Friday, February 13, 2009
By Kaileigh Connolly - Capital News Service
RICHMOND - A bill sponsored by Del. Charles Poindexter, R-9, that would require more information to be posted on the internet sex offender registry passed through the House and will move on to the Senate.
The internet sex offender registry lists the names, ages, addresses, pictures and offense descriptions and dates of convicted sex offenders. Poindexter's bill would allow the State Police to add information about sex offenders who are wanted, either for not registering with the registry or for any other crime. The bill allows for the State Police to add any information they judge "necessary to preserve public safety."
The State Police control the registry and update the information. The bill specifies that the registry would be updated daily.
Sen. Robert Hurt, R-19, is listed as a co-patron of this bill. He has not yet heard the bill in committee and will reserve his final judgment until then. He supports the idea of the bill because the purpose of the sex offender registry is to provide information to the community, he said.
"The changes include information parents want to know," he said. "This is information that could protect our most vulnerable citizens, who are our children."
The sex offender registry should include as much information as possible to make Virginia a safer place, he said.
The bill passed the House last week in a 99-0 vote. It will be heard by a Senate committee in the coming weeks.
By REKHA BASU
Sex crimes are among the most abhorrent. They can shatter security, damage trust and invade a victim's core being.
Rapists and pedophiles deserve tough sentences and treatment.
If that doesn't reform them, they should be kept away from society.
It's unfortunate, then, that, in their quest to crack down on sex offenses, prosecutors and legislators are going off on pointless tangents that risk trivializing them.
Ask the young man who was a 17-year-old Sioux City, Iowa, high school student last year when he shot a racy 10-second video of himself and a girlfriend on his cell phone.
At age 18, he texted it to a friend.
Evidently he had his pants down, making visible his private parts.
It was a careless, immature thing to do -- though maybe not so surprising in a culture that seems to prolong adolescence and encourages everyone to broadcast their most private thoughts and actions.
But it's doubtful the kid thought he'd be prosecuted for a sex crime.
Charged, as an adult, with telephone dissemination of obscene material to a minor (the friend was 17), he was looking at two years in jail and 10 years on the sex-offender registry, if convicted.
That would have barred him, as he set off for college, from living in any public Iowa college dorm.
That's absurd. In effect, laws intended to prevent adults from preying sexually on children are now being used to prosecute the kids themselves.
The practice of "sexting" --- youth texting revealing pictures of themselves --- is increasingly being prosecuted as child pornography or other felonies, the Associated Press reported, with cases in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Mischievous teen behavior is criminalized, youth are forever stigmatized, and the meaning of sex crimes is diminished.
The Iowa kid was lucky. He got to take a plea bargain, sparing him the draconian consequences of being branded a sex offender. But not before his family had spent $50,000 defending him.
One person who's outraged is David Coster, a Grinnell, Iowa, surgeon.
He's been contacting lawmakers to persuade them to change the law.
Exploring burgeoning sexuality, says Coster, is an inherent part of teen development: "To now criminalize it is one of the most frightening things I've ever heard."
Weren't those making these decisions ever kids themselves? Did they ever show a Playboy to a friend?
Of course lurid pictures shouldn't be sent to unsuspecting young people who don't welcome them.
But surely that can be handled with more appropriate discipline.
The overreaction isn't limited to sexting and teens.
Iowa's sex-offender residency law also doesn't differentiate between pedophiles and pranksters in forbidding registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools or child-care centers.
Even advocates for sexual-assault victims have opposed it for its unintended consequences.
One Iowa man on the registry was 19 when he exposed himself at a party in the presence of a 13-year-old, among others.
A decade later, though he had completed his sentence and probation, married and had kids, the law forced him to live an hour from his job.
It's time for lawmakers, prosecutors and courts to take a deep breath and seriously consider where they're headed here.
Criminalizing youthful indiscretions and forcing ex-convicts into homelessness isn't going to make society safer.
Let's return to common sense, weigh each case separately and save the harshest provisions for the most hopeless, egregious offenders.
CRS: Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act: A Legal Analysis, April 6, 2007
Direct link to the PDF
Wikileaks release: February 2, 2009
Publisher: United States Congressional Research Service
Title: Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act: A Legal Analysis
CRS report number: RL33967
Author(s): Charles Doyle, American Law Division
Date: April 6, 2007
The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, (P.L. 109-248, H.R. 4472), emerged from Congress following the passage of separate bills in the House and Senate (H.R. 3132 and S. 1086 respectively). The act's provisions fall into four categories: a revised sex offender registration system, child and sex related amendments to federal criminal and procedure, child protective grant programs, and other initiatives designed to prevent and punish sex offenders and those who victimize children.
CRS: Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act: A Sketch, April 17, 2007
Direct Link to the PDF
Wikileaks release: February 2, 2009
Publisher: United States Congressional Research Service
Title: Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act: A Sketch
CRS report number: RS22646
Author(s): Charles Doyle, American Law Division
Date: April 17, 2007
The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, P.L. 109-248 (H.R. 4472), serves four purposes. It reformulates the federal standards for sex offender registration in state, territorial and tribal sexual offender registries, and does so in a manner designed to make the system more uniform, more inclusive, more informative and more readily available to the public online. It amends federal criminal law and procedure, featuring a federal procedure for the civil commitment of sex offenders, random search authority over sex offenders on probation or supervised release, a number of new federal crimes, and sentencing enhancements for existing federal offenses. It creates, amends, or revives several grant programs designed to reinforce private, state, local, tribal and territorial prevention; law enforcement; and treatment efforts in the case of crimes committed against children. It calls for a variety of administrative or regulatory initiatives in the interest of child safety, such as the creation of the National Child Abuse Registry.
