By John Simerman
Hundreds of paroled sex offenders are winning reprieves from a ban against their living near schools or parks as they flood local courts with constitutional challenges to the most controversial part of Jessica's Law.
Judges in Contra Costa and elsewhere have routinely issued stays permitting sex offender parolees to ignore the ban on their living within 2,000 feet of a school or park where children "regularly gather," pending rulings in their cases.
The slow pace of those challenges means the stays could last until their parole terms expire and the restrictions no longer affect them.
In the East Bay, at least a few dozen sex offenders have challenged the ban.
"I am seeing more, that's for sure," said Martinez attorney David Briggs.
Contra Costa judges have assigned him to represent about 16 parolee sex offenders seeking freedom to live where they want. In each case, he said, judges have barred enforcement of the law.
"There may be other (parole) restrictions on where they can't stay, and they're all on GPS, but this rule does not apply."
The flurry of court actions adds a new wrinkle in an ongoing debate over the residency ban's effect on public safety, and whether it's worth the added strain on parole resources. A statewide task force last month found that the ban has led to a dangerous 24-fold increase in homeless sex offenders and recommended repealing the voter-approved limits.
Parole agents should have leeway to target restrictions for the 6,300 paroled sex offenders living in communities, according to the task force of sheriffs, police chiefs, probation and parole officers, prosecutors and victim advocates. Since the law went into effect, the number of sex offender parolees who register as transient has risen from fewer than 100 to more than 2,100.
The bulk of legal challenges has arisen in Southern California, where about 850 paroled sex offenders have filed petitions in Los Angeles and San Diego counties, most of them after a state Supreme Court decision in February.
The court upheld the 2,000-foot rule against claims that it amounts to illegal, ex post facto punishment of parolees who committed their sex crimes before the law passed. But it left local judges to sort out, case by case and county by county, whether the restriction amounts to unconstitutional banishment, or whether it is unconstitutionally vague.
The sheer volume of challenges came to light last month, when Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza judge issued a countywide stay barring parole agents from enforcing the "predator-free zones." By then, 650 sex offenders had filed petitions in the county, the judge wrote. More than 100 petitions have since come.
A state appeals court panel nixed Espinoza's blanket order. But the judge has stayed enforcement of the ban in nearly all the individual cases, said Dylan Ford, a deputy public defender in Los Angeles County. Ford leads a team of lawyers and legal clerks who are helping process what he called a deluge of challenges by homeless sex offenders. He said about 75 percent of the 2,000 paroled sex offenders there are homeless or living in housing subsidized by the state corrections department.
"What a stay will do is allow a parolee who's living on the street, sleeping in their car, riding the buses at night, living under a bridge, to return home to their family and their social support network," Ford said.
On Friday, a San Diego County judge rejected a similar plea for a blanket stay order. Nearly 100 paroled sex offenders have filed challenges there, court documents show. The state Attorney General's Office is fighting the blanket stays in both counties, aiming to defend a law that voters overwhelmingly passed in 2006.
"I have considered filing a similar action in Contra Costa County. I think we have the same issues," said Briggs, the defense lawyer. "The futility of this policy is apparent to anyone who looks at it."
Men opposing the 2,000-foot rule in Contra Costa County claim similar struggles.
"I have not been able to live at home with my wife, but forced to live in a motel," wrote [name withheld], who was convicted of rape in 1987, then was released on parole for an unrelated crime in 2008 and fell under Jessica's Law.
Another foresaw a grim future with the ban.
"My parents allowed me to live with them. ... When I am order(ed) to leave this address I will have to live in my car. Or somewhere on the streets," wrote [name withheld], of Pittsburg.
State corrections officials said they have not tallied how many paroled sex offenders are now free from the 2,000-foot rule. Fred Bridgewater, parole administrator for the North Bay district, said such stays are "sporadic" in the area.
The challenges do not affect conditions that parole supervisors can impose based on individual circumstances. Nor do they affect a different law that prohibits convicted child molesters who are deemed high-risk sex offenders from living within a half-mile of a school.
Growing pressure to overturn the 2,000-foot rule rankles the author of Jessica's Law.
Outgoing state Sen. George Runner, R-Antelope Valley, said he is pushing legislation that would protect it by allowing local judicial panels to adjust the limits but not eliminate them.
"I don't think the voters are concerned whether it's too hard (to find housing). It's whether it's possible," Runner said. He downplayed the notion that homeless sex offenders are more likely to commit new sex crimes, particularly now that sex offender parolees all wear GPS anklets.
"We are not aware of an individual who's on GPS, who is transient, who has committed an illegal sexual act," he said. "So we believe at this point it's a problem that they can't find a place to live. I'm sure that's a personal hassle for them, but that's not my concern."
In the meantime, few of the state's 58 counties are attempting to fully enforce the 2,000-foot rule on sex offenders under court probation, said probation officials.
"The bottom line is we're doing everything we can with the limited resources we have," said Philip Kader, county probation officer in Contra Costa. The department, which oversees about 140 sex offenders on probation, has sustained steep cutbacks and does not adhere to the 2,000-foot rule, unless a judge orders it, Kader said.
"We have not been adhering to the 2,000-foot rule because we wouldn't have any place to put our folks," said Bill Fenton, assistant chief probation officer in Alameda County, where about 200 registered sex offenders are on probation. "To me, the bigger risk is not knowing where they are."
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
By Jessica Anderson
47-year-old had sexual relationship with teenager
A former Anne Arundel County police lieutenant was sentenced Tuesday to five years in prison for his relationship with a teen 30 years younger than him and for receiving child pornography, officials said.
James Cifala, 47, of Edgewater, had a sexual relationship with a teenage girl, beginning in 2009, that involved Cifala using pre-paid cell phones and social networking sites to send and receive messages from the victim, including arranging sexual encounters with her, according to a release from U.S. District Court in Baltimore.
"James Cifala was a sworn law enforcement officer who violated his oath in an egregious manner by engaging in a relationship with a child who was more than 30 years younger," said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein in a statement.
Between May and July of 2009, Cifala asked the victim to take and send to his cell phone more than 10 photos of her engaged in sexually explicit conduct, according to Cifala's plea agreement. From August to September 2009, the plea states, the two exchanged more than 1,300 messages with many being sexually graphic.
In January, police searched his home and seized computers that had more than 10 images of child pornography that were not of the victim.
Cifala's five-year sentence will be followed by 15 years of supervised release.
By REID J. EPSTEIN
Suffolk legislators approved a plan Tuesday to place the county's homeless sex offenders in places that would be kept secret during the site-selection process, though County Executive Steve Levy signaled he would veto the measure.
The legislation would create a network of mini-shelters throughout the county and effectively close the Southampton trailers where the homeless sex offenders have been living.
Instead, White Plains-based Community Housing Innovations Inc. would house the offenders at a handful of sites that it would not disclose to the public until after the offenders are placed in them.
"Securing and occupying this site without advising the local community until after it is established is a critical component of this proposal," CHI wrote in its pitch to the county this summer. "CHI will not be involved in any process that requires community approval prior to occupancy."
Levy spokesman Mark Smith said the county executive will veto the bill. Levy has been in a tense debate with presiding officer William Lindsay (D-Holbrook) over the proposal.
"Mr. Lindsay's concept of creating undisclosed sites for housing homeless sex offenders will undoubtedly wind up in court, leading to no real resolution for months, if not for years," he said.
But the plan to keep sites secret is not Lindsay's. It came from CHI, whose executive director told Newsday this summer that he was encouraged to respond to the county's request for proposals to house homeless sex offenders by the Levy administration.
The shelters would be located in industrial areas, and no town or legislative district would have more than one. The shelters would also have 24-hour-a-day supervision and counseling.
The Legislature would need 12 votes to override a Levy veto. Only 11 lawmakers voted in favor of the plan Tuesday.
Original Article (Norman Pattis Blog)
No one wants children exposed to men and women who might do them harm. This instinct to protect the innocent is at the very core of the sex offender registration laws. But when those laws fail to draw elementary distinctions between strangers who pose danger and those caught unawares in the law's libidinal traps, there is something wrong. Sex offender registries should not become virtual prisons that deprive increasingly broader segments of our society of life's basics.
Senator Charles Schumer of New York has proposed sweeping new legislation that would make it virtually impossible for anyone convicted of a sex offense to work in a location or at a facility where they might have access to children. Broadly interpreted, the act would prohibit a registrant form working in food service, at a gasoline station, at retail shop, or in any public place. The act also creates an anonymous reporting system to permit folks to report violations of the law without fear that their identity could become known.
The legislation is called the "Preventing Sex Offenders Access to Children in Our Communities Act of 2010." It is a proposed amendment to the sex offender registration section of the Adam Walsh Act.
More than 750,000 Americans are currently required to register as sex offenders. The overwhelming majority of registrants place no one at risk. Some are registrants because of their involvement with a minor while they themselves were on the cusp of adulthood, the so-called Romeo and Juliet offenders. Some are required to register because they have urinated in public, looked at child pornography online, or engaged in salacious talk with the a police officer posing as a minor in a chat room. Advocates for wholesale registration view every libidinal offense as a gateway crime signaling greater harm to follow. There is no empirical support for this hysteria, but lawmakers succumb to it because sex offenders have become a secular age's equivalent of the Devil in our midst. We may no longer believe in witches, but we do believe that danger lurks behind every door. The primal instinct to fear the other is hardwired into our psyches, I suspect.
Senator Schumer's legislation should be rejected. Lawmakers intent on assuring the protection and safety of all Americans would focus instead on a registration system that is not mandatory, but which gives judges discretion to decide who should be required to register and who should not. Those found to pose a grave risk of harm to others should be required to register on a public list. Others who do not pose a grave risk of harm might be required to register on a non-public list. Those who engage in offenses that pose no proximate risk to others, but are mere signs of wayward libido, should not be required to register at all.
Scarce law enforcement resources are wasted chasing every soul who is placed on the registry. It simply makes no sense to treat a young man who made love to his girlfriend in the same manner as a violent rapist. It strains credibility to think that both of these registrants should effectively be denied employment opportunities. Senator Schumer ought to feel shame for this pandering to hysteria. But he won't. He'll feel as though he is making the world a safer place for all. Just how marginalizing almost a million Americans by depriving them of employment makes for a better society is hard to imagine.
Speak up. Act out. Make sure your Senators know that Senate Bill 4029, now referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, is a bad idea. And support groups like Reform Sex Offender Legislation, active in most states.
What we really need is a law penalizing folks who falsely cry rape at the door of a day care center. But if we had such a law, where would lock up our politicians?
This sheriff purchased obscene material, in his own words, so is he going to be arrested and put on the sex offender registry? Yes the content is disgusting, but surely this will be thrown out of court? This is free speech, only words, not actual photos of children. So are we going to start censoring everything? What about movies like "Blue Lagoon (Wikipedia)," and others?