Thursday, July 21, 2011

RUSSIA - Cops Idle, Vigilantes Seek to Stop Child Abuse

Original Article

07/21/2011

By Natalya Krainova

It took just two days for the online profile of a fictitious 12-year-old girl to attract the attention of an older man.

When the man asked to meet the girl, whose profile was created by child rights activists and Moscow police, undercover police officers stood by to capture him on video camera.

But that was all they could do.

Russian legislation, unlike in the United States and other Western countries, does not allow the arrest of a suspected offender unless a child has actually been abused.

But at least the police showed up. Many police officers do not, ignoring a flood of reports from volunteers struggling to stem child abuse, activists say. Officers seem to prefer to crack down on suspected extremism, often involving anti-Kremlin political groups, and unsanctioned street rallies.

Some disillusioned activists have turned vigilante, tracking down and even beating up suspected offenders who are, after all, unlikely to complain. But grassroots violence is no replacement for government action — which, so far, has been limited to a draft bill envisioning chemical castration for convicted sex offenders and reams of bureaucratic babble.

While President Dmitry Medvedev launched an overhaul of the corruption-ridden national police force in March after public confidence in law enforcement sank to new lows, activists fear that children will still receive scant attention.

The sting operation that ended in the videotaping occurred in Moscow this spring and was announced by children rights activist Denis Davydov at a roundtable organized by the ruling United Russia party this month.

"Maybe we should criminalize the cyber-contacts of pedophiles with children," Davydov said at the roundtable, which was devoted to child sex abuse.

None of the high-ranking attendees, who included federal legislators, a senior prosecutor and a police chief, voiced support for the proposal.

But U.S. law allows the arrest of people entrapped by police officers pretending to be underage, Davydov said in an interview. The problem, he said, is that Russian law bans entrapment of suspected child sex offenders.
- The US doesn't see it as entrapment, which it is, but not by legal definition.

The law also appears to be unable to curb abuse. Children's ombudsman Pavel Astakhov said on his web site this month that reported instances of suspected abuse soared by 147 percent to 623 percent last year, depending on the type of abuse. More than 9,500 children were victimized last year, he said.
- So was it all sexual abuse?  I am willing to bet it was not.

At the same time, about 7,500 people were convicted on child sex charges, including 2,500 repeat offenders, according to statistics on the Kremlin's web site.

But the figures tell little about the real story, say activists, who complain that police have ignored their attempts to expose cases of abuse.

Among the most prominent activists is Anna Levchenko, a Moscow-based member of the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi, who details her campaigning on her LiveJournal blog, Agatacrysty.

It's a depressing read. For example, she wrote in February that she had handed information to the Tula region police about a man who posted child pornography online and admitted to regularly abusing eight boys under 14 on an Internet forum.

The law requires police to reply to complaints within 30 days, but all Levchenko got was a private conversation with a local police officer two months later, she said by telephone. The officer told her that the region's Investigative Committee had refused to open a criminal case for lack of proof that the man had acted intentionally when he posted the pornography online.

But Tula region police said in an e-mailed statement Wednesday that they did take action on Levchenko's complaint and informed her of that by telephone. They declined further comment on the case, citing an ongoing investigation.

The statement also accused Levchenko of frightening the suspect into fleeing Russia by continuing to report about him on her blog despite being asked not to do so. The man left Russia in June, the statement said, without specifying why he was not detained before that.

Levchenko said the police should have "at least sent a piece of paper" to prove that they were working on the case. "How can I know that they are really looking into my complaint?" she said.

Levchenko, who works with some 200 activists, said her group has alerted law enforcement agencies about 80 suspected offenders over the last six months and received by e-mail about 2,500 complaints since March.

The group's efforts have led to four cases being opened.

A more aggressive group of activists operates under the name Head Hunters and posts personal information about suspected offenders on a blog, Goodwin-hunters. According to the blog, the Moscow-based group also alerts the friends and relatives of suspected offenders about their alleged activities, and its members sometimes pretend to be children and arrange meetings with adults online. When the adult shows up for a "date," several activists beat him up.

"We believe that even though we are hunting them, their numbers are only growing," said the group's leader, whose online name is Goodwin and who only agreed to a telephone interview on condition of anonymity for fear of his personal safety.

The group says it has been active since 2007 but only went public in May 2010 when it launched its blog on Mail.ru.

Despite its tactics, the group never faced criticism from the authorities. Goodwin said the group comprises about a dozen regular activists and hundreds of occasional or one-off supporters. He claims that it has tracked down 700 to 1,000 suspected offenders.