CRS: Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification Law: Recent Legislation and Issues, June 3, 2008
Direct Link to the PDF
Wikileaks release: February 2, 2009
Publisher: United States Congressional Research Service
Title: Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification Law: Recent Legislation and Issues
CRS report number: RL32800
Author(s): Garrine P. Laney, Domestic Social Policy Division
Date: June 3, 2008
This report provides details of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006; identifies and analyzes new legislation that has been introduced in the 110th Congress; and discusses continuing policy issues related to sex offender registration and community notification.
CRS: Offender Reentry: Correctional Statistics, Reintegration into the Community, and Recidivism, July 11, 2008
Direct Link to the PDF
Wikileaks release: February 2, 2009
Publisher: United States Congressional Research Service
Title: Offender Reentry: Correctional Statistics, Reintegration into the Community, and Recidivism
CRS report number: RL34287
Author(s): Blas Nunez-Neto, Domestic Social Policy Division
Date: July 11, 2008
The 110th Congress is considering a number of bills that include some form of offender reentry program within their purview. The Second Chance Act (P.L. 110- 199) was enacted on April 9, 2008. The Act expands the current offender reentry grant program at the Department of Justice and creates a wide array of targeted grantfunded pilot programs. Bills pertaining to offender reentry include S. 1060, S. 2237, S. 456, S. 1907, H.R. 623, H.R. 3187, H.R. 3547, H.R. 3467, and H.R. 3409. Potential issues facing Congress include the adequacy of the federal government's existing grant programs, the lack of current national-level statistics on recidivism, whether other outcome measures should be considered, whether more funding should be allocated toward program evaluations, and whether enough coordination is taking place among the various federal agencies that manage programs used to fund offender reentry.
CRS: Sexual Offender Registration Acts: Supreme Court Review of the Connecticut and Alaska Statutes in Connecticut Dept. of Public Safety v. Doe and Otte v. Doe, March 24, 2003
Direct Link to the PDF
Wikileaks release: February 2, 2009
Publisher: United States Congressional Research Service
Title: Sexual Offender Registration Acts: Supreme Court Review of the Connecticut and Alaska Statutes in Connecticut Dept. of Public Safety v. Doe and Otte v. Doe
CRS report number: RS21334
Author(s): Charles Doyle, American Law Division
Date: March 24, 2003
The United States Supreme Court has rejected constitutional challenges to two state sex offender registration and notification statutes (SORA), Connecticut Dept. of Public Safety v. Doe, 123 S.Ct. 1140 (2003); Smith v. Doe, 123 S.Ct. 1160 (2002). In one, it concluded that as a matter of due process registrants under the Connecticut statute need not be afforded the opportunity of a hearing to establish that they should be released from the burdens of the statute because they are not currently dangerous. In the other, it held that the ex post facto clause does not ban application of the Alaska statute to convictions for misconduct occurring prior to enactment of the statute. The Justices left open the possibility that such statutes might be subject to constitutional attack on substantive due process grounds and possibly on equal protection grounds.
Author, Speaker, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
In contemporary America, pornography is both a public reality and big business. Ambient pornography -- sexually explicit advertising, entertainment, and merchandising -- is all around us. But pornography is also big business, producing sexually explicit materials in printed, video, and digital formats and making billions of dollars in the process.
The pornography industry has a big stake in defending itself against legal challenges and restrictive laws, and it has been stunningly successful in doing so. One of the leading legal defenders of pornography has been David Ogden, a lawyer who can only be described as a First Amendment extremist, who has even argued against laws against child pornography.
President Barack Obama has nominated David Ogden as Deputy Attorney General of the United States. This nomination is both ominous and dangerous. Given David Ogden's high visibility in defense of pornography, this nomination sends a clear and unmistakable message. The pornography business will have a friend in high office in the Department of Justice.
Writing at ThePublicDiscourse.com, Matthew Schmitz explained:
In addition to making it harder to prosecute those who sell images of child molestation and rape, Ogden has sought to ensure that pornography can be easily distributed and readily accessed in almost any medium or location. He has fought cases in Puerto Rico to allow Playboy to broadcast explicit programming on TV. He represented Philip Harvey, a man who runs the nation’s largest mail-order pornography shop out of North Carolina, in his attempt to deflect a Department of Justice investigation of his business. Completing a sort of multi-media grand slam, Ogden has sued to allow sexually-explicit content to be transmitted over the phone. Taking this quest to its absurd limits, he has even claimed in court that there is a constitutional right for pornography to be kept in firehouses. Ogden’s position is good for the industry groups he has represented but bad for female firefighters who could be subjected to humiliating and harassing images in the workplace. With an equal disregard for the comfort and protection of children, in 2000 Ogden sued to allow pornography to be accessed in public libraries.
In essence, David Ogden has been in the forefront of arguing for the unrestricted sale and distribution of any and all pornography by any and all means - and now he will be in charge of prosecuting those who were his clients and arguing against all that he has argued in the past. Are we to believe that this will have no effect on prosecutions against pornography?
