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Xavier has said over and over that he is not in it to protect children, that is just a side effect, he's in it to go after "pedophiles!" You can also see that in the snap shot at the end of this blog item. It's even posted on their web site, here (if they do not redirect it)! They are not a watchdog group but vigilantes who harass, intimidate, humiliate, hack, etc. They let their volunteers do their dirty work, so they cannot be sued.
The FBI says a civilian website dedicated to exposing potential pedophiles goes too far. But the website's creator says they're just trying to protect your children. Now the mother of a Louisville man targeted by the group talks about how the experience changed her life. WAVE 3 Investigator Eric Flack has the story.
There's no question that pedophiles online are a problem. It's a problem Xavier Vonerck, director of a website called www.perverted-justice.com wants to eradicate. "These people are everywhere."
The question is how far is too far to catch a predator? That's what one woman wants to know after her son's name and other personal information was posted on the site. The woman, who asked that she not be identified, says "My son's not a pedophile."
The website serves as a home base for a network of civilians who lurk in chatrooms and pose as underage kids, baiting adults into asking them for sex, often bringing up the idea before their targets do. They keep a record of the conversation, often asking for the target's phone number to set up a future meeting. That information is then verified and posted on the site, along with the target's picture and a copy of the chat session.
Her son, who used the online chat handle "KY Fire Guy," had his picture and phone number posted on the website, next to an archived chat session with a girl he thought was 13. His mother says she thinks "they trapped him into saying things he did say."
"Have you ever had sex before," he asks. The response: "yes."
"Want to when I come see you?" the firefighter says. "Sure, if you do."
Then later, it's the website staffer who says: "You're going to sex me up?"
"KY Fire Guy" writes back: "Yeah, if you can handle it baby," asking his new friend for "wild sex."
Vonerck spoke with us by phone, defending the website's tactics. "I should be able to send in a person to any one of these rooms and they should be able to say whatever they want as a 13-year-old and get no reaction."
Vonerck says "a reasonable man would not respond positively to any form of sex talk with a 13-year-old."
But FBI spokesman David Beyer told us the tactics used by the staffers at www.perverted-justice.com are over the line. "Anytime the public gets involved in something of this nature, they run the risk of civil liability, perhaps criminal liability. They have the potential of identifying the wrong person."
After the website posted the phone number for "KY Fire Guy," his mother says "in a period of about two to three days there were over 600 phone calls."
- That is the whole purpose, I've seen it mentioned elsewhere. Why post someones phone number online, unless they want them to be harassed?
"KY Fire Guy" lived with his mom when he was targeted, so it was her phone number that ended up on the website, which led to people being able to find her home address. "We were told they found our address and we needed to watch our backs when we left the house."
"KY Fire Guy" has left the state. "His picture was on the Internet. It said, 'this is a pedohpile.' Wouldn't that ruin your life?"
At one point, "Ky Fire Guy" posted a response to www.perverted-justice.com, writing that he hated himself for what he had tried to do, and thanking the website for forcing him to seek help.
But on the night the story aired on WAVE 3, he said the website made everything up, and that he has had to change his appearance and phone number because of all the harassment.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
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Files class action suit against 91 sheriffs,
By Keith Rhoades | firstname.lastname@example.org
A new law that requires sex or violent offenders to allow authorities access to their computers or Internet devices is being challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana.
Under the new law, which is set to take effect July 1, failure to allow authorities access to the items will be a D felony and can result in a three year jail sentence and a fine.
On behalf of Steve Morris and a "John Doe," the ACLU of Indiana filed the class action lawsuit April 3 in U.S. District Court.
In documents filed with the court, the ACLU of Indiana said "This is a class action challenge to an amendment to Indiana Code 11-8-8-8 effective July 1, 2008, that requires anyone required to register on Indiana's sex and violent offender registry to execute a blanket consent authorizing the search of the person's personal computer or device with Internet capability at any time as well as requiring the person to install, at his or her expense, hardware or software on the person's computer to monitor Internet usage. The amendment represents a flagrant violation of the Fourth Amendment and is unconstitutional."
"Since these offenders are no longer under state control, it really seems to be way beyond the scope of what the Fourth Amendment allows," said Ken Falk, ACLU of Indiana legal director, who filed the lawsuit in the computer-access case.
"If you have committed a crime in the past and are off probation and free from the legal system, all of your constitutional rights are restored," Falk said, "except when the Legislature says you surrender your Fourth Amendment protection."
He called the most recent legislation unique in the United States. "There's no jurisdiction that ever tried to do this because it is so blatantly unconstitutional," Falk said.
The defendants in the suit represent the "local law enforcement authority" in Indiana.
The plaintiffs in the suit are "John Doe," who is listed as an adult resident of Marion County, and Steve Morris, an adult resident of Scott County.
"Doe" has asked the court to keep his name from the public view because of a "legitimate fear that using his actual name will have direct and adverse consequences to him."
In his affidavit to the court, "Doe" admits he has been convicted of child molesting and is required to register on Indiana's sex and violent offender registry for life.
He was released from prison in 1999 and is not currently on probation or parole.
"Doe" says that he runs his own business from his home and has clients throughout Indiana and the United States.
"Doe" says he has a personal computer in his home that he uses for business. The computer has Internet capability and "Doe" has an electronic mail address. He also has a cell phone with Internet capability.
The computer has information on it including financial, proprietary information from his clients, and correspondence with his counsel.
"Doe" says while many of his neighbors know about his status as a sex offender, many of his clients do not and if they did, he could lose them and suffer "severe adverse economic consequences."
"Doe" said he does not want to consent to police entering his home and searching his computer, nor does he want to install on his computer, at his expense, hardware or software that monitors his Internet usage.
Steve Morris says he is currently listed on Indiana's Sex and Violent Offender Registry and he must register for life. He is not currently on probation, and he does have a personal computer that he shares with his wife.
Morris also has an electronic mail address. He and his wife share the computer and they use if for saving their personal financial information. Morris said he does not want to give permission for authorities to enter his and his wife's home at any time to search his computer.
Scott County Prosecutor Jason Mount declined to discuss the suit or Morris' criminal history.
According to court records found by Marty Randall of The Giveaway newspaper in Scott County, Morris was charged with Child Molesting as a B felony in October of 1994. Morris was around 27 years-old and his female victim was 13 years-old.
In 1996, Morris pleaded guilty to Child Molesting as a C felony. He was sentenced to four years with the Indiana Department of Correction with credit for 599 days served. In 1998, the court revoked his probation and sent him back to prison to finish the rest of his sentence.
Officials weigh in
Morgan County Sheriff Robert Garner and acting Morgan County Prosecutor Robert Cline both declined to comment of the matter since it is a pending suit. They referred comment to Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter, who is representing the state in the matter.
A public relations official Staci Schneider with the Indiana Attorney General's Office said the state will be representing all of the defendants named in the suit. She said the state will have 30 days to file a response. Due to it being a pending suit, she declined to say more about the case.
Monrovia Attorney Steve Litz said this law is a perfect example that the matter was not thought out before the General Assembly enacted the law.
"The legislature, as it frequently does with hot topics, doesn't think clearly before enacting law," Litz said. He said the state has taken the easy way out by saying sex offenders have no rights.
Earlier this year, Litz was successful in convincing a judge that a sex offender's name should be removed from the sex offender registry.
Litz argued that the law, as it now stands, allows offenders convicted of a narrow range of sex crimes to have their name removed from the sex offender list after 10 year period.
Martinsville attorney and State Sen. Richard Bray said the intent of the legislature was to restrict sex and violent offenders access to potential victims. Bray said the legislature had intended to make sure those offenders could not get access to the Internet, but after discussing the matter, he said they realized that many jobs require Internet access.
"This was a compromise that would allow offenders to work but would require monitoring by authorities" said Bray. "The intent is to protect other people from becoming victims."
In March, a former Hamilton County man who now lives in Morgan County and was convicted in 1995 of sexual battery on a juvenile will no longer have to register as a sex offender after having been on Indiana's registry for the required 10 years, Morgan Superior Court 1 Judge G. Thomas Gray ruled. The man, whose identity was also concealed in court records, now lives in Morgan County.
That removal is under appeal by Morgan County.
The 1,000-foot rule
In March 2007, a Blackford County judge ruled the 1,000-foot rule unconstitutional. Anthony Pollard, convicted in 1997 for a sex offense against a child, was arrested Jan. 26, 2007, and charged with a felony for living within 1,000 feet of a school.
He had owned the property for 20 years, and vacating his residence was not a condition of his sentence. The 1,000-foot rule went into effect after he had served his time and moved back home with his wife.
Judge John Forcum determined that forcing the man to move retroactively increased the punishment for the crime, in violation of the Constitution.
- Again with the word "punishment!" All the politicians say these laws are not punishment but restrictive, which is total BS. Everybody knows they are punishment, they just say that so they are not knocked down in court for violating the constitution.
The prosecutor sought a hearing before the appeals court, arguing that the state has a right "to impose regulations that promote order, safety, health, morals and the general welfare of society."
Two weeks ago, a panel of three Indiana Court of Appeals judges heard oral arguments in the Pollard case. They have not yet issued a ruling.
Some states have upheld such laws; others have struck them down.
Bloomington Herald-Times reporter Laura Lane contributed to this report.
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FORT WORTH -- The officers came to the east Fort Worth home in search of registered sex offender Marcus Traylor.
Instead, they found Elicic Barron, a mother of three.
"The persons that was here, they had got evicted," Barron explained to the two plain-clothed Fort Worth officers as she cradled her 4-week-old son in her arms. "That's what the landlord had told us. He had got evicted."
While officers Rick Benson and B.G. Levy's search was unsuccessful, their trip was not wasted. The written statement they obtained from Barron, describing how she and her family had moved into the rental home in February and did not know Traylor, is the evidence they'll need to obtain an arrest warrant against Traylor for violating the sex offender registration law.
Traylor, who was sentenced to two years in prison in 2003 for indecency with a 14-year-old girl, has already been convicted once for violating the registration law in 2005 -- earning him another two years in prison. A second conviction would enhance the offense to a second-degree felony.
"If he got evicted, we've got to give him sufficient time to find a new house," Benson said. "But he's had a month and a half, which is way enough time. Even after he got evicted, he should have called us."
This past week roughly 90 Fort Worth officers swept out across the city, knocking on doors to see whether registered sex offenders were living where they're supposed to be.
Of 1,288 registered sex offenders living in Fort Worth, 972, or three quarters, were found to be in compliance with the law. The whereabouts of the remaining 316 will require further investigation because of reports that they may have been legitimately out of town. Of those needing follow-up, 98 appeared to be out of compliance, meaning felony warrants could be issued for their arrests.
"We're going to be working on warrants immediately," said Sgt. Cheryl Johnson, supervisor of the Sex Crime, Registration, Apprehension and Monitoring Unit, or SCRAM. "Those that are not in compliance have a small window of opportunity to call our office and make an appointment to update their information. Otherwise, they will be arrested and we will file charges with the district attorney's office for failure to register."
Useful, but not perfect
Under state law, people convicted or adjudicated of a sexual offense on or after Sept. 1, 1970, and who were in prison or under supervision on Sept. 1, 1997, must register. The courts and parole board can also order such registration.
Sex offenders must report any changes in address, in jobs, in cars, in license plates and in physical appearance, such as hairstyle. They must renew the registration at least once a year, and in more extreme cases, every 90 days or 30 days.
While the sex offender registry can be a useful resource, police caution that it's not a be-all, end-all resource for keeping people safe.
"When we were kids, there was no sex offender registration, but we all knew who the creepy guy on the corner was, and you didn't go trick-or-treating at his house and you didn't go by his house," said Detective Tracy Tillerson, one of two officers who registers sex offenders.
The law "is just an additional tool to help people know, 'OK, this person registered. He's committed a crime.' But the guy next door may be a sex offender who's never been caught yet," Tillerson said. "People assume if there's a sex offender in their ZIP code, that's the guy they need to be worried about. They need to be worried about everybody."
Monitoring sex offenders is the full-time job of Benson and Levy, two of five officers in the SCRAM unit who are responsible for tracking them.
Benson, who monitors them on the city's south side, said sex offenders can be very transient, sometimes because they make bad choices.
"Instead of telling their landlord, 'This is who I am, this is what I am' and being honest, they go in and lie," Benson said. "Then the landlord gets the background check on them a month later and they kick them out."
Others, police say, will register an address with the department but never live there.
"They just think that either we're too busy to really keep up with it, or they just roll the dice," said Levy, who tracks offenders on the north side.
When officers first went to the home of Philip Hurd earlier this week, the man's girlfriend told police that Hurd no longer lived there. Around 8 a.m. Monday, a panicked Hurd called Benson's cellphone, stating that his girlfriend had lied because she feared he would be arrested on an unrelated, pending assault charge.
Benson said Hurd is one of the offenders who calls him frequently, eager to inform the officer of any changes so that he'll remain in compliance.
"I tell all of them if you get evicted, if your girlfriend kicks you out, if something bad happens, you call me 24/7," Benson said. "Every one of my offenders has my cellphone number."
Tuesday, Benson and Levy made a surprise visit to Hurd's home to verify that he lives there. Hurd said he has no reservations about keeping police apprised of his whereabouts.
"It's not a problem for me. I ain't got nothing to hide," he said. "I ain't doing anything wrong, so it ain't a big deal to me."
The troublesome side
Others, the officers fear, may have something to hide.
At their next stop, an elderly woman answered Levy's knock and confirmed that James R. Williams III used to live at her home. But, Victoria Franklin tells the officer, the 33--year-old man whom she considers an adopted son hasn't been around for about a year.
"He just left early in the morning, drove out about 3 or 3:30 a.m. in the morning and I haven't seen him since," Franklin said.
Until this week, Franklin said she never even realized that Williams was a registered sex offender, a new insight that left her a little bothered.
"I'm a Christian. I'm a praying woman," Franklin said. "I've just been praying for him to try to do the right thing because I don't believe in doing wrong."
According to Tarrant County records, Williams was convicted of sexual assault of a child in 2003 and sentenced to two years in prison. Like Traylor, Williams has also been previously convicted of violating the sex offender registration law and sentenced to two years in prison as a result. Like Traylor, if Williams is convicted on a second violation, the degree of the felony offense would be enhanced.
Those who treat registering as a cat-and-mouse game upset Benson the most.
"They think they're smarter than the system," Benson said. "Those are the ones I want to put in jail because I'm thinking to myself there is a reason why they are not registering. What are the hiding? Why don't they want the general public to know where they are?
"Are they living with their girlfriend who has little kids and they want access to those kids? Are they on parole or probation and their probation officer can't know where they're really living?' There's a variety of reasons, but that's always my question."
By the numbers
1,288 registered sex offenders (adult and juvenile) living in Fort Worth as of April 10
1,249 male sex offenders
39 female sex offenders
972 sex offenders verified to be in compliance with law
316 sex offenders needing additional investigation
98 sex offenders needing additional investigation who appear to be out of compliance
DEANNA BOYD, 817-390-7655, email@example.com
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Bring em' on! Put all criminals on the internet. Why don't we just put all citizens of the US on their as well? This is just a ton of wasted money, when they could just create one criminal registry with ALL criminals on it. You notice they say the intent of the registry is "SHAME?" And also people start raising hell when it affects them, and they say they are unconstitutional, etc? Well, if it's good for sex offenders and meth makers, then it's good for all citizens, IMO. Bring it on!!! We also need a vigilante registry, cyberstalker registry, slanderer registry, etc... Hell, where do I sign up and give my approval for this?
Bills would keep tabs on drunken drivers and animal abusers
Looking up names of methamphetamine makers and sexual offenders in Tennessee is already just a mouse click away. The ability to look up animal abusers and drunken drivers may be just a vote or two away.
This year, legislators have proposed doubling the number of crime registries in Tennessee, adding Internet databases of people with animal cruelty and repeat drunken driving convictions to existing registries of people convicted of sexual crimes and making meth.
All 50 states have their own sexual offender registries, and the listings have become widely accepted as a boon to the public.
- Yep, next we'll have a terrorist registry, abusive people registry, homeless registry, speeder registry, you name it. Let's put everyone who has ever committed any type of crime on the internet.. I'm all game for it...
But there's less agreement about proposals for other registries that have begun to pop up in Tennessee and elsewhere, and about how much crime registration is enough.
Jack McDevitt, associate dean of Northeastern University's College of Criminal Justice in Boston, said there's significant debate over the benefits of crime registries. The information they provide may not be useful to the public, and could stand in the way of rehabilitation, he said.
"The stigma becomes so concentrated and widespread that people can't ever get away from it, don't feel like they can leave it behind and change their life," he said. "From the offenders' perspective, these kinds of lists don't make it any easier to change their lives around."
In 2005, Tennessee became the first state in the country to create a database listing names of people who have been convicted of making the illegal stimulant meth. The registry had fewer than 300 people on it at its start, but has grown to more than 1,000 people today.
If lawmakers pass the bill to create the animal abuse registry, that would also be a first, according to the Humane Society, which supports the idea.
The registry would require local county court clerks to report convictions for aggravated animal cruelty, bestiality and animal fighting to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, which would maintain the list. A financial review found that only about three people would be added each year.
The reason for the registry, according to the Humane Society's Tennessee director, LeighAnn McCollum, is that people who engage in serious animal abuse are likely to also commit other serious crimes.
- You could say this same thing about ANY criminal! Doesn't mean they all will commit another crime. Every human being is a potential criminal.
"We're talking about people who commit particular grievous acts toward animals as their first step as they work their way toward humans," she said.
But the bill, which has passed the Senate, is meeting resistance in the House. During floor debate earlier this month, some lawmakers raised a range of concerns. Some from rural districts fretted that farmers could end up on the list. Others, like Rep. Joey Hensley, had broader worries, saying the "whole bill concerns me."
"We're branding these people. We're considering them on the same level as a child sexual abuser, and I just don't think that is correct for all of them," said Hensley, a Hohenwald Republican.
- Well, yes it is. Not all sex offenders are child sexual abusers. You need to do some homework!
Desire for discussion was so strong that a measure to cut off debate was soundly defeated. A vote has since been put off twice; the soonest it could be voted on is May 1.
Lists' aim is 'shame'
Tennessee's proposed drunken driver registry would also be a first. That bill would require court clerks to report second DUI offenses to the state Safety Department, which would maintain the registry. About 8,000 people per year would be added to the database, according to an estimate by legislative staffers.
- They are just building up to a registry of all humans in it. Why don't they just get it over with, so they can control us all? And the sheeple are asleep and won't see it until it sweeps them into the nets.
That proposal is advancing in the House. On the Senate side, it appeared all but dead in a committee until it was revived on Thursday.
Lawmakers closely questioned Rep. Frank Niceley, a Strawberry Plains Republican who's sponsoring the House version. In the end, they voted in favor of it.
The registry would serve much the same purpose as the sex offender registry, bringing "an element of shame" to people on it, as well as awareness for the people who live near them, Niceley said.
He pondered for a moment the question of whether such databases will lose their effectiveness if there are too many of them, musing, "That's a good question. We don't know yet."
- Who cares? If we have one registry, then everyone needs to be on it, IMO. You cannot single out certain people, that is discrimination.
But after a moment, he came down firmly in favor of more registries, not fewer, saying that each list would be of service to whoever is looking for information about a particular crime.
- That is why we need one registry with ALL criminals, and don't pick on certain people because you get sick kicks out of doing so.
"You're going to go to that registry. No one's going to worry about all of them," he said. "Every person (has) got their area of concern, and they're going to go to that one."
James "Wally" Kirby, executive director of the state organization for district attorneys general, said that while his organization doesn't take a stance for or against any given registry, he generally views them positively, particularly the sexual offender registry.
He worries, though, that if crime registries proliferate, they could become meaningless.
"The sex offender registry has been a very good thing, and I think some of these others would be, as well," he said, "but I don't know if we can continue to have a registry as such for every crime in Tennessee."
- Why the hell not? HYPOCRITES!!!!!
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Another cop, another slap on the wrist. So he was ordered to register as a sex offender once released on April 7th. It's now the 19th, and he is not on the Oregon registry... Why not?
GOLD BEACH – Former Curry County Sheriff Mark Metcalf has been released from Coos County jail, where he was sentenced after being convicted last summer of 11 misdemeanors including four for sexual abuse.
Metcalf was released at 7:30 a.m. April 7.
Judge Richard L. Barron, the presiding judge of the 15th Judicial District, heard the case and last August sentenced Metcalf to 360 days in jail for abusing three women, all Curry County employees. Coos and Curry counties make up the 15th Judicial District.
"He got credit for good time and work time," current Sheriff Allen Boice said Friday. Boice said Metcalf served all of his time.
Boice said he told all three victims in advance what date and what hour Metcalf would be released.
A six-member Coos County jury convicted Metcalf of four counts of sexual abuse in the third degree, four counts of harassment and three of official misconduct.
The trial was moved to Coos County on a change of venue after Barron ruled that the result of a recall election showed that "there is so great a prejudice against the defendant that the defendant cannot obtain a fair and impartial trial in Curry County."
Metcalf lost his office as the result of a June 12 recall, approved 4,586 to 2,531 by Curry County voters. More than 1,522 registered voters signed the petition which resulted in the recall election.
Metcalf, 54, pleaded not guilty to each of the 11 charges brought by a grand jury on March 2, 2007.
Metcalf's attorney, Robert McCrea of Eugene served as Metcalf's defense attorney while Assistant Attorney General Darin Tweedt prosecuted the case.
The jury agreed with the three women who charged they were abused and harassed by Metcalf – Colleen Wallace Carpenter, Kimberly Wood and Sheryl Luzmoor.
District Attorney Everett Dial said the attorney general's office prosecuted Metcalf to avoid a conflict of interest had Curry County prosecutors handled the case.
Stephanie Soden, the attorney general's executive assistant, said the investigation of Metcalf was conducted by the Oregon Department of Justice, which conducted the grand jury investigation in Curry County.
"Allegations were made against the sheriff by several employees," Soden said. "As often occurs in these cases, the acting District Attorney called the Department of Justice to take over the investigation."
She said the justice department conducted the investigation, then "we presented evidence" to the grand jury "and they issued a true bill."
In handing down the sentence, Judge Barron sentenced Metcalf to 36 months' probation on each of the 11 misdemeanors and 90 days in jail for each of the four sexual abuse convictions.
He was also ordered to pay Wood $1,097 restitution.
Barron's order said Metcalf was to register as a sex offender upon his release, have no contact with the three women and not be allowed in or around the Curry County Courthouse of the Courthouse Annex. Barron also directed that Metcalf's DNA be taken.
Metcalf has been assigned a Coos County probation officer.
All three of the victims who charged they were abused and harassed by Metcalf, filed tort claims notices with the county counsel against Metcalf and Curry County. A tort claim is a notice to a government or public official that a claim will be pursued through the legal system.
Carpenter said Friday she would not follow through on her claim, "I just don't want to see him again."
The Curry Coastal Pilot was not successful in reaching the other two, although Luzmoor filed a $3 million lawsuit in Curry County District Court on Nov. 2 against the county and Metcalf. It was dismissed on Jan. 8 with court papers saying it would be transferred to a federal court.
Dial said the Curry County District Attorney's office greatly appreciated the help given in the case by the Attorney General's Office, by the Coos County District Attorney's Office, their victim's advocate's office and their sheriff.
"We have always had a good relationship with the Coos County DA office," Dial said. "We have on many occasions handled conflict cases for them and they have handled conflict cases for us. I greatly appreciate all the help they have given us from time to time."
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This is exactly why we need to STOP humanizing bills by placing a name and face on the bill. They know if you put a name, especially a childs name to a bill, it will almost 100% of the time pass.
By Carol E. Lee
TALLAHASSEE — The family of Denise Lee boarded a six-person plane at Venice airport Thursday morning and flew to the state Capitol. It was exactly three months after the 21-year-old mother of two had been kidnapped, raped, murdered and buried in a shallow, dirt grave near her North Port home.
"One day we want to be able to explain to our grandchildren and Nate's children that their momma -- that it wasn't all in vain," Denise Lee''s father, Charlotte County sheriff's Sgt. Rick Goff, said after testifying at a Senate committee meeting.
"She fought for her life and she wanted to be saved."
Goff, his daughter's husband, Nathan, her mother, Susan, and her little brother, Tyler, were in Tallahassee to lobby for a bill that state lawmakers now plan to name after Denise Lee..
Their journey is one-half of a familiar exchange. Families who have weathered tragedy increasingly find catharsis promoting legislation they believe will spare someone else their pain. Legislators, in turn, can replace dry government jargon with emotional, real-life stories that help bills get passed into law.
In Florida alone, the number of bills in the Legislature named in commemoration of a loved one has nearly tripled over the past 10 years, to about three dozen. Not all of them pass. But when grief and politics intersect, legislation tends to move faster, garner broad support and get the attention of lawmakers who see thousands of bills in a 60-day session.
"When you hear that person tell that story, you feel the difference in the room," said former Sen. Nancy Argenziano, who sponsored Jessica's Law in 2005.
The legislation strengthened Florida's sex offender laws after the murder of a 9-year-old Homosassa girl.
"There's nothing that puts a fathead legislator in their place more than when they hear something like that from a regular person who lives in the real world," Argenziano continued. "By naming it, you make the family feel that at least their child wasn't lost in vain ... and also you expedite the political process."
The Goff and Lee families believe a mishandled 911 call to the Charlotte County dispatch center cost Denise Lee her life.
They want lawmakers to adopt legislation that would create statewide standards for the training and certification of 911 operators. Their lobbying over the past 10 days has given a routine bill a sudden rush of attention.
"People expect every 911 operator to have the same training, and they just don't," said Sen. Dave Aronberg (Contact), a Democrat who represents part of Charlotte County and is sponsoring the legislation.
The Senate committee unanimously passed the bill Thursday. It will likely be introduced in both chambers of the Legislature before May 2 and is among several other bills advocated on behalf of lost loved ones this year.
Lawmakers are working on a bill to require driver education for minors that is named after Tyler Isenhour, a Manatee County student who died in a car accident shortly after receiving his license.
The House passed dating violence legislation that is named after an Ocala girl who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend. And the Amber May White Act, which would regulate the parasailing industry, has gained traction since it was renamed after the teenage girl whose death prompted it.
"Naming the bill after the victim provides a means for the public and policymakers to immediately connect the bill to an issue, a sort of shorthand for the issues the bill tries to address," said Susan Smith Howley, the director of public policy for the National Center for Victims of Crime.
Denise Lee was abducted from her North Port home on the afternoon of Jan. 17 while tending to her 6-month-old and 2-year-old sons.
Screaming and banging on the back window of her abductor's Chevrolet Camaro, Lee got the attention of a woman at a stoplight. The woman called Charlotte County's 911. But the call was never conveyed to police just blocks away searching for Lee.
Within hours, Lee was dead. Her body was found two days later less than three miles from where the 911 caller saw her screaming for help.
As her father, Goff, stood at a podium in the Senate office building and retold the story, Lee's husband, Nathan, seated in the front row, fiddled with his wedding ring and wiped tears from his eyes.
"What happened to Denise is not something that people should go through," Nathan Lee said in an interview. "If Rick and I and our family have the ability to help bring light to the issue and maybe fix some problems and make things better than what they are, then that's what I am committed to doing."
Channeling the pain and anger of losing a loved one into a cause is often the best survivors can do to find a sense of justice in it all, said Connie Ankney, head of Southwest Florida's chapter of the National Organization of Parents of Murdered Children.
"It's a healing process," said Ankney, who lobbied for change after her son and daughter-in-law were murdered in Charlotte County in 1997.
But passing bills when emotions are high does not always result in the best public policy, said Rep. Keith Fitzgerald (Contact), D-Sarasota.
"When a bill is hard to criticize because of the emotional impact, it doesn't often get the most careful scrutiny," said Fitzgerald, a political science professor at New College.
And sometimes a rush to pass emotionally charged legislation can leave unanticipated loopholes.
Jessica's Law, which required increased background checks on school employees, was revised the year after it passed because a lack of clarity led to schools banning some workers with decades-old convictions for minor drug or alcohol charges.
Argenziano, the law's sponsor, said it was better to have stronger standards adopted quickly than to wait another year for the perfect bill.
Denise Lee''s family shares a similar sentiment about the 911 bill. They want the state to require all 67 counties to adopt the training and certification standards.
But it would cost money, and the state has little of that. So for now, a state law to create a training program for dispatchers, even if it is not required, would offer the Lee and Goff families some solace.
"Unfortunately, we wish we could have all those things put in there right now, but it's got to be a step-by-step process," Nathan Lee said. "We're trying to make as much positive out of this as we can."
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Allegations targeted staff; terms of the tentative deal remain confidential
A tentative settlement has been reached in a $10 million lawsuit filed by nine former inmates of the Pocahontas Correctional Unit who allege they were sexually abused by staff.
Leading the suit is Sheron M. Montrey, a convicted murderer impregnated in 2005 by a former officer there, Bobby G. Brown Jr. He since has been convicted of having sexual relations with her.
It is a felony in Virginia for corrections officers or prison employees to have sexual relations with inmates, even if it is consensual.
Eight other women held at the 260-female inmate facility in Chesterfield County, now called the Central Virginia Correctional Unit #13, allege they were coerced into sexual acts or sexually harassed by male and female officers and one teacher.
The acts allegedly took place over several years in offices, a trailer, mailroom, dormitory, cat shelter, classroom and security checkpoint called "the White House."
William G. Shields, one of the lawyers representing the women, confirmed that a tentative settlement was reached this week in the suit filed last year in federal court. Attorneys involved said the terms are confidential.
J. Martin Tucker, spokesman for the Virginia Attorney General's office, said he could not comment.
In stories published in 2005, the Richmond Times-Dispatch first reported Montrey's pregnancy and allegations by several former Pocahontas inmates that they also had had sexual relations with employees.
The women said that such improper conduct was common, but when it was brought to the attention of authorities, those making the accusations often were transferred to other prisons.
Among the defendants in the suit are Tammy Estep, the former superintendent of Pocahontas, and Marilyn Hill, the former chief of security there. Both still are employees of the Virginia Department of Corrections.
A half dozen officers and an instructor, most if not all of them no longer state employees, also are named.
Hill could not be reached for comment. But her lawyer, John A. Gibney Jr., said, "although Major Hill believes she has done nothing wrong in this case, she is happy that the case is apparently over."
Gibney said the tentative settlement must be approved by all of the plaintiffs and by state officials. Shields said the process could take a couple of months.
Estep said in an e-mail that -- speaking only for herself -- a settlement was the only option in light of a state investigative report that was "unsupported by reliable facts" and "hearsay."
"Hearsay is admissible in federal court, and I simply had no defense," she wrote.
Estep was demoted in 2006, but she filed a grievance and won. According to the hearing officer in her grievance case, "there was overwhelming testimony that, over a period of years, sexual activity took place at this facility."
However, the hearing officer wrote, "it was clear that all levels of management in [the Department of Corrections] above [Estep] were aware of these potential safety issues as they were occurring and as they were being investigated, and nothing was being done."
The hearing officer found the Estep had not committed any policy violations.
In their suit, the Pocahontas inmates allege that "between 2003 and 2006 there was extensive and ongoing sexual abuse of inmates at the prison by various corrections officers, employees and educators working at the prison."
The women allege they were threatened with harm or reprisal, including transfers to higher-security facilities if they did not keep quiet.
"This activity was widespread and . . . known to prison officials, including Estep and Hill, who condoned these activities, helped to cover them up, and threatened and retaliated against uncooperative inmates," the suit charges.
In an affidavit, Brown, who was dropped from the suit, said that while he was at Pocahontas, "the facility was grossly understaffed. . . . There were several occasions where I had no supporting officers or sergeants and had to essentially run the entire prison myself."
Because of the staff shortage, he said officers had to rely on inmates to perform their jobs, bringing them in close contact with the women. "Thus, the officers were free to conduct sexual relationships and otherwise illegally fraternize with the inmates," he said.
Hill and Estep, Brown claims, "did nothing to investigate the many reports, rumors and recent events about illegal sexual activity until Montrey became pregnant."
"Much of the sexual activity at the prison took place either at [a] trailer, the cathouse [a shelter for rescued cats] or the mailroom, all of which were outside the prison fence," Brown said.
Estep strongly disputes Brown's allegations concerning her and questions his motives. "Bobby Brown was brought to justice for the sexual misconduct, and I helped put the case together that was used to convict him in court," Estep said.
Gibney, Hill's lawyer, said that when Hill learned of wrongful conduct, "she reacted promptly and correctly. Had this case gone to trial, we would have produced evidence that when misconduct was drawn to her attention [she] caused it to be investigated."
But Tara Desiree D'Lutz, another of the plaintiffs' lawyers, said, "It's my hope and the hope of my clients that these two women will never be able to run a prison or institution ever again."
She also said the other officers and employees involved should be prosecuted.
Montrey gave birth to a child in February 2006. Friends were given temporary custody of the baby until she was released from prison. Montrey and the baby now are doing well, Shields said.
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Another cop and another slap on the wrist. The average citizen who does the same as this man, would be in prison for a long time and on the registry for life.
ALLEGAN -- A former Lowell police officer accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy in 2002 was sentenced to 11 months in jail and five years of probation Friday in Allegan County Circuit Court.
Brandon Clare Robinson, 31, of Wyoming, was sentenced for second-degree child abuse as part of a plea agreement where prosecutors dismissed a sexual assault charge.
Allegations against Robinson surfaced last year when the teen, now 18, divulged to his sister the molestation secret he kept for five years.
The victim alleged Robinson molested him several times over at least a year at Sandy Pines Resort near Hopkins, where Robinson had a trailer.
Robinson, who resigned from the Lowell Police Department in February, had worked full time since 2005 and part time since December 2002.
Before that, he worked as a part-time deputy with the Allegan County Sheriff's Department from April 2000 to May 2002.
He had been on unpaid administrative leave before his resignation.
At Friday's sentencing, the victim talked about the molestation's harmful emotional impact, Allegan County Assistant Prosecutor Doug Ketchum said.
The child abuse conviction keeps Robinson off the state's sex-offender registry, but Ketchum said it should end any career in law enforcement.
"I would think anyone with any kind of felony conviction would not be a likely candidate for that type of job," he said.
Ketchum said it is not uncommon for victims to come forward about sexual assaults years after they occur, particularly when the victim is a child. Sometimes, they are frightened to tell anyone until they get older.
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Videos at the end.
COLUMBUS — One of the women claiming sexual harassment by a manager at Attorney General Marc Dann's office filed a criminal complaint in the case Friday.
Cindy Stankoski, 26, said that after a night of drinking with Anthony Gutierrez, the office's general services supervisor, she passed out in the bedroom of his Dublin condominium and awakened next to him with her pants unbuttoned.
"(Gutierrez) has told (Stankoski) he has done this because of his original desire to have sexual relations with her but then changed his mind and then thought it was best that he not do that," said Rex Elliott, an attorney representing Stankoski.
Columbus police said they would meet with the Special Victims Bureau to determine if a crime was committed and if it can be proven, 10TV News reported.
Gutierrez, who has been suspended in connection to the complaint, did not return 10TV News' calls for a comment.
On the same day the complaint was filed, 10 Investigates learned that Gutierrez has a record of problems behind the wheel that are connected to Dann.
Gutierrez was arrested for drunken driving just weeks before he was hired by Dann, 10 Investigates' Paul Aker reported.
Records show Gutierrez' blood-alcohol level hit .149, nearly twice the legal limit. The Ohio State Highway Patrol confirmed that Dann picked up Gutierrez after the incident.
"I can only tell you that Mr. Dann knew that Mr. Gutierrez (had) a DUI," said Ted Hart, a Dann spokesman.
A timeline of events showed that Gutierrez was arrested on Sept. 26, 2006. Gutierrez turned in his application to Dann in December that year. On Jan. 9, 2007, Gutierrez pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of reckless operation. Dann hired Gutierrez less than a month later, Aker reported.
10 Investigates found that Gutierrez never listed the incident on his official application. Hart said that Dann would not have hired Gutierrez with a DUI.
10 Investigates also learned of other problems Gutierrez had that took place in state-owned vehicles. Before an SUV named the Sunshine Express had flames on it, it suffered body damage. Records obtained by 10 Investigates showed Gutierrez apparently crashed it but skipped AG policy by failing to report the damage.
"The policy clearly states if that the vehicle is damaged that reports have to be filled out and at this point there is nothing to point," Hart said.
"What exactly Dann knew about the incident is hard to say, but one of the women who claim Gutierrez sexually harassed her, said she met Gutierrez at Dann's condominium.
Elliott told 10 Investigates she went there to confront Gutierrez for bumping into a family car and then leaving the scene.
Stay with 10TV News and 10TV.com for continuing coverage.
April 17, 2008: Technical Glitches Arise In Sexual Harassment Case
April 16, 2008: New Details Emerge In Sexual Harassment Case
April 14, 2008: Attorney General Puts Director On Leave
April 9, 2008: Attorney General Addresses Claims Against Services Director
April 8, 2008: Attorney General Staffers File Federal Complaint
April 7, 2008: Attorney General Suspends Director Amid Sexual Harassment Claims
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The state Supreme Judicial Court ruled today that a person can be charged with enticing a minor simply by sending online messages.
Lawyers for a man appealing his conviction on a child enticement charge argued that he never engaged in anything more than “sending words” over the Internet. They argued that the law required the man to do something more, such as travel to an agreed rendezvous location.
Ruling in the case of Commonwealth v. Richard Disler, the SJC disagreed, saying that a person can be charged with enticement, if, with criminal intent, they “employ words, gestures, or other means” to induce a minor to enter or stay in a vehicle, building, or outdoor space.
“There is nothing in the language [of the law] that supports the defendant’s contention that, in addition, there must be an overt act in order for the crime of child enticement to occur,” the court said.
Disler was convicted after exchanging a series of instant messages with undercover police officers who were posing as a 14-year-old girl.
The court, in an opinion written by Justice Roderick Ireland, also rejected a variety of other arguments by Disler, including claims that the statute was too vague, that it violated free speech rights, that Disler's conviction should be thrown out because the girl he was corresponding with didn’t really exist, and that he was entrapped.
“We are pleased with the decision of the SJC. The Disler case shows that the statute in question is a very useful and important tool to fight online predators who would harm children,” Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said in a statement.
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The father of a Longmont man designated by the state as a "sexually violent predator" said his son intentionally violated the terms of his parole so he could go back to prison and fight the label.
Sean Christopher Jackson, 22, turned himself in at the Boulder County Jail on Wednesday after staying out drinking with his friends four hours past his 7:30 p.m. curfew Tuesday, according to his father, Dwight Jackson.
Sean Jackson is being held at the jail without bond, and a court hearing had not been set in his case Thursday.
Dwight Jackson said his son, who was living at the family’s Longmont home, at 1706 Lashley St., following his release from prison earlier this year, has received several threats and didn’t feel safe living outside of prison anymore.
“There were two separate instances where guys were staring him down,” Dwight Jackson said. “He decided he’d be safer in jail.”
Sean Jackson had been wearing a GPS-monitoring device as another condition of his parole, and received a call from his supervising officer shortly before midnight Tuesday telling him to surrender to authorities the next day, his father said.
The technical parole violation carries a mandatory six-month prison term, Dwight Jackson said.
Sean Jackson was arrested in March 2004 at the age of 18 after two teens — ages 14 and 15 — told authorities he gave them alcohol and sexually assaulted them. He denied the accusations but pleaded guilty to lesser charges to spare a possible life sentence, his father said.
According to court records, Sean Jackson pleaded guilty to attempted sexual assault and third-degree assault and was sentenced to two years of probation. Probation officers said he was sent to prison to finish his sentence because he failed to register as a sex offender and violated other conditions of his probation, but was eventually released in January.
Dwight Jackson said Thursday that his son again violated parole also because he’ll have time to focus on fighting the label of sexually violent predator — a lifelong designation given to him not upon conviction but after a later assessment by the Colorado Parole Board.
Designated predators must register as sex offenders, and law enforcement offices must hold a public meeting every time one moves into a community.
In January, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle asked residents living nearby the Jacksons’ home to keep their eyes open for suspicious activity, but warned against engaging in “vigilante justice.”
Dwight Jackson said his son never would have agreed to the plea arrangement if he’d known the label would be applied to him following an evaluation by the Colorado Department of Corrections.
“He has a leash,” his father said. “You get a taste of freedom, but you’re not free.”
He said his son can’t find a place to live on his own, because no one wants a registered sex offender renting property.
Sean Jackson’s two sisters, ages 16 and 17, also had to leave home while he was staying there because he isn’t allowed contact with any minors, Dwight Jackson said.
He said his son plans to use the time in prison to find an attorney willing to file an appeal with the parole board.
On March 26, Gov. Bill Ritter signed into law a bill sponsored by Rep. Dianne Primavera, D-Broomfield, designed to change the way people convicted of sexual crimes receive the label.
The new law, which will not apply retroactively to Jackson, requires that the judge handing down an offender’s sentence also determine whether that person gets the sexually violent predator label.
“If they really are SVPs they need to be labeled that,” Primavera said. “But the best thing to do is to make sure the label is put on correctly ... before the person is referred” to the Department of Corrections.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Heath Urie at 303-473-1328 or firstname.lastname@example.org.