Friday, February 18, 2011
By Dana Littlefield
SAN DIEGO — A San Diego judge ruled Friday that a provision of state law that bars registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of parks and schools infringes upon the offenders’ constitutional rights and may not be enforceable.
In a 38-page decision, Superior Court Judge Michael Wellington determined that a portion of Jessica’s Law (PDF) - passed by voters in 2006 - violates parolees’ rights to travel and privacy, because it forbids them from entering specific areas of a city and could force them out of their family homes. In some cases, the parolees are forced into homelessness.
The judge ordered prison and parole officials to stop applying the restriction as a parole condition for four registered sex offenders who challenged Jessica’s Law in Superior Court. Therefore, they cannot be accused of violating parole for living in the 2,000-foot restricted zone.
- Well, if it's not enforceable, then it should apply to all! This is why the states are going broke, they waste money fighting laws, and when something is won, it only affects those who brought the case instead of all in the same situation.
Wellington said prison and parole officials have 120 days to comply with a state law that outlines an approval process for government regulations. If they fail to comply, some regulations used to enforce Jessica's Law will be deemed invalid.
The decision directly affects [name withheld], [name withheld], [name withheld], and [name withheld], all of whom were paroled to San Diego County and were represented in court by the county Public Defenders Office. [name withheld] has since been sent back to prison on a drug conviction.
Deputy Public Defender Richard Gates said Friday that the decision is a victory for law enforcement because authorities can track and monitor parolees more effectively if allowed to live with family and close to treatment providers.
“It’s a reasoned decision that puts public safety first,” Gates said. “It’s better that they have a stable life, family and a place to live. The chance for reoffending is much less.”
It’s unclear how the ruling will affect other registered sex offenders in San Diego County. More than 130 parolees filed similar challenges to the residency restrictions in Jessica’s law. Their cases have been stayed pending a decision on the lead cases.
Gates said he believes the ruling will apply to the other parolees.
The Attorney General’s Office, which represented state prison and parole authorities, did not respond to repeated calls for comment. A spokeswoman for state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said lawyers were reviewing the judge’s ruling and could not comment Friday.
It’s not yet clear whether the ruling will be appealed.
According to court documents, Wellington agreed with the parolees’ argument that some restrictions in Jessica’s Law were vague and overly broad. For example, he noted that the 2,000-foot buffer was meant to protect children from sexual predators, but has been applied to any registered sex offender including those who did not commit crimes against children.
The cases involving [name withheld], [name withheld], [name withheld] and [name withheld] were selected to lead, because they represented a “range of cases,” according to the ruling.
[name withheld] was convicted in 1988 of committing a lewd act on a child. Because of the residency restrictions, she was homeless for about a year and a half while on parole, sleeping in an alley. She now lives in a recreational vehicle.
[name withheld] was required to register as a sex offender because of a 1989 conviction for misdemeanor sexual battery on a woman he was dating. He has been married for 12 years and has three children, but lived in a van for some time after he was paroled.
[name withheld] was convicted in Arizona in 1991 of kidnapping a woman for sexual assault. Now on parole after failing to register as a sex offender, he suffers from a long list of medical and psychiatric conditions and cannot pay for housing.
[name withheld] has been in and out of prison since 1981. He was required to register as a sex offender because of molest case on his juvenile record.
By Lisa LaPlante
MUSKEGON COUNTY - The story about a man charged with making a video in a Muskegon County classroom continues to get attention all around the country. Questions continue to grow about the case, including the felony charge that could mean a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
Police say [name withheld] created an explicit video with first graders at an elementary school in Ravenna, then posted it on Youtube.com. He was brought into court Wednesday in shackles, charged with making child sexually abusive material. The prosecutor said he was sending a message. "I take this case very seriously," Tony Tague told FOX 17 News. "I think it's not only important for the children in Muskegon but through the state of Michigan. This is a law that is on the books and I think it's important that we send a message that children are off limits for this type of activity."
Mike Dunn is an adjunct professor at Cooley Law School. "This crime is so overbroad, the way it's written that I think there's some constitutional implications here," Dunn told FOX 17 News.
[name withheld] taped the video at Beachnau School last month, singing the "Lunch Lady Song" for first graders. Then, when nobody else was in the room, he recorded a different song with sexually explicit lyrics. Parents and educators called the video offensive, disturbing.
The charge [name withheld] faces is typically used for someone creating child pornographic materials. "They've charged him with really producing something that really exploited these children," Dunn says.
The case has created a stir online: a Facebook page called "Free [name withheld]" was created, hundreds of people signing onto it. The FOX 17 Newsroom has also received calls, comments and emails about the charges, with a majority opposed to the severity of the charge. Prosecutor Tony Tague says he's standing by the charge, adding while the felony carries a 20-year max, he would expect guidelines to put [name withheld] in jail, or possibly even prison for a short time.
Dunn says he believes the charge over-reaches the offense. "To charge someone at 21 who just really made a bad mistake with a 20 year felony that could put him in prison and could put him on the sex offender registry, I think that that really frightens me," Dunn said.
By Gina Harkins
[name withheld] is a 22-year-old college student. He plays guitar and writes and records his own music. He likes watching “The Office” and “Family Guy,” and will eat anything with bacon.
He is also a registered sex offender.
When he was 18, [name withheld], of Loves Park, began dating a girl who was 15. The age difference of three years did not seem important at time. He’ll now spend more than three times that amount listed on the Illinois Sex Offender Registration.
A registry he said ruins people’s lives.
“I want to try to inform the public that not every sex offender is the same and not every sex offender should be treated the same,” [name withheld] said in a telephone interview.
[name withheld] said he has been unable to obtain employment since being charged with criminal sexual abuse, a misdemeanor in the state of Illinois for which he’s serving two years of probation. He also was charged with child pornography for photos and videos he had of the girl, charges that later were dropped, he said.
After they broke up and he was convicted at age 21, he had to register as a sex offender for 10 years. So, by the time [name withheld] gets off the registry, he’ll have spent about a third of his life with that label.
Amie Eipers, a licensed clinical social worker in Naperville who knows [name withheld], and Catherine Wilson, a clinical psychologist in Chicago, have both worked with sex offenders.
“Society doesn’t want them to move forward,” Eipers said. “Society wants to punish them forever.”
“In any other crime, we’d call them an ex-offender,” Wilson said. “We don’t make murderers register.”
But while Sharmili Majmudar, executive director of Rape Victim Advocates in Chicago, acknowledges that the registry is not perfect, she said it serves a good purpose.
“What they did is illegal,” Majmudar said about newly turned adults having consensual sex with a minor. “People do want to know when someone has been convicted of a sexual offense in their community. While not a perfect tool, it certainly has provided some transparency around sex offenders.”
[name withheld]’s probation requires him to be employed or go to school. So [name withheld] takes classes at Rock Valley Community College.
But he’s not allowed to come in contact with anyone under the age of 18. [name withheld] said he was removed from an online course because a 17-year-old was in the class. And even though they were not physically meeting in the same classroom, it would have violated the terms of his probation.
[name withheld] also had to get a court order to see his nieces.
“Before I was convicted, my family would always throw huge dinners on the holiday,” [name withheld] said. “Unfortunately due to all the restrictions, such as no contact with children, we are no longer allowed to have most of the family over, and because of this holiday dinners haven't been the same since.”
[name withheld] used to play guitar in bands performing every weekend throughout the state and other parts of the Midwest. He also went to the movies so often that it was hard to even name a favorite. These are examples of things he can no longer do for fear that he would violate his probation.
“It is very hard to predict where a child may be present,” [name withheld] said.
Eipers, Kyle Cushing, a licensed clinical psychologist in Rockford, and Robin McGinnis, a social worker in Mundelein, all offer therapy to sex offenders. And all said there should be different labels for someone in [name withheld]’s situation.
“I think the biggest misconception is that once they hit that registry, they’re viewed as pedophiles,” Cushing said. “There’s a hysteria, a not-in-my-backyard philosophy. People need to be more educated about what the specific offense was.”
McGinnis said that the “once a sex offender, always a sex offender” label is not accurate.
“In young adults, male brains don’t mature developmentally until 25,” McGinnis said. “So, some engage in dumb, risk-taking behaviors.” But that does not mean that they will always be a sex offender, she said.
All three agree that therapy and counseling can be useful in treating sexual offenders.
And counseling is part of [name withheld]’s probation requirements, a service the state does not pay for.
“Right now, I just do the group stuff,” [name withheld] said. “I’m paying $20 per week for that, and one-one-on would be more like $100 per week.”
[name withheld] said group therapy has helped with his personal life, but that he does not always identify with the other people in the group.
“The age range isn’t the same,” [name withheld] said, and it is difficult to hear about a 50-year-old trying to have sex with a 15-year-old.
[name withheld] is getting A’s and B’s in his classes for the first time ever. He said being labeled as a sex offender has made him want to excel in other areas of his life.
He is working with Illinois Voices, a group that is trying to reform state and federal laws on sex offenders from the one-size-fits-all policies. [name withheld] has visited Springfield to talk to lawmakers about legislation to get those charged with his misdemeanor removed from the registry. A bill introduced last week by state Rep. Robert Pritchard, R-70th, would accomplish that.
Also, MTV is now filming [name withheld] for an episode of “True Life” (See Also) about his problems as a registered sex offender.
“It's hard to think how different my life was just a couple years ago,” [name withheld] said. “I am somewhat starting to get used it, but I don't think being sex offender for a consensual relationship is something anyone should be getting used to.”
By Ginny LaRoe
SAN FRANCISCO — A sex offender determined to keep his name off the state Megan's Law website hired a leading criminal appellate lawyer and lodged a constitutional claim that has reached the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
For the offender, the case is about his personal safety and economic and emotional well being. For the state, it's a fight to protect a key aspect of the 2004 sex offender law: its retroactivity.
If the Ninth Circuit panel's grilling of Supervising Deputy Attorney General Peggy Rufra at oral argument today is any indication of how they will rule, an untold number of sex offenders who struck deals prior to the law change could have new grounds to get their information pulled from the site.
"At stake is the California Legislature's ability to enact a retroactive law," Ruffra told the Ninth Circuit panel, comprised of Senior Judges John Noonan and Stephen Trott and Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain.
The offender's attorneys argue that requiring him to register as a sex offender and publishing his name on the Megan's Law website violates the terms of his early '90s plea agreement and, therefore, his due process rights.
When he struck the deal, California Penal Code Section 290 made registration information confidential, and it only required offenders to update law enforcement upon moving. A reference to Section 290 in the plea agreement, his attorneys argue, shielded him from changes to the law that create new burdens.
Northern District Magistrate Judge James Larson agreed and granted a permanent injunction removing the man's information from the site. The state appealed.
The sex offender in the case, Doe v. Brown, 09-17362, has managed to keep his identity a secret throughout the civil proceedings. His lead attorney, Dennis Riordan, successfully argued that disclosure of his name would threaten his and his family's safety and defeat the purpose of the litigation. "My client has already received a death threat and harassment as a result of publication of his offense," Riordan wrote in a Ninth Circuit filing, one of a few not under seal. "These threats and harassments are likely to resume and intensify if my client's true identity is made public as a result of this appeal."
The count to which he pleaded nolo contendere is only described in the publicly available filings as a "non-aggravated felony."
Ruffra told the judges today that the appeal hinged on whether the state made a promise regarding the confidentiality of the registration information. "This is like any typical plea bargain that happens in California courts every day," she said, asserting there was no promise of protection from future law changes.
Early on, Ruffra got into a testy back and forth with Noonan over whether the question before the district court was a question of fact or law, with the judge chiding her for not directly answering his questions.
At one point, Trott asked how the reference to Section 290 made it into the plea agreement. The prosecutor added it, Ruffra said, because the defense forgot to.
Riordan seized on that.
"The state just made a critical concession," he said triumphantly, opening his arguments without first introducing himself. "It was a prosecutor who said 'you are going to be subject to 290.'"
He argued that the controlling case the state relied on -- one dealing with the retroactivity of the Three Strikes law -- was different from his case since his client hasn't reoffended.
"Mr. Doe has led a flawless life for the last 18, 19 years," Riordan said.
On rebuttal, when Ruffra attempted to cite cases dealing with Three Strikes, Noonan interrupted. "Don't waste our time on Three Strikes," he said. Riordan, the judge said, had already distinguished them from his case.
By MARGARET BAKER
BILOXI -- A veteran Biloxi police officer who resigned in 2010 amid an investigation into alleged misconduct has been indicted on a charge of sexual battery of a minor.
Darian LLewellyn Anderson, 49, surrendered Friday to Harrison County sheriff’s investigators. The former police officer with more than 18 years of service is accused of having oral sex in June with a girl who was then 14 years old.
Anderson was booked into the Harrison County jail about 10 a.m. Feb. 11 and released less than 20 minutes later on a $25,000 surety bond. He’s living out of state and could not be reached for comment.
“When this whole thing started, I said I wasn’t going to tolerate any shenanigans, and that is exactly what I meant,” Biloxi Police Chief John Miller said Thursday. “I did what I thought was right. After we completed the investigation, I sent the case to the grand jury to let people who had no knowledge of it decide whether it was right or wrong.”
A grand jury heard the evidence and decided to indict Anderson on the sexual battery charge.
Anderson was not on duty when the crime is said to have occurred, Miller said.
“This is something we caught wind of,” he said. “We looked into it ourselves. This is not something somebody repeatedly complained about.”
When Miller learned of the indictment, he said he informed Anderson, and said Anderson’s name had been entered into the National Crime Information Center Database to give him the opportunity to surrender before he was picked up elsewhere.
Coast attorney and former federal prosecutor Tom Payne is representing Anderson. Payne said he and his client were “taken aback when he was indicted because we don’t feel like there is any credibility to the allegations at all, even though my client befriended the older sister of the (alleged victim). They were street people, and he was trying to help them by giving them money but he never had any kind of relations with the 14-year-old girl. They were always needing money, and he was always very caring, and it got him in trouble.”
In fact, Payne said it wasn’t until after the girl’s older sister and father were the subject of an investigation into possible human trafficking that the allegation against Anderson surfaced. The girl’s sister and father were arrested about a month after the investigation into Anderson was launched.
Press send and now you are registered as a Sex-Offender for the rest of your life. Sexting is about how our youth is being punished and given harsh sentences in the state of Texas. Help spread the word about sexting now, and later we can stop destroying lives.