Thursday, December 31, 2009
CHARLOTTE - A Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer has been charged with sexually assaulting two female motorists while in uniform and operating his patrol car.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Officer Marcus Jackson, 25, was charged with sexual battery, second-degree sex offense, extortion, kidnapping, indecent exposure and two counts of felonious restraint. He was being held in lieu of bond totaling $360,000 ahead of a court hearing Thursday, according to jail records. The records did not indicate whether he had an attorney, and a jail spokesman did not immediately return a call seeking information.
Jackson was immediately fired after his arrest Wednesday night, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe said.
"To have one of our own involved in such a despicable act is not only a violation of the public trust, but a complete dishonor to this officer and every officer that wears this badge," Monroe said. "We work very hard to gain and maintain the public's trust, and this knocks us backward."
The case began after a relative reported Monday that a 17-year-old girl said she was ordered into Jackson's car on Dec. 18, driven to another location, and assaulted. The girl said the officer had been wearing his uniform and driving his marked patrol car.
On Tuesday, a 21-year-old woman told detectives she'd been assaulted under similar circumstances the previous night, Monroe said.
Both of the reported incidents happened between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. in east Charlotte, where Jackson was on duty.
"It is profoundly disappointing when one of our police officers engages in such heinous conduct," Mayor Anthony Foxx said in a statement. "It obscures the fact that the vast majority of our officers are dedicated, hardworking people."
Monroe added that "it would be naive" to think others had not been assaulted by Jackson, according to a report Thursday in the Charlotte Observer.
The police chief reportedly released Jackson's photo at a news conference in the hopes that other potential victims will come forward.
By David Alire Garcia
Michigan's overly broad sex offender list includes some kids younger than 13
LANSING — Anthony Flores doesn’t fit the profile of the card-carrying ACLU member agitating for reform of Michigan’s broadly inclusive sex offender registry, because he isn’t.
He was a prosecutor for a dozen years through the summer of 2005, holding a variety of front-line criminal-pursuing positions in both Mecosta and Ingham counties.
More recently, he’s worn a different hat. At this month’s meeting of the Coalition for a Useful Registry in one of the committee rooms of the state Capitol on Dec. 2, Flores, chairman of the group’s professional advisory board, announced he’ll be leaving his position at the end of the year.
But that doesn’t mean that his determination for reforming the state’s sex offender registry is relaxing — or that his time as a prosecutor doesn’t continue to inform his views.
“I was a career prosecutor, I loved prosecution,” he said in a recent interview.
When he worked in the Ingham County prosecutor’s office, Flores said he handled just about every kind of criminal case that came through the courtroom doors — “everything except appeals and child support cases.” In 2001, he was made chief of the unit responsible for prosecuting the state’s criminal sexual conduct laws, the division responsible for child molestation cases. “I zealously prosecuted child molesters. I make no bones about it,” he said.
“It was one of the things that gave me longevity in my career,” he added. And he explained that the experience gave him a unique perspective on all sorts of criminal behavior, the victims of crimes and perpetrators both. “I could understand somebody caught in the cycle of drug addiction. I could understand being angry because you caught your wife cheating and you strike out in violence, I understood the behavior,” he said. But there was some behavior he couldn’t understand.
“I could never understand why anyone would beat or molest a child,” he said.
Over the past four years, Flores has taught full-time at Thomas M. Cooley Law School, leading courses on trial skills among others. But reflecting on his time as a prosecutor in the CSC unit in Lansing convinced him that state laws are forcing too many people on to Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry — especially those convicted of having consensual but underage sex — and not allowing the public to use the online registry to actually identify predatory child molesters nearby.
“When I started looking at it, I got offended,” he said. “At some level, it really insulted the victims of these really heinous offenders when you lump them all in.”
With more than 45,100 names and faces on it, Michigan’s public sex offender registry has the third-highest percentage of its citizens on it of any state registry, and the second largest number of offenders overall. It went online in 1999, and has been amended several times since then, usually to add more requirements for registrants to follow such as housing restrictions or mandatory quarterly address updates, which are then listed on each offender’s unwanted webpage.
Flores would like to see it amended again, but this time to add new requirements that all juveniles accused of committing criminal sexual conduct — from severe first-degree cases to less serious fourth-degree charges — be professionally evaluated prior to sentencing them to, on top of other penalties, a minimum 25-years on the online registry. Currently, all CSC convictions include 25-years on the registry.
“The juvenile system has always been meant for rehabilitation,” he said. “We shouldn’t just knee jerk put them on the registration.”
Flores notes that most people would be surprised to learn that there are registrants as young as 13, and a few even younger than that. Flores said that he’d also like to see judges given “the discretion and tools to put the right people on” after receiving thorough pre-sentencing evaluations.
In an interview with Michigan Messenger, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy disagreed with Flores’ give-judges-more-discretion view. “No, I don’t think that judges should be making that call,” she said. But Worthy did suggest she’s open to other reforms that people like Flores’ also support.
She noted that a 2004 amendment to the state’s Sex Offender Registration Act does allow some juvenile offenders age 17 to 21 stay clear of the registry and have their convictions expunged if they complete the terms of their probation. “That’s a good thing,” Worthy said. But she points out that there’s a three-year time limit on offenders’ ability to petition to have their name removed from the registry — a limit she’d like to see lifted.
Referring to a legislative proposal from her office this year, the prosecutor with the state’s busiest office sought an “indefinite” time limit. “In other words, there would be no time period,” she said.
While that would-be reform has yet to find a sponsor, the earlier 2004 reform wasn’t retroactive — although a recent appeals court decision may open the door to revisiting hundreds of cases adjudicated before the new petitioning process was established.
Worthy, a former Wayne County judge as well as an assistant prosecutor for a dozen years before that, cites what she calls a “fairness issue” in so-called Romeo and Juliet criminal sexual conduct cases.
“I don’t think it’s fair to have them be on the sexual offender registry forever because of that. If it’s a non consensual situation, of course that’s a different story,” she said. “But that shouldn’t be something that people are settled with especially when an awful lot of people did it when they were that age and there was no such law.”
She added: “Let me just say we’re not condoning teenage sex at all. We’re just saying it shouldn’t be criminalized and you shouldn’t have a permanent record because of it.”
Flores agreed with that but went further by suggesting that too often prosecutors don’t really have the discretion to decide against prosecuting underage, consensual sex crimes, citing the intense pressure that can come from parents — or even political pressure to avoid appearing too lenient. “Sometimes we don’t have prosecutorial discretion. Sometimes the parents demand prosecution.”
Worthy, however, disagreed. “The prosecutors absolutely have discretion, and it may be a hard decision to make, just because the parents are yelling for the boy to be charged because their previously quote-unquote innocent daughter has been violated by this boy. [But] it doesn’t mean that we don’t have discretion. We still have the absolute discretion not to charge it.”
Flores’ fellow agitator for comprehensive reform of the state’s sex offender laws, Van Buren County Circuit Judge William C. Buhl, noted that while prosecutors may technically have the discretion not to prosecute a Romeo and Juliet relationship, the political reality usually demands such prosecutions.
“Kym Worthy is right,” Buhl said in an interview. “The prosecutor can do that. But she knows full well that politically it’s not a popular thing, and somebody’s gonna come out and beat you over the head with it. They’re gonna accuse you of being soft on sex crimes or favoring child molesters, and of course under the law, if they’re under 16, they’re children and they can’t consent.”
In the end, there’s probably an age-old philosophical debate over different ideas on reforming the state’s sex offender laws — or not. On that count, Worthy very much fits the profile of the tough crime-fighter.
“I have to say as a prosecutor, I have more compassion for the victims. We have parents of defendants and defendants themselves who certainly feel that they’ve been violated,” she said. But turning to what she called “the hell that some of these victims have to live with for the rest of their life because they were victims,” she added: “The defendant chose to be a defendant. The victim did not choose to be a victim. Their lives are sometimes ruined and changed forever. So I have to say that my compassion is really for the victims of these crimes.”
Flores, asked to respond to Worthy’s view, snapped back at even the suggestion that he has any less compassion for victims of crime.
“No. I have compassion for the scars that are left and the victimization,” he said. “I have so much compassion that I don’t want to insult them by putting their case next to something that’s not like it. I don’t want to put them in a sex offender registration that doesn’t mean anything."
Flores added: “I don’t disagree with her. I just think we’ve done it the wrong way.”
By Karen Florin
Former New London police officer William R. Edwards Sr. apologized to his family this morning as he was sentenced to two years in prison and 10 years' probation for inappropriate sexual contact with a young boy.
- And see the end, he will NOT be on the registry for life, like all other non-Good Ol Boys!
"This has been incredibly hard on them," he said. "My actions have totally been destructive, and I fault myself for not catching what was going on in time," he said. "I carry with me, every single day, remorse and regret."
His wife and parents watched from the audience as the 46-year-old Edwards, who has already served three months in prison, stood before a Danielson judge in tan prison scrubs, handcuffs and leg irons.
The 22-year police veteran had pleaded guilty to risk of injury to a minor, tampering with a witness and violating a protective order.
Because he was so well-known by law enforcement authorities in New London, his case was heard in the Windham County judicial district. State's Attorney Patricia M. Froehlich said Edwards forced the victim, who was 5 to 7 years old at the time, to submit to sexual contact during a self-described "dark period" of his life when he was abusing drugs and alcohol. She said Edwards seemed to have very little insight into his problems based on statements he made during a pre-sentence interview with the Department of Adult Probation.
Defense attorney Ronald F. Stevens said that from the first time he met his client, Edwards did not want to take his case to trial, which would have forced the victim to testify. He said that psychiatrists who examined Edwards determined the inappropriate sexual contact was not a result of a sexual attraction to the victim but due to distorted thinking caused by use of drugs and alcohol.
- Yeah right. Try that defense with the average Joe!
"There's a saying, 'The man takes the drink and the drug, and then the drink and drug take the man,'" Stevens said. "I think that's appropriate in this case."
Edwards, who had served as New London's community police officer, was suspended and then fired following his arrest in January 2009. He had been well-respected in the community, and several people sent letters of support to the court.
"He's done a lot of good for the community," said Judge Vernon Oliver. "He's done a lot of damage to those he should have cherished the most."
The judge said the sentence was in the best interest of the community. He ordered Edwards to undergo sex offender evaluation and treatment, if necessary while on probation. He is to have no contact with the victim and no unsupervised contact with children under 16. He will not be required to register as a sex offender.
By TED SULLIVAN
JANESVILLE — Sex offenders who can’t get jobs or rent apartments are becoming homeless, a problem Rock County officials might tackle next year.
The Rock County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council could form a work group in January to address the problem, said Elizabeth Pohlman McQuillen, Rock County’s criminal justice planner and analyst.
About 400 convicted sex offenders live in Rock County, according to the state Department of Corrections. It is unknown how many of them are homeless.
Employers and landlords often conduct background checks on applicants, including searches on Web sites such as Wisconsin’s online court records system and sex offender registries, said Brad Munger, crisis intervention supervisor.
Convicted sex offenders trying to re-enter the community often have trouble because their criminal history is online, Munger said.
“It’s a huge problem for people who have a sex-offender history,” he said. “They simply just can’t get employment; they can’t get residence, and as a result, they end up homeless.”
When sex offenders get turned away, they could go to nonprofit organizations or shelters for help, McQuillen said. However, those groups often won’t accept serious criminals.
“There is nowhere for these people to go,” she said. “No one will take them.”
Offenders trying to rehabilitate and rejoin society often live in a cheap motel or car if they can’t rent a home, Munger said.
“It kind of sets people up for failure,” he said. “It’s a real conundrum.”
And, if people get in desperate situations, they are more likely to re-offend, he said. Offenders with a stable job and home are more likely to succeed.
If a work group is formed, it could study the prevalence of homeless sex offenders and research potential solutions, Munger said.
John Dipko, a state Department of Corrections spokesman, said sex offenders under supervision in Rock County are not homeless.
- I doubt that!
The state, however, doesn’t track offenders off supervision as closely.
Offenders have to provide an address for the registry, Dipko said. The state does its best to keep the registry accurate.
The criminal justice council is scheduled to meet Thursday, Jan. 21, to discuss the issue.
By JEAN ORTIZ
A federal judge on Wednesday blocked portions of Nebraska's new sex offender registry law, including provisions that sought to monitor convicted sex offenders' computer usage and prevent them from visiting certain Web sites.
Judge Richard Kopf did leave most of the law intact, saying it came close to meeting criteria set for the state by Congress.
Kopf said lawmakers may have gone too far in two areas - both provisions that weren't required under the federal legislation. Those provisions prohibit sex offenders from using social networking sites used by children, like MySpace and Facebook. They also require sex offenders have hardware or software installed on their computers and other electronic communication devices to monitor their activities and to consent to such searches.
Convicted sex offenders who have completed their criminal sentences and are not on probation, parole or court-ordered supervision won't be subject to those provisions, according to Kopf's ruling, which granted a limited preliminary injunction.
A phone message left Wednesday night for Stu Dornan, an attorney who sued earlier this month to challenge the revised law's constitutionality, wasn't immediately returned.
Attorney General Jon Bruning (Contact) issued a statement saying he's pleased most of the changes to the law will move forward.
"These bills were designed to protect children and today's ruling is good news for the parents and children of Nebraska," he said.
The rest of the law will take effect Friday, including changes that will make public information about all sex offenders and not just those considered high-risk, as has been the state's practice.
The case stems from a federal lawsuit Dornan filed Dec. 16 on behalf of 20 sex offenders, their relatives and employers. It sought to stop the law from taking effect.
Dornan argued the new law would allow for retroactive criminal punishment, amount to double jeopardy, permit unreasonable searches and seizures, and violate the rights to due process and free speech.
Kopf emphasized in his ruling that federal courts have consistently upheld state sex offender registry legislation amid constitutional challenges.
"Bluntly put, I am unwilling to allow this suit to become a backhanded way of neutering (the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act,)" he wrote.
Nebraska lawmakers changed the law earlier this year, saying the revision was needed to comply with federal legislation passed in 2006. That legislation said that if Nebraska and other states don't publicly register all people convicted of sexual offenses and make other adjustments, they could lose out on federal grant dollars for local law enforcement.
- It will cost more to enforce and maintain than if they did not.
At least 30 states have passed legislation in an effort to comply with the law and many others are studying it, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The date below may be wrong, see this!
U.S. Supreme Court
January 12: A day after the Supreme Court of the United States reconvenes from its winter break, the justices will hear arguments in United States v. Comstock. Justices must decide whether Congress overstretched its authority in passing the Adam Walsh Protection and Safety Act, signed into law in 2006, to create a national sex offender registry.
By CHRIS BLANK
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — A central Missouri prosecutor urged the state Supreme Court on Wednesday to let him prosecute a man accused of violating restrictions on sex offenders’ Halloween activities.
_____ of Mexico, Mo., was charged with a misdemeanor after police saw a woman handing out candy on Halloween from his house. _____ was convicted about two decades ago in Washington state for indecent liberties with a child who was less than 14 years old.
A Missouri trial judge dismissed the misdemeanor charge against _____ for violating the state’s Halloween restrictions because the rules were established after the initial sex crime conviction.
A 2008 state law requires sex offenders to avoid all Halloween-related contact with children, remain at home, leave outdoor house lights off and post a sign stating: “No candy or treats at this residence.” Violators can face up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Audrain County Prosecutor Jacob Shellabarger argued Wednesday that the Halloween requirements are “collateral consequences” that can be imposed for prior convictions. He likened them to existing rules that permit a state database, restrict where sex offenders can live and prevent unsupervised parental visitation.
“Such consequences are necessary and important to further Missouri’s compelling state interest in protecting the safety of its children,” Shellabarger said in a written argument.
But public defender Ellen Flottman said the Halloween restrictions cannot be applied to _____ because they impose new duties and restrictions that did not exist when he was initially convicted. She urged the state Supreme Court to uphold the lower court.
Flottman said avoiding Halloween-related contact with children and leaving outdoor lights off were improper restrictions and that remaining at home and posting the sign were improper requirements.
The case Wednesday was the most recent in which the state Supreme Court is faced with deciding how to implement new sex offender policies for people convicted of prior sex offenses. At issue is a provision in the Missouri Constitution that bars lawmakers from passing “retrospective” laws.
That part of the constitution has factored into several cases, such as whether sex offenders are required to register and if sex offenders can be forced to live more than 1,000 feet away from schools and child care centers.
Several judges Wednesday asked about the point at which additional restrictions for sex offenders becomes new punishment. Judge Laura Denvir Stith, for example, proposed the hypothetical of a more extreme version of the Halloween rules that restricts sex offenders from going outside during summer evenings because children would be playing.
Missouri’s Halloween restrictions also have been challenged in federal court by the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri (Contact) on behalf of several sex offenders. A federal district judge sided against the state in that case but those proceedings have been stalled.
The ACLU, in a written argument submitted to the court in support of _____, said there is no evidence suggesting children are at greater risk on Halloween, and no proof that the restrictions on sex offenders will protect anyone. The ACLU also contends that requiring people to remain in their homes on a specific day amounts to house arrest, which qualifies as a punishment.