As British philosopher Roger Scruton has noted, David Ogden's extremism in defense of pornography is based in the legal theory that explicit pornography (visual. literary, video, digital) is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. He comments:
The idea that pornography is “speech,” within the meaning of the first amendment, and thereby protected by the Constitution, is so absurd that it is hard for an outsider to see how American judges have been persuaded to accept it again and again. Of course porn is big business, and can afford to keep beating at the doors of the courts. But the real reason for the legalization of pornography in America lies in the culture of the liberal elite and in the strategy of legal activism whereby that elite continues its relentless assault on majority values. Porn has been incorporated into the “culture war” precisely because ordinary Americans see it as a threat to family and religious values. This fact is sufficient to prompt the liberal establishment to add porn to its agenda, as one more thing to be defended in the court against the legislature. Again and again we have seen this process at work, as the values and transgressions of elites are seized upon by the ACLU and similar organizations, rebranded as essential liberties, and defended as constitutional rights, regardless of their subversive effect on society as a whole.
The legal defense David Ogden has presented in defense of the pornography industry is also applied to other arenas of legal activism as well. The spread of the contagion is inevitable.
Pornography is one of the most insidious dimensions of American culture today. It is a plague that is ruining lives, marriages, and public morals. It endangers women, children, and the most vulnerable among us. Putting one who can only be described as an extremist for pornography in such a high position in the Department of Justice -- Deputy Attorney General of the United States -- sends a clear signal at home and around the world. If David Ogden is confirmed, the U.S. Senate becomes a party to this disaster.
What signal does President Obama intend to send by this nomination, and to whom?
I deal extensively with the pornography issue in my new book, Desire and Deceit: The Real Cost of the New Sexual Tolerance [Multnomah]. We will discuss this issue on Friday's edition of The Albert Mohler Program.
In addition to being one of Salem’s nationally syndicated radio talk show hosts, R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky and recognized as one of America’s leading theologians and cultural commentators. Contact Dr. Mohler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
View the article here
By Mike Sanders / Eyewitness News
SLIDELL - St. Tammany Parish deputies, working closely with their counterparts in Vernon Parish, have arrested a deputy from Leesville in connection with a child sex case in Slidell.
St. Tammany Sheriff's Capt. George Bonnett reports that 31-year-old Mason Dixon has been charged with seven counts of felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile and four counts of oral sexual battery.
Capt. Bonnett says that the sheriff's office learned of the allegations on Monday, February 9, when a Slidell woman came forward concerned about alleged incidents between her 14-year-old daughter and Dixon.
Officials say the incidents started in September 2008, and continued through January of this year. Capt. Bonnett says that Dixon, a deputy with the Vernon Parish Sheriff's Office, was in the area doing training with the National Guard.
Detectives obtained warrants for Dixon's arrest, notified Vernon Parish authorities, and traveled to the central Louisiana parish to take Dixon into custody.
Capt. Bonnett says Dixon is being held in isolation for his protection on $375,000 bond.
View the article here
By Yuko Narushima
WOMEN are emerging as the pimps of the global trade in humans with a third of countries reporting more female traffickers than male, a United Nations study shows.
The first international report into the scope of human trafficking, published yesterday, found a disproportionate number of female perpetrators, more than in any other crime, selling other women into slavery in countries including Australia.
With demand for cheap goods and services rising with the fall of the world economy, experts fear labour exploitation will grow.
Sex slavery accounts for 79 per cent of all human trafficking, most victims being women and girls, says the UN Office on Drugs and Crime's Global Report On Trafficking In Persons.
It used data from 155 countries to establish patterns in trafficking and what individual nations were doing to fight it.
The office's executive director, Antonio Maria Costa, was alarmed by cases in which victims went on to become ringleaders in the trade. "We need to understand the psychological, financial and coercive reasons why women recruit other women into slavery," he said.
After sex, the second most common trade was in forced labour. These victims were harder to identify than sex slaves, whose work was highly visible and concentrated in cities and along major roads, the report said. By contrast, forced labourers worked in mines, factories and in private homes as domestic slaves.
"Their numbers will surely swell as the economic crisis deepens the pool of potential victims," Mr Costa said.
The view was echoed by Jennifer Burn, the director of the Anti-Slavery Project at the University of Technology, Sydney. She said Australia's visa system was open to exploitation. "We have a visa system built around the idea that we have a skills shortage," Professor Burn said.
Trafficked people could arrive as students and temporary skilled workers, and more sophisticated methods of protecting and detecting these people were needed, she said. Increased public awareness of modern-day slavery was necessary to snuff out the demand for it, she said. Instances of trafficking were under-reported, and often victims did not identify as such.
"They know they've been held in an exploitative and harsh work environment, but they don't put that into the legal definition of trafficking," Professor Burn said. Most reported cases were of women from Thailand, South Korea and China, she said.
In Australia, the UN report found eight people were convicted from the 34 charged with trafficking-related offences in the five years to 2008. According to the Department of Immigration, 17 trafficking victims had been granted three-year temporary witness protection visas. To date, none have qualified for a permanent version of that visa. No trafficked children had been detected since 2003, the department said.
Yesterday the Federal Government proposed new obligations for employers of temporary skilled overseas workers on 457 visas. These included market pay rates and co-operation with inspectors.
By Denise Nash
Local Police Departments are required by law to notify vulnerable populations about Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders residing in their vicinities.
According to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, upon release into the community following a conviction for a registerable offense, a sex offender is required to register with the Division of Criminal Justice Services. In order to determine the level of community notification and duration of registration, a hearing is held by the sentencing court. After examining the facts in a particular case, including the use of force, weapons, alcohol or drugs, victim's age, number of victims, assault or injury of the victim and relationship to the victim, the court makes a determination regarding the offender's level of notification, commonly called the risk level.
In December, the Nassau County Police Department released a notification that a level three convicted sex offender was residing at Jericho's Meadowbrook Motel located at 440 Jericho Turnpike.
Shortly after, a second notification was released regarding an additional level three sex offender residing at the same location. Both offenders were noted to have a history of convictions for sexual offenses against children. A level three sex offender, who was residing in Jericho, is deemed as a high risk of repeat offense and also a threat to public safety.
Alarm and concern rapidly spread through the Jericho and Syosset communities in light of the close proximity of the Motel to the East Birchwood and Jericho Manor's neighborhoods, as well as to the local Robbins Lane and Jackson Elementary Schools, the Jericho Public Library, and the Merry Lane Park.
The Birchwood Civic Association (BCA), which represents the approximately 1,200 families of the East Birchwood and Jericho Manors communities, immediately took action.
"We view the safety of our children as our highest priority and we immediately instituted a multi-pronged campaign to safeguard our community," said Craig Snyder, Birchwood Civic Association President.
- I think that is a multi-pronged witch hunt to be exact. If they are within the legal limits of the law, then they should be able to live there.
A BCA task force was commissioned and an extensive investigation and campaign was initiated.
According to the BCA's investigation, significant compliance issues existed with regard to the proximity of the motel to local institutions.
Further research confirmed that this issue is being confronted by many communities. According to Birchwood Civic Association Safety Chairperson Roy Chipkin, the issue is complicated by inadequate local laws, including the applicable Nassau County Local Law No. 12-2008 ordinance, which only mandates that sex offenders are forbidden from residing within 1000 feet of a school or 500 feet of a playground. "This distance is clearly inadequate to properly safeguard the community," Chipkin said.
- So what would be adequate? No matter what they make it, you will say the same thing. It could be 10 miles or more, and it would make no difference!
Within a two-week period, the BCA announced the relocation of the level three convicted sex offenders from the community. At the same time the motel was declared off limits by the county for future convicted sex offender occupancy because of its proximity to the county's Jericho preserve located adjacent to the property.
Nassau County Legislator Judy Jacobs answered the residents' calls for help on the county level, and was instrumental in working with the applicable county agencies toward the effort to have the motel declared off limits for future housing.
"Working with a group such as the BCA on such an important issue was gratifying and I am pleased that common sense did prevail," said Jacobs.
Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto also worked quickly with his staff to apply the town's resources toward the relocation of the individuals.
"This is a perfect example that when local government and local residents work together for the good of the community, good things happen," said Venditto. "The residents were our eyes and ears on this one."
Although relieved with the positive outcome and appreciative of the advocacy of the offices of both the Town Supervisor and Legislator Jacobs, the BCA's President Craig Snyder cautioned that moving forward, "we must work to strengthen the applicable laws and remain vigilant in our efforts to protect our families as well as our quality of life."
By Becca Manning
Changes in town bylaws regarding dock placement, public hearing procedure and residential requirements for Level 3 sex offenders will go before voters at the April 28 Town Meeting, along with articles reserving funds for algae treatment on Oldham Pond, capital expenses and the town’s 300th anniversary celebration.
Pembroke selectmen on Monday accepted 26 articles for the annual Town Meeting warrant, which closed last Wednesday. The board also opened the special Town Meeting warrant and announced it would close on Monday, March 2 at 4 p.m. The special Town Meeting will be held during the annual Town Meeting on April 28 at the high school.
- Why are all meetings pertaining sex offender laws and issues, held at schools, the place sex offenders cannot go? Is it so you cannot hear their side?
Selectman Terry Finnegan has proposed two articles aimed at setting aside funds to pay for capital items, such as new vehicles, equipment and major repairs. At the Oct. 21 special Town Meeting, voters approved $150,000 in capital expenses and authorized selectmen to borrow up to $1.7 million for emergency needs.
Finnegan said in October and again Monday night that she felt the town needed to commit to capital needs.
One article she proposed would earmark proceeds from the town’s new passport program for capital expenses. The program must be self-sufficient, Finnegan said, but anything left over would go into the capital fund.
She also proposed an article that would put revenue the town receives through cell phone tower antenna fees into the capital fund. Finnegan estimated the town brings in about $100,000 per year through these fees.
Along with these two articles and regular items that appear every year, the board accepted the following articles for the April 28 Town Meeting warrant:
- An article that would add a town bylaw barring high-risk sex offenders from living within 1,500 feet of a school, playground, licensed day care center or recreational facility. High-risk offenders are those labeled by the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board as Level 3 sex offenders and determined to be at high risk to commit an offense again. The article was submitted by petition by local residents.
- An article that would add a town bylaw regulating when temporary docks could be removed and placed in local ponds at the end and start of the season.
- An article that would allow members of boards who do not attend an initial public hearing but attend a continuation of the hearing to vote on the matter. Though the article was submitted by the Board of Selectmen, the town administrator said it was proposed by the Planning Board and would affect all town boards.
- An article setting aside $12,660 for the Pembroke Watershed Association to manage an algae problem on Oldham Pond. The group also is seeking funding from Hanson because both towns border the pond. The estimated costs of the project include about $5,000 for sampling and testing, $7,700 for copper sulfate algaecide treatments and between $3,000 and $3,000 for necessary permits.
- An article adding a town bylaw prohibiting excavation and trench-building on any public or private property without a permit and authorizing the town Department of Public Works director and building commissioner to issue such permits. Submitted by the building department, the article follows changes in state regulations, proposed through legislation known as “Jackie’s Law,” that took effect Jan. 1.
- An article setting aside $45,000 to process contaminated town compost material currently stockpiled at the town’s former landfill site and haul it to adjacent town-owned land, as required by the Department of Environmental Protection.
- An article authorizing the town to borrow up to $200,000 to upgrade residential septic systems to comply with state Title V regulations.
- An article that would set aside an unspecified amount of money for the town’s 300th anniversary committee to offset costs in planning for the 2012 celebration. The article was submitted by residents’ petition.
- An article that would delete a section of town bylaws that requires the town to advertise at least twice in local newspapers to fill vacated positions other than those covered under Civil Service. The article was submitted by petition. In their explanation, petitioners wrote the bylaw appears to conflict with the process for filling vacancies that is already laid out in union contracts.
- An article that would transfer $1,829.56 left over from funds allocated in 2006 to build a handicap ramp on the Town Green, to put a new roof on and repair the Harry M. Woods Memorial Bandstand on the Town Green. This article was submitted by residents’ petition.
- An article that would set aside $6,500 to mail postcards to every Pembroke household notifying residents of a change in voting location to Pembroke High School. Town Clerk Mary Ann Smith has said she hopes to move all five voting precincts to one polling location at an upcoming election.
- An article that would allow High Street Fire Station to apply for tax-exempt status.
- An article earmarking FY2010 funds raised through the 1 percent Community Preservation Act surcharge for appropriate use in the next grant cycle: 5 percent for committee administrative expenses, estimated at $12,800; 10 percent each for historical resources, community housing and open space projects, estimated at $27,000 each; and the remaining $175,500 to be reserved for future use.
In therapy, offenders, in most cases, are taught to empathize with the victim, to see how their abuse affected their victim, to see the victims feelings, anger, hate, rage, distrust, etc. And I am posting these videos here, for the same purpose, to hopefully stop someone from abusing someone else.
The more I watch this, the more I suspect the girlfriend. Something else I noticed, is the father threatened to kill whomever may have done this, which I'm sure he is very angry. But then you see them praying to God. Worshipping God is not about making it suit your needs. I hope and pray she is found alive as well, and not with some sex offender, because then, all RSO's, I'm sure, will have more punishment added on, to fill so called "loop holes!" That is usually what they call it. I don't know, I just have a feeling, that the girlfriend had something to do with this.
This is something they do in New York every year, for the last 7 or 8 years, and they also do it in Chicago. With all the public hysteria over sex, I wonder why they are not being arrested? I don't think they should be, but makes you wonder, at least it does me.
New York (2009):
By TANALEE SMITH Associated Press Writer
Authorities charged a man Friday with lighting one of the wildfires that killed a total of more than 180 people in Australia, and whisked him into protective custody to guard him from public fury.
Police said the suspect was charged with one count of arson causing death and intentionally lighting a wildfire near the town of Churchill that killed at least 21 people. It was one of hundreds of fires that raged through southeastern Victoria state Feb. 7, leaving 7,000 people homeless and razing entire towns.
The suspect also was charged with possessing child pornography.
The disaster's official death toll is 181, but efforts to find and identify victims were continuing and officials expected the final tally to exceed 200. More than 1,800 homes and 1,500 square miles (3,900 square kilometers) of forests and farms were burned.
The suspect's identity was being kept secret for his own safety, Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Dannye Moloney told a news conference. He was brought to the state capital of Melbourne from Morwell, 75 miles (120 kilometers) to the east and near the the town of Churchill.
"He has been moved from that area and moved to the Melbourne metropolitan area for security reasons," Moloney said.
Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported from Morwell that the suspect was formally charged in the town's magistrate's court, but that he did not appear. He was ordered to be held in custody and to undergo psychiatric evaluation, the broadcaster said.
Police said in a statement that Magistrate Clive Allsop banned publication of any details or photographs of the man that could identify him. Another court hearing was scheduled for Monday.
If found guilty, the man faces a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison for the deadly arson charge, and a maximum of 15 years on the second arson charge.
- Wow, you can kill almost 200 people, and get about 40 years in prison, but sexually abuse a kid or have child porn, and get, in some cases over 100 years. Now that makes no sense to me whatsoever! They are both horrible crimes, but hell, killing 200 people? He should be in prison until he dies, and I'm sure many would say, should be given the death penalty. Not me, I do not believe in the death penalty for anybody.
Police have said they believe foul play was the cause of at least two of the deadly blazes, including the Churchill fire. Those suspicions disgusted the country and prompted Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to describe the fires as possible mass murder.
Ruth Halyburton, whose home in the town of Marysville was burned to the ground, said Friday she could not comprehend why anyone would want to light wildfires.
"Words can't describe how I feel about them," Halyburton told The Associated Press at a relief center in nearby Alexandra. "I'm a Christian, but I don't think to kindly of people if they go light a match and destroy people's property and lives. They don't have a brain in their head."
Marysville, a town of some 500 people, was almost completely destroyed Saturday by one of the fires — but not the Churchill blaze.
Firefighters still struggled to contain about a dozen blazes and one of them flared up Friday and menaced the town of Healesville, coming within less than a mile (1 kilometer) and sending embers dropping like rain over houses.
The threat was downgraded after a few hours, but it served as a reminder that the disaster may not be over yet.
"You can't see anything. All you can see is smoke, and you can't even see where the fire is actually coming from," plant nursery owner John Stanhope told ABC radio from Healesville during the flare-up. "It's just thick smoke everywhere and everyone is just very much on edge."
Firefighters raced to take advantage of cooler weather, rain and lighter winds and lit controlled burns Friday in efforts to prevent further breakouts.
The catastrophe's scale became clearer Friday. Officials raised the tally of destroyed homes by 762 to 1,831, and the number of people left homeless or who fled their homes and have not returned was raised by 2,000 to 7,000.
Officials said the nation had pledged more than 75 million Australian dollars ($50 million) in donations to various charities for survivors. Rudd ordered military bases to be opened to house some of the homeless.
The disaster increased the urgency for a nationwide fire warning system, which has been snarled for years in bickering between state and federal officials.
"I am determined to see this thing implemented across the nation," Rudd said late Thursday. "If it means cracking heads to ensure it happens we'll do that."
Officials partly blamed the dramatic death toll on the number of people who appeared to have waited until they saw the fast-moving blazes coming before trying to flee. Many bodies were found in burned-out cars.
LIKE TOO MANY voter-approved initiatives that weren't very well thought out, Proposition 83, also known as Jessica's Law, has had costly, unforeseen consequences.
The ballot measure, backed by 70 percent of voters, prohibits paroled sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school, park where children regularly gather.
A major flaw of Prop. 83 is that it makes no distinction between pedophiles and those convicted of committing crimes against adults. Though it makes little sense to ban sex offenders who prey on grown people from areas frequented by kids.
The result? Thousands of paroled sex offenders in California have had difficulty finding any place where they can legally live in urban centers like the Bay Area.
In an effort to help them abide by the housing restrictions, state corrections officials have been spending tens of millions of dollars every year to rent paroled offenders motels and apartments.
According to a recent MediaNews report, the state spent $22 million on rentals occupied by paroled sex offenders in 2008. Yet in some cases, the state itself put the parolees in housing in banned zones. If the state has trouble finding legal housing for sex offenders, imagine how difficult it must be for the parolees themselves.
Meanwhile, some municipalities have enacted local ordinances that are even stronger.
Now, a top official with the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has issued an order that sets a 60-day limit for transitional housing for paroled sex offenders — except in special circumstances.
Scott Kernan, undersecretary for operations, said that under the previous guidelines, parolees had "no real motivation to self-sufficiency."
While that may be true, the problem with Kernan's order is that it will surely lead to a huge spike in the number of homeless sex offenders. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that parolees who don't have a roof over their heads are more likely to commit new crimes.
How does having thousands of sex offenders with no place to live make us any safer?
The 2,000-foot rule is currently up for judicial review in several court cases. We believe it should be overturned because it is so restrictive as to be unconstitutional.
Jessica's Law has cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. Yet there is absolutely nothing to suggest that it has helped to reduce crime. In fact, one could reasonably argue, it just may very well make it worse.
The title of this article is wrong. You can clearly read below, the results of the polygraph have NOT BEEN RELEASED, so why does this reporter say they passed it? How do they know? I am beginning to suspect the girlfriend knows more than she is saying.
The 17-year-old girlfriend of a missing Florida girl's father has taken a lie detector test, a local sheriff said.
- 17 year old girl friend? If he's had any sexual contact with his "girlfriend," then he has basically committed a sex crime, if he is over 24 years old, based on the Florida statute.
He wouldn't reveal the results of the test, but the father, Ronald Cummings, and his girlfriend, Misty Croslin, said Thursday night during an interview with FOX News' Greta Van Susteren that they both submitted to polygraphs and both "passed."
- How do they know they passed it, when the details have not been released? This case is sounding more and more fishy to me.
Croslin was the one who reportedly discovered that 5-year-old Haleigh Ann-Marie Cummings had vanished from her bed before dawn on Tuesday.
Several people have been interviewed by police and the FBI, and all have been offered the chance to take a lie detector test, Putnam County Sheriff's spokesman Gary Bowling said.
Detectives believe Haleigh was abducted — and they aren't overlooking anyone, including family members, as suspects.
Haleigh is 3 feet tall with blond hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a pink shirt and underwear.
Hardy said ground searches continued for a third day on Thursday. Bloodhounds have been used, but haven't turned up any clear evidence.
"We have nothing definitive to say where the child is based on the bloodhounds," Hardy told reporters at a Thursday news conference.
He said evidence has been collected from the mobile home where Haleigh lived with her 3-year-old brother Junior, her father, Cummings, and Croslin — but declined to describe it.
"I can't discuss what evidence was taken into custody," Hardy said. "I don't want to reveal what was found or not found."
Ronald Cummings, told FOX News' Greta Van Susteren that Croslin was watching his daughter while he was at work as a crane operator.
- I am just curious here, but what kind of crane work do they do in the middle of the night?
According to Cummings, Haleigh had gotten up to use the bathroom. When she didn't return, Croslin went to look for her and noticed the back door was open.
- Hmm, this to me, sounds like maybe the child walked out the back door for some reason.
"I locked doors before I left for work. My child cannot unlock the deadbolt, you have to force the door shut all the way ... and she doesn’t open the door to strangers," Cummings said.
- So how did she go missing then? No forced entry, and the door was unlocked and open. Doesn't sound right to me.
Croslin and Cummings called 911 after discovering the girl was missing, according to the police report. The tapes were released Wednesday.
In addition to Croslin, Cummings and the child's mother, Crystal Sheffield, as well as several others have been questioned in the case.
"It is never safe to say that a family member is not a suspect," Bowling said Wednesday. "However, all the world is a suspect right now."
Police have ruled out the possibility that the girl ran away.
"This child didn't voluntarily walk out of her home. If she did, someone took her," Bowling said.
Cummings, who has custody of Haleigh and her brother, said his daughter wouldn't leave on her own.
"I know somebody took her. I know for a fact she didn't wander off — she's afraid of the dark," Cummings told NBC's "Today" on Thursday.
Police said house-to-house searches of the neighborhood Wednesday found no evidence that the child wandered away.
Police had never been called to the home in the past — but there have been prior problems with Cummings, Croslin and the children, according to Putnam County Capt. Steve Rose.
"There have been some investigations done through the department of children and family," Rose told FOX News on Wednesday. He didn't elaborate.
John Harrell, spokesman for the northeast region of the Florida Department of Children and Families, said Thursday that his agency "was involved with the family." Harrell would not offer any details, citing state confidentiality laws.
Sheffield's mother, Marie, told Van Susteren that the children seemed to be doing well living with their father.
"Haleigh told us they’ve been hit, and stuff like that, but to this point, everything was fine," Marie Sheffield said.
There were still no firm leads in the case. Detectives wouldn't say whether Croslin, Cummings or anyone else in the family were a focus of the investigation.
Haleigh's grandfather, Johnny Sheffield, said he was distraught about the girl's disappearance and characterized Croslin as suspicious, though he admitted he didn't know much about her, according to MyFOXOrlando.com.
Sheffield told Van Susteren that her children loved their father's girlfriend, whom he'd been dating for 4 to 6 months.
"She seemed like a really nice person, but I never sat down and had a conversation with her," she said.
Appearing on FOX News on Thursday, Sheffield answered "yes" when asked whether it was true that Croslin had given conflicting statements to police.
The child's mother doesn't live in the area but traveled to Putnam County after she learned of her daughter's disappearance and has been interviewed, according to Rose.
"She is cooperating," Rose told FOX News on Wednesday.
Cummings said his girlfriend was awake and frantic after she found Haleigh was gone. But in the police report, obtained by FOX News, Cummings reportedly told officers that his "dumb bitch girlfriend" told him Haleigh was gone when he got home from work.
"Ronald said that he did not know what Haleigh was wearing, and that all he knew was that the back door was standing open. Ronald repeatedly said that someone had taken his child and also said 'When I find him I'll kill him,'" police wrote in the report.
- And if you do this, you will be in prison for a long time, and then, your daughter, who needs you, will be without her father. This is not a way to handle this, but, I am not in your situation either.
He referred to a 9mm Beretta handgun he owns and said if authorities found his daughter's kidnapper, "he would shoot them through the back window of the patrol car," the police report said.
Deputies said Thursday they're in the process of questioning 44 registered sex offenders who live within five miles of Haleigh's home.
An uncle, Andrew Sheffield, believes she is alive, but the mystery of her whereabouts continues.
"It's fishy," he said. "Somebody knows something."
George Anthony, the grandfather of slain Florida toddler Caylee Anthony, met with Haleigh's father Thursday. Anthony said he was there simply to offer moral support.
By DAN DiPAOLO - Daily American 30 North Chief
PAINT BOROUGH - In March, Paint Borough Council will likely vote on an ordinance designed to limit the ability of convicted sex offenders to move into the borough.
That ordinance, if approved, will make it illegal for convicted sex offenders to live within 2,500 feet of any school, child care facility, open space, community center, public park or recreational center located in the borough.
- Open space? So I guess that would include the whole town?
Solicitor Lois Geary presented a draft ordinance to the council in January. During Thursday's meeting Councilman John Kaiser said it would be placed on the agenda for March.
Terms of the draft ordinance give sex offenders 60 days to move or face a $1,000 fine and or 90 days in jail.
Those registered and already living within the borough will not be forced to move once the ordinance is passed. The exemption is a standard clause found in a number of sex offender ordinances passed in both Cambria and Somerset counties.
The Paint Borough ordinance defines a sex offender as anyone over the age of 18 who has been convicted of certain sex crimes against a minor. Convictions include kidnapping, luring a child into a motor vehicle, institutional sexual assault, indecent assault, incest, prostitution, rape and a number of other crimes.
According to the Pennsylvania Megan's law Web site, no sex offenders live in Paint Borough. One lives in Paint Township.
Johnstown City Council enacted as similar ordinance in 2007, citing concerns that sex offenders registered under the state's Megan's law were living at downtown halfway houses or drug rehabilitation centers.
Ferndale Borough in Johnstown and Benson Borough in Somerset County have since followed the city's lead, enacting ordinances that effectively prevent any registered sex offender from living within the borough limits because of their size.
By MANNY GAMALLO - World Staff Writer
BRISTOW — A former Creek County undersheriff is headed to prison after he pleaded guilty Thursday to indecent exposure and lewd molestation, with both charges involving a child.
Ed Willingham Jr. appeared before District Judge Lawrence Parish, who ordered Willingham to serve three years in prison plus 12 years of probation. The sentence is concurrent on both charges.
Willingham will have to register as a sex offender once he is released from prison.
The case against Willingham stemmed from a July 2007 probe by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation after it was alleged that he was involved in sexual misconduct with a neighbor’s 10-year-old daughter.
At the time, Willingham was the chief investigator for District Attorney Max Cook.
Cook suspended and ultimately fired Willingham after the prosecutor learned of Willingham’s arrest for allegedly violating a protective order brought by his wife.
Cook recused himself from prosecuting his former employee. Instead, the Cleveland County District Attorney’s Office in Norman was assigned to the case.
On the advice of his lawyer, Willingham would not comment about the charges.
Willingham was undersheriff for former Sheriff Larry Fugate.
Willingham ran unsuccessfully for sheriff in 2004 against current Sheriff Steve Toliver.
In October 2007, a fire destroyed Willingham’s home in rural Creek County. The cause was never determined, authorities said.
By Jami Floyd, In Session anchor
NEW YORK — The fear that sexual predators are hiding under every rock and around every corner has led to a nationwide effort to hunt them down and keep track of them – in most cases for life.
Put aside for the moment the fact that most children are abused by a family member and that in child abductions and murders fewer than one percent of the perpetrators are strangers. The more immediate concern is this: Our national obsession with sexual predators is actually getting in the way of effective law enforcement.
Good intentions have been clouded by bad information perpetuated by those who would gain the most — not the victims, but television talk show hosts hungry for ratings. Don’t take my word for it. Ask the people who know best — the police. Across the country police are pushing back against a federal law that requires all states to adopt stricter sex offender laws.
- Amen, and the media is very much responsible for blowing this out of proportion, even CNN. The code of ethics no longer exists, apparently. Now it's all about money, fame, ratings, etc!
The Adam Walsh Act was named for the 6-year-old whose 1981 murder changed the way in which law enforcement looks for missing children. Adam’s Law was passed three years ago, after several horrible cases including the abduction and murder of 11-year old Carlie Brucia, and the case of John Couey who buried his 9-year old victim alive.
- Yes, and the people who murdered these children, should be in prison until the day they die, IMO. But making laws and treating all sex offenders as if they are John Couey, is morally and ethically wrong. This country has become those we once dispised, those out for blood and revenge. And it gets worse every single day, due to politicians, media and people like John Walsh, Mark Lunsford and others, exploiting fear and their children's deaths, to become rich, more viewers and ratings. Yes, it's all about greed, IMO, or they would be listening to the FACTS and EXPERTS who know these laws will not, and are not working. Everytime I hear this, or say this, it brings this bible verse to mind.
Of course state officials agree with the intent. But, in many cases their state laws are more effective. In other cases, Adam’s Law isn’t specific enough to each state to be effective. In many cases, it contradicts tough laws already in place.
Even Adam’s father, John Walsh, is calling for Congress to postpone the compliance deadline to give everyone a chance to work out the problems. And he’s right. Because states that fail to comply will lose some of their federal crime prevention funding — the very funding that helps them keep track of the predators that inspired the law in the first place.
- So I'd love to hear what John Walsh would recommend? I believe he is pushing for an extension, because he has himself and his companies in mind, but I could be wrong. John, so what are your recommendations? You mentioned you had a sex addiction, and was "cured!" So are you being a hypocrite now, because it would affect you? Let's hear your thoughts! And if people would do their homework, it will cost more to enact these laws and restrictions, which will do nothing to prevent such crimes, so it's a waste of money. Again, we need to forget about the "tough on crime" BS, and work on being SMART ON CRIME!
It's totally amazing and the sheer stupidity in the people who run this country! The make draconian laws forcing sex offenders in exile into very little portions of each county and state, and when they all start living there, because they cannot live anywhere else, they pass more laws to push them out further. Hell, why don't you just make a law, that states "SEX OFFENDERS CANNOT LIVE ANYWHERE, EXCEPT PRISON," and put that on the national news? Hell, you might as well. The evil grandstanding, boasting and everyone trying to outdo everyone else, is just pure insanity. When will it end? These people congregate into certain areas, because YOUR LAWS forced them into doing so, and now you don't like that? Come on!
By RYAN HUTCHINS
Task force would review proposal before Town Board takes a vote
COLONIE - Town officials, calling a stretch of Central Avenue motels a dumping ground for sex offenders, may pass a law sharply restricting where some of them can sleep.
- Some place has to be a dumping ground. And what does where they sleep have to do with this? This is nothing but cruel and unusual punishment, and evil politicians exploiting people fears and sex offenders to boast and grandstand to look good to the sheeple. And yes, it's pure evil, IMO.
Enacted as is, the bill could again stir up an issue that has had officials facing off to keep the convicts out of their own town, city or county.
But before having the Colonie Town Board vote on the new regulations, Supervisor Paula Mahan wants to assemble a task force to examine the issue and work off of her proposal.
The panel would include county legislators Christine Benedict and Tim Nichols, as well as the supervisor and two Town Board members.
"Rather than a Band-Aid for the issue, we'd like to come up with something that's more permanent," Mahan said Tuesday.
The legislation she's proposed seeks to bar adult Level 2 and 3 sex offenders whose victims were younger than 17 from living or staying within 1,500 feet of each other, or the same distance from places where children congregate.
Those are defined specifically in a long list that includes 15 types of buildings and spaces. Because of how broad the proposal is, it could keep the offenders out of large swaths of the town. Offenders who already have a permanent home would be exempt.
Albany County has a residency law that prohibits those top-level offenders from living within 1,000 feet of schools and day-care centers.
The less restrictive regulation has allowed social service programs in area counties to place homeless sex offenders in a group of motels on the town's west end.
Benedict, who represents the area where those businesses are found, calls it "motel row." Included are the Skylane, Best Value Inn and Bluebell Motor Inn, a group of motels in the 1900 block of Central Avenue. The Tompkins Motel across the street has become another haven for sex offenders placed in the low-cost housing by counties, the Republican said.
"Colonie cannot be the fallback," she said. "They've driven them out of the city and into the suburbs."
A north-end region of the town represented by Nichols, who sponsored Albany County's residency law, has also had an influx of sex offenders, the Democrat said.
Benedict, who in 2007 led a campaign to keep social service officers from placing families in these same motels, is calling for state or federal officials to weigh in.
"It's outrageous and what's happening is no one's taking the lead on this," she said, adding that "they're pitting counties against counties and town against towns."