Monday, May 12, 2008

MO - Former St. Louis County officer caught in Internet sting

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05/09/2008

A former St. Louis County police officer is now charged with trying to send pornography to a minor.

Prosecutors say David Doerhoff sent a nude photo of himself online to someone he thought was a 14-year-old girl.

That "girl" was a Maryland Heights police officer.

St. Louis County police fired the 23-year-old last month, right after his arrest.


OH - Former Logan County Deputy Sheriff Det. Jon Stout Gets A Very Special Plea Deal After Releationship With A 15 Year Old Girl

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05/12/2008

LOGAN COUNTY - More than two years of legal wrangling came to an end Thursday when former Logan County Sheriff’s Detective Jon Stout, 39, pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor charge that he intended to speed while a then 15-year-old girl rode along in 2005 in his county-owned undercover car.

See also: Deputy Sheriff Indicted By Grand Jury For Two Counts of Sexual Battery of Teen

He admitted to one count of attempted child endangering, and in exchange, prosecutors dropped charges of interference with custody, contributing to the delinquency of minors and public indecency.

The plea came after hours of back-and-forth negotiations between defense attorney Gregg Lewis and Special Prosecutor Scott Longo.

By noon, a deal was reached, but the formal plea did not come until after 2 p.m.

Both sides feared the other would appeal whatever decision would come from a two day trial before visiting Judge David Faulkner.

Steve Moody, the father of victim Stacy Moody, said afterward, “We’re one step closer to getting this behind us.”

The Moodys talked openly about their experiences after Thursday’s plea. Normally, the Examiner does not identify victims of alleged sex crimes.

“A misdemeanor is a misdemeanor at this point,” he added. “Even if he was convicted on all of the counts, he could have appealed it. “It isn’t worth putting her (Stacy) life on hold any longer.”

The plea prevented either side from presenting evidence, but both read into the record a synopsis of their case.

Mr. Longo said he would have presented evidence Mr. Stout admitted in an interview with a special investigator that he took the girl on extended car trips around the county, took her to dinners and lied to the parents.

Mr. Longo also intended to present evidence such as a hand-drawn birthday card in which Mr. Stout told then 16- year-old Stacy Moody she would have “a special spot in my heart.”

Mr. Longo believes the card shows an inappropriate relationship had developed between Mr. Stout and the girl.

Mr. Lewis said he was unaware of much of the state’s allegations and he intended to present evidence the Moodys conspired with a convicted criminal to frame Mr. Stout.

To that end, Mr. Lewis intended to introduce taped conversations with Joseph Rosebrook, an inmate at the Lebanon Correctional Facility serving a 10-year sentence for conspiracy to commit aggravated murder. Mr. Stout was credited with leading a racketeering investigation that led to Mr. Rosebrook’s conviction.

Mr. Rosebrook was transported from the prison to Logan County Jail in preparation for the trial.

Also listed as possible defense witnesses were:

• Joe Rosebrook Judd Jr., currently charged with conspiracy to commit murder;

• Terry Current, a confidential informant who told deputies about the murder plot; and

• Clarence T. Scott, a local man serving 19 years at the Pickaway Correctional Facility for two counts of aggravated robbery here and in Champaign County. Mr. Scott also was brought from prison to the county in case he was called to testify.

Mr. Lewis obtained information about the alleged setup after he requested digital copies of interviews and reports from an ongoing investigation led by sheriff’s Detective Keith LeVan.

Logan County Prosecutor Gerald Heaton approved the discovery request without consulting with Mr. Longo.

Mr. Moody and his wife, Audrey, said they do not know Mr. Rosebrook and never received any money to pursue a case against Mr. Stout.

Mr. Stout’s lawyers successfully fought off two sets of indictments on felony sexual battery charges, arguing before common pleas and appellate judges that prosecutors could not prove he was in a parental role when the alleged sex acts occurred in September 2005.

Mr. Stout was fired in November 2005 for violating departmental policies and insubordination. He had spent 18 years with the sheriff’s department first as a jailer, followed by 16 years as a road deputy and then detective. However, Sheriff Michael E. Henry never severed Mr. Stout’s commission as a lawman.

Mr. Stout has appealed his firing, but that appeal was on hold pending Thursday’s outcome.

His conviction on the misdemeanor charge will not disqualify him from continuing a career in law enforcement.

He will be sentenced at 1:30 p.m. May 29. He faces a maximum of 90 days in jail and a $750 fine.


NJ - Sea Isle police chief agrees to retire

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05/12/2008

SEA ISLE CITY - Former Police Chief William Kennedy had a sexual relationship with a subordinate he promoted, his city computer contained thousands of pornographic images and he "must be removed," according to an internal city investigation obtained by The Press of Atlantic City.

The report represents the case Sea Isle City built to fire its top-ranking law enforcement officer had he not accepted a retirement settlement earlier this month.

The city would have presented the report at a departmental hearing May 19 to support the departmental charges of conduct unbecoming an officer, misuse of public property, sexual harassment, neglect of duty, insubordination and violations of the city's ethical standards.

Kennedy faces no criminal charges.

In the report's allegations, the investigator paints a picture of a police department in shambles run by a chief who once allegedly propositioned sex in a police closet and tried to cover up the pornography on his computer.

"The irrefutable misconduct that William Kennedy has committed while serving as police chief for Sea Isle City is both shocking and overwhelming," read the report, prepared by attorney Francis Cook of Fox Rothschild LLP, the city's investigator.

"His misconduct brought disrepute to and disrupted the operations of the police department, destroyed the morale of its employees and law-enforcement personnel, obliterated the trust that the citizenry must have in a chief of police, and clearly requires his removal."

Reached at his home Saturday, Kennedy declined to comment on the allegations in the report.

Mayor Leonard Desiderio said Kennedy signed an agreement April 25 that involved his immediate retirement. The agreement had a seven-day interim period, in which he could change his mind, which expired May 2.

He is still eligible for medical benefits and could seek a pension through the state pension board, Desiderio has said.

City officials said he would have been entitled to those regardless of the city's actions, but the settlement, which drops the departmental charges, allows the city to move on.

"I'm happy this is behind us, and I'm happy we were able to achieve our ultimate goal. Now we can be back to business and hope to get rid of that cloud that's been hovering over the police station and have some sunshine," Desiderio said.

The investigation into Kennedy started in October, after Phyllis, his wife of 20 years, picked up his work cell phone, which was vibrating on the dining room table while he was asleep on a couch.

Not identifying herself, she carried on a written conversation with a police dispatcher in a sexually explicit text-message conversation that included a sexually-charged video, according to Phyllis Kennedy and the internal report.

She also took digital photographs of the messages and gave them to investigators.

After a fight with her husband over the messages, she filed a restraining order against him - a move that required him to relinquish his service weapon and eventually led the city to investigate the chief.

As the police chief and coordinator of municipal emergency management in Sea Isle City, he earned $119,333 annually, according to city documents.

Among the allegations in the city's report:

n In fall of 2006, Kennedy was having sexual relations with subordinate police dispatcher Deborah Valentine.

During that time, he promoted her to a supervisory position and gave her a private office.

"When another dispatcher sent an e-mail questioning when a 'supervisory' dispatcher position became available, Kennedy immediately responded that this was a 'temporary' position not subject to Civil Service rules and procedures, and reprimanded the dispatcher for questioning the promotion," the report alleges.

Valentine declined comment Saturday.

Valentine, who was the senior public safety telecommunicator earning $59,698 per year, was also suspended without pay in December and also resigned through a settlement with the city.

However, the city is paying her about $29,000 in back pay for the time she was suspended because her cooperation with investigators helped the city build a case against Kennedy, City Solicitor Paul Baldini said in April.

