Thursday, August 14, 2008

PA - Residents clamor for sex-offender law

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08/14/2008

Bedminster supervisors Wednesday night assured a standing-room-only crowd that they would try to have a law restricting where sex offenders can live ready to be voted on by next month's meeting.

More than 60 residents were on hand to air their concerns after learning that a convicted sexually violent predator had moved into a Fairview Road apartment.

Under Megan's Law, Bedminster police sent notification letters last week informing several residents that 30-year-old Robert Selser, convicted in 2002 and 2006 for statutory sexual assault involving a 13-year-old and 15-year-old respectively, had put down roots in the township.

Cindy Desris, who runs a day-care center near the residence, begged supervisors for help protecting her charges.

“How can I protect the little ones from that?” she asked in tears, before pointing out that Bedminster already has ordinances protecting everything from wetlands to open space.

Steve Kinney, a Fairview Avenue resident who identified himself as Selser's next-door neighbor, said he no longer allows his 16-year-old daughter to wait for the bus alone.

He echoed the sentiments of many packed into the modest meeting room, asking that an ordinance limiting where sex offenders could live be put on the fast track.

Many who showed up wanted to know what they could do to keep Selser and other sex offenders out of Bedminster. A petition showing support for a township ordinance circulated during the meeting. Residents asked the township to craft the most restrictive legislation possible and inquired about forming some sort of neighborhood crime watch.

Township officials said they too had been troubled to learn the news and that they wanted to develop an ordinance that had the best chance of standing up in court.

“We feel aggressive about this, but we don't want to be foolish,” said Eric Schaffhausen, chairman of the supervisors.

A number of municipalities in Bucks and Montgomery counties already have laws on the books limiting where sex offenders can live. Among them are Horsham, Richland, Hilltown, Quakertown, Dublin, East Rockhill and Doylestown Township.

Typically, such laws prevent offenders from living within 2,500 feet of schools, parks, playgrounds and day-care centers, but still allow some regions where sex offenders can legally reside.

Bedminster officials haven't decided what the limits will be in the township or if they will include a grandfather clause allowing sex offenders already living there to stay. According to the state's Megan's Law Web site, there are seven registered sex offenders in Bedminster now.

“It's an emotional issue,” said township solicitor John Rice, who has been involved in sex offender legislation for other municipalities, including East Rockhill.

Although many people's first response is to close the whole township to sex offenders, residency restriction ordinances must be reasonable or they run the risk of being overturned in court, he said.

Schaffhausen said he hoped supervisors would be able to vote on an ordinance at their Sept. 10 meeting, but that he couldn't make any promises.

“I want to get it right, not rushed,” he said.

Whatever happens next month, Bedminster residents could soon get some relief from their anxiety. Margery Stumpfrock, Selser's landlord, said over the weekend that she is in the process of evicting him because he lied on his application.

Stumpfrock had been willing to give Selser a second chance when she thought he had only one conviction. She later learned of his 2002 conviction.

Staff writer Hilary Bentman contributed to this report.

Theresa Hegel can be reached at 215-538-6381 or thegel@phillyburbs.com.


PA - Crusading ex-Pa. lawmaker takes in sex offenders


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08/14/2008

By MARC LEVY, Associated Press Writer

MARIETTA - A former tough-on-crime Pennsylvania lawmaker has adopted a new and unpopular cause, taking into his home three sex offenders who couldn't find a place to live — a stand that has angered neighbors, drawn pickets and touched off a zoning dispute.

As cities across the nation pass ever-tighter laws to keep out people convicted of sex crimes, Tom Armstrong said he is drawing on his religious belief in forgiveness and sheltering the three men until he can open a halfway house for sex offenders.

"I think that our system is trying to treat everybody under a particular brand and it doesn't work," he said. "And because of that we're creating housing problems, we're creating employment problems, we're creating community problems, and it's needless and it's not warranted."

