Sunday, July 17, 2011

GA - Courts Grapple With Criminal Banishment

Original Article


ATLANTA -- Georgia judges are outlawed from banishing offenders from the state, but a legal maneuver that some use to get around the ban is at the center of a long-running legal debate that persists despite a state Supreme Court ruling.

Judges will sometimes restrict offenders to just one or a handful of the state's 159 counties, confining them to remote counties in rural Georgia or hard-to-reach spots near the Okefenokee Swamp. The convicts almost always wind up leaving the state, leading defense attorneys to call the tactic de facto banishment.
- They do this to sex offenders as well, by passing residency restrictions that push offenders into clusters in certain parts of the state.

The latest clash came this week in the case of [name withheld #1], a mentally ill convict who moved to Columbus after he was restricted from living in north Georgia upon his release from prison. His attorneys claimed the restrictions violate the ban on cruel and unusual punishment and deprive him of the help he needs from his family in metro Atlanta.

But the Georgia Court of Appeals sided with prosecutors in a decision Tuesday, finding that banishment may be imposed as long as the trial court doesn't abuse its discretion by crafting the order in an unreasonable way. [name withheld #1]'s attorney vowed to appeal to state and federal courts, setting up more legal showdowns over what's become a contentious issue.

The Georgia Supreme Court has already weighed in on the debate. In a 6-1 opinion, the judges found that banishing convicted criminals from Georgia is illegal, but upheld the practice of banning them from living in all but one of Georgia's 159 counties.

That challenge was brought by [name withheld #2], who was restricted from living anywhere in Georgia but rural Toombs County after he pleaded guilty in 1995 to charges he assaulted and stalked his estranged wife.

But [name withheld #1] and his attorney hoped his case would be different because it involved a mentally ill defendant.

There are no hard numbers on how many defendants have been slapped with these banishment orders.

Although the state has outlawed banishment since the colonial days, judges have used it over the past few decades to rid themselves of defendants deemed undesirable, said McNeill Stokes, an attorney who represented both [name withheld #2] and [name withheld #1]. He said DeKalb County judges decades ago banished dozens of offenders to Echols County, which sits on the Florida line.
- If they have outlawed it, then how and why are judges still doing it?

"Georgia must stop banishing its citizens," he said. "It's a throwback to the 18th century."

Prosecutors, though, have long argued the orders are a way to rid criminals from populous areas and protect victims from repeat offenses. And in [name withheld #1]'s case, they argued keeping him away from north Georgia was the best way to protect the public from impulsive, erratic and potentially violent behavior.

[name withheld #1] was sentenced to eight years in prison after he unloaded a round from a high-powered rifle into the brick wall of a suburban Atlanta house where his stepmother's sister lived. No one was hurt, but the bullet terrified the family as they prepared to sit down for a pizza dinner.

The sentence was eventually cut in half by a review panel, but it was tied to an additional order that banned him from living everywhere in Georgia for 20 years but Ware County, which sits about 250 miles from his family.

When the order took effect in April 2009, [name withheld #1] moved to a trailer park in Shelby County, Ala. partly because he was promised a job there as a welder and partly because it was a shorter distance to his family and support network in metro Atlanta.

The gig soon dried up, and [name withheld #1]'s mother, said he lapsed into a manic-depressive state. Prosecutors said he soon sent threatening messages to a North Carolina woman he met online and also lied to his probation officer about a trip to Florida.

He was arrested in Georgia in June 2009 and his probation revoked for 18 months. But when he was released from custody in December, he faced modified living restrictions. This time, he was banned from living just about anywhere in Georgia that was north of Macon.

So he moved to Columbus, where he spends his time on a fruitless job search while obsessing over his legal battle.

The Georgia Court of Appeals opinion did little to bolster his case. The three-judge panel rejected arguments that the banishment order violates his constitutional rights. The order, it said, is designed to help him "have a fresh start without the temptation to reoffend."

[name withheld #1]'s attorney vowed to appeal the case to the Georgia Supreme Court and to federal courts, but he said he's tired of waiting.

"I'm in disbelief. I can't believe they would uphold this banishment," he said. "I can't get a job, I can't support myself. I'm barely functioning down here. I'm hanging on for dear life. I served my prison time and I've paid my debt, and now it's time for me to move on with my life."

MN - Wi-Fi–Hacking Neighbor From Hell (Barry Ardolf) Sentenced to 18 Years

Original Article


By David Kravets

A Minnesota hacker prosecutors described as a “depraved criminal” was handed an 18-year prison term Tuesday for unleashing a vendetta of cyberterror that turned his neighbors’ lives into a living nightmare.

Barry Ardolf, 46, repeatedly hacked into his next-door neighbors’ Wi-Fi network in 2009, and used it to try and frame them for child pornography, sexual harassment, various kinds of professional misconduct and to send threatening e-mail to politicians, including Vice President Joe Biden.

His motive was to get back at his new neighbors after they told the police he’d kissed their 4-year-old son on the lips.

Barry Ardolf has demonstrated by his conduct that he is a dangerous man. When he became angry at his neighbors, he vented his anger in a bizarre and calculated campaign of terror against them (PDF),” prosecutor Timothy Rank said in a court filing. “And he did not wage this campaign in the light of day, but rather used his computer hacking skills to strike at his victims while hiding in the shadows."

Over months and months, he inflicted unfathomable psychic damage, making the victims feel vulnerable in their own home, while avoiding detection.”

Ardolf’s attorney, Kevin O’Brien, said in a telephone interview that “it was a lengthy sentence for a first-time offender.” The defendant also forfeited his house and computer gear.

Ardolf had no criminal record, but an investigation revealed that he’d also hijacked the Wi-Fi of other neighbors, and terrorized them as well.

A father of two, Ardolf had turned down a 2-year plea agreement last year to charges related to the Biden e-mail. After that, the authorities piled on more charges, including identity theft and two kiddie-porn accusations carrying lifetime sex-offender registration requirements. He pleaded guilty to them all last year.

The bizarre tale began in 2009 when [name withheld] moved in the house next door to Ardolf, who at the time was a Medronic computer technician living in the Minneapolis suburb of Blaine. On their first day at their new home, the [name withheld]’s then-4-year-old son wandered near Ardolf’s house. While carrying him back next door, Ardolf allegedly kissed the boy on the lips.

We’ve just moved next door to a pedophile,” Mrs. [name withheld] told her husband.

The couple reported Ardolf to the police, angering their creepy new neighbor. “I decided to ‘get even’ by launching computer attacks against him,” Ardolf later wrote in a letter to the judge.

Rank, the prosecutor, put it not so mildly:

It was apparently this incident which caused the defendant to begin a calculated campaign to terrorize his neighbors, doing whatever he could to destroy the careers and professional reputations of [name withheld], to damage the [name withheld]’ marriage, and to generally wreak havoc on their lives,” he said.

Ardolf downloaded Wi-Fi hacking software and spent two weeks cracking the [name withheld]’s WEP encryption. Then he used their own Wi-Fi network to create a fake MySpace page for the husband, where he posted a picture of a pubescent girl having sex with two young boys. Under the “about me” section, he wrote:

“I bet my coworker that since I’m a lawyer and a darn great one that I could get away with putting up porn on my site here. I bet that all I have to do is say that there is plausible deniability since anybody could have put this on my site. Like someone hacked my page and added porn without my knowledge. This is reasonable doubt. I’m a darn good lawyer and I can get away with doing anything!”

He then e-mailed the same child porn to one of the husband’s co-workers, and sent flirtatious e-mail to women in Mr. [name withheld]’s office. “You are such a fox,” read one of the e-mails. He sent the message’s through the husband’s genuine e-mail account.

After the husband explained to his law office superiors that he had no idea what was happening, his bosses hired a law firm that examined his network and discovered that an “unknown” device had access to it. With [name withheld]’s permission, they installed a packet sniffer on his network to try and get to the bottom of the incidents.

Then, in May 2009, the Secret Service showed up at [name withheld]’s office to ask about several threatening e-mails sent from his Yahoo account, and traced to his IP address, that were addressed to Biden and other politicians. The subject line of one e-mail read: “This is a terrorist threat! Take this seriously.”

I swear to God I’m going to kill you!,” part of the message to Biden said.

A forensics computer investigator working for [name withheld]’s law firm examined the packet logs, and found the e-mail sessions sending the threats. In the data surrounding the threatening traffic, they found traffic containing Ardolf’s name and Comcast account .

The FBI got a search warrant for Ardolf’s house and computer, and found reams of evidence, including copies of data swiped from the [name withheld]’ computer, and hacking manuals with titles such as Cracking WEP Using Backtrack: A Beginner’s Guide; Tutorial: Simple WEP Crack Aircracking and Cracking WEP with BackTrack 3 — Step-by-Step instructions. They also found handwritten notes laying out Ardolf’s revenge plans, and a cache of postal mail that Ardolf had apparently stolen from the [name withheld]’ mailbox and stashed under his bed.

One of the manuals had Ardolf’s handwriting on it and another had the unique identifying ID for the [name withheld]’ router typed into it,” Rank, the prosector, wrote.

Also discovered in Ardolf’s possession was the pornographic image posted on MySpace and sent to the husband’s co-worker, and evidence that he’d secretly staged a similar harassment campaign against a neighbor at Ardolf’s previous home in Brooklyn Park, another Minneapolis suburb. Among other things, he sent that family a postal-mail message consisting of a one-page, color print-out of the family’s “TurboTax” return with personally identifying information, in addition to several skull images.

I told you about a year ago that you should be very afraid. I can destroy you at will, you sorry-ass excuse for a human,” the letter said.