Phyllis Kennedy, a long-time city resident and a hairdresser, has said her husband and Valentine had dated for several years before their marriage.

n The report alleges that in 2006, over Valentine's repeated objections, Kennedy sent Valentine an explicit text message picture, asked her what color underwear she was wearing, propositioned her with sex in a police station closet and while in her office unzipped his pants.

n The report includes at least one unsubstantiated allegation, which a city official said was included because of the way the chief handled a situation that arose from it.

The report references a 911 call William Kennedy made Feb. 12, 2006, after his wife landed in the cold winter ocean at the 47th Street jetty.

The report alleges Phyllis Kennedy ran to the beach "after learning that Kennedy was arrested in Atlantic City for soliciting prostitution from an undercover police officer."

The Press of Atlantic City has found no record of such an arrest or charge.

Asked to respond to this allegation, Baldini said on Saturday it references Phyllis Kennedy's belief at the time and that the city found no such incident.

"The fact the wife felt that, became distraught, was on the beach - all of that was part and parcel of she felt that," Baldini said. "It's the way he handled it. He mishandled it."

Phyllis Kennedy could not be reached for this article.

The report alleges Kennedy, sometime around Nov. 2 tried to erase files on his police department computer, which contained tens of thousands of pornographic images, links to pornographic Web sites and Web sites related to soliciting of prostitutes in Atlantic City.

n The report also alleges on Nov. 5 Kennedy, after being told he was suspended, took his work computer from the police station and replaced it with a "dummy" computer. The report says officials from the county Prosecutor's Office were required to intervene and retrieve the computer from his home.

"His work computer revealed that in fact Kennedy had spent countless hours/days, including work time, viewing pornographic websites, videos and pictures on his work computer while in the police department," the report alleges.

n The report says Kennedy also disobeyed a city directive to return all city property, including his badge, at least three boxes of official police documents and records - including personnel and internal affairs files, grievances and other documents.

On Oct. 24, Phyllis Kennedy filed a temporary restraining order against her husband under the state Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. He subsequently filed one against his wife.

On Nov. 5, Sea Isle City put Kennedy and Valentine on paid leave after hiring an independent investigator.

At that time, the Cape May County Prosecutor's Office initiated an investigation that was limited to the domestic violence restraining order his wife lodged against him. That investigation said Kennedy did nothing criminal relating to the restraining order.

In December, Kennedy and Valentine were suspended without pay from their jobs pending departmental hearings.

Around that time, the city's investigator recommended the city fire Kennedy.

On Dec. 18, the Prosecutor's Office began monitoring operations at the police department following disciplinary measures pending against Kennedy and previous problems in the department, which included two officers being charged with official misconduct in separate incidents in the past two years.

Kennedy's four years as police chief were marred with controversy in this small seaside city with a population of 2,949 that swells in the summertime.

In May 2005, a child-study team director at the Sea Isle City Elementary School called 911 while Kennedy and his wife were in the school for a meeting regarding their autistic son.

The teacher Suzanne Tarasevich reported Phyllis Kennedy was yelling and being disorderly in the school, according to the 911 tape released by police.

School officials were outraged at the police response - officers were dispatched to the school but they never entered after a dispatcher called Chief Kennedy, who handed the phone to former Chief School Administrator Joanne Smith. The Prosecutor's Office later determined Kennedy handled the 911 call appropriately.

The Kennedys have been in a legal battle since 2003 with the city's only school regarding programming for their autistic son, now a fifth-grader.

Kennedy is a former Board of Education president who was removed by former Commissioner of Education William Librera in 2005 due to a conflict of interest of serving on and suing the same school board at the same time.

The case was appealed unsuccessfully to the state Board of Education and then the state appellate court.

The state Supreme Court recently heard an appeal of the case.

Kennedy was sworn in as police chief in March of 2004, then a 21-year veteran who had worked his way up from a police officer.


TX - U.S. District Judge Allows IIED Claim Against NBC "To Catch a Predator" To Go Forward

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04/18/2008

In Conradt v. NBC Universal, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York refused to dismiss NBC's motion to dismiss the plaintiff's suit for intentional infliction of emotional distress and two civil rights claims based on its actions in working with local law enforcement during filming of an episode of its television series "To Catch a Predator." Plaintiff is personal representative of her brother's estate.

As the district judge indicated, "On November 5, 2006, Louis William Conradt, Jr. ("Conradt") -- an assistant district attorney in Texas -- shot himself in his home as he was about to be arrested by the police for attempting to solicit a minor online. Waiting outside the house were members of the cast and crew of the national televison news show Dateline NBC ("Dateline"). They were there to film Conradt's arrest for a segment of "To Catch A Predator" -- a show that works with local police departments and an on-line "watchdog" group called Perverted Justice to identify and arrest "sexual predators." Apparently unable to face the humiliation of the public spectacle that faced him, Conradt took his own life. In this case, Conradt's sister, Patricia Conradt, sues defendant NBC Universal... alleging that Dateline is responsible for her brother's death and the harm to his reputation and "good name." On behalf of herself and his estate (the "Estate"), she seeks in excess of $ 100 million in compensatory and punitive damages. NBC moves, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)...to dismiss the amended complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. NBC argues, among other things, that it owed Conradt no duty to protect him from suicide and that neither it nor the police violated Conradt's rights under the Fourth Amendment to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. It alleges further that its alleged conduct was not "extreme and outrageous" in the sense required under Texas law for a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress. Although many of plaintiff's claims will be dismissed, the principal claims survive, for if the allegations of the amended complaint are proven, a reasonable jury could find that NBC crossed the line from responsible journalism to irresponsible and reckless intrusion into law enforcement. Rather than merely report on law enforcement's efforts to combat crime, NBC purportedly instigated and then placed itself squarely in the middle of a police operation, pushing the police to engage in tactics that were unnecessary and unwise, solely to generate more dramatic footage for a television show. On the facts alleged in the amended complaint, for example, a reasonable jury could find that there was no legitimate law enforcement need for a heavily armed SWAT team to extract a 56-year old prosecutor from his home when he was not accused of any actual violence and was not believed to have a gun, and that this was done solely "to sensationalize and enhance the entertainment value" of the arrest. A reasonable jury could find that by doing so, NBC created a substantial risk of suicide or other harm, and that it engaged in conduct so outrageous and extreme that no civilized society should tolerate it."

With regard to the 1983 claim, the judge wrote, "To prevail on [a] § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must show that (1) the defendant acted under color of state law and (2) the defendant's actions deprived plaintiff of her constitutional rights or privileges....As to the first element, although NBC is not a "state actor," the amended complaint alleges that the actions of the police officer must be imputed to NBC.... NBC does not dispute this allegation for purposes of this motion....Accordingly, for purposes of this motion only, I assume the first element is met. As to the second element, plaintiff alleges that Conradt's constitutional rights were violated in two respects: (1) he was subjected to an unreasonable search and seizure, in violation of the Fourth Amendment ..., and (2) he was deprived of life, liberty, and property without clue process of law, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment....

