Thursday, May 29, 2008

The United States Senate Quietly Passes Another Unconstitutional Sex Offender Law

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Politco: Legislation passed without fanfare in the Senate Tuesday night would require convicted sex offenders to register their email addresses and IM screen names with a government-controlled database. The Senate version of the bill, known as the KIDS Act, is intended to make it difficult for sex offenders to join social networking Web sites like Facebook and MySpace. The act is just one of many Congress is considering as it takes aim at sex offenders. Beyond the KIDS Act, there’s the Deleting Online Predators Act, the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act, the Children's Listbroker Privacy Act, the Combating Child Exploitation Act and the Effective Child Pornography Prosecution Act. The KIDS Act (Keeping the Internet Devoid of Sexual Predators Act) is joined by the SAFE Act (Securing Adolescents From Exploitation-Online Act) and the mother of them all, the PROTECT Our Children Act (Providing Resources, Officers, and Technology to Eradicate Cyber Threats to Our Children Act).

Is there anyone else out there who thinks this all has become ridiculous?

But civil libertarians say that the bill is too broad, that it could reach convicted offenders with little chance of recidivism. “Everybody wants to keep kids safe,” says Michael Macleod-Ball, the ACLU’s chief legislative and policy counsel. But Macleod-Ball said that the bill’s policy goals have to be balanced against the rights of individuals, and that each offender’s situation should be evaluated on its own merits.

“If you’re going to affect somebody’s rights, there’s got to be a connection to some sort of legitimate public policy purpose, and there are some people that are within the realm of the Senate regimen who would fall outside of that,” he said, arguing that it “makes a little more sense if there is a specific determination that’s made by the court or by some probationary or parole process that finds an actual nexus between the restriction you trying to impose and the nature of the conviction.”

The fact is: that it is illegal for Congress to devoid any citizen of their Constitutional Rights. The application of this law is another example of unconstitutional retro-active application of "post-facto" punishment and is clearly another violation of the United States Constitution. Contact the US Senate and Congress to tell them forcefully that we will not allow them to trample the US Constitution !

OH - Revoke Adam Walsh Law and Ohio Senate Bill 10

Even if you do not live in this state, if you agree with the petition, sign it.


To: U.S. Congress, President of the United States, Ohio State Congress

While understanding the importance of protecting our nation's children against any sexual or physical assault, and while understanding that there is a wide spectrum of sex offenses beyond the highly publicized and relatively rare violent sexual assaults on children.....

In response to the Federal "Adam Walsh Act" and the Ohio "Senate Bill 10", we, the undersigned, forcefully state the following:

1. State funding for this Federal Act has not been established nor appropriated, nor have the federal mandated requirements of this bill been established.

2. The Ohio Legislature passed Senate Bill 10 in an reactionary manner in order to gain federal funds without responsibly hearing or considering public objection to this legislation. Nor has the Ohio Legislature responsibly studied the contents nor impact of this legislation.

3. Ohio Senate Bill 10 violates the ex post facto, double jeopardy, and separation of powers provisions of the Ohio Constitution and the United States Constitution. And constitutes breach of contract of original pleas of an offender.

4. Retroactive punishment of any criminal offender is a violation of State and US Constitutional Rights, relating to Ex Post Facto provisions.

5. Universal re-classification of sex offenders into federal mandated tiers without the individual review before a court of law and judge is a violation of the Separation of Powers provision of the Ohio and United States Constitutions.

6. Instating additional punishment and restriction on offenders who committed crimes up to 10 years or more ago, and after they have satisfied all legal consequences of their offense, is a violation of Double Jeopardy and Ex Post Facto provisions of the Ohio and United States Constitutional Rights.

7. That the Ohio Adam Walsh Law is an irresponsible and seriously flawed piece of legislation which should be revoked immediately, as it has already been illegally enforced beginning January 1, 2008.

8. That the Federal Adam Walsh Act is an irresponsible and seriously flawed piece of legislation which should be revoked immediately, as it has pressured states to react in a way to enact legislation which violates the United States Constitutional Rights of US citizens.

