Monday, September 15, 2008

CA - Without address, sex offender on a legal roundabout

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Sounds to me like they are just picking on him for some reason. He was in jail, and they charged him again with failure to register. WTF?

09/15/2008

Maybe Jack Miner likes to play cat and mouse with the police.

The homeless man was convicted of misdemeanor sexual battery involving a 10-year-old girl in 2000. But since then he has racked up far more time than his original jail sentence by repeatedly failing to register as a sex offender.

Miner is a puzzle for law enforcement, even though he is not the kind of criminal who gets labeled as a predator or ends up among the 63,000 sex offenders listed on the Megan's law Web site maintained by the California Department of Justice.

Although he doesn't have a home, two jurisdictions have charged Miner with failing to register as a sex offender.

And even though authorities know that Miner has been in jail in San Jose since July 2, a judge in Modesto signed a bench warrant Aug. 13 for his arrest, because Miner did not show up in Stanislaus County Superior Court to explain why he hasn't shared his address.

Deputy Public Defender Peter Stavrianoudakis, who represented Miner but never has met him, said odd situations frequently crop up as law enforcement agencies seek to enforce sex offender registration laws.

"It doesn't make much sense," he said. "It's absolutely ridiculous."

Chief Probation Officer Jerry Powers, whose agency started the latest round of litigation, said Miner's status as a sex offender must have put him on the radar, because most people with misdemeanor convictions are able to violate their probation without getting any attention at all.

"I don't have the personnel, quite frankly, to go and monitor misdemeanants," he said.

Miner is among 22,000 sex offenders statewide who must register with authorities but do not end up in a database that is open to the public. Stavrianoudakis and Powers said the bench warrant is aimed at getting Miner back to Modesto once Santa Clara County is done with him.

Behind bars and back out

Jail has been like a revolving door for Miner, even though the 27-year-old transient has not been charged with any sex crimes since the incident eight years ago. That's because Miner was charged with failing to register as a sex offender in 2004, twice in 2005 and again in 2006.

Court records show that Miner also has married and divorced since his misdemeanor conviction, and he lived with a woman who obtained a temporary restraining order. She claimed Miner can become violent and suicidal.

The details of the incident with the young girl in 2000, which led to a 90-day sentence for sexual battery, are not spelled out in the court record.

Miner racked up an additional 180 days in the following years, violating the terms of his probation because he failed to attend sex offender counseling and used a friend's address when he registered with the police.

Later, Miner caught four more cases for failing to register as a sex offender, resolving one case in 2004 when he was sentenced to 90 days in jail and three others in 2006 when he was sentenced to 270 days, according to court records.

His files are full of bench warrants that were issued when he failed to show up in court or surrender to jail as required, then were recalled after casual contact with the police led to his arrest.

Another probation violation put Miner behind bars in February, but he hit the streets May 31, when he was reminded to check in with authorities every 30 days and not leave Stanislaus County for more than 48 hours without permission.

On July 2, a police officer in Palo Alto struck up a conversation with Miner because he was sleeping in a bus station.

Miner volunteered his whole story, catching another case in the process.

"I get ignorant," Miner told the police officer, according to Palo Alto Police Department spokesman Dan Ryan. "I just don't want to register, so I don't."

A depressing story

Miner probably doesn't have a bed to call his own in either jurisdiction, but he has cases for failing to register as a sex offender in Santa Clara and Stanislaus counties. Calls to various addresses associated with Miner didn't turn up any friends or family who could explain the situation.

Ryan said he got depressed reading the officer's report of his encounter with Miner, because Miner is like many others who get caught up in the system without resolving their underlying issues.

"Clearly, there's some miscommunication that keeps repeating itself," Ryan said.

A return trip to Modesto will come when the Santa Clara County case is over. Assistant District Attorney Carol Shipley said her office sought the bench warrant to retain jurisdiction over Miner because he repeatedly violates the registration law.

"We think somebody who has committed a sex violation that requires him to register as a sex offender needs to do exactly that," Shipley said.

Powers said cases such as Miner's are a sad reality in the legal system.

A sex crime is enough to get a person on the radar, but misdemeanor charges may not trigger the kind of attention needed to send an offender to programs that can help break the cycle.

Miner might be a good candidate for mental health court, where offenders can get convictions dismissed if they complete counseling programs. But he won't catch a break unless he tells authorities where he lays his head each night.

"We are aware of him," Powers said. "And we're going to be protecting our interest, so to speak."

Bee staff writer Susan Herendeen can be reached at sherendeen@modbee.com or 578-2338.


VT - Defense Attorneys resist some changes to court procedures

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09/15/2008

By John Dillon

Montpelier - (Host) Defense attorneys are resisting legal changes proposed by prosecutors in the wake of the Brooke Bennett kidnapping and murder.