"I discuss the Fourth Amendment claim first and the Fourteenth Amendment claim second....At this early stage of the litigation, I conclude that a fair issue exists as to the reasonableness of the police officers' (and NBC's) actions in this case. Based on the allegations of the amended complaint, I conclude that a reasonable jury could find that the intrusion on Conradt's privacy substantially outweighed the promotion of legitimate governmental interests. If the facts alleged in the amended complaint are true, the intrusion was great -- Dateline was camped outside Conradt's house with cameras and crew, waiting to film his arrest for a national television show, as a SWAT team entered his home. On the other hand, the extent to which the search was necessary to promote a legitimate governmental interest is debatable. Although there are legitimate reasons for publicizing arrests...the amended complaint plausibly asserts that many of the police officers' actions were motivated not by a genuine law enforcement need, but by Dateline's desire for more sensational footage....For example, on the circumstances presented, a reasonable jury could find that the following decisions and actions of the police officers were motivated at least in part by Dateline's involvement...Certain other actions also would appear to be deviations from prudent law enforcement practice. In the operations at the sting house, for example, the police permitted Dateline to interview the suspects first, before the police interviewed them. And in his interview with Dateline after Conradt's suicide, the Murphy police chief was willing to speculate on camera as to what a forensic examination of Conradt's computers might show....Here, although the amended complaint does not allege that Dateline representatives entered the house, it does plausibly allege, in substance, that Dateline personnel were "active participants in planned activity that transformed the execution of [the warrants] into television entertainment." The amended complaint alleges that the Dateline representatives did not just have a "passive role, as observers," but that they were involved in the planning, and that, indeed, they purportedly pushed the police officers into dramatizing their actions for the benefit of the television cameras. Moreover, the amended complaint alleges that Dateline personnel trespassed onto Conradt's property. NBC steadfastly denies these allegations, but for purposes of this motion to dismiss, of course, I must assume the allegations are true. NBC argues that, even assuming the allegations of the amended complaint are true, Conradt's Fourth Amendment claim is barred as a matter of law because the police officers had arrest and search warrants that authorized them to enter the house, which thus insulated them from liability....The argument is rejected, for in the circumstances alleged here, the issuance of the warrants does not insulate the officers and NBC from liability....

"To sustain a § 1983 claim based on a Fourteenth Amendment due process violation, a plaintiff must show that (1) she possessed a liberty or property interest protected by law and (2) she was deprived of that interest without due process....In moving to dismiss this claim, NBC argues principally that under Texas law a party has no duty to prevent the suicide of another and that generally suicide is an intervening cause that breaks the chain of causation in a civil action for personal injury or wrongful death....Moreover, while acknowledging the "special relationship" cases where courts have imposed a duty on the state to protect individuals in their custody (for example, prisoners and involuntarily committed mental patients) from committing suicide, NBC argues that in those cases the state officials "'knew of a substantial risk that the detainee might commit suicide and violated the detainee's rights by responding with deliberate indifference.'"... NBC contends that here there is no allegation that anyone knew that Conradt posed a risk of suicide, as the amended complaint does not allege that Conradt threatened to commit suicide or exhibited any sign of a suicidal tendency....NBC's arguments are rejected. As an initial matter, the Estate is suing not just for the suicide, but for other injuries as well, including, for example, the invasion of Conradt's privacy, the intrusion into his home, and the public ridicule and loss of his good name....The claims for damages for these injuries are independent of the suicide (at least to some extent) and would survive even assuming the suicide were deemed an intervening cause in the chain of causation. Similarly, the manner in which the police arrested Conradt -- with the involvement of a dozen or so armed police officers -- surely presented risks other than suicide, including the risk that Conradt or someone else would be shot or otherwise injured. More importantly, with respect to the suicide, I conclude that the amended complaint alleges sufficient facts to render plausible plaintiff's claims that (1) the suicide was foreseeable, (2) the police officers had a duty to take steps to protect Conradt from taking his own life, and (3) the police officers and NBC acted with deliberate indifference and in a manner that would shock one's conscience."

...

With regard to the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, the judge wrote, "Under Texas law, to recover damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress, a plaintiff must prove that: (1) the defendant acted intentionally or recklessly; (2) the defendant's conduct was extreme and outrageous; (3) the defendant's actions caused the plaintiff emotional distress; and (4) the resulting emotional distress was severe.... In moving to dismiss the Estate's claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, NBC makes two principal arguments. First, it notes that "'a plaintiff may not assert a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress merely because of his inability to prevail on another theory of relief designed to address the gravamen of his complaint,'" and argues that plaintiff here is seeking to do just that....Both arguments are rejected. First, while intentional infliction of emotional distress is "a 'gap-filler' tort never intended to supplant or duplicate existing statutory or common-law remedies,"...it is premature to dismiss the claim on these grounds at this time. The tort was created "for the limited purpose of allowing recovery in those rare instances in which a defendant intentionally inflicts severe emotional distress in a manner so unusual that the victim has no other recognized theory of redress."...On the facts alleged in the amended complaint, plaintiff's contention that this is one of "those rare instances" is plausible. Plaintiff may very well be able to show that there is an independent basis for a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress. Moreover, I do not believe plaintiff is asserting this claim as a means to circumvent impediments to other claims, and, in fact, I have held that she may proceed with her claims under [sec. 1983]. Finally, of course, plaintiff is permitted to plead "in the alternative," under Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and she is doing so here. If NBC so desires, I will revisit this issue at the summary judgment stage, when I will be in a better position to decide whether "the gravamen of . . . plaintiff's complaint is really another tort" or claim. Id. Second, I conclude that reasonable minds could differ as to whether NBC's conduct was so "outrageous and extreme" as to exceed all possible bounds of decency....The amended complaint, however, alleges far more -- it alleges that NBC intruded into a law enforcement operation to such an extent that the police officers deviated from sound police practice, solely for the sake of creating a more dramatic television show. It alleges that what happened here was neither news nor law enforcement, but a blurring of the two with a tragic consequence -- to avoid public humiliation, an otherwise law-abiding man was shamed into committing suicide, before he had been charged by any court, before he had any opportunity to be heard. Significantly, two of the circumstances that give rise to a finding of outrageousness are arguably present here: NBC was in a position of power, both with its ability to disseminate information to the public and with its apparent influence over the police, and NBC knew or should have known that Conradt was peculiarly susceptible to emotional distress and suicide. In considering whether NBC's conduct was outrageous, a jury could take note of the fact that, as alleged in the amended complaint, NBC failed to act "ethically" and violated "numerous journalistic standards."...The reporter-subject relationship is not monitored by statute, but the profession is guided by self-enforced principles and standards of practice. Although unethical conduct, by itself, does not necessarily equate to outrageous conduct, the failure to abide by these journalistic standards may indeed be relevant to the jury's determination of whether Dateline acted in a reckless and outrageous manner. ...In the circumstances alleged in the amended complaint, a reasonable jury could find that Dateline violated some or all of these standards by failing to take steps to minimize the potential harm to Conradt, by pandering to lurid curiosity, by staging (or overly dramatizing) certain events, by paying Perverted Justice and providing equipment and other consideration to law enforcement, by failing to be judicious about publicizing allegations before the filing of charges, by advocating a cause rather than independently examining a problem, and by manufacturing the news rather than merely reporting it. In light of the consequences here, an "average member of the community" could find that NBC abused its power -- the power of the press enhanced by the involvement of law enforcement -- in reckless disregard of Conradt's rights, in a manner that overstepped "all possible bounds of decency." NBC's motion is denied to the extent it seeks dismissal of the claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress."

Read the entire ruling here. The case is Conradt v. NBC Universal, 536 F.Supp.2d 380 (S.D.N.Y.2008).


AL - Former Police Chief Pleads Guilty for Sodomy and Sexual Battery

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05/12/2008

A one-time law enforcement officer in the Wiregrass may spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Harold Frost pled guilty to two-counts of sexual battery on a person under the age of 12 and guilty on a sodomy charge.

Last summer, the one-time Kinston police chief was initially charged with rape for having sex with two girls under the age of 10.

At the time, Frost lived across the street from Kinston School.

He also worked for several other southeast Alabama law enforcement agencies since the late 1990's.

A pre-sentence investigation is underway. Frost is scheduled to be sentenced on May 29th in Elba.