9. That Ohio Legislators who allowed this legislation to pass into law in a reactionary and irresponsible manner should be forced to resign immediately and be held accountable for their actions in any legal manner which applies.

10. That State, County and Local elected officials and employees who enacted the provisions and requirements of this unconstitutional law be likewise held accountable for their support, enacting, or defense of this law, as it violates the Ohio and United States Constitutional rights of citizens.

We, as citizens of this State and Nation forcefully state the above from the elected officials who serve as a privilege and at the pleasure of us.... the citizens.


The Undersigned

Visions of Hope

Do you have a wonderful story or one of hope for others you'd like to share? If so, you can leave your comment to this blog item, or contact us with your story you would like us to post.

We are doing this, to give others hope for the future, and so they know they are not alone and have something to look forward to.

SO PLEASE, if you have a success story to share, do it here for others to see and read.

It would be greatly appreciated!

DC - Sex Scandal Rocks US Capital

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NC - Police chief married to registered sex offender

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Roseboro — Some town residents are upset that the husband of Interim Police Chief Anita Merritt is a registered sex offender, saying her relationship with a convicted felon is a conflict of interest.

Tyrone Merritt, 36, was convicted in Massachusetts in March 2001 of taking indecent liberties with a child in connection with a May 1999 incident. He was sentenced to probation.

The incident occurred before Anita Merritt married her husband and more than three years before she joined the Roseboro Police Department in September 2004.

"Anything that happened to him has no reflection on me or my character or on my job," said Anita Merritt, who was sworn in as police chief Thursday.

"He's made one bad choice in his life, and he's paid his debt to society," she said. "Anyone who knows my husband knows he’s a wonderful man.”

The police department has known about Tyrone Merritt's conviction since his wife joined the force, Mayor Roland Hall said. But he said he first learned of the matter Wednesday while discussing Anita Merritt's salary.

None of the members of the Roseboro Board of Commissioners were aware of the conviction when they unanimously approved promoting Anita Merritt to interim police chief, Hall said. Outgoing Chief Preston Howell didn't mention it because he said there was no cause for concern, he said.

"I think he should have informed the board and myself," Hall said.

Still, the town board has no plans to discuss the matter further, he said.

"The consensus of opinion for those I've talked with is that his record should not adversely impact her ability to do her job," he said. “She has done an excellent job as a police officer in her department, and I have no complaints whatsoever about her performance."

Residents in the town of 1,500 remain split over the issue.

"I still have a problem with it," resident Ann Patterson said. "I just don't think she should be down there."

"We have to look at her. She's the one who has to be police chief," resident Hilda Royal said. "Look how long she’s been here, and it hasn’t affected her performance."

"We all err in life, but I don’t think it’s a problem,” resident Rick Melvin said.

NY - Sex, Cops and Videotape: Girl Claims Abuse

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This is basically cops viewing child porn, if it's actually true. And if it's true, they should be punished for viewing porn and more, because they are authority figures.


A 16-Year-Old Accuses Cops of Groping Her, Forcing Her to Watch Sex Tapes of Herself

In the leafy New York City bedroom community of Harrison, N.Y., typical interactions between residents and police consist of Mercedes sedans getting pulled over for speeding.

But in recent years, the placid atmosphere of the town, home to designer Kenneth Cole, Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain and Knicks guard Stephon Marbury, has been shattered by allegations of brutality, sexual abuse and fraud perpetrated by police officers.

The most recent alleged incident, which prompted a federal civil rights lawsuit accusing a veteran officer of sexually abusing a girl and forcing her to watch a sex video featuring her, has led the mayor to call an emergency session and demand the appointment of an independent monitor.

On May 17, Joseph Porto, 21, and his girlfriend, 18, claim that an officer raiding his family's home in search of marijuana fondled the then-16-year-old girl's buttocks and "placed both of his hands on [her] breasts and massaged them," according to court documents.

