Thursday, September 24, 2009

FL - Another Fla. 'Romeo' sex offender gets pardon

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09/24/2009

By BILL KACZOR

TALLAHASSEE - A second Florida man in as many months received a pardon Thursday from Gov. Charlie Crist (Contact) after being convicted of having consensual sex with an underage girl who's now his wife.

_____, 33, also needed approval from at least two state Cabinet members meeting with Crist as the Board of Executive Clemency. He got it from all three.

_____ held his 5-month-old son and had his wife of eight years, _____, 26, at his side when he appeared before the panel. Both at times fought back tears.

"I still have to register," _____ told the board before the pardon was granted. "It's still hanging over my head."

The pardon means the father of three will no longer be labeled as a sex offender with his name, address and other personal information posted on a state Web site.

The panel also granted a pardon in late July to _____ of Panama City Beach in a similar "Romeo and Juliet" case.

_____ was 21 and his future wife 15 when they first had sex. Her mother reported _____, then nearing the end of his Army enlistment, although she had encouraged them to date, the couple said.

"I thought it was crazy," _____ said. "I refused to cooperate, and then I got in trouble at home, so I was forced to cooperate with the police even though I didn't want to."

_____ was convicted in Volusia County of committing a lewd and lascivious act against a minor and sentenced to a year in jail concurrent with five years on probation.

The pardon also will let _____, who is a construction company foreman, work on projects near schools, where he previously was barred, and the couple hope it will prevent further harassment from police and news media.

_____ was at home with their oldest child, then 3, when Volusia County sheriff's deputies knocked on the door of their home about four years ago when they lived in Deltona. She said at least six deputies and a television camera crew were there.

"There was a cop on each side of the door and then they were looking in the car windows and they were looking around the house," _____ said in an interview.

One deputy asked for her husband and she told him he was at work. That angered him and he said he'd be back, _____ said. She closed the door but moments later the deputy knocked again.

"He's like 'Well who are you some girlfriend?'" _____ said. "'No, I'm his wife.' He goes 'No, I need to see your ID.' So then I had to go find my purse to get my ID and he looks at it and just throws it back at me."

She said deputies never told her why they were there but it was around the time 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford was kidnapped and killed in Citrus County.

The visit by deputies was shown on a local television station as part of a story on sexual predators and dangerous sex offenders, _____ said.

That prompted the couple to move to a 10-acre homestead in Lake County.

"We haven't had a problem there, yet," _____ told the board.

_____, now 34, was 19 when he first had sex with his wife, _____, who was 14 at the time. She turned him in after finding out he was having relations with another women, an adult. They later reconciled, married 10 years ago and have two children together. He also had two children with the other woman.

_____ in June told the board he didn't want his children to share his stigma and that he kept losing jobs because he was a registered sex offender.


"TThey who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin (United States Constitution, Bill of Rights)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved


OPINION: The unique power of crying rape

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09/23/2009

By Cathy Young

The recent incident at Hofstra University, in which a student claimed that she was gang-raped in a men's room, has reignited the ongoing and often bitter debate about false accusations of rape. Are false rape charges a serious problem exacerbated by feminist claims that women don't lie about rape? Or is the issue being blown out of proportion to discredit feminists and cast doubt on the credibility of rape victims? Should women who bring false accusations be prosecuted or treated as troubled people who need help?

The Hofstra incident seems to be a classic case of a woman "crying rape" after consensual sex was followed by regrets. The woman said she was lured to a bathroom during a fraternity party, tied to a toilet stall with a rope and raped by five men. The men were arrested and briefly jailed before one of them produced a cell phone video filmed during the encounter, showing consensual sex. Confronted with the video, the woman recanted.
- And what if the video was never made?  Their lives would be over!

Many feminists argue that the problem of false accusations is so minuscule that to discuss it extensively is a harmful distraction from the far more serious problem of rape. On the other side are men's-rights activists, claiming that false accusations are as much of a scourge as rape itself.
- Well the feminists apparently do not read the news!

In the 1970s, the feminist anti-rape movement championed the credibility of women for a good reason: At the time, the belief that rape charges are often made up out of vindictiveness or hysteria often caused victims to be treated as if they were the criminals. Unfortunately, rigid feminist dogma replaced one set of prejudices with another. Law professor Catharine MacKinnon has written that "feminism is built on believing women's accounts of sexual use and abuse by men."

