Thursday, April 9, 2009

CA - Predator Tries to Calm Fears

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I checked the California registry, and it doesn't explain much of what he did, but nothing shows it involved a child. Apparently the country doesn't believe in redemption anymore. Which is very sad. Wait until you get thrown in jail or prison, and get treated in a similar fashion. Then just remember how you treated everyone else. What goes around, comes around. Remember that!

04/09/2009

By Mark Hedlund

VACAVILLE - His rap sheet of sex crimes is terrifying to his new neighbors and he knows it. Joseph Johnson, Jr., says all he wants is to prove to Vacaville is that he's a changed man from his crimes of 30 years ago.

"I believe in leaving my past behind me, and I've done some bad things in my past," Johnson told News10 in an exclusive interview. "All I ask the people is to show me a little mercy, show me a little grace and just give me an opportunity to show myself, who I am."

Johnson, 61, spoke out one day after Vacaville police stunned the neighborhood on and around Chelan Drive, informing them of the man who moved in after his release from the state's Sexually Violent Predator Program. Officers passed out fliers at homes Wednesday, as allowed by law, to let people know Johnson is a sex offender convicted of multiple rapes and other felonies.

He served 17 years in prison, then another 10 years in state mental institutions before his release March 27. Based on doctor recommendations, the courts released him from the program. While his offenses were in the Bay Area, Johnson isn't on parole and chose to move in with his sister in Vacaville.

"I believe in God. That's what's been sustaining me all the time I've been locked up," he told News10. "The thing is, what do you do when no one's looking? I'm a man of integrity, my word is, it's who I am. So I give you my word you don't have anything to worry about."

This is the second time in five years Vacaville residents have reacted in fear and anger when a sexually violent predator was placed into a neighborhood. In May, 2004, Patrick Ghilotti moved in with his wife, despite city and law enforcement arguing in court he wasn't wanted.

In Johnson's case, state officials didn't even give local officials notification. Police only found out after he registered as a sex offender in the city, and they acknowledged he can legally live wherever he wants.

"I wouldn't want him next door, I'd move. I would move. They need to get him out of here," said Norma Mansfield after she drove by to see which house is now Johnson's home. Her reaction was typical for many in and around the neighborhood.

"I can understand that. All I ask them is to relax, don't get up in arms about it. Just give me a chance to show, to prove myself and as time goes on, you'll see that I'm a productive citizen and I'm gonna do what's right," said Johnson. "It's all about giving, it's not about taking. And I was in the mode of taking. I was a criminal at the time, and I was young."

He also claimed support from his family, some of whom he's just getting to know after 27 years in custody. Johnson said he has 10 grandchildren, boys and girls.

"I have granddaughters. They know about my situation but they see me as changed," he said.

"I'm just now meeting my uncle when he got released and stuff, so I really don't even know this man and I'm here taking up for him because I know he's a changed man," said Tiffannie Dimery, Johnson's 25-year-old niece. "I don't think nobody should feel scared or feel threatened something is going to happen."

"Yeah, people make mistakes but we have young children that live right next door and there's other kids in the area," said Robert Molina who lives next door. "We all have to live here. Let's just hope he follows though with what he needs to do."

Both Robert and Jimella Molina said they feel uneasy. Their son was so frightened Wednesday night he couldn't sleep in his own bed, they said. Hearing that Johnson is willing to speak out about his situation, Jimella Molina said, "It shows that he's trying to make amends, let people know that he's safe, that he's not gonna re-offend. But I'm still nervous."

"If anyone wants to come over to talk to me, I've open for it. I have no problems. I'm not going to allow anyone's anger to cause me to get angry because I don't feel that they have that much power over me. I'm beyond that now," said Johnson. He frequently referred to Biblical scriptures and his belief in God when explaining his transformation.

"I don't even have those desires, it's not even in me," he said when asked about the sex crimes. "When I look back at myself, who I was, I condemn that person. And I just ask the public to give me a chance, to see me for this change that's been upon me."


Will bill give Obama control of Internet?

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04/04/2009

By Drew Zahn - © 2009 WorldNetDaily

Proposed new powers called 'drastic federal intervention'

A pair of bills introduced in the U.S. Senate would grant the White House sweeping new powers to access private online data, regulate the cybersecurity industry and even shut down Internet traffic during a declared "cyber emergency."

