Wednesday, June 3, 2009
View the article here
By LORI A. CARTER
A central player in the prosecution of an East Bay doctor arrested in a televised sex-predator sting in Petaluma has been ordered to appear before a Sonoma County judge to explain how crucial data on his computer apparently was lost.
Computer chat logs reflecting sexually tinged online conversations gathered by a decoy affiliated a vigilante group are key to the prosecution of Dr. Maurice Wolin, 51, of Piedmont.
Wolin, along with 28 others, was arrested in August 2006 during a three-day sting law enforcement conducted in partnership with a group called Perverted Justice and the NBC TV show “To Catch a Predator.”
He is challenging the authenticity of the online chats police say he engaged in with the decoy, Xavier Von Erck, a founder of the online group. Von Erck and other online decoys posed as young teens who arranged to meet adult men ostensibly for sex.
Von Erck, who calls members of his group “evil vigilantes,” testified that the chats were saved on his home computer hard drive. But after a judge late last year ordered that mirror images of the hard drive be turned over to defense attorneys, Von Erck told prosecutors his hard drive had crashed in February 2007 and the data was irretrievably lost.
- I wonder why it all of a sudden crashed? Even on a crashed hard-drive, FBI can get the data. I wonder why nobody has mentioned that? Maybe he's hiding something, I wonder!
But, he said, he had copied the chat logs to a portable hard drive before the crash.
- Some how he just knew his drive was going to crash? Sounds suspicious to me.
Von Erck told prosecutors he had a friend, a technician at Radio Shack, examine the hard drive, prosecutor Brian Staebell said, and that the friend determined it was beyond repair.
- Well, give it to the FBI, I'm sure their experts can recover the "so called" evidence!
Wolin’s defense attorney, Blair Berk of Los Angeles, characterizes Von Erck’s explanation as “highly suspicious.”
“To date, no legally sufficient evidence of Mr. Von Erck’s claim has been presented to this court,” Judge Arthur Andy Wick wrote in an order made public this week.
Von Erck didn’t mention the crash during his testimony at Wolin’s lengthy preliminary hearing in September 2007.
Staebell said Von Erck only recently notified his investigators of the crash. He said the chats were also preserved on Perverted Justice’s main proxy server at a remote location.
Wick tentatively ruled last month that prosecutors needed to provide a fuller explanation of Von Erck’s claim and the current status of the hard drive. On Tuesday he issued a more specific, written ruling.
Wick ordered that Von Erck appear before the court on June 15 and bring with him his computer hard drive “in whatever condition it is in.”
He also said he wants answers to the following questions, among others:
Can a copy of the hard drive be made? Can any information be retrieved from it? When did Von Erck copy the chats onto a thumb drive? How was the thumb drive created and from what hard drive?
- Yes, the data can be retrieved, any real expert can tell you that.
Wick said he also wants explanations of how the proxy server recorded the chats and whether the recordings were independent from Von Erck’s computer. He has expressed concern about the logs’ reliability and their chain of custody.
Staebell has said Wolin’s attorneys are overstating the importance of the chats and Von Erck’s hard drive. He said all the relevant files were preserved before the crash.
- Or typed up afterwards!
Wolin’s attorneys have questioned the timing of the crash and Von Erck’s motives and truthfulness. Perverted Justice was paid $140,000 for the Petaluma sting and Von Erck takes a $125,000 salary from Perverted Justice.
Petaluma police, who organized the sting with the online group, accepted Perverted Justice’s civilian decoys, who aren’t trained or monitored by police, and allowed NBC to rent the house and provide all the audio and video equipment for the operation.
Several of the men arrested have pleaded guilty or no contest to a variety of charges, ranging from annoying a minor to attempted lewd conduct with a child. Other cases are pending.
Some have been sentenced to probation and others to jail. All have been required to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives.
Wolin, who has pleaded not guilty, faces a potential four-year prison term if convicted of a felony charge of attempted lewd conduct. His medical license has been suspended pending the prosecution.
Wolin has been free on bail since shortly after his arrest.
An Anderson woman accused of having sex with a series of teenage boys was in Shasta County Court Tuesday. 30-year-old _____ waived her right to a preliminary hearing. She pleaded not guilty last month after her arrest. Investigators say _____ had sex with as many as five underage boys, one in a car in the Walmart parking lot. She also told investigators she did it to keep the boys away from her teenage daughter.
