Tuesday, September 16, 2008

UK - Sex offender scheme will 'create climate of mistrust'

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See the video at the lilnk above, and the audio below.


By Samantha Payne

A Kent-based professor has expressed his horror at a new Home Office scheme that will allow parents to check if someone close to them is a sex offender.

Frank Furedi, a sociology professor at the University of Kent, said he fears the pilot projects will create a “powerful climate of mistrust” within communities.

He said: “I think it is a horrible idea. It creates all kinds of precedents.

"If you create a situation where you can go to the police to get information on somebody else on one issue, why not on something else?

"It’s likely to create a very powerful climate of mistrust and create a danger where people will maliciously use the information to get back at others.

“It is going to lead to an explosion of confusing information circulating in communities and a lot of people are going to be hurt by this.”

Under the measures parents will be able to check whether a person who has access to their child, such as a child's nanny, neighbour or a mother's new boyfriend, has convictions for child sexual offences.

The disclosure pilots will be rolled out for a year in partnership with Warwickshire, Hampshire, Cleveland and Cambridgeshire Police and Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) but if successful they could be implemented with other police forces - including Kent.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said: “Giving parents the ability to find out if someone close to their child poses a risk will empower them. It will also help them to understand how to better protect their children.”

Let us know what you think of the plans

The pilots are the result of the Government's Child Sex Offender Review which was published in June, 2007.

They have been developed with advice from charities such as the NSPCC.

Currently anyone can register a concern about an individual and/or child, which will be investigated. But there is no standardised process or mechanism for the public to make an inquiry or receive relevant information.

Diana Sutton, head of policy at the NSPCC said: "We will have to wait and see if the pilot programmes help to keep children safe from sex offenders and do not just create a false sense of security.

“We strongly urge people to remain alert to the fact that not all child abusers have criminal records because many are not caught and charged with an offence. Someone might be given a clean bill of health by police because they do not have a criminal record but may still pose a threat to children.

“We must have a package of measures which include public education, people reporting any concerns they have to police or the NSPCC and effective treatment for offenders. Only then can we cautiously begin to feel that children will be safe from sex offenders."

How it will work

  • The police will run two types of checks on the individual — a priority check within 24 hours and a full risk-assessment within 10 working days.
  • If the person is found to have convictions for sexual offences against children the case will be referred to a MAPPA panel made up of police, probation, prison service and other relevant agencies to make the final decision on disclosure.
  • If the person poses a risk of causing serious harm to the child involved, there is a presumption that this information will be disclosed to the parent, carer or guardian.
  • It may be the case that the subject is not known to the police for child sexual offences but is showing worrying behaviour or is known for other offences that might put children's safety at risk, such as serious domestic violence. In this case the police will work with parents to protect children and provide advice and support under safeguarding children procedures.

Ah, the convenience of 'Living' documents

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Often held is that the Constitution is a ‘Living’ document. The same is held for the Bible. It is the ‘Living’ Word.

Let us look at that. The claim, of course, is that these writings are living in a way that allows them to have the same relevance today as when they were written. That is certainly a reasonable and defensible position. The Bible holds that …‘and the second of these is as great; to treat your neighbor as you would have them treat you.’ Or, in the Declaration of Independence, ’…that all men are created equal…’

Then where is the problem, you might ask. The problem is that in defending a writing as a ‘Living’ document it allows the defender the latitude of interpretation of the words instead of the speech.

Let me explain. The First Amendment to the Constitution does not amend by change it amends by addition. The First Amendment precludes the government, and by extension the People, from abridging the right of speech of any other citizen (and by Supreme Court decision, any other person.)

Now, the Supreme Court has decided that there is something called ‘Community Standards’. Does that mean that if a community organizes in such a way that the rule of ‘Pater Familias’ holds as the penultimate rule of law, an action that would normally be proscribed is allowable because the act took place within the domain of the household? Does it mean that if the community has determined that meat is not to be consumed on a particular day, any household that consumes meat on that day is in violation of the standard and thus prosecutable?

Those may seem ludicrous on the surface. They are not in the sense that they speak of what freedom means. In the framework of whether a ‘community standard’ should be applied to what is pornography, obscenity, or indecency, freedom has a very specific meaning. These are all forms of speech. If a ‘community standard’ is to be applied, then the freedom lies in the speech and not in the words.

That is, writing, oration, visual depiction, and other expressions are speech that is allowed by the ‘community standard’. What is proscribed by that standard is the content. The content is the words used. A community allows the production, distribution, possession, and control of a DVD of a particular production because the content of the DVD is in alignment with what is decent and proper. I cannot imagine the Virginia community banning or criminalizing the movie ‘At Dawn We Slept’, the depiction of Japanese bombers destroying the Naval Base at Pearl Harbor is iconic and somehow ‘patriotic’ in nature. Of course, this movie inspires apathetic Americans to send their children off to destroy other children and accept the Bush Doctrine of preemptive war. That seems completely Holy and Righteous to America. This content is allowable because it meets the ‘community standard’. I cannot see the Virginia community banning or criminalizing ‘The Scarlett Letter’. This completely innocuous book is written in such an anachronistic form of the language that few get beyond the prose actually to understand the author’s point.