MI - Michigan Teen Gets Life Sentence for 'Thrill Kill' Beheading

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05/12/2008

DETROIT — A teenager convicted of killing a man, then beheading him and setting fire to his body in what prosecutors called a thrill killing was sentenced Monday to life in prison without parole.

Jean Pierre Orlewicz, 18, didn't speak before being sentenced to the mandatory term.
"I am grateful that you are going away for the rest of your life, because in my view I believe you will kill again," Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Annette Berry said.

Orlewicz was convicted last month of first-degree murder in the Nov. 7 slaying of Daniel Sorensen, 26, in Canton Township.

Sorensen's father, James Sorensen, called the killing "the ultimate act of cowardice." As James Sorensen choked back tears, he told the court: "My son was a victim of a person seeking a trophy."

The defense had argued that Orlewicz killed the much larger Sorensen in self defense and mutilated the body because he feared reprisal by organized crime figures.

Orlewicz's lawyer, James Thomas, said will appeal the conviction and instructed Orlewicz not to speak Monday because of the appeal.

"We had a different view of this trial," Thomas said. "It was a hard-fought case."


OH - Attorney General of Ohio - Mark Dann (Resign Already!!!)


MN - Local cases challenge state sex-offender commitments

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05/12/2008

State laws and local rulings involving the indefinite civil commitment of sex offenders are being challenged with two local cases.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals will hear arguments this month in two local cases; and a Rochester defense attorney last week filed a motion challenging the constitutionality of the state law in a third case.

They are just the latest challenges filed in Minnesota and other states in the ongoing controversy over the process of keeping sex offenders in custody beyond the end of their prison sentences. Minnesota is one of 19 states with civil commitment programs. Nationally, about 2,500 sex offenders are being held indefinitely.

A New York Times report a year ago said only a small fraction of sex offenders have ever completed treatment, allowing their release. And that is noted in a recent ruling by Olmsted District Judge Kevin Lund in one of the cases involving Rochester that are being appealed.

The Olmsted County Attorney's office filed a petition for civil commitment of Robert James Tolbert, 31, in June 2007, two months before he was due to be released from prison for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old Rochester girl. There was a trial on the civil commitment petition and, in late February, Lund found that the state had proved Tolbert was sexually dangerous and met the requirements for civil commitment.

Tolbert, a native of Chicago, has been in and out of prison since about the age of 13, when he was convicted as an adult in Chicago for sexually assaulting a 4-year-old girl. Other convictions have been for drug and gang-related offenses. Court documents indicate he came to Rochester in 2001 to deal drugs and that is when he sexually assaulted the 15-year-old girl.

Judge's denial

Despite finding the state proved Tolbert meets the criteria necessary for civil commitment, Lund denied the petition, saying there is a less restrictive treatment program available that will meet Tolbert's treatment needs and satisfy public safety.

Lund also said that based on the evidence at trial, no patient has ever been discharged from confinement after being committed as either sexually psychopathic or sexually dangerous.

In fact, Lund said, the treatment facilities offered by the Minnesota Sex Offender program are not treatment facilities at all.

"These facilities are simply detention facilities,'' he said.

Lund revoked Tolbert's parole, saying that Tolbert had not compelted sex offender programming in prison, a condition of his supervised release, and ordered him back to prison. Lund said his placement is to be consistent with his sex offender treatment needs. He ordered the Department of Corrections to file a report with him every six months on Tolbert's progress in sex offender treatment. Lund said if Tolbert does not participate or make progress, he could still be committed in civil court proceedings.

The Olmsted County attorney's office immediately appealed that ruling, asking the Court of Appeals to reverse Lund's decision and commit Tolbert.

The Minnesota Department of Corrections has joined that appeal, saying Lund exceeded his authority in revoking Tolbert's parole and ordering him back to prison.

Geoffrey Hjerleid, senior assistant Olmsted County attorney, said in a written brief to the Court of Appeals, that while Lund did not specifically find a due process violation, it was a concern, based on a review of the trial record. He said the Minnesota Supreme Court and several appellate panels have consistently held that the civil commitment law does not violate due process rights.

He cited one past ruling that the law is a product of the balancing between the legitimate public concern about the danger posted by predatory sex offenders and the fundamental right of those committed to live their lives free of physical restraint.

The appeals court hears oral arguments in the Tolbert case May 29.

Another Rochester case

Before then, they will hear arguments in the county's appeal in the case of Joshua Ellringer. In February, District Judge Joseph Wieners dismissed a civil commitment petition, saying Ellringer didn't meet the requirement for civil commitment.

Ellringer was a young Rochester man who broke into residences and took female undergarments, but was never convicted of a sex crime. Wieners ruled he was not a sexually dangerous person who should be committed indefinitely.

But Wieners also noted that the issues decided in his findings involved significant legal issues, which would likely need resolution by the appeals court and which could have a "profound impact on future matters of this kind."

One of those issues was whether someone never convicted of sexual misconduct meets the criteria for indefinite civil commitment as a sexually dangerous person or sexual psychopathic personality.

More local appeals

And, last week, Rochester attorney Tedman Heim filed a notice in Olmsted District Court challenging the constitutionality of the civil commitment statutes.

That notice was in the civil commitment proceedings of Jesus Rosado Maldonado Travis, 33.

Heim and his partner, Jacob Allen, contract with Olmsted County to provide mandatory court-appointed legal services to sex offenders facing civil commitment.

Heim raises two challenges. One is that the standard of proof used for civil commitment should be "beyond a reasonable doubt," rather than the current "clear and convincing" standard. The second is that the statutes are unconstitutional and that the Minnesota Sex Offender Program is nothing more than a detention facility and not a treatment facility, that they have failed to successfully treat any of the patients in its 18-year history.

The county attorney's office filed the petition for civil commitment of Travis in December, 2005, then agreed to stay the commitment proceedings to let him try to complete the corrections department's sex-offender program. The county has now decided to move forward with the civil commitment.

Heim is arguing that using the clear and convincing standard of proof is a violation of due process. He says that the consequences of being committed as a sexually dangerous person or sexual psychopathic personality are as severe if not more severe than the consequences under the criminal process. Thus, he says, the clear and convincing standard of proof is constitutionally inadequate. Heim is asking Lund to find that the clear and convincing standard of proof is a violation of due process. He also wants to call witnesses at Travis' upcoming trial on the petition to support his argument that the sex offender program is nothing more than a detention facility.


OH - Homeless Sex Offenders

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Video is available at the site above.

05/12/2008

DAYTON -- Authorities believe some people in the Miami Valley are pretending to be homeless, but not in the way you might think. They are sex offenders who, on paper, claim they have no place to go, but in reality, officials believe many are living in local homes and apartments bypassing Ohio's sex offender registry system.

In Montgomery County, there are approximately 45 sex offenders who have registered their addresses as homeless, but authorities say there is always the chance that they are not telling the truth.

"It's definitely a loophole," said Montgomery County Chief Deputy Phil Plummer. "Half of them that (register as) homeless aren't homeless, they're just playing a game with us."

Local authorities require homeless offenders to register an intersection where they sleep. According to the Ohio Sex Offender Registration and Notification website, many homeless offenders list the Dayton intersection of Patterson and Apple, near a local homeless shelter, but others list areas like Dayton's east side, Five Oaks or the Brown Street area.

In April, Richard Smith, a sex offender who had registered himself as living near a homeless shelter, was arrested by Dayton police after he allegedly raped a young girl inside a Neal Avenue apartment complex. Authorities said Smith was living in the apartment, despite registering as homeless.

Dayton detective Jerry Dix is investigating the case.