Building a belief system around believing someone's claims on the basis of gender is a sure prescription for bias. In 2006, when several members of the men's lacrosse team at Duke University were charged with raping a stripper at a team party, many feminist commentators, such as New England School of Law professor and former prosecutor Wendy Murphy, insisted on a presumption of guilt toward the accused men, despite indications that the story could be a hoax. The men were eventually exonerated.

FBI statistics show that about 9 percent of rape reports are "unfounded" - that is, dismissed without charges being filed. This usually happens when the accuser recants or when her story is contradicted by evidence. Some studies put the rate of false accusations at one in four or even higher. While no one knows the true figures, it is clear that the problem is real and its consequences can be devastating. The lacrosse players at Duke lived through a yearlong legal nightmare and were publicly branded as rapists. False accusations have sent men to prison for months or even years.

Yet some of the commentary on the Hofstra case has shown more sympathy to the accuser than the falsely accused men. On Slate, Emily Bazelon writes, "Let's agree that something disturbing happened to that 18-year-old woman at Hofstra. Something she feels awful about."

The assumption is that a drunken sexual encounter in a bathroom is something that "happens" to a woman, and if she "feels awful" when she sobers up and has regrets, she deserves a measure of support and understanding. (In fact, the woman's false accusation may have been less a reaction to guilt and shame than an attempt to conceal her escapades from her boyfriend, who saw her immediately afterward.)

Meanwhile, some are expressing harsh judgment of the men for engaging in group sex in a bathroom and filming it. This is not attractive behavior, to be sure. Yet we always have been told that rape victims don't need to be angels or models of chastity to deserve support. Surely the same should apply to men who are falsely accused.

To recognize that some women wrongly accuse men of rape is not anti-female, any more than recognizing that some men rape women is anti-male. There is power in a charge as uniquely damaging as rape, and women are no less likely than men to abuse the power they have. To recognize this fact is not "backlash" but basic fairness.


"TThey who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin (United States Constitution, Bill of Rights)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved


AZ - Demarees to Wal-Mart: Get Ready for Your Bath

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09/24/2009

A year ago A.J. and Lisa Demaree of Peoria, Ariz., thought they were taking pictures of their daughters taking a bath, but to a Wal-Mart employee, the Demarees were committing "child erotica" and "sex exploitation."

I didn't realize that child pornographers were in the habit of schlepping their images over to Wal-Mart, but what do I know?

Child Protective Services took custody of the kids for a month, and the couple, who were never charged, spent $75,000 on legal fees. Now the Demarees are suing both the state of Arizona and Wal-Mart.

The Demarees' lawyer released a photo, available at the San Francisco Chronicle Web site.

It's beginning to look like we've learned nothing from the disastrous day-care sex abuse hysteria of the 1980s.

If the Demarees had been wrongly convicted, as so many unlucky people were two decades ago, they might have gone to jail. And to add insult to injury, upon their release they might have been required to register as sex offenders.

The first prominent case happened in Kern County, Calif. In 1982 Alvin and Debbie McCuan were accused of sexually abusing their children in satanic rituals. The accuser was a step-grandparent with a history of mental illness, but even so the case grew to 60 children testifying and convictions of 36 people, who spent years in prison before 34 of the cases were overturned on appeal.

One of the most infamous cases involved the McMartin preschool in Manhattan Beach, Calif., in 1983. Again, accusations of sexually abusive satanic rituals were levied, and again the accuser was mentally ill. An "acute paranoid schizophrenic," to be exact. She died in 1986 of chronic alcoholism.

But that little detail didn't trouble prosecutors. The trial lasted seven years and cost taxpayers $15 million. Convictions – zero. Nevertheless, one of the accused spent five years in jail.

In 1985 a 23-year-old aspiring actress named Margaret Kelly Michaels was making ends meet by working at Wee Care Nursery School in Maplewood, N.J. Soon she found herself accused of "playing naked games, probing their bodies with knives and forks and forcing them to eat feces and defecate on her." This in a busy child care center in which people were coming and going all day.

After a $3 million, 11-month trial, in 1988 Michaels was convicted of 115 counts of abuse and sentenced to 47 years in prison.

Two journalists – Debbie Nathan and Dorothy Rabinowitz – took note and wrote stories that were shunned by several media outlets that didn't want to touch a story suggesting that a pedophile might actually be completely innocent.

Nathan's article in Village Voice and Rabinowitz's article in Harper's magazine got the attention of a prominent attorney and eventually the conviction was overturned. After spending five years in prison, Kelly Michaels was released on bail to await a new trial. Later the case was dropped.

This story, at least, has a happy ending. Shortly after her release from prison, Michaels agreed to give an interview to a freelance journalist who was also a lawyer. According to Lona Manning of crimemagazine.com, after a while the journalist turned off his tape recorder. He believed Michaels. (And, I suppose, his objectivity could have been called into question since he soon asked her out on a date.) The two are now married and have four children.

Make that five.

The day care center sex abuse hysteria of the 1980s remains a black mark on our society and our justice system. Why did all this happen? And why in the 1980s? Manning offers an explanation:

Historians . . . have pointed to several factors that led to the panic: the mass exodus of mothers from the home to the workplace in the '70s and '80s, which gave rise to a lot of stress and free-floating guilt and, in some quarters, condemnation; then there were the pioneering child-protection crusaders, flush with new federal dollars to ferret out abuse; and the vulnerability of minimum-wage child-care providers who found themselves cast in the role of the bogeyman in the closet.

Rabinowitz, writing for Harper's, saw parallels to witch hunts and McCarthyism:

We are a society that, every fifty years or so, is afflicted by some paroxysm of virtue – an orgy of self-cleansing through which evil of one kind or another is cast out. From the witch-hunts of Salem to the communist hunts of the McCarthy era to the current shrill fixation on child abuse, there runs a common thread of moral hysteria. After the McCarthy era, people would ask: But how could it have happened? How could the presumption of innocence have been abandoned wholesale?

But it happened.

On a personal note, in the late 1970s I taught at a day-care center. The work was exhausting, the pay was low and for a year and a half I got every flu and cold bug in town.

And, although I didn't know it at the time, I had given up my constitutional right to the presumption of innocence.

I still miss working with kids. But I'll never go back.

Children are more protected from sexual abuse now than ever before, and that's progress. There were no hotlines when I was growing up, and I know people who suffered because of that. But let's remember that the Constitution is just as important as our children. In fact, it's our legacy to them.

Video Link



"TThey who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin (United States Constitution, Bill of Rights)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved


NJ - Judge rules state can't charge former police officer for having sex with cows

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09/24/2009

MOUNT HOLLY - Animal cruelty charges have been dropped against a former New Jersey police officer because bestiality is not a crime in the state.

Former Moorestown police officer Robert Melia Jr. was charged last year with sexually assaulting three girls.

During the investigation, police say they found a video in the man's home that showed him sexually molesting cows in 2006.

Judge James Morley ruled Wednesday that prosecutors did not present enough evidence to jurors that Melia's alleged actions tormented the animals on a Southampton farm.

The judge made clear that he doesn't think the alleged action is OK.

Melia and former girlfriend Heather Lewis remain charged with molesting the three girls.


"TThey who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin (United States Constitution, Bill of Rights)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved


CT - Child safety law delayed

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09/24/2009

By Ken Borsuk

Supporters of in-town “child safety zones,” wherein registered sex offenders cannot go, have to hope the third time is the charm after the Representative Town Meeting sent the proposed ordinance back to its legislative and rules committee Monday, to be reconsidered later in the year.

This is the second time the proposed ordinance has not been approved by the RTM. Earlier this year the group voted to table the ordinance, but it was resubmitted to the town in a revised form and sent again for approval. On Monday, the RTM decided by a voice vote to send it back for further work by the committee, which recommended the motion, following questions during its own discussions.

Under the current proposed ordinance, town-owned areas such as public parks, playgrounds, schools, sports fields and town beaches would be designated as child safety zones. Registered sex offenders would be unable to enter them and would be subject to a $100 fine if they were caught doing so. The zones would not extend to public streets or highways or sidewalks, and exceptions to the rule would be made for tasks such as voting, participating in a public town meeting, or picking up or dropping off their children at school, as long as they leave immediately after the task is complete.

