Tuesday, February 16, 2010

CA - Sex offender agency faults Megan's Law drawbacks

Original Article


By John Simerman

SACRAMENTO — California's free-swinging approach to laws aimed at sex offenders has made thousands of them homeless, bloated the parolee database and spawned costly programs with little evidence they make residents safer, according to members of a state board that recommended several changes Tuesday.

Those laws also failed to help nab Phillip Garrido, the paroled rapist accused of abducting Jaycee Dugard, said lawmakers at a Capitol hearing Tuesday.

Just what they figure to do about it remains uncertain. A handful of state lawmakers at the hearing openly mulled the political risks of a "soft on crime" tag.

Homelessness has spread among the parolees, said Matthew Cate, secretary of corrections and rehabilitation. More than a quarter of the 8,750 offenders on parole are transient, and another 900 are at large, he said.

Before Jessica's Law, which barred sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park where children regularly gather, fewer than 100 were homeless.

In San Francisco, which is blanketed with the 2,000-foot zones, 84 percent of paroled sex offenders are homeless, he said.

The state Sex Offender Management Board, which issued the report, cites studies showing that kind of instability increases the risk of another sex offense.

GPS can help parole agents keep track, Cate said, but he admitted the state agency has struggled with the technology. Garrido's parole agent ignored dozens of alarms that the parolee's GPS anklet failed to send a signal.

Cate said about 7,100 parolee sex offenders have GPS anklets, at a cost of more than $55 million a year.

Again expressing regret for the agency's handling of the Garrido case, Cate cited several changes made since, including more training for agents, a new level of parole management and closer scrutiny of GPS signals.

Some lawmakers asked whether some of the money would be better spent on treatment.

The state has largely ignored treatment, despite studies that show it significantly reduces recidivism, said Tom Tobin, a Contra Costa County psychologist and board member.

"Treatment is not coddling sex offenders. It's tough. Most sex offenders don't like it," he said. "It isn't a cure. It isn't magic. It doesn't have a positive outcome in all cases. But what does?"

Cate said the agency plans to spend $8 million on a pilot program for 800 high-risk offenders that includes treatment and other services to keep them from reoffending.

The 16-member board includes representatives of law enforcement, prosecutors, state corrections, victim advocates, county probation and treatment providers.

Their report recommends several changes to focus more attention on high-risk offenders.

Among them:

  • Instead of barring all sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park, as Jessica's Law does, apply it to only the most serious offenders, with loitering restrictions for all.
  • Use GPS monitoring only with some form of community supervision.
  • Create a routine treatment program for all sex offenders under supervision.

Deputy Attorney General Janet Neeley, who helped create the parolee database, said the state should distinguish risk levels among all sex offenders and, like most other states, limit the time low-risk offenders stay on the registry.

Now, they remain there for life.

That would shrink the parolee database and give residents more useful information, she said.

Part of the trouble, she said, is "stranger danger." High-profile abductions or murders often spawn expansive laws, when more than 90 percent of child sex abuse victims know their abusers.

Changes in Jessica's Law that could be seen as weakening it would need voter approval.

State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, recalled being labeled "pure evil" by his own party when he balked at tough residency restrictions for sex offenders, before 70 percent of voters backed them in 2006.

"How we untie this knot now, I can tell you, is not going to be easy," he said.

"The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly." - Abraham Lincoln

NC - Investigation Reveals Lapses In Sex Offender Registry

Original Article

When you make laws so draconian, it's only obvious people are going to stop registering. Just shows you, the registry is nothing more than a glorified phone book.


Sex Offenders Failing To Maintain Proper Address Information

WINSTON-SALEM - A WXII investigation has revealed that a system designed to track sex offenders in North Carolina isn't working, and there's no money to do anything about it.

In a recent check of five Forsyth County registered sex offenders, two out of the five weren't living at the address listed on record.

Forsyth County Det. Paolo Gargiulo said that result is indicative of the general trend in the county, meaning around 190 of the nearly 500 registered offenders are absconding the law.

Most of Forsyth County's offenders have to verify address information twice a year. But more than a dozen are the worst of the worst -- repeat convicts and violent predators -- and must check-in every 90 days.

Gargiulo, assigned to a three person unit who verifies offenders' status, said with so few workers, he spends most of his time meeting with lawyers and doing paperwork. Gargiulo admits that his workload keeps him from doing random checks as often as he likes.

Forsyth County Sheriff Bill Schatzman, who is up for reelection in November, said he would like to hire more workers for the unit.

"Do we believe it should be larger?" Schatzman asked. "Yes, it should be. And we're endeavoring to try to make it larger."

Each deputy costs the county taxpayers $100,000 the first year when factoring in costs such as salary, benefits and equipment.

Forsyth County Commissioner Dave Plyler said it doesn't appear next year's budget will be larger than this year's.

"In this economy, if you go to the average taxpayer and say, 'It's just a little increase,' to use the vernacular, they would look at you and say, 'Get out of here!'" Plyler said.

"The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly." - Abraham Lincoln

NJ - Retired Roselle Park cop (Ronald Scull) arrested on child porn charges

Original Article


By Eliot Caroom

ROSELLE PARK -- A retired 30-year veteran police sergeant in Roselle Park was arrested and charged with child pornography after an investigation by local and federal law enforcement agencies.

People think police cover for other officers, and that’s not the case,” said Roselle Park police chief Paul Morrison this afternoon, a strain in his voice. “The public should know if there is a bad apple from within, the police will investigate and find that bad apple.”

Ronald Scull, 66, retired from the police force in 2000 and was arrested this morning after a 14-month investigation when he turned himself in at the U.S. Attorney’s office, Morrison said.

Shortly after he had retired (in 2000) there were some other suspicions that had come up,” Morrison said. “We brought the U.S. postal inspectors in on the investigation.... The U.S. Postal inspectors began monitoring his mail as well as his internet activities.”

The U.S. Attorney’s office began investigating as well, because Scull was suspected of receiving materials from other states and countries.

Then on Aug. 13 of last year, authorities searched his house in the 400 block of Filbert Street and found pornographic pictures of children, along with similar files on hard drives in his computer.

The U.S. Attorney’s office said in a statement that Scull downloaded about 1,000 images of child pornography from the internet, including pictures of children as young as 10 years old.

(Child pornography) is certainly not something you want to recover from one of your former police officers, let alone a sergeant,” Morrison said. “This individual has a serious, serious problem. The Roselle Park police department certainly wanted this investigated.”

Morrison said that the investigation had yielded no evidence that city computers or resources were misused by Scull to acquire pornography during his tenure as a police officer.

There’s nothing in our investigation that shows he ever took any action with any children,” Morrison said. “As far as we know, he only possessed the photographs.”

Scull first started working for the Roselle Park police in March 1969, was promoted to sergeant in 1982, and retired on Jan. 1, 2000 with 30 years of service, according to Morrison.

When Scull retired, he was paid about $70,000 a year, and his pension started at around $4,000 a month.

Scull had worked as a volunteer officer in Springfield, but he resigned after his house was searched in August.

If convicted of possession of material involving the sexual exploitation of minors, a federal charge, Scull could go to prison for up to 10 years, according to Morrison.

Scull appeared in federal court today and was released on $100,000 bail. He was ordered by the judge not to use computers or the internet. He was also ordered to receive mental health counseling and not to have contact with children, according to a statement from U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman.

"The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly." - Abraham Lincoln

WA - Eighth-grade students tackle sex offender law



When eighth-grader Mkayla Mehelich had a family dinner at her grandparents’ house last week, no one expected the topic of sex offenders to come up.

Of course, her parents and grandparents did ask how school was going. So, Mkayla eagerly explained her latest class project influencing the state legislature to implement a law whereby registered sex offenders (RSOS) charged with third-degree consensual rape of a child could remove themselves from the RSO list.

They were surprised by how strongly I felt about this topic,” Mkayla said.

They shouldn’t be. For the past three months, Julie Sul]ivan’s 8th-grade honors humanities class at Hawkins Middle School in Belfair has been delving into the intricacies of Washington state sex offender policies, making Mkayla and her classmates relative experts on the subject.

