So the US has been paranoid for a long time, huh?
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
So the US has been paranoid for a long time, huh?
Video available at the site above.
Reporter: Shalah Sasse - firstname.lastname@example.org
Aiken County--- Ashley Hazel is spending the afternoon at the park with her two kids. She feels the South Carolina sex offender law should be stricter and well enforced.
"When I was a kid it didn't seem like such a big deal. But now it just seems like you always have to be on the lookout," Ashley Hazel said.
- Are you really this stupid? Sex crimes have been around since the dawn of time, and they will always be here, period! The media and politicians have hyped the mass hysteria, for their own benefit. You did not have to worry when you were growing up, and nothing has changed, except the media and politicians using it to further their ratings and to get votes.
The Aiken County Council has been working on an ordinance for a year that would stop sex offenders from working or loitering within a thousand feet of places like schools, playgrounds, parks and child care facilities.
"I don't think it's too harsh. Not when it's my kids. I've got kids at school, walking out of school," Hazel said.
- Yeah, not when it doesn't affect you, but when your own kid or family member gets snared in the large nets, then you will be screaming a different tune. The sheeple shall speak!
The current law says a sex offender of a minor child cannot live within a thousand feet of schools, playgrounds, parks and child care facilities. Council member Lawana McKenzie says the county cannot pass a law that is stronger or weaker than the state law. And so tonight, the County Council had to do away with their ordinance.
"One thing that is good about the state law is they can apply stiffer fines than the county could. So that is a plus in having the state law, which all along we have felt in county government, this should be handled by the state and should not have to be done by county government." Aiken County Council member, Lawana McKenzie said.
But even though the state sex offender law restricts where sex offenders can live. Parents like Ashley wish the county had done more.
- So even if they did more, you'd still not be any more safe than you are and have been. It's easy to say "I wish they'd do more," but what do you think should be done?
See the video at the end
Posted By: Mark Hedlund
SACRAMENTO - One day after Roseville police warned of a new violent sex offender moving in, that man told a radio audience he's a changed man and asked for forgiveness.
"I've been a terrible person," said Charles Michael Etchison, a 53-year-old man with a history of violent sexual assaults and a juvenile conviction for murdering his first known sexual assault victim in 1972. "I'm a changed man. Today I do the right thing at all times. I'm accountable to the Lord."
Just before noon Wednesday, Etchison walked into the KTKZ radio studios in Sacramento to appear on "The Capitol Hour" with Eric Hogue. For the next 60 minutes, he freely answered questions from Hogue and callers about his violent past, his neighbors' fears, and willingness to do whatever necessary to convince people he's no longer a threat.
That radio appearance came one day after Roseville police distributed more than 100 fliers in the neighborhood around Marblethorpe Drive where Etchison lives. He moved in one week ago after marrying his longtime girlfriend who lives in the duplex. Police became aware of his presence after he registered with them as a sex offender, which he's required to do for the rest of his life.
Etchison has a long history of violent offenses, including murder and the forced sexual assault of five different women, beginning when he was 17 years old. Etchison was released in 2006 from the violent sexual predator program after spending the prior 10 years at Atascadero State Hospital. He had been in prison most of his adult life, but since his release in 2006 is not on parole.
"I don't want to be the source of hurt any longer," Etchison said, saying he became a Christian in the early 1990s while in prison. "I look at women differently now. I look at them as children of God. I've been examined by many doctors. I went through a trial where the judge said I was now safe to be returned to the community."
The police notification has created fear and outrage among neighbors, some of whom called into the radio show. Police have also scheduled a community meeting for Wednesday night to address concerns and answer questions.
"No, I will not appear at the meeting," Etchison said, after police asked him not to be there. He said if he was invited he'd be willing, but understands "there are maybe people who don't want to be in the same room with me."
"There's fear. There's anger. I want to apologize and ask for forgiveness," Etchison said. When Hogue asked if he would be willing to prove himself by doing volunteer work or checking in with police once a week, Etchison said, "Yes, I would. I'll do anything possible to ease the fear of police, of Roseville."
"Watch every move that I make. See what I do, see how I act. I think you'll find I'm an asset to the community, not a hinderance," he said.
In speaking of his past, he said before 1990, "I was a person that didn't care about anybody but myself. I would just take what I wanted. I didn't care about arrest, I didn't care about authority." Then he says he began getting therapy in prison and at Atascadero. "It helps you with distorted thinking," he said.