However, concerns were voiced by RTM members that the ordinance’s language was too broad and could infringe on the civil rights of people on the sex offender list.

Douglas Wells, RTM District 2 member and chairman of the legislative and rules committee, said the current wording makes it unclear whether areas such as public libraries and civic centers are part of the zone. He said the definition of the “zone” is “ill defined, overly broad, hard to monitor and would serve to be punitive to sex offenders who have no history of crimes against children.”

Former RTM member Stephanie Paulmeno argued that it is unfair to bar people from these locations when they had not committed crimes against children, citing the case of her own son who is a registered sex offender after an incident in college she did not elaborate on.

The ordinance is very flawed,” Ms. Paulmeno said, adding that it was “laudable and commendable” to try and protect children but that she would support any legal challenge to the child safety zones as they were currently defined.

District 5 RTM member Robert Brady, chairman of the body’s education committee, said there were also concerns about the ordinance being defensible in court and whether it actually served as a deterrent. He also noted that the majority of the sex offenders in Greenwich had been cited after their release from jail for offenses such as not properly informing authorities about a change in address.

Mr. Brady said these were serious matters, but not sex crimes.

This ordinance needs revisions to narrow the scope of the safety zones, limit the restrictions to child sex offenders, not sex offenders in general, and provide more access to safety zones when accompanied by other adult family members,” Mr. Wells said.

His committee will now be in charge of making those revisions before resubmitting the ordinance to the full RTM for re-consideration. No timetable was given at the meeting about when that would be.

Both times this ordinance appeared before the Board of Selectmen it was given unanimous approval.

First Selectman Peter Tesei said he was encouraged to see more people supporting it this time and that he supported referring it back to the committee and pledged to work with the RTM to put together language that satisfies “the greatest majority” of members.

This is essentially protecting children,” Mr. Tesei said. “We talked about protecting the rights of those on the list, but let’s not forget about what’s underlying our intentions, and that’s to protect the rights of our children when they cannot protect themselves.”
- Prove to me, how any of these laws "protect" children!  If someone on the list is intent on committing a sexual crime, they will.

Sam Romeo, a local radio host who worked on developing the original ordinance proposal as part of the Community and Police Partnership, said he was surprised there was so much opposition to the law in its current form.

I thought this would be a no-brainer, but suddenly we’re worried about the rights of sex offenders,” Mr. Romeo said. “This ordinance is not unconstitutional. It’s been challenged in five states and withstood it.”
- Just because the government is corrupt and not obeying their oath of office, doesn't mean it's constitutional.  If you actually READ the constitution, you can clearly see the laws are unconstitutional!

He added that the ordinance has the support of the selectmen, the police, the Board of Education and the superintendent of schools.


"TThey who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin (United States Constitution, Bill of Rights)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved


BJS - Sex Offender Residency Restrictions: How Mapping Can Inform Policy

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Key Points

  • Many locations have implemented residency laws that prohibit sex offenders from living near schools or other places where children gather.
  • Studies show that restrictions can create exclusion zones that make it difficult, if not impossible, for sex offenders to find housing.
  • Sex offenders then may become homeless, go underground or report false addresses, making them difficult to track.
  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can help evaluate the impact of residency laws.

Overview

Laws that restrict where registered sex offenders may live have become increasingly popular during the past decade. As of 2007, some 27 states and hundreds of municipalities had enacted laws that bar sex offenders from residing near schools, parks, playgrounds and day care centers. The specified distance from a school or other venue is typically 1,000 feet but varies from 500 to 2,500 feet, depending on the jurisdiction.

The laws, which have wide public support, are modeled after Florida’s “Jessica’s Law,” named for a nine-year-old Florida girl who was kidnapped and killed by a molester. They follow the Wetterling Act of 1994 mandating sex offender registration and the 1996 Megan’s Law requiring public notification when an offender moves into a community.

Residency restriction laws have led to some unanticipated and unintended consequences. In many locations — most noticeably in urban areas — the restrictions have created overlapping exclusion zones that severely limit where offenders can live. In some cities the only acceptable sites are in high-crime neighborhoods or commercial zones. Even when residential areas are available, sex offenders just released from prison may not be able to find affordable housing in those areas.

If unable to find legal housing, offenders may report false addresses, become homeless or go underground. Others may be forced to live in rural areas with less access to employment or mental health services. Even in rural areas where schools and day care centers are more geographically dispersed, most unrestricted land is forest or farmland.

Assessing the Impact of Residency Restrictions

GIS analysis can help officials gauge the impacts of sex offender residency laws. By analyzing mapping data from GIS, they can isolate the exclusion zones and the areas available for housing in their communities.

They can also determine whether registered sex offenders are living in compliant housing. Researchers mapped data from three areas using GIS to locate registered offenders and identify restricted sites and their exclusion zones. Although the localities differed in geography and population, all evidenced limited access to suitable housing.

New Jersey. New Jersey does not have a statewide sex offender residency restriction policy, but as of 2007, 113 municipalities had barred sex offenders from living near parks, beaches, schools, day care centers or bus stops. Restrictions range from 500 to 2,500 feet. Using GIS mapping, researchers examined three areas in northern New Jersey — the rural townships of Phillipsburg and Alpha in Warren County, the City of Newark, and Bergen County — to assess the potential impact of residency restrictions near schools.

  • In the rural townships, researchers plotted the 16 registered sex offenders and the 13 schools and concluded that with a 1,000-foot exclusion zone, five of the offenders would have to move. With the maximum 2,500-foot zone, all 16 offenders would be required to relocate, and city centers would be off-limits. Although about half of the township land was compliant, most of it is uninhabitable farmland and natural reserves.
  • Newark showed 196 registered sex offenders and 118 schools. With a 1,000-foot exclusion zone, 127 offenders would have to relocate. With a 2,500-foot zone, this figure jumps to 193, and the main parts of the city become completely off limits. Only about 7 percent of city land would be compliant.
  • Bergen County showed 56 registered sex offenders and 410 schools. With a 1,000-foot exclusion zone, 21 offenders would have to move. With a 2,500-foot zone, nearly all of the offenders (51) would have to relocate. About one-third of the county would be compliant, but much of it is natural reserves and roads.

Further complicating the analysis, when schools were located near township or county boundaries, residency restriction zones extended into neighboring jurisdictions. In two cases, exclusion zones extended into adjacent states, making enforcement difficult.

San Diego. California voters overwhelmingly passed a law in 2006 requiring registered sex offenders to live at least 2,000 feet from schools and parks. After the law became effective, researchers used GIS to assess its impact on San Diego County. They began by examining all parcels countywide. They next identified the residential parcels, overlaid school and park exclusion zones, and analyzed parcels outside the exclusion zones. They found that slightly more than 27 percent of the residential parcels were acceptable.

Hamilton County, Ohio. Hamilton County is a large metropolitan area covering southwest Ohio that includes Cincinnati and parts of Kentucky and Indiana. There were 1,098 registered sex offenders in the county and 353 schools. Researchers overlaid residences of registered offenders with school exclusion zones and found that 494 offenders were living within the zones, but were unable to determine why such a large number were in violation of the law. Approximately 50 percent of all available rental units were found to be in compliant areas of the county.

Conclusion: What Mapping Can Offer

GIS mapping can inform legislators about sexual offender residency requirements — especially in jurisdictions that are contemplating enactment of residency laws. Local officials can use the mapping analysis to determine whether affordable housing is available within approved areas and to evaluate the proximity of that housing to treatment facilities. Such prior analysis can demonstrate whether a proposed law is feasible to enforce. Jurisdictions with a residency law already in place can use the data to assess whether the exclusion zones result in a lack of housing options for offenders.

Notes

[1] Chajewski, Michael, and Cynthia Calkins-Mercado, A Geo-spatial Analysis of Sex Offender Residency Restrictions in the State of New Jersey. New York: John Jay College of Criminal Justice, March 2007.

[2] Wartell, Julie, Sex Offender Laws: Planning for an Election (pdf, 3.85 MB), San Diego District Attorney’s Office, March 2007.

[3] Grubesic, Tony H., Alan T. Murray, and Elizabeth A. Mack, Geographic Exclusion: Spatial Analysis for Evaluating the Implications of Megan’s Law Exit Notice. Bloomington, Indiana: Department of Geography, Indiana University, and Columbus, Ohio: Center for Urban and Regional Analysis, The Ohio State University.


"TThey who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin (United States Constitution, Bill of Rights)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved