Wednesday, February 11, 2009
By PAT EATON-ROBB
HARTFORD - A Connecticut inmate on a hunger strike to protest his rape conviction testified Wednesday that being force-fed by prison officials was the worst pain he has experienced in his life.
The state Department of Correction is seeking a court order allowing it to continue force-feeding _____. _____ says the feedings violate right of free speech.
Testimony in the civil case concluded Wednesday in Hartford Superior Court, where Judge James T. Graham is not expected to make a ruling until after oral arguments in the spring. A temporary order allowing the force-feedings will remain in effect until then.
_____, 58, a British citizen and native of Liverpool, has been on the hunger strike for 17 months to protest his conviction for a 2002 rape. His attorneys say _____ is conducting the same type of peaceful protest used by the late Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian spiritual and political leader.
Over the objections of the state's lawyers, _____, at times choking back tears, testified Wednesday that he was railroaded by a "hideously corrupt" system. He accused investigators and prosecutors of ignoring evidence, refusing to review lie-detector and psychological test results and failing to investigate leads that would have exonerated him.
"They have no care about the truth," said _____, who has lost several appeals of his 2005 conviction.
_____'s weight dropped from 237 pounds to 133 pounds before prison officials began force-feeding him in September. They force-fed him at least a dozen times, including two occasions in late October in which a feeding tube was inserted through his nose.
"I actually screamed out in pain quite a few times," _____ said. "I have never felt pain like that, ever," he said, describing it as 5,000 or 10,000 on a scale of 1 to 10.
_____'s attorneys on Tuesday showed two videos, one of him being given fluids intravenously and another of officials preparing to force-feed _____ through his nose.
Officials have said they stopped the camera before that procedure began in part because of medical privacy concerns.
Dr. Edward Blanchette, clinical director for the state Department of Correction, who ordered the feedings, testified Wednesday to rebut _____'s claims that the tube was rammed down his nose with little care for his comfort.
"I was as gentle as I could be in the face of a patient who was resisting me at the time," Blanchette said.
_____ is shown on the videos, which were made last September and October, protesting the feedings and begging doctors not to go forward with them.
Correction officials say the state is legally obligated to ensure the physical well-being of those in its custody. Allowing him to starve to death would create security problems within the prison system and could lead to a disturbance, they said.
_____ is serving an eight-year sentence for raping someone close to him, and is scheduled to be released in December 2012.
The Associated Press does not typically identify victims of sexual assault. _____ has said his accuser filed the charges as part of a dispute and no physical evidence of rape was introduced at his trial.
Graham spent part of Wednesday afternoon questioning _____ about the goals of his protest.
_____ told the judge he has no demands that could be met to end the hunger strike, which he said had no purpose other than to protest the corruption in the system. He said he does not want to die, but is willing to die, and does not expect to be released, in part because he has vowed never to register as a sex offender.
"I would be naive if I thought that someone was going to come along and open my cell door and let me walk out of prison," he said.
By REBECCA BOONE - Associated Press Writer
BOISE – The Idaho Supreme Court has found that the state's method of classifying violent sexual predators is unconstitutional and has ordered that the label be removed from a man who admitted to raping three children.
The 28-page ruling was handed down Tuesday by a divided court in the case of _____, who was sent to prison for the 1998 rape of a 15-year-old girl in Twin Falls County and who admitted to raping three young boys.
Before his release in 2005, the Sexual Offender Classification Board said that _____ should be labeled a violent sexual predator, and a 5th District Judge upheld the classification.
But the Idaho Supreme Court threw out the classification, saying that Idaho's laws dictating how violent sexual predators are classified are unconstitutional because they don't give offenders an adequate chance to fight the label.
Writing for the majority, Justice Joel Horton noted that Idaho's laws specifically prohibit offenders, their attorneys and even prosecutors from having access to some of the documents used by the classification board in making its decisions. Horton said that means offenders can't effectively fight the decisions in court.
View the article here
I hope and pray this girl is found, alive, and soon. But I thought Jessica's law, Megan's law, the Adam Walsh Act, and all the other draconian sex offender laws were made to prevent this? You see, no matter how many laws you pass, stomping on other peoples rights, it will never prevent crimes, like in this case.
By RAY REYES - The Tampa Tribune
Mark Lunsford couldn't sleep after he watched news reports Tuesday night about a 5-year-old girl in Putnam County who had gone missing from her bed.
When he woke up Wednesday, the disappearance of Haleigh Cummings was still on the news—and on his mind.
"The only thing screwing me up on this," Lunsford said tonight, "is watching the dad. I know how he feels."
Lunsford said he has advice for Haleigh's father, Ronald Cummings.
"Don't think you can hold this in and deal with it," Lunsford said. "Call me. I know what you're going through. I know how it is when you come home and find your daughter gone. I'm here for you, brother."