Senate bills No. 773 and 778, introduced by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V., are both part of what's being called the Cybersecurity Act of 2009, which would create a new Office of the National Cybersecurity Advisor, reportable directly to the president and charged with defending the country from cyber attack.

A working draft of the legislation obtained by an Internet privacy group also spells out plans to grant the Secretary of Commerce access to all privately owned information networks deemed to be critical to the nation's infrastructure "without regard to any provision of law, regulation, rule or policy restricting such access."

Who might be watching you without you knowing it? Get "Spychips" and see how major corporations and government are planning to track your every move!

Privacy advocates and Internet experts have been quick to sound the alarm over the act's broadly drawn government powers.

"The cybersecurity threat is real," says Leslie Harris, president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, which obtained the draft of S.773, "but such a drastic federal intervention in private communications technology and networks could harm both security and privacy."

"The whole thing smells bad to me," writes Larry Seltzer in eWeek, an Internet and print news source on technology issues. "I don't like the chances of the government improving this situation by taking it over generally, and I definitely don't like the idea of politicizing this authority by putting it in the direct control of the president."

According to a Senate document explaining the bill, the legislation "addresses our country's unacceptable vulnerability to massive cyber crime, global cyber espionage and cyber attacks that could cripple our critical infrastructure."

In a statement explaining the bill's introduction, Sen. Rockefeller said, "We must protect our critical infrastructure at all costs – from our water to our electricity, to banking, traffic lights and electronic health records – the list goes on."

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, who is co-sponsoring the bill, added, "If we fail to take swift action, we, regrettably, risk a cyber-Katrina."

Critics, however, have pointed to three actions Rockefeller and Snowe propose that may violate both privacy concerns and even constitutional bounds:

First, the White House, through the national cybersecurity advisor, shall have the authority to disconnect "critical infrastructure" networks from the Internet – including private citizens' banks and health records, if Rockefeller's examples are accurate – if they are found to be at risk of cyber attack. The working copy of the bill, however, does not define what constitutes a cybersecurity emergency, and apparently leaves the question to the discretion of the president.

Second, the bill establishes the Department of Commerce as "the clearinghouse of cybersecurity threat and vulnerability information," including the monitoring of private information networks deemed a part of the "critical infrastructure."

Third, the legislation proposes implementation of a professional licensing program for certifying who can serve as a cybersecurity professional.

And while the critics concede the need for increased security, they object to what is perceived as a dangerous and intrusive expansion of government power.

"There are some problems that we face which need the weight of government behind them," writes Seltzer in eWeek. "This is not the same as creating a new federal bureaucracy setting rules over what computer security has to be and who can do it."

"It's an incredibly broad authority," CDT senior counsel Greg Nojeim told the Mother Jones news website, troubled that existing privacy laws "could fall to this authority."

Jennifer Granick, civil liberties director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Mother Jones the bill is "contrary to what the Constitution promises us."

According to Granick, granting the Department of Commerce oversight of the "critical" networks, such as banking records, would grant the government access to potentially incriminating information obtained without cause or warrant, a violation of the Constitution's prohibition against unlawful search and seizure.

"What are the critical infrastructure networks? The examples provided are 'banking, utilities, air/rail/auto traffic control, telecommunications.' Let's think about this," writes Seltzer. "I'm especially curious as to how you take the telecommunications networks off of the Internet when they are, in large part, what the Internet is comprised of. And if my bank were taken offline, I would think about going into my branch and asking for all of my deposits in cash."

S. 778, which would establish the Office of the National Security Advisor, and S. 773, which provides for developing a cadre of governmental cybersecurity specialists and procedures, have both been read twice and referred to committee in the Senate.


WA - Sen. Regala at the signing of her sex offender bill

Sen. Debbie Regala (Contact), D-Tacoma, at the signing of SB-5261 which deals with sex offender legislation.


The Onion - Children Exposed To Porn May Expect Sex To Be Enjoyable


AUSTRALIA - Sex-offender pilot on hunger strike

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04/09/2009

By Thomas Chamberlin

A HUNGER strike by a jailed Cairns pilot, has not swayed the federal Attorney-General to fast-track a decision over whether the prisoner should get an appeal.

