Friday, January 28, 2011

TX - Wrongly convicted US man cleared after 25 years

Original Article

See the video at the site above.

01/28/2011

A Texas man has walked free from prison after DNA tests suggested he is not guilty of committing a sexual assault for which he was convicted.

[name withheld], 61, had five months of his 25-year sentence left to serve.

He was originally found guilty of sexually assaulting a woman at party in 1986.

New DNA evidence showed that the alleged victim had had sex with somebody else and not [name withheld], leading a Dallas judge to order his release.

But only a Texas appeals court has the power to completely exonerate him.

[name withheld] will still have to wear an electronic tag and register as a sex offender until his name has been cleared.

His lawyers say that if he is declared an innocent man, they are likely to press for some form of financial compensation.


UK - Cookstown officer (Brian Wilfred Richard Connor) jailed for child abuse images

Original Article

01/29/2011

A former police officer at Cookstown Station, who admitted downloading over 600 indecent images of children, was yesterday, Monday, jailed for six months at Londonderry Crown Court.

Brian Wilfred Richard Connor, 46, of Clooney Road in Knockloughrim, pleaded guilty to 27 charges involving 603 abusive images. He was also placed on the sex offenders register for five years.

Judge Piers Grant said the offences "helped rob children of their childhood".

Connor also had a sex offences prevention order imposed on him. Under the conditions of the order he must inform the authorities of any change of address after he is released from prison. He is also banned from unsupervised access to children, and from accessing the internet for five years.

Connor was dismissed from the PSNI after the images were found on his computer following a raid on his home in January of last year. Officers also seized computers, laptops, mobile phones and DVDs in a raid at his home and the PSNI station where he was based.


FL - PBSO looking at sex offenders under new light to determine risk of new crimes

Original Article

01/28/2011

By Jerome Burdi

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office is combing through its hundreds of sex offender records to identify who is most likely to commit another sex crime. Those few will be getting additional scrutiny, deputies said.

With a $150,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, deputies are working with Lynn University Bachelor's, master's & online degrees academics to develop the checklist.

As the overall population grows, so does the number of sex offenders, the Sheriff's Office said. The sex offender population here, now with nearly 900 individuals, has nearly doubled since 2000, deputies said.

About 600 offenders will be analyzed at Lynn, sheriff's Sgt. Mark Jolly said.

Not included in the list's criteria for reoffending are women, child pornography convicts and offenders convicted of consensual statutory rape.

"We'll be able to target those individuals who are more of a threat to the community," Jolly said. "It will change how we respond now [by] doing some surveillance and having a closer look at some offenders."

The project should be completed by the end of the year, he said.

The 10-question form focuses on men who were 18 or older when released from prison. The form, which also is used by the state Department of Children & Families, was created in 1999 by R. Karl Hanson, a senior research officer with Public Safety Canada, and David Thornton, a director at a sexual-violence treatment center in Mauston, Wis.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office likely is the first law enforcement agency in Florida to use the list, said Jill Levenson, a clinical social worker at Lynn University working on the project.

The assessment, she said, is much like questions asked by car insurance agencies to determine risks of drivers. And just like "at-risk" drivers, just because a sex offender appears more likely to reoffend, doesn't mean he will, Levenson said.

"It's obviously not a perfect system. You can't predict whether a person will reoffend," she said. But "you can't supervise 600-700 sex offenders all the same. It's unrealistic. You can't expect it and it's not necessary. We're trying to pool the resources."

After assessments are done, each high-risk case will be reviewed by deputies, researchers, treatment providers and victim advocates to determine if the offender is a potential risk. Those at risk of committing new crimes will be offered free counseling, which is funded by the grant, but also will be under the watchful eye of deputies.

In realty, only a few people are likely to reoffend, Levenson said.

"The majority of sex offenses are committed by a small number of predatory or pedophilic offenders," Levenson said. "The [form] is a risk-assessment instrument that has been validated across dozens of studies."

"By following large groups of sex offenders over long periods of time, the characteristics of those who do reoffend are observed to see which factors lead to increased risk."

Deputies routinely check on sex offenders two to four times a year, Jolly said.

Jennifer Dritt, executive director of the Tallahassee-based Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, said a homogenized approach is fine for risk assessment. It's the treatment that needs an individualized approach.

"When you look at risk and recidivism, there're some pretty clear indicators of risk," Dritt said. "It makes the most sense to use the tools supported by research to identify the most dangerous offenses."


LA - Higher sex offender registration fees may be unconstitutional

Original Article

01/28/2011

By Theresa Schmidt

LAKE CHARLES (KPLC) - No doubt many people would prefer there to be no sex offenders in their neighborhoods. Said Police Juror Hal McMillin, "We have no love lost for sex offenders in Calcasieu Parish. We want to make sure that if there's any opportunity we can drive them out by raising fees and we can do it as a parish and all the cities in general. I think it would be a good thing."

Yet the United States Constitution protects everyone, even sex offenders. And Calcasieu Police Jury Attorney Allen Smith says local ordinances drastically raising fees for sex offender registration may be unconstitutional under both the U.S. And state constitutions. "There are a lot of people who have a lot of constitutional questions about this. For example, if you're a sex offender under our law you have to register where you live, you live in Iowa, $60. But you work in Lake Charles, you have to register in Lake Charles, $600. So there's some serious problems about whether this particular ordinance they have would withstand constitutional scrutiny."

The issue surfaced locally when Lake Charles City Council decided to raise sex offender registration fees from $60 to $600. And then Calcasieu Police Jurors started getting worried sex offenders would flee the city for rural areas to avoid the higher fee. Smith explains the Police Jury and City of Lake Charles are not the same when it comes to making laws. "A parish police jury can enact any ordinance that it is specifically authorized to do by law. A home rule charter, however, is free to enact anything that they wish that is not prohibited by state law."

Smith says attorneys from the various jurisdictions and the district attorney will meet behind closed doors next Wednesday to have a round table discussion on the issues.


MN - Cornish bill would add names to sex offender registry

Original Article

01/27/2011

By Mark Fischenich

From [name withheld] in St. Paul to [name withheld] in Owatonna, there are currently about 210 sex offenders listed on an online registry of Minnesota residents freed from prison but deemed most likely to re-offend.

That list would grow to more than 1,300 under legislation sponsored by Rep. Tony Cornish, a Good Thunder Republican and the Lake Crystal police chief.

The more we know about these people the better,” Cornish told members of the House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Committee Thursday.

Currently, only Level III sex offenders — those judged by Department of Corrections officials as the highest risk to commit another sex crime — are on the registry with addresses, mug shots, criminal backgrounds and other information for any Minnesotan to see. Under the change proposed by Cornish and endorsed by the committee Thursday, Level II offenders would be added.

The levels don’t correspond directly to the type of sex crime committed. Instead, they reflect the assessed risk that the criminal will re-offend when released from prison or a state hospital.

Cornish suggested he would have added the Level I offenders — those considered least likely to commit another sexual offense — if financial and logistical constraints didn’t get in the way.

The only reason I didn’t load ’em all on the website — or request that — is that I think that might be a stretch now,” he said.

Even his more limited proposal to increase the registry six-fold could be a strain on state corrections workers and local law enforcement, said Bill Donnay, the director of the unit that does the risk assessments and runs the website.

In 2010, the unit was tasked with assessing the likelihood of re-offense of 861 inmates nearing release from state prison or moving into the state. It also manages a cumulative list of 6,900 offenders.

Workers in the unit also have to keep the addresses of Level III offenders up to date on the website, often relying on local police and sheriff’s deputies to verify that the sex offender is still living at the listed address. It can be a time-intensive effort, Donnay said.

You’ve got to realize we’re tracking human beings here, and we’re tracking individuals with a history of instability,” he said.
- So why do they have a history of instability? Maybe the very laws and public hit-list you are creating?

It’s crucial that the registry be accurate, Donnay said. Adding more than 1,100 Level II offenders without maintaining accurate addresses could give residents a false sense of security if their neighborhood showed no sex offenders on the registry, even though one may have moved next door.

And sex offenders have been targeted by vigilantes using the registries in other states, including a handful of murders, Donnay said.
- Only a handful? I beg to differ, see here, here and here.

What if those individuals had been listed incorrectly on the website? And what if the individuals who had been in the residence ... had been people with no criminal history and they had been murdered?” he asked. “... The website needs to be accurate.”
- So, are you saying you need the right information on the registry so the right people are victims of vigilantes instead of someone else?  I don't hear you condemning the vigilantism....

Which means staff and money, something the state is short of this year by $6.2 billion.

A preliminary estimate put the state cost of Cornish’s bill at $220,000 with an unknown but potentially expensive impact on local law enforcement.

Cornish said costs could ultimately be the bill’s downfall, but he’s hoping final estimates will come in lower. And he pointed out that North Dakota has managed to afford a more comprehensive list than Minnesota.

They’re worried more about the protection of their citizens than they are the protection of the sex offenders,” Cornish said.
- The registry doesn't protect anybody, nor prevent crime.  Period!

Donnay said the effectiveness of a sex offender registry isn’t proven. Part of the problem is that it focuses on protecting people from repeat offenders, but 90 percent of sex crimes are committed by first-time offenders, he said. In addition, only 10 percent of sex crimes are committed by people who are strangers to the victim.
- Sure, it's been proven many times, but they don't care about the facts, when it goes against them.

So he suggested lawmakers need to consider whether boosting the sex offender registry is the best way to reduce sex crimes at a time of limited resources.

The question is ‘Does it work?’” Donnay said.
- No!

Cornish, who called some of Donnay’s statistics “baloney”, appealed to committee members as parents and grandparents.
- You see, they don't care about facts or "statistics," if it goes against what they think.

You’ve got your kid down by the curb waiting for the bus,” Cornish said. “I would want to know if there was a Level II sex offender down the block. And that’s the crux of this bill.”
- So what about a murderer, gang member, DUI offender, drug dealer/user, etc?

The legislation passed overwhelmingly on a voice vote but faces at least two more committee hearings before reaching the House floor. No senators have currently introduced a companion bill in that chamber.


SD - False rape report results in $500 fine for former student (Rebecca Diamond)

Original Article

01/26/2011

By EMMA DEJONG

A former SDSU student who falsely reported a rape in December pleads guilty

Rebecca Diamond, a former SDSU student, pleaded guilty to false reporting and was sentenced with a $500 fine.

In December, she reported to the SDSU Police Department that she was sexually assaulted, and then later repealed the report. She appeared in court Jan. 10 and was sentenced with a $500 dollar fine.

Along with the fine, Diamond was sentenced to 90 days in jail with 85 days suspended.
- Wow, you sure punished her, while the person she accused would have been sent to prison for years.

Clyde Calhoon, Brookings County states attorney, said Diamond has served her five days, and the conditions on which the days are suspended are that she must "remain law-abiding" and "contribute 50 hours of community service."

Diamond will have a restitution hearing Feb. 14.

"That's when the court is going to determine what, if anything, she is going to pay for the unnecessary expense to the university," Calhoon said.
- What about money to the police for wasting their time, and the humiliation of the person she accused?

In response to Diamond's initial report, the university took action to inform students, faculty members and the community about the potential dangers on campus. These actions included posting flyers around campus, locking the doors to the residence halls, sending out electronic notifications and publishing news releases.

Bob Otterson, executive assistant to the president, said while less than $100 was spent on the flyers, there was a significant cost in other areas.

"I would say time is the biggest cost," Otterson said. "When issues arise that demand our immediate attention, then other things don't get done."

Diamond was contacted several times and did not want to comment.


UK - Lowestoft Student (Jemma Knights) made false rape claim for sympathy and friends

Original Article

01/27/2011

A hair and beauty student who falsely accused a man of raping her to gain sympathy was given a six- month community supervision order yesterday.

Because of her false accusation Jemma Knights wasted 37 hours of Lowestoft police’s time.

The 18-year-old pleaded guilty to wasting police time at Lowestoft Magistrates’ Court.

Magistrates heard Knights, who lives in support housing in Lorne Road, Lowestoft, told police in July she had been raped.

Mitzy Bond, prosecuting, said Knights had falsely claimed she was raped to try and make friends with someone at the college she was going to.

Knights had hoped to make friends by gaining the other’s person sympathy.

The magistrates were told that between July and October, Lowestoft police wasted 37 hours investigating the rape claim, which Knights eventually told officers was made up.

Knights represented herself in court and did not go into why she had made up the rape.

She told magistrates she was studying hair and beauty on a life skills course and hoped to work in a salon.