The defense lawyers say that the changes to court procedures and the rules of evidence could result in innocent people being wrongly convicted.

VPR's John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Throughout the summer, the Senate Judiciary Committee has conducted a comprehensive review of Vermont's sex offender laws.

The review was prompted by the kidnapping and murder of 12 year old Brooke Bennett. A convicted sex offender has been charged with her kidnapping, and lawmakers are looking for ways to strengthen the investigation and prosecution of sex crimes.

Prosecutors took a list of proposed changes to the panel. They want juries to be allowed to consider evidence of a suspect's prior offenses. And they've proposed limiting a defendant's right to put a witness under oath and take testimony prior to trial.
- This is a right given by the constitution, and another right they are trying to eradicate, so many innocent people could possibly be convicted based on lies.

The prosecutors argue that these pre-trial depositions drag out cases and can intimidate witnesses.

But defense lawyer Maryanne Kampmann recalled cases that unraveled when prosecutors realized the witness lied. She told the committee that the depositions are a vital part of seeking justice for their clients.

(Kampmann) "And when the complaining witness can't answer them or when her or his answer changes 180 degrees from when the police officer asked it, they recognize they have a problem with the case.''

(Dillon) Defense lawyers said the pre-trial depositions help them decide when the evidence is strong - and when to counsel their clients to plead. Jason Sawyer is a lawyer practicing in Burlington.

(Sawyer) "Depositions serve an extremely important tool at getting to the truth of the matter. And without depositions you have unintended consequences. The unintended consequences are trials are lengthier, and you have a lot more trials.''

(Dillon) Police and prosecutors also want juries to be able to consider a defendant's past convictions or arrests.

Evidence of so-called prior "bad acts" can be used under limited circumstances, such as to establish a motive for a crime.

But defense lawyers warned that changing the rules as broadly as the prosecutors want could result in some innocent people being found guilty.

David Silver is lawyer who practices in Bennington.

(Silver) ``People will convict a person of sexual assault if they find out he committed another sexual assault whether or not he's guilty of this one.''

(Dillon) Washington County State's Attorney Tom Kelley said the committee should look at other states and see what is allowed. He said federal courts do allow juries to consider a defendant's history of prior arrests.

(Kelley) ``I understand the defense concerns but I think it would absolutely improve the state's case for the jury to understand prior offenses. But there are reasons why that's not let in now, because our rules wouldn't permit. But I think we should look at that.''

(Dillon) The Judiciary Committee will outline its proposed changes before lawmakers return to Montpelier in January.

For VPR News, I'm John Dillon in Montpelier.

© Copyright 2008, VPR


UK - Stopping child sex abuse

Think U Know Web Site
Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre


UK - Parents to be given right to find out details about sex offenders in contact with their children

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09/15/2008

By Matthew Hickley

Parents will from today be able to ask police whether anyone who has access to their child is a convicted paedophile or is even suspected of abusing children.

Police will pass on details of any relevant criminal convictions and may include ‘soft intelligence’ detailing unproven complaints of abuse, even where there was no finding of guilt.

But parents will face civil court action or even criminal charges for inciting violence if they gossip about the findings or pass on the restricted material to other parents whose children could be at risk.

The measures are aimed at parents who are worried about those who spend time with their children, such as neighbours or sports coaches, or single mothers anxious to know more about a new boyfriend’s background.

The initiative, which starts today in four pilot areas across England, was drawn up by the Home Office in response to demands for ‘Sarah’s Law’ to make available more information on known pedophiles, following the murder of Sarah Payne by convicted sex offender Roy Whiting.

Twelve-month trials are being held in Peterborough, Southampton, Stockton in Cleveland and across Warwickshire, and the measures will be extended across England and Wales if judged a success.

The Home Office said police would also deal with inquiries about under-18s – to cover babysitters for example. They said ‘special considerations’ would apply in such cases, but could give no details.

If the checks uncover paedophile convictions, the scheme sets out an ‘assumption’ that parents should be informed.

But police and child protection agencies will have more discretion about past complaints which did not lead to a successful prosecution, or of past convictions for non-sexual crimes such as child neglect or domestic violence.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith claimed the scheme was a ‘huge step forward’ which would ‘empower’ worried parents to protect-their children better.

But campaigner Donald Findlater, of child protection charity the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, said: ‘The biggest risk to children is not from the registered sex offender who the police know and are managing.

‘It is from the sex offender who is not registered and who no one knows about.

‘There are probably ten of these unknown individuals to every one registered offender.’

Paul Cavadino, director of crime reduction charity Nacro, welcomed the rules in principle but said: ‘The real test of these pilots will be whether this information can be kept confidential to the parents or whether it spreads to other people, causing a risk of vigilante attacks.

‘If this happened it could drive offenders underground, making it difficult for the police and probation service to keep track of them and increasing risk to other children.’

Sara Payne, Sarah’s mother, welcomed the moves, but said there was far more still to do, adding: ‘This is a giant step towards truth and honesty when dealing with sex offenders and all we need now is for local communities up and down the UK to help make this work.’



PA - Ashley citizens in uproar about sex offender

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09/15/2008

Edward Lewis (elewis@timesleader.com)

A few Ashley residents expressed their outrage during a council work session last week that a registered sex offender has been living since July in close proximity of a playground, a bus stop and a pre-school.

They asked for help.

What they heard was a disappointing response from borough Solicitor Charles McCormick, a maverick attorney in municipal law.

McCormick predicted Ashley probably won’t follow thousands of other municipalities across the country, and a few in Luzerne County, that have enacted residency restrictions on registered sex offenders, preventing them from living near playgrounds and schools.

McCormick said sex offender residency ordinances in Pennsylvania haven’t been legally challenged in state appellate court. He predicted when such laws are tested, the state Supreme Court would likely follow other state Supreme Courts in finding that municipal residency ordinances are unconstitutional.

According to a December 2007 study published in the Federal Probation Journal, two judges in New Jersey declared township ordinances unconstitutional because they violated the Garden State’s Megan’s Law, which prevents sex offender registration status from being used to deny housing.

McCormick made a point that if Ashley passed a residency ordinance specifically targeting registered sex offenders, such an ordinance wouldn’t apply retroactively.

What McCormick wanted to say was the Ex Post Facto Clause of the U.S. Constitution prohibits punishment legislatures, in this case Ashley council, from enacting laws that apply retroactively for criminal acts that have already been committed.

In layman’s terms, the registered sex offender who lives across from the Main Street Playground wouldn’t be forced to move.

Address registered in July

According to the residents who expressed their outrage during council’s work session, the registered sex offender regularly hangs out on his front porch partially nude and drinking beer.
- What do you mean by partially nude?  If he is wearing shorts, then there is nothing wrong with that.  People do it all the time on the beach and in public.  Get a life!  If he's doing something illegal, then the cops should arrest him, otherwise, leave him alone!

He also engages in conversation with children, they said.

If he does indeed talk to children, he may be in direct violation of his September 2005 sentence imposed by Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Conahan, who ordered him not to contact anyone under 18 years old without supervision, according to court records.

Court records indicate the man, formerly of Hanover Township, pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography and dissemination of photographs and films containing child pornography on his computer. He was sentenced by Conahan to time served plus five years probation.

He was classified by the state’s Sexual Offender Assessment Board as a sex offender, court records say, and required to register his residence with the state for 10 years.
- So did the board declare him a sex offender, or the conviction?  I believe that was determined at the time of conviction, not by some board.

It appears he has followed the state’s Megan’s Law, having registered his Ashley address with the state police in July.

Those Ashley residents don’t like the fact that the man is living near the playground and the pre-school. They submitted to council a petition of more than 270 signatures requesting something be done about the situation.
- And out comes the lynch mob!  10 million signitures should not be allowed to force someone, who is legally living there, to move.

Nothing was said during Ashley’s work session about the other registered sex offender living in the tiny borough.

McCormick didn’t discourage outraged residents from continuing their efforts. He urged them to contact state lawmakers.

Those residents should continue to petition council as well.

After all, a silent voice is never heard.
- And this is also exactly why all RSO's faced with these draconian laws, MUST STAND UP AND FIGHT FOR THEIR RIGHTS!


ME - ‘John Does’ unite to fight law - Sex offenders want names off registry

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09/14/2008

AUGUSTA — More than two dozen Maine residents who are challenging the legality of the state’s sex offender registry are now speaking with one collective, determined voice.

At least 25 cases brought by “John Does,” anonymous sex offenders whose names are now on the registry, seek to have their names removed from the public list because they were added long after their original sentences had been served. The cases have been consolidated into one collective lawsuit in Kennebec County Superior Court before Judge Michaela Murphy.

While it could be months before Murphy decides the fate of these offenders, defense attorneys predict the number of cases could continue to grow rapidly.
- As it should.  Every sex offender, should find a lawyer, who can help fight these draconian, unconstitutional laws.  If we do not fight them, it will only get worse for RSO's and others.  I feel like, this is a test bed, and if they get a way with this, more peoples rights will be eradicated.

“The people that have filed so far are primarily people with money to spend, but there are many others who don’t have a penny to devote to this,” said Bangor lawyer Stephen Smith, who is in the process of adding two John Does to the list. “If there is any success from the defense, I think you’ll see a big secondary flood of cases.”

Jim Mitchell, an Augusta attorney who brought the first John Doe case to court in 2006 and now represents 14 clients, is not surprised that so many are coming forward.

My goal is to get my clients removed from the registry, but if in doing so we get the law declared unconstitutional, so much the better,” he said.

When the state Legislature amended Maine’s sex offender registry three years ago, it added hundreds of new offenders to an already substantial list. The change required those who had been convicted of sex crimes between 1982 and 1992 to register as sex offenders.

Many offenders did so without objection, but others contended they were being punished retroactively for crimes whose sentences had already been served.

According to defense attorneys, some John Does say their new sex offender status has cost them jobs or has resulted in evictions from apartments. Some say they have endured shame and stigma from family, friends and co-workers for crimes long forgotten. Some have lost pieces of the support system that is crucial to their rehabilitation. Zachary Heiden, an attorney with the Maine Civil Liberties Union, is watching the cases closely.

There is much more danger of people concealing their identity when there are harsh punitive registration requirements,” Heiden said in a recent interview. “Offenders often are unable to get a job or find a place to live, and ultimately they have no choice but to assume a new identity.”

The first John Doe lawsuit was filed in 2006 after a man was ordered to submit his name to the state’s sex offender registry for a crime he committed as a teenager in the 1980s. His notice came about one week before a young Canadian man stalked and killed two Mainers whose names and addresses he found on the state’s online sex offender registry.

The John Doe, concerned about his safety, asserted that his rights were being violated because Maine’s Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act didn’t even exist when he was convicted.

That case initially was dismissed in Kennebec County Superior Court. However, it eventually made it to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court where the lawsuit was reinstated, a decision that helped pave the way for many others to file similar suits.

The central question in the John Doe cases is whether requiring offenders who committed crimes between 1982 and 1992 to register is a punitive action or a preventive measure essential to protecting the public. In the Law Court decision that reinstated the first John Doe case, one justice compared the retroactive penalties to “the shaming and ridicule penalties of colonial times.” He also warned that it could encourage retribution and vigilante violence. Nowhere was that more evident than the murders of William Elliott, 24, of Corinth and Joseph Gray, 57, of Milo in April 2006.
- It's punitive, period!  And yes, retribution and vigilante justice has been on the increase, all you have to do is read the news, this blog, and elsewhere to see that.

Deputy Attorney General Paul Stern, who is representing the state in the John Doe cases, did not return a call last week for comment. However, in recent court filings, Stern warned that allowing offenders who committed crimes before 1992 to live in anonymity could be a damning decision.
- And it would also uphold the constitution and their constitutional rights.  So if you do not do this, then you have no regard for the constitution, and should be kicked out of office, because you took and oath to uphold the constitution, and apparently lied about!

“If the Maine courts decide to enjoin the operation of the registry or the Internet posting of registrants, then Maine will stand alone in the entire country, making Maine the refuge for countless sex offenders who wish to conceal their criminal pasts from neighbors, landlords, employers and potential future victims,” Stern wrote.
- If their crime was committed before the law was past, then yeah, they have that right, or did at one time!

Smith, who has represented sex offenders in criminal and civil matters on numerous occasions, said the registry changes disrupted the lives of many people in an irreversible way. Some offenders, he said, are violent sexual criminals or serial child molesters who pose an obvious threat but many are not.

As these John Doe cases slowly move forward through the court process, state lawmakers again are preparing to revisit Maine’s sex offender laws and consider changes that could help address many of the offenders’ concerns.
- Until the uphold the constitution, there will be law suit after law suit after law suit, until they find the laws unconstitutional, like they are!

The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee will hold an all-day meeting Sept. 29 in Augusta to hear from experts in other states that have made changes to sex offender registries. The session will precede the committee’s work to craft legislation that would, among other things, create a tiered system. If successful, some offenders would have to submit their names only to a “silent” registry available to public safety officials.
- I wonder what "experts" they are referring to?  Sex offender therpists and civil/human rights organizations?  I doubt it.

But Mitchell, who watched earlier this year as Gov. John Baldacci (Contact) vetoed a bill that would have changed the registry and helped some of his clients, said he’s through waiting for lawmakers.

“If they want to do something, more power to them, but we’re not listening any more,” he said.

Smith added that he’s not convinced state legislators are committed to making changes.

“It might be a good way to resolve this, but frankly, I don’t have a sense of how much political pressure is being placed on this,” Smith said. “It’s just not that popular.”

Heiden said he thinks the collective John Doe cases could be a landmark for civil rights.
- I hope so, but I doubt it.  They will knock it down as being constitutional, like everyone else who dishonors the constitution and who do not have the balls to stand up for what is right!

“This is a big undertaking and lawyers want to be careful,” he said. “But the advantage of a case like this is that it’s going to get so much attention. And if it improves the law, it could benefit everyone, not just these few.”