_____, who has been in Lotus Glen jail at Mareeba since 2006 after being convicted of a sex tourism offence in Papua New Guinea, has always confessed his innocence.

"We have waited long enough - this is his last ditch stand," the man's brother _____ told The Cairns Post.

"He's starting to slur his words he is speaking slow and it's starting to take its toll I am now writing to the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd."

_____, a pilot, is currently serving a sentence for having sex with a 14-year-old girl.

Prison officials have confirmed _____ is now being monitored hourly and is accepting fluids only, after he went on a hunger strike at 5pm on Friday.

Mr _____ says his brother has lost 10kg.

Last month Federal Court judge John Logan ordered Federal Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus to reconsider his decision to reject a bid for a pardon or further appeal.

He said the review of Mr Debus' verdict must be done "according to law" and "as soon as reasonably possible".

Mr Debus had rejected _____' pardon application, despite fresh evidence uncovered by his family which they say proves he was 1000km away from the alleged victim at the time of the offence.

The evidence includes flight records acquired under freedom of information laws which were supported by _____' own log book.

Following the court judgment on March 6, Mr Debus handed the decision to the Attorney-General Robert McClelland.


CO - Registered sex offender, 13, arrested in school incident

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04/09/2009

By John Aguilar (Contact)

BOULDER - A 13-year-old male student and registered juvenile sex offender was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of attempted unlawful sexual contact with a girl in one of his classes at Manhattan Middle School, police said Thursday afternoon.

Sarah Huntley, a spokeswoman with Boulder police, said the boy attempted to place his foot underneath the girl's skirt in class last week. After she pushed him away, he asked her if he could touch "particular parts of her body."

The alleged victim then told a teacher, Huntley said, and police and Boulder Valley School District officials were alerted.

The April 2 incident was investigated for nearly a week and the boy turned himself into officials at the juvenile detention center in Boulder on Wednesday.

Police aren't releasing the names of either student because they are juveniles.

Huntley said she is restricted from releasing information about any prior sex crime convictions the boy has because such revelations could be considered identifying information.

She could only say that the boy was a registered juvenile sex offender when the incident allegedly occurred.


GA - Senator irked at failure to fix sex offender law

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04/09/2009

Friends,

We wanted to share the following article that was published in yesterday’s Daily Report.

All the best,

Sara, Sarah, Gerry, James and Mica



Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Senator irked at failure to fix sex offender law
While bill stalled, judge enjoined law banning sex offenders from church work 

By R. Robin McDonald, Staff Reporter

When a federal judge last week halted enforcement of Georgia's law banning sex offenders from volunteering at churches, one state lawmaker could easily have said, “I told you so.”

Sen. Seth Harp (Email), R-Midland, said U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper “has shown eminent wisdom” in concluding that registered sex offenders had suffered irreparable injury because the law's lack of clarity has forced them to stop participating in a wide range of church-related activities.
- Now Seth Harp says all this.  Why did he not speak up when the law was being debated?

The sex offender law that we enacted [in 2006] was too far-reaching,” said Harp, who is vice chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, a former county prosecutor and a former member of the U.S. Judge Advocate General Corps. “The bottom line is that it was bound to come to the courts and fail.”

While praising Cooper, however, Harp chastised state House Republicans, and Majority Leader Jerry Keen (Email), R-St. Simons, in particular, for killing a Senate bill intended to correct broad constitutional problems with the current sex offender statutes—including the provision that Cooper enjoined.

Harp said Keen—who, beginning in 2006, authored amendments that have made Georgia's sex offender statutes arguably the toughest in the nation—“is not a lawyer and refused to listen to lawyers.”

When the Senate sent the bill containing proposed constitutional fixes to the House in early March, House members ignored it, then substituted their own version which gutted the Senate measure, Harp said. The House version of the bill also failed to pass.

Those of us who really and truly are trying to protect children of the state are frankly horrified at what we got back from them,” he said. “It was almost like 'Alice in Wonderland.'

Keen did not return calls for comment or requests on Friday and Monday placed through his aide, Sally Fox. “As you well know, we had a lot going on here with the last few days of the session last week,” Fox said in an e-mail sent Monday to the Daily Report. “Unfortunately, Rep. Keen is unavailable today as he is dealing with personal matters.”

Last month, shortly before Cooper handed down his order, Keen told The Brunswick News in his district, “We've got a lot of people who are well-intentioned, but the changes they've recommended weaken the [sex offender] bill. I think there's a general misunderstanding of the law as it currently is. Some people are talking about fixes where we don't have a problem.”
- You do have a problem, and especially with your ego.  You fail to listen to experts who continually say these laws do not and will not work, and are unconstitutional.

Since 2006, more than a dozen separate legal issues have been raised in seven state and federal cases in Georgia challenging the law's constitutionality.

With the enactment of tough, new amendments to the sex offender statutes on July 1, 2006, the majority of people already on the state sex offender registry whose residences and work had complied with state law suddenly found they were no longer in compliance and must move or risk as long as 30 years in prison, according to an expert for the Southern Center for Human Rights who testified in Cooper's case.
- And many of those, have lost jobs, homes, and have had to waste a ton of money to move constantly.  This, IMO, is why people who make and pass laws, should be allowed to be sued.  Then they'd think twice about the laws they are trying to pass, before doing so.

Amendments passed in 2006, 2007 and 2008 bar sex offenders from living or working within 1,000 feet of schools, churches, parks, gyms, swimming pools, day care centers or school bus stops and from performing volunteer services at churches.

Three times, the Supreme Court of Georgia has determined that portions of the law are unconstitutional and cannot be enforced.

In 2007, Georgia's high court ruled that sections of the law requiring sex offenders to move even though they owned the property where they were living in order to comply with new restrictions was unconstitutional.

Last October, the Supreme Court found unconstitutional another provision of the law that required homeless offenders to register where they lived but failed to tell them how, lacking an address, they could comply.

In November, the high court struck down as unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment a third provision mandating a life prison sentence for sex offenders convicted twice of failing to register with authorities within 72 hours of changing their addresses.

Cooper's March 30 injunction was based on his determination that the church volunteer ban also would fail a constitutionality test.

Many class members were ordered to stop participating in religious activities by parole officers, sheriffs' deputies and other law enforcement personnel, while others were deterred from participating in such activities by the statute's apparent breadth and penalty of 10-30 years in prison,” Cooper noted in his order.

Religious activities in which sex offenders participated that have been labeled a violation of state law include singing in the adult choir, playing piano, reading in a church service, cleaning the church kitchen, serving on church committees, preparing food for the homeless, audio recording services, attending adult Bible study, setting up for church events and speaking to the congregation during services, according to the order.

In his order, Cooper also concluded that allowing people on the state's sex offender registry “to continue to participate in their faith communities will further public safety by providing support, stability and a grounded sense of right and wrong” and that both the pardons and paroles board and the corrections department “recognize that encouraging people to be involved with faith-based programs will reduce recidivism” making an injunction “in the public interest.”

The case, Whitaker v. Perdue, was filed June 20, 2006, on behalf of more than 11,000 people on the state's sex offender registry who would have been forced by the 2006 amendments to surrender their homes and jobs in order to comply with the new statutes. Lead plaintiff Wendy Whitaker has been on the sex offender registry since she was convicted, at age 17, of engaging in consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old schoolmate.
- So basically, normal teenage sex, is now a crime.  I wonder, if Mr. Keen and those who passed this law, if it was retroactive back 100 years, would they be labeled a sex offender?  I am willing to bet they would be!

In his order, Cooper also reaffirmed an earlier decision to allow the suit to proceed as a class action. His March order established several sub-classes to challenge the church volunteer provision; any provision that would apply to individuals convicted prior to July 1, 2006 (before the harsher residency and employment restrictions on sex offenders were enacted); and a provision barring sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school bus stop.

Harp said that even before Cooper issued his order, he and a number of Senate colleagues had realized that, as the number of cases challenging the sex offender statute on constitutional grounds grew, “We had a very severe problem with the constitutionality of the law. A significant portion was being challenged and probably would fail.”