I can understand the Virginia community banning the book ‘Johnny Got His Gun’. After all, this anti-war novel has been banned in America at least three times (Prior to and during both World Wars and the Korean Conflict.) I can even understand the Virginia community banning ‘Lolita’. This book is clearly about a proscribed act in the ‘national community’. Of course, the book is about the detrimental consequences of the act and the male figure is clearly made out to be anything but a role model. I can understand the Virginia community banning what it fears because that community refuses to take the time to understand what it fears.

I can understand the local prosecutor pressing this case with the power of the Supreme Court ‘Community Standard’ decision as a legal theory. I can understand the minions of the Executive, the US Attorney, riding along in the trial balloon. The shift from a Blackstonian theory of law and government to a Benthamite theory of law and government is much too deep for the average American to grasp and well played by the ‘People’. [The ‘People’ here means the various ‘Justice Departments’ of government. The US Attorney and State and Local Prosecuting functions no longer stand for the People; rather they represent the will of the government.]

This is in no way meant to demean the religious of any faction or belief. Nevertheless, this interpretation of Freedom of Speech has become Freedom of Speaking what I want to hear by the strong and vocal Religious Right. The tactic is simple. Begin by ostracizing the most indefensible. Broaden the ‘label’ to include those who would not fit under the original label. Move from that success to imply a relationship between one thing and another that does not exist. Once the first label is expanded, irrational relationships do not require linkage with something as inconsequential as proof. The ‘community’ has learned to ignore fact and accept belief. If there is one thing that is true about American society it is; It is easier to accept an untruth and keep a belief than it is to understand a truth and have to change a belief. Americans epitomize ‘tell me what I want to hear, so I don’t have to leave my comfort zone’.

The point is if there is to be Freedom of Speech, the freedom must be in the words, not in the speech. The next time you catch yourself using a label, pornographer, sex offender, Christian, or American understand that you are using a label to identify a person who may not fit the label. Understand that the label is a mold in which you must jam the person/object without regard to fit. You are applying the Virginia community standard. I agree wholly with the point Elizabeth makes. If we do not speak out, the standard will have to be renamed from ‘community standard’ to Staunton Standard.

AL - Former Millbrook officer out of jail early

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Just a "good ole' boy!"


MILLBROOK (WSFA) - A former Millbrook police officer who faced legal troubles is now a free man.

Former officer Francisco Aponte was released Tuesday from jail after serving only a couple of months.

Aponte was sentenced in May to serve one year in jail for sexual misconduct, a charge he pleaded guilty to in January.

According to District Attorney Randall Houston's office Aponte was on duty when he took a young girl home from a local convenience store in 2007.

The Millbrook woman accused the man of raping her and after she filed a report on Aponte, the police department fired him.

Aponte will have to register as a sex offender. (Then he is not a free man!)

NC - Council passes sex offender ban

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By Amanda Lehmert

GREENSBORO - Registered sex offenders take note: you're no longer welcome in city parks. (So do they get a tax break, since they are paying taxes for parks which they cannot use?)

The City Council voted Tuesday night to ban registered sex offenders from Greensboro parks and recreation facilities.

Council approved the new ordinance 8 to 0. Councilman Robbie Perkins was absent.

The new city ordinance bans sex offenders from all park properties, except when those facilities are used for public meetings or as polling locations. (So I guess you are saying that when they serve your purpose, to get votes, then it's ok?)

People who violate the ordinance can be fined $500 or spend up to 30 days in jail.

Greensboro has more than 300 registered sex offenders, according to the Guilford County Sheriff's Web site.

City Councilman Mike Barber drafted the ordinance this summer, after the North Carolina Supreme Court upheld a similar law in Woodfin, NC.

Cities and counties across the state have considered similar bans. (Why are we wasting tons of tax payer dollars making county by county laws, instead of one state law?)

Barber said this type law is important, considering the high rates of recidivism and the low rates of rehabilitation for sex offenders. (What high rate of recidivism?  The Department of Justice and Bureau of Justice say sex offenders have LOW recidivism rates, and are LESS LIKELY to commit a sex offender than any other criminal...  Check for yourself!)

The ordinance is consistent with a state law that prohibits sex offenders from areas where children assemble, City attorney Terry Wood said.

Tuesday night, registered sex offender Joseph Smith asked council not to pass the law. (One sex offender showed up!  We need a lot more people showing up at these events, or they will continue to violate peoples rights!)

As a sex offender and a convict, Smith said he already has a hard time doing everyday things, like visiting his daughter at school or getting a job.

With the new ban in place, Smith will not be able to watch his daughter's games at local parks, he said.

"It seems like every time I get further and further ahead," Smith told City Council, "I get slapped down."

Councilwoman T. Dianne Bellamy-Small said she was concerned that the ordinance would ban all offenders, including people who were not child predators. (Even if it's a child predator, how many can you name who have harmed a child in a park?)

