Sunday, December 7, 2008

More proof that most children are abused and killed by their own parents, not some stranger in the bushes!

GA - Georgia's sex offender laws need more work

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Editor's note: Today's guest editorial is from the Savannah Morning News.

Georgia's sex offender laws should differentiate between statutory rape and other sex offenses.

Like much legislation, Georgia's sex offender laws also adhere to the law of unintended consequences.

Some issues have been addressed by the General Assembly, mainly as a result of Georgia's courts dialing back the harsh punishments called for under this section of state law.

Take, for instance, the case of Genarlow Wilson. Found guilty of receiving oral sex from a 15-year-old girl when he was 17, Wilson was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Under the same law in effect at the time, had the teen had vaginal sex with the girl, he would have been convicted of a misdemeanor punishable by no more than a year in jail and would not have been subject to the sex offender registry.

Since that case found national attention (and a reprimand from the state Supreme Court), the General Assembly closed the loophole that treated oral sex differently.

The Wilson case highlighted the need to treat statutory rape cases -- where the offense centers on age difference -- separately from cases in which the offense centers on violence. Indeed, the law treated cases of teen-age misconduct differently, even when Wilson was convicted.

That law should be expanded to include all cases of statutory rape where the victim has testified the offense was not violent, and where the age difference is within a preset range -- within three or four years.

Such cases should be treated differently from violent, predatory offenses in sentencing phases, and in the requirements for sex offender registry after a defendant's prison term has been served.

A more recent example of this is the case of Cedric Bradshaw of Statesboro. When Bradshaw was 19, he pleaded guilty to having sex with a 15-year-old girl.

After serving five years, Bradshaw was sentenced to life in prison for twice failing to register his correct address. On Tuesday, the Georgia Supreme Court struck down the sentence, but not the finding of Bradshaw's guilt in failing to register.

The defendant earlier served a six-month sentence for registering under a false address. Upon his release, Bradshaw was forced to move from his sister's home and then from his aunt's house under state provisions banning sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a children's recreation center or a church.

He then gave law officers the address of a family friend who initially said he could move in, but with whom Bradshaw claimed he was unable to establish subsequent contact. The defendant was found to be living with his girlfriend in the interim.

While a penalty may be called for in this case, state Supreme Court Justice Robert Benham rightly noted that someone convicted of voluntary manslaughter could receive a sentence as low as one year -- not the 10 years imposed on Bradshaw.

By remanding the case back to a lower court and requiring a new sentence to be established, the high court has again made necessary a fix by the General Assembly. Otherwise, the lower courts will have no legal basis for setting a different penalty.

The legislature's legal fix should include a lesser penalty (if any at all) for failure to register when committed by a person convicted of statutory rape, as opposed to the inherently violent offenses of rape or child molestation.

The purpose of the registry is to protect the public from adult creeps who prey on defenseless children or who would sexually assault an adult. An ill-advised sexual relationship between young people of similar age should not fall into the same category.

In other words, Georgia's law should reflect some common sense.

Message From Petra to Army, attempting to justify her harassment of Jan Kruska

Click the image to enlarge it, or here to visit her forum

Eliminating child porn is admirable, and should be done, but harassing people, is not, thus the law suit!

Talking about who they have and are attacking

Complacency: The Freedom Killer (Part 2)


"I hate to see complacency prevail in our lives when it's so directly contrary to the teaching of Christ."

---Jimmy Carter

The United States of America was founded on the principles of Christianity. Some may not be Christians or even believe in God. But the truth is, all men were created equal. In that equality, we all have a certain set of "inalienable" or "natural" rights. These "natural" rights come directly from God.

These natural rights have never been put into a complete list. Simply because it was presumed at the time of the Constitution that people knew what these rights were. For the sake of trying to prevent the Government they were trying to establish, the founding fathers put a few on paper.

This is known as the Bill of Rights.

The first 10 listed in the Bill of Rights are a pretty straight forward and simple list. What many people may not know, is that there is a bigger list of substantive rights. These substantive rights are the extension of the basic rights listed. For example, Freedom of Speech gives us the right to say what we want, when we want it. What people may not realise is that they also, under freedom of speech, have the right to: freedom to assemble, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom to petition. All of the minute and infinite rights that are protected under those are considered to be substantive.

These substantive rights are vitally important to the continued success of the American people and the "dream" that is America. For example, imagine the loss of the right to petition. We would no longer have the right to gather signatures for important matters. This would effectively stop the citizens from helping to create legislation. Imagine the havoc that would create and the doors it would open for the Government to bring in a different style of government.

