Saturday, May 31, 2008

IL - New Sex Offender Database in Governor's Hands

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What? I thought the sex offender registry was used for this? Now they are going to waste even more money at tax payers expense to create another registry that will not work either? I totally believe people in office are brain dead...


WSILTV -- Legislation creating a missing sex offender database is on its way to Governor Blagojevich (Contact) for approval.

Representative John Bradley says the offenders sometimes slip through the cracks, and fail to register with the proper authorities.

The measure recently passed the Senate after being held up for more than a year.

State Police already maintain a public database of registered sex offenders. This bill would create a second database on missing offenders to help coordinate efforts of police to track them down.

An estimated eight percent of Illinois sex offenders were considered missing last year.

TX - Victoria mayor, police officer indicted in leak probe

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Victoria Mayor Will Armstrong has been indicted in a widening probe accusing top city officials, including the police chief, of tampering with a criminal case against a former sheriff facing child sex charges.

Armstrong and Victoria police Lt. Ralph Buentello were indicted Friday on conspiracy and other charges tied to the investigation last year of former Victoria County Sheriff Michael Ratcliff, who was accused of sexually assaulting a teenage boy.

Earlier this week, Victoria Police Chief Bruce Ure and former city attorney David Smith were indicted on charges alleging they leaked information about the case to a local reporter.

The charges facing the four men have rattled this South Texas town and widened a rift between city leaders and Victoria County prosecutors. City officials say they became involved in the Ratcliff investigation amid concerns over a lack of progress.

"We have not been presented with any evidence indicating their actions failed to comply with the law," City Attorney Miles Risley said in Saturday's editions of the Victoria Advocate.

Risley read the statement to a crowd that included more than 50 police supporters.

Ratcliff was indicted in October on three counts of sexually assaulting a teenage boy. He was accused of offering the boy a swap of sexual favors for a nicer cell in the hospital wing when the boy was an inmate.

Prior to his arrest Friday, Armstrong had strongly defended Ure and Smith and accused District Attorney Stephen Tyler of playing politics.

Tyler has called the May 2007 trial of a Victoria police officer, who was acquitted of sexual harassment, as the start of a rift between him and Ure. Tyler was highly critical of the city for keeping the officer on the force.

Armstrong was indicted on misuse of official information and criminal conspiracy, both felonies. Buentello faces the same charges, plus he was indicted on aggravated perjury, tampering with a witness and official oppression.

Armstrong said he had been advised not to comment. Buentello said he thinks "everything is going to be fine," the newspaper reported.

The mayor, police chief and Buentello will continue working despite their indictments this week.

Tyler said the indictments prove the laws apply to everyone.

"We are all supposed to live and comport ourselves with the law," Tyler said. "All of us. No exceptions."

FL - Rape case ends after DNA test

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Sounds like this women needs to be in jail or prison for awhile, for the false allegations which could possibly ruin this man for life, which she's apparently trying to do.


A man's wife said he assaulted her twice; evidence said otherwise

BRADENTON — It was a smoking gun of sorts, a DNA-laced BB gun that was the centerpiece of a rape charge against a Bradenton man.

Brian Scott Harden's wife told prosecutors that Harden raped her twice -- including once at gunpoint. Harden was looking at spending the rest of his life in prison.

His case was marching along through the court system when his attorneys got a letter this year from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which inspected the BB gun.

There was DNA on the pistol, yes, but it did not belong to Harden. The fluid was that of another man, the felon who was dating Harden's 30-year-old wife.

"Brian was arrested by the police and exonerated by science," defense attorney Mark Lipinski said Friday.

This week, prosecutors dropped two rape charges against Harden, 32, saying the state had "no hope" of securing a conviction against him given the "depth and breadth" of false testimony from Harden's wife, who first sought rape charges in 2005. Another rape charge was added in 2006.

Harden said the thought of spending the rest of his life locked up gnawed away at him. When he closed his eyes, he saw jail bars.

"It's been a rough three years," Harden said in an interview Friday. "It's a roller coaster ride I will never forget -- and I hate roller coasters."