Nearly 100 Pennsylvania municipalities have ordinances restricting where sex offenders may live. The ordinances generally bar them from moving in next to schools, playgrounds or other places where children might gather.

In early June, Armstrong quietly allowed a rapist and two other sex offenders who had served prison time to move into his 15-room century-old home 75 miles west of Philadelphia after another town blocked his plans for the halfway house. Soon, word got out after Armstrong's address appeared on the state Web site that lists the whereabouts of convicted sex offenders.

Residents of this former mill town of 2,700 on the Susquehanna River packed community meetings, circulated fliers with the men's mugshots and pressed officials for action.

"I understand how everybody deserves a second chance and all, but I'm not willing to risk my children and my neighbors to find out if they're rehabilitated or not," said Elizabeth Fulton, a mother of four who lives two blocks from Armstrong.

The town's zoning officer promptly taped a violation notice to the former lawmaker's door, citing an ordinance that limits the number of unrelated people who can live together. Armstrong is fighting the violation.

A Republican, Armstrong served 12 years in the Legislature before he was defeated in a primary in 2002. He was known for taking conservative positions on abortion, taxes and crime but also for his role in later years supporting prisoner rights. Over the past two decades, he also took in homeless veterans, and more recently he has been a mentor to ex-cons.

The 49-year-old insurance agent said his compassion for people he says are being treated as modern-day lepers stems in part from personal experience: Eleven years ago, he said, his brother was convicted of exposing himself to girls and was jailed.

"My evolution in this whole process, if it's meant to create positive change, then great, I'm all for that," he said.

Armstrong has a son, 19, and a daughter, 16. His son still lives with him, but his wife and daughter left to care for a sick relative and have no immediate plans to move back in, he said. The sex offenders are barred under the terms of their probation from living under the same roof with minors.

Municipalities across the country and at least a dozen states, from Georgia to Arizona, have placed limits on where sex offenders can live, sharply narrowing their options. In some cases, the rules have made entire cities off limits.

"It's what I call a tough policy that's not smart," said John Q. La Fond, a retired professor of law at the University of Missouri at Kansas City and an expert on sex offender policies.

He said there is no evidence that the laws reduce the number of offenders who commit another crime, and he said they frustrate efforts by ex-convicts to find housing, jobs and treatment.

Besides the rapist, Armstrong's guests include a man who fondled a 15-year-old neighbor girl and one who was caught with child pornography on his computer at the university library where he worked. Armstrong said they do chores around the house while they look for work and contribute whatever they can, up to $100 a month each, toward the utility bills.

He said defense attorneys and prison counselors had contacted him for help and assured him they were no threat to anyone.

When Armstrong heard pickets were planned, he put a cooler full of cold drinks on the sidewalk next to a cardboard sign with a handwritten verse from Jeremiah: "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sin no more."

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WA - Church stands by accused child molester

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08/13/2008

OAK HARBOR -- He's accused of committing dozens of sex crimes against children, but those who know him are sticking by him.

Investigators said Nathan Martinez, 21, gave a partial confession during which he admitted to some of the crimes they've uncovered.

Martinez admitted to molesting three boys and girls between the ages of 3 and 13 since June 2007. He had been babysitting the children, whom he had met at his church, at the time.

The allegations are horrendous but members of Martinez's church, the Living Faith Christian Center, is standing by his side.

"He's a member and we love him," said associate pastor Fred Burleson. "And we care for him just as much as we do for any other member. We will continue to do what we can to help him in this troubling part of his life right now."

Martinez, who told police he himself had been abused as a child for more than a decade, volunteered as a youth counselor at the church, teaching Sunday school and showing kids how to dance.

Some of the alleged victims could be members of the church, police said, but church members aren't so sure.

"Now see, we don't know that was his intention to target anyone. So we can't make that assumption ourselves," Burleson said.

The Oak Harbor man only admitted to molesting three children, but police have already identified eleven additional victims, not all of whom had been babysat by Martinez.

Police believe further investigation will reveal additional victims. Martinez lived in military housing with his sister, and there are concerns that he may have violated children who live there.

Investigators are urging anyone else with information on the case to come forward.

"It's critical. Number one, it's going to help the prosecution and identify any need the child might need, having been victimized by this individual," said Oak Harbor Police Chief Rick Wallace.

Martinez is charged with 30 counts of sex crimes including child rape and child molestation. He's being held on $250,000 bail.




OH - Nearly 4,000 Sex Offenders Challenge New Rules

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See this article, another judge, same state, declared the law unconstitutional!

WOW! The last article I saw, it was 700, now it's 4,000. Keep it up folks, every RSO in ALL states need to take this to the courts, sue, and get these laws repealed and put back to how they were, when they were working.

08/07/2008

COLUMBUS - Nearly 4,000 convicted sex offenders in Ohio are challenging a bill that would redefine the way they are classified.

10TV News talked to a convicted sex offender, who asked not to be identified, who pleaded guilty to rape when he was 29 years old.

"I made a mistake," the man said. "Every day I pay for it, every day."

The man, now 56, has served time behind bars, completed counseling and was about two years from not having to register as a sex offender, 10TV's Andy Hirsh reported.

"It's almost there," he said. "The nightmare would be over."

He recently received a letter from the attorney general's office informing him that he was reclassified as a Tier III sex offender, the most severe type under the new law. It requires him to register his address every 90 days for the rest of his life. The man is also subject to community notification wherever he lives, works or goes to school.
- And that is what is called unconstitutional, because it violates the ex post facto clause and due process of the constitution.

"I started crying," the man told 10TV News. "I just couldn't believe it."

Nearly 4,000 other sex offenders across the state are challenging the new law, claiming they are being punished a second time for their crimes.

"They're saying, 'Hey, I entered my plea of guilty under these conditions, these rules, and now you're enhancing them,'" said Franklin County Judge Charles Schneider.
- And changing the "contract" or rules of the game after the fact, violates ex post facto, plain and simple.  And the best way to get laws repealed is to enforce them strictly, and that is exactly what will happen, the sooner the better.

Schneider is one of many judges in the state trying to determine if it is fair, Hirsch reported.

"Is it constitutional to change the rules as to this individual, from those that applied when he or she entered their plea?" Schneider said.
- IF THE CONSTITUTION STILL MEANS ANYTHING, NO, IT'S UNCONSTITUTIONAL, PERIOD!

The sex offender 10TV News talked to said no.

"I'm being punished again, after my sentence is over," he said. "I'm being punished every day."

Schneider said he expects to have his decision on Senate Bill 10 cases by the end of August. It would be the first ruling in Franklin County. An appeals court in northern Ohio has ruled the new law is constitutional.
- How can they rule it constitutional when the constitution clearly states: "No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed!"

Stay with 10TV News and 10TV.com for more information.


MA - Who Cares: Limiting limits

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Yeah, we need laws limiting who can and cannot own a gun, if it protects one child it's worth it, right?  It's funny when peoples gun ownership rights are being eradicated, then they bitch and moan, because it affects them, but when someone else's rights are being eradicated, it's ok?  If we eradicate one group of peoples rights, we need to eradicate everybody's, to be fair!

08/13/2008

Falmouth - Nothing elicits e-mail like a column favoring gun control.

I’ve been hearing from the pro-gun contingent, and most of the people that I’ve heard from seemed pretty upset at my even suggesting that there should be limits placed on gun ownership. (Just for the record folks, I did not suggest, as some of you have surmised, that legally owned weapons should be taken from law-abiding citizens. And by the way, surrendering guns when there is a restraining order against an individual isn’t an opinion; it’s the law in Massachusetts.)

More than one e-mailer has passionately pointed out to me that gun ownership is a Constitutional right just like freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of worship, and cannot be restricted. But of course those freedoms are restricted. If I were to slander someone in this column I can pretty much count on being sued for libel. If I practiced polygamy as some religions allow and encourage I would be violating the law in this country.

Some limitations are generally accepted as either common sense applications of the law or as being consistent with the moral values of the vast majority. Other limitations, such as gun control continue to be controversial because some people see it as an infringement on Second Amendment rights and others see it as a way of protecting society.

Like the Second Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens against unreasonable search and seizure, has also recently been put to the test on Beacon Hill. It failed.
- They are going to keep trying and trying until they succeed, then the constitution and all our rights will be gone, and by then, it will be too late.

Last week Massachusetts became the forty-fourth state to pass a version of “Jessica’s Law,” which takes its name and mission from the 2005 rape and murder of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford by a convicted sex offender. The crime was committed in Florida, which became the first state to enact laws calling for stiffer sentencing for the rape or sexual abuse of a child.
- So why do we not have gun registries?  Tons of kids are being killed by gang violence, which involves drive by shootings.  So why not a gun registry?

Democratic State Sen. Cynthia Stone Creem, representing Norfolk and Middlesex Counties, was the lone senator to vote against the senate version of the bill. Writing in the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, Creem defended her vote, criticizing the use of mandatory sentencing in general, as being an ineffective tool that doesn’t deter crime and ties the hands of judges. It’s a view that many others share.

While the wisdom of mandatory sentencing can be debated, all can agree that someone found guilty of a heinous crime deserves a loss of freedom. But another portion of the bill affects everyone’s freedom.

Under the new law, Massachusetts police and prosecutors no longer need a subpoena to check on who you’ve been sending e-mail to and who’s been sending e-mail to you. A subpoena is still needed to read the contents of your e-mail.

Emily Lagrassa, Gov. Patrick’s director of communications said that the measure was just an “updating” of existing laws that already allow police and prosecutors to look at phone records.

Creem disputes that interpretation; describing it as giving prosecutors “sweeping new powers to demand subscriber information from both telephone companies and Internet Service Providers … and ultimately circumvent everyone’s Fourth Amendment rights.”
- Hell, why don't we just tear up the constitution and go full blown communist?  Might as well, that is where all this is heading, and nobody seems to give a rats a$$.

Remember The Patriot Acts that whittled away our rights of privacy in the name of the War on Terrorism. Now fear of pedophiles has become the new lever to pry away our rights, and fear shouldn’t be the back door to gain entry for laws that compromise the legitimate rights of the innocent.
- Like FDR once said, "All we have to fear, is fear itself!"  So with the media and politicians whipping up the frenzy and fear factor, you can bet your rights will be wiped out soon, you can count on it.

We’re concerned about the way that a measure like this has been snuck through in the name of protecting children. It gives this largely unchecked power to request this information about people who may not even know they’re being looked into,” said Chris Ott, communications manager for the Massachusetts ACLU chapter.
- And when this occurs?  Yep, we are indeed that much closer to being a communist country, if not already!

The Fourth Amendment guarantees us freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. It ensures that law enforcement agents can’t go snooping into our personal effects without just cause. The bill that the Gov. Deval Patrick signed gives police and prosecutors permission to violate that right.
- And if they dug into every citizens stuff, we'd all be in prison!  Why do you think we are growing as a prison nation?  Think about it!

Imposed limits on our freedom must exist if we wish to avoid anarchy. However, those limits must have their own limits and the threshold should be just cause, not just because.

If you have an idea for a “Who Cares” column, you can call Joe Burns at 508-375-4936 or e-mail him at jburns@cnc.com.


CA - Our View: Time to repeal Jessica's law

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People need to follow the money trail.  People are getting rich off the backs of sex offenders and the fear the media and politicians are spreading.  I wonder who has stocks in the GPS and other markets?