Putnam County sheriff's deputies searched house-to-house in Satsuma, about 70 miles north of Orlando, on Wednesday. Dive teams probed the St. Johns River for Haleigh. The girl was last seen Monday night when she went to bed.
Investigators said it was not clear if Haleigh was abducted or wandered out into the rural neighborhood that borders the river. They said the mobile home where she lives had no signs of forced entry, but a back door was open.
- And just like Mark Lunsford, another door left unlocked, in today's age, and another child missing. Mark Lunsford did the same thing. Why in the world would someone leave their doors unlocked, at night, like this?
That dread and uncertainty is what Lunsford felt four years ago when his daughter, 9-year-old Jessica Marie "Jessie" Lunsford, was abducted from her Homosassa mobile home. After authorities spent several days searching, her body was found buried near the trailer of John Evander Couey.
In 2007, Couey was found guilty of Jessica's abduction and rape. He was sentenced in August 2007 to the death penalty. After Jessica's death, her father lobbied state legislators to tighten laws regarding sexual predators.
His efforts culminated in the Jessica Lunsford Act, passed in 2005. The act increased the penalty to life in prison for lewd and lascivious molestation of a child younger than 12. There's a mandatory minimum of 25 years, and lifetime electronic monitoring for those who are released.
- And it's amazing, none of these laws or monitoring are preventing crimes, yet they won't admit to that either, because they'd lose a ton of money from doing so.
Lunsford said Cummings should be patient with authorities because they will do what they are trained to do to find Haleigh.
"Listen to law enforcement," Lunsford said. "Trust in these people, man."
Haleigh's father told investigators the blond girl was missing when he returned home from work around 3 a.m. Tuesday. Ronald Cummings said his girlfriend was awake and frantic that Haleigh was missing from her bed.
"I just got home from work and my 5-year-old daughter is gone," Cummings told a dispatcher on a 911 call. "If I find whoever has my daughter before you all do, I'm killing them. I don't care if I spend the rest of my life in prison."
- Wow! So in your anger, you are going to become a vigilante, and kill someone. Then your wife and daughter will be without a father for the rest of their life. How selfish! I can only imagine what it's like to be in this mans shoes, but killing someone is not the answer, and he is assuming someone has his daughter. She could've just wondered off, and nobody has found her yet.
The girl's disappearance has not been officially classified as an abduction, although detectives were treating it as one, said Lt. Johnny Greenwood, a spokesman for the sheriff's office.
"We're currently working both angles — did she wander off, we're working it that way with the searches," Greenwood said. "And investigators are doing interviews in case it is an abduction."
Officers from local, state and federal agencies and K-9 teams scoured the neighborhood. Check points were set up at the entrance to the neighborhood to search departing vehicles. Two dive teams explored the St. Johns River. Neighbors and family members also were being interviewed by detectives.
Lunsford said investigators focusing on family members is routine and that Cummings should not get angry or feel threatened. During the search for Jessica, the relationship between Lunsford and his father, Archie Lunsford, became strained. Citrus County sheriff's detectives had initially focused on Archie Lunsford as a suspect.
"The family will take the brunt at first," Lunsford said. As if speaking to Cummings, he added, "Take what they dish out. If the answer's different, they're man enough to apologize."
Lunsford said Cummings should find someone who will listen to him and allow him to vent his emotions.
"I held everything in," Lunsford said. "I fought with my parents. I didn't like law enforcement. I bottled everything up."
There's two more things that Cummings must remember, Lunsford said.
"Don't lose faith. Don't give up."
30 Minute Oral Arguments Video
By: Josie Huang
In the last several years since Maine's sex offender registry was expanded to include people with convictions dating back to the 1980s, and to require lifetime supervision, dozens of people affected by the law change have filed lawsuits, most of them under the name John Doe.
They say that they have served their time and that it is unconstitutional to apply the law change retroactively. Today, Maine's highest court took up the cases of two men whose convictions took place before the Legislature made its sex offender law more stringent. How the Maine Supreme Judicial Court rules in these cases could have major implications for the sex offender registry, which is accessible on-line, and for the people fighting to stay off it.
"He was sentenced, he did probation, he did counseling for two years after probation, he has been determined by the state child protective division as not a harm to children," attorney David Sanders told the justices. Sanders represents _____, an Androscoggin County resident who was convicted of gross sexual assult for having sex with a 13-year-old girl when he was 19.
At the time _____ was convicted in 1996, sex offenders had to be registered for 10 or 15 years, and could seek a waiver. But in the intervening years, Maine has amended its sex offender law so that _____ would have to update his registration with the state every 90 days for the rest of his life. "By what basis do we continue to humiliate him on a day-in and day-out basis. Why isn't he allowed to get on with his life? That's the issue here," Sanders said.
At issue is whether the sex offender registry constitutes punishment for these men. Lower courts sided with _____, and the other man whose case was being heard by the justices today, _____. Paul Stern is the Assistant Attorney General representing the state in its appeal of both decisions. Stern disputed claims that the state is creating a problem by including these men on the registry.
- Yes, the registry constitutes punishment. Why don't the people making these laws, live under the same rules for a year or two, then tell me it's not punishment!
"That ignores reality," he told the justices. "It is the sex offenders who highlighted themselves by violating the bodies of others. Their crimes are different and are viewed differently by the public. A parent wants to know who they are and the parent's reaction to the knowledge is the same however she finds out--by the newspaper, because she knows somebody at the court house, or by the Interent. And that is because we have terrible problem. Sex offenders in our midst prey in particular on children."
Justice John Levy asked Stern whether there was enough information about sex offenders and recidivism to justify lifetime reporting to the registry. "Don't we need to have more data to make an informed decision in this case? Don't we need to know that, in fact, there is support for the leegislative judgements you want us to uphold?"
Stern acknowledged that the issue has only been studied over the last 20 years, and there are many questions. "There is no doubt--and we don't dispute--that there are adverse impacts on some sex offenders. On the other hand, you can have an even longer list of horrible impacts on victims, victims of repeat offenders. That is a difficult decision. I am glad I don't have to make it. It is made by the Legislature."
But the legislature unfairly groups sex offenders as a homogenous group as opposed to making distinctions between the severity of offenses, Sanders said. That prompted a question from Justice Ellen Gorman.
Gorman: "Mr. Sanders, you would have judges make those kinds of distinctions about who in fact is a predator who should have bright lights on him all the time and someone who is not, as opposed to the Legislature?"
Sanders: "After all those years on the Superior Court, you do it all the time, or you did it all the time."
Gorman: "And you want us to do it on a case-by-case basis as their being sentenced in front of the courts."
- You cannot do it at the time of conviction. It must be done after they go through therapy, then determine if they are still a danger to society (fairly).
Sanders responded that the court could refer to psychological evaluations performed on sex felons to determine their risk of recidivism and how long they should be imprisoned.
- Well, why don't you do this with all other criminals? Like murderers, drug dealers, DUI offenders, traffic citations, etc? If you do it for one group of people, you should be doing equal justice, and doing it for all brought before the court!
Zachary Heiden of the Maine Civil Liberties Union says the justices ruling could influence the Legislature as it considers changes to the sex offender registry again this session. And it could set a precedent for the dozens of pending John Doe cases. "If the law court say in this case that the sex offender registry is punitive then I think that's going to have an impact on those John Doe cases where a number of challenges have been brought as class action lawsuits in state and federal court, saying that people shouldn't be on the registry because their offenses were committed before the changes to the registry took place."
Heiden said that Letalien and Laclair did not bring cases as John Does because they were already in the registry, whereas, he said, at least some of the plaintiffs going by John Does are not currently on the list.
I am reading more and more articles in the print media that expose the truth about RSO's and the true risks and dangers they pose. Our very own government statistics point to the fact that Sex offenders have the second lowest re offence rate after murderers yet the myth of predator panic still passes as truth.
States are literally going bankrupt enforcing these idiotic restrictions on offenders many of which were convicted of crimes with no sexual component. The registries are diluted with hundreds of thousands of people that pose no risk to anyone. Whats worse is this hides the 3-5% of people who actually do pose a risk to re offend.
John Walsh and Mark Lundsford have created lucrative careers out of the death of their children and continue to act as fear pimps for profit as these new laws are passed that have nothing to do with actually protecting children and everything to do with keeping their booming victim advocate businesses alive and well.
Lundsfords own son got a pass after he comitted a sex crime against a girl in Ohio yet this story seemed to somehow escape the attention of the national media's. John Walsh admitted that he had a sexual addiction but was "cured" yet he purports that sex offender treatment does no good because their is no cure.
- Mark Lunsford also had child porn on his machine, when Jessica went missing, yet it was dismissed, because "he was going through so much tragedy!"
Recently the headlines have read that 90,000 RSO's have been banished from Myspace. Now that sure will sell newspapers and breakfast cereal on the 5 o clock news but you have to do a little research to discover that that figure was a 2 year total and also that the 49 state AG's sanctioned an independent study of what actual risks children face online.
The results concluded that the problem was blown completely out of proportion and that children are at far greater risks in their own homes or schools or with in laws or their own peers than any online strangers.
They of course rejected the conclusions of their own studies because they did not fit their political agenda and the insanity marches on. The sexual assault of a child is a disgusting heinous crime but our paranoia and knee jerk reactions have now led to teenagers being added to the sex offender lists for sexting nude pictures of themselves to friends via camera phones.
With the AWA act juveniles as young as 14 can be added to the list for life because no one will vote no when one of these bills is introduced lest they be labeled as soft on sex crime. With AWA the same person who has lived crime free for years as a low risk RSO gets relabeled as a sexual predator. Same person no new crime just new label and punishments.
We have a very rich history of creating boogymen in this country from the Salem witch trials to Japenese internment during WW2 to the RSO hysteria of today.
Its so much easier to accept stranger danger myths rather than face the fact that the biggest risk to children comes from their own parents, teachers, coaches or priests. Its so much easier to accept a false sense of security from a bogus list of boogymen rather than face the fact that 95% of all new sex crimes will be committed by people not on any registry.
It is so easy to pass any new law regardless of how inneffective or unconstitutional it is as long as its done in the name of the children. Well America, you get the government you deserve, just do not complain when the DUI registries start popping up or that possession conviction you got 30 years ago in college is on some public registry.
We are the ONLY civilized western nation that has a public registry like this. Canada has a far more effective system where when an offender is released from prison a town hall meeting is held where the offender and the community have a question and answer session and the offender is allowed to reintegrate back into society.
In the United stated our RSO registry has grown to 700,000 with about 30,000 being added every 60 days. If there were 700,000 people that were at such risk to reoffend, would we not have Jessica Lundsford stories several times per day?
Was it Ben Franklin that said" those that would trade freedom for security deserve neither"? Ah what did he know.
FALMOUTH (CBS) - A group of boys on Cape Cod have been caught "sexting" - sending naked pictures via text message.
The naked picture in this case was of a 13-year-old girl.
Now, six boys - aged 12-to-14 - may face child pornography charges.
Authorities say a student at the Lawrence School took a nude picture of his 13-year-old girlfriend and then sent that picture to a group of his friends.
School officials somehow discovered what was happening.
The principal immediately called police and confiscated the boys' cell phones.
Police issued a summons on Jan 29th with charges for possessing and distributing material of a child in a sexual act.
Once they're in court, then it will be determined if they'll be formally charged.
Falmouth's superintendent of schools told CBS station WBZ-TV in Boston they are taking the charges very seriously.
Administrators and Falmouth police officer Clifford Harris visited each classroom at the school Wednesday to discuss the situation.
In Massachusetts, anyone found guilty of child pornography must register as a sex offender.
- And thus their lives are over, before they even begin!
"The law is very serious, it's pretty laid out as far as possession and dissemination of child pornography," Harris told WBZ. "Under 18 a child can't consent."
- So you expect 12 - 14 year old kids to know all the laws? I sure hope they do not make them register, or charge them with child porn. Stuff like this should be handled the way it was in the old days, a spanking, restriction, suspension, and someone to teach them why it's wrong. Give them a break, after all the above.
According to a national survey released in December, 20-percent of teens between the ages of 13 and 19 have sent or posted nude or semi-nude pictures and video of themselves.
The results were based on an online survey of 653 teenagers during September and October of last year.
"As a kid I probably wouldn't have thought about the ramifications of my actions, but we live in a different day and age," said Harris.
- The kids, I'm sure, still do not know the ramifications, and we live in an age of punishment and torture instead of fairness and compassion!
"They have to understand a cell phone is a powerful tool."
- Why don't you inform the parents as well, and the parents, IMO, should get kids basic phones, without all the bells and whistles.
By Matt Kelley
Iowa lawmakers are considering extensive changes to the state's sex offender laws to get the state into compliance with federal rules. As part of the re-write, some lawmakers want to scrap the restriction on where sex offenders live and instead, limit where they can go during the day.
Iowa has until July of 2010 to comply, or face losing $450,000 a year in drug and crime fighting grants. Ross Loder, the Department of Public Safety's legislative liason, says there are other compelling reasons why Iowa should conform with the National Sex Offender Registry.
- So besides money, what are these compelling reasons to comply? It's going to cost more to implement the laws, than to not.
Loder says, "We potentially could face a situation where Iowa's much more attractive to sex offenders who want to remain outside of a integrated national system. In fact, we know today, sex offenders do in fact jurisdiction shop." Iowa's registry only includes the offender's address and physical description.
- Sex offenders jurisdiction shop, because these laws, make it impossible for them to live in many places, so they are made to huddle in groups, where they can live legally. But yet, you do not mention that. I wonder why?
If the state joins the national registry, offenders will also be required to report their place of employment, the kind of car they drive, and, if they're a student, where they go to school. It does not include a residency requirement. In 2002, Iowa lawmakers voted to bar convicted sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or daycare.
- And like I've asked many times, without any answer from politicians, how many sex crimes can you name, which have occurred at a school or daycare? Over 90% or more of all sex crimes, occur in the victims own home or close family, so pushing them out into the country, does absolutely nothing, except forced banishment, but it doesn't protect the kid who is living with someone, who may harm them. The only real way to protect kids, is to remove all kids from their parents custody! A little extreme, but think about it!
Bremer County Sheriff Dewey Hildebrandt was once a staunch supporter of the restriction but now fears it's forcing offenders into hiding.
- And the more laws they pass, the more people you will not know where they are. You can push someone so much, before they fight back, or vanish, and that is exactly what these laws are doing. But, does the politicians, who use these laws for fodder for votes, care about that? Apparently not!
Sheriff Hildebrandt says, "The current law, even in our particular county, has pushed people unable to find residency within communities out in our county parks where it's a campground and, for Pete sake, children go to those campgrounds with their parents and pushing sex offenders into campgrounds to me is not an ideal solution."
- So tell me, where can these offenders live, where you people will be satisfied? Where?
Hildebrandt supports replacing the residency requirement with an anti-loitering provision. Legislation at the statehouse would prohibit an offender from hanging out within 300-feet of a school, daycare, park or swimming pool. Registered sex offenders could only attend school functions if given permission by school officials.
Representative Clel Baudler, a Republican from Greenfield, has been advocating for this change for three years, but says lawmakers have previously lacked the political courage to scrap the 2,000 foot rule.
- Because if they did scrap it, they'd look like they were soft on crime, and they cannot have that, because then they'd possibly lose their jobs, and look like the bad guy. It's all about saving their jobs, or getting brownie points from the sheeple, due to false senses of security!
Baudler says: "Absolutely, their fear of the postcards during the campaign, you know the radio ads, 'You're soft on sex offenders,' 'You attack our kids.' This bill, if we can get it done, will be smarter and tougher on the perpetrators that are on the sex offender registry." While Baudler has the support of the state sheriffs and county attorneys associations, not everyone is ready to abandon Iowa's 2000-foot rule.
- Tougher doesn't always mean smarter! And the tougher you get, the more offenders will vanish, and stop complying with the laws. You are seeing that now, but you are blind, and do not want to see it. You are creating problems, instead of solving problems.
Boone Community Schools superintendent Theron Schutte likes the idea of an anti-loitering law, but says it should be in addition to the residency requirement. "Anything that would put the school district or its occupants, whether it be students or staff, in a greater position of potential danger would be a bad move. From that standpoint, I think just opening the door to people on sex offender registry living wherever they want to around a school, I think that would be a bad move," Schutte says.
- So why don't you elaborate on why you think it would be a bad move?
That view is why Senator Keith Krieman, a Democrat from Bloomfield, is searching for some middle ground. Krieman says it may be time to tweak the 2000-foot law so that it doesn't apply in every case. He cites young offenders still living with parents or those who public safety has deemed a low risk to re-offend. Kreiman says even small changes will be politically charged -- and more easily adopted in a non-election year.
Kreiman says, "I think the entire bill will need bi-partisan support and I think it's more likely to happen this year than next because of those political concerns, and the fact that we are told by the federal government that we need to comply with the Adam Walsh bill."
- The government is basically BRIBING you to comply. If you comply you will get a small lump of change, but it will also cost you a lot more in the long run to implement the laws, monitoring, etc. Put the laws back to how they were, and the registry off line, and you've saved a TON of money. And we need it, in this depression/recession, whatever you want to call it. But like I've said before, sex offender issues are your scapegoat, so you can increase your reputation, get votes, and look like you are actually doing something, when in fact, the laws do nothing to protect or prevent anybody.
While Iowa doesn't have to change its 2,000-foot rule to comply with federal law, everyone involved says any rewrite of the state sex offender registry should include a debate of the residency requirement. It's a discussion that law enforcement has been having for years but one that legislative leaders have tried to avoid.
By JANET PHELPS
A preliminary autopsy report released Wednesday shows that a 20-year-old homeless man found in a vacant downtown Bryan building died from blunt force trauma.
Dale Wayne Ellis was discovered in an abandoned dry cleaning business at Main and Pruitt streets less than two blocks from the homeless shelter where he had recently stayed.
Bryan police spokesman Jason James said it was not clear how Ellis died.
"We're investigating this as a homicide because we investigate all deaths as homicides until we prove otherwise," James said.
Scott James, who knew Ellis from the shelter, said Ellis was good-natured, although he had "irritated" some residents when he stayed at The Bridge, Twin City Mission's homeless shelter.
"He was not real grown-up, but he wasn't malicious in any way," he said. "He was probably going to grow up at some point, but he just hadn't got there yet."
Scott James said he came out of The Bridge to drink his morning coffee before 6 a.m. Tuesday and talked to a man who said he had found Ellis dead around 4:30 a.m. The man said it appeared that Ellis had been severely beaten, James said.
Bryan police responded to the building around 6 a.m.
Deputy Chief Peter Scheets said the cause of Ellis' death was difficult to determine and he couldn't confirm whether Ellis had been beaten or shot.
Scheets said investigators had identified "several persons of interests" in the case.
Ellis had stayed at the mission off and on for the past three months, shelter officials said, but was not considered a client at the time of his death because he had been discharged Friday for "non-compliance."
Shelter Program Coordinator Steve Bethea said Ellis "didn't have any issues at the shelter" beyond normal disagreements among residents.
But Bethea said that he knew Ellis on personal level and that he was "very impressionable."
"He wasn't a bad guy," he said, adding that Ellis was never involved with drugs or alcohol abuse. "Mainly he just wouldn't do what he was supposed to do."
The Bridge runs on a "fair share" system through which residents help out at the shelter or pay a weekly fee as a condition of their stay.
"When you're 20 years old, your life has just started," he said. "He was here trying to find that opportunity, and it didn't work out."
Ellis would often hang around The Bridge during the day, even when he was not living there. He often ate in the community cafe, which provides free meals.
Friends said Ellis told them he was originally from Arkansas but had spent some time in Colorado before coming to Texas. Bryan police said Ellis had at least one family member living in Texas.
Friends and shelter officials said it was well-known among shelter residents that Ellis was a registered sex offender. Public records show that Ellis served two years behind bars as a teenager for a crime involving a 6-year-old girl.
On Sunday, Scott James said, Ellis took him over to the abandoned dry cleaning store behind Food Town to show him where he was sleeping on a mattress on the floor.
James said he liked Ellis, who would always share cigarettes with him.
"I didn't see this coming," James said. He said Ellis once turned a group of shelter residents in to administrators for drinking alcohol, which is not allowed. "He's hacked some people off, but he never made anyone mad enough to do this."
Bethea described the mood among shelter residents as somber Tuesday. They'd all heard that Elllis died violently.
Lenni Lissberger, who volunteers as a chaplain at The Bridge, met Tuesday with residents to talk about Ellis' death. Lissberger said many were dealing with grief, but also with the knowledge that Ellis was killed in their backyard.
Lissberger had met with Ellis weekly since he came to the shelter.
"He was a kid," she said. "He was young. He was exuberant. You've just got to enjoy a young, exuberant person."
On Tuesday night, Lissberger met with people who eat at the community cafe regularly but have no place to sleep at night. Those are the people most affected by Ellis' death, she said, because they have to sleep outside again tonight knowing that his killer is still out there.
In his six years at The Bridge, Bethea said, he has seen other residents die. Several old people have died, and their ashes remain at Twin City Mission's administration offices because family members never claimed them.
But Bethea said this was the first time someone associated with The Bridge had died so violently.
Many residents, and especially nonresidents who seek help from Twin City Mission's community cafe or case managers, are scared because of Ellis death.
"It's just 1 1/2 blocks away," Bethea said.
Bryan city spokeswoman April Saginor said the city owns the property where Ellis was found. She said officials learned after the event that the area was a hangout and that people often slept there.
The abandoned dry cleaners was boarded up Tuesday after police left, she said.
"This appears to be an isolated incident. It doesn't affect my personal perception of safety downtown," Saginor wrote in an e-mail Tuesday. "When I think of downtown, I think of a thriving business district that is home to the award-winning Texas Reds Festival. I'm sorry that a tragedy has occurred but it should not have an impact on how our historic downtown is viewed by the public."
View the article here
Feds: FBI search found vile videos, photos on producer's laptop
A Fox News producer who covered Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign for the cable network is facing child porn charges after federal agents discovered photos and videos on his computer depicting "children under the age of ten being sexually abused by adult men and women." Aaron Bruns, 29, was apparently nabbed after a Pennsylvania state police investigator conducting "pro-active undercover investigations" on an unnamed peer-to-peer network determined that Bruns's computer contained llicit images. According to an arrest warrant affidavit filed in U.S. District Court, an FBI search of a Dell laptop in Bruns's Washington, D.C. home turned up several photos and videos showing the sexual abuse of children as young as five years old. A copy of the February 6 affidavit can be found below. The day before his P Street apartment was raided, Bruns, pictured above, filed a Foxnews.com story about Clinton and Joseph Biden delivering farewell speeches on the Senate floor. This is the second time Bruns has been arrested for possessing vile images. In July 1999, Bruns, then 19, pleaded guilty in Michigan (where he was enrolled in college) to distributing child pornography over the Internet. He was sentenced to three years probation. Bruns was collared in the earlier case after a Florida law enforcement official discovered his illicit online activities. When police raided Bruns's University of Michigan dorm room, they discovered about 6000 pornographic images of children on his computer's hard drive.
By Corey Rayburn Yung
In U.S. v. Valverde, the Eastern District of California held that Congress lacked the authority to enact SORNA because the Act could not be justified under by the Commerce Clause. This is how the order (PDF) addressed the jurisdictional limitation of SORNA:
... § 2250 does possess a purportedly jurisdictional element, as it penalizes a person who is required to register under SORNA and knowingly fails to do so or to update his or her registration and who travels in interstate commerce. In this way, unlike the statutes considered in Lopez and Morrison, the section limits the class of those who can be penalized to only those who have traveled in interstate commerce. The problem, however, is that this jurisdictional hook still creates a class that is too broad for Commerce Clause purposes. Under the statute, a person may be prosecuted for failing to register in his home state, then crossing state lines and registering in the next state. The harm, therefore, may be entirely intrastate. Were this a sufficient jurisdictional element, there would be no limit to Congress’s ability to penalize any crime whatsoever, so long as the defendant at some point in the course of his life traveled across state lines. This appears to be a plain usurpation of the state’s police power; as the Court expressed in Morrison, there is “no better example of the police power, which the Founders denied the National Government and reposed in the States, than the suppression of violent crime and vindication of its victims.” 529 U.S. at 618. As such, the jurisdictional language in § 2250 cannot alone render the statute valid under the Commerce Clause.
I think this is the clearest statement yet by a court why 2250(a)(2) is insufficient to support Commerce Clause jurisdiction. With the opinion in Valverde, by my count there have been seven cases in which courts have issued opinions which have held that the crime of failure to register cannot be based upon Commerce Clause jurisdiction. The other six opinions are:
- United States v. Powers, 544 F.Supp.2d 1331 (M.D. Fla. 2008)
- United States v. Hilton-Thomas, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1929 (S.D. Fla. 2009)
- United States v. Myers, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 99384 (S.D. Fla. 2008)
- United States v. Guzman, 582 F. Supp. 2d 305 (N.D.N.Y. 2008)
- United States v. Hall, 577 F. Supp. 2d 610 (N.D.N.Y. 2008).
- United States v. Waybright, 561 F. Supp. 2d 1154 (D. Mont. 2008)
Subsequent to the original opinion in Hall, the court rejected the government’s motion for reconsideration. United States v. Hall, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 98343 (N.D.N.Y. 2008).
I think we have reached the point where a critical mass of courts have recognized that there are genuine Commerce Clause problems with the statute. While the majority have decided otherwise, I think this should give future district courts reason to support the defendant's argument regarding federal authority. As I have argued, the majority of courts have failed to adequately consider the Commerce Clause argument and are distorting the doctrine to hold against sex offenders. Now, it is just up to one appellate court to join this growing group of district courts.
As a side note, the opinion cites Wayne Logan's recent Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law article which shows that at least some courts are listening to scholars about the shortcomings of the AWA.
MA - SJC sees possible bias in rape case - Why charge only the boy? Judges bitterly divided on issue
By John R. Ellement and Andrew Ryan - Globe Staff
A sharply divided Supreme Judicial Court said yesterday that a 14-year-old boy accused of statutory rape may have been a victim of gender discrimination because authorities charged him and not the three underage girls with whom he allegedly had sex.
The case, which originated in Plymouth County, involved a high school freshman football player who is accused of engaging in various sex acts from August to October 2007 with three girls. Two were 12, and the other was 11.
"None of the complainants reported being afraid of the boy's behavior," Chief Justice Margaret Marshall wrote for the majority. "Indeed, sexual behavior seemed to melt seamlessly into games of 'manhunt,' 'truth or dare,' and 'making out.' Some of it occurred with more than one complainant present."
The SJC issued its order in the case last fall and released the written opinion yesterday.
In its 3-to-2 ruling, the majority emphasized that statutory rape laws, which once exclusively protected girls, are now gender-neutral. The boy, the court said, has a constitutional right to see if Plymouth District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz's office discriminates against boys when prosecuting statutory rape cases.
The state's statutory rape laws say it is a crime for anyone of any gender under the age of 16 to have sex.
"Modern amendments leave no doubt about the Legislature's intent to protect all children under 16 years old from sexual abuse," Marshall wrote. This is not to say we are untroubled by the boy's alleged behavior, [but] the statutory rape law . . . makes clear that perpetrators of statutory rape may be either male or female."
The SJC ordered Cruz's office to give the boy's defense lawyer, Janice Bassil of Boston, statistics detailing how his office has handled statutory rape cases over the past five years.
Bassil said yesterday that Cruz's office has complied. But both she and a Cruz spokeswoman declined to release the data because the case is being handled in the juvenile court system.
Bassil said, however, that the information she has examined is encouraging her to seek the dismissal of all criminal complaints on the grounds that her client was selectively prosecuted because he is a boy.
"We are pursing a motion to dismiss on the basis of gender discrimination," she said. "People should be treated the same way under the law. You can't be a perpetrator and a victim, too."
Cruz endorsed the views of the dissenters, Justices Francis Spina and Judith Cowin. Writing for them, Spina pointed out that the boy was a high school student, while the girls were elementary school students. He was a football player, and the justices said he sometimes pressured the girls into sex acts.
"The gender difference here is purely incidental," Spina wrote. "The age difference and grade difference were the basis for the decision."
In a statement, Cruz said the court's majority is downplaying crucial details about the case, including the fact that the boy was older.
"There are three victims in this case who are two to three years younger and two grade levels behind the juvenile," Cruz said. "The facts as noted in the court's opinion are not only deeply troubling, but they also soundly support this prosecution."
Bassil said 38 states have "Romeo and Juliet" laws under which consensual sex among teenagers is treated less harshly than in Massachusetts, and she suggested that the Legislature update laws here.
"I'm not talking about anything involving force," Bassil said of the change in law. "It's mutual, it's consensual. Do you really want to prosecute this as a major felony sex offense?"
The Women's Rights Project and the Reproductive Freedom Project, which are part of the American Civil Liberties Union, filed briefs in support of the boy, said Sarah Wunsch, a lawyer in the ACLU's Boston office.
"We should not be enforcing the law based on stereotypical notions about girls as not being capable actors in the same way that boys are," Wunsch said. "They are doing what teenagers are doing today. They are fooling around sexually, and the girls are participants in the same way that boys are."
Wunsch also pointed out that the boy's father acted as the "good parent " and first alerted the girls' parents of the incidents and that his son is the only one facing a criminal sentence. "That sends a message that parents ought to keep their mouth shut about what they discover," she said.
Wunsch said statutory rape laws are rooted in an old concept that a daughter was the property of her father. Echoes of that thinking can be found today when prosecutors criminalize sexual activity involving girls, she said.
"Our view is that there is still a very strong pattern of district attorneys charging based on the notion of having to protect girls," Wunsch said. "But girls can enjoy sex and be sexually active. They are not simply victims."
The boy is facing nine charges, including three counts of statutory rape. He may be required to register with the Sex Offender Registry Board if convicted.
The community where the four children live and the names of the children involved were not released.
Bassil said the boy has been expelled from school because of the charges. She also said his parents - the father alerted the mother of one of the girls - are deeply troubled by what they see as an injustice being done to their son.
"His life has been derailed," Bassil said. "it's very hard to be a high school kid and not be in high school. Your whole life revolves around it."
Federal attempts to keep track of convicted sexual offenders have been rejected by most states, including Hawaii, and the arrest of a convicted Hawaii offender in Arizona last week might illustrate the problem. An estimated 100,000 sex offenders are not living at their registered addresses, and states lack the resources to comply with the federal law. Changes are needed to make the system workable.
- Another person using the bogus 100,000 sex offender statistic, pulled from thin air. Show me the true facts which substantiate this claim.
After legal challenges, voters gave the Legislature authority in 2004 to create an Internet registry of sexual offenders, who are required to update their addresses and other information every 90 days. The nationwide system of keeping track of offenders, created by Congress three years ago, appears to be on the brink of collapse.
"We support the intent, and I'm sure every one of my attorney general colleagues supports the intent," Hawaii Attorney General Mark J. Bennett (Contact) told the New York Times. "But we believed we couldn't follow every single provision because, legally and practically, some of the provisions didn't make sense."
More than 2,500 sex offenders are included in Hawaii's registry, but at least one-fourth of those entries are unverified or the offenders are delinquent or noncompliant; they are required to confirm or update the information every 90 days. _____ is one of those listed as having an unverified entry, which includes his Kihei, Maui, address, although he was reported to have updated his entry last Wednesday.
Two days later, _____, 46, was arrested in Mesa, Ariz., and charged with fondling a girl in a Wal-Mart store, after her mother reportedly yelled that a man was trying to touch her daughter in a sexual manner.
_____ pleaded guilty 10 years ago to sexually assaulting two girls at Toys R Us in Pearlridge Center and the Salt Lake Kmart and was sentenced to one year in prison. He admitted during therapy that he had fondled more than 200 other children, which the judge said could not be factored into the sentence. The registry says the _____ entry was last updated on Sunday, the day the Star-Bulletin reported the Arizona arrest.
The federal law - named the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act after a 6-year-old boy abducted and murdered in 1981 - requires that offenders update their information in person as many as four times a year. That means offenders living on neighbor islands would have to fly to Honolulu every 90 days to pay a visit to Bennett's office, and that is unrealistic.
- So John Walsh is going after only sex offenders, which had nothing to do with the crime. So why isn't he going after all people who harm children? Like abusive parents, gang members, drug dealers, bullies, etc?
"The single most important thing about it was creating a more consistent, uniform process across the country," said Ernest E. Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploiting Children, an advocacy group that collects the data from states and provides it to the U.S. Marshals Service. "There are a lot of states that really don't know where these guys are."
- And the more strict you make the laws, the more people will vanish! If you put the laws back to how they were, when they were working, then you'd know where more people were.
States face a July deadline to comply with the federal law, but that has become even more unrealistic with the national recession. The law needs changing to reflect reality.