Saturday, February 12, 2011

PA - Bill passed in state house to toughen Megan's Law

Original Article

02/12/2011

State Rep. Thomas Caltagirone, a Democrat from Berks County, said the House unanimously passed legislation that would close a loophole in state law to require convicted sex offenders who are homeless to register with Megan's Law.

Caltagirone, who is Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said current law does not address the registration of homeless offenders.

He said numerous court decisions have ruled that under the state's current Megan's Law, an offender does not have to register with Megan's Law if they are homeless and do not have a residence.

"This is a gaping hole in Megan's Law," Caltagirone said. "Right now, as long as the sex offender is homeless, we have no way to require them to register their location. There should be no exceptions when it comes to public safety and this must be corrected."

The bill (H.B. 68) would require homeless sex offenders to register every 30 days at approved registration sites until they again establish a residence.

The bill also applies to people who have committed a sex offense in another state and moved to Pennsylvania, yet did not establish an official residence.

Sex offenders would be required to be photographed, and report to the Pennsylvania State Police where they sleep, eat, and receive mail, and if they are in compliance with counseling requirements.

Failure to register would be a third degree felony, maximum seven years imprisonment and $15,000 fine.

The bill also would impose penalties for sexually violent predators who knowingly fail to comply with counseling requirements.

Sexually violent predators are required under Megan's Law to attend at least monthly counseling sessions, but there is no penalty for failing to comply.

Caltagirone said a similar bill passed the House and Senate last session, but was vetoed by the governor due to controversial changes added to the self-defense law.

The current bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.


VT - Vermont Mulls Ban on Aliases Online for Sex Offenders

Original Article
Senator Urges Facebook to Change its Pseudonym Policy to Protect the Identity of Activists, Protesters

02/11/2011

By DAVE GRAM

Vermont lawmakers consider ban on sex offenders using false names on social networking sites

Vermont lawmakers are considering making it a crime for convicted sex offenders to use false names on social media sites like Facebook, after one such incident was reported in the state.

Only two states have related measures, said Erik Fitzpatrick, a lawyer on the research staff for the Vermont Legislature: New York and Illinois bar convicted sex offenders from using social networking sites at all as a condition of their probation. The National Conference of State Legislatures was unaware of similar laws or pending legislating in other states.

A former teacher at a school for boys who had committed sex crimes told a state Senate committee Friday that he spotted a Facebook profile last fall with a picture of a former student in the program who was using an alias.

Chuck Laramie, the former teacher, said the 26-year-old man had become Facebook friends with 14- and 15-year-old girls.

The man was convicted in 2004 of sexual assault, defined in Vermont law as engaging in a sex act with another person without that person's consent, and has not completed a sex offender treatment program, the state's online sex offender registry shows.

Laramie said he saw Facebook messages the man sent the girls, telling them he was "struggling with his sexuality and thinking he might be gay. Some of the girls were replying by saying, 'Oh, no, you're not.' He was getting these young girls to feel sympathy for him," Laramie said. "It was a classic grooming situation" in which sexual predators psychologically manipulate potential victims.

If the man were a sex offender trying not to re-offend, that was "an extremely high-risk situation to put yourself in," Laramie said.

Facebook takes extensive steps, including teams of internal investigators working with law enforcement agents around the country, when it detects people on its network behaving suspiciously, the company said in a statement. Contacting minors or users of predominantly one gender are seen as clues, and Facebook uses systems including a national database of convicted sex offenders to do real-time checks, the statement said.