Tuesday, December 15, 2009

GA - Georgia Laws Leave Sex Offenders Few Options

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TEEN SEXTING - Face conviction as sex offenders

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GA - Cobb DA plans to prosecute another teacher in sexual consent case

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Just another Mike NiFong. The age of consent in Georgia is 16, so if the student is 17, then nothing illegal has occurred, yet he wants to ruin someones life, for what? To make a name for himself?


By Andria Simmons

The Cobb County district attorney plans to move forward with the prosecution of a teacher who had sex with a 17-year-old student, even though a judge last week found that a similar romance was "gross" and "awful" but not illegal.

Cobb County Superior Court Judge Robert Flournoy ruled Dec. 9 that former Marietta High School teacher _____ was not guilty of sexual assault charges stemming from a relationship with a 17-year-old female student.

The judge's decision echoed a Georgia Supreme Court ruling in June that stated it is not illegal for a teacher and a student who is 16 or older to have sex. The age of consent in Georgia is 16.

Cobb County District Attorney Pat Head (Email) said he disagrees with Flournoy's ruling. He plans to move forward with the case against _____, a former teacher at Harrison High School in west Cobb.

_____, 34, is accused of having consensual sex with a 17-year-old female student.
- So what is the problem?  If anything he probably should be fired from his job, but criminal charges?

"The judge and I differ on our opinion about whether expert testimony regarding consent is a factual issue for the jury or not," Head said in an e-mail. "Obviously, I think it is and he does not."

Head said he will ask a grand jury to reindict _____ within the next few weeks and add a charge of sodomy against the former orchestra teacher. _____ resigned in lieu of termination before his arrest April 14, 2008.

_____'s lawyer, Noah Pines, said the continued prosecution of his client is "ridiculous."

Letters, texts and Facebook posts indicate that the alleged victim willingly had sex with _____, Pines said.

Pines said he will file a motion to dismiss the sodomy charge on the grounds that it is unconstitutional if his client is reindicted. The state law prohibiting sodomy, which is defined as either oral or anal sex, is seldom enforced when it involves consenting adults.

Sodomy is a felony punishable by one to 20 years in prison and a lifetime on the sex offender registry. The punishment is much harsher for a couple caught engaging in oral sex than it is for a couple caught having intercourse in public. Public indecency is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of 12 months in prison and a $1,000 fine.

_____ told investigators that he had sex with the student in the orchestra room at school and in his car. The student has since graduated from high school and entered college, Pines said.

"If they present the case on sodomy, they are selectively prosecuting my client," Pines said. "The law applies to anyone who gives or receives [oral sex]. She is just as guilty as my client."
- And I wonder, has this DA ever given or received oral sex to or from his wife?  If so, he is guilty as well! If he says no, then hook him up to a lie detector, which is junk science, but let's see if he is telling the truth? And if not, send him to prison!

Why Hasn't EVERY Voter Heard About This?

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CA - School employees defend 14-year-old accused of rape

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By Terry McSweeney

EL CERRITO (KGO) -- Security officials at an East Bay middle school are defending a 14-year-old boy charged with sexual assault. They say he has been falsely accused of assaulting a 12-year-old girl on campus in the middle of the school day.

A school district spokesman says the case is interesting but adds that he is not allowed to comment on the case. An El Cerrito Police Department spokesman says they have handed their evidence over to the Contra Costa County district attorney's office and still plans to bring the suspect to court.

Monday was not just another day of class at the middle school the day after a 14-year-old student there found out he was being charged with raping a 12-year-old girl in a stairwell last Thursday.

"I pick up my child pretty much every day and drop her off," said parent Andrew Gonzalez. "I feel, you know, it happens everywhere, but the West Contra Costa Unified School District has a pile of problems a mile high."

Principal Denise Van Hook and Assistant Principal Matthew Burnham have been placed on administrative leave while the West Contra Costa County School District investigates whether district-wide safety rules were followed that day. Some of that student safety is the responsibility of the four site supervisors.