Detective Richard Light did this "solely for the purpose of his own sexual gratification and with the intention of both degrading and sexually abusing" the girl, says the complaint.

After Capt. Anthony Marraccini searched a bedroom and found a camcorder containing a video of the girl at age 15 having sex, three officers forced her to watch the tape with them as they mocked her, according to the complaint.

Light threatened her, saying, "I should beat your a-- for this. I hope your parents beat your a--. If someone from your house calls the cops, I will tell the cops to delay any response for 45 minutes," court documents state.

The officers took the camcorder back to the station house with them and played the video close enough to Porto's jail cell so that the young man could hear the audio while the officers laughed and made references to his girlfriend, according to the complaint.

In the lawsuit, the unidentified girl named "Jane Doe" claims that she suffered extreme emotional upset, anxiety, public humiliation, sexual abuse, among other things. She, as well as Porto, seek unspecified damages.

As a result of the lawsuit, Harrison Mayor Joan Walsh plans to hold an emergency executive session to demand that the town board authorize a full investigation by an independent investigator and to appoint an independent monitor if the allegations prove credible.

"The manner in which our residents and neighboring communities view our police department is deeply troubling to me and cannot be tolerated any longer," Walsh said in a statement e-mailed to

She added, "The civil rights and safety of Harrison residents is my foremost concern, and anything or anybody who threatens those rights or that safety must be investigated and appropriately disciplined."
- I hope you are right, and they get what anybody else who views child porn would get, and more, because they are in an authority figure role, so they should be punished more.

Steven J. Harfenist, a lawyer for the officers, said the lawsuit is completely baseless, without merit and involves fabricated allegations.

"This was a search warrant validly executed that resulted in the arrest of Mr. Porto who is doing jail time, having pled guilty to a felony on a drug-related charge," said Harfenist. He added that officers found a handgun, silencer, large amounts of cash and marijuana with a street value of $5,000 at the house.

"The tape was never played in front of her and she was not sexually molested. She was frisked in accordance with police procedures and the search went by the book," he said.

The alleged incident is just the latest scandal for the town's police department and longtime captain in recent years. Residents have mixed feelings about the force.

A neighbor of the Portos, who declined to be named, defended the police. "They are great. Allegations are just that -- allegations."

Other residents, who also declined to be named, were more critical of the police force.

"It is a scary situation," said one longtime resident. "Some of these officers think they can get away with anything -- and people in town are afraid to confront them. What are you gonna do? They're the police."

A lawyer who has not been involved in litigation with the police was also reluctant to go on the record with his comments. "There is a perception in the town and in our community that there are some bad things going on at the police department. As a citizen, I have concerns about it."

Bruno Strati, a former town board member, defended the police.

"Nothing really has been proven yet," he said. "I don't believe there's a problem with the police. They have a tough job and whenever someone gets arrested, sometimes they make allegations that don't turn out to be true."

A month and a half ago, a town employee accused Marraccini and his brother-in-law of brutally beating him outside Al Dente Bar & Restaurant. John Carollo claims that Marraccini dragged him outside while the brother-in-law kicked him in the head and face.

Carollo, who was arrested for misdemeanor drug possession, has a court appearance Friday in his drug case.

Carollo was not available for comment but his mother, Robyn Nathanson Carollo, said that her son was hospitalized for a few days after suffering a concussion and facial bruises in the beating.

Harfenist, Marraccini's lawyer, dismissed the allegations of the beating, saying, "There is no merit to the Carollo matter."

Last year, the town's police department was caught up in another scandal involving cameras and illicit images.

Marraccini, along with police Chief David Hall, was the defendant in a previous federal lawsuit filed last year, in which fellow officers accused the pair of secretly spying on officers as they changed and showered.

According to the suit, Marraccini admitted setting up the camera and to keeping locker room images of the officers on his computer.

Marraccini, who was not available for comment, told the New York Times that while he did install the camera, the other allegations against him were false. Hall, who did not return calls for comment, also denied the allegations in previous reports. That lawsuit is still pending.

The suit exposed tensions within the department because one of the plaintiffs was an 18-year veteran of the force who had accused his colleagues of racial profiling in 2004 and claimed he was later punished by being denied a promotion.

Former police union president Ralph Tancredi, another plaintiff, has sued the police department four times in federal court.

Two months after the spying lawsuit was filed, he and nine other officers sued Hall and the town over claims that the chief mishandled a $2,500 donation.

Six months later, Tancredi, who did not respond to requests for comment, sued Hall and other officers for allegedly recording conversations at the front desk of the police department.

In his last salvo against the department, Tancredi accused the police of coercion and false imprisonment after he was charged with menacing and harassing his ex-girlfriend. According to legal papers in the case, he was accused of stealing the keys to Sofia Saenz's car, fighting with her and pulling her top down while calling her a "slut" and a "whore."

Mark Reinharz, who is defending the Harrison Police Department in the spying case and the recording case, denied allegations against the police department.

"There were no violations whatsoever by any members of the police department. It's total nonsense. These are disgruntled officers who think they know how to run the police department better than the chief. Capt. Marraccini has been a decorated officer for almost 25 years."

Many of the lawsuits, including the Porto complaint, were filed by the same lawyer, Joseph Lovett, who did not return repeated calls and e-mails seeking comment.

PA - Easton council delays vote on sex offender ordinance

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More time needed to get it right, officials say. Anti-graffiti law OK'd.

Easton City Council tabled a vote Wednesday that would have effectively barred registered sex offenders from living within city limits, saying they need more time to review its effectiveness.

The ordinance would ban sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of a school, church or park, a geographic distinction that city officials say reaches all parts of the city.

The ordinance requires the city to inform local probation officers about the ban to help ensure compliance.

Council members expressed support for the measure when it was first introduced two weeks ago, but that changed Wednesday after questions were raised about some of the ban's possible unintended consequences.

Among other things, Councilwoman Elinor Warner said the targets of the ordinance should be more defined to strike a balance between protection of children and protection of civil liberties.

"There is a legal difference between sexual predators and sexual offenders, and I think it's predators, who seek out children in playgrounds and at school, who we should target," said Warner, who provided other members with a Florida statute that helped outline some of the perceived drawbacks to the proposal.

Also, council members feared the ban would deter convicted sex offenders from registering with the state, a requirement under Megan's Law.

The legislation's sponsor, councilman Ken Brown, said he welcomed the comments, but told members he still supports the ordinance.

"I want to get it right," Brown said. "But, it's something that I believe we should do."

The legislation drew a mix of criticism and support from those in attendance Wednesday.

The Rev. Sue Ruggles, of St. John's Presbyterian Church, 330 Ferry St., argued that the prohibition would create a false sense of security.

Ruggles pointed to studies that show the best method for reducing repeated incidents of sexual abuse of minors is the supervision of sex offenders, not their removal from the community.

"Under this ordinance, people who are supposed to register won't out of fear" Ruggles said. "We'll think that it's safe, when it's not."

She also said the ordinance would push rehabilitating sex offenders away from their families when they need them the most.

"The families are their rock, but they will not be able to live with them," Ruggles noted.

A woman who identified herself as a grandmother of a victim of a sexual predator applauded council for considering the ban.

"The man who did this walks these streets," she told council. "If you can save one child, is that not worth it?"

Wednesday's council meeting was also noteworthy for its location: the Easton Area Community Center, at Ninth and Washington streets.

The meeting was the first of three that city council must hold each year away from city hall under the new charter.

Council also approved the city's first anti-graffiti legislation, which gives the city the power to remove graffiti on private property and fine property owners who refuse to remove the markings.

The ordinance makes the act a crime and prohibits people from carrying aerosol cans while on public property, such as city parks or school grounds.

Any violation of the ordinance would result in a $300 fine and up to 90 days in jail.

The ordinance now requires property owners to remove graffiti within 10 days of receiving notice from the city. If the owner makes no attempt to clean the graffiti within another 10 days, the city can now go on the property, remove the graffiti and bill the owner

Mayor Sal Panto Jr. said that the city would remove graffiti using city equipment at no charge to the property owner, but would charge reluctant property owners who refuse city assistance.

"We are not trying to make victims out of victims," Panto said.

Relationships questioned in Dateline sting

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TOMS RIVER — Raising the specter of police entrapment, attorneys for some defendants rounded up in last year's televised sting of alleged child predators went before a judge Wednesday seeking information on the relationship among the television network that aired the arrests, the law-enforcement agencies that made the apprehensions and the nonprofit organization that engaged the targets of the sting in Internet and telephone chats.

A slew of lawyers representing clients who were arrested in Mantoloking as part of Dateline NBC's "To Catch a Predator" series went before Superior Court Judge Barbara Ann Villano seeking information on any agreements between Dateline NBC, the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office and other law-enforcement agencies involved in the sting, and the California-based nonprofit organization Perverted Justice.

Perverted Justice worked with Dateline NBC on online chats that resulted in 28 defendants from five states traveling to a rented beach house in Mantoloking over four days in March and April 2007, where they were arrested on charges of child luring and attempted sexual assault. Authorities allege the men went there intending to have sex with boys or girls between the ages of 12 and 15.

Two defendants have already pleaded guilty to charges related to the sting and have each been sentenced to three years in prison, and another defendant died last year of natural causes. Attorneys representing many of the remaining defendants were in court seeking orders that would help them obtain information on how the sting was conducted.

Villano indicated she would issue decisions on the attorneys' requests in writing to them early next week.

Among the information sought by the defense lawyers is the raw footage videotaped but not aired by Dateline NBC, which Senior Assistant Prosecutor Deborah Hanlon-Schron told Villano the network has refused to turn over to authorities.

Attorneys focused much of their arguments Wednesday on obtaining information on the existence of any agreements among the television show, Perverted Justice and the Prosecutor's Office. Hanlon-Schron said her office has no written agreements related to the sting, but defense attorneys insisted there must have been some memoranda about meetings or oral agreements before they would have embarked on the undercover operation.

"There had to be a written or oral agreement, or none of this would have happened," said attorney Matthew Heagen, who represents defendant Ziegfeld Rivera, 22, a pizza maker from Staten Island.

"Clearly, someone in the Prosecutor's Office agreed to allow this to occur," Heagan said.

Then-Prosecutor Thomas F. Kelaher, who is now mayor of Toms River, said on the television show — which aired in two segments in July — that the office " "agreed to do this after a lot of thought,' " Heagan said.

"How did it happen?" Heagan asked. "Who coordinated it? Who was involved? We're trying to separate Perverted Justice from Dateline NBC from the Prosecutor's Office, and they are all intertwined."

Defense attorney Stan Gregory said that information is necessary to determine whether to file motions claiming entrapment.

"The issue of entrapment becomes larger than life," Gregory said. "It may change the whole tenor of my case."

Gregory is representing James D. Marcotte, 33, a printing-press operator from Lumberton, Burlington County.

Other defense attorneys told Villano they wanted information on the people used by Perverted Justice to engage their clients in telephone and Internet chats that led to the planned meeting in Mantoloking.

Deputy Assistant Public Defender Philip Pagano said his client, Malic Washington, 28, a New York University student from Brooklyn, received a number of phone calls related to the sting, but the defense attorney said he has no information on who made the phone calls. Pagano said he wants information on how to contact the caller and what company provided the telephone service so that he can subpoena the telephone records from the company.

Pagano said calls to Perverted Justice for that information have been unanswered or met with an answering machine message.

Defense attorney William H. Buckman, representing Jeremy D. Keister, 31, a car salesman from Mifflinburg, Pa., said he also wants information on telephone service providers.

"Prior to the night my client was arrested, he spoke on the phone on a number of occasions with somebody from Perverted Justice," and was told the person he was talking to was an adult, Buckman said.

"Those conversations led up to his appearance in Ocean County, which resulted in his arrest," Buckman said.

NH - Legislative committee agrees on online predator bill

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CONCORD — A committee of House and Senate members has reached a tentative agreement on New Hampshire's Online Child Safety Act — legislation designed to protect children from online predators and child pornographers.

The bill had widespread support in both the House and Senate, but each body developed a slightly different version which had to be reconciled in conference committee.

The compromise reached Wednesday contains penalties for distributing pornography involving images of children up to age 18. That's a change from the Senate version, which set the age at 16. The compromise keeps the age at 16 for other provisions of the bill.

It also spells out how illegal images will be handled as part of court proceedings, allowing experts who testify on the images to have access while protecting against any further dissemination.

CA - Ex-SoCal officer faces federal charges

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LOS ANGELES—A former police officer from Bell was arrested Thursday on federal civil rights charges accusing him of sexually assaulting a woman while he was on duty.

Feliciano Sanchez, 33, of Pico Rivera was arrested Thursday by FBI agents. He was expected to make his initial court appearance later in the day. It wasn't immediately known if he had retained an attorney.

A two-count indictment returned Wednesday by a federal grand jury accuses Sanchez of deprivation of rights under color of law and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence. If convicted, Sanchez could face a maximum of life in prison.

The indictment said Sanchez sexually assaulted the victim last May after conducting a traffic stop. He is accused of driving the woman to a remote location and forcing her to perform a sex act. Prosecutors said Sanchez was armed during the alleged attack.

"Police officers are supposed to assist residents, not brutalize them," U.S. Attorney Thomas O'Brien said. "This indictment outlines a disturbing incident in which Officer Sanchez allegedly used his badge and gun to sexually assault a female motorist. We simply will not tolerate this kind of conduct by law enforcement officials."

Sanchez worked for the Bell Police Department for 3 1/2 years and was fired in September. The city of Bell is located about five miles southeast of Los Angeles.

PA - Sex offender ordinance back in committee

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Looks like people are finally starting to wake up in some states.


Some concerned Easton law would do more harm.

EASTON - A plan to limit where sex offenders can live stalled Wednesday over concerns the law may do more harm than good.

City council was scheduled to vote on an ordinance that would prohibit registered sex offenders and predators from living within 2,500 feet of any school, park, playground, church or child care facility, essentially making Easton off-limits.

Police were to have been responsible for enforcing the law when sex offenders register with the city.

The Rev. Susan Ruggles, pastor at St. John's Lutheran Church, cited studies that show residency restrictions often prevent offenders from registering, effectively forcing them underground and making them harder to monitor. Supervision is the best way to handle recidivism, she said.

"It's wrong. It's not going to help us," Ruggles said. "It's going to give us a false sense of security."

Residency restrictions can also separate an offender from his or her family, support group and counseling programming, Ruggles said.

"If someone serves their time, they deserve to receive counseling as much as a person who is a victim," she said, noting she has counseled both victims and offenders.

An Easton resident told council her 10-year-old grandson was sexually abused before he was a year old. She implored council to approve the ordinance.

The city needs to do whatever it can to protect the community's children, she said.

Councilwoman Elinor Warner, one of at least three council members who asked to table the ordinance, suggested the city differentiate between offenders and predators. Recidivism rates between the two differ and predators are more likely to prey on playgrounds and schools, she said.

Warner provided council with a study presented to the Florida Legislature that questioned the effectiveness of residency restrictions. For instance, the U.S. Department of Justice reported in 2000 that 93 percent of the child sexual abuse victims who reported their abuse to police knew their abuser, according to the report.

Councilman Ken Brown, who sponsored the bill, agreed to withdraw the proposal and refer it back to the public safety committee.

Reporter Edward Sieger can be reached at 610-258-7171 or by e-mail at