If convicted on all charges, _____ could spend a maximum of 11 years in prison. She returns to court for arraignment on June 15th.
- How much you want to bet she won't get nothing near this sentence?
Of course he gets probation, he's a ex-judge! If this were the average citizen, who is currently a registered sex offender, who got a DUI, they'd be put back into jail and/or prison for violation of probation, but again, he's a ex-judge!
TULSA - Former Creek County District Judge Donald Thompson, known as the penis pump judge, convicted of indecent exposure as a result of masturbating on the bench during trials, has avoided jail time for his drunk driving arrest.
Donald Thompson, 62, was arrested last Dec. 5 by an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper about 3 a.m. According to a police report, the trooper came upon a vehicle that was stopped on the outside shoulder of the Creek Turnpike. The car had a flat tire and damage to the driver’s side.
According to the report, the trooper said that the driver, identified as Thompson, had slurred speech, bloodshot eyes and a strong odor of alcohol on his breath. Thompson told the officer that he didn’t know how the car had sustained damage. It was later determined that Thompson had struck a wall.
Records indicate that Thompson’s BAC was 0.11, well over the legal threshold of 0.08.
Thompson had been released from state prison in April, 2008 after serving 20 months of a four year sentence after being convicted of four counts of indecent exposure. He was disbarred in September 2008.
Special Judge Carlos Chappelle found Thompson guilty Tuesday of having physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, a misdemeanor. Thompson had waived his right to a trial and entered a no-contest plea. The judge sentenced Thompson to a year of probation and no jail time.
- And the average registered sex offender who violated probation/parole, like he did, would be sent back to jail and/or prison.
Thompson was fined $500 and ordered to pay a $50 victims compensation assessment and $50 to the court fund. Prosecutors were not successful in requesting the judge to impose a term of 56 hours of community service.
Thompson, married and the father of three adult children, was convicted in September 2006 for using a penis pump while presiding over four trials in 2002 and 2003. He was sentenced to four, one year sentences in state prison, to be served consecutively, and fined $40,000. He is a registered a sex offender with the Oklahoma Corrections Department and the Sapulpa Police Department.
Thompson, a former state legislator, had been a judge for nearly 23 years before he retired in 2004 amidst the allegations. His attorney had admitted that Thompson had purchased another penis pump after a doctor who was treating him for erectile dysfunction and other medical problems had recommended it.
A court ruled in February that Thompson must forfeit the portion of his pension that he had realized from his judicial service.
The Oklahoma Pubic Employees Retirement System Board of Trusts unanimously accepted an administrative hearing examiner’s decision that Thompson violated his oath of judicial office when he was convicted in 2006.
His retirement benefits as a judge had been revoked after he was convicted in 2006. The benefits earned for his tenure as a state legislator are not in dispute.
Thompson had claimed that he didn’t violate his oath of office and that he was entitled to the benefits which amounted to $7,789 a month.
The Sun Herald has confirmed that the murder victim from a weekend shooting in Moss Point was a convicted sex offender.
The state’s Sex Offender Registry shows that _____ had been convicted of three sex crimes in California since 1974. The registry lists his age as 65 and his address as the 3600 block of Barnett Street, where he was shot Saturday night.
His prior convictions were rape, assault to commit rape and child molestation.
_____ and a neighbor were shot by an unidentifiable gunman who stood in the street as he fired first at _____, then at _____, who managed to make it just inside the front door of his home before he collapsed.
_____, 40, was shot in an arm. He was treated and released to custody on a charge of failing to pay old fines. Detective Sgt. Joycelyn Craig said _____’ arrest was unrelated to the shooting.
_____ had been shot before in an unsolved crime. Someone shot him twice in a leg as he rode his bicycle on Martin Luther King Boulevard in August.
Craig said police need to hear from anyone with information to help solve the weekend shooting. The shooter wore black clothes, a cap and a bandana over his face.
The body found Monday in Palmer Park has been identified as _____, 43, who was to face trial next week. _____ was charged with ten felonies including sexual assault with a pattern of abuse, sexual assault on a child from a person in a position of trust, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Yesterday, the El Paso county coroner ruled that _____ died from multiple gunshot wounds. _____’s shooter is still at large.
_____’s car is still missing, and police are asking for the public's help in locating the 2009 white Hyundai Sonata with license plates 124-RRU. _____'s body was discovered by a park caretaker on Monday, and Lt. David Whitlock has confirmed the park as the crime scene.
By Andy Cunningham
For the second time since January, the Catholic Action Center in Lexington has been forced to shut down a house they were providing for registered sex offenders.
The home was in the Woodhill Neighborhood.
Four men, three of them sex offenders, were living there with their program monitor.
"They were harassed, rocks thrown at them, windows broken in," said Ginny Ramsey.
Ramsey is the Co-Director of the Catholic Action Center. She says they were forced to move the men on Sunday.
"They were fearing for their lives. People were threatening them over and over," Ramsey said.
- And what did the local police do about it? Did anyone report this to the police?
This was no surprise to Ramsey. In January, the Catholic Action Center purchased a home on Detroit Avenue to house registered sex offenders, but before they could move in, the residents there petitioned.
"These are people who have no where else to go, our job as a service organization is to help these people, because no one else will," Ramsey said, when asked why the CAC continues to serve these individuals while receiving so much resistance from the community.
"We are trying to provide these people an atmosphere where they can become productive members of society, but also a place where they can be under constant monitoring and be held accountable for their actions," she went on to say.
Once released from jail, the law requires sex offenders to provide an address at all times. But because of strict limitations as to where they can live, many cannot establish one, so they are re-arrested, costing tax payers a large amount of money.
"It costs Fayette County about a $1,000,000 a year to house sex offenders in jail, not because they have re-offended, but because they cannot find affordable or practical housing," said Ramsey.
It's not just the Catholic Action Center that is trying to solve this problem. Other community leaders are working on it.
"We don't have an island here where we can just dump them," said Lexington attorney Rebecca DiLoreto.
DiLoreto says the current law clearly states where sex offenders can't live but it doesn't clearly state where they can live.
"We can't ignore the fact these individuals are living among us, so rather than not knowing where they live, we need to work with them and make sure they are doing things they aren't supposed to," said DiLoreto.
She's urging lawmakers to look at the current law and see if revisions need to be made or include programs to help offenders find a place to live.
One of the sex offenders moved from the Woodhill Drive home is staying in a local hotel.
Another was moved to West Wirginia.
The third was able to find another place to live within the legal requirements.
Restorative justice advocates have made a number of claims about the effectiveness of restorative justice in relation to sexual assault crimes, such as its ability to defuse power relations between the parties and heal the harm. This article examines whether or not restorative justice is one of the ways forward in the difficult area of prosecuting child sex offences by re-analysing some of the data reported in Daly (2006) and comparing restorative justice with other reforms to the sexual assault trial. It concludes that there is insufficient evidence to support the view that there are inherent benefits in the restorative justice process that provide victims of sexual assault with a superior form of justice.
Here we go again!!!! The laws the state has passed is what is causing them to be homeless in the first place, now because of their laws, they are now trying to kick them out. So where do you expect them to go?
By CHARLES RABIN
A rarely visited spoil island just a stone's throw from a homeless camp under the Julia Tuttle Causeway has spurred Miami leaders to attempt to uproot the sex offenders who are forced to live there.
Miami City Manager Pete Hernandez sent a letter this week to Gov. Charlie Crist (Email), demanding the state immediately relocate the 70 offenders living under the causeway because they live too close to the island, which the city considers a public park.
The group of men -- and one woman -- have been forced to live under the bridge for two years because of a patchwork of local government laws that makes it illegal for them to live within 2,500 feet of where children might congregate.
With nowhere to go in Miami-Dade -- and limited pockets in Broward and Palm Beach counties, which have similar laws -- the state has allowed the ever-growing encampment to fester under the bridge, on property it owns.
This week, Hernandez said that since the spoil island known as Picnic Island #4 is only 1,200 feet from the Julia Tuttle, ``all of the offenders currently living under the causeway are subject to arrest for living in a location that is within 2,500 feet of a park.''
The small oblong island is only reachable by boat. It's adorned with a chickee hut, its shores supported by boulders.
''It's an island. We have some picnic tables. People stop by on boats,'' said Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, whose staff discovered the island.
The only other recognized spots in Miami-Dade where the offenders can live is a small section of Pinecrest or out west in the Everglades.
The Tuttle camp is now busting at the seams.
Tents have been replaced with wooden structures, cooking areas and minimal toilet facilities have been built. Some living quarters have televisions and DVD players.
- Well, you got to make your "home" comfortable!
Many of the offenders work during the day and return at night, as required by the state. They wear GPS devices so probation officers can follow their movements. Wives and girlfriends visit and often stay over.
Yet despite the city's claim, it seems the offenders may be staying put for a while.
Responding to Hernandez's letter, Department of Corrections spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said only 41 of the 70 living under the bridge are on probation and under the state's jurisdiction.
She also said Picnic Island #4 ``is not considered a park where children congregate. There's no playground there.''
In addition, the state's required distance is much shorter than the county's -- just 1,000 feet, putting the island far enough away from the camp.
Sarnoff said that leaves two options: ``We will sue [the state] to enforce the law, or [the city's sex offender ordinance] will be found unconstitutional.''
The fight over where the sex offenders should live has caught the attention of civil liberty groups.
Ron Book, who chairs the David Raymond Homeless Trust, said his staff has removed some people living under bridge who are not registered sex offenders. Book said the trust found a man and his pitbull a place to live in Homestead.
- Ron Book is a hateful hypocrite. He runs a homeless organization, yet does nothing for these people. So this just shows you what a true hypocrite he is!
As for the state's stance, Book believes the people living under the bridge are the state's responsibility.
- And like usual, everybody blames everyone else. Typical politics. Nobody wants to admit THEY screwed up!
''They want somebody else to pay for the problem,'' he said.
Jeanne Baker, president of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said there's equal blame to go around. She blasted Miami and Miami-Dade for passing laws that ''impermissibly'' exceed state law. And she blamed Crist and the Legislature for ``turning a blind eye.''
``Now, the state and local communities point their fingers at each other in an attempt to shift blame. This is a statewide problem, and the Julia Tuttle Causeway is only the most graphic example. We need a statewide solution, and sadly, the Governor remains AWOL.''
Despite its findings, Miami's hands appear tied.
City police won't arrest the offenders because the land under the causeway belongs to the Florida Department of Transportation -- so it is under state jurisdiction.
Then there is Miami's history.
After a series of abuses on a group of homeless people living at Bicentennial Park in the late 1980s, the ACLU sued Miami in federal court in what became known as the Pottinger case.
Testimony of police practicing ''pest control'' through harassment and property damage, convinced Judge C. Clyde Atkins that the city violated the Constitution.
The judge halted arrests for minor crimes related to homelessness, like trespassing, unless shelter is offered.
''There is no alternative shelter,'' Baker said.
Atkins' order forced the creation of the Homeless Trust which Book now oversees. Baker said the ACLU sent a letter to Miami Police Chief John Timoney in February, noting the Pottinger case.
Miami police Cmdr. Delrish Moss said Tuesday it is the state's responsibility to monitor the folks living under the bridge.
''Right now it's a situation where they're on state property,'' Moss said. ``The state is issuing identification. It appears the state has sent them there to be on state property.''
Also unresolved: With the onset of hurricane season, what happens to the bridge dwellers if a storm approaches?
Baker said last year, after a series of emergency phone calls by her agency, the Department of Corrections permitted the group to move to a local hotel. But lately the number of offenders living under the bridge has almost doubled.
''We're worried sick,'' Baker said. ``It's a growing problem.''
This is great, but what about also prosecuting those who wrongly accuse someone of a crime? Or those DA's, Judges, Lawyers, etc who convict someone without evidence?
By Jeff Carlton
DALLAS — With the help of DNA testing, Texas has freed more wrongly convicted people than any other state. Soon it will compensate them better than any other state, too.
The Texas House has agreed with changes made in the Senate on a bill to boost payments to the wrongly convicted, voting 132-13 for the measure Thursday.
Gov. Rick Perry (Contact) is expected to sign the legislation, which is named for Tim Cole, a Fort Worth man who died in prison in 1999 while serving time for a rape that DNA testing later showed he did not commit. Last month in Austin, Perry met with Cole’s family and was photographed hugging Cole’s sobbing mother.
The bill increases lump-sum payments from $50,000 to $80,000 for every year of confinement and grants an annuity to provide a lifetime of income. Exonerees will get 120 hours of paid tuition at a career center or public college. Senators removed a provision to provide health insurance coverage for exonerees.
It also provides an additional $25,000 for each year a wrongly convicted person spends on parole or as a registered sex offender. No other state has such a provision, said Barry Scheck, the co-director of the Innocence Project, a New York-based legal center specializing in overturning wrongly convictions.
The bill would give the wrongly convicted in Texas the most generous compensation package in the nation.
“It is a landmark bill,” Scheck said. “For a fixed damage award, it’s the highest in the country.”
Cory Session, Cole’s brother, said his brother died “a martyr for innocence.” The likely passage of the bill, he said, makes “you walk a little taller and stick your chest out a little farther.”
“Almost 25 years ago, the only thing people knew about Tim Cole’s name was he was a convicted rapist,” Session said. “Now they know his name stands for a lot more.”
The compensation applies only to wrongly convicted people who were actually innocent. Those whose convictions are reversed on technicalities such as insufficient evidence would not be eligible. Also ineligible would be exonerees who are subsequently convicted of felonies.
By accepting state compensation, the wrongly convicted must agree not to sue the state, a factor in attracting support from municipalities such as Dallas, where many of the wrongly convicted are from. There are 39 people in Texas who qualify for compensation, said Kevin Glasheen, a Lubbock attorney who represents some of the exonerees and led the lobbying efforts for the bill. Nineteen are from Dallas.
“The fact that Texas did have such a problem also means these guys had comparatively good claims,” Glasheen said. “It is a local government cost-saving measure, ultimately."
“It’s a good trade-off. It gives guys a quick, fair way of resolving claims without having to go through lengthy court battles.”
By Wes Woods II
LA VERNE - The City Council has revised its city codes to criminalize registered sex offenders who live within 2,000 feet of a public or private school or any park where children regularly gather.
The law, passed Monday night, was created to "protect the citizens of La Verne from sexual predators. That's the ultimate goal," police Capt. Mike Wiggins said.
If a sex offender breaks the rule, the punishment will be a misdemeanor, an arrestable offense, Wiggins said.
Before passage of the ordinance, there was no penalty for violating the law.
Wiggins said he believes the sex offender law is a necessary one and would have prevented 48-year-old Steven J. Napoli about three weeks ago from moving into the 3000 block of Knollwood Avenue less than 300 feet from Las Flores Park.
The Police Department created a special bulletin "sex offender community notification" about the man.
The ordinance, which had its first reading Monday, will take effect 30 days after its final passage.
The La Verne law and other similar ones are "pure nonsense," said Paul Shannon, spokesman for an organization that advocates for reforming sex offender laws.
"They have no impact on protecting children and they promote the further demonization of people," Shannon said. "The term sex offender lumps together extremely different types of behavior."
Registered sex offenders can range from youths at 17, 18 or 19 years old who had sex with an underage girlfriends in high school or exhibitionists who are caught urinating in public and seen by someone under the age of 18, Shannon said.
"Residential restrictions or Jessica's Law, they lump all people together who pose no threat to children," Shannon said. "Of those that do, fortunately, the rate of recidivism is one of the lowest of any crime."
Wiggins said there was 35 sex offenders living in La Verne, though California's Registered Sex Offenders Megan's Law site on Tuesday listed 24 sex offenders.
The site had 186 total registrants for adjacent Pomona and 24 for San Dimas.
Unincorporated Los Angeles County and Walnut are among the areas that have passed similar ordinances.
Fear drives the creation of laws for sex offenders, Shannon said.
"People are more afraid of sex offenders than people labeled terrorists," he said.
Ultimately, Shannon said he believes restrictions should be judged on a case-by-case basis with the ultimate goal of re-integration into society.
Shannon said new laws dealing with sex texting, where teenagers in high schools send nude photos of classmates, can also leave people branded as sex offenders.
"The vast majority of people on the sex offender registry in the U.S. pose no danger to children whatsoever," he said.