She said she knows a man who was charged with statutory rape of his teenage girlfriend. He's now considered a sex offender, even though he went on to marry the woman and have a family with her.

"Technically, under this provision he could not bring his kid to the park," she said.

It is up to the legislature to decide what crimes earn someone a spot on the sex offender registry, Barber said.

"There are probably some crimes that shouldn't be included, but that is not for us to decide," he said. (Well, passing these laws and removing the judges powers, then you are making it worse!  You should be making reasonable laws, then these issues would not be issues, now would they?)

Contact Amanda Lehmert at 373-7075 or amanda.lehmert@news-record.com.

FL - St. Lucie passes tougher sexual offender law

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By Eric Pfahler (Contact)

FORT PIERCE — St. Lucie County is following the trend (bandwagon) to extend boundaries where sexual offenders and predators cannot live, and Port St. Lucie and Fort Pierce could be next.

Commissioners Tuesday passed an ordinance that prevents sex offenders and predators from living within 2,500 feet of a school, park or child care facility – a distance being used by several Florida cities and counties. The previous ban was 1,000 feet.

“My greatest fear as sheriff is that one of these sexual offenders/predators will re-victimize one of our children,” (I think that is everyone's fear, but doing this won't prevent it either!) St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said. “We talk about it daily in the office on our commitment to make sure that we know where these sexual offenders/predators are in our community, what they’re doing. And history tells us that it’s not if it’s going to happen, it’s when it’s going to happen that one of these re-offend.” (Maybe for some, but not all)

St. Lucie County has 782 registered sex offenders/predators, including 365 current residents. Others who are registered could have moved, been imprisoned or died. Port St. Lucie and Fort Pierce wanted to be included in the ordinance, but St. Lucie County officials said the law would be easier to enforce if there were three separate laws that mirrored one another. (Why don't we stop passing county laws and make one state law?  That seems easier to me, but again, it won't do any good, in the long run.)

“This ordinance will give us one more tool to remove these offenders/predators a little further away from children, and I think it’s a tool that we need,” Mascara said. (Why don't you just make it 100 miles?  Even that won't prevent anything!)

The ordinance will take effect Oct. 1.

Chris Hansen - Now in Cambodia - Cambodia Caught Selling Kids for Sex

This was from August 8th, 2007 (See here)

UT - Matchmaking Hour In Utah State Prison

GA - Acworth Officer Resigns After Inappropriate Conduct Allegations

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Video is available at the site.


ACWORTH -- A top cop in the Acworth Police Department has resigned after reports of inappropriate conduct while in his squad car.

Major Michael Strickland had commanded the Uniform Division at Acworth Police Department, but a woman in Cherokee County recently complained that while Strickland was in his unmarked patrol car, he followed her, then made some inappropriate comments.

Police said they initially thought the complaint was unfounded.

"Every once in awhile we come across something where it seems to be something there and we have to move forward in our process. That appears to be what happened in this case," said Chief Michael Wilkie with the Acworth Police Department.

What solidified that belief, according to officials, was Strickland's file with the Woodstock Police Department. Strickland had been punished for a similar incident nine years ago involving two young women.

Nine years ago, the two women told the Woodstock Police Department's internal affairs investigators that Strickland was in his squad car, in uniform the day they met behind a strip mall. The women said Strickland exposed himself to them. Internal affairs investigators said they found the complaints credible and Strickland was suspended for three weeks.
- Suspended for three weeks?  Why not in jail for a sexual crime, fired, and on the registry for life?

Strickland later resigned from the Woodstock Police Department over another incident, officials said. Wilkie said Strickland was hired in Acworth before he took over as chief and they were not aware of his Woodstock file.
- Guess they did not do a background check on him.

"We'll put some things in place to make sure future applicants to the department don't put us in this position. We already do that now in our screening process," said Wilkie.
- Well which is it?  If you do it now, then why are you going to put stuff in place in the future?

Wilkie said he wanted to reassure the public.

"We have a good police department here, we want the public to know we are going to do everything we can to preserve the integrity of this department," said Wilkie.
- If that is true, then he should be arrested for a sex crime, in jail and/or prison, and on the sex offender registry, just as any other citizen would be if they did the same thing.

Acworth police called in Cobb County police to assist with the investigation. Strickland resigned Monday night after being interviewed and questioned by Cobb County investigators. Acworth police will have to forward their report to Georgia's Post -- the organization that oversees police officers in the state.

WI - Greenfield delays action on sex offender ordinance

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Why don't we just make a one strike law for everything?  If you run a stop sign, you go to prison for life.  If you are caught speeding, you go to prison for life.  If you are caught smoking weed or some other drug, you go to prison for life.  Imaging all the lives we'd save by putting everyone in this country into prison for life?  Let's just eradicate all existence, that is the only way crime will once and for all be solved.


By Kevin Fischer

The Greenfield Common Council’s Legislative Committee took no action at its meeting tonight on a proposed Franklin-like sex offender ordinance that restricts where released sex offenders can live or congregate. A final draft of the ordinance has not been prepared, but committee members suggested a vote would be taken at their next meeting next month.

Nine Greenfield residents spoke before the committee, all in favor of the proposal.

Karen Koterman said it was shocking and ridiculous that “we’re even discussing this,” and that “society cares more about criminals.” With Franklin, Greendale and other communities having already approved restrictive ordinances, Koterman said Greenfield stands to become “a dumping ground” if the city rejects the proposal.
- You are an idiot, IMO!  Society should consider EVERYONE when making laws, and ALL civil/human rights, and the constitution.  I am also sick of hearing the "dumping ground" sound bite (excuse).

“This floors me,” Koterman said that approval hasn’t happened yet.
- So have you considered why this hasn't happened yet?  Maybe because the laws don't work and are unconstitutional?

Nina Kohl said, “I strongly support this ordinance,” calling sex offenders, “the scum of the earth.”
- Demonizing someone doesn't help solve the problem, now does it?  It just makes you feel good for awhile.

A new father, Jacob Lovo called the proposal, “a good idea, a necessity. I want my family safe.”
- Who doesn't want their family safe?  But these are just feel good laws that will not and are not working.  You cannot continue to do the same thing and expect a different outcome.

Lovo’s wife, Jean Lovo said sex offenders made bad choices and must suffer the consequences.
- But most of them have been convicted, sentenced and have suffered their consequences, but having to suffer for life is wrong, and none of these laws are going to solve anything.  We need to be smart on crime and think for once, but, society is stupid and just loves to push problems a way by locking people up, to receive a temporary "sense of security" when it does nothing to solve the crime.

One of the first speakers, an angry John Butschli told the committee he lives two doors down from a man who was convicted in the early 90’s of 1st degree sexual assault of a child. He has contacted local police at least a dozen times after seeing the offender watching children play at a nearby school. Butschli said police have told him the offender can hand out candy on Halloween.
- Ok, so?  Has he committed another crime?  If not, leave him alone!

Butschli wanted to know if the proposed ordinance would apply to his neighbor. Committee chair, Alderman Shirley Saryan responded that the committee “doesn’t have to answer questions.” That drew some groans from the audience, and deservedly so; not a good move for the chair of a committee to say at a public meeting that the politicians don’t have to provide answers to concerned citizens.
- I agree, that was not something a committee chair person should say.  They were hired by the people, and the people should get answers, and if not, then the people in office should be fired!

Franklin Alderman Steve Olson was asked how Franklin’s ordinance handles a situation like the one presented by Butschli. Olson said Franklin’s ordinances grandfathered offenders who had been convicted prior to the ordinances taking effect out of fairness and to limit constitutional challenges to the ordinances.

Greenfield Alderman Tom Pietrowksi asked Butschli whether the victim of the sex offender that lives near him was a boy or girl. Pietrowski’s question drew howls from the audience who spoke out, “What difference does it make.” Pietrowski, who’s not shy about expressing his concerns for the sex offenders, responded that it matters because the sex of the victims affects recidivism rates.
- Where did you hear that from?  What study?  I think recidivism rates depend on the offenders willing to change and not harm anybody else, not if the victim was male or female.

Matt Rajala, another citizen in support, noted other communities have taken the lead on this issue but he admitted he’s nervous about the ordinance’s prospects in Greenfield. Rajala is right to feel apprehensive, based on what was said at tonight’s meeting.

Alderman Pietrowski said, “The problem I see,” is that the proposed ordinance is “curbing where an individual can live,” and that society is,” taking away freedoms.”

Maybe Alderman Pietrowski should focus on what a sex offender has stolen from a young child victim.
- Maybe you should consider EVERYONE'S rights and not just what makes you feel good.  And what about prevention?  Vengence and hate doesn't solve anything!  Also, not all sex offenders are actually guilty, many have been falsely accused and convicted!

Pietrowski, I would venture to guess, is solidly opposed to this ordinance based on comments he’s made publicly at two consecutive meetings. Good luck running for re-election on a pro-sex offender vote.
- Pro-Sex offender, sounds like Perverted-Justice or AbsoluteZeroUnited!  Just because someone has questions that nobody can seem to answer, doesn't mean they are pro-sex offender, this is just your form of intimidation to get someone to vote to your liking.

Jerry Bubb responded to Pietrowski’s comments saying, “People have rights, but I’d rather let a murderer go free before a predator” because the murderer can be rehabilitated whereas the predator can’t. “Franklin is setting up an opportunity” for Greenfield said Bubb in support of the ordinance.
- You people are so blinded by hatred, that is obvious.  You would rather a murder (serial killer) live next to you than a "predator?"  That my friend is insane!  And also, by your statements, are assuming all sex offenders are predators, which is a lie!  Anybody can be rehabilitated, if you treat them as a human being and with respect instead of like some animal.

Alderman Linda Lubotsky, the author of the proposed ordinance said, “It’s our (Greenfield’s) turn."

Despite the unanimous support in the audience, Pietrowski asked that the matter be held over for one more Legislative Committee meeting. The committee agreed.

A final note: As I was leaving the meeting and waved goodbye to committee members and thanking them for having their discussion, Alderman Saryan made it a point to tell me publicly from her committee chair position that, “Just because I ask questions” doesn’t mean that I’ve taken a position one way or the other. In a recent blog on this issue, I wrote, “Greenfield Alderman Shirley Saryan doesn’t sound too promising when she admits she’s confused by Franklin’s ordinances.” During tonight’s meeting, Saryan noted she reads my blog. I appreciate that, Alderman.

But there comes a time when you can’t sit on the fence and must take a position and vote.
- Yeah, I agree, but when you vote and are not following the bandwagon, people turn you into some "pro-sex offender" leper and harass you for the way you voted, instead of trying to see your points.

I’ve covered politics as a reporter and/or worked in politics for over 30 years. I know every form of politician-speak there is. I think Alderman Saryan is a pleasant, well-intentioned person. But here are public comments made by Alderman Saryan the past two meetings that she chairs:

Tonight, she told a Greenfield resident who had questions about a map showing where the exclusion zones would be for released offenders that, “As you can see, there aren’t many places they can live.” My response would be: So!
- Wow, so it sounds like in your whole 30 years of "experience" you learned absolutely nothing about constitutional rights, nor human rights.  So it sounds to me like she is a smart woman!  So you'd rather have a bunch of sex offenders homeless and roaming the streets?

She also said tonight that restrictive ordinances can make matters worse. Where did she read that? On my blog, in comments made by sex offender sympathizers from out of state. Ask parents of children how these ordinances can “make matters worse,” and see what they have to say.
- Well, you are one sided, and apparently nobody is going to get you to even consider seeing their side, so what is the point in trying to appease you?  You are blind and ignorant and cannot even have an open mind and try to see why they might be saying this.  Why don't you study up on sex offender issues, and you will see, maybe, that they do more harm than good?

If you’re for the ordinance, then say so, Alderman! All those questions and concerns of hers lead me to believe she’s leaning against. I hope I'm wrong.
- Of course she's leaning against it, that is obvious, and you don't like that. So what?  She is apparently a lot smarter than you are, IMO!

As one Greenfield resident said emphatically, why are we even talking about this? It does seem to be a no-brainer, to everyone except the Legislative Committee of the Greenfield Common Council.
- It's a no brainer to those who care nothing about the constitution and civil/human rights!  And those who have been brainwashed into a hysteria over who lives next door!

This issue is growing. More and more people in Greenfield are becoming aware of what’s at stake. The delay gives residents even more time to contact their elected officials to make their voices heard on behalf of our most vulnerable citizens and prized commodity: our children.

NJ - Council Backs Expansion Of Megan's Law

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Convicted sex offenders residing in Manchester might soon have their names and addresses disclosed to more than just the local police.

The Manchester Township Council discussed a bill at last Monday's council meeting that would require persons convicted of a sexual offense against a minor to have their information sent to local police as well as all members of the council when moving into Manchester.

The bill, still in state Assembly, affects Manchester as well as other municipalities in the 9th and 23rd districts in New Jersey. It states that members of a governing body of a municipality where a convicted sex offender moves to must be notified of their name and address.

"It's certainly in my mind a no-brainer," council member Warren Reiter said.

The proposed legislation would also prevent those convicted of sexual offenses against a minor from living within 500 feet of a school, a day care center or a park.

"I think this is a way to set the precedent across the board," council member Brendan Weiner said. "This isn't going to stop offenders from doing what they do, but we want to make sure certain areas are safe zones for our children."
- You just said, "This isn't going to stop sex offenders from doing what they do," but then you state you want to make sure certain areas are safe for children.  So do you want your cake and eat it to?  This is just a "feel good" proposal, which will do nothing to prevent any crime, but only to appease the public into a false sense of security to make yourself look better.  If a true predator wants to commit a crime, no amount of laws will prevent that.

The bill sets three separate tier levels for sex offenders, based on severity of their crimes. The tier an offender is classified as will determine if any further restrictions will be placed on their residential access, such as decreasing the footage one can live in proximity to schools and other child zones.

Currently, Megan's Law does not mandate that governing body officials be notified of their status, only the chief law enforcement officer of the municipality. Under the proposed expansion, the chief law enforcement officer would forward the information to each member of the governing council.

The bill provides exceptions to the 500- foot rule. If a convicted sex offender is incarcerated in a detention or mental health facility that is located within 500 feet of a school, day care center or park, then the law is not applicable.

Convicted sex offenders currently residing within the 500-foot boundary in a municipality prior to the passing of this bill would be allowed to continue living in their residence.

The Manchester Council overwhelmingly supported the bill at last Monday's council meeting.

"I think we should go forward with this," Weiner said. "I don't see how it could be a detriment to our town."

AR - Developing News: Scarlet Letter Drivers License For Sex Offenders

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Lonoke County Sheriff Jim Roberson wants sex offenders in Arkansas to have a special driver's license.

Roberson says a convicted sexual offender would be designated a code or a symbol on their license. It's purpose to be visible for law enforcement agencies or daycare centers.

In Oklahoma, the words "sex offender" appears on licenses in red three times including under the main photo and through the smaller photo.

Delaware implemented a similar law in 1998.

If a sex offender does not obey, Roberson says there should be a criminal offense. He says once a person is convicted of a sex offense, their driver's license would be suspended until they report to driver's control to have their license marked.

Roberson's office is in the process of sending letters about the proposal to Arkansas Drivers Control, the Arkansas Crime Information Center and to several state lawmakers.

THV's Ashley Blackstone will have more on this story coming up on the 'THV 10:00 Difference' and todaysthv.com.

Is The Recent Spate Of High-Profile Teen Pregnancies, Including Bristol Palin's and Jamie Lynn Spears's, Telling Us It's Time To Alter Statutory Rape Laws?

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Surely I'm dating myself with what I am about to say but, when I was Jamie Lynn Spears's age, I don't recall any of my classmates proudly toting an infant around as if it were the latest designer accessory.

But, that was the Eighties - a time when the only thing bigger than a 16-year-old's hairdo, was her fear of getting pregnant. Today, if the recent spate of celebrity teen pregnancies is an indication of anything, it's this: When it comes to teens and sex, we're definitely not in Kansas anymore.

As readers likely are well-aware, Bristol Palin's teen pregnancy was thrust into the spotlight courtesy of her mother, Republican Vice-Presidential nominee and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. On September 3, 2008, a visibly pregnant Bristol (boyfriend by her side) was in attendance for Palin's acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.

Nowadays, with more and more teenagers having children before they themselves are old enough to vote - and, seemingly, doing so unabashedly - perhaps it's time to re-examine the current state of statutory rape laws in the hope of determining whether such laws have become too hard, too soft, or just right when it comes to close-in-age couples, one of whom is underage.

This is often known in the law as a "Romeo and Juliet" situation, and some states accordingly have "Romeo and Juliet" exceptions to their statutory rape laws -- but some do not, or their exceptions only apply if the members of the couple are very close in age.

Some Famous "Romeo and Juliet" Situations: Genarlow Wilson's, Jamie Lynn Spears's, and Bristol Palin's

Genarlow Wilson isn't glamorous or famous, but he has become the poster-child for the issue of statutory rape and, therefore, it's impossible to have a discussion about teens and sex without him.

Wilson was a 17-year-old Georgia resident when he had consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl at a holiday party. At the time, the age of consent for intercourse in the state of Georgia was 16. A legal provision allowed the participants' consent to be taken into account by prosecutors if they were close in age - but only if they had engaged in vaginal sex. Because the case involved oral sex, the consent of the girl in Wilson's case was not considered a mitigating factor.

As a result, Wilson was convicted of aggravated child molestation and, shockingly, sentenced to ten years in state prison. Fortunately, on October 26, 2007, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that Wilson's sentence was "grossly disproportionate" to his crime, in violation of the Eighth Amendment right not to suffer cruel and unusual punishment. As a result, he was released - but only after spending more than two years of his young life behind bars.

Why is Genarlow Wilson relevant here? Because - in theory, at least -- he could just as easily be 18-year old Levi Johnston (father of Bristol Palin's unborn child); or 19-year-old Casey Aldridge (father of Jamie Lynn Spears's recently-born baby girl).

Did these other "Romeo and Juliet" situations violate the law? Ages of consent vary widely - and can be as low as 12 (in Oregon). In Johnston and Palin's case, because they are closer than three years in age, Alaska's law is rather forgiving.

In that state, "Romeo and Juliet" provisos seem to be the rule, rather than the exception. Under Alaska's statutory rape laws, it is considered first-degree sexual abuse of a minor for someone age 16 or older to engage in sexual penetration with someone under age 13. Under the same statute, however, a person commits second-degree sexual abuse of a minor when a person age 16 or older engages in sexual penetration with someone who is age 13, 14, or 15 and at least three years younger than the offender. Each of these offenses is a felony commanding a ten-to-twenty-year state prison sentence. Also in Alaska, participants who are each under age 16, but over age 13 are excepted from the rule.

In Aldridge and Spears's case, if their intercourse occurred in California, where Spears works and sometimes lives, and where the age of consent is 18, then it plainly violated the law. If it occurred in their hometown in Louisiana, it is considered felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile when someone age 19 or older has consensual sex with someone between age 12 and 17, or when a person age 17 or older has consensual sex with a participant between age 12 and 15. There, misdemeanor carnal knowledge of a juvenile is sexual intercourse with consent between someone age 17 to 19 and someone age 15 to 17 when the difference in their ages is greater than two years.

Because each state's statutory rape laws are different, bizarre situations can arise. A consensual sexual act in Alaska, for example, might net a person state prison time if done in Arizona. If a 17-year-old girl and a 20-year-old guy have sex on a vacation at the Grand Canyon, but then head back home to New York, where the age of consent is seventeen, does it make sense to prosecute the guy in Arizona, where he technically has committed a crime?