"There are two kinds of sex offenders: those unwilling to control themselves, those unable to control themselves. I was unwilling," Etchison said. Asked how he reacts now when he sees young women, he said, "Not where I've been tempted but I've been reminded of my past."
He also said he and his wife have no plans to leave Roseville, despite the uproar he's caused. "Everywhere that I go this has a potential to come out. I need to settle down. If they (residents) just give me a change, they'll see I'm a man of God" he said.
When released from custody in 2006, Etchison moved to the Palermo area near Oroville to join the Jordan Crossing Ministry, started by another ex-con named Michael Tomlison. Tomlison, who says he started the ministry in the mid-1990s, accompanied Etchison to the radio show and vouched for his friend.
"In our church there's a lot of women, people with daughters. In the last 22 months he has proven himself. He has a track record in the last 22 months," Tomlison told the radio audience. "Let them see what he does, not what he did."
At the end of the show, Etchison told News10 he was glad he agreed to speak out, though he realizes there are many people who will never change their minds no matter what he says or does. He said there's one key message he wants to come across: "The old Michael Etchison is dead," he said.
By STEFANIE SCOTT - email@example.com
Committee follows city attorney’s advice
Greenfield’s Legislative Committee has chosen not to make a recommendation as to whether the city should adopt ordinances that would restrict where registered sex offenders can live and loiter.
Instead, members took City Attorney Roger Pyzyk’s advice Oct. 20 to first allow the issue to be discussed in a public hearing and then let the Common Council discuss and decide the outcome, likely in early November.
- This is why sex offenders, and their families need to attend these meetings, to let their voice be known. If it's in a school, then the family needs to go voice their concerns.
Three of the council’s five members — Linda Lubotsky, Tom Pietrowski and Shirley Saryan — sit on the Legislative Committee. So far only Lubotsky has been vocal on her support of such ordinances. Pietrowski has voiced doubts.
Spelling out the rules
As currently drafted, the proposed ordinances would prohibit sex offenders from living or loitering within a 1,000-foot radius of a public park, parkway, swimming pool, library, recreation trail, playground, school, day care center, specialized training facilities (such as for gymnastics or dance academy programs) and athletic fields used by children.
Previous drafts called for a larger restricted residency area and included churches as a safe zone from loitering.
The changes provide more areas where sex offenders could live and do not impede on a person’s freedom to practice religion — two areas that could have proven difficult to defend if the ordinances were contested in court, Pyzyk said.
The proposed loitering ordinance includes language that would not make it illegal for a sex offender to use a path to walk through a park. Instead, the rules would prohibit an offender from being in the child safety zone “under circumstances that warrant alarm for the safety of persons in the vicinity.” So if an offender were found hiding behind a bush in a park or ran when he saw a police officer, those would be causes for arrest, Pyzyk said.
- How many sex offenders do you know of, who "hide behind bushes?" This is pure fear-mongering!
In addition, the ordinance prohibits offenders from answering the door for trick-or-treaters. However, it does not specify whether a convicted sex offender could dress up as Santa Claus or other characters. That’s because most malls and companies that hire for such positions perform background checks, Lubotsky said.
In the past few months, the committee has heard from several speakers who support restrictions, but this week it heard from someone who does not.
Melissa Roberts (Phone: 608-240-5820), director of sex offender program for the state Department of Correction, argued against residency restrictions, which she said have been known to stop some offenders from reporting where they are living. Consequently, it can lull parents into a false sense of security.
“A residency restriction sends a message to parents that they don’t have to worry because the known sex offender isn’t living in their neighborhood,” Roberts said. “There are 20,000-plus sex offenders in the state that we know of, but only 19 percent of sexual assaults are reported and far fewer are prosecuted.”
By updating their information with the state’s sex offender registry, local law enforcement can find out where the offenders are living within their community and supervise them.
Residency restrictions are well-intentioned, but statistical analysis has not proven the laws effective, Roberts said. She was more supportive of the loitering ordinance that may prove more effective in protecting children.
Roberts may have changed the mind of at least one resident who previously voiced support.
“I’m not hearing much information about the effectiveness of residency restrictions,” Nina Kohl said. “If it’s sending them underground, that makes my kid less safe,” she said.
Stefanie Scott can be reached at (262) 446-6618.
