Saturday, April 25, 2009

KS - Appeals court: Sex offender signs are too harsh

View the article here

04/25/2009

By DION LEFLER - The Wichita Eagle

Quoting from the title song of the 1960s television series "Branded," a state appeals court panel ruled Friday that a Stafford County judge overstepped his authority when he ordered a man to put signs on his house and car announcing that he is a sex offender.

The three-judge panel cited the television show while explaining its ruling in the case of _____, a 73-year-old Hudson man who was ordered to post the signs as part of a plea bargain related to his taking baths with two children.

"Branded" aired on NBC in 1965 and 1966. It starred Chuck Connors as Capt. Jason McCord, an Army officer wrongly cashiered and disgraced as a coward after surviving a frontier massacre that wiped out his troop.

The show is most remembered for its haunting ballad-style theme song, which contained the lyrics quoted by the appellate judges: "Wherever you go, for the rest of your life, you must prove, you're a man."

"In McCord's case, these final lyrics condemned him to a life of wandering and trying to prove to others that he was not a coward," the judges wrote. "Indeed, the lyrics expressed a very harsh and unforgiving censure against McCord for his alleged cowardice."

"Similarly, in the present case, the signage conditions exact a very harsh censure against _____," the ruling continued.

"Although _____ had been convicted of a sexual offense, the imposed signage conditions would work against any rehabilitation while on probation because wherever _____ would be, he would be 'branded.' "

The opinion was written by Judge Richard Greene and joined by judges Steve Leben and Henry W. Green Jr.

While the television show was used as an illustrative example, the ruling itself hinged on court precedents in similar cases from Tennessee, Montana and Illinois.

In those cases, the courts ruled that public humiliation would interfere with the rehabilitative purpose of probation and was impermissible.

Carl Folsom III, the lawyer who represented _____, acknowledged that he found it "a little odd" that the judges cited '60s TV in their decision.

But, he said, it was appropriate to the case, which included arguments on public humiliation punishments dating back to the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

"In my brief, I cited a lot of really old books," Folsom said. "It was just such an unusual sentence, it required some unusual comparisons."

Stafford County Attorney Joe Shepack, who represented the state, did not return a phone message seeking comment.

In addition to overruling the sign conditions, the appellate judges also ordered Stafford County District Judge Ron L. Svaty to reconsider the length of _____'s probation and a prohibition on leaving his house to buy groceries.

They ruled that Svaty had not adequately justified setting _____'s probation term at five years when sentencing guidelines call for three.

A psychological report said _____ is not a public risk and described him as "an aging person showing poor judgment in the face of mitigating circumstances."

The appellate judges also directed that _____ be allowed to leave his home to shop for groceries unless Svaty can make a ruling that it's not an essential activity.

Folsom said shopping is critical for _____ because "he's an elderly person who doesn't have much contact with family" and has no one to consistently bring him food.

The original terms of the house arrest allow _____ to leave home for medical care, to meet with his probation officer and to attend a sex offender treatment program.


AL - Bill proposed to crackdown on sex crimes against teens

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Hope this goes for everyone in a position of authority, like police, legislature, etc? And why those who commit a crime against only 16 and 17 year olds? Why not 18 and under?

04/24/2009

By Rayne McKenzie

The number of reported sexual relationships between teenagers and teachers is on the rise in Alabama.

Alabama Republican Representative Benjamin Lewis of Dothan is sponsoring a bill to increase punishment for individuals convicted of the crime. The bill targets people in positions of authority who prey on children between the ages of 16 and 17.

Alabama lawmakers are working to make sure children between the ages of 16 and 17 are protected from sexual predators.

We have instances here where you send your child to school or to the doctor where you think they are going to be safe and they end up having a sexual relationship with your child. It's my argument that if it wasn't for that position they never would have had that relationship," Lewis says.

It is called, the "People in Positions of Authority” bill and its aim is to create stricter laws for people charged with sex crimes against older teens.

Houston County District Attorney Doug Valeska said, "We can prosecute people who prey on children 18 under for child abuse and they can get ten years."

Right now anyone in authority convicted of having sex with a child who is 16 or 17 can only be charged with delinquency of a minor, but that's only a misdemeanor.

Recently crimes involving authority figures and teens have gotten more attention.

Lewis said, “We've had instances here in Dothan where an administrator had sexual relations with a 17 year old student. Birmingham currently has a case where they've had a band director who’s had relationships with students as well."

Lawmakers also intend this bill to crackdown on foster parents who use their position of authority to take advantage of their foster children.

The "People in Positions of Authority Bill” could be passed by the end of May, if not Lewis will continue to push the bill in the next legislative session.