Even if Statutory Rape Technically Occurred, Authorities Are Wise Not to Prosecute Johnston or Aldridge

The idea behind statutory rape laws is that - in the eyes of the law - a person is incapable of consenting to various intimate acts until he or she reaches a certain age (usually she, in heterosexual relationships). States choose different, arbitrary numbers to approximate the age when they believe minors are mature enough to be able to meaningfully consent to sex.

When one sex partner is well into adulthood and the other is very young, these laws are vital and necessary and it is right that sentences are lengthy. But when a consensual sex act occurs between teenagers of like age and intellect, the situation is arguably very different.

In today's world, as much as any parent or person in authority would like to believe otherwise, sometimes "Yes" does, in fact, mean "Yes." The law's claim that the younger teen is not actually consenting is at odds with the reality of the situation when, for example, the two members of a teen couple carefully plan to lose their virginity together.

Moreover, in these "Romeo and Juliet" situations, society is showing teens one thing, and the law is telling them another. How can we, as a society, prosecute sex between some teenagers, when we are openly accepting of sex between others? How can we jail Genarlow Wilson for years, yet invite Levi Johnston to a party's presidential and vice-presidential nominating convention as an honored guest?

Meanwhile, the strong message telling teens not to have sex - a message that isn't getting through - only obscures a more important message - telling teens not to have unprotected sex. Not only pro-choice parents, but many pro-life parents, should agree that more important than preventing "Romeo and Juliet" teen sex - which, in our culture, is going to happen anyway - is preventing unwanted teen pregnancy.

In sum, in light of Spears, Palin and Wilson, America is in need of a serious legal reality check. Modifying "Romeo and Juliet" exceptions to reflect modern realities would be a good first step. So would ensuring that young Romeos and Juliets have contraception close at hand, rather than pretending they never would even consider having sex in the first place.

Jonna M. Spilbor is an attorney and legal analyst on "Kelly's Court", airing daily on the Fox News Channel. Jonna is also the host of a call-in radio show Thursdays on WPDH FM, and a frequent guest commentator on MSNBC, Court-TV and other television news networks, where she has covered many of the nation's high-profile criminal trials. In the courtroom, she has handled hundreds of cases as a criminal defense attorney, and also served in the San Diego City Attorney's Office, Criminal Division, and the Office of the United States Attorney in the Drug Task Force and Appellate units. In 1998, she earned certification as a Court Appointed Special Advocate with the San Diego Juvenile Court. She is a graduate of Thomas Jefferson School of Law, where she was a member of the Law Review.

PA - 10-year-old charged with sexual assault

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A 10-year-old Lancaster County girl is charged with a sexual assault of 4-year-old twin girls.

The alleged incident happened last month at a home in New Holland.

District Attorney Craig Stedman says as far as he can remember this is the youngest person he's brought charges against.

TX - 10-year-old boy accused of sexual assault

I did not upload this video, which is bad quality!

FL - Residency restrictions for sex offenders questioned

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By Vanessa Fultz, Democrat Reporter

The father of a former Live Oak resident now registered as a sexual predator asked the city to ease residency restrictions for his son at Tuesday's city council meeting.

Tony D. Jones, 26, who served five years in prison for sexual battery by a juvenile on a victim under 12, was not allowed to return to his Live Oak home upon release from prison due to local residency restrictions.

Jones wasn't present at the meeting, but his father, Lawrence Jones, told the council that local rules have left no place for his son to live.

Jones cited a state law that allows convicted sex offenders to live within 1,000 feet of places that may be frequented by children. City ordinance restricts offenders from residing within 2,500 feet of such locations.

However, since the 1,000-foot provision only covers offenses committed after 2004 (Jones was convicted in 2000), his father questioned whether even that restriction applied to him. There are no date restrictions on the city or county ordinances.

"My thing is, what about the state law?" asked Lawrence Jones.

"Our ordinance is more restrictive ... an ordinance can be more restrictive than Florida statute," responded Live Oak Police Chief Buddy Williams.

"So where can a sexual predator stay in Suwannee County or the city of Live Oak?" asked Lawrence Jones.

"A murderer can get out of prison and stay anywhere," said the elder Jones. "Is this an unforgiving crime?"

"Unless there's a change in the ordinance there's nothing we can do about it," said Council President John Hale.

The council took no action on Jones' request.

City ordinance bars sexual offenders and predators from living within 2,500 feet of schools, day care centers, parks, playgrounds, churches and retirement homes.

Just a video to brighten up your day!!!

VT - Board ponders sex offender rule

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ROCKINGHAM -- It might be unconstitutional, ineffective and unenforceable, but the Selectboard is expected to move forward on a proposed sexual offender ordinance anyway.

The board, at tonight's meeting, is expected to give a final reading of an ordinance that would limit where sex offenders could live in Rockingham.

The proposed ordinance is based on similar ordinances that have already been adopted in Rutland and Barre.

If the Rockingham board approves the ordinance tonight, the public will still have 60 days to ask for a vote before it goes into effect.

