Monday, April 6, 2009

TN - Sex Offenders Hold On to Handgun Permits

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04/06/2009

From Phil Williams:

Some lawmakers say it's none of your business who has a handgun permit.

But is it your business if sex offenders are carrying guns?

Last year, NewsChannel 5 Investigates obtained a database of everyone who had a gun permit -- and discovered the state was renewing gun permits for convicted felons.

That came as a surprise to state leaders.

"I did not realize that we were issuing permits to convicted felons," Safety Commissioner Dave Mitchell told me. "Until you brought it to our attention, I did not know that."
- This just goes to show, legislature doesn't have a clue as to the bills they pass.  And if someone if off probation/parole, then they should get those rights back, regardless of what you think, it's called the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution, look it up some time.

So with lawmakers talking about closing those records, I took another look at the data.

Unlike some news organizations, NewsChannel 5 has never considered putting a list of all those with gun permits on the Internet, along with their home addresses.

But here's another example of the good that comes from the list being open to public inspection:
- Yeah so the media and other vigilantes can exploit someone for ratings and viewers.

Willie Frank Hereford is on the state's sex offender registry, convicted of aggravated statutory rape after he got his gun permit.

But the Department of Safety says the courts never notified them.

So after I discovered his criminal history, the Department of Safety sent him a letter last week, ordering him to immediately surrender his permit to carry a gun.
- I checked the following web site, and do not see anywhere it says an ex-felon cannot have a gun.  More here.

Matthew Mark Skaggs is also on the sex offender registry. The court says Skaggs entered a conditional guilty plea to two counts of indecent exposure.

That's a Class A misdemeanor.

But the department says, if they had known, his permit would have been suspended until he serves out his sentence.

That finally happened after I discovered he was a registered sex offender.

And I discovered two other sex offenders, Gabriel Sanchez and James Shetters, whose handgun permits had recently been revoked.

But it had taken a while, since the courts had not notified the state of their convictions.

So could these kind of mistakes happen again? Absolutely -- after all, court employees are human.

But if the records are closed, you may never know.


UT - Former police officer pleads guilty to abusing teenage girl

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04/06/2009

SALT LAKE CITY -- A former Murray City police detective has pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a teenage girl over the course of five years.

Michael D. Spilman, 35, admitted to two counts of forcible sex abuse for fondling a teenage girl. A third charge of misdemeanor sexual battery was dismissed.

Spilman is scheduled to be sentenced on June 1 and could face as much as 30 years in prison.

He was a member of the Murray police force for nearly 10 years. He resigned on Jan. 12., a day before charges were filed.


KS - Child sex predators not usually strangers

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Audio is below.

04/06/2009

By Christine Metz

Family members, friends responsible for most assaults

It’s easy to find the address and photo of any of the 51 registered child sex offenders in Lawrence.

But it’s more likely that the person with the most potential to prey on a child is someone within a family’s circle of trust.

In the past five years, more than 200 child sexual assaults have been reported to the Lawrence Police Department, according to a Lawrence Journal-World and 6News investigation. In many of the cases, the offender was a relative — parent, uncle, cousin — or someone the family knew well, such as a boyfriend or baby sitter.

“We have this big sex offender registry in our country. Those people in my opinion don’t make up the majority of the risks,” said Yolanda Jackson, a clinical child psychologist and Kansas University associate professor. “In the majority of the cases of sex abuse that we see, the perpetrators are going to be people the child knows, not a random guy who just got out of prison.”

In fact, national statistics show that 85 percent to 95 percent of the time, the offender is someone the child knows.

It’s not the green monster around the corner. It’s usually the people your child is getting familiar with or has a relationship with,” said Phaedra Wade, social work supervisor for Douglas County Child and Family Services.

Wade’s agency, which is under the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, works with police to investigate many of the sexual assaults reported in Lawrence.

“Sexual abuse is one of those topics that nobody likes to think about,” Wade said. “It touches more lives than a lot of people think.”

As the Journal-World/6News investigation shows, the assaults in Lawrence have occurred in neighborhoods rich and poor — and all over town.

Since 2006, SRS has substantiated 53 instances of child sexual abuse, accounting for 21 percent of the victims reported to the agency.

Of those sexual abuse victims, 75 percent were female and more than 70 percent were between the ages of 5 and 14.

Mostly, the abuse is between a man and a girl, but that’s not always the case. Women can be perpetrators and boys can be victims. Assaults occur to the very young and to those who were just about to reach adulthood.

A devastating crime

Because the perpetrator of a child sexual assault is often someone related to or close to the child, reporting such an offense can turn family dynamics upside down.

It really is a family problem. Although it seems like something that happens to a child, it really is something that happens to the whole family. And everyone is usually reeling,” said Jackson, the child psychologist.

And families don’t always end the relationship with the person who committed the crime.

In Jackson’s 15 years of work in the field, she can count on one hand the number of times a woman divorced the man who molested her child.

“The majority of moms that I see don’t leave. He’s kicked out for a while, but he comes back,” Jackson said. “And that is what the girls are in therapy for. Every night they go home and the guy who raped them sleeps down the hall.”

Having close ties with the perpetrator also can make it more difficult for a child to come forward. Offenders can spend years grooming their victims, building a secret relationship and threatening them not to tell.

With the abuse comes guilt, shame and fear, said Pam Lawrence, a coordinator of adult and child services for GaDuGi SafeCenter.

In the most severe cases, it’s common for children to wait years before telling anyone, Douglas County chief assistant district attorney Amy McGowan said. The abuse often comes to the surface when the victim is entering adolescence and puberty.

However, since the statue of limitations for rape and sodomy expires five years after the assault occurred, victims sometimes miss their chance at seeking justice.

Regardless of whether there is a court trial, the scars of sexual abuse can last for years, leaving a damaged psyche. Children who are sexually abused and not treated have high rates of emotional and behavioral problems, substance abuse, dropping out of school and teen pregnancy.

“Just about anything that can go wrong, will go wrong,” Jackson said. “They are working with parts that are damaged, so they are vulnerable to everything that comes down the pike.”


IA - Bills shaped at Statehouse with doors shut

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The only reason to make and pass bills in secret, is because they do not want public input, and are trying to hide something.

04/06/2009

By LEE ROOD

Some Iowa lawmakers want to require public officials to be more transparent about new policies they are considering. Others want to mandate that the state disclose more information about the state budget.

But when it comes to being open about their own actions, state legislators' approach has increasingly been: "Do as I say, not as I do."

Legislators are hammering out issues, particularly contentious ones, in private caucuses and "working groups" rather than in public forums at the Capitol.

Open-government advocates complain the approach - used frequently this legislative session - is antithetical to the democratic process, squelches public input and can result in bad policy.

For three months, one group of legislators has wrangled in secret over how to tackle dicey sex offender legislation - with a 2010 election approaching and powerful interest groups demanding action. Leaders of that group say they are waiting for party leaders and the governor to sign off on their ideas before making proposed law changes public.

"They might just as well put a bubble around the Capitol and duct-tape the doors shut," said Marty Ryan, a longtime lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa. "They're leading us to a bad, bad place."

Other high-profile examples of closed-door finagling on major issues this volatile legislative session:

  • Debate on the income tax bill eliminating federal deductibility caught many Iowans by surprise last week because Democratic leaders hadn't signaled they planned major changes to the tax code.
  • A group of Democratic legislators met in secret for weeks to come up with their own plan to bond for $700 million over 20 years, challenging Gov. Chet Culver's own borrowing plans. The money is coveted for infrastructure and flood recovery needs.
  • An overhaul of a major health care reform bill led to a racially charged meltdown by Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, who was upset the plan was changed after closed-door caucus meetings.

"In some ways, things have improved. There's more openness in the beginning stages of the process," said Judie Hoffman, a former Ames city councilwoman and lobbyist for the League of Women Voters. "But later on, (legislators) rarely work out differences publicly anymore. As bills move forward, changes are made behind the scenes, and you're not always sure where or why they are being made."

It's not unusual for state legislatures to hold private caucus meetings. But Iowa lobbyists, legislators and others who monitor action at the Statehouse say leaders of both parties have been calling members together much more frequently in closed meetings - often several times a day, versus two or three times a week in eras past.

They also encourage committee chairs to assemble working groups to hash out touchy bills in private, especially if openness is perceived as possibly putting seats at risk at election time.

"Some people are like, 'What's with the behind closed doors?' " said Rep. David Tjepkes, R-Gowrie, one of 10 legislators involved in a working group on the sex offender bill.

Tjepkes said his group's subject matter is sensitive by nature, necessitating talk about specific offenders and their victims. But he admits there's political gravity in saying the wrong thing in a crowd.

"I'd be naive and stupid to say some things in public," he said. "That's putting a head on the chopping block just to have the competition chop it off for you."

The Iowa Constitution says the doors of the House and Senate "shall be open, except on such occasions as may require secrecy." In practical application, that has meant legislative leaders decide for themselves when they want to make public policy decisions in private.

City councils and boards of supervisors are prohibited from going into closed sessions except for reasons prescribed by open-records law, but there are no limits to the reasons legislators may give in deciding to meet privately before voting on a bill.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, said it's true legislators are holding more private meetings, and it's debatable whether that's a good thing. The move toward more secrecy, he said, has followed a move toward more cutthroat politics in the last 20 years.

While sunlight is good, he said, "the politics of public discussion has also damaged our ability to move good policy."

Case study: Secret plan for sex offender laws

One big drawback of such secrecy is becoming apparent this year: With just two or three weeks remaining in the session, the public is only beginning to hear details about major pieces of legislation - health care initiatives, tax plans, potential money for flood relief and new jobs - that stand to affect their lives.

A case in point: The sex offender working group has yet to hold a single public meeting on legislation to scale back the state's 2,000-foot residency requirement for sex offenders, create safe zones aimed at protecting children, and bring Iowa more in line with the federal Adam Walsh Act.

Legislators promise to unveil their measure for the first time this week in a public bipartisan subcommittee before it is voted on by the Senate.

Still, some people believe the hour may now be too late to hear from groups that have a major stake in the outcome and fix any problems in proposed legislation.

"I would be very concerned about the Legislature rushing forward ... without a measured look and input from groups with a major stake in what's happening," said Beth Barnhill of Iowa's Coalition Against Sexual Abuse. "We've made a lot of mistakes in Iowa."

States' efforts to comply with the Adam Walsh Act have caused controversy and headaches, so much so that Congress is reviewing the law. However, Iowa legislators have ignored a plea to have a multidisciplinary team evaluate implications for Iowa.

"It's a waste of state resources to implement strategies that don't work," complained Barnhill, who noted the state has already been given a year's reprieve to comply with the federal law.

Sen. Keith Kreiman, D-Bloomfield, and Rep. Clel Baudler, R-Greenfield, acknowledged last week that they have been waiting to get Culver and all four caucuses in the House and Senate to agree on the legislation first.

"If (Culver's) not on board, everybody's gonna run like a chicken," Baudler said. "But don't worry, there's still time. People will have a chance to look at it."

Baudler acknowledged, however, that it was unlikely lawmakers would accept amendments after the amended bill goes public.

Ryan said that when lawmakers don't listen to experts and others with a significant stake, they come up with legislation like the 2,000-foot law - a highly controversial measure passed in 2002 that aims to reduce child sex abuse by prohibiting convicted offenders from living near child care centers and schools.

Almost universally, law enforcement officials and experts say the law doesn't work. But Ryan said it was passed late in the session with too little debate.

"The only vote against it in the Senate was Sen. Johnie Hammond from Ames," Ryan said. "She predicted we would have colonies of sex offenders - and she predicted correctly."

Gronstal said that bill was a better example of the "radioactiveness" of dealing with some touchy issues with all eyes watching.

In the end, he said, it was almost impossible not to pass the legislation. "There was the sense that if you voted against the bill, you didn't care about protecting kids," he said.

Lost in dark moments: An explanation

Much was said at the Legislature last week about the racially tinged comment made by Hatch that prompted a public apology. But few blinked over the reason for his outburst.

A House committee stripped dozens of pages from a health reform bill, Senate File 389, which had already passed the Senate. The bill included ideas assembled in public over the past two years by a committee that included former Govs. Tom Vilsack and Terry Branstad.

The deletions offered by the committee chairman, Rep. Mark Smith, D-Marshalltown, were approved unanimously with little public discussion. Just before the public meeting, Democrats and Republicans alike met behind closed doors to caucus.

Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, D-Des Moines, said the caucuses were held to bring the two parties to a consensus over important legislation that spends $7 million in state money for children's health care. Hatch was enraged by the closed-door manner in which provisions he favored were stripped out.

Discarded was a plan that would have helped uninsured Iowans find coverage. The proposal, decried by Republicans, raised the possibility that small Iowa businesses and nonprofit agencies could enroll employees into the state workers' health insurance plan. Also discarded were limits on gifts from drug company sales representatives to physicians.

Many of the details of Senate File 389 had been discussed extensively in a public working group.

"I was told it was permitted under our rules to have a private working group, but I felt it was better we let people know what was happening," Smith said. "A number of people are interested in this legislation, so I wanted to conduct it as ethically as possible."

Yet the decision to make substantive changes ultimately occurred behind closed doors.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines, who was involved in the Democrats' caucus on that bill, declined to comment on his caucus meeting that day. House Speaker Pat Murphy, D-Dubuque, did not return phone calls and e-mails seeking comment.

In the meantime, legislative leaders have been trying to find consensus on that bill and many others, so that they can adjourn, possibly in the next two weeks.

Still up in the air, Gronstal said, is how the $200 million in public bond money will be doled out.

On Thursday, he and other leaders spoke privately to Culver, trying to figure out what changes to make to the federal deductibility bill. A public hearing last week was abruptly halted after conservative groups like Iowans for Tax Relief packed the Capitol, demanding a stop to the change in tax policy.

Culver spokesman Phil Roeder said the governor still supports changes in the tax plan. "He just wants to make sure it's done in a way that provides a tax cut for the most people," Roeder said.

Roeder expressed no concern about the number of closed-door conversations that occur at the Legislature in the course of conducting the public's business.

"At the end of the day," he said, "the final decisions are all quite public."


GA - Sex Offender Law Shoot Down

View the article here | More Audio Here

04/04/2009

Show Description: A Federal Judge must agree with me because this past week he shot down a law requiring registered sex offenders from living 1000-feet from where kids congregate as being unconstitutional. Finally! Do we not realize that if we let these people out of prisons, we owe it to them to reestablish themselves in society. How does it help anyone forcing them "underground." Join the conversation as we look at forgiveness and redemption for people who rarely get it.