08/14/2008

By now it should be apparent that California voters made a serious mistake when they passed Proposition 83, the 2006 ballot initiative popularly known as Jessica's law.

The law requires lifetime monitoring of sex offenders -- not only those charged with child sexual abuse and rapists whose victims were adults, but also those convicted of consensual sex with a teenager and even misdemeanor indecent exposure.

It bars offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park.

By the end of 2007, it was obvious that the law was a failure. Almost no local police agencies in California were enforcing it, partly because it was unenforceable and partly because even trying to enforce it proved prohibitively expensive.

Now the Los Angeles Times has added still more evidence of the law's failure. In addition to its monitoring requirements, Proposition 83 also established a system of mandatory psychological evaluations for sex offenders.

Like most other things about this law, that sounds like a good idea in theory.

In practice, as the Times reported, it has led to the state contracting with 79 psychologists and psychiatrists to do the evaluations.

Last year, 14 of them billed the state more than a half-million dollars apiece for those services. One billed the state for more than $1.5 million in 2007.

Such payments to contractors might be worthwhile if the evaluations were producing clear benefits. But it isn't.

The evaluations were supposed to be used to determine if sex offenders should be committed to a mental hospital after serving their sentences.

But the Times found that the number of commitments was essentially the same for the 18-month periods before and after voters approved the law.

The mounting evidence that this law is a failure is likely to produce new efforts to amend it.

Such efforts are a waste. This law is flawed beyond repair.

It's time to acknowledge the failure of good intentions and repeal Jessica's Law.


NJ - Towns look into repealing sex offender residency laws

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08/14/2008

Appeals court rules state should oversee regulations

MILLSTONE — A sex offender residency ordinance, passed in 2005, will have to be repealed, based on a recent court decision.

At the Aug. 6 Township Committee meeting, Township Attorney Duane Davison explained that a state appeals court ruled that municipalities do not have the power to adopt sex offender residency ordinances.

By adopting Megan's Law, the state took over sex offender regulations, according to Davison. Megan's Law, named for 7-year-old Megan Kanka, a New Jersey girl who was raped and murdered by a neighbor, took effect in 1994 and mandates that offenders register with police and notify officers when they change addresses.

Davison said that Cherry Hill, one of the municipalities involved in the case that went before the appellate court, has said it would appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. However, chances of the Supreme Court hearing the appeal are 1 in 10, Davison said.

"In my opinion, the chances that the Supreme Court will agree with the Appellate Division are extremely high," he said.

Davison recommended repealing the township's sex offender residency ordinance so Millstone does not end up with litigation.

Mayor Nancy Grbelja said the Township Committee would introduce an ordinance to repeal the sex offender residency ordinance at its Aug. 20 meeting.

Millstone's 2005 ordinance prohibits registered sex offenders from living in certain areas of the township. The ordinance states that a registered sex offender who has entered into a lease in a prohibited area prior to the effective date of the ordinance would have up to one year to relocate. Offenders who failed to move out of a prohibited area within the prescribed time could fall subject to a maximum penalty of $1,250 in fines, 90 days of imprisonment and 90 days of community service, according to the ordinance.

In its decision, the appellate court said it found strong evidence that such ordinances substantially interfere with the ability of parole officers to carry out their statutorily mandated function of finding the most appropriate housing for certified sex offenders. In many cases, the most appropriate housing would be in a location prohibited by the residency restriction ordinances, according to the decision.

"We conclude that the residency restriction ordinances conflict with the policies and operational effect of the statewide scheme implemented by Megan's Law, which was intended, both expressly and impliedly, to be exclusive in the field," the decision states. "The subject matter reflects a need for statewide uniformity. The ordinances interferewith and frustrate the purposes and operation of the statewide scheme."

Neighboring Upper Freehold Township, which also has a municipal sex offender ordinance, is expected to discuss the issue at its Sept. 25 workshop meeting, according to Mayor Steve Alexander.