"You're calling it a rape when it wasn't really a rape," said Site Supervisor Mustapha Cannon.

Cannon says while he did not see the sexual assault, he has reason to believe it was consensual and that the girl only called it assault when the two were discovered in the stairwell. Cannon says he knows both the accused and the accuser.

"I know for a fact that that girl could've knocked that guy out with one hand tied behind her back," he said.

Site supervisor Marquita Dones agrees with Cannon. She says if the girl had screamed they would have heard her.

"We monitor the hallways, the stairways, we're up and down all day long," she said.

Cannon also says the four site supervisors and the one El Cerrito police officer who patrol this campus daily could use some backup.

"I volunteer for the school district two years for free, came off the road trucking. I volunteered two years for free," he told ABC7. "So, the people that's doing a lot of the talking, come in and help us. We need the help from the parents."

The school district says it has no plans to add to the site supervisors. Meanwhile, the suspect is scheduled to be in court Tuesday afternoon for a detention hearing. He will find out if he will get to leave juvenile hall where he has been since his arrest last week.

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FL - Lee sex offender ordinance language deemed too vague by judges

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By Rachel Revehl

Portions of a child safety/sex offender ordinance passed in Lee County earlier this year have been deemed unconstitutional by two county judges in a ruling signed Monday.

The ordinance prohibits registered sex offenders from being within 300 feet of several places, including parks, restaurants, pools, schools, bus stops, playgrounds, zoos or any place children may congregate.

Two men have been arrested for violating the ordinance, and their Fort Myers attorneys — Pete Aiken and John Charles Coleman — had argued the ordinance was unconstitutional because it was too vague and too broad.

In a six-page ruling, Judges Radford Sturgis and John Duryea decided that while it wouldn’t dismiss the charges against the two men based on constitutionality because each had been arrested at a clearly-defined places — pools. Further, the judges said they wouldn’t rule based on hypothetical situations.

But, they did find that certain language contained in the ordinance was over-broad. Namely: “business or transient facility,” “permanent or stationary facilities,” “but is not limited to,” and “other similar type places where children congregate” or “regularly congregate.”

The number and range of facilities already listed under those definitions is so diverse such as to make the added inclusive terms of ‘but not limited to’ and ‘other similar places’ over-broad and inclusive of innumerable locations which could potentially have a chilling effect on the exercise of fundamental constitutional rights,” the judges wrote.

Therefore, those terms were stricken from the ordinance — but the ordinance still remains in place, and otherwise is considered constitutional, the judges decided.

Aiken, who represented _____, said while it was a disappointment for his client, whose 20-year-old offense was not related to children, the ruling is in some ways a victory.

It’s a kind of a split the baby ruling,” Aiken said. “We won with regard to getting rid of some of the key language, but I can bring the issue up again with a different client to address some of the other vague, overly-broad language.”

Prosecutor Cameron Siggs had argued last month before the judges that sex offenders have forfeited certain rights, including an expectation of privacy and unfettered freedom of access.

The ordinance, written by a sheriff’s sergeant and promoted by Sheriff Mike Scott, was passed by county commissioners in March.

MD - Community, shelters help Shore homeless as temperatures dip

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By Liudmila Chernova

OCEAN CITY -- It is mid-December and the weather is getting colder and colder, which can become deadly without a place to hang your hat.
- True, now read below, where they say in one statement, that they do not turn down anybody, then in the next statement, they say you must not be a sex offender.  So, they are hypocrites, and if you are a sex offender, since they admitted it can be deadly, they apparently do not care if a sex offender is out in the cold and dies.

Fortunately, there are a lot of kind-hearted people on the Lower Shore who never remain indifferent to the problems of others.

Local shelters always expect to get crowded during cold weather. But recent years have shown that during the holidays and cold weather, homeless people are being helped more by community families, leaving a lot of beds available in the shelters.

There are three year-round emergency shelters in Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester counties that serve homeless people.

Diakonia in West Ocean City, which serves Worcester County, is one of them. It is a nonprofit private organization, categorized as a crisis shelter for men, women and families. It offers 40 emergency and transitional beds, food, counseling and help with future employment and permanent housing.

Executive Director Claudia Nagle said it routinely gets beds open, though family units stay occupied much longer.

"We have been completely full for over a month," Nagle said. "And we constantly get phone calls and people coming for help."

Even if there is no bed available, some assistance is still offered. Diakonia connects people with other shelters and the Department of Social Services, or suggests places where they can go.

"We don't have a waiting list," Nagle said. "We take down all the information, and then it's whoever calls or comes first."

Nevertheless, nobody is left without help.
- Yeah right, except those mentioned below.

Diakonia's food pantry is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and people do not have to stay in the shelter to get food.

Guests can stay in the shelter for 30 days if they meet all the requirements and follow the rules. They should be residents of Worcester County, be clean and sober for 24 hours prior to coming, abstain from drugs and alcohol, not be violent or a sex offender, and have a low income.
- So you see, their statement above is wrong, people are left without help!

"We urge people to call before 3 p.m. so we will have time to find a place for them to stay if we do not have one, and we'll be ready for them," Nagle said.

Another Worcester County emergency shelter, accepting people from all three counties and located in Pocomoke City, is Samaritan Shelter. The shelter is open 24/7 and offers 28 beds for men, women and children, where they can stay up to 30 days.

Director Shelly Daniels said if guests follow the rules of the shelter, work and do not cause any problems, they are allowed to stay longer.

"We have a gentleman who has been here for four months because he could not find a place to move into," Daniels said. "We have a lot of beds open now; only nine are occupied at the moment."

Samaritan shelter feeds its guests three times a day. It also provides a food bank on Tuesdays and Saturdays and a soup kitchen on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

"Soup kitchen is for any people in the community who have low income or do not have income at all," Daniels said.

She has noticed there is a big increase in the number of people coming the last couple years.

"We used to serve just 10 to 12 meals," Daniels said. "This past Wednesday, we gave away 89 meals."

Daniels said most people needing the shelter lost their homes because they lost jobs, lost income and succumbed to mounting debt.

"We don't help people financially," Daniels said. "But we try to refer them to resources to help them. We also help them with finding a job and a place to move in, clothing, furniture and a lot more."

People can come to the shelter any time of the day or night and get help, though calls ahead are appreciated.

The only year-round full-time facility in Wicomico County is Christian Shelter Inc., located in Salisbury.

The shelter offers 50 beds for men, women and children, provides breakfast and dinner for its guests and gives bag lunches to children, people who work and to people with special needs. Stays typically do not exceed 30 days.

Administrator James S. Barnes said the most important service the shelter provides is counseling and helping people resolve problems that are causing continued homelessness.

"We provide people with spiritual guidance that things can be changed," Barnes said. "People get hope that things can get better."

During their stay, people are helped with finding jobs and securing permanent housing.

To stay at Christian Shelter, one only need be homeless and in need. Hours of operation are from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. (10 p.m. is the curfew), and the facility is staffed 24 hours a day.
- So if a couple sex offenders showed up, I bet that would change.

"But we still ask people to come during the hours of operation," Barnes said.

Barnes said the shelter stays full most of the year, but not so much during the Christmas holiday.

"During the holidays and in really cold weather, families with houses get more friendly and sympathetic to homeless people," Barnes said. "In winter, there are a lot more people willing to help the homeless. A lot of community people take homeless people to their houses, especially if children are involved."
- That is all good, but people should be sympathetic year round.  People who are "supposedly" Christians, are only when it suits them, but, they do not do what Jesus taught.

Barnes added it would become busier later in January.

"At that time, from January to March, several churches will open their doors for homeless men," Barnes said. "So there won't be any people in the cold weather."

The churches operate on a rotating schedule.

For the second time, Hope And Life Outreach (Contact) will open an emergency shelter for women and children for the winter months. It will be open from Jan. 2 to March and will offer 85 beds. People will be able to stay there all 90 days.
- So what about men?  On their web site, it says "Love Em' Like Jesus!" So I wonder, does that include men and those who may be sex offenders?  If not, then they are hypocrites.

Executive Director Celeste Savage said guests will be provided with breakfast, lunch and dinner.

"But our main goal is not just to provide shelter," Savage said. "Our main goal is to give people hope and to help them to get out of hopelessness and homelessness."
- So what about men?  And what about criminals, like sex offenders?

Savage said during this time of the year HALO is usually crowded.

"January and February are always the busiest months for us," Savage said. "But I also feel there will be an increase in the number of guests this year due to a very bad economic situation."

All the shelters are very clean and comfortable and are ready to accept the homeless. Everyone is encouraged not to stay outside when it is freezing, but to go to the nearest shelter.

OR - Oregon Town Divided Over Nudity Policy

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By Dan Springer

Ashland, Oregon is a town known for an annual Shakespeare Festival, its free thinkers and increasingly...nudity. The city council has been grappling with the issue of public nudity ever since a woman moved there from California several years ago. Her frequent displays of nakedness led the city council to pass an ordinance banning nudity in city parks and downtown.

For whatever reason Ashland's reputation as a place where nudity is accepted was cemented. It's not that uncommon, many say to see someone walking down the street with nothing more than a belly pack and tennis shoes. Last May the issue turned more serious when a retired computer programmer was spotted walking nude around an elementary school as the kids were leaving for home. One city councilman proposed creating a buffer zone around schools. The effort failed.

Fast forward to October and there was another naked man walking around several schools. He came all the way from Minnesota. The police arrived and had to protect the man from angry parents. The cops told the parents the man was doing nothing illegal. That incident has prompted yet another attempt to legislate nudity in Ashland.

The mayor proposed banning nudity city-wide. That touched off yes, naked protests from those who feel nudity is a form of free speech. And to be sure there is some history of naked protests in Ashland. Anti-war demonstrators held a "buns not bombs" protest attended by one of the city councilmen.

This week the council will take up the mayor's proposal in what figures to be an interesting debate. The city attorney will be asked to clarify how the ordinance does not violate a person's right to expression. If the council passes the ordinance it will actually de-criminalize public nudity in Ashland. Currently it's a misdemeanor to be naked in the parks or downtown. The proposal calls for nakedness to be a violation similar to a parking ticket.

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MI - Plainfield Twp officials will keep jobs

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NJ - Upper Township repeals sex-offender residency law

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UPPER TOWNSHIP - Township Committee on Monday reluctantly rescinded a law limiting where convicted sex offenders can live following a state Supreme Court decision earlier this year that affected more than 100 municipalities.

"It shall not be a reflection on how this Township Committee feels," Mayor Richard Palombo (Contact) said Monday night. The high court's decision made the township's local law unenforceable, he said.

The state Supreme Court ruled in May that municipalities cannot regulate where sex offenders can live. The decision originated in a Galloway Township case in which a Richard Stockton College of New Jersey student - a low-risk sex offender - challenged the local law.

The court said New Jersey's Megan's Law already provides for law enforcement to determine where offenders can live after being released from prison.

The residency laws were popular among New Jersey municipalities when Upper Township created the restrictions in 2005.

More than 100 towns, including Ocean City, Sea Isle City and Dennis Township, created and later repealed similar laws.

Upper Township has two registered sex offenders, both classified as Tier 2, or moderate risk of reoffense, according to State Police.

In Cape May County, there are 95 sex offenders listed on the state's Megan's Law registry.

Upper Township's ordinance sought to prevent Megan's Law offenders from living within 1,000 feet of schools and child-care centers and 500 feet from playgrounds, parks and beaches. Punishment included fines and as many as six months in jail.

The laws varied by municipality. Some severely limited - if not outright barred - any registered sex offenders from living in town. When passing the laws, municipal officials across the state said they were designed to protect children.

The laws were questioned by groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (Contact), which said the laws did more harm than good, playing to the public's fears and even giving them a false sense of security.