"When (sex offenders) start to hide out like this, it’s difficult to find them," Dix said. "Just because they register as homeless, it doesn’t mean that’s what they are, most of the time they aren’t."

Investigators with the sheriff’s office look for Dayton's homeless sex offenders on a regular basis to attempt to independently verify exactly where the offenders are staying, but officials said the homeless offenders are usually not at their registered intersections.

"We know they’re not out there 24 hours a day, so they're somewhere, but we really don’t know where they go," Plummer said.

Currently, Montgomery County Chief Deputy Phil Plummer said most of Montgomery County's homeless sex offenders are in compliance, meaning they register an intersection on a regular basis. Authorities said state law allows sex offenders to stay at unregistered locations for three days without falling out of compliance, prompting some to move from location to location every three days, but officers also believe many are using the homeless façade to allow them to live at permanent residences without notifying neighbors of their criminal history.

"I think there needs to be a better way of keeping up with (homeless sex offenders) when they get out of jail because I don’t want to be living next door to one, that’s the truth," said local resident Betty Blackmon Smith.

In late April, News Center 7 investigators went along with detectives to attempt to find some of the homeless offenders. The search turned up empty. However, one alleged homeless offender, who heard News Center 7 was trying to verify his address, agreed to register his real address on the agreement that his name would not be used in this story.

"I finally got me an address," he said. "I’m about to register it right now because you guys came to my mom’s house looking for me."

Detectives questioned the man and said charges for failing to register his new address could be filed.

News Center 7 investigators also picked several homeless offenders to look for on their own. Crews went to the offenders' registered addresses on multiple occasions, both during the day and at night, but did not find the offenders registered as living there.

Local authorities believe tougher state regulations would help them be better equipped to keep track of exactly where homeless sex offenders go.

Ohio Senator Steve Austria (Email) said there are efforts in the works to specifically address the issue statewide.

"As a state, we’re trying to work with our local officials to see how we can better get a system in place to monitor where these individuals are ," Austria said.

But, not all homeless sex offenders are trying to bypass state laws.

"John," a sexual predator who served several years in prison, asked News Center 7 not to use his real name for his protection. He said he has spent the past two years without a home.

"I was sleeping under bridges and eating out of garbage cans," he said. John now has a job and is living with a friend in the Dayton area. He said he registered his new address with authorities because he does not want to go back to prison.

"I’m staying with a friend right now, so everything is looking up for me," John said.

Since initially investigating this story last month, some homeless offenders have registered new addresses.


FL - Man Commits Suicide In Jail, Police Say

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05/12/2008

JACKSONVILLE - A Putnam County man awaiting child pornography charges committed suicide in his jail cell on May 10, police said. Matthew Phillip Bowen, 28, of East Palatka, using bed sheets, hanged himself from his cell bars Saturday afternoon. Police found his body shortly before 5 p.m.

Bowen was arrested on May 7 after the Putnam County Sheriff's Office arrived at his home with a search warrant.

An Internet investigation in Martin County identified Bowen's Internet protocol address, and Martin County police alerted the Putnam Sheriff's Office.

When police searched Bowen's home, they seized several compact discs, DVDs, computer hard drives, and two laptops.

Following Bowen's arrest, Putnam County Sheriffs asked for and received an additional 20 counts of possession of photographs depicting a sexual performance by a child after recent examination of seized evidence.

Police said that they have already discovered "several hundred" images, some of children appearing as young as 5.

Bowen was being held without bond when he was served with the additional charges.


TX - Teen sex goes on trial in Williamson County

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05/06/2008



The jail



AUSTIN -- A unique and troubling legal case is unfolding in Williamson County. A young man named Jean Karlo Ponzanelli is in the county jail in Georgetown, facing a long prison term. That sentence would be followed by 10 years on the Texas Sex Offender Registry, except that, in this case, Ponzanelli stands to be deported to Mexico following his prison term.



So, what sort of crime could command such punishment?



Well, it turns out that when Ponzanelli was 17 years old, he was arrested for doing what thousands of other young people do every single day, but in his case, there was a catch. Our story begins with a telephone call from inside the Williamson County jail.



The call



When the phone rings, I'm startled. That ring has been a long time coming. Originally, I'd planned to connect with Ponzanelli in the jail, despite officials telling me that I would not be allowed to bring a camera or recording equipment inside.



For that to happen, he would have to put my name on his list of five people he wants to be allowed to visit him. According to jail policy, he can change that list only once a month.



On the appointed day, he adds my name. Yet when I arrive at the jail, the deputy at the desk tells me I won't be allowed to see the prisoner. The public information officer for the Williamson County Sheriff's Office tells me he just learned jail policy prohibits journalists from entering the jail. Family, friends and clergy are allowed only, he says.



The good news is Ponzanelli can call me, and I can record the conversation for broadcast. I get word to him through his friends and at an agreed-upon time, he calls, only to get a recorded message saying the telephone number he used for KXAN is "restricted." His call never rings on my end. We schedule another try for the following day with the same result.



At the last minute, a friend offers a speaker phone at her house, so we rush to Round Rock, set up our gear, point a microphone at the speaker and wait. The telephone rings, and I'm startled. I recover, punch a button and the long-awaited interview begins.



The story



"Hello," I say.



A recorded voice replies, "Hello, this is a collect call from---"



There's a pause, long enough for Ponzanelli to say, "Jean."



Then, the recorded voice continues, "---an inmate at the Williamson County Jail."



When Jean Ponzanelli, a Round Rock skateboard enthusiast, was 17 years old, he had consensual sex with a 13-year-old girl he knew at a Williamson County high school.



Ponzanelli tells me, "If I would have known the age, I know I wouldn't have done it. I figured she was two or three years older. I thought she was a year younger than me."



In fact, Ponzanelli says the girl actually lied about her age. But when authorities discovered the relationship, he was arrested and charged with aggravated sexual assault. Georgetown criminal defense attorney Shawn Dick helped represent him.



"Sometimes in the criminal justice system, people are viewed as numbers and statistics," Dick says. "It's much different when you are meeting the families, and you're talking to a scared, really, kid."



Prosecutors offered a plea bargain, and Ponzanelli pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of attempted sexual assault. Under a deferred adjudication agreement, he would be on probation for 10 years, pay a $2,500 fine, serve 180 days in jail and his name would appear on the Texas Sex Offender Registry.



If Ponzanelli had anything going for him at all, it was his was friend, Casey Fewell, and her mother, Jan Fewell. Both were horrified to watch his descent into a nightmare legal situation, and both are now advocating for him.



Jan Fewell's eyes swell with tears as she tells us, "I know he's not a sexual predator. I know he doesn't belong on that registry."



Back on the phone, Ponzanelli is incredulous, "I mean, there's millions of people in school having sex. Why am I the only person to have to get in trouble for it?"



"You know that for a fact?" I ask.



"Yeah," Ponzanelli snaps.



"Your friends," I press.



"Yeah, everything." Ponzanelli says.



"A lot of them are having sex?" I ask.



"Yeah," he assures me.



Jan Fewell is no longer crying. She's thoughtful and direct.



"I think that's the biggest message that people need to realize," she says. "These kids are becoming more and more sexual at an earlier age."



But the question is: Did Ponzanelli have an obligation to be sure of the girl's age?



"I don't really think they think like that," Fewell argues. "I really don't. ‘Let me see your ID,' you know, you're going to start carding your friends now?"



In any event, Ponzanelli served his jail time, but within weeks of his release, he was back behind bars, facing revocation of his parole.



On the phone, Ponzanelli's frustration is rising, "My probation officer was making me do a lot more stuff than I could. It was kind of hard having this charge and getting a job, being 18 and she was telling me to move out of my house, because I can't live within 1,000 feet or 2,000 feet of a park."



"He has to pay all these different fees and fines and what have you," Fewell says. "He works at a fast food restaurant. He hasn't even gotten a car yet. He's living at home with his mother. They add all this and then they go, ‘Oh, you've got to find another place to live.' So where is he supposed to come up with this money?"



At one point, the Fewells actually thought about letting Ponzanelli stay with them.



"I'll be honest with you," she confides, "it scared the heck out of me, thinking they're going to notify my neighbors that there's someone from the Sexual Offenders Registry living at my house."



The tears return, with a vengeance. "And now I feel horrible," she says.



"That you didn't let him move in?" I ask.



Unable to choke out an answer, Fewell just offers up a quick nod.



Believe it or not, it gets worse. On Ponzanelli's paperwork, he said he was an American citizen. Turns out, his parents brought him to the U.S. as an infant.



On the phone, Ponzanelli's voice drifts, "When I got here they told me that apparently, I'm illegal. I didn't know I was, but I guess I am."



High-profile Austin attorney Jim Sawyer tried to keep Ponzanelli from being deported to Mexico on top of everything else.



"I think being deported from a country where you live and where you are legally," he tells me, "is a hideous consequence. I can't imagine anything worse than being sent away from your home and your family for the rest of your life."



Sawyer had filed a writ of Habeas Corpus, aimed at getting Ponzanelli's guilty plea withdrawn. Were the writ to be granted, he would once more be facing the aggravated sexual assault charge, a first-degree felony, rather than the third-degree felony he pleaded to. There would be no conviction yet. At least, he would have a fighting chance.



But in the hallway, outside a state district courtroom in the Williamson County Justice Center, more trouble is brewing. Sawyer is in an intense conversation with Ponzanelli's mother. She's taking him to task, accusing him of failing to communicate enough with her. His reaction is quick and final. "I would be more comfortable withdrawing," he tells her. He excuses himself and walks away.



Things look bad, really bad.



I turn to Fewell. "Do you see any way out of this for him?"



She doesn't hesitate. "Compassion and mercy and common sense," she replies.



I'm staring at the telephone now.



"How are you getting by?" I ask Ponzanelli. "What do you tell yourself?"



His voice is weak. "Just, you know, I got to keep moving on," he says. "All I can do is keep my head up. All I can do is pray from this end."



So where does Ponzanelli go from here? Before Sawyer withdrew from the case, State District Judge Bert Carnes had scheduled another hearing in the case for June 10.



Before that hearing can occur, Ponzanelli will need a new attorney, perhaps someone appointed to represent him by the court.



As for the prosecution, I asked Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley for an interview on the Ponzanelli case. He declined.



In an e-mail, he told me, "I've read the file and think there is too much litigation pending on the issue in the Ponzanelli case for me to do an interview in any story where it is to be mentioned. I don't want to be perceived as trying to influence the outcome in any direction. You've picked a good issue to discuss. Apart from the Ponzanelli case, I would be glad to talk about it, as it is a fascinating social question that has been debated in the legislative and public arena."



The bottom line



This is not an isolated case.



Last year, a Human Rights Watch report titled, "No Easy Answers," quoted a U.S. Department of Health and Welfare study of young Americans.



According to that study, "By age 14, more than one-third of the survey's respondents reported genital play with another youth under the age of 18, and about one-fifth had started having sexual intercourse."



Meanwhile, Ponzanelli has passed his 18th and 19th birthdays in the Williamson County Jail. At this writing, he remains jailed, without an attorney.




IL - Jury Selection to Start in R. Kelly's Trial

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05/12/2008

Attorneys in R&B star R. Kelly's pornography trial to begin questioning potential jurors

Attorneys in R&B superstar R. Kelly's child pornography trial are expected to begin questioning 150 potential jurors on Monday and it's unlikely any of his fans will be chosen to hear the allegations against one of urban music's biggest stars.

The 41-year-old hitmaker, known for sexually charged hits like "Bump N' Grind," has pleaded not guilty to charges that he videotaped himself having sex with a girl as young as 13.

The selection of the 16 jurors, four of them alternates, will be key for both prosecutors and defense attorneys, said Steve Cron, a defense lawyer from Santa Monica, Calif., who has practiced for 35 years.

"In a case where a celebrity has good and bad public images, it's critical," said Cron, who has no link to the Kelly case.

It's unlikely the defense could pack the jury with R. Kelly fans, because "the prosecution should be successful in excluding them," he said.

Prosecutors may seek well-educated jurors, which could help cause if they call technical experts to speak about the videotape, he said.

When the trial gets under way, prosecutors will face a daunting challenge: The girl believed to be on the videotape, who is now 23, says it wasn't her. And Kelly's lawyers — including prominent Chicago attorney Ed Genson — haven't conceded it's Kelly in the video.

Prosecutors say the videotape was made between Jan. 1, 1998, and Nov. 1 2000, and that the girl who appears in it was born in September 1984. Kelly was indicted on pornography charges June 5, 2002, after the tape surfaced.
- Why does it take 6 years for a celebrity to even go to court, when the average citizen is in jail and in court in a lot quicker than this. Usually within a year or less. Guess it's who you know and who you are. He had 6 years to make millions to pay for his defense. How much you want to bet he will walk?

If jurors find the Grammy-winning artist guilty, he could go to prison for up to 15 years.

On the first day of the trial on Friday, Cook County Circuit Judge Vincent Gaughan addressed the potential jurors.

"As you know, this is a high-profile case," he said, according to court transcripts. "And if you don't know, God love you. You're probably the only person on earth that doesn't."

The first session lasted about 30 minutes, and reporters were not allowed to attend.

Kelly, who usually sat poker-face at pretrial hearings, smiled and said hello when the judge introduced him to the potential jurors, according to Verna Sadock, a sketch artist who was in the courtroom.

As the judge read the 14-count indictment, some of the potential jurors looked uncomfortable as he went through some of the more graphic sections, Sadock said.

Kelly's lawyers have argued that pretrial publicity has precluded the possibility of selecting an impartial jury.

Defense attorney Marc Martin cited a front-page story in Friday's Chicago Sun-Times about a possible witness. Potential jurors, he said, could not have avoided seeing the article or hearing about it on radio or television.

But the judge denied a defense motion to postpone the trial, which had already been delayed for six years, suggesting that jury selection could weed out any tainted jurors.

Selecting a jury should take about a week, and the trial itself could take several weeks.

Despite defense arguments, Cron said it is possible to find fair and impartial jurors.

"They got a jury for the Michael Jackson and O.J. Simpson trials," said Cron. "They'll find one for this trial too."

Although Kelly won a Grammy in 1997 for the gospel-like song "I Believe I Can Fly," his biggest hits are bawdy ballads like "Ignition" and his current single, "Hair Braider." He is due to release a new album in July.


OR - Missing Daughter Shows up in Internet Porn, Family Uses YouTube to Find Her

View the article here

SEE THE VIDEOS AT THE END!

05/12/2008

A Nevada mother turns to YouTube to locate her missing daughter.

SALEM - Michelle and Patrick Finger say they aren't going to stop trying to locate their daughter. She became involved with a man who turns out to be a wanted, convicted pedophile. Sadly, the only sight they catch of her now shows up on Internet porno sites.

Michelle Finger says that two years ago, her daughter Angela worked at the Monte Carlo in Las Vegas as a cage cashier, which was looked at as a solid job that had already brought her two promotions.

"She worked there for a little under 2 years. She was bright and sweet, and was very close to her family. That all changed in a heartbeat."

She says that through MySpace, two days before Mothers day 2006, her daughter met a man who said his name was Craig Raether. He said he was 27, and that his parents were killed by a drunk driver. His story didn't add up for Angela's parents, but she was interested and they seemed to have little impact on her decision to begin spending time around the man who used the name Craig Raether

It wasn't long according to Michelle, before Angela began acting odd. "She started dressing like a street girl, and acted rude to us all the time. We were fighting a lot. Fathers day came, and she took her dad out to eat, and bowling. We started talking about her brother's upcoming wedding, and I told her we would take her, I didn't want Craig there. Thats the last time I saw her. They left shortly after that not to be seen or heard from for the next year."

Angela Finger's parents said it made them crazy, and they began digging up whatever information they could. They learned that the man had a shady past and that much of what he had told them was not true. Then at the age of 46, Angela Finger's mother Michelle had a heart attack.

"I came home from the hospital more determined than ever. I put up a fake myspace with his picture, and the words 'have you seen me?' I also put his picture on classmates.com, hoping to get a hit."

She also wrote to Craig Raether on Classmates, urging that he get in contact with her. She says that three weeks later she received a reply from the REAL Craig Raether.

"He had looked me up after my email on classmates, and wrote me. He told me that the guy with my daughter and impersonating him was a childhood friend named William Smolich. I was floored, but, I did know something was off from the begining."

She says that over the next two days, they combed the Internet and found porno sites with their daughter, and movies starring her.

"I was devastated. In the weeks that followed, we called the Boulder police, who are useless, and said if I was going to keep investigating to let them know, so they wouldn't waste their time, he is wanted there."

She says she does hold the Boulder City cops responsible for this, at least in part. "He is a sexual predator they let out to do this to our family, and we want our daughter home. As of the last week, I have heard nothing, but, found more sites where she is the pin up girl. Any and all help would be so greatly appreciated! If ANYONE has any private suggestions that could help, or any questions, please let me know."

William Matthew Smolich, who also uses the name Shawn Odow and several others, is 39-years old. He stands five foot eleven and weighs approximately 195 pounds. Smolich is a white male with blonde hair and brown eyes.

Police urges anyone who sees William Matthew Smolich to call 911 and not try to apprehend this individual yourself.

His prior convictions requiring registration are Attempted Sexual Assault on a Child by one in a position of trust (F4); and Sexual Contact-no consent (M1). If you have information regarding this individual contact the Boulder County Sheriff Office at (303) 441-4444. You can also contact the FBI at 702 636-5033.

Reach Michelle Finger through her YouTube page at: http://www.youtube.com/user/furbin8r

You can also visit the blog Angela's mother Michelle set up at: http://findangela.com/?q=node/1




MO - Sex offenders left off list may be added

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Well, when the injustice system is corrupt and the laws apply to average citizens and not the elite, what do you expect. If the Constitution means nothing, then tear it up and lets announce our communist regime to the world!!!!

EVERYBODY WHO IS A SEX OFFENDER, MUST FILE A LAW SUIT TO GET THESE LAWS REPEALED, OR WE WILL CONTINUE TO HAVE MORE AND MORE DRACONIAN LAWS PASSED.

05/12/2008

Bill seeks to overturn court's decision on retroactive registration.

Their crimes predated laws that track their movements and broadcast their names, faces and offenses to the world.

But Missouri sex offenders with decades-old records might soon be told to stand and be counted, a practice that's already common in other states and seems to be gaining momentum as state legislatures seek to comply with federal law.

Last week, the Missouri House Rules Committee approved a Senate Joint Resolution that would require almost all sex offenders to register, regardless of conviction date.

The resolution seeks to upend a 2006 Missouri Supreme Court opinion that ruled retroactive registration --then common in the state -- illegal under the Missouri constitution. The decision led to the removal of more than 4,300 names from the Missouri sex offender registry.

The House might vote on the resolution as early as today. If passed, it could appear on state ballots in November.

"We're giving the citizens of Missouri an option," said Republican state Sen. Jason Crowell (Contact), a sponsor. "If we're going to have a list, everybody should be on the list.

"Sexual predators are sexual predators. Period."
- And sex offenders are sex offenders, not predators. Stop using sex offender, predator, pedophile and molester as if they are all one and the same. This is like putting all white people in prison because a few have committed some crime. It's discrimination. Not all sex offenders are equal.

Other states

Missouri is far from alone in considering the issue.

Last year, Tennessee toughened its sex offender registry laws to apply to anyone in the state who has ever been convicted of certain sex crimes. Prior to the change, only those who committed crimes after Jan. 1, 1995 -- when the state's registry law took effect -- were required to sign up.

Michigan lawmakers are mulling over a bill that would force adults convicted of criminal sexual conduct with a child to register, regardless of conviction date. Michigan enacted its registry law -- known as a Megan's Law in most states -- in October 1995, and has typically only required those convicted after that date to register.

Offenders who were in jail, on parole or on probation for their sex crimes when the law was passed also have been told to register in Michigan.

The new proposal is aimed at tracking the state's most potentially dangerous offenders, said David Law, the Republican representative who drafted the Michigan legislation.

"My concern was that I wanted to make sure we get to the worst of the worst," said Law, a former prosecutor. "Putting them on the sex offender registry is the least we can do."

The U.S. Constitution specifically bars states from passing ex post facto laws --those that punish someone for activity committed before the law was enacted. But retroactive enforcement of Megan's Laws is not a new concept.

Iowa, New York, New Jersey and a host of other states require offenders to sign up if they were on parole or probation for a sex crime when the registries took effect.

Alaska orders anyone in the state who's been convicted of a sex offense to register --a law deemed constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003. The court found Alaska's law was a civil, regulatory measure, not a punitive one.

Tracking sex offenders

States are increasingly taking a fresh look at their registry laws.

That's partially due to the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, signed into law by President Bush in 2006.

The law is designed in part to make it easier to track sex offenders moving from state to state.

To that end, it requires states to establish a uniform tier system for offenders, under which they are required to register for 15 years, 25 years or life based on their offenses.
- Yeah, but the tier system does not categorize people fairly, and not all states and counties are doing it, so basically the law is pointless. It's still a nightmare. I'd love to see all these politicians live under these same laws, then I would bet my life savings that they'd repeal these draconian laws.

The act also mandates the type of information sex offenders must provide when registering.

Such provisions have come under fire by the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, which say they go too far in regulating the lives of offenders.

"It's a fiction to say that this is a civil matter when this is, in fact, an extension of the criminal punishment," said Mike Kopie, a Chicago defense attorney and co-chair of NACDL's Sex Offender Policy Task Force. "There has to be a balance between protecting the community and the rights of people to go on with their lives."

The increased strictures mandated by the Walsh Act may prompt new challenges to the retroactive application of Megan's laws, said Michael Iacopino, also a member of the NACDL's task force.

"They're requiring sex offenders to report more often, they're requiring sex offenders to report more information," he said. "It's becoming more like a probation and parole as opposed to a regulatory system."

States are expected to comply with the Walsh Act by July 2009. Failure to do so could result in the loss of federal grant money.
- And this is the REAL REASON behind these laws, money, greed and extortion!!!

The National Conference of State Legislatures reported in March that 19 states have taken steps to comply with the act. Among them: Ohio, which has faced outcry over a provision that retroactively increased the period of time sex offenders in the state must register.

More than 3,000 offenders have filed suit to challenge the change, said Erin Rosen, an Ohio assistant attorney general.
- And this is the way it should be, every sex offender across this country should file a law suit. Contact the ACLU or a civil rights organization in your state. We must do this, or suffer the consequences, which from watching these laws the last couple years, it's going to get worse before it gets better...

Prior to the new law, the majority of Ohio's 27,000 sex offenders were required to register for 10 years, Rosen said. Now, most must register for life.
- So where are the other 24,000 sex offenders? Why have you not called them and joined in on the law suit? Contact the Ohio Justice and Policy Center and ask them what to do! NOW!!

