subject to a 30-day public comment period, Ablin said.