PENDLETON - A Pendleton man has been sentenced to 100 years in prison without parole for raping his 9-year-old stepdaughter.
A judge called the crime despicable when he sentenced 34-year-old Darryl Lamont Galloway to what amounts to life in prison. Galloway was also convicted of sodomy and sex abuse.
Umatilla County District Attorney Dean Gushwa said it was the longest sentence he can remember for those crimes.
They fall under the Oregon version of Jessica's Law, a response to the 2005 rape and murder of a child in Florida by a previously convicted sex offender.
Galloway is facing a trial in Clackamas County on similar charges involving another child victim.
View the article here
Colebrook - Three-term Rep. George Wilber (Email) (D-Colebrook) is resigning from the General Assembly after revelations he paid a woman to avoid embarrassing allegations they had a sexual relationship when she was a child.
Wilber, 63, is in poor health and awaiting a kidney transplant.
"To tell you the truth, he's a dying man," his son, Duncan Wilber, said at the family's dairy farm in Colebrook.
He said his father was at the hospital Tuesday and is resigning because of his health.
Whatever happened between the woman and his father happened before Duncan Wilber was born, he said.
Wilber reportedly paid $100,000 to the woman three years ago in return for an agreement not to sue him. The woman is reportedly 47 years old, the relationship took place in the 1970s.
Wilber's name remains on the election ballot for Nov. 4. His opponent is John Rigby, a Republican from Colebrook.
Wilber is a former state agriculture commissioner and longtime first selectman of Colebrook.
Posted by The Ring of Scribes
This post is likely to stir up strong feelings for some, so I’m going to start with a disclaimer: I don’t condone sexual abuse. I’ve seen how damaging sex abuse is to the lives of its victims. I’ve seen how damaging it can be to the lives of perpetrators’ families. I believe that those that perpetrate sex crimes should be punished severely for what they have done.
However, society cannot justly punish sex criminals without first genuinely affording them the rights and procedural safeguards that are recognized in the United States Constitution, and those that have been recognized by courts of law as serving sound public policy.
Many of these rights and safeguards have been diluted over time, as citizens have pushed their legislatures to be increasingly tough on crime. Of all of the rights and safeguards that are available, I have become particularly concerned with the dilution of the Constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy. This important protection is in danger.
The prohibition against double jeopardy is contained in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which provides: “nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” Simply put, this means that you can’t put someone on trial twice for the same crime. If a person goes to trial and is acquitted, that’s it. It’s over.
Presumably, if you can try a person over and over and over for the same crime, eventually you will find a jury that will convict him, whether or not he is guilty. The government shouldn’t be able to do this. If an innocent person is acquitted of a crime, he should go free, and should not live under the fear that he will be tried for the same crime again and again until he is finally convicted, and his life is ruined by unjust imprisonment and stigmatization.
On the other hand, if a guilty person is convicted of a crime, he should go to prison and pay his debt to society, and then go free. He, by the same token, should not be required to live under the constant fear that he will be tried, convicted and imprisoned for the same crime again, never having a chance to change his ways and become a contributor to society. This principle is fundamental. In the United States, we believe that people deserve another chance to be good, to try again. The Fifth Amendment prohibition against double jeopardy places this Christian principle at the foundation of our laws.
Some people, however, believe that “once a criminal, always a criminal,” and try to circumvent the Fifth Amendment prohibition against double jeopardy. State prosecutors will sometimes do this by raising a defendant’s past criminal convictions or other bad behavior in a trial on an unrelated crime. They know that a jury is more likely to convict a defendant of a serious crime if the jury knows that the defendant has previously been accused of or convicted of a crime.
To protect against this practice, the rules of evidence in the federal and Utah systems (as well as other states) prevent state prosecutors from bringing up past criminal allegations or convictions at trials for unrelated crimes. The rule is found, for example, in the Federal Rules of Evidence, Rule 404 (the Utah rule is similar):
“(b) Other Crimes, Wrongs, or Acts. Evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person in order to show action in conformity therewith. It may, however, be admissible for other purposes, such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident, provided that upon request of the accused, the prosecution in a criminal case shall provide reasonable notice in advance of trial, or during trial if the court excuses pretrial notice on good cause shown, of the general nature of any such evidence it intends to introduce at trial”
The important part of this rule is the first line: “Evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person in order to show action in conformity therewith.” To see what this means, let’s take the following extremely simplified example (which ignores the implications of other rules of evidence and procedure):
Suppose that John Doe is arrested for possession of marijuana. At trial, it turns out that the government doesn’t really have any proof that Mr. Doe had marijuana. To get around this slight problem, the prosecutor shows the jury Mr. Doe’s criminal record, which shows that Mr. Doe was convicted of selling drugs ten years ago. The prosecutor then says to the jury, “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, Mr. Doe is a convicted drug dealer. Drug dealers are dangerous. They will hurt your children. Please do the right thing for your families and for your community, and convict Mr. Doe.”
Juries are human. They fear for the safety of their homes and families. Jurors would likely be troubled by the prosecutor’s statements, and justify convicting Mr. Doe simply because they think he’s a bad person and they don’t want him on the streets. In other words, they would convict Mr. Doe of possession of marijuana even though there is no evidence that he possessed any marijuana.
This would be a huge problem. It wouldn’t really matter whether Mr. Doe committed the crime. All that the prosecutor would have to do is make the jury sufficiently angry at Mr. Doe for mistakes he made in the past. Fortunately, Federal Rule of Evidence 404 and its state counterparts have historically prevented prosecutors from doing this.
Recently, however, there has been in this rule as it relates to sex offenders. The Federal Rules of Evidence were changed in 1994 to allow evidence of other sex crimes to show the propensity of a defendant to commit sex crimes. This rule has, this year, come to Utah. Effective April 1 of this year, and following the lead of Federal Rules of Evidence 413-415, Utah Rule of Evidence 404 was amended to provide in part:
“(c)(1) In a criminal case in which the accused is charged with child molestation, evidence of the commission of other acts of child molestation may be admissible to prove a propensity to commit the crime charged provided that the prosecution in a criminal case shall provide reasonable notice in advance of trial, or during trial if the court excuses pretrial notice on good cause shown, of the nature of any such evidence it intends to introduce at trial.”
The introduction of this amendment into the Utah Rules of Evidence was a reaction to the Utah Supreme Court’s Ruling in State v. Doporto, 935 P.2d 484 (Utah 1997). Associate Chief Justice Stewart of the Utah Supreme Court summarized the facts in Doporto this way:
“The victim, A.W., testified that sometime during the summer of 1988, when she was seven years old, she went to Doporto’s home when one of Doporto’s daughters invited her to sleep over. During the evening, Doporto entered the room, asked A.W. if she wanted some lotion, and then had her sit on the couch next to him, where he pulled her legs onto his lap, rubbed lotion on the inside of her legs, and touched her panties. Doporto then left the room but later returned and lay down behind her, pulled her nightgown up, and anally sodomized her. After Doporto left the room, A.W. attempted to wake Doporto’s daughter, who was either asleep or pretending to be asleep and did not respond. A.W. cried herself to sleep. In the morning, A.W. gathered her things and left.
A.W.’s mother testified that A.W.’s behavior had changed at about the same time. She developed difficulties in school while in the second grade, said that she wanted to change her name and her appearance, and shied away from adults, particularly men. A.W.’s aunt testified that during the late summer of 1988, while on a visit, A.W. seemed uncomfortable disrobing in her aunt’s presence prior to taking a bath and appeared to experience pain when she sait in the bathtub. Her aunt also noticed a dark stain in the crotch area of A.W.’s panties and initially assumed that A.W. was not wiping adequately after going to the bathroom. She then noticed, however, that the stain had no odor, and she threw the panties in the trash.”
At the trial, the state called two other witnesses, B.J.L. and T.M., who testified that Doporto had sexually abused them in the past. (The history of this case has been taken primarily from Paul G. Cassell & Evan S. Strassberg, Evidence of Repeated Acts of Rape and Child Molestation: Reforming Utah Law to Permit the Propensity Inference, 1998 Utah L. Rev. 145 (1998).) Doporto appealed to the Utah Supreme Court, saying that the testimony of these prior bad acts should not have been allowed under Utah Rule of Evidence 404(b). The Supreme Court agreed, and overturned Doporto’s conviction. The Supreme Court granted Doporto a new trial, and instructed that the testimony of the two witnesses should not be allowed at the new trial.
Nearly a year afterward, Doporto entered a plea bargain. Doporto admitted that he had raped A.W., and pled guilty to a reduced second-degree felony charge. In exchange, he got a sentence for essentially the time that he had already been in jail (called a sentence for “time served”). In other words, Doporto got off. He got away with it. The emotional trauma for A.W. and her family were almost unbearable (A.W.’s father leaped up and punched Doporto during the hearing to consummate the plea, which resulted in a felony charge against A.W.’s father).
The result in the Doporto case outraged many people. As a result of the public outcry, legislation was introduced in Utah to overrule the Doporto decision and establish a law which would make evidence of prior child molestation crimes admissible at trial. This legislation was pre-empted by the Utah Supreme Court, which, in order to maintain its relative control over the Utah Rules of Evidence, amended the Utah Rules of Evidence to overrule the Doporto case and restore the law on other crimes evidence to the state it had been in prior to Doporto.
Nevertheless, the public was not satisfied, and in April of this year Rule 404(c) became effective, which, as stated previously, explicitly allows the introduction of evidence of prior crimes of child molestation to show the defendant’s propensity to commit those crimes.
I am, as many others are, horrified by the facts of the Doporto case, and angry that Doporto got away with what he did. But I don't think that the anger that we feel when we hear about cases like Doporto can justify the dilution of constitutional rights.
All parents want to protect their little children from sex abusers. When little children are sexually abused by adults, the children often don’t report it until years later, when all physical evidence of the abuse is gone. Since there are almost never any witnesses to sexual abuse of children, the evidence is limited to the child’s testimony and the testimony of the abuser. The trial then becomes a trial of credibility between a young adult who was abused years ago as a child, and the abuser who was an adult at the time of the alleged incident. Juries often credit the testimony of the abuser, feeling that children are prone to fanciful delusions about what really happened, or that perhaps the child’s memory has been manipulated by a parent or guardian who is overzealous to uncover sexual abuse to explain a child’s behavioral abnormalities.
The importance of these concerns cannot be denied. But they cannot overcome the interest that we all have in assuring that no person is convicted of a crime that he did not do. There is an old adage in the law that says that “it is better for ten guilty people to be set free than for one innocent man to be unjustly imprisoned.” Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238, 368 n. 158 (1972). The basis for this principle is the same that underlies the concern of protective parents for their innocent children, the very same that underlies our laws against the murder of innocent people: It is fundamentally contrary to our conception of right and wrong to destroy an innocent person’s life. Sexual abuse destroys lives, and there should be justice done to those who commit sex crimes. But imprisonment and stigmatization as a sex offender will also just as surely destroy a life, and society must be certain beyond a reasonable doubt that it is destroying the right person’s life.
When society makes a mistake a convicts the wrong person, tragedy ensues which is every bit as damaging as the sexual abuse of a child. Take the example of Anthony Capozzi, an innocent man convicted in 1987 of two rapes that he didn’t commit. Anthony was finally exonerated last year, after serving 20 years in prison, by DNA evidence that collected from the victims after the incident in 1985 which showed that another man had committed the crime. The following is part of Anthony’s story from the Innocence Project’s Website:
“Biological evidence stored for two decades in a hospital drawer was the key to the 2007 exoneration of Anthony Capozzi, a Buffalo, New York, man who spent 20 years in prison for two rapes he didn’t commit.
DNA tests in March 2007 showed that another man, Altemio Sanchez, actually committed the attacks for which Capozzi was convicted. Sanchez was convicted in 2007 of three other murders and is currently serving life in prison.
Capozzi was charged with three similar rapes and went to trial in 1987. The rape victims told police their attacker was about 160 pounds – Capozzi weighed 200 to 220 pounds. None of the victims mentioned a prominent three-inch scar on Capozzi’s face. All three victims identified Capozzi in court as the attacker. He was convicted by a jury of two rapes and acquitted of the third. He was sentenced to 35 years.
Biological evidence was collected from two victims in 1985 and stored in a hospital drawer. When the evidence was tested in 2007 at the request of Capozzi and his attorney, sperm collected during the rape examinations of both victims matched the profile of Sancehz – and proved that Capozzi could not be the rapist.
Capozzi was exonerated and released from state custody in April 2007.”
You can read more about Anthony’s story in this Washington Post article: “A Mother’s Faith.”
Sex crimes are a serious problem. Child abuse is a serious problem. But we can’t fix those problems by convicting the wrong people. Putting the wrong people in prison doesn’t help our children. While some may be satisfied by the punishment alone, that satisfaction will disappear if it is later discovered that the wrong person was punished. We must not allow our strong emotions about child sex abuse to allow us to throw justice aside. We cannot continue to allow evidence of prior sex crimes to be used to convict the innocent.