"The goal is to close loopholes when offenders move from state to state," Rosen said. "The only feasible way to do that is an offense-based classification system."

The sticky issue of ex post facto registration requirement is unlikely to go away anytime soon.

As more states begin to look at their sex offender registry laws in light of the Walsh Act, battles over retroactive enforcement could play out throughout the country, said Charles Onley, of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers.

"Up until last year, most legislation was pretty much stable," he said. "Now, it's a moving target."


CA - Legal battle foreseen

View the article here

05/11/2008

Police, lawyers question Pomona sex-offender plan

POMONA - A new city ordinance that makes it difficult for registered sex offenders to find a place to live in the city is likely to be challenged in court, lawyers said late last week.

The ordinance prohibits registered sex offenders from living within a half-mile of such places as child-care centers, youth and community centers, museums, sports complexes, and rail stations or bus stops.

The ordinance also includes regulations that make it illegal for a sex offender to loiter within 300 feet of such places, with some exceptions.

"If I was a child molester, I would go for a restraining order," said Michael Rushford, president of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a Sacramento- based group that advocates for the legal rights of victims.
- This should say "If I was a sex offender, I would go for a restraining order," IMO. And yes, it is a good idea, everybody who is a registered sex offender should do this. The more the better chances to have the law shot down and fixed.

But despite the criticism, the City Attorney's Office thinks the ordinance is defendable. At last week's City Council meeting, Assistant City Attorney Andrew Jared told council members that the city's ordinance can be defended under state law because individual restrictions within it have already been addressed by the courts.

Pomona's ordinance makes use of language in Proposition 83, also referred to as Jessica's Law, allowing cities to adopt residency restrictions for sex offenders beyond those set by the state, according to a city staff report.

Rushford said Jessica's Law has problems and that states, including California, are seeing it challenged. Among its problems is the residential requirement, which is difficult to enforce.

For cities to go well beyond what's set in state law "is a mistake," Rushford said.

Phil Schnayerson, co-chairman of the legislative committee of the nonprofit California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, said Jessica's Law has flaws.

"The regular law as drafted is extremely Draconian. The ordinances that go beyond that are more foolish still," he said.

The state law's strength is that it calls for use of GPS systems, which aid law enforcement in monitoring the offenders, Rushford said.

Some Pomona police officers have concerns involving the ordinance's enforcement and the monitoring of offenders, said Capt. Ken Gillespie.

It's highly possible offenders will become transients, making it difficult for authorities to track them, Gillespie said.

"Right now, we have a good handle on where they are," he said. If offenders become transients, he said, police might hear from them only when they check in every 30 days.

No one wants to have a registered sex offender nearby, but "the fact of the matter is they have to live some place," Gillespie said. "Do you want the police to know where they are ... or do you want them just under the radar?"

Police expect to meet this week with representatives of the city attorney and district attorney to get answers to a variety of questions, he said.

Last week, council members asked the City Attorney's Office to provide details on how other cities with similar ordinances have enforced the regulations.

Schnayerson said one of the problems with legislation such as Pomona's is that it also penalizes those who committed low-level sexual offenses such as an 18-year-old man who had consensual intercourse with an underage girl or a person found to have pornography on a computer.

One-time, nonviolent offenders find it difficult to lead normal lives because regulations treat them as if they were violent, repeat offenders, Schnayerson said.

Decisions to create regulations such as these are made because policymakers perceive there is political value to them, he said.
- Amen! It furthers their careers and they get votes and brownie points! I wonder how many of these people have stock in the GPS market? Hmm, something someone should check on.

"There are very few people who are willing and who have the courage to say, `This is a little too broad,"' Schnayerson said.

Pomona's ordinance was fashioned after one adopted this year in Long Beach, but enforcement there has been suspended, said Cristyl Meyers, Long Beach deputy city attorney.

According to the Long Beach Press-Telegram, lawyers representing sex offenders have concerns with the regulations because the ordinance affects offenders living in the city before the adoption of the law as well as those who try to move in after.
- And this directly violates the constitutions ex post facto clause of punishment after the fact.

Pomona's regulation only affects offenders trying to move into the city after the ordinance's adoption.

Offenders already in the city would only be affected if they move within the city.


FL - Where Are Most Despised To Live?

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05/12/2008 TAMPA - No one likes them. And no one wants to be accused of defending them.

But state Sen. Dave Aronberg (Email) figured that even the most vilified members of society shouldn't be living under bridges, as a group of Miami sex offenders was doing last year because strict local laws eliminated almost all housing options for them.

So the Greenacres Democrat again pushed for a bill this legislative session that would create a uniform state standard for where certain types of sex offenders could live. If passed, the measure would have repealed standards enacted in places such as Miami Beach and New Port Richey, where sex offenders convicted of crimes against minors are prohibited from living within 2,500 feet of schools, day care centers and other places children gather.

Again, the legislation failed.

Although approved unanimously in the Senate, the bill died in the House, where lawmakers cringed at the idea of repealing popular local laws. In an election year, it was an even tougher sell, Aronberg said.

"Now, unfortunately, the problem's going to get worse before it gets better," he said.

Aronberg said he will push for the bill again next year. He will keep intact a loitering provision modeled after Hillsborough County's sex offender laws. In Hillsborough County, certain types of sex offenders are prohibited from lingering within 300 feet of places such as parks, schools and libraries.

"Legislators were shocked when I informed them that current law allows sex offenders to loiter in a park all day - to hang around a park with children all day," he said.

Sex Offender Ghettos

That part of the law didn't seem to chafe as many lawmakers as the residency restriction provision. Aronberg had proposed a uniform 1,500-foot statewide buffer; current state law dictates that sex offenders cannot live within 1,000 feet of places such as schools, although dozens of Florida cities have adopted their own, tougher laws.

In densely populated cities, having a wider buffer often leaves almost no areas where sex offenders can legally live. That can send sex offenders to nearby communities with more relaxed laws, creating what critics call sex offender ghettos.

More worrisome, sex offender rehabilitation experts say, is that it is harder for local law enforcement agencies to track down homeless offenders than those with a legitimate address.

"It's not fair for any municipality to send its problems to neighboring municipalities," Aronberg said. "This is a statewide problem. It needs to be dealt with throughout the state."

Such arguments failed to sway enough legislators, many of whom argued it was impossible to make laws against sex offenders too strict.
- Abraham Lincoln once said:

"The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly."

Issue Hits Close To Home

Leading the charge against the bill was Rep. Dan Gelber (Contact), D-Miami Beach, a father of three children younger than 10 and a resident of Miami Beach, the first U.S. city to enact 2,500-foot buffers.

"I imagine if the state of Florida could simply expel sex predators they would," Gelber said. "I've always said on this issue, I think we should push the envelope and courts will push us back as appropriate."

The conflicting opinions show how emotional the debate can be.

Jill Levenson, a researcher at Lynn University who studies sex offender laws, wrote a letter to legislators this session saying no one wants to defend sex offenders, but there's no evidence that punitive housing restrictions prevent crimes.

However, in defending his position, Gelber said a convicted sex offender was arrested this month in his neighborhood, accused of exposing himself to young women. Gelber said he regularly checks the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Web site to keep track of the offenders in his neighborhood. He has to do whatever he can, he said, to keep offenders away from children - including his own.

"I've listened to police and the rehabilitation experts. They raise legitimate issues," Gelber said. "I still believe you can't just take away local control. You have to understand one size fits all has disparate effects on different communities."

Reporter Nicola M. White can be reached at (813) 259-7616 or nwhite1@tampatrib.com.