The assignment is part of Project Citizen, a nationwide federally funded effort to introduce young people to the civics processes in their community, said Tom Springer, 6th District coordinator for Project Citizen in Washington.

Sullivan’s class is the first in the school district to get involved in the project, which for them takes the place of a constitutional essay other eighth-graders write at the end of the year. It was up to the class to decide what issue to choose.

They pick a policy that doesn’t work or that’s nonexistent, and they get out there and talk to people and make it happen,” Springer said.

Mkayla’s class debated heavily what issues they wanted to pursue - possible topics ranged from adding more art programs to their school to tackling divisive issues like abortion or animal abuse.

Springer hoped the class would pick salmon enhancement efforts in Hood Canal, but “they chose the sexy topic, and how can you blame them?

Ultimately, they chose a topic people could agree on, like a policy that would better identify sex offenders said student Rachel Huxford.

Looking on the Internet, we were surprised at how many were living our area and in the places we’d been,” Rachel said.

There are approximately 234 registered sex and kidnapping offenders in Mason County, according to Detective Bill Adam, Mason County’s lead oficer on sexual predators.

But after more debate, the class decided against policies that would make sex offenders easier to find, like requiring that they wear ankle bracelets. The interests of the taxpayer had to be kept in mind, Rachel said.

Besides, they thought it wasn’t fair that there were no distinctions on the RSO list between certain classes of rape: Those convicted of Class A felony first-degree child rape - sex with someone less than 12 years old, with the perpetrator at least two years older - and the often consensual Class C felony third-degree statutory child rape - sex with someone between the ages of 14 and 16, with the perpetrator at least four years older - are subject to the same mandated registration.

It didn’t seem fair that people could be punished for what they might have done when they were young, especially if it was consensual,” said student Kirsten Iobinelli.

The class is inalizing an action plan, where after a certain amount of time a Class C statutory rapist could begin the process of removing him or herself off the list.

Detective Adam, who spoke to the class earlier this school year, encouraged them to contact him once they finished their project, so that he could present their ideas to the House of Representatives in Olympia later this spring.

While several of the kids will be relieved to wrap up the exhaustive project at the end of the month, they’l1 also miss how “important” it made them feel, said Summer Mielke.

It makes us feel like we’re actually doing stuff, and that it’s not just a dumb school project,” said Sarah Wilson. Mkayla agrees.

There are sex offenders all around the world,” she said. “This has helped us get a level of understanding about it. A lot of people might think this is a joke, but it’s really not. This could happen to anyone.”

Click the image to enlarge

"The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly." - Abraham Lincoln

NV - Cop (Luke Morrison) shoots woman in cold blood, was having relationship with teen sister-in-law

Original Article

These stories are not necessarily in order.


By Jeremy Twitchell

Luke Morrison, who fatally shot an ice cream truck driver, is on paid leave

A Henderson police officer is being accused of carrying on an inappropriate relationship with his sister-in-law since she was 15, according to court documents filed by the girl’s father.

The officer, Luke Morrison, 24, is the same officer who shot and killed an ice cream truck driver in 2008 after a traffic stop. Morrison and other officers said the woman driving the truck threatened them and one of her children with a knife, and though some witnesses disputed aspects of their account, a Clark County coroner’s jury ruled the shooting was justified.

Morrison has been on paid administrative leave for four weeks, pending the outcome of a Henderson Police Internal Affairs investigation. Officials with the department and the city declined to discuss the nature of the investigation.

Acting Human Resources Director Fred Horvath said today there has been no change in Morrison's employment status and that a review scheduled for this week has been postponed.

Clark County Family Court records show that Morrison’s father-in-law applied for a temporary protective order in April, asking the court to keep Morrison away from his daughter, then 17 and now 18. A judge declined to issue the order, ruling that there was no evidence of domestic violence to justify doing so.

Neither Morrison nor his father-in-law could be reached for comment.

In the application for the temporary restraining order, the woman’s father wrote that he became suspicious after he said his daughter skipped a day of school in March and then lied about her whereabouts.

In talking with family members, the father wrote that he learned his daughter had been observed leaving the house with Morrison in his vehicle or being dropped off at a friend’s house, only to leave with Morrison moments later.

He said he began checking his daughter’s cell phone records and discovered calls and texts between her and Morrison that dated back to 2007, when his daughter was 15 or 16 years old.

Additionally, he said another family member found a text message on his daughter’s phone after she left it at the family member’s house, which came from Morrison’s phone number and read: “Good night, I love you.”

Though his daughter’s cell phone records stopped showing calls and messages with Morrison last year, the father wrote that another family member witnessed her using a second cell phone at school.

The father wrote that the situation made him “sick to my stomach” and that Henderson Police began investigating his claims after he brought them to the department’s attention.

Original Article


By Abigail Goldman


Of this fact, Zyber Selimaj is certain: No matter what Henderson Police say, his wife was not carrying a knife when an officer shot her last week, killing her next to the ice cream truck she drove for a living, and in plain view of her children.

Even in the hazy wake of his wife’s death, this detail is clear in Selimaj’s mind. And not just kind of clear, he says, but crystal. She was not carrying a knife, never carried a knife in her truck and never, as the police also claim, held a knife to the neck of one of her three children in the moments before she was killed.

So at least one fact is absolutely indisputable: The police and the father have very different versions of what happened.

That’s one of the reasons why Selimaj agreed to the Sun’s request for an interview at his Henderson home. He and his wife bought the house four months ago, after living in a trailer for several years.

The new house is now full of funeral floral arrangements.

Along the doorway five pairs of shoes are lined up, small to large. Selimaj, 65, hasn’t moved his wife’s purple flip-flops. Guests, however, are no longer instructed to remove their shoes before coming in.

Mom is dead,” Selimaj said, so you don’t need to worry about the white carpet, or any formalities, really. Not anymore. “There is no woman here.”

Still, their boys, ages 5, 7 and 11, were trained to hug guests when they come in, and so they do, half-smiling. Then they cluster on the couch, an overstuffed green brocade, and play a hand-held video game while their father recounts the day in question. He talks, and cries, over a background of video game blips.

When Selimaj keels over onto the carpet to reenact his wife’s death, the children put down the game and chew their nails.

Selimaj came to America in 1992 after spending 22 years in an Albanian prison, sentenced for speaking out against communism in his native country. He came to Nevada to carve out a suburban life. The family’s two ice cream trucks, the entire fleet of the Deer Runner Albania ice cream company, are parked at the end of the driveway in the neighborhood cul-de-sac, white wagons plastered with yellow stickers against a backdrop of dry desert brown.

Selimaj said he left the house driving one of the trucks about 11:30 a.m. Feb. 12. He was headed toward the Henderson neighborhoods where he sells ice cream when he was pulled over by a police officer for failing to come to a complete stop. The officer let Selimaj slide on that violation, but he wrote him a $67 ticket for not wearing a seat belt.

Selimaj called his 42-year-old wife, Deshira, who was at home with Alban, 11, and Arber, 5. Their third son, Azbi, 7, was in school. Selimaj told his wife he hadn’t sold any ice cream and he already had gotten a ticket. She told him, “Don’t worry, be careful, drive slow.”

By 2 p.m. that day, Selimaj was nearing Sunridge Heights Parkway, a road that runs alongside medical buildings and tract homes and then passes Coronado High School. It was in this neighborhood that Selimaj was pulled over again, for failing to stop at a stop sign and for speeding in a school zone, a charge he contests. This time, Selimaj said, a police officer wrote a citation that carried a $650 fine, and Selimaj initially refused to sign it.

Everything that happens thereafter is open to debate.

Selimaj admits he was upset. He says he asked to be let go so he could sell his ice cream. Paying a $650 ticket “means I am working for police,” he said, “not for my kids.” Selimaj said the officer told him that if he did not sign, he would go to jail. Selimaj told the officer he’d rather go to jail. He’s been to jail before.

According to a police news release, the responding officer believed that a language barrier was preventing Selimaj from understanding him.

Selimaj said the officer told him to calm down. Selimaj replied that he would calm down just as soon as he could call his wife. He dialed Deshira, who was at home, cleaning up juice that Arber had spilled in a second-floor bedroom.

Deshira was always cleaning, Selimaj told the Sun. “She was a neat woman,” he said. “An excellent woman.”

When Deshira answered the phone, Selimaj told her he was going to jail.

Again?” she said. “Now jail in America?

She became upset. The officer, Selimaj said, caught the tone of their voices but didn’t understand the words because they were speaking Albanian. The officer asked to talk to Deshira, so Selimaj handed over the phone. Selimaj has no idea what his wife said, but the result was that the officer forced the phone back at him, irritated, and said he didn’t want to talk to Deshira any longer.

Deshira’s English, the family agrees, was much better than her husband’s.

Deshira told Selimaj she was going to him. She grabbed Alban and Arber, put them in her ice cream truck and started driving to the neighborhood where he had been pulled over. Police say they did not ask her to come, and it’s unclear whether they expected her to show up. She got there about 20 minutes after she was called, Selimaj said, and by the time she arrived Selimaj had signed the ticket.

The police officer, the same officer who was concerned about a language barrier, said after Selimaj signed the ticket he became confrontational and made suicidal statements.

Selimaj denies this.

When Deshira pulled up, she and the children saw Selimaj sitting handcuffed on the ground, where he says officers asked him to wait. Looking worried, he said, she clambered out of the passenger-side door, children in tow.

As soon as she was out of the truck, Selimaj said, two Henderson Police officers drew their guns and pointed them at the mother.

This is the beginning of another serious discrepancy in the stories.

Selimaj said the police grabbed the two children from Deshira and thrust them toward him, so they ran to their father. He said police had Selimaj and his sons behind his ice cream truck. The three of them say they leaned around the corner of the vehicle and saw Deshira on her knees, flailing her arms above her head, wailing.

Then they heard a loud bang, Selimaj said, and saw Deshira fall forward onto the concrete.

Selimaj pantomimes this fall in his living room. He raises his hands in the air, waves his arms back and forth, wails and then pitches forward onto the floor. Then he comes up, like a swimmer for air, and gasps.

After they watched their mother fall, Selimaj said, the children began sobbing. Before police could separate the father and his children, he bent forward and kissed them on the head, since he was handcuffed and could not hug them. The children were then placed in county custody at Child Haven while he spent two days in jail.

No more than a few minutes passed between the time Deshira showed up with the boys and the time she was face down on the ground, Selimaj said.

The Henderson Police version of what happened is significantly different.

They say Deshira showed up in the ice cream truck with the boys, got out, and then reached for a knife inside the vehicle. Police say she held the knife to one of the boys’ throats and made suicidal statements to the officers. Police say they got the boy away from Deshira, but could not get her to drop the knife.

Two officers then attempted to use their Tasers on Deshira, but “their efforts were not successful,” according to a news release. While holding the knife, Deshira made aggressive movements toward an officer who, fearing for his life and the lives of those around him, shot her, Henderson Police spokesman Keith Paul said.

Deshira was taken to Sunrise Hospital, where she died.

At the Henderson jail, Selimaj said, three officers told him, “Be strong, your wife is dying.”

Seven days later, and Selimaj is emphatic: His wife had no knife. In fact, when he kept a kitchen knife in his truck for cutting fruit, she’d scolded him.

Neither Selimaj nor his children recall seeing Tasers, either.

Through the family’s attorney, Jim Jimmerson, Selimaj has hired private detective Hal DeBecker to seek witnesses, many of whom spoke to the TV reporters who descended on the scene of the shooting. The witnesses, however, did not allow their faces to be shown or their names used, so DeBecker doesn’t know whom he is searching for, only that he has to find them.

Those witnesses agreed on one thing: Deshira didn’t have a knife.

Police say they have the knife and what really happened that afternoon will all come out at the coroner’s inquest, set for April 11. The officer who shot Deshira, 23-year-old Luke Morrison, has been with the Henderson Police for two years and is on paid administrative leave while the shooting is investigated.

Deshira’s family, also from Albania, landed in Las Vegas on Tuesday. Her father would not let Selimaj bury her body until he saw her.

This detail sends Selimaj into another spasm of tears.

I cry, I cry, I cry,” he said. “I pull my hair and cry.

Eleven-year-old Alban who, like his brothers, was born in the United States, sits by his father, looking vacant and saying little.

Alban said he did not hear the police say anything to his mother before they shot her, but he heard what she shouted at them: “Leave me alone, leave me to raise my kids.”

He says this, then asks to be left alone. He flees to an upstairs bedroom where his brother and the children from other Albanian families, who keep floating in and out of the home, are playing and eating popcorn.

Taped above the microwave, there’s a pink card that reads: “Happy Velentines. I love you Mom.”

Selimaj stays in the living room with his brother, Ray, who flew in from Texas on Tuesday to help and can only wander about the living room, wringing his hands, like everybody else.

Quietly, standing on the carpet in his shoes, Selimaj says, “Even in communist Albania police never kill a mom in front of her children.

Original Article


By Jeremy Twitchell

City to settle suit over ice cream truck shooting for $700,000

City of Henderson officials said Thursday that Officer Luke Morrison, the officer involved in the 2008 shooting death of a woman during an incident after a traffic stop, is on paid administrative leave for a separate matter.

The revelation came a day before a U.S. District Court judge is expected to approve a $700,000 settlement between the city and the woman’s family. Fred Horvath, acting human resources director for Henderson, said Morrison has been on paid administrative leave for three weeks, pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation. He said a decision regarding Morrison’s status with the city is expected next week, but said he could not discuss any specifics of the investigation.

He said there is no tie between the current investigation and the 2008 incident.

It had absolutely nothing to do with the prior shooting,” Horvath said.

A Clark County coroner’s jury found the shooting to be justified after Morrison and other officers testified Deshira Selimaj threatened them with a knife. Morrison returned to duty with the department following the inquest’s outcome.

Zyber Selimaj, Deshira Selimaj’s husband, filed the wrongful death suit after the inquest. A call to his attorney, Michael Cristalli, was not immediately returned.

The complaint alleges the civil rights of the family were violated when Deshira Selimaj was killed after she came to the aid of her husband, also an ice cream truck driver, who had been stopped for a traffic violation.

Henderson spokeswoman Kathleen Richards said the city stands by the outcome of the inquest, but city officials felt it would be best to settle the civil case.

By settling, we are not indicating that there is any blame,” Richards said. “… Given the financial considerations of what it would take to litigate this case, as well as emotional toll, it was in the city’s best interests to settle.”

The complaint alleges negligence, inadequate training and supervision of police officers, that husband Zyber Selimaj was assaulted and falsely imprisoned by police and that after the shooting the police falsified their accounts of what happened to cover up information unfavorable to them.

The suit sought at least $25 million in damages for its federal claims and additional damages for state wrongful death claims.

Richards said the $700,000 would come from the city's self-insurance liability fund, which is the fund the city uses to pay its liability insurance rates and liability claims that are not covered by insurance.

A portion of the money will be set aside in trust for the Selimajs’ two children, Richards said.

Documents from the Clark County Recorder's Office indicate the Las Vegas home Morrison owns with his wife is in foreclosure.

"The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly." - Abraham Lincoln

CA - Board: Overhaul Sex Offender Rules

Original Article


California Senate Public Safety Committee To Discuss Report

SACRAMENTO - A new report written by some of California's top public safety officials has recommended overhauling the way the state deals with sex offenders.

Proposed changes include targeting residency restrictions only to serious child predators and doing away with lifetime registration for some low-risk sex offenders.

The 109-page report was prepared by the California Sex Offender Management Board, which was created in 2006 to advise the governor, Legislature and local officials. Current board members include state Deputy Attorney General Janet Neeley and state Corrections Undersecretary Scott Kernan.

The report concludes "that the significant increase in the rate of homelessness among sex offenders and lack of appropriate housing in California is the most serious issue facing the field of sex offender management."

Since Proposition 83, known as Jessica's Law, was approved by voters in 2006, sex offenders have been banned from living within 2,000 feet of schools or parks where children play. Previous legislation known as Megan's Law requires sex offenders to register with local law enforcement agencies and makes that information public.

The recommendations are due to be discussed Tuesday morning at a hearing of the California Senate Public Safety Committee.

"The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly." - Abraham Lincoln