But public safety and civil rights experts around the state say there are a number of questions the board still has to consider before it moves ahead.

"If the town's attorney has not done his legal research ahead of time on residents' restrictions, then they are guaranteed to face lawsuits down the road," said American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont Executive Director Allen Gilbert. "There are grounds on which these rules have been successfully challenged."

Mike Harty, the town's attorney, refused to comment on the pending issue and said he has barely had time to read through the proposed ordinance, which he only received last week.

Gilbert also weighed in on the Barre and Rutland ordinances and he said he will be watching to see how Rockingham proceeds with its proposed law.

Limiting where citizens live might violate a number of constitutional amendments, Gilbert said, and there might also be issues concerning whether municipalities have a right to supersede rules set up by the departments of Corrections and Public Safety.
- What about rules set up by our forefathers who wrote the constitution just for this purpose?

And while Gilbert said that municipalities can pass laws that protect the public, there is very scant evidence that restricting where sex offenders live will have much of an effect.

An April 2007 report by the Minnesota Department of Corrections found that residency restriction laws might actually encourage sex offenders to strike again.

"By making it more difficult for sex offenders to successfully re-enter society, housing restrictions might promote conditions that work against the goal of reducing the extent to which they recidivate sexually," the report concluded.
- I am seriously thinking this is their ultimate hidden agenda.  To cause more to offend, so they can pass more and more laws, and eventually erode the rights of everyone.  It sure seems that way to me.  They disregard everything in the constitution.

The Minnesota department looked at 224 cases of sex offenders who re-offended and who were released between 1990 and 2002.

"The results presented here provide very little support for the notion that residency restriction laws would lower the incidences of sexual recidivism, particularly among child molesters," the report's authors wrote. "Not one of the 224 sex offenses would likely have been deterred by a residency restrictions law."

Vermont Department of Corrections Commissioner Rob Hoffman said most sexual offenses are committed by family members and friends, and he said adopting residency restrictions might give a community a false sense of security.

He agreed that the restrictions might actually force sexual predators out into quiet areas, away from where they can be monitored, and the law could have an unintended consequence of increasing the number of cases.

"These sexual predators are coming from Vermont communities and these restrictions might push them into more rural locations that are less conducive to oversight and successful re-entry," said Hoffman. "It is in society's interest that they get a job, start paying taxes and live in a place where they can be observed. It is in our interest that they be visible and overseen."
- Stop talking about sex offenders as if all of them are predators.  That is a myth that needs to be stopped!  What do you mean start paying taxes?  They do pay taxes!  What does that have to do with any of this?  If they cannot use parks, schools, etc, then they should not have to pay those taxes, period!

If the Rockingham Board does move forward, then Francis Aumand, director of the division of criminal justice services, said the town has to figure out who is going to enforce the law.

Under the proposed law, which states offenders could not live within 1,000 feet of a school, recreation facility of day care facility, most of Bellows Falls would be off limits.

The village would have to approve of its police department enforcing the town's law, and the village of Saxtons River would have to rely on its very limited contract with the Vermont State Police.

"The communities have to weigh their own public safety needs with their abilities to enforce those needs," said Aumand. "It begs the question, when an ordinance is passed, what is the proper level of enforcement and what resources will be used to enforce that ordinance?"

Tonight's Selectboard meeting starts at 7 and will be held in the Women's Club Meeting Room in Town Hall.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reform-er.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.

VA - Officials: Missing Missouri man committed suicide

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A southeast Missouri man who fled a year ago after being charged with child sodomy died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, according to authorities in Virginia where his remains were found.

John Dunivan, the former Butler County clerk, was accused of sodomizing a young girl.

Remains found earlier this month near Hungry Mother State Park in Marion, Va., were positively identified through the use of dental records as Dunivan, Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Phil Gregory said.

Highway patrol investigators had been asked to forward forensic information to the chief medical examiner's office in Roanoke to either identify or exclude Dunivan after a human skull was discovered Aug. 31 by hikers on private property near a remote area of the park.

The skull, according to authorities, was located about a mile and a half from where Dunivan's truck was found along Interstate 81, on the western edge of Virginia near Marion. The truck had been found there July 20, 2007 by a Virginia State Police officer, who was checking on an abandoned vehicle.

The rest of the skeleton was found Sept. 1 by investigators under several layers of brush in what appeared to be a "makeshift survival shelter," Smyth County Sheriff's investigator Bill Eller said.

A revolver and a passport, later identified as belonging to Dunivan, were found near the remains, Eller said.

Dunivan was 61 years old when he was charged in July 2007 in neighboring Ripley County with first-degree statutory sodomy involving an 11-year-old girl.

According to a probable cause statement by a Highway Patrol officer, the girl told investigators that she had oral sex with Dunivan "too many times to count" at numerous locations, including at Dunivan's Ripley County property, in Poplar Bluff and at a motel in Jefferson City, which is about 250 miles to the northwest.

A 12-year-old girl also told investigators that Dunivan had touched her genitals on the outside of her clothing, according to the probable cause statement, but that incident did not result in the sodomy charge.