Sunday, September 21, 2008
View the article here
A video is below as well.
FOUKE - Six children have been placed in temporary state custody after a raid on a church compound as part of a child-porn investigation, the Arkansas state police said Sunday.
The children will be under the care of the Department of Human Services, said a state police spokesman, Bill Sadler, until they have been interviewed by children's welfare officials. He did not say how long the interviews would last.
More than 100 federal and state police officers raided the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries in this small southwestern town on Saturday as part of a two-year investigation into child abuse and pornography allegations against a convicted tax evader, Tony Alamo.
"Should there be any long-term separation of the children from the Alamo property, a local court will make the determination as to the status of those children," Sadler said in a statement.
He did not say how old the children were, but an e-mail that the authorities inadvertently sent to reporters last week referred to 12-, 13- and 14-year-old girls.
The search ended after midnight, and Sadler said state officials had no plans to search the buildings again. The group planned to hold its regularly scheduled church services Sunday night in a former grocery store on the 15-acre, or six-hectare, complex.
Alamo, described by prosecutors in his tax evasion case as a polygamist who preys on girls and women, has denied being involved in pornography.
U.S. Attorney Bob Balfe declined to comment when asked whether an arrest warrant had been issued for Alamo or other members of his church. Balfe said before the raid that he expected a warrant to be issued for the leader.
The raid started an hour before sunset. Armed guards regularly patrol the headquarters, but there was no resistance as agents moved in, the state police said.
Social workers interviewed children who live at the complex, which critics have called a cult. The investigation involves a law that prohibits the transportation of children across state lines for criminal activity, said Tom Browne, who runs the FBI office in Little Rock.
In a telephone call Saturday from a friend's house in the Los Angeles area, Alamo denied being involved in pornography.
"We don't go into pornography. Nobody in the church is into that," Alamo said. "Where do these allegations stem from? The anti-Christ government. The Catholics don't like me because I have cut their congregation in half. They hate true Christianity."
Alamo and his wife at the time, Susan, were street preachers along Hollywood's Sunset Strip in 1966 before forming a commune near Saugus, California. Susan Alamo died of cancer in 1982. Alamo claimed she would be resurrected and he kept her body on display for six months while their followers prayed.
In 1988, after a raid near Santa Ana, California, three boys whose mothers were Alamo followers were placed in the custody of their fathers. Justin Miller, then 11, told the police that Alamo directed four men to strike him 140 times with a wooden paddle as punishment for minor offenses. Alamo was later charged with child abuse but prosecutors dropped the charge, citing a lack of evidence.
Alamo was convicted of tax-related charges in 1994 after the IRS said he owed the government $7.9 million. He served four years in prison.
Prosecutors in the tax case argued before sentencing that Alamo was a flight risk and a polygamist who preyed on married women and girls in his congregation.
Former law's classification casts shadow over man's life
NEWARK -- You can find his face and photograph on the online Ohio Sex Offender Registry and Notification database.
He currently is in the Licking County Justice Center, facing a pair of felony charges for living at an unregistered address, a violation for those enrolled in the registry.
Seals technically is a child victim offender and, according to numbers provided by the Ohio Attorney General's Office, he is one of more than 400 individuals in the state lumped in, and likely confused, with the mass of sex offenders.
"The public is not aware of this," Seals, 49, said during a video interview with The Advocate at the jail. "They just look at me and think I'm a monster."
THE 1994 INCIDENT
In February 1994, Seals walked into a salon in downtown Mount Vernon to meet his soon-to-be ex-wife to sign divorce papers, according to Mount Vernon police reports and interview transcripts with Seals.
Instead, Seals pulled a handgun, setting off the beginning of a four-hour standoff with police.
Inside the salon were two employees and two children -- the children were released within minutes and the adults soon thereafter. They called 911, and the salon was surrounded by police. Seals eventually surrendered without bloodshed.
He was indicted, pleaded guilty to and was convicted of one count of kidnapping and four counts of abduction.
In 1999, when Seals was released and classified under Megan's Law, the predecessor of the Adam Walsh Act, a defendant who was found guilty of abduction in which the victim was younger than 18 at the time of the offense was to be classified as a sexual offender, said Knox County Prosecutor John Thatcher, who had no involvement in the original case.
However, if Seals would have been convicted of the same crime today, prosecutors would need to prove the kidnapping or the abduction were sexually motivated to hold a classification hearing, according to the law.
Unfortunately for him, Seals said most people don't bother to find out why he's listed online as a sex offender.
Seals, a Newark resident, said his private life has been invaded because of his court-ordered status.
The words "molester" and "predator" have been scratched into his car and his home, he said.
- And this alone proves the sex offender laws are punishment. This man did not commit a sex crime, yet he is on the sex offender registry and being harassed by neighbors.
His stepchildren have been picked on by classmates, and Seals said he hasn't had any close friends since his reintroduction to society.
He has floated from job to job -- more than 20 in the past nine years -- and has learned the warning signs a boss elicits immediately before letting him go.
"They see me on the Internet, and it's only a matter of days before I get fired," Seals said. "The day that they find out, I already know."
The man who arrested Seals for failing to register, Licking County Sheriff's Office Detective Greg Collins, said he could not immediately identify any other offender he is assigned to monitor as having a similar underlying criminal case as Seals'.
Tasked with keeping an eye on 300 active registered offenders in the county and an additional 150 to 160 inmates who will have registration requirements upon release, Collins said the workload has increased but has not become overwhelming.
The passage of Ohio Senate Bill 10, known as the Adam Walsh Act, effective Jan. 1, heightened check-in responsibilities and the number of years sex offenders are required to do so.
As the sole detective tasked to watch the county's sex offender population, Collins said he is assisted in doing random address verification checks at least twice per month and with the promise that each offender's home will be visited at least once.
While the majority are compliant, Collins said that, like in any other criminal allegation when the law is broken by an offender, he must compile a case for prosecution.
Despite "having enough work," Collins said it is not his place to question who is under his surveillance.
"Whatever they were convicted of, if the court says they have to register as a classified sex offender, then they have to ... regardless of the underlying charges, we treat them the same," he said.
The registry exists to "help Ohioans protect their families and communities," according to the Ohio Attorney General's Web site.
Assistant Ohio Public Defender Jay Macke said the expressed purpose of the sex offender registry -- protection -- and its online accessibility are positives, but they are being compromised by the inclusion of people like Seals.
"I don't think anybody's served by having the state distribute what is essentially misleading information," he said.
Michelle Gatchell, spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office, said the creation of a separate registry for sex and child victim offenders would be up to the Ohio General Assembly.
Macke speculated financial and political reasons might have prevented the formation of a second catalogue, while Cuyahoga County Assistant Public Defender Cullen Sweeney thinks it just might be considered by the state to be simpler.
- Again, if we must keep the online registry, there should be ONE registry of ALL CRIMINALS, and detailed descriptions of what they did, so as to not let the public ASSUME they did something they did not do.
Either way, Sweeney said it is unfair to both the public, which relies on the information, and the child victim offender, who is perceived wrongly.
"You're going to assume that person committed a sexual offense when that's not the case," he said.
Ask Seals about that day in 1994 and he'll tell you it was stupid, dangerous decision.
Ask him about the sex offender registry and restricting those guilty of sex crimes and he offers a surprising answer.
"I am totally for it," he said. "I think the law should even be stricter."
- Well, maybe he should live on the registry for many more years, then tell me that!
'DISAPPEAR FROM THE SYSTEM'
Seals said he just wants to "disappear from the system" when his term of registration expires in April 2009.
However, as he is expected to be classified a Tier II offender, Seals could be saddled with an additional 15 years of reporting his home, work and vehicle information to authorities -- and the public.
- So if you do all this time on the registry, tell me then if you are OK with online shaming lists!
The prospect is defeating to Seals, who said he might have taken a different path in 1999 if he would have known then what he knows now.
"If I'd have known (this) the day I was released, I would have stayed in prison for the nine and a half years," he said. "It would have been easier than this."
- And again, his comments prove the laws are punishment, or it would not be difficult for him.
Licking County Assistant Prosecutor Dan Huston and defense attorney Eric Brehm, both of whom have been assigned to Seals' active case, said they expect to discuss the unique circumstances of Seals' situation during a scheduled pretrial this week.
His pending case, one count each of failure of a sex offender to provide notice of change of address and failure of a sex offender to register, both second-degree felonies, could net him up to 16 years behind bars.
- A violation gets you more time in prison than actually committing the crime, now if that isn't a$$ backwards, then I don't know what is.
His underlying offense of kidnapping, also a second-degree felony, makes his failure to register charge a level higher than the standard third-degree felony.
Russ Zimmer can be reached at (740) 328-8548 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
There's been a lot of debate at the State Capitol on bills relating to voter integrity. Some lawmakers are pushing for measures such as requiring voters to show a photo identification before being allowed to cast a ballot.
Another bill would criminalize anyone who delivers a ballot for someone unable to drive to the polls.
- And yet in the above video, and by their own words below, they do this very thing!
With so much emphasis on one vote for one person, you'd think lawmakers would make sure they follow the rules, too.
In this CBS 42 Investigates, Nanci Wilson found many don't.
State Representative Debbie Riddle (Contact), R-Tomball, authored the bill that would require voters to show a photo ID.
“It's all about integrity," Riddle said.
But the integrity of one person, one vote doesn't apply at the legislature. CBS 42 found many lawmakers vote more than once.
During a vote, Riddle votes, turns around and votes again for another state representative.
There's so much going on during the vote on the HPV vaccine mandate, you really have to pay attention.
First, State Rep. Mike Hamilton (Contact) is at his desk. He leans over to vote a second time for his deskmate Dan Branch. Hamilton reaches back to vote for Charlie Howard, then casts a fourth vote for Wayne Smith.
He's not the only one scrambling to vote. State Rep. G.E. West (Contact) and State Rep. Larry Phillips (Contact) both lean over to vote for themselves and their deskmates.
Phillips votes a third time for State Rep. Wayne Christian (Contact). Donna Howard (Contact) votes for State Rep. Hubert Vo (Contact).
State Rep. Jim Dunnam (Contact) didn't have to leave his chair to cast four votes--one for himself then for Garnet Coleman (Contact), Trey Martinez Fischer (Contact) and Marc Veasey (Contact).
Sometimes the voting is across party lines.
Will Hartnett (Contact), a Republican, reaches back to vote for Democrat Rene Oliveira (Contact).
Democrat Jim McReynolds (Contact) votes for Republican Kirk England (Contact), and Republican John Davis (Contact) votes for Democrat Rick Noriega (Contact).
Most voters have no way of knowing if their lawmakers are actually casting their own votes. Even though the legislature is broadcast on cable TV, the cameras change when it's time to vote.
But if you're sitting in the third floor gallery, you have a better view.
"I certainly noticed. There appears to be far more votes on the tick board than there were people in the room," capitol visitor Laurel Weiss said.
Arnie and Laurel Weiss were baffled when they came to see the legislature in action.
"It seems very inappropriate and they should do something about it,” Arnie Weiss said.
Riddle says voting for other members is done out of necessity.
- Hypocrite! So why can't I vote for all my friends who cannot go down and vote?
"We have a lot of amendments,” Riddle said. “We don't have lunch breaks, dinner breaks, restroom breaks."
- Excuses, Excuses, Excuses!
Necessity or not, one thing is clear, they aren't supposed to be doing it.
According to the official House rules--written, voted and approved by lawmakers at the beginning of the session--"Any member found guilty by the House of knowingly voting for another member on the voting machine shall be subject to discipline deemed appropriate by the House."
So, should lawmakers do it?
"No, there's no question,” Weiss said. “On face value it appears to be a blatant violation, an affront, of their own rules.”
- Yep, HYPOCRISY, it's the American way!!!
It is against their own rules. But the issue is with enforcement. It is the speaker’s job to make sure rules are followed. When CBS 42 asked Speaker of the House Tom Craddick’s (Contact) spokesperson about it, she just shrugged her shoulders and said it was up to the House members to decide what do to if there's a violation.
- You expect a den of wolves to rat out one of their own? Are you kidding?
Although the practice is widespread, CBS 42 couldn't find any instances of lawmakers being disciplined for voting more than once.
Statement from Alexis DeLee, Spokesperson for House Speaker, Tom Craddick.
"Since the membership has adopted the requirement for a record vote on 3rd reading, it is probable that members may vote for other members when they leave the floor to eat, meet with constituents or go to the restroom (Yeah right! If you are not in the room, you should not be allowed to vote, period! If you have to go to the bathroom, wait until after the vote! This is a good example of "cover your a$$!"). Like many House rules dealing with the interactions between members, we leave the enforcement of the rules to the good judgment of the members (Well, the members appear to not be exercising "good judgement!"). Members shouldn't be voting for members who aren't here, but if they do, everyone has the right to ask for a verification vote. A member may always lock their voting machine and take their key when they are off the floor so they may not be voted in their absence. When a verification is called and a member is not found, the House Sergeant's office locks their machine and takes their key. When strict enforcement is asked for by a house member, the Speaker allows each member time to get to their desk to vote."(I do not believe a word of this!)