The state was left with the uncorroborated testimony from Harden's wife and a single, ominous voice message from Harden in which he said, according to court records: "Right now, I'm a monster and I've got to stop it."

Prosecutors filed the cases in part due to medical records from Harden's wife that showed evidence that authorities said was consistent with domestic violence victims, Assistant State Attorney Brian A. Iten said.

Harden's attorneys, Lipinski, Scarlett R. Guy and Robert L. Cook II, were thrilled the state dropped the charges. Cook said Friday that it is a rarity that DNA exonerates a criminal defendant.

"This was a big deal," Cook said. "The DNA evidence was pretty tough to get around for the prosecutor."

In November 2005, Harden's wife filed court papers seeking an injunction against Harden. She said Harden had raped her a month earlier and at other unspecified times.

A Manatee County sheriff's deputy went to talk to Harden's wife the next day to check on her well-being, according to court records.

In a supplemental statement, Harden's wife changed the date for the rape that she claimed happened in October 2005 and added another rape that she claimed happened in November 2005, prosecutors said.

"I suffered a sexual assault that was so horrible I cannot discuss it," she wrote in an affidavit.

The alleged victim, who is identified only by her initials in court papers, told sheriff's detectives that Harden held a gun to her head and forced her to have sex. Harden was accused of inserting the gun into his wife.

Harden's wife maintained the story in a deposition in September last year. But after the DNA analysis on the gun came back, she changed her story.

Circuit Judge Diana Moreland allowed Brian Harden's attorneys to re-interview the alleged victim in a deposition earlier this year.

"Had DNA never been done on the gun, would you have maintained that story that Brian Harden had sex with you ... and then assaulted you with the gun?" Lipinski asked the woman.

"Yes," the woman said, according to a transcript of the deposition.

"You would have said that at trial, too?" the defense attorney asked.

"Yes," she said.

"So you would have lied to the jury then?" Lipinski asked the alleged victim.

"Probably so," the woman replied.

"So when the gun was found and DNA was done, you felt trapped in a lie, correct?" Lipinski asked.

"Well, yes," the woman said.

Harden and his wife, who were high school sweethearts, are in the middle of a divorce that is not final. Harden has two daughters and a son.

The criminal case, however, is over.

To assure himself, Harden frequently verifies the status of the case online. "I keep checking the clerk's site to see 'closed,'" Harden said.

CA - Prison Guard Sentenced In Connection With Sex With Inmate

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Susoeff, 45, Admitted To 2007 Relations With Woman

YUBA CITY -- A 45-year-old man has been sentenced to 120 days in jail for having sex with a female prisoner while working as a guard at a privately run prison in Live Oak.

Sutter County Superior Court Judge Chris Chandler also placed 45-year-old Mark Susoeff of Linda on probation for three years.

Susoeff admitted having oral sex with the woman in January 2007 when he was working at the Leo Chesney Community Correctional Facility.

The judge called the act "beyond stupid" and "disgusting."

The minimum-security prison is run by Texas-based Cornell Companies, which has a contract with the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to house female inmates.

CA - Ex-LAPD Cop Charged With Possessing Child Porn

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Video available at the site. See this related article, which they did not mention the cops name, but this is probably the same man.


GARDEN GROVE (AP) ― A retired Los Angeles policeman has been charged with possessing child pornography, a year after he was tackled while snapping photos of young girls at the Garden Grove Strawberry Festival.

Orange County authorities say 53-year-old Ralph Lakin was arrested at his La Palma home on Friday. He was charged with a felony count of possessing child porn and eight misdemeanor counts involving child annoyance. He faces up to three years in prison if convicted.

A man tackled Lakin last year and accused him of taking suggestive pictures of his 5-year-old daughter. Prosecutors say the 11-year LAPD veteran then deleted about 150 suggestive images from his home computer -- but experts restored them, leading to the charges.

CT - West Haven considers beach ban for sex offenders

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West Haven (WTNH) - City leaders in West Haven want to keep sex offenders away from city parks and beaches, but not everyone is on board with the plan.

The banner on West Haven City Hall claims it's Connecticut's friendliest city. But the kindness only goes so far, especially when a child's safety is concerned.

"Having free reign for their prey is just a bad, bad idea," said Joe Scirappa of West Haven.

City leaders are considering a ban that would keep sex offenders off beaches, out of parks and away from schools.

Danbury and Bristol recently passed similar bans, but not everyone is behind it. Civil liberty lawyers argue the constitutional rights of the offenders would be violated. They say once the prison sentence is served and the probation fulfilled, the sex offender has every right to move about like others.

Violating their civil rights, well they violated a child or someone. You know, honestly, what rights should they have now," said mother, Christine Pimer of West Haven.

West Haven Alderman say if the proposed ban passes sex offenders would be fined $100 for violating the ban. As a former educator, Joe Scirappa says it's a matter of safety.

"I spent 35 years educating young children and it just makes my blood boil when somebody is thinking the rights of this adult who has already shown they can't make good decisions. I think...what about these young children...who's going to advocate for them if we don't," Joe said.

The sex offender ban will be discussed at a public hearing next month. There are currently 56 registered sex offenders listed in West Haven.

FL - Where is a sex offender to live?

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This is old, but shows Mark Lunsfords attitude, well, before his son was charged with a sex crime. And what about the child porn that was on his machine which mysteriously vanished and no charges were files?


Almost everybody wants them out of the neighborhood, but most people in the area live near one.

Nobody wants them.

No matter the city, no matter the street, nobody wants a sex offender in the neighborhood.

But the fact is, 9 of 10 people in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties live within a half-mile of a sex offender. With more than 2,600 offenders in the three counties, they live virtually everywhere.

These days, so does fear.

Since the murders of Jessica Lunsford and Sarah Lunde, residents have inundated the state's online database that tracks sex offenders. Phone calls to the sex offender hotline have tripled. Sex offenders' photos are popping up on street signs and telephone poles.

In Hernando County, one commissioner wants the photographs and addresses of sex criminals posted in public parks. The city of Oldsmar plans to list the Web address for the sex offender registry on water bills.

At a meeting Monday in Indian Rocks Beach, Jessica's father, Mark Lunsford, encouraged city leaders to drive sex offenders out of town.
- Funny how he says this, until his own son was charged with a sex crime, and of course got off easy with 10 days in jail and NOT on the registry. It's all in who you know. Justice for some, not all!

"They are a nuisance on society," he told city commissioners. "Tell them to get out."

As the fear mounts, hard questions arise:

Where are they supposed to go? Who is willing to take them in? And how worried should we really be about the sex offender down the street?

The stigma of being a sex offender severely limits housing options. Any residence within 1,000 feet of schools, day care centers, playgrounds, parks or school bus stops is off-limits if the crime involved a minor.

So, offenders cluster in poor neighborhoods, staying in motels, apartments, mobile homes or anywhere that will take them, according to a Times analysis of sex offender data. The clusters tend to follow major thoroughfares such as Interstate 275 in Tampa and St. Petersburg and U.S. 19 in Pinellas and west Pasco.

Sex offenders end up there not only because of their financial situation, but because laws further restrict where they can live.

A recent study of 135 sex offenders - 95 of them from Tampa - found that upon their release from prison, half had to move because of legal restrictions. Nearly a fourth said they had to sell their home because of the 1,000-foot law.

"I couldn't live in an adult mobile home park because a church was 880 feet away and had a children's class once a week," one offender said.

But sympathy for sex offenders is in short supply. If anything, most people, alarmed by recent events, want them farther away than ever.

Standing outside a friend's house on 13th Avenue in St. Petersburg, Alisha Guice looked over a map of nearby streets, dozens of purple dots marking the home of sex offenders.

"There's so many of them and they're so close," said the 24-year-old Guice, whose extended family includes many children. "I think they should all be gated up. They're sick people."

Though a common sentiment, it is nearly impossible to distance yourself from every sex offender.

"You're going to find one in just about every neighborhood," Deputy Scott Summers of the Pinellas sheriff's sex predator/offender unit said recently.

That hasn't stopped people from trying.