So, in understanding that we have a need to fight for our rights and to protect them. Even if it means that a law that "feels good" or looks good on paper needs to not be passed, it's the greater good of protecting our rights that is more important.

Complacency breeds a need for bigger government, more "security", and allows us to turn on our fellow men.

Complacency by the people will be the downfall of this great nation.

Do not let complacency rule your life. Can you imagine what will happen if you keep on with the same things you are doing? Can you imagine what will happen if you don't stand up for your rights?

It reminds me of a poem I know of:

When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent;I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent;I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out;I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews, I remained silent;I was not a Jew.

When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out...

Are you going to allow this to happen to you?

Complacency: The Freedom Killer (Part 1)


"I have absolutely no idea what my generation did to enrich our democracy. We dropped the ball. We entered a period of complacency and closed our eyes to the public corruption of our democracy."

---Wynton Marsalis

Many an author has written about the disgraceful state of mind called Complacency. Few have managed to stir people to action. We all aspire to create a burning need in the hearts of Man to get up and do something to change their world.

The more I read on personal development, the more that I learn that change always, and only, begins inside of one's self. Leo Tolstoy says "Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself."

To understand complacency, we need to only examine the pace of our lives. Most people spend their time pretty much the same way. Few people actually strive to grow as individuals. Most are too busy trying to stay afloat in life to move forward personally. That, believe it or not, is stagnation. Also known as Complacency. They are complacent with their lives, how they live their lives, their surroundings, and where they are headed overall. The problem with that is that if one only thinks about today and how you are doing, you'll never see the speed bumps of tomorrow.

Complacency programs our brains into accepting that the dreams and goals that we sought after while we were children are unreachable. Or that we lack the power within ourselves to change and become the person that we always dreamed of.

How does complacency affect you? Think of it this way. If the Constitution is slowly and quietly being taken out of our country, and you are OK with how things are today, you'll never recognize the danger that lurks around the corner as our liberties are slowly eaten up.

As our liberties are taken away, you might think "It's not that bad" or "It sucks to be that guy" when you see him affected by the loss of liberty. But what you fail to realise is that as one right is effectively taken away, it sets us up to lose more.

"The only way for Evil to prevail is for enough Good people to do nothing" is a quote that I've heard many times. The more we think that this won't happen to us, or that it's the other guys problem and not mine, we lose our ability to stand up and say "That's not right!"

If we stay complacent, and do nothing, then nothing changes. Have you ever heard the saying "Nothing changes if nothing changes"? If you don't change, then the way the world is headed will not change.

Complacency will kill our ability to fight for our Freedom's granted by the Constitution of the United States of America. There is a sentence I recently found in the book called "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" that I'd like to share with you. It's found on page 60 and 61, "Each of us guards a gate of change that can only be opened from the inside. We cannot open the gate of another, either by argument or by emotional appeal."

So I humbly ask, Open your Gate. Let the change begin in your heart. In John C. Maxwell's book "Thinking For a Change", he has a quote in there that states, "A belief is not just an idea that you possess; it is an idea that possesses you." Believe that you can make a change in your own life. Believe that you have the voice to stand up and be heard. Believe that through small changes in ourselves, big changes in our world can happen.

Fight for your Freedoms before they are all gone. Don't let the hubbub of life keep you stuck in the "rut". Stand up and be heard. Take complacency out of your life and replace it with belief and purpose.

MD - Federal law ties funds to tougher state restrictions

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By CARYN TAMBER - Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer

States have a choice: They can fall in line with a federal sex offender law by enacting broad new restrictions on offenders by next summer, or risk losing federal anti-crime money.
- It will cost them more to implement the laws than to not.

But even residents of states that choose not to adopt the federal law could be affected by it.

Offenders and their lawyers say the government is improperly using the law, the Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act, to impose restrictions on offenders convicted years ago.

“The big problem we’re having here is people are being prosecuted for federal failure to register when SORNA hasn’t even been implemented in states,” said Paresh S. Patel, an assistant federal public defender in Greenbelt.

Federal defenders across the country are challenging SORNA on many grounds.

Patel represents Brian L. Gould, convicted in 1985 of assault with intent to commit sodomy, whom the federal government successfully prosecuted for failure to register as a sex offender under SORNA. He also represents convicted murderer and rapist Michael E. Kennedy (see related story, page 10B), who unsuccessfully petitioned a judge to stop his parole officer from making him register.

Both cases are on appeal to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Congress passed SORNA in 2006 as part of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, named for the abducted and slain son of “America’s Most Wanted” host John Walsh. SORNA expands the number of people required to register, increases the information governments must collect about registrants and the information they can disclose to the public, and toughens penalties for failing to register.
- They passed sex offender laws, under the impression that Adam's killer was a sex offender.  And that has NEVER BEEN PROVED!  They think Ottis Toole did it, because he "confessed," but he was a habitual lier and insane!

Under the terms of the law, states must pass SORNA-compliant laws before July 27, 2009, or lose 10 percent of their funding through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program.

Maryland received $2.2 million in Byrne money in the 2008 fiscal year.

Sarah Matz, a public affairs specialist at the Department of Justice, said the office in charge of ensuring the states’ compliance is not keeping track of how many states have already brought their laws in line with SORNA. Every state is “working toward something,” though, and states can apply for up to two one-year extensions, she said.

Patel said not a single state is complying yet.

Juvenile offender registration

Maryland has made some changes in its sex offender laws to bring them closer to SORNA, such as collecting offenders’ e-mail addresses and vehicle information, according to Elizabeth Bartholomew, who is in charge of the state’s registry.

But Maryland has not adopted SORNA’s three-tiered structure to determine how long someone must register as a sex offender. Under SORNA, offenders would have to register for 15 years, 25 years or life, depending on the nature of the crime and their behavior.

Maryland’s current system has only two tiers, 10 years and life.

Bartholomew said uniformity in the supervision tiers would be helpful. As is, if a registered offender moves to Maryland from another state that uses different tiers, Maryland has to figure out how long he should remain on the registry.

Maryland is also out of compliance with SORNA’s requirement to register some offenders who committed their crimes as juveniles, Bartholomew said.

Some find that requirement troubling.

It seems to be changing the rules without notice,” said Lisae C. Jordan, legislative counsel to the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, a victims’ advocacy group. “All states are balancing the amount of funding with the effect that the law would have and also looking at efforts to change the Adam Walsh Act.”

Bartholomew said offenders themselves are closely following states’ decisions on the act.

“I get phone calls and e-mails weekly from offenders looking for information on whether Maryland plans to enact Adam Walsh, because they don’t want to move here if we do,” Bartholomew said.

But “you don’t want to pass a law … just for the purpose of preventing sex offenders from other states from coming into your state,” she said.

Complicating the matter is that some sex offenders would prefer Maryland to enact SORNA because it would give the state an intermediate stop between 10-year and lifetime registration. Today, an offender required by his home state to register for 20 years might have to stay on the registry for life in Maryland, Bartholomew said.

Bartholomew said bills that would have brought Maryland into compliance with SORNA had never made it out of committee. Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Chairman Brian E. Frosh and House of Delegates Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph F. Vallario Jr. did not return calls seeking comment.

Law deemed retroactive

Michael Kennedy served 20 years in federal prison. He has been out on parole since 2000. Earlier this year, his parole officer ordered him to register as a sex offender, citing SORNA.

Kennedy sued to stop state and local authorities from making him register.

Patel argued that Kennedy would only be required to register once Maryland passed a SORNA-compliant law.

“Once it’s implemented, then sure, it retroactively applies to everyone,” Patel said.
- And retroactive laws is a direct violation of the Constitution and ex post facto laws.

Until then, he said, the SORNA provisions are “meaningless guidelines.”

The government disagreed. Federal prosecutors argued that the U.S. attorney general made SORNA retroactive, meaning those who committed their crimes before the law was passed had to register.
- And see this from the Constitution!

Patel said Kennedy’s case is stronger than Gould’s, since prosecutors admitted Kennedy would not be required to register under Maryland law alone.

But Judge Benson E. Legg rejected Patel’s argument, pointing out that federal courts in other jurisdictions have already decided the issue in the government’s favor.

“As Kennedy acknowledges, the Commission has broad authority to impose conditions on his parole that are reasonably related to his offense and personal characteristics,” Legg wrote in a memorandum opinion.

“Kennedy agreed to abide by the conditions of parole imposed upon his release from prison, which include the requirement to ‘report for registration with your state sex offender registration agency as directed by [Kennedy’s] U.S. Probation Officer,’” Legg wrote. “He may not avoid this condition now.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bonnie Greenberg, who argued the Gould case before the 4th Circuit, said there is nothing to indicate that Kennedy’s case will end differently than similar ones around the country. She said all states are subject to the Adam Walsh Act, whether or not they have passed laws adopting its provisions.

U.S. Attorney for Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein said Legg had good reasons to find that Kennedy should be on the registry.

Legg wrote that Kennedy’s probation officers noticed “a number of troubling interactions Kennedy had with women in the community during the first few years of his parole,” including accusations that he was aggressively pursuing a romantic relationship with a woman and that he sexually harassed women at his job.

The memo points out that a therapist thought Kennedy posed a “moderate risk” of re-offending.

He is now registered; his name, picture, date of birth and address, plus the offense for which he was convicted, are available through Maryland’s registry.

Kennedy said he has already served his sentence. People like him don’t need to register as a sex offender, he said.

People that have done their time, gotten out and had no further run-ins with the law shouldn’t be on there,” Kennedy said.

Reform Sex Offender Laws - Affiliated State Groups

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MD - Advocates for sex offenders take aim at registry, other rules

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By CARYN TAMBER - Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer

Sandy Kennedy hates that her husband’s picture is on Maryland’s sex offender registry.

Elected officials and victims’ advocates say tough sex-offender laws are necessary to protect society from dangerous criminals. But some offenders and their relatives, like Kennedy, see the restrictions as overly intrusive and unnecessary.

Her husband has served his time and is a danger to no one, Kennedy argues.

In Salem, they had a witch-hunt, and in America, we’re still having a witch-hunt, and the witch-hunt is just different,” said Kennedy, a Parsonsburg nurse. “It’s the sex offender.”
- Not sure if this was worded wrong or what, but Salem is in America.  The witch hunt is always brought out in certain moral panics, to justify the punishment and torture of someone, who are the scapegoat for the societies worries.

Kennedy runs a blog called Sex Offenders and Their Wives, where she vents about the difficulties of living with sex-offender restrictions and debunks what she said are myths about offenders, like the high probability that they will re-offend and their imperviousness to treatment.

She also heads the Maryland chapter of the national group Reform Sex Offender Laws. So far, there are only three other members, she said.

Out eight years

Sandy Coulbourne, now 48, met Michael Kennedy, now 53, in 2007 at a bookstore. Both were browsing the murder mysteries.

After only a couple of dates, Michael Kennedy sat his new girlfriend down and told her he had spent 20 years in federal prison for rape and murder before being paroled in 2000. He hadn’t done it, he insisted.

She cried at the thought of an innocent man imprisoned for that long. The two married a few months later, despite his parole officer spending 45 minutes trying to convince her not to go through with it.

People ask how she can love a killer and rapist, but the man she knows could never have done those things, Sandy Kennedy said. She can recite the details of his case, pointing out police, prosecution and witness errors along the way. In fact, it took three trials, with two hung juries, to convict him.

She was spurred to activism when Michael Kennedy was required to register as a sex offender earlier this year, even though he had been out of prison for eight years.

The directive to register came out of a recent federal law that Kennedy and other convicted sex offenders are fighting.

She started reading about sex offender laws on the Internet and found that lots of offenders, their family members and some advocacy groups agreed the restrictions had gone too far.

Human Rights Watch released a study last year arguing that registration laws are overbroad, that registries have led to violence and harassment against registrants, and that residency restrictions “banish offenders from entire urban areas.”

Like Sandy Kennedy’s blog, offender-advocacy Web sites argue that the majority of registered sex offenders are not monsters who repeatedly kidnap and rape children — or, as Baltimore criminal defense lawyer Thomas P. Bernier put it, “some lecherous guy pulling 10-year-olds into a van.”

Many don’t pose a continuing threat to children, Bernier said; some never did in the first place.

Challenging the premise

Fred Berlin, founder of the Johns Hopkins Sexual Disorders Clinic and an associate professor of psychiatry, said sex offender monitoring laws and restrictions are predicated on the premise that offenders are more likely than not to commit another offense.

Recent studies have shown that, at most, 20 percent to 30 percent re-offend, a lower rate of recidivism than other criminals, he said. (Other sources point out that different types of sex offenders re-offend at different rates, and that this statistic only covers reported offenses.)
- I have more studies here, and here, that show the rate of recidivism is lower, around 5.3% to 3.5%.  It's not an exact science, but throwing all RSO's into one large group is wrong.  They should be evaluated on an individual basis.

Annapolis lawyer Thomas A. Pavlinic said few offenders need to be monitored for life, although many are anyway.

“There are these evil people,” said Pavlinic, who specializes in defending accused child molesters. “Those are violent sexual predators, people from whom the public has to be protected. There are a lot of people who have in the course of their life simply made a mistake, either with their own children or because of the age difference.”
- Why call them evil?  Everyone, even murderers, are entitled to representation, regardless of what they are accused of.

They “get treatment and then they never do it again,” he said.

Sandy Kennedy suggested that the government register criminals with a higher risk of recidivism, like drug dealers.

She said she is not opposed to all sex offender restrictions, just the pointless ones.

“I’m not against totally what they make us do,” she said. “I know there’s a reason people need to be protected. But come on, that Halloween stuff was a joke.”

She was referring to a widely mocked Maryland effort to get certain sex offenders to post “no candy” signs on their houses, turn off their outside lights and ignore knocks on the door on Oct. 31.

The signs were provided not only to child sex offenders but to those registered as sexually violent. So Michael Kennedy received a sign, even though the crime for which he was convicted did not involve children, his wife said.

Elizabeth Bartholomew, who runs Maryland’s Sex Offender Registry, said the effort was merely a “request” on the state’s part, designed to protect the offenders “so the community knows that they’re trying to make sure everyone’s safe.”

Opposing the registries

“Safe,” though, was not what Sandy Kennedy felt when a local newspaper published her husband’s name.

“[O]ur hick town’s little newspaper, decided to use a full page to report every sex offenders name and address,” she wrote on her blog. “I’ve read about the vigilantes who prey on sex offenders. We are small town Delmarva and I could just see some red neck get his buddies loading up in his pick up and start working on the list.”

Vigilantism is one reason some activists oppose putting offenders’ identifying information, including pictures, on Internet registries.

Paul Shannon, a founder of Reform Sex Offender Laws, said registries encourage people to target sex offenders, citing the 2006 murder of two Maine offenders by someone who found their names online. (Shannon would like to see public registries abolished; information about truly dangerous criminals should be shared among law enforcement officials, who would decide whether to alert the community.)

One of the men killed in Maine had served time for having otherwise consensual sex with his girlfriend when he was 19 and she was a few days shy of 16.

So-called “Romeo and Juliet” offenders shouldn’t be required to register as child sex offenders alongside pedophiles, Shannon said.

“Virtually all adolescent sexuality is now criminalized,” said Shannon, who said he is not an offender or ex-offender, just a civil liberties advocate. “This is a serious attack on children and their right to grow up.”

ABC reporter John Stossel did a series earlier this year on offender laws gone overboard; among other people, he featured a man who had, had sex with his girlfriend when he was 19 and she was 15. Twelve years later, they are married with four children, but he must still register as a sex offender.