Harp said that at the beginning of the 2009 legislative session, he went to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle (Contact) and volunteered to “take this beast and try to correct it and try to have a law that is enforceable and will protect families and children in Georgia.” With Cagle's assent, Harp said he called a series of meetings that included representatives of the state's sheriffs, county prosecutors and the criminal defense bar, as well as the offices of the governor, lieutenant governor and state attorney general. Keen and his staff were also invited to participate, Harp said, but “They did not. … We had everybody at the table except Mr. Keen and his staff.”

Harp said that on March 3 the Senate passed the resulting bill, Senate Bill 157, “which we thought would pass constitutional muster” and save the state “a tremendous amount of money” that would otherwise be spent unsuccessfully defending the troubled laws in court.

But Harp said that when the Senate bill was sent to the House in early March, “They sat on it.” As the 2009 legislative session began to wind down, Harp said the House Judiciary Committee substituted its own version, which gutted the Senate bill.

“The only issue they addressed was something that already had been declared unconstitutional,” Harp said. “They ignored the advice of the attorney general, the governor's staff, myself, the district attorneys and the sheriffs. … I would expect the courts will make us pay dearly for this pious bit of posturing.”

I think you need to ask him [Keen] if he thinks there is a Constitution of the United States and a Bill of Rights,” Harp added. “His comes out of the King James version of the Bible, maybe Leviticus.”

Asked why the House substituted a truncated version of the Senate bill and stripped out many provisions that sought to remedy issues under constitutional challenge and why no House members or their staffs participated in meetings hosted by Harp, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Richard M. Golick (Email), R-Smyrna, replied with an e-mailed statement that said, in part:

“[A]s I committed to Sen. Harp publicly during consideration of SB 157, the House was (and still is) committed to addressing the entire remaining balance of issues during the balance of the year in order to be assured that we have a strong, common sense and comprehensive reform bill for the General Assembly to consider next session. There was a concern that a hurried work product on this important subject matter would increase the likelihood of long-term unintended consequences.

“The House wanted this issue to move forward, and we assumed that others did as well."

“That said, the House is committed to a very focused study in the interim and for action early in the 2010 Session in partnership with interested members of the State Senate.”

Golick did not reply to a follow-up request to clarify some of his written comments.

Russ Willard, a spokesman for Georgia Attorney General Thurbert E. Baker (Contact) whose office is defending the existing law, said this week that Baker's staff “has been open and willing to meet with anyone in the legislature on this issue” and has met with representatives of the governor's office, the state House and Senate, state district attorneys and sheriffs.

“Our office has not opined on either side of whether the statute is constitutional or not,” Willard said. “It is our duty to defend validly enacted statutes. And that we are doing.”

With regard to the federal injunction, Willard said, “We continue to talk to our clients about the ramifications of the court's order, but we're not making public at this time what our thoughts on the matter may be or what actions we may take subsequently.”

Gerald R. Weber Jr., an attorney with the Southern Center who is representing the sex offender plaintiffs in the case before Cooper, said that Harp's bill proposed changes in the current law that would have addressed issues raised in pending lawsuits, including the federal class action, that challenge the state sex offender law. “We have testified in support of the bill,” Weber said. “It fixes a multitude of problems. We commend Sen. Harp for taking this on. It's not a popular thing to do.”

Weber also noted, “Georgia's sex offender law has had more constitutional setbacks than any other sex offender law in the country… . Each session, there are revisions that sometimes fix some problems but always add new ones. It's either one step forward and two steps back or two steps forward and one step back. We're never quite reaching the goal line.”

Weber also called the current law “so onerous it may actually impair public safety rather than enhance it. It casts such a giant net that it treats all people on the registry alike when there is a dramatic difference between a sexual predator who clearly needs all kinds of provisions and [class action plaintiff] Wendy Whitaker who had consensual sexual relations with a 15-year-old when she was 17… and now, decades later, is haunted by this law."

“The sad reality is that the politics of the issue make it difficult for the General Assembly to fix this law,” he said.

Augusta attorney David E. Hudson, who is representing the state's sheriffs in the class action, said that Cooper's ruling did not surprise him. “I thought issues raised by the plaintiffs were serious questions … that warrant the court's consideration,” he said. “The sheriffs' point of view is they want to enforce the law as they are told to do so. If the court upholds it, they are ready to enforce it. If the court strikes down all or part of it, they will abide by that. The sheriffs' position in all this is, 'Someone tell us what to do, and we'll do it.'

“The sheriffs don't make the law. They don't interpret the law. They depend on the legislature and the courts to instruct them on what they can and cannot do.”

Hudson said that he thought it “made eminent good sense for the Legislature to address these questions if it could, and, if possible, take them out of the court system. … I thought it was a very worthwhile project to undertake.”

Hudson said the House's failure to pass Harp's bill “comes as a disappointment to me in this regard. … A large sum of money has been spent by the state and others in litigation costs. During the entire time, enforcement of the statute has been largely shut down. … It just makes common sense that the Legislature would do everything that it could to address these issues. Otherwise they forfeit ultimately what the law will be to a federal judge.”

Staff Reporter R. Robin McDonald can be reached at Robin.McDonald@IncisiveMedia.com



Mica Doctoroff
Southern Center for Human Rights
83 Poplar St.
Atlanta, GA 30303
(404) 688-1202 -phone
(404) 688-9440- fax


When Does It Stop Being 'Sexting' And Start Being Something More Serious?

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04/09/2009

from the gray-areas dept
The debate about "sexting" rages on, both here at Techdirt and elsewhere. One of the major points of contention has been that child-pornography laws don't make any distinction about who creates child porn, meaning that kids who take nude photos of themselves and send them out can be viewed in the same way -- in the eyes of the law -- as child pornographers who abuse and exploit children for commercial gain or personal titillation. The catch is that "the eyes of the law" are really the eyes of human prosecutors, who hopefully should realize that charging kids with child-porn offenses is an overreaction. CNN's got a story touching on this issue, but they didn't find a particularly good example: instead of talking about kids who took pictures of themselves, they lead with the story of an 18-year-old guy who sent out a nude picture of his 16-year-old girlfriend to "dozens" of friends and family after they'd had a fight. The guy was subsequently prosecuted under child-porn laws and has had to register as a sex offender. While it's clear the guy wasn't a commercial porn producer, it's also clear that he went a lot further than teens who take photos of themselves, send them out, and then find themselves in hot water. His actions, while caused by a moment of stupidity, were intended to hurt his girlfriend -- much different than teens taking and sending photos of themselves as an expression of their sexuality. To compare the two seems pretty disingenuous, and it's hard to imagine the guy will attract a whole lot of sympathy, but the story does illustrate the very black-and-white world of child porn laws, and how they can be applied with little distinction (or perhaps common sense) by some prosecutors.

Meanwhile, over at the WSJ, the "Numbers Guy", Carl Bialik, has taken a look at the survey that has been widely cited in sexting stories, claiming that 20 percent of teens have taken and sent nude photos of themselves. Bialik points out that the survey was conducted online, calling into question just how representative of the wider teen population the sample was. To ask teens about their online behavior, but only ask teens who are online, seems suspect. But hey, the stat sells the story, right?

Carlo Longino is an expert at the Insight Community. To get insight and analysis from Carlo Longino and other experts on challenges your company faces, click here.

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TX - U.S. middle-school youth engaging in sex

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04/09/2009

HOUSTON (UPI) - By age 12, 12 percent of U.S. students had already engaged in vaginal sex, 7.9 percent in oral sex and 6.5 percent in anal sex, U.S. researchers have learned.

Christine Markham of the University of Texas School of Public Health and colleagues examined sexual risk behaviors among middle-school students in a large southeastern U.S. urban public school district.

"This is one of the few school-based studies conducted with this age group to look at specific sexual practices in order to develop more effective prevention programs," Markham said in a statement. "This study shows that although most seventh graders are not engaging in sexual risk behaviors, a small percentage are putting themselves at risk."

For the purposes of the study, Markham and colleagues defined sexual intercourse as vaginal, oral or anal sex.

The findings are alarming because youth who start having sex before age 14 are much more likely to have multiple lifetime sexual partners, use alcohol or drugs before sex and have unprotected sex, all of which puts them at greater risk for getting a sexually transmitted disease or becoming pregnant, Markham said.

The study, published in the Journal of School Health, said one-third of the sexually active students reported engaging in vaginal or anal sex without a condom within the past 3 months and one-fourth had four or more partners, the study said.