The Brooklyn Park family told the FBI they believed Ardolf was upset that their personal care attendants, who looked after their two disabled twin daughters, parked their car in front of his house.

NC - State struggling to comply with new sex offender rules

Original Article


By Dioni L. Wise

GREENSBORO — It takes a village to catch a predator.
- Sex offender does not equal predator!

Since a federal law was enacted in 2006, local law enforcement, the U.S. Marshals Service and the U.S. Attorney’s Office have collaborated more often to catch sex offenders who don’t comply with registry requirements.

The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act makes it a federal crime for registered sex offenders to knowingly fail to register when moving from state to state and allows the U.S. Attorney’s Office to prosecute them.

Starting later this month, a new component of the act kicks in: All 50 states must comply with minimum standards of sex offender registration and notification set by the federal government or lose grant money.
- It will take more money to comply with the draconian laws, and to maintain the laws, then to not comply and lose the grant money, and many states are finding that out.

The act aims to ensure uniformity among registries across the country and requires more disclosure from offenders.

They still must register their home address, like before. But they must also tell where they work, where they attend school, their car description, and their email addresses and Internet usernames.

The intentions are good. But it could cost North Carolina millions of dollars and hundreds of hours to become compliant.

North Carolina legislators are studying ways to pay for the changes. States that do not meet the criteria for “substantial implementation” of the new act’s rules by July 27 will lose 10 percent of federal law enforcement assistance grants.

It’s not a matter of if, but when North Carolina complies, said Cpl. J.F. Daniel, half of the two-person team that monitors nearly 700 sex offenders registered with the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office.

When the law ultimately passes, I am sure the word will come down from on high — 'Hey, (he snaps his fingers), 'We want it done now.’"

We don’t have the resources.”

County sheriff’s offices are supposed to register and monitor sex offenders. If deputies lose track of an offender, then they can ask the U.S. Marshals Service to locate the person inside or outside the state.
- From my understanding, it is the parole/probation's job to do this, and for those off parole/probation, then it's the sheriff's job.

If the person is found out of state, the U.S. Marshals Service investigates and consults with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to consider prosecution.

Updating the registry isn’t a big burden on sex offenders, said U.S. Attorney Anand P. Ramaswamy, who works in Greensboro.

But there are some people who just don’t want to make the effort,” he said.

Anonymity is one reason offenders flee.

If I’m here and if I’m registered, then my neighbors know,” said Bill Stafford, U.S. Marshal in Greensboro.

I can’t move next to the school; I can’t do all those things. I think, 'OK, I’ll move to South Carolina and nobody will know the difference.’

Not anymore.

In May, a judge sentenced the first defendant under the act in the U.S. Middle District in Greensboro.

Former Alamance County resident [name withheld], 48, pleaded guilty to failure to register as a sex offender.

He moved to Pennsylvania twice without registering, making him subject to the federal law.

He was sentenced to 27 months in prison, and was ordered to serve 15 years of supervision after his release.

Ramaswamy is prosecuting at least four other offenders.

Cpl. Daniel and Cpl. K. H. Lunsford share an office above the jail in downtown Greensboro.

Their desks sit side by side, covered in stacked files.

A blueish-gray background screen stands next to Lunsford’s desk. That’s where registered offenders take mug shots during required visits.

They verify information, change addresses, collect fingerprints and knock on doors to check on registered offenders in at least two blitzes a year with the help of other deputies.

For a pair that Daniel said is already “extremely busy,” complying with more requirements to monitor sex offenders is not feasible.

They keep up with 583 people who live in Guilford County and an additional 104 who list the county as their residence while they’re in local jails or state and federal prisons.
- And as the years go on, you will become a lot more busy, unless the draconian laws are repealed.

Daniel said he’d love to be compliant with the federal law. But that would mean an untenable workload for him and his partner.

North Carolina could lose 10 percent of its Edward Byrne law enforcement assistance grant, which was about $7.1 million in the last fiscal year, if it doesn’t comply by July 27.

Before state legislators decide to comply with the act, they need answers: How much would the new law cost? Would it cost less than what the state would lose from the grant?

In 2009, the nonprofit Justice Policy Institute estimated North Carolina would pay nearly $14.7 million in the first year to implement the act. If it didn’t comply, the state would have lost more than $546,000 in grants.
- So you see, they need to spend millions of dollars to get 1/2 of million dollars.  Doesn't make much sense to me.

At some point, the state will get tired of losing grant money, so it will eventually spend the money necessary to comply with the act and appease the federal government, Daniel said.
- Yeah, the last time I checked, that is called bribery.

In fact, a state committee is studying the changes required in state law to comply with the act and the cost to implement it. The lawmakers will report their findings and any recommended legislation to the General Assembly during its next session, which starts in January.

The intent (of the act) is excellent,” Daniel said. “And once we get over that huge headache ... we will be able to get into a rhythm of knowing all the things we need to do, and I think it will ease up, but that’s going to take some time.”