Russell P. Butler, executive director of the Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center Inc., said cases involving two consenting adolescents are usually dealt with less harshly than other sex cases. Judges often give statutory offenders probation before judgment so they do not have to register, he said. - They is not true.  There is many offenders in the situation mentioned above, on the registry.  We are even labeling 4 year old children as sex offenders for simply hugging their teachers and who accidentally touched their breasts. Besides which, he said, he is primarily concerned with protecting children who don’t have the capacity to consent to sex, not the older people who have sex with them. “If we have to balance the rights of pedophiles versus the rights of children, I’m going to balance those to protect children and not pedophiles,” Butler said. - Well, these laws are not doing that.  They are putting ALL SEX OFFENDERS into one group, and treating them all as if they are all pedophiles, predators or child molesters, when they are not.  Plus, not the mention, all the unconstitutional issues with the laws. Legislators seem to feel the same way, said defense lawyer Bernier, a shareholder at Segal, McCambridge, Singer & Mahoney Ltd. “In general, the real problem is, any time someone in the legislature feels they haven’t done enough, they propose a law on sex offenses,” he said. - Yep, like I've said many times, they pass new sex offender laws, to "look tough" on crime, and further their careers, and to look good to the people.  Sex offenders are their scapegoat! He said sex offenders have begun pushing back against the regulations but haven’t gotten much traction. - Because nobody will uphold their "oath of office," and defend people's constitution rights, and they simply hear "sex offender," and then they hear nothing else.  Sex offender issues, in today's society, is a career killer, and they know that, so they do nothing about it.Who wants to be the guy who wants to be known as out in [the] legislature championing sex offenders?” Bernier said. - Exactly! ‘Opportunity to know’ Bartholomew, of the state’s Sex Offender Registry, said critics of sex offender laws actually have much less to complain about in Maryland than they would elsewhere. For example, some states prevent offenders from living within a certain distance of schools, daycares or churches, forcing them out of cities, into the country or even onto the streets. Critics say such residency restrictions ultimately do more harm than good by forcing offenders underground. In Florida, several sex offenders were famously discovered to be living together in a colony under a bridge because it was the only place where they wouldn’t be living too close to a forbidden landmark. - They were FORCED to live there by the state probation department, not on their own free will!
Maryland does not have automatic residency restrictions, Bartholomew said. Judges can, however, order individual offenders as a condition of parole or probation not to live within a certain distance of a place. For those who doubt the necessity or fairness of registries, U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein points to Richard D. Morris. Morris was a baseball coach about to take three of his players on a trip to Florida, according to a press release Rosenstein’s office issued earlier this year. A suspicious grandfather of one of the boys searched the Maryland Sex Offender Registry and found that Morris was a convicted sex offender. The trip was halted. The grandson told police Morris had touched him inappropriately in the past, and when police searched Morris’ home computers, they found child pornography. “The community ought to have an opportunity to know and therefore be alert to any sex offenders who might present a risk to other people,” Rosenstein said. - Yeah, the truly dangerous people, but not all sex offenders are dangerous. Freedom to fight As a convicted rapist and murderer, Michael Kennedy is hardly a sympathetic poster boy for changes to the sex offender monitoring laws. Still, his wife tries. Sandy Kennedy said she started the blog and the Maryland chapter of Reform Sex Offender Laws so she could find other women who could relate to the experience of living with a convicted sex offender. “I can talk to my husband and I do a lot, but I thought it would be nice to talk to other wives or other girlfriends,” Sandy Kennedy said. Shannon, the national organization’s founder, said it’s typical for women who are close to sex offenders to advocate on their behalf. The offenders themselves don’t necessarily want to call more attention to themselves, he said. “These stories are absolutely heartbreaking,” he said. “The people who are carrying around the pain are mostly the women: the mothers and the wives.” - And the children! Kennedy has her own pain. She said her sister, who didn’t know about Michael’s past, stopped returning her calls after his picture went online. Though Kennedy worries about her safety and that of her husband, she said she needs to speak publicly in order to bring change. “I figure he’s on the registry; how much more visible can you get?” she said. “I felt that if we didn’t want publicity, that we won’t be able to change the way things are.

“We were trying to keep a low [profile], not being public,” she said, “until he registered and they kind of gave us the freedom to go on out and make it known, and fight some of the injustices.”

TX - Sex offenders try to erase laws marking them for life

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By Lisa Sandberg - Express-News

AUSTIN — Martin is tired of the dead-end jobs and unrelenting stigma that comes with being a registered sex offender.

Although he has a master's degree in liberal arts and wants to be a teacher, employers have been unable to see beyond his presence on the state's sex offender registry, which he is required to be on for the rest of his life.

It's true that a decade ago, he was convicted of sexually abusing a 16-year-old girl who was half his age. But the registry doesn't divulge that his victim was his girlfriend who now is his common-law wife, with whom he has three children.

Glancing at his profile, there's little to distinguish him from the repeat pedophiles and violent rapists who are among the 54,000-plus registered sex offenders in the state's database.

“I just can't equate my offense with the guy who sat next to me in my therapy sessions who raped his 5-year-old stepson,” said Martin, 42. He asked that his last name not be used for this article for fear that his children will be stigmatized.

The military veteran, who lives with his family in a bedroom community south of Austin, is so mad about his lifetime registration requirement that he's joined forces with hundreds of other sex offenders similarly aggrieved about being on the registry.

This unlikely political force, which dubs itself Texas Voices, is vowing to fight the state's — and the nation's — sweeping registration laws.

The group believes community notification laws fail to protect the public because they don't distinguish dangerous predators from otherwise harmless men and women who foolishly had sex with underage lovers, served their sentences and don't need a lifetime of public scrutiny.

While Texas Voices hasn't yet turned anyone away, the group targets its message at those who committed non-violent offenses that didn't involve young children.

Selling the concept to the public may be more difficult; Texas law stipulates that minors, defined as anyone younger than 17, can't legally consent to sex with an adult.
- And this is the odd part.  Yes, they cannot consent to sex, but if they send a nude picture of themselves to their boyfriend or someone else, they can be charged with producing and sending child porn, and also be charged as an adult.  Now if that isn't backwards, then I don't know what is.  Either they are not an adult, or they are, you cannot have it both ways!

But Texas Voices is finding agreement in unusual places.

Ray Allen, the former Texas House Corrections chairman who helped shepherd into law many of the past decade's toughest sex registration bills, said he and his colleagues went too far.

We cast the net widely to make sure we got all the sex offenders. Now, 15 years on, it turns out that really only a small percentage of people convicted of sex offenses pose a true danger to the public,” he said.

Sen. John Whitmire (Contact), D-Houston, the powerful Senate Criminal Justice chairman, said: “If we're not careful, we're going to have a sex offender registry that is so large and so encompassing, it's not much good.”

Texas Voices members know their chances for success hinge on politicians risking their careers on a population with just about zero political clout.

Sen. Florence Shapiro (Contact), R-Plano, who has been a driving force behind the community notification laws, isn't ready to assume that risk — or have victims assume it. She insists that if the registry is too large, it's because there are too many people out there committing sex crimes.

“If one child is saved, then the laws will be worth what we've done,” Shapiro said.
- This is just pure insanity.  Safe one child, punish and torture millions more, which includes the sex offenders, their husbands/wives, and their children.  But, she will not admit, these laws do not protect anybody, they only make you "feel" safe.  They are nothing more than a placebo, and political fodder, to get them votes, and to look like they are doing something, and being tough on crime, instead of being reasonable, using common sense, and upholding their oath of office, which was to uphold the Constitution, which they are not doing.  This is just pure insanity.  So if you want to "save one child" why not remove all the children from their own parents?  Statistics show that 90% or more of all sexual crimes occur in the victims own home, so if it saves one child, then shouldn't you remove all children from all homes?  Of course not, but that is the kind of insane thinking this lady is doing here, to look good to the sheeple!

Fighting back

Dozens of offenders, along with moms, dads and significant others, show up for the monthly Texas Voices' meetings, sharing stories and plotting strategy.

Some meet privately with lawmakers. The most committed spend days and nights scrolling through the registry seeking to recruit new members. Nearly 1,000 offenders have been contacted and about 300 have heeded the call to action, organizers say.
- We need ALL RSO's across this country to STAND UP and FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHTS!  Just like the above are doing.  If not, then the evil politicians will continue to pass more and more laws, to appease the sheeple, to save their careers, look like they are actually doing something.  STAND UP AND FIGHT FOLKS!!!!  That includes RSO's, family and children of RSO's as well.  Join the above group, and also visit this link, and join the other groups out there.

“We're getting letters from ladies in their 20s who say, ‘I was never a victim and I didn't know my offender was on the registry,'” said Mary Sue, the mother of a jailed sex offender who helped establish the organization earlier this year. She asked that her last name not be used for fear it would have negative consequences for her son.

Martin's common-law wife, Avea, now 27, says she's ready to tell lawmakers that her husband is a decent man whose dream of being a high school teacher is forever dashed because of a decade-old offense that, barring changes in the registry law, will follow him the rest of his life.

Even murderers can get out of prison and lead a normal life,” she said.

And Martin's public profile raises questions about the registry's ability to keep tabs on offenders.

The registry listed an old Austin address for Martin, despite the fact that Martin registered his new address with police in October, confirmed a police captain in the town where Martin relocated several months ago.

Officials with the Texas Department of Public Safety, which maintains the sex offender database, said Friday they received the information in late October, but hadn't updated the registry. The site was updated only after the San Antonio Express-News called.

The registry also gives an inaccurate age for Martin's victim at the time of the offense, listing her as 17, rather than 16.

At a recent Texas Voices meeting, Richard Calderon tells those gathered that the road to public acceptance is to advocate for victims, not sex offenders.

Once elected leaders hear sex offenders, you've lost them,” he said, adding, “Concern about public safety and how we can improve public safety” is much more effective.
- I agree, but this is also another problem.  The legislature are suppose to listen to the people, and RSO's are "we the people" as well.  Yet they turn a blind eye simply due to a label.

Calderon, 38, is one of the group's founders. He served probation for having sex with a 14-year-old when he was 23 and a student teacher.

He tells his audience not to expect miracles.

About the best members should expect in next year's legislative session, Calderon said, is a bill that would distinguish pedophiles and violent offenders from those who had sex with an underage girlfriend or who urinated in public a few times.

Ashley's law

Texas' first community notification law was passed in 1995 and named for Ashley Estell, the 7-year-old girl who was snatched from a North Texas playground and murdered by a sex offender parolee.
- They are also in the process of appealing the case against the person who "alledgely" did this, see hereThey overturned the murder conviction.  So this is more proof, they made and passed a law, under the assumption that this man killed her, when apparently he did not, or the murder charge would not have been overturned.  I think they just use children's names to name laws, so they can pass just about anything they want to.  Who would turn down passing a law with a child's name attached to it?

The first notices were printed in local newspapers. An online registry followed in 1999. Since then, the number of registered offenders has more than tripled to 54,000, including nearly 7,500 who committed their crimes as juveniles, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. Most offenders now must register for life.

But not all sex offenders pose the same dangers.

According to a 2003 U.S. Justice Department study, about 5 percent of sex offenders released from prison were re-arrested for another sex crime within three years, a recidivism rate lower than for many other types of crimes. And 3 percent of all child sex offenders were arrested for another sex crime involving a child within the same time period.
- Yet the politicians and media, and people like John Walsh, Mark Lunsford and others, always say it's over 75% recidivism rate.  Which is a flat out lie.  They claim to be "experts" on sex offenders, when they are not.  None of the politicians and media listen to real experts, they pick some expert who justifies what they have said, but those who say it's low, they do not talk to, why?  Because they are using this high rate to scare people.  Fear sells!!!!  Just think of all the people who would be out of a job if none of these sex offender laws existed....  That is why, money!!!!

Dr. Fred Berlin, founder of the John Hopkins Sexual Disorders Clinic, said most studies showed that “as a group, sex offenders show lower recidivism rates than people who commit most other crimes. If you look at almost all the laws out there on the books, they usually have been enacted following a horrible crime, a sexual assault and murder, which represent a tiny fraction of sex offenses.

Advocates generally have pushed for the registration laws, believing parents needed to know when a sex offender moved into their neighborhood.
- But 90% or more of all sex crimes are committed by the victims own family or close friends.  So you see, these laws are pointless.  They are not considering the people living with the children....  Stanger Danger is nothing but a myth, used to scare the hell out of people.  Just look into the many mass hysteria and moral panics in this countries history.  Sex offenders are today's modern day witch (scapegoat), someone to blame for societies problems.

Annette Burrhus-Clay, executive director of the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, concedes the registry may include people who don't pose a public safety threat.

However, the bigger problem, she said, is the number of those who aren't on the registry — but should be — because they either weren't caught or they pleaded to a lesser, non-sex-related offense.

Linda Ingraham, a psychologist in Dallas who has treated sex offenders in her private practice, said most people would be surprised at the number of low-risk misdemeanor offenders. She said she's probably treated 200 people who were forced to register because they were caught several times having consensual sex in a park.

“It's yucky,” she said, “but as a group, they're not a danger to anyone.”

Searching for victims

From her two-story suburban home north of Austin, Jan Fewell, 50, searches for sex abuse victims in order to help their perpetrators.

“Do you know a man named Stephen Fisher?” she asked into her cell phone. “Do you still keep in touch with him? You do? Was it consensual sex or was it rape?”

She had just phoned a now 23-year-old mother of two. Combing through court records, Fewell learned the woman, at age 13, had had sex with Fisher, a man five years her senior. Fewell knew the woman had refused to help prosecutors and now, a decade later, Fewell wanted to know if she considered herself a victim, and if not, if she would be willing to help her group.

The call from a stranger to a sex abuse victim could have easily ended badly, but the woman indeed had remained close to the man who's serving eight years in prison in connection with sexually assaulting her.

Later, in an interview, the woman explained she regularly visits the man in prison, is raising the two children he fathered with her, and counting the days until his release. Yes, she would be receptive to helping the group.

As the mother of adult daughters, Fewell is an unlikely advocate for sex offenders. She became involved after one of her daughter's teenage schoolmates was arrested for sexually abusing a younger teen. Now, she works full time recruiting members for the group.

At one of the group's recent meetings, Jerry Tuckner, who sat beside his mother and his girlfriend's 8-year-old son, talked about how hard it is to get a job.

Tuckner, 36, was sentenced to probation for having sex with a 15-year-old when he was 23.

The victim's father, Patrick Peterson, 55, said he was furious when he found out a 23-year-old man was having sex with his teenage daughter. He turned Tuckner in after he refused to stay away from her.

But Peterson was disturbed to learn that Tuckner remains on the state's sex offender registry. “I felt obligated at the time because (Tuckner) was a bit older,” Peterson said by phone last week. Now he said he'd gladly sign a petition urging leniency for Tuckner.

Neither landlords nor minimum-wage employers want to deal with sex offenders, Tuckner complained.

I've tried everything from fast food to dry cleaners to warehouse work to temp agencies,” he said. “Even the temp agencies won't hire me because they say I'm a liability.”