Thursday, November 12, 2009

TX - Students walk home past sex offenders




"The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of a civilization. We must have a desire to rehabilitate into the world of industry, all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment." - Winston Churchill (United States Constitution, Bill of Rights)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved


FL - Registered sex offender: New law unconstitutional

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11/12/2009

LEE COUNTY - A new Lee County law designed to keep children safe from predators is facing its first court challenge. The ordinance bans sex offenders from getting too close to kids.

But the first man arrested for breaking the new rules, _____, calls it unconstitutional. He was convicted of sexual battery on his wife in 1991.

This past July, he was arrested when he was caught sunbathing at a community pool in Lehigh Acres.

_____ claims the ordinance is not only too vague and too broad, but says violates his basic rights.

"When they put your freedom in jeopardy it's unconstitutional - it's not fair," he said.

Defense attorney's argued the case in court Thursday in front of two county judges. However, no decision was made.

The judges hearing the case are asking for more information.




"The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of a civilization. We must have a desire to rehabilitate into the world of industry, all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment." - Winston Churchill (United States Constitution, Bill of Rights)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved


CA - Pasadena council puts off tougher restricitions that could worsen existing problems in finding and tracking sex offenders

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11/12/2009

By Jake Armstrong

Fearing unintended consequences, Pasadena policymakers have shelved a proposed ordinance that would have banished paroled sex offenders from most of the city.

The Public Safety Commission decided last week that concerns about severely limiting where offenders can live, coupled with worries from police that enacting stiffer restrictions would only make it harder to track transient offenders, are reason enough to keep the current rules as they are — prohibiting residence within 2,000 feet of schools, parks, libraries and child care centers.

The ordinance, under consideration for months, would have prohibited paroled sex offenders who aren’t related from living in the same home, apartment building or motel to prevent offenders from clustering, following the lead of the county and surrounding cities that have beefed up restrictions since voters in 2006 passed Jessica’s Law, which allowed cities to go beyond the state’s basic restrictions. Jessica’s Law, known as Proposition 83, also required GPS monitoring for all felon sex offenders.

Councilwoman Margaret McAustin (Contact), one of four council members on the committee, was concerned that tougher restrictions would too drastically limit where sex offenders paroled into the community can live. “We basically say you can’t live anywhere, even if that might be a stable environment,” McAustin said.

But the committee’s decision not to pursue even more stringent restrictions — an arguably counterproductive method — now leaves the Crown City with its pants down, critics say. Nearly every city that borders Pasadena, even unincorporated Altadena, has greatly enhanced residency restrictions this year to make it almost impossible for new offenders to move in without breaking the law, virtually placing a welcome mat for those offenders at Pasadena’s doorstep.

There is no reason not to expect an increase in the number of violent child predators in Pasadena,” said Rene Amy, a longtime schools activist and critic of local sex offender management. “I’ve said for years that folks need to be careful and watch their kid. The bottom line is Pasadena is not doing all that it can to protect children.”

South Pasadena, Sierra Madre, Arcadia and San Marino have all enhanced offender residency restrictions, with Arcadia taking it a step further by adding golf courses to the list of protected places. As a result, sex offenders are banned from living in up to 85 percent of those cities. “The question is, if you implement restrictions, where are these people going to go?” asked Amy, suggesting city leaders have made Pasadena an inviting place for offenders.

Damned if you do …

The Public Safety Committee’s decision comes on the heels of two scathing reports suggesting the get-tough approach on sex offenders pays lip service to public safety and is replete with unintended consequences that undermine its intent.

Between November 2006 and June 2008, roughly two years after voters overwhelmingly approved Jessica’s Law, the number of paroled transient sex offenders shot up more than 800 percent to 1,056, according to a study released this month by the state’s Sex Offender Management Board (Contact), which is tasked with assessing policies. The board’s study concluded that the dramatic rise in transiency among parolees, who make up 15 percent of all registered sex offenders, shows an “unmistakable correlation” between tougher restrictions and sex offender homelessness. This puts the public at greater risk, as homelessness is among the many factors that can lead to a new offense, according to the study.

Last week, the state Office of the Inspector General released its investigation into the state’s supervision of convicted rapist Phillip Garrido, who allegedly kidnapped and raped Jaycee Lee Dugard over the course of 18 years despite being a high-risk paroled sex offender on passive GPS monitoring. The OIG report exposed serious flaws in parole oversight of Garrido, finding that parole officials’ mishandling of the GPS monitoring system provides the public only a false sense of security and raises serious questions about expanding monitoring to even more inmates, as the state plans as part of its court-ordered prison population reduction effort. In fact, Garrido’s parole officers failed to act on obvious parole violations about 90 percent of the time, ignored even the most basic guidelines for supervising an ex-con of his caliber and even recommended multiple times that he be released from parole, according to the OIG report, which also said Garrido should have been under much more intense GPS monitoring.

It cannot be overstated: the passive GPS monitoring program, as currently applied, provides a false sense of security to the public, who have been told that the department uses GPS to monitor parolees,” Inspector General David R. Shaw wrote in the report.

In response, Matthew Cate, the state prisons chief, said corrections officials will begin focusing more supervision and resources on high-risk parolees under a new risk-based system to begin in January.

But such failures raise serious questions about how the state will monitor and control sex offenders in the future, said Tom Tobin, vice chair of the sex offender board, adding that the board will release recommendations on revamping the management system in January. “I think the big question is, these seem to make people feel better and believe they’re safer, but is there any reason to think that is really true?” asked Tobin, who operates a treatment center for offenders. Studies in other states have shown residency restrictions do nothing to keep offenders from committing new crimes, Tobin said.

A place to call home

Pasadena is home to 176 registered sex offenders, 25 of whom are parolees and considered high-risk offenders, and 16 probationers considered lower risk, according to Cmdr. John Perez of the Pasadena Police Department (Contact).

But a chief concern is the population of transient offenders, which could grow if the city adopted more stringent regulations, Perez said. “Start mapping it out and you run out of land really quick,” said Perez.

The transient offender population likely increased when the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors acted in September to shut down the seedy Lucky Star Motel in East Pasadena that housed nine offenders, according to Pasadena Chief Prosecutor Connie Orozco. What’s more, tougher restrictions could lead offenders to claim homelessness in order to escape prosecution, Orozco said. Police have already encountered one offender who registered as a transient with Pasadena police but who was actually living and working near Los Angeles, Perez said. Transient offenders are only required to check in with police every 30 days, making them less subject to law enforcement oversight.

A recent history lesson

Three words embody Pasadena’s most recent — and perhaps most embarrassing — encounter with a sex offender: _____.

A convicted rapist and child molester now suspected in two cold-case murders, _____, posing as a garrulous decorated Vietnam vet, schmoozed his way to the helm of a school volunteer group in 2001 and ran for the Pasadena City College Board of Trustees that same year. His smooth-talking persona helped him mask the fact that he was a registered sex offender who spent upwards of a dozen years in prison for his crimes, and even earned him keys to a school district office before he suddenly skipped town and was arrested in Oregon in 2004.

It will be a year before the Public Safety Committee revisits the restrictions; members asked city staff to return then with an update on how the limits are working in neighboring cities.

Councilman Steve Haderlein, chair of the committee, said he sees the potential of Pasadena’s lesser restrictions creating a concentration of offenders here, but he’s betting that won’t happen. “But in a year we might find out that’s true, in which case we would take action,” Haderlein said.

Consider the _____ debacle reason enough to keep closer tabs on sex offenders in Pasadena, Amy said.

There was a lot of egg on the faces of people in town with John Whitaker, and he didn’t molest anybody,” he said. “The last thing we need is that scenario playing out again with something awful and horrible happening.”


"The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of a civilization. We must have a desire to rehabilitate into the world of industry, all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment." - Winston Churchill (United States Constitution, Bill of Rights)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved


NC - Judge to decide legality of N.C. sex offender restrictions

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11/12/2009

By Erin Hartness

Pittsboro — A Superior Court judge said Thursday that he needs some time to decide whether to strike down a portion of the state's sex offender laws.

_____, a registered sex offender, challenged the constitutionality of the laws following his March arrest at Moncure Baptist Church. The church has a nursery and regularly scheduled programs for children, and state lawmakers expanded restrictions on sex offenders last year by banning them from being within 300 feet of any place intended for the use, care or supervision of children.

Following a two-hour hearing on Oct. 29 and another hearing Thursday afternoon, Judge Allen Baddour said he would take the issue under advisement and issue a ruling later.

"(The law) is overbroad, and it can't be interpreted in a rational way," said Glenn Gerding, _____' attorney.

Gerding and Ken Richardson, an attorney for _____, another sex offender challenging the state law, said the restrictions prevent them from going to church.

"What church does not have young people attending?" Richardson asked.

Thirty-six states establish zones where sex offenders cannot live or visit. Some states provide exceptions for churches, but many do not.

Assistant Chatham County District Attorney Kayley Tabor said sex offenders could attend a church that doesn't have a Sunday school, nursery or youth programs. They also could get private counseling from ministers, she said.

"These two defendants are who the legislature, I believe, had in mind when they wrote that statute," Tabor said.

_____ was convicted twice of indecent liberties with a teen girl and most recently of attempted second-degree rape in 2003. _____ was convicted twice of taking indecent liberties with children.

Lt. Steve Maynor of the Chatham County Sheriff's Office said he warned both men that they might be breaking the law by going to church and that he arrested them only after someone in the church complained about their presence.

If Baddour declares the law unconstitutional, the case could be appealed to the state Supreme Court.


"The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of a civilization. We must have a desire to rehabilitate into the world of industry, all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment." - Winston Churchill (United States Constitution, Bill of Rights)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved


AZ - Malicious prosecution (The Joel Barr Story)

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Joel Barr was set up and convicted for crimes never committed. He has been in AZ state prison for over 7 years.

The "child abuse expert" who interviewed Joel's accuser is the same person who interviewed the 8 year old boy for double homicide and was criticized for violating the civil rights of the boy.

Go to www.joelbarrsstory.com and read "The Saga of Joel Barr" and there are photos of the "Players" and many legal documents that the "law enforcement" personell used to put Joel in prison. These sheeple ignore the law because they operate under the good ol' boys rules. They are ruthless in their desire to earn feathers in their caps to get promotions and better payiing jobs. For instance; former asst. county atty., Bradley Carlyon who prosecuted Joel is now the Navajo County Atty.

If you can shine any light on this ongoing case, please do so.


GA - Southern Center For Human Rights to get new leader

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11/12/2009

By Bill Rankin

The Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta will have a new director at the beginning of next year.

Sara Totonchi, 33, will be the first non-lawyer to head the non-profit, although she has long been immersed in some of the center's most high-profile causes -- improving the state's indigent defense system and legal attacks against Georgia's sex offender registry law. The Southern Center, founded in 1976, represents inmates on death row and files lawsuits to improve prison and jail conditions.

Totonchi, a graduate of Berry College, joined the Southern Center eight years ago after working for the Georgia Commission on Family Violence. In recent years, she has been the center’s public policy director and chaired Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. Totonchi said one of her main goals as the center's new director will be trying to enhance transparency and accountability in the criminal justice system.

"Our office takes the cases no one else will take," Totonchi said in a recent interview. "Our alliance with the underdog is always something that has deeply moved me."


"The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of a civilization. We must have a desire to rehabilitate into the world of industry, all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment." - Winston Churchill (United States Constitution, Bill of Rights)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved


NC - HB-209 - Sex Offender Registry/Liberties w/ Student

Click the image to view the bill (Other Bills)



"The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of a civilization. We must have a desire to rehabilitate into the world of industry, all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment." - Winston Churchill (United States Constitution, Bill of Rights)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved


NC - HB-1117 - Sex Offender Can't Drive Bus with Children

Click the image to view the bill (Other Bills)



"The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of a civilization. We must have a desire to rehabilitate into the world of industry, all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment." - Winston Churchill (United States Constitution, Bill of Rights)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved


FL - In Somer Thompson case, rumors become a big problem

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11/12/2009

Bloggers spread stories, and ruling them out takes valuable time away from the investigation
- Why do police even care what bloggers think?

As with any high-profile case, the intense search for a killer in the slaying of 7-year-old Somer Thompson has generated rumors and speculation that can be costly and a frustrating distraction to investigators.

Once, after a swirl of suspicions about a blue Nissan’s possible connection to the case were found to be untrue, calls about the vehicle continued in the Clay County case, Sheriff Rick Beseler said.

We got 79 additional tips about the blue Nissan after we already said we were not looking for it,” he said.

Other false alarms included a connection to a sex offender arrested in Georgia and suspicions generated by mistakes in a police report.

You spend a lot of time and energy chasing leads when you have completely eliminated them,” Beseler said.

Rumors, often magnified by bloggers who become attracted to crime cases, usually steal valuable time that could be spent in the field, said Bruce Herring, director of the Institute of Police Technology and Management, which contracts with the University of North Florida and provides law enforcement agencies with instruction.
- So are the police reading blogs, or just accepting calls?  Why do they even care what a blogger may think?

Most of it is negative,” he said of the impact.

Not always, though. Perpetrators as well as the curious read those entries, he said.

Tidbits come that lead to a bad guy once in a while,” Herring said.

That means it can be risky to ignore tips.

And high levels of exposure keep the public’s attention focused on the case.

A flood of calls
Roughly 3,375 tips have poured into the Clay County Sheriff’s Office since the Orange Park girl disappeared Oct. 19 as she was going home from Grove Park Elementary School. The first-grader’s body was found two days later in a Georgia landfill.

No arrests have been made.

The report of the blue Nissan, which had been linked to an apparent abduction attempt of a 5-year-old girl a little more than a week before Somer disappeared, drew wide interest. A woman who believed she foiled the kidnapping was part of a Sheriff’s Office news briefing where she recounted helping the crying girl who said she was being lured into the vehicle.

The suspicions were dismissed when detectives later learned the Nissan was being driven by an officer with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement who stopped after thinking the girl had nearly been struck by a car.
- So did the officer tell the child he was a police officer and show her his badge?  We've had many cops committing sex crimes as well, so you can't rule it out just because he's a cop.

But the calls didn’t stop and Beseler worries the confusion could lead to something being missed.

Potentially someone could have real information and say, 'Oh, they are not looking for a black van; they are looking for a blue Nissan,’ ” he said.

Quashing rumors
In another case that has gripped Northeast Florida, investigators decided to ignore rumors they knew were untrue, but found it important to quickly quash the fast-growing ones.

The Putnam County disappearance of 5-year-old Haleigh Cummings in February generated wild speculation, including a claim that her body had been found. Lt. Johnny Greenwood of the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office said that allowing that to go unaddressed would have been irresponsible.
- So why even respond to it?  Do you job and follow leads when they come into the crime hotline, ignore all others.  Look for the missing child.  Otherwise, it's just a scavenger hunt and following bogus leads.

We had to respond,” Greenwood said in an e-mail.

Haleigh, whose sixth birthday was in August, remains missing.

In the Clay County case, a mistake on a police report set off one wave of suspicion.

The day Somer disappeared, a deputy who was among those who responded to the missing girl’s home was called away to an unrelated armed robbery. He arrived at the second scene and caught four suspects, Beseler said. When the officer wrote the report, he forgot to change the address on the call, resulting in armed robbery arrests mistakenly tied to the Thompson home.

The public sees that and goes ballistic,” Beseler said. “People on blogs and all over the country were writing all these theories. We worked and tried to put that rumor out for several days.”

The nature of the case has also meant attention has been focused on sex offenders. One of those men, who worked on a renovation crew months earlier at a house near where Somer was last seen as she walked home, has been interviewed. Another, whose name was on the initial police report after a woman thought she spotted him near Orange Park, was in Texas. When he discovered he had incorrectly been mentioned in the case, he nervously went to authorities there to say he was not near Florida.
- Of course it is.  Kids being harmed by known sex offenders, is rare, yet they spend all their time focusing on the sex offenders, when many times, if not most of the time, it's the mother, father or close family, and not a known sex offender.

Arrest in Georgia
Speculation has come from other places as well.

When Georgia authorities arrested a sex offender from Florida who had moved to Albany, they notified the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.

In the Oct. 26 arrest, the man — whose crimes in Florida were in Hillsborough County — was charged with attempting to entice a child. Beseler said the man is not a suspect in the Somer case.

Herring, who has worked on other high-profile cases, said as cases drag on the potential grows for investigators and the agency to be accused of being inept or covering something up.

Early on, you have a whole lot of public opinion in your favor,” he said. That support can disappear later.

The public starts to get impatient,” he said.

Last week, a crisis-management team within the department began offering services to employees who may feel overwhelmed.

I’m still optimistic — very optimistic — we are going to solve this case,” Beseler said. “Will it be in a couple of days? No.




"The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of a civilization. We must have a desire to rehabilitate into the world of industry, all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment." - Winston Churchill (United States Constitution, Bill of Rights)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved


FL - 360 sex offenders live within 1 mile of a St. Lucie public school

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174 sex offenders live within a mile of an Indian River public school

135 sex offenders live within a mile of a Martin County school

Why does this media outfit post the same article with several different headlines, and all by the same person? Seems like fear mongering to me. So what is their point? Looks like to provide news articles with scary headlines, to get more viewers or something, but that is just me.

11/12/2009

ST. LUCIE COUNTY — There are almost 360 sex offenders living within a mile of St. Lucie County public schools.

And along the Treasure Coast, almost 670 sex offenders and predators legally live within a mile of local schools as of Oct. 29, a Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers analysis of Florida Department of Law Enforcement data shows. Expanding the search of the FDLE database almost doubles the number in some cases.

All but one of the district’s 36 public schools has at least one sex offender living within a mile of the school. Schools with the most include Lincoln Park Academy, with 40 offenders, and Fort Pierce Magnet School of the Arts, with 33 offenders. Because some schools are so close in distance to each other, many of the same offenders live within a mile of multiple schools.

Schools — and parents — might not even be aware of who their neighbors are. The state requires law enforcement to notify neighbors, schools and day cares of any sexual predator. But there is no such requirement for sex offenders.

Generally, a sexual offender is someone convicted of a sex offense involving a minor. A predator is someone convicted of a more serious — usually a first-degree felony — sex crime.
- I don't think that is actually what a sex offender is.  A sex offender is a person who has been convicted of a crime that was sexual in nature, or even just urinating in public, but, instead of the media reporting facts and all sides, they hype the fear factor.

Restrictions on where a person can live can vary, depending on the person’s status, the offense and when the offense occurred.

In October 2004, a new state law required offenders and predators to live at least 1,000 feet away from playgrounds and schools. The law doesn’t affect anyone convicted before the law went into effect or those no longer under state supervision.

Some communities place more stringent restrictions on where offenders can live. For example, in 2008 Port St. Lucie, passed an ordinance requiring sexual offenders to live at least 2,500 feet from a school or playground.

But not all communities have a law like that. This means there is nothing illegal about the sex offender who lives directly across the street from Lincoln Park Academy in Fort Pierce.

The law also means that sex offenders can legally live in the walking paths of children making their way to school.

St. Lucie County children living within two miles of a school are required to find their own transportation. In many cases, this means the students walk to school.

Districts only provide transportation to students living within two miles of a school if the students have to cross dangerous or major roads. Living near a sex offender does not qualify as a hazardous condition.

If we did that, there would be no one walking,” said Marty Sanders, executive director of land acquisition for St. Lucie Schools.

Still, the idea of sex offenders along the route to school worries Mariposa Elementary parent Tiffany Cooper, whose 7-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter walked down the street after school to a nearby day care center.
- So, instead of wanting someone else do YOUR JOB for you, why don't you BE A GOOD PARENT and take your kids to school and pick them up afterwards?

She said she didn’t know about the 10 sexual offenders living within a mile of the school until she looked up the school’s address on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Web site.

Now, someone picks up her children after school and drives them to the day care while she works, she said.
- Good, that is what a good parent should do, if you are so scared.

Cooper said she doesn’t understand why children who live close to the school can’t get a ride, especially since buses often travel the same road after school or why a law can’t be passed requiring offenders to live at least two miles away from a school.
- Because everyone has rights, and when you start trampling on others rights, yours should be trampled on as well.

I would call it the ‘two miles of peace’ law,” Cooper said.
- Well I'd call it the "PLACEBO" law! Having a 2 mile residency restriction would still not protect anybody, and force the offenders out of the state, possibly.  Maybe you should move if you are so scared!

Clusters of sexual offenders are most common in low socio-economic neighborhoods, often in areas that also have the least resources to protect their children from re-offenders, said Jill Levenson, associate professor of psychology at Lynn University in Boca Raton.

Still, sexual abuse by a stranger is rare, said Levenson. Children are much more likely to be abused by someone they know, she said.

She said studies show sexual offenders living nears schools are no more dangerous than those who live further away.

Sexual offenders don’t molest kids because they live near schools,” she said.

But cases such as Somer Thompson, who disappeared Oct. 19 while walking the one-mile trek home from school, don’t help to ease parents’ concerns.
- Walking one mile to and from school, a child, 7 years old!  So where is the parent?  One mile is insane, even for an adult, much less a child.  But on no, lets not blame the irresponsible parents, lets blame the make believe monsters who may harm us.

The 7-year-old North Florida girl was found dead a few days later in a Georgia landfill. Using the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s statewide database, law enforcement interviewed almost 100 sex offenders and predators who lived within a few miles of Somer’s home. No arrests have been made.
- And has a sex offender been charged with the crime?  Not yet, so quit jumping to conclusions!

Detective Suzanne Woodward with the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s sex offender unit said she tries to make schools, parents and students more aware of their neighbors.

Back in the late 1990s, the unit handed out posters and fliers listing the names and photos of offenders near a school, but many principals didn’t display them, she said.

Woodward said she also offers programs to schools and community groups informing children about avoiding dangerous situations and what to do if someone acts inappropriately, even if it’s someone they know.
- And we need more of that.  Education is the key, not irresponsible parents who are "too busy" to raise their children or teach them things, that is the problem!

But in the past year, only one school — St. Anastasia Catholic School in Fort Pierce — has invited the unit to speak, she said. She hasn’t been to any public schools in the past year, she said.

Public school district officials say it’s not because they’re not concerned about the issue. But, they add, there isn’t much they can do about where sex offenders live.

It’s really a community issue,” said Sanders. Parents and students know the sex offenders in their neighborhoods, he said.

It’s an issue that kids and parents have to deal with every day, not just when they go to school,” he said.
- And it's a parental issue.  The parents need to stop pushing their responsibilities off to others and be a parent.


"The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of a civilization. We must have a desire to rehabilitate into the world of industry, all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment." - Winston Churchill (United States Constitution, Bill of Rights)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved


Discussion on Cyber Bullying

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"The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of a civilization. We must have a desire to rehabilitate into the world of industry, all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment." - Winston Churchill (United States Constitution, Bill of Rights)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved


DE - Ruling limits sex offender registry

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11/12/2009

By SEAN O'SULLIVAN

For the second time this year, the Delaware Supreme Court has found that a person legally can be removed from the state's sex offender registry -- implicitly finding that the registry is not a permanent life sentence without exception and that the registry statute does not overpower all other state laws.

In this latest case, the justices ruled that a full and unconditional pardon by former Gov. Ruth Ann Minner (Contact) of a man convicted at 19 of having sex with a girl who was under 16, meant he no longer had to register as a Tier II sex offender.

The ruling was praised by the Delaware American Civil Liberties Union (Contact) as a needed exception to the registry, but victim advocate Dana Harrington Conner expressed concern about the creation of another way off the state's list of sex offenders.

"There are exceptions to every rule. But when there is an exception, it can be abused. In this case, the abuse of an exception can have very serious ramifications," she said.

While the Delaware Attorney General's Office (Contact) opposed removing _____ from the offender registry, it signaled this week that it accepted the high court's decision and that _____'s removal did not threaten public safety.

_____ was convicted in 2000 of second-degree unlawful sexual contact for what attorney Charles M. Oberly III said was a consensual encounter between the then-19-year-old _____ and a 14-year-old girl.

_____ completed his probation, fulfilled his registration requirements and stayed out of trouble.

Oberly said _____, who has since been married and has a child, could not obtain gainful employment and even had difficulty renting an apartment because he was listed on the sex offender registry.

"You would be better off being convicted of manslaughter than a sex offense to obtain a job [today]," Oberly said, adding that the job _____ was having trouble landing because of his status was as a truck driver.

_____ petitioned then-Gov. Minner for a pardon, which was granted in October 2008.

Prosecutors opposed _____'s removal from the registry, and a Kent County Superior Court judge agreed.

In the first case of its kind considered by the Delaware Supreme Court (Contact), the five justices unanimously ruled this month that a full pardon by the governor is designed to forgive an offense and restore a person's civil rights.

The court also noted that the pardon process is a rigorous one that includes a review for the "propensity for recidivism," and because that check determined _____ is no longer a threat to re-offend, there is no basis for keeping him on the sex offender list.

The justices also pointed out that the Delaware Attorney General's Office had a chance to object during the review process and did not do so, and the pardon board could have recommended, and governor could have granted, a conditional pardon, limiting the pardon's effect, but did not.

The court noted that the _____ decision was consistent with its ruling in May when it allowed two people who had been convicted of sex offenses when they were both less than 14 years old to be removed from the sex offender registry after a Family Court judge granted each of their requests to have their juvenile records expunged.

As in _____'s case, both argued that a listing on the registry had hindered their ability to get jobs, and in one appellant's case, go to school.

Jason Miller, a spokesman for Attorney General Beau Biden, said that while the state initially opposed _____'s request, "the court's decision clarifies the relationship between sex offender registry requirements and the scope of executive pardons. It allows for conditional pardons that would maintain the sex offender registration requirements in appropriate cases. We believe the court's ruling is consistent with protecting the public."

Conner, who also is a professor at Widener University School of Law in Brandywine Hundred, said there is "a lesson to be learned" from the decision.

She pointed out that there were a number of places where someone could have objected to _____'s pardon but did not. She said she could not speak to the specifics of the _____ case but said this should put state officials on notice about future pardon requests and their potential to affect the registry.

"My concern is with the process," she said, and that someone missed, or could miss in future, the opportunity to make an appropriate objection. "If we don't do our job, then someone will be removed [who shouldn't be]," she said, adding that the process should not be "pro forma ."

At the same time, Conner said the two exceptions that the state Supreme Court has carved out represent a very small group -- people who receive unconditional gubernatorial pardons and people who receive Family Court permission to have their juvenile criminal records from before age 14 expunged. "The vast majority are going to remain on the registry indefinitely," she said.

Oberly said the process is not and was not "pro forma," noting that Minner granted few pardons.

He also said that while it was not raised in this case, there was the potential constitutional issue of the Legislature limiting a governor's power.

ACLU Delaware Executive Director Drewry Fennell, meanwhile, believes there should be more flexibility in allowing people to be removed from the list, not less.

She said one of the problems with the sex offender registry has been its "forever" nature. "There is no sense you can ever pay your debt to society and move forward after having changed," she said.

While state prosecutors argued that a listing on the registry was not a punishment -- but merely a record of a crime -- Fennell said the court clearly disagreed in this ruling, describing a mandatory listing as creating a "severe civil disability" for any person on the list.

"The sex offender registry is not just a means of keeping track of people, it is also a barrier to their reintegration into society, particularly for young people like Mr. Heath, who have been determined to not pose a threat to anyone," she said.

"Everyone who is on the registry should be evaluated at reasonable intervals, to determine whether or not they pose a public safety threat," she said.

Oberly said he did not think that the court's decision in _____'s case was a radical departure. "It was a common-sense determination," he said.


"The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of a civilization. We must have a desire to rehabilitate into the world of industry, all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment." - Winston Churchill (United States Constitution, Bill of Rights)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved


ARC RADIO - Welcome Margie Slagle of the Ohio Justice and policy Center

Hosted by: RealityUSA (Website)

Title: Margie Slagle from Ohio Justice Policy Center

Time: 11/11/2009 08:00 PM EST (Listen Here, or below)

Episode Notes: Joining us will be Staff Attorney Margie Slagle of Ohio Justice and Policy center to discuss the Sex Offender Laws and the Current Ohio Supreme Court hearing on the AWA. We will be discussing the recent Supreme Court of Ohio's hearings on the Adam Walsh Act. Couple thoughts if you seen the footage of the Supreme Court: Did you feel that the Justices asked some very good questions so they can uphold the Ohio constitution? Was the Ast AG lost for words? or was he "punked"? Who do you think was the winning side with the most "factual information" during these hearings? Some of these questions and more will be raised during this episode. So please do join us on this night.



"The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of a civilization. We must have a desire to rehabilitate into the world of industry, all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment." - Winston Churchill (United States Constitution, Bill of Rights)

© 2006-2009 Sex Offender Issues , All Rights Reserved