PA - Sexting Controversy


Constitutional interpretation and citizen rights

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04/08/2009

By Rick Wagner

Normally it would not seem the United States Constitution and Lemuel Gulliver would have much in common, but this fictional character and our bedrock document of government have received similar treatment.

Just as our traveler, Gulliver, was a giant in the land of Lilliputians, so our Constitution is in our Republic. And, as Gulliver was restrained as he slept by tiny men to bend him to their own purposes, such has been the recent treatment of our founding document.

Jonathan Swift’s character in Gulliver was written as political and social satire and, while the context of the era may have lapsed, the messages still ring true.

In the annals of history, the United States Constitution and its framers loom as giants. Many of their interpreters are diminutive in comparison, but they seem forever busy turning the Constitution from a great shield for the citizen to a sword for the activist.

Jurists seeking to insert substantive due process into the document and let judges discover rights not written, but divined by their interpretation, threw the first silken cords. A case in 1967 supplied a fragment of language that serves as the jumping off point for this misapplied reasoning, as the Supreme Court quite reasonably struck down a law from the Jim Crow era outlawing marriage between different races as being antithetical to the clause guaranteeing equal protection under the law. Toward the end of the decision, the court added language that marriage was a substantive right.

This implied that there were rights granted individuals beyond those named by the Constitution, which could be interpreted from a meaning given to the language of the document. This gave rise to future courts interpreting “shadow” rights that were often used as battering rams against social norms.

This interpretation of “shadow” rights most famously is found in the decision of Roe v. Wade, preventing the states from interposing legal barriers to abortion on the grounds that such action would violate the court’s discovery of a fundamental and substantive right to privacy in the Constitution.

This decision is often misunderstood to be about whether the Supreme Court views abortion as legal. The question actually is whether a right to privacy exists that can be interpreted to prevent the states from deciding if abortion should be legal or regulated within their individual boundaries.

Employing a visioning process that discovers intentions beyond the pen of the author, and elevates them to be substantive and fundamental, makes it nearly impossible for the states or the citizenry to affect their exercise.

This becomes important as we consider one of President Obama’s first judicial nominations.

David Hamilton presently is a trial court judge at the federal level whom the president wishes to elevate to the appellate court in Chicago. Judge Hamilton’s interpretation of the right to privacy and substantive due process has led to him to declare unconstitutional a law to require convicted sex offenders to allow authorities access to their personal computers.

The New York Times noted that the judge, in his decision, felt that the amendment cut into the heart of a person’s right to privacy in his home. He added, “The ability of the individual to retreat into his home and therefore to be free from unreasonable intrusion by the government stands at the very core” of constitutional protections against unreasonable searches.

This makes a jumble of whether a search is reasonable within the sanctity of one’s home, a possibility that clearly exists within the Constitution, by placing it in an almost subservient role to a right to privacy, which has only been interpreted to exist in the Constitution.

Such a view is troubling to those who believe the framers knew what they meant and were capable of deciding if a right to privacy was important enough to be written into the Constitution and placed upon the same level as the Bill of Rights’ prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure.

I hope that those who treasure the genius of our Constitution do not sleep like Gulliver.

Rick Wagner offers more thoughts on politics at his blog, The War on Wrong, which can be reached through the blogs entry at GJSentinel.com.


Ron Reagan Talks with a Sex Offender about Protecting Society from Sex Offenders

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04/08/2009

Jim Cornelio is a Level 2 sex offender. He published a compelling letter on Open Salon (And below)--the new open blogging community created by Salon.com. Reading Cornelio's story, we began to wonder whether our society was failing to adequately address the issue of sex offenders at both ends of the spectrum.

Are we too lenient with those who will likely always pose a threat to others; too punitive with those whose crimes were less serious, perhaps even inadvertent in nature?





I am a Sex Offender

Yes, I am a sex offender. Perhaps, then, you can understand how the recent OS blogs on sex offending have captured my attention. With all the seeming interest, I feel compelled to offer a different perspective. Having already written a book which deals with my behavior and its consequences, I thought it would be easy. Well, reducing more than 82,000 often painfully-chosen words to blog size proved too tall an order. So, instead, I am simply posting what I was going to circulate in my CT. neighborhood upon my release from prison. It actually turned out not to be needed there. But, perhaps, it will serve some purpose here. As with my book, if it leads to even one further, tiny step in fostering the realization that every sex offender has a story beyond what those 2 words conjure up, then it will be worth it.

