Thursday, July 1, 2010
By Ben Dunsmoor
PIERRE - Starting July 1 nearly 40 sex offenders currently on South Dakota's sex offender registry will be taken off the list, and hundreds more could be removed in the next decade. It's because of what's called a tiered registry; created during this year's legislative session.
On July 1 South Dakota's Attorney General will automatically take 37 sex offenders off the registry. Those cases are misdemeanor indecent exposures, which the legislature has decided are not offenses that require registration any more. The new law also allows certain statutory rape cases to eventually be taken off the list as well.
The registry is meant to give South Dakotans a glimpse at some of the most dangerous criminals living in their neighborhoods. The attorney general says removing some of those offenders will actually make the registry stronger.
"Those offenders that are that danger are on there and people when they see those names know they're there for a reason and to be careful," South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley said.
The majority of the 2,700 sex offenders on South Dakota's registry will remain there when the new laws kicks in. But, 'Romeo and Juliet' offenders will have the chance to ask the court to be taken off the list after they've been on it ten years. Those are cases of statutory rape where the offender is younger than 21 and the victim is older than 13.
"It is envisioned that the offender, if they believe they are eligible for removal, would file a petition, a court document with the court and serve the states attorney and attorney general's office and we would have an opportunity to respond," Jackley said.
Jackley estimates there are more than 650 'Romeo and Juliet' cases on the registry right now. They'd have to petition the court so authorities can make sure the offenders really should be taken off the list.
"Some of the petitions may well be valid and they will be then removed, others there may be disagreements and that's what the judge would ultimately resolve," Jackley said.
Because the state wants to make sure the serious sex offenders stay on the registry while still allowing some of the offenders to have a second chance.
Al Gore Denies Allegation (Video)
PORTLAND - Portland police have reopened the case regarding sex abuse allegations made in 2006 against former Vice President Al Gore.
Through a statement, Gore denied the allegations Wednesday.
"The Gores cannot comment on every defamatory, misleading and inaccurate story generated by tabloids," said spokeswoman Kalee Kreider in a statement. "Mr. Gore unequivocally and emphatically denied this accusation when he first learned of its existence three years ago. He stands by that denial."
Police did not immediately elaborate on what led them to reopen the case.
"Further investigation into this matter will only benefit Mr. Gore," Kreider said.
A Portland masseuse identified as Molly Hagerty of southeast Portland said Gore sexually abused her at Hotel Lucia when she went to his room to perform a massage in 2006. Gore was in town for a speaking engagement on climate change.
Portland police investigated the allegations at least three times in the past four years and initially chose not to pursue charges against Gore because of a lack of evidence.
In an article this week in the National Enquirer, however, Hagerty said she has DNA evidence on a pair of slacks to prove her case. She also said she has a key witness and hotel surveillance video that will break the case open.
She called Gore, "a pervert" and a "sexual predator." Hagerty said he's "not what people think -- he is a sick man … I just want justice served."
Hagerty was named in this week's National Enquirer, which had a photo of her on the cover.
Original Article (Listen)
Jeffrey Jones -- best known for playing the principal in the movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off " -- was charged today with a felony count of failing to update his sex offender registration last year.
The 63-year-old actor -- who is scheduled to be arraigned July 14 -- was required to register as a sex offender as a result of his no contest plea in July 2003 to a felony charge of employing a minor for purposes of taking sexually explicit photos.
Jones is accused of failing to register annually within five days of his birthday last Sept. 28, according to Sandi Gibbons of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
He was freed on $20,000 bail shortly after his June 23 arrest, according to sheriff's records.
Along with the sex offender registration, Jones also was ordered to serve five years probation and undergo sex offender counseling as a result of his July 8, 2003, no contest plea. A misdemeanor charge of possession or control of child pornography was dismissed.
His attorney said then that the actor was "not accused of touching or having any physical contact with any minors whatsoever" and that the case involved "photographs."
The actor said after his 2003 sentencing that "this concludes a really painful chapter in my life."
"I'm sorry that this incident was allowed to occur. Such an event has never happened before and it will never happen again," Jones told reporters then.
Jones has more than 60 television and movie credits, including his role as hapless Principal Ed Rooney in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," Criswell in "Ed Wood " and the father in "Beetlejuice ."
By Adelle M. Banks
"All are welcome" is a common phrase on many a church sign and website. But what happens when a convicted sex offender takes those words literally?
Church officials and legal advocates are grappling with how -- and if -- people who've been convicted of sex crimes should be included in U.S. congregations, especially when children are present:
-- Last week (June 23), a lawyer argued in the New Hampshire Supreme Court for a convicted sex offender who wants to attend a Jehovah's Witnesses congregation with a chaperone.
"What we argued is that the right to worship is a fundamental right, and the state can only burden it if it has compelling interest to do so, and then only in a way that is narrowly constructed," said Barbara Keshen, an attorney with the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union who represented [name withheld], who pleaded guilty in 2002 to 61 counts of possessing child pornography.
-- On Monday (June 28), the Seventh-day Adventist Church added language to its manual saying that sexual abuse perpetrators can be restored to membership only if they do not have unsupervised contact with children and are not "in a position that would encourage vulnerable individuals to trust them implicitly."
- Even the church is buying into the stereotype. Not all sex offenders have harmed children. Why don't you sit down with the person, and find out more about them before judging them?
Garrett Caldwell, a spokesman for the denomination, said the new wording in the global guidelines tries to strike a balance between protecting congregants and supporting the religious freedom of abusers in "a manifestation of God's grace."
-- On Thursday (July 1), a Georgia law will take effect that permits convicted sex offenders to volunteer in churches if they are isolated from children. Permitted activities include singing in the choir and taking part in Bible studies and bake sales.
The Rev. Madison Shockley, pastor of Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad, Calif., whose church publicly grappled with whether to accept a convicted sex offender three years ago, said he hears from churches several times a month seeking advice on how to handle such situations.
"The key lesson for churches is this: The policy, however it winds up, must be a consensus of the congregation," Shockley said. "I talked to so many pastors who decided they're going to make the decision because they know what's theologically and spiritually right -- and that's absolutely the wrong thing to do."
- So, doing what is spiritually right, is now wrong? Would Jesus deny ANYBODY?
Shockley's church will soon commission a minister to address prevention of child sex abuse; the church also distributes a 20-page policy on protecting children and dealing with sex offenders.
Shockley declined to say how the church handled its admission of a known abuser in 2007, citing the congregation's limited disclosure policy.
Beyond the thorny legal questions, theologians also find that there are often no easy answers to the quandary of protecting children and providing worship to saints and sinners alike.
"My own theology of forgiveness is not that it's a blanket statement -- 'You are forgiven; go and sin no more,'" said Rev. Joretta Marshall, professor of pastoral theology at Texas Christian University's Brite Divinity School. "Part of what we have to do is create accountability structures because damage has been done."
Sometimes, legal and religious experts say, crimes are so severe that convicted offenders must lose their right to worship.
New Hampshire Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Cort argued in court documents that [name withheld] should not be permitted to change the conditions of his probation to attend a Manchester congregation because "restricting the defendant's access to minors was an appropriate means of advancing the goals of probation -- rehabilitation and public safety."
Barbara Dorris, outreach director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said it may be possible for convicted offenders to attend worship if "proper safeguards are in place," but offenders "forfeit many rights when you commit this kind of a felony."
In other cases, the wording of laws has made it difficult for offenders who want to worship to be able to attend church legally.
In North Carolina, attorney Glenn Gerding is representing [name withheld], a convicted sex offender who is contesting a state statute that made it illegal for him to be within 300 feet of a church's nursery. He was arrested in a church parking lot after a service.
"Technically a person could go to an empty church and violate the statute if that church has a nursery," said Gerding, whose client was convicted in 2003 of attempted second-degree rape and released from prison in 2008.
In Georgia, the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights successfully argued for the removal of a legal provision that would have prevented registered sex offenders from volunteering at church functions, said Sara Totonchi, executive director of the center.
Experts say churches need to abide by state laws and be prepared to handle the possible presence of sex offenders, which could mean ministering to them outside the church building.
Steve Vann, co-founder of Keeping Kids Safe Ministries in Ashland City, Tenn., said children's safety must be paramount, but giving convicted abusers social support could help reduce additional offenses.
"We talk about covenant partners," he said, using his ministry's phrase for chaperones. "They're not just there to watch what the person does. They're there to assist the person in spiritual growth."
Andrew J. Schmutzer, a professor at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, is editing a book called "The Long Journey Home," which includes essays from theologians and ethicists about how churches can both address sexual abuse and predators.
"The churches are on the cusp of trying to figure out what they can do," he said, "without scaring the public and without breach of confidentiality."