Treasure Island is considering putting pictures of sex offenders on the city's cable-access TV channel.

The mayor of Miami Beach proposed an ordinance this month that would add 1,500 feet to the 1,000-foot barrier around schools, playgrounds, bus stops or places children gather, making the beach community off-limits to child sex offenders.

City officials from Port Richey to Pembroke Pines have pondered similar proposals, despite questions about constitutionality. Zeal, rather than restraint, has dominated the debate.

"I don't really care where they live," North Miami resident Joe Celestin told the Miami Herald recently. "At this point I don't care if they live out of civilization."

How dangerous is the sex offender down the street?

The truth, unpopular as it may be, suggests some of the angst may be a bit overblown.

Jill S. Levenson, assistant professor at Lynn University in Boca Raton and one of the authors of the study on sex offender housing, said the Lunsford and Lunde cases are scary but also "very, very rare."

"What it looks like to the public is that every single person who has ever been convicted of a sex crime is a potential kidnapper and murderer," she said. "That just isn't the case. Not all sex offenders are the same."

As a group, they are 98 percent male, usually white, an average height of 5 feet 9 inches tall and 180 pounds. Most have brown hair, brown eyes. And, according to sex offender data, 70 percent of them have victimized a minor.

But that last figure is misleading. It lumps together, for example, a pedophile and an 18-year-old man who had sex with his underage girlfriend. On the state sex offender list, they are the same.

Hillsborough prosecutor Mike Sinacore says most offenders are not the stereotypical "rapist lurking behind the bushes."

"That's a different kind of person," he said.

Many sex offenses are crimes of opportunity in which an adult is supervising a child, he said. Frequently the victims know attackers through family or friends. Attacks by strangers are rare.

In fact, two federal government studies in the 1990s found that up to 80 percent of sex crime victims knew their attacker.

And while some experts say as many as 50 percent of sexual offenders are likely to abuse again, Wayne Porter would disagree.

Porter, a former profiler for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement who now gives polygraph tests to sex offenders in several counties, says that with supervision, the recidivism rate for sex crimes may be lower than 4 percent.

He said re-offense rates can "dramatically drop" with a combination of therapy, supervision and restrictions on where offenders live.

"Just having someone monitor their behavior and keep them in check is extremely important," he said.

Particularly, one study says, when they are in clusters.

The Colorado Department of Public Safety conducted a study in 2004 that showed sex offenders who live together, under supervision, tend to keep one another in line.

The findings were so significant that the department actually recommended having sex offenders live together.

Of course, not everyone would be willing to take on such an experiment.

John Watson is willing.

"Somebody needs to look at them with a little more compassion," the 60-year-old Tampa man says. "They've got to live somewhere."

Watson owns the Home Life Center on 138th Avenue in Tampa, a pair of rooming houses that usually are home to about 15 sex offenders, according to the state database.

Neighbors have complained.

"There's probably no other crime that's despised more than (sex crimes), even murder," Watson said. "I understand people's feelings. What are you going to do? Just isolate them somewhere and put leg braces on them? Or are you going to offer them help?"

Many people would choose the former. But sex offenders must live somewhere.

That's where people like Watson come in. He advocates strict monitoring but insists most are not repeat offenders or the violent attackers that garner media attention.

"You hear about the few that create the most problems. . . . There is another side to it," he said. "There are people that are sincerely trying to get their lives back together."

He offers the men reasonable rent and an optional Bible study each week. Most attend "because they sincerely want to."

He has found a friend in Pastor Tollie Elder of the Lutz First Church of the Nazarene. Last year, Elder began welcoming sex offenders into the congregation, which has no children.

Several members left. But most stayed. On most Sundays, the church gets half a dozen offenders, and Elder teaches a Sunday school class just for them.

"I'm not soft on sex offenders," said Elder, 68. "But we open the doors of our church to everyone that will come."

He, too, understands the hysteria that has gripped the public in recent months.

"It is justified," Elder said. "I have grandchildren that I don't want molested. All it takes is one."

But he points to people such as Watson.

Preventing even one sex offender from harming again may save some little girl's life, he says.

"That's where we're coming from."