“To my neighbors:

I understand that a notice has gone out alerting you to the presence of a sex offender in the neighborhood. Since I am that sex offender and since I know that those words can be very scary, I’d like to provide you with some information, information about me and my life. I do this not to excuse or even explain. Instead, I do it to try, as best I can in a page or two, to put those scary words into some sort of context.

Almost 40 years ago, in the fall of 1969, I left Torrington, the town where I was born, to begin my freshman year at a private boarding school run by the Jesuits in Lenox, Massachusetts. Now, as the notice has advised, I am returning to make my home, once again, in Northwestern Connecticut.

What happened, almost all would surely ask, in the course of those many years that turned me from a precocious, if somewhat overweight and clumsy, adolescent to someone who is considered so damaged that neighbors are warned, jobs are withheld and, for the rest of my life, I am required to post my picture and register details of who I am, what I did and where I live on a State run website?

Well, in the course of that many years, a lot happens.

Back when I lived in Torrington, I can tell you that mine was a respected family. My father was an automobile dealer successful at selling an automobile which is no longer produced, the Oldsmobile. It was also a loving family. Not picture perfect like the Cleavers, but as good and as loving as most real families I know.

As a child, I went to one of the many Catholic grammar schools in town. After moving to Lenox and graduating as salutatorian from that Jesuit boarding school, I was accepted at Cornell University. There, my further success at academics landed me at Fordham University’s School of Law in New York City.

New York City. I moved to the City the year Studio 54 opened. For those who don’t know, it is, perhaps, one of the most famous nightclubs of all time. It was a place where taboos were broken and sensuality ruled. It was also a place I frequented, a fitting introduction to the New York which seduced me and a fitting metaphor for what I became.

Within two years after I moved to New York, I broke up with my girlfriend, who I had met as a freshman at Cornell, and came out of the closet. Or at least I came out to myself and those friends closest to me.

I also worked. Being a lawyer, I worked quite a bit. Twenty years of that effort was spent at one law firm in midtown Manhattan where I practiced corporate law and where I eventually became a partner.

More significantly, I found time for two wonderful lovers. The first remained with me for almost ten years, the second for over seven. As testament to their honor and decency, both supported me from my indictment through my trial and beyond.

As evidence of how I betrayed that decency, I never stopped playing around, I never fully settled down. In fact, given my lifestyle for the 25 years prior to my arrest, I should probably be dead or, at least, infected.

Whether a blessing from God or not, I’m neither. But, for sure, none would consider what my life became a blessing. Lost in the pursuit of the pleasures and diversions which in New York City are so easily and readily available, I became unwilling to say “enough.”

Up to my early to mid 40s, I pretty much attracted whomever I wanted. In New York, that’s not so hard to do. Still, even then, I would sometimes get impatient and wanted what I wanted right away. At those times, I would take advantage of another of New York’s offerings and would simply go out and buy it.

You get the picture? A selfish life is bound to become one that is also care-less, in every sense of the word. And, at least twice during that selfish, care-less life, there was a young male prostitute, too young. The most recent one, with my phone number in his pocket, all it took for my fate to be sealed was a cop with a right to arrest him giving that cop the right to go through that pocket.

There’s a lot more to the story, some of it, I think, interesting enough that I’ve written a book about it. But, with a life clearly out of balance, none of it excuses.

Perhaps you can understand how I feel like I’ve learned some new lessons from all that has happened to me in the last 4 years. Unfortunately, those lessons are not so easy to explain. There’s either not enough time or not the right words or it’s just not the right place in so many ways. That’s one of the reasons I’ve written the book.

What I can say here is that I believe those new lessons are the opposite of the old lessons. Or, at least, as close to the opposite as I’ll be able to achieve in an imperfect life. That, I know, is something I will now have to demonstrate every day for the rest of my life. But I also believe that for those with an open heart, I need be no more fearful of their judgment than they need be fearful of me.”