Some will, of course, argue that a convicted sex offender is not innocent, even if he didn’t commit the particular crime that he is charged with. Even assuming this is true, however, is conviction for a crime the sex offender did not commit the answer? Surely not. If society believes that the commission of a sex crime warrants a life sentence for the offender, then that punishment should be imposed properly by mandating life sentences for sex criminals, whose guilt has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and not by allowing evidence of prior crimes to be introduced at trial to show propensity to commit sex crimes, which invariably moves the jury toward the dangerous territory of improper conviction.
Federal Rules of Evidence 413-415 and Utah Rule of Evidence 404(c) have come into existence because we, the people, wanted them to. If we are to restore justice to our society, the people are going to have to demand it~
Now, they will see what it's like to live with the sex offender label!
Two Fond du Lac County Jail prisoners accused of sexually assaulting and striking a convicted sex offender have been bound over for trial.
John S. Hall Jr., 32, of 305 S. Park Ave., is charged with battery to a prisoner. Otto L. Fountain, 18, of Oshkosh, is accused of battery to a prisoner and third-degree sexual assault.
Both men were initially charged with first-degree sexual assault, battery by a prisoner and lewd and lascivious behavior.
The incident happened in the Huber dormitory of the jail in early June.
Video is available at the site. I wonder how these sex offenders feel about having this video on the Internet? Notice they start off hiding their faces, but then go about showing their faces and everything! Therapy sessions are suppose to be private matters!
By ROB PIERCY / KING 5 News
MONROE - It's a rare glimpse inside a unique classroom. All the students are sex offenders.
What they learn here may well save someone in the future from becoming a victim.
"I molested a 12-year-old girl, and I was convicted of child molestation in the second degree," said John, a 22-year old level three sex offender.
He’s one of five students in Monroe's sexual offender treatment program who agreed to be interviewed.
"I don't want to get out if I'm going to hurt somebody, it tears at my heart when I think about the things I'm responsible for," said Mark.
"We have about a five percent recidivism rate for folks who've been treated and 10 to 30 percent for folks who have not," said Program director Sally Neiland.
And according to Det. Joe Beard, who runs Snohomish County's sex offender unit, those numbers are backed up by what he sees on the streets.
"I think really, overall the treatment center has done an excellent job," he said.
So just how do they treat these offenders? It all involves changing their behavior. One of the simple techniques they use is aversion therapy, having them think deviant thoughts, and then make them smell something vile like limburger cheese or fish oil.
“It causes a physical reaction and it was actually very, very effective for me," said John.
With two years until he's eligible to be released, John says he works every day to make sure he's succeeding in the program. Success on the outside will depend on it.
- Not really! Many have received treatment, and are off probation or parole, and life is hell, due to the new laws! Which begs the question, if you cannot get back to a somewhat normal life, once you are on the outside, why get treatment at all? I'm not saying they shouldn't, and I recommend they do, for themselves, and everyone else.
"I've heard it said and I can fully attest, I've found freedom in prison," said John.
The program costs about $10,000 a year per offender. But studies show that's significantly less than what it costs to prosecute someone if they re-offend.
Pinckney students disciplined for passing on cell phone image of girl, 14, to as many as 200 others.
PINCKNEY -- As many as two dozen students from Pinckney Community High School could be suspended by the end of the week for their role in transmitting a cell phone photograph of a nude female classmate that may have reached nearly 200 others, school officials said Tuesday.
Ten students were suspended Monday, including the 14-year-old girl who snapped the photo of herself during the summer, according to Superintendent Dan Danosky. The girl sent the explicit image as a joke to a few friends, who in turn spread the image -- a photograph police are calling pornography.
School officials declined to discuss the girl's suspension individually. Other suspensions will range from one-day in-school suspensions to several-day out-of-school suspensions.
Some students could also face charges by the Livingston County Prosecutor's Office once the Sheriff's Department wraps up its investigation.
Possessing or distributing child sexually abusive material is a four-year felony under Michigan law and a 10-year sex offender registry offense for juveniles, unless a judge grants otherwise. Prosecutor David Morse has said he would not request sex offender registry, if charges are filed, since the students were not acting in a predatory manner.
Principal James Darga said the responsible students will be disciplined for violating such school policies as using a cell phone on school grounds, unacceptable use of technology, act of indecency and disturbing the educational process.
"We have not suspended anyone who just received the photo. That was beyond their control," Darga said.
School officials are evaluating each student's actions based on whether the explicit photograph was transmitted during school hours, the number of people it was sent to and malicious intent.
"We're sorting out each student's involvement and trying to be as fair and consistent as we can," he said.
District officials have been investigating the incident since Oct. 7, when Darga discovered an anonymous envelope on his desk with the explicit photo inside.
The school has since confiscated about six cell phones. Some have been returned to the students or parents and others turned over to the Sheriff's Department, Darga said.
A handful of parents have clamed the cell phones are private property and the school district and police overstepped their authority. Others have supported school officials for taking a tough stance.
One father said he was "in shock." His daughter's phone was confiscated and returned after it was determined the image had not been forwarded.
The girl who took the nude photo of herself is an acquaintance of his daughter's, one of several who recently went to see the popular boy band the Jonas Brothers. He called the girl a high achiever who he never would have suspected of doing such a thing.
The issue has resulted in more family discussions on Internet and cell phone safety, with parents trying to make sense of what happened rather than forming opinions on school or police actions, he said.
Darga said the high school will address the cell phone issue formally with a student assembly at a yet-to-be-determined date.
The Sheriff's Department confiscated about a dozen cell phones and will not return any until the photo is erased by a forensic expert. The cost to do so may exceed the value of the phone, Sheriff Bob Bezotte said.
Prosecutor David Morse said that in a similar case of a preteen boy sending an image of his genitals to a girl's cell phone, juvenile charges resulted in probation, with emphasis on educating the boy on the dangers of sending such messages.
You can reach Valerie Olander at (517) 552-5503.
By Sandy Hodson - Staff Writer
The tough-on-sex-crimes legislation that demands long, mandatory minimum prison sentences for offenders might be having unintended consequences for victims.
With fewer people pleading guilty, more victims might have to testify at trial.
Anyone accused of committing several types of sexual assault after July 1, 2006, faces mandatory minimum sentences with no possibility of parole.
For example, convictions for rape, aggravated sodomy, aggravated sexual battery and aggravated child molestation require a sentence of 25 years to life. If the convicted sex offender is released from prison, he must spend the rest of his life on probation and on the sexual offender registry.
For a conviction of enticing a child for indecent purposes, the mandatory minimum sentence is 10 years.
"When your back is up against the wall and you're looking at going to prison for a long time ... more people are going to roll the dice" and go to trial, said attorney Scott Connell, who prosecuted criminal cases for 51/2 years before entering private practice nearly six years ago.
Mandatory minimum sentences take away any incentive for a defendant to plead guilty, Augusta Judicial Circuit public defender Sam B. Sibley Jr. said. A drop in guilty pleas also adds to the backlog of pending cases, Mr. Connell said.
In the first 10 months of 2006, 52 percent of sexual assault cases were closed. So far this year, only 34 percent have been closed.
That means more victims have to testify, said attorney Willie Saunders, who is in private practice now after eight years in the prosecutor's office.
"It's rough enough to put an adult on the stand in front of strangers to talk about unwanted and illegal sexual acts," Mr. Saunders said. "It's even worse when it's a child."
This month in Richmond County Superior Court, two sisters ages 6 and 7 had to face cross-examination in Mitchell Holmes' child molestation trial.
Though the jury had watched a videotaped questioning of each girl that was conducted by a trained counselor, the law since 2004 requires victims to be made available for cross-examination.
Mr. Homes, 56, was convicted.
District Attorney Ashley Wright said the numbers aren't available yet to make a definitive analysis of the sexual offense cases. It's logical to think that fewer people are pleading guilty, she said.
Sexual assault crimes have always been difficult for people to admit to, Ms. Wright said. Before a judge will accept a guilty plea, there must be an admission of guilt.
It's tough for victims to testify, but it can also empower them to confront their abusers, Ms. Wright said.
The General Assembly increased the penalties for sex crimes in 2006 on the heels of the Jessica Lunsford case. Registered sex offender John Couey, who was captured in Augusta, was convicted of raping and murdering the 9-year-old Florida girl. He was sentenced to death last year.
Georgia lawmakers set mandatory minimum prison sentences for all sex crimes except those involving consenting teenagers who are close in age.
Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.