But the group's efforts have failed to impress law enforcement officials. In 2009, it sent information about several suspected offenders to the Prosecutor General's Office, but the agency forwarded it to the Interior Ministry's cybercrime department, which "flat-out refused to accept information about pedophiles," saying its job was limited to child pornography, Goodwin said.

When the group passed a list of 150,000 web pages containing child pornography, many of them on the Vkontakte social networking site, to the cybercrime department last year, police blocked access to most of these web pages and sent a note of thanks to the group but no pedophile was prosecuted, Goodwin said.

Nashi activist Levchenko, who has monitored the Internet for sexual content involving children for three years, said that "so much child pornography appears daily that we are constantly late in tracking it down."

Yana Lantratova, a senior member of Childhood Territory, an initiative of United Russia's youth wing, Young Guard, also said her group was getting the "runaround" from law enforcement agencies.

In March, Lantratova said, she complained to the Interior Ministry's cybercrime department, the Prosecutor General's Office and the Investigative Committee about a gynecologist who was suspected of posting online pictures of his underage patients. She received no reply.

Inquiries submitted Monday to the Interior Ministry's cybercrime department, the Investigative Committee and the Prosecutor General's Office went unanswered.

Child pornography is "a business sheltered by certain people," said State Duma Deputy Grigory Ivliyev. Although he named no names, he spoke of "a system of corrupt law enforcement agencies" at the recent roundtable. He also said he and fellow legislators have asked police and Internet service providers to remove child pornography from the Internet but have been told that both groups lacked the power to act.

Ivliyev, a United Russia member and chairman of the Duma's Culture Committee, also co-authored a 2009 bill introducing definitions for erotica and pornography, still absent from Russian legislation. The bill was dropped because the government did not approve of its wording.

Some organizations have had more luck in their efforts. The Friendly Runet Foundation, for example, has managed to have some 10,000 web resources with pornographic content involving children — both whole web sites and individual pages — taken down in 2010 alone, its head, Yevgeny Bespalov, told the roundtable.

Another group, League for a Safe Internet, was created in February under the auspices of the Communications and Press Ministry and four telecom giants to combat illegal online content, including child pornography. It is headed by Davydov, who helped create the fake profile of a 12-year-old girl in the spring.

But Bespalov said the task is getting harder because child pornography is circulating mostly through social networking sites and file-sharing systems, not easily identifiable web sites.

Participants of the roundtable had no problem agreeing on the general outlines of what needs to be done: tightening Internet regulations, introducing hotlines to report suspected offenders, and spreading awareness about the issue among both children and parents.

But when activist Lantratova proposed to introduce "direct" communication between activists and law enforcement officers, the then-acting chief of the Interior Ministry's cybercrime department, Konstantin Machabeli, questioned the very notion of activists hunting suspected offenders.

He said exposing suspects online would only make them "hide their activities better," and fighting them face to face would be dangerous because their "reaction might be unpredictable and daft." He did not comment on complaints of his agency's nonfeasance.

Machabeli declined to comment to a Moscow Times reporter on the sidelines of the roundtable. Admittedly, he may have had other things on his mind — he was fired by the Kremlin days later. The presidential order cited no reason for the dismissal, but former Yevroset owner Yevgeny Chichvarkin earlier accused Machabeli of ordering police raids that bankrupted several companies.

After taking office last year, children's ombudsman Astakhov spoke about a "pedophile lobby" in the Duma blocking legislation on the issue. But he voiced a more reserved stance in an interview with The Moscow Times on Tuesday, saying the police simply lack specialists and courts underestimate the danger that offenders pose to children.

Machabeli was "voicing his personal position, which for the most part is outdated," Astakhov added.

Astakhov said he would not give up efforts to amend legislation on child abuse and noted that he convinced Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev this month to start training police officers to handle child sex crimes.

Meanwhile, Medvedev on July 12 submitted a bill to the Duma that would toughen punishment for convicted child sex offenders. The bill bans suspended sentences, makes it harder for convicted offenders to receive parole and introduces life sentences for repeat offenders, the Kremlin web site said.

The bill, which will not be reviewed before the start of the Duma's fall session in September, also introduces voluntary chemical castration for offenders ruled by a psychiatric examination to be legally sane and not suffering from a mental disorder. Offenders found sane but suffering from a mental disorder could be prescribed unspecified mandatory treatment.

Days before Medvedev submitted his bill, A Just Russia introduced its own version envisaging mandatory castration. The bill has slim chance of being approved because the Duma remains controlled by the Kremlin-friendly United Russia.

Neither bill mentions the fact that the police cannot arrest suspected offenders until they are caught in the act.


WA - Wