Thursday, May 1, 2008

FL - Police Believe D.C. Madam Committed Suicide

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I wonder if it was suicide or murder? She did have a black book and said she would come out with the names of those on her list (I think). So it would not doubt me if it was murder because someone did not want to be found out, but time will (maybe) tell.


Body Found In Florida

TARPON SPRINGS -- Police said Thursday a woman they believe to be convicted Washington escort service operator Deborah Jeane Palfrey committed suicide.

Tarpon Springs police said the body believed to be Palfrey's was found in a shed near her mother's mobile home Thursday morning. She left a suicide note, but police did not disclose its contents.

Palfrey operated Pamela Martin and Associates remotely from her home in Vallejo, Calif. The Internal Revenue Service said it raided her home in August 2006 and seized $1.5 million of her assets. The home was worth close to $500,000.

She was convicted April 15 by a federal jury of money laundering, using the mail for illegal purposes and racketeering. Prosecutors said Palfrey operated a prostitution service for 13 years, but she denied her escort service engaged in prostitution, saying that if any of the women engaged in sex acts for money, they did so without her knowledge.

Palfrey faced a maximum of 55 years in prison and was free pending her sentencing July 24.

The service catered to members of Washington's political elite, including Sen. David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican.

Her trial concluded without revealing many new details about the service or its clients. Vitter was among possible witnesses, but did not take the stand.

Vitter said last year he confessed about his indiscretions to his wife a number of years ago.

"I believe I received forgiveness from God. I know I did from Wendy," he said. "Unfortunately my admission has incurred some longtime political enemies and those hoping to profit from this situation."

Vitter is a conservative who ran for office on a platform opposing abortion and supporting a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Before being elected to the Senate, he replaced former Louisiana Democratic Rep. Bob Livingston, who resigned after rumors of numerous affairs. Vitter was critical of Livingston's behavior, and at the time said that former President Bill Clinton should have also resigned when his affair with Monica Lewinsky was made public.

"I think Livingston’s stepping down makes a very powerful argument that Clinton should resign as well and move beyond this mess,” Vitter said in a December 1998 commentary in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt played a role in exposing both men's activities.

Flynt said last year that his magazine was the first to link Vitter to an escort service operated by Palfrey.

NH - Tiered-system proposal for sex offenders undergoing major changes in Senate

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CONCORD — A sex offender bill that would incorporate a tiered system into the state law is currently under going some major changes in the Senate.

Officials from the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence are worried these amendments offered by the Senate Judiciary Committee are weakening the bill and opening up loopholes they sought to close when the bill was drafted.

Jennifer Devarie, a policy specialist with coalition, said she's disappointed but not surprised by these changes.

The bill, HB1640, was drafted so the state would come into compliance with federal legislation known as the Adam Walsh Child Protection Act. The bill would create a state tier system, provide more information to the public and help prevent sex offenders from moving to the state to take advantage of its private list.

Among the amendments recommended by the Senate Judiciary Committee include changes of which tiers certain crimes fall into, including felonious sexual assault. Under the committee's amendment those convicted of felonious sexual assault would be labeled a Tier 1 offender and could petition to be taken off the public list after five years of the required 10-year registration.

A Tier 1 offense is considered the least serious offense, while a Tier 3 is considered the most severe.

In the original draft of the bill, felonious sexual assault was a Tier 2 offense and an offender would have to wait 15 years to petition to get off the registry.

"We're very disappointed by this," said Amanda Grady of the domestic and sexual violence coalition. "They just felt that our time frames were wrong and they wanted to give people the opportunity to get off the list sooner."

Another amendment calls for moving the felony charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor from a Tier II offense to a Tier I offense. Essentially this charge means if a parent or guardian uses a child under the age of 17 to create obscene matter, such as distributing child pornography, they now must only register for 10 years, according to Devarie.

Other possible changes include reducing the time a Tier I offender must register on the public list from 15 years to 10 years, repealing the current law that requires out-of-state offenders working in New Hampshire to register the address where they are employed, and removing all aspects of the bill that would require DNA samples from every registered sex offender.

A complementary bill to HB1640 legislation, HB1613, is being put into interim study, which Devarie says, "essentially kills it." The companion bill was meant to tie up several loopholes in the current registry that may attract sex offenders from other states to New Hampshire.

These laws include proposing that law enforcement could suspend the driver's license of a noncompliant sex offender after 30 days and removing the section of the bill that changes the age where a child can participate in the creation of child pornography from 16 to 18.

"It's unfortunate we were working really hard to make our state hard on sex offenders," said State Police Detective Jill Rockey. "Hopefully we will be able to work these things out or else we're going to continue to have loopholes and that's the bottom line."

OK - Plan for sex offender center scuttled by death threat

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So why didn't this lady trace the call and have the man arrested?


By Ann Kelley - Staff Writer

SHAWNEE — A woman who planned to open a treatment center for sex offenders said she's decided not to open shop after receiving a death threat.

Holly Chandler has been under fire since residents around 1401 Highland discovered she was remodeling a former mechanics shop at that address into a counseling center for sex offenders.

She told The Oklahoman two weeks ago she planned to sell the building, but would use it until it sold. She has since changed her mind.

"I got an anonymous threat on my cell phone from a man who said if I stepped in that building, the building would burn with me in it," Chandler said. "I don't need to get hit in the head with a brick to realize the danger."

The building has been a target for vandals. Chandler said it's been shot at, windows have been broken and obscenities have been spray painted on its exterior.

Chandler said her clients are afraid to attend classes there.

"I never meant to cause a panic, but that's what this whole thing has turned into," Chandler said.

"My mission has always been to treat sex offenders as a means of keeping a community safe," she said.

Chandler said there are 99 registered sex offenders in Shawnee and 15 live in the neighborhood where complaints about her business have surfaced.

She said she is now looking to purchase a secluded piece of property outside city limits.

Chandler said the treatment sessions are for fewer that a dozen low-level sex offenders and last for one hour, once a week. She said she's been having the classes for about 10 years at various locations in Shawnee with no complaints. She has classes in 23 counties.

CT - Sex offenders often end up in homeless shelters after prison

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WATERBURY -- As Veronica Lopez packed her belongings at the St. Vincent DePaul Homeless Shelter recently, she recalled an incident at a nearby playground earlier in her two-month stay.

She said a man she believed to be mentally ill followed her and her 2-year-old daughter to the park and exposed himself. Lopez, 22, said she called the police, who arrested him, and Lopez said she hasn't seen him since.

She said she felt safe at the shelter at 114 Benedict St., though she was relieved to be moving into a studio apartment in the city.

Although it's not clear if the man had ever been convicted of a sexual offense, the incident highlights the potential dangers stemming from the release of sex offenders from prisons. They often have nowhere to go but shelters, the streets or, ultimately, back to prison.

Sex offenders like Leslie T. Williams, who left prison after 10 years and now stands accused of raping and murdering a woman in New Britain and shooting another, can find themselves in shelters when they have nowhere else to turn. Williams had stayed at two homeless shelters in Hartford after his release March 4 and before allegedly embarking on a crime spree that ended with his arrest March 30.

"Every once in a while someone will slip through the cracks," said Pat Hollman, a case worker at the St. Vincent DePaul shelter, which houses women and children as well as men. "We will give anybody a second shot except for a sex offender."

The shelter checks incoming clients against the state's online sex offender registry. Paul Iadorola, executive director of the St. Vincent DePaul Mission of Waterbury, said the shelter also bars arsonists. However, Iadorola said there can be a lag between arriving at the door and appearing on the registry. An update to the registry last week revealed two former clients to be convicted sex offenders, he said.

In addition, Iadorola said people misrepresent themselves and privacy laws prevent prison or court personnel from sharing a potential client's full mental health history.

"If the court or the parole officer is kind they will tell us," Iadorola said. "Sometimes they will just send them. That's not good to not know what you're getting in there. Sometimes there are 11 to 14 kids in there. Last summer I had 12 families and 30 kids."

Department of Correction spokesman Brian Garnett said the department would tell a shelter about the general background of a mentally ill former inmate without violating privacy laws to ensure the safety of residents and workers.

Garnett said the department works with the state police to ensure that sex offenders do not leave prison before they are registered. And he said the department does not allow sex offenders to live in shelters as part of community release programs. However, he said when they finish their sentences, they are free to live in a shelter.

"We work with folks to find housing and they might turn to a shelter as a last resort," Garnett said.

William H. Carbone, executive director of Judicial Branch's Court Support Services, supervises adult probation and said one of the first things a probation officer would do is make a convicted sex offender register with the system. In addition, he said his department works with shelters when sex offenders might need to stay there and personnel are not restricted by confidentiality to discuss their client's crimes.

On Monday, Gov. M. Jodi Rell proposed adding 15 new probation officers to improve supervision of sex offenders without permanent residences. No one responded to a recent state request for bids on housing and residential treatment services for convicted sex offenders.

"Too bad there isn't a place for them," Iadorola said. "Society being what it is isn't going to tolerate them. If you're a sex offender, they might as well drop off the face of the world. Which many of them do."

FL - Out with 128 sex offender laws, in with 1 as bad

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Well-intentioned ideas that backfire is something to be expected from, say, neighborhood volunteers who might confuse neighborhood-watch duties with vigilantism. You expect better from the Legislature. Sometimes you get worse.

The Legislature's 1993 law restricting where sexual offenders who've served their time could live, and its 2005 sequel -- the Jessica Lunsford law, luridly named for the victim of a predator -- may have been well-intentioned. They've instead proven to be poorly thought-out panders to hysteria. The laws encouraged more than 100 communities across the state to outdo each other with more foolish restrictions on offenders.

Florida forbids either predators or offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school, a child care facility, a park or playground or other places where children regularly gather. The law makes no distinction between predators, who are the more violent but much rarer type of sexual attacker, and offenders, whose misconduct usually does not involve violence and may not directly involve another person. Following the state's lead, Miami Beach extended its residency restriction to 2,500 feet. Many cities, including a half dozen in Volusia County, followed.

The result isn't a safer Florida, but a less tractable population of sex offenders and predators -- exactly the opposite of what the laws intended. Rather than abide by the restrictions, more than 1,000 offenders (out of some 47,000 predators and offenders on the state's registry) have dropped off law enforcement's radar. Other states that have mirrored Florida's draconian laws and ordinances are facing similar problems: Making no distinction between offenders (who rarely re-offend even without the draconian laws) and predators needlessly stigmatizes and alienates tens of thousands of offenders. Barring them from living in their communities prevents them from reintegrating into society, being close to their families or support systems, or holding jobs.

Courts are taking notice. In Duval County, a circuit court declared the 2,500-foot restriction unconstitutional on due process grounds. Earlier this month, a federal judge in Orlando cast doubt on the federal offender-registration law.

The Legislature is taking notice, too, but its solution is just as disturbing as the law and ordinances it's looking to reform. A bill sponsored by Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, would eliminate Florida's vigilantist mosaic of 128 different sex-offender living-restriction ordinances and impose one universal standard. The prohibition buffer from "places where children gather" would be extended to 1,500 feet. It would also create 24-hour "child protection zones" prohibiting predators and offenders from loitering within 300 feet of places where children gather. In other words, it replaces 128 misguided and counterproductive prohibitions with one big misguided and counterproductive prohibition.

More rational states do it better. Massachusetts' offender registry, for example, doesn't confuse offenders and predators. It keeps most offenders' information restricted to police files. Police track offenders and predators, including through periodic, in-person visits at the individual's address. Residency restrictions according to arbitrary buffers don't apply -- both because they're indefensible as a matter of civil liberties and practically pointless as a matter of effective public safety. But hysteria still sells for now in Florida. Aronberg's bill detects some problems, but instead of addressing them, it universalizes them.

WA - Former state trooper now a registered sex offender

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Video is available at the site.


KING COUNTY -- The former state trooper accused of sexual assault during a routine traffic stop must now register as a sex offender.

On Wednesday Carlos Torres given the maximum sentence to 12 months behind bars followed by 12 months in community custody. Torres must also have no contact with five women who told the judge he made advances against them as well.

It's been three long years for one woman who says she's been living in fear ever since being assaulted by a state trooper.

Torres was convicted of making improper sexual advance after stopping her for driving under the influence along Interstate 5 near Federal Way in 2005. The woman said Torres even made her partially undress.

"I have waited three years for this day since learning during the trial that Mr. Torres frequents Ft Lewis where I live," the victim said. "I hate feeling like I have to watch over my back wondering if he's going to drive by my house, is he going to know where I live?"

Torres has maintained his innocence and has accused the victim of making up her story to avoid arrest.

"At no time did I do anything illegal - at no time. I claim my innocence," he said.

"My father is a man that looks out for myself and all my girlfriends behind me, and has never even remotely been sexual in any way to them," his daughter said in court.

But in the end, the judge handed down the maximum sentence.

Moments later, deputies handcuffed Torres and his wife hugged him one last time before he was taken away to start serving his sentence immediately.

Torres filed an appeal on Wednesday and asked the judge to be released until then, but the judge turned down his request.

TX - Lawyer says angry father may have stabbed wrong boy

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HOUSTON - The distraught father accused of stabbing a boy he believed was a witness to a sexual assault on his daughter may have attacked the wrong person, the boy's attorney said Tuesday.

The 17-year-old high school junior spent the weekend with his parents and did not attend the party where the sexual assault allegedly took place, attorney Fernando Valdes said.

The boy was stabbed three times Monday at Wunsche High School and remained hospitalized Tuesday in good condition.

"He was not at any party at all," Valdes said. "This kid was student of the month last month. He's not some thug that runs around gang banging. He hangs around computer guys. He's a techie, a good guy getting a bad rap."

Harris County Sheriff's Sgt. Kenneth O. Thomas said investigators hadn't yet confirmed whether the boy was at the party.

"This was an unwarranted act of vigilantism," said Valdes, who said the boy knows the girl but had never before seen her father.

The man went to the school Monday with his 17-year-old daughter and wife to report the sexual assault to school administrators.

Valdes said the man spotted the boy in the school lobby, called out to him and lunged at him from behind, stabbing the boy in the chest, one hand and the abdomen.

The teenager knocked the knife out of his attacker's hand before school police subdued the man.

Spring Independent School District police arrested the girl's father and charged him with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Court records did not indicate whether he had an attorney to speak for him, and a telephone number listed for his address had been disconnected.
- Why not attempted murder?

The Associated Press is not naming the man because his daughter may have been a juvenile victim of sexual assault and could be identified through the father's name.

Court records show that the 44-year-old man had received deferred adjudication for discharging a firearm in 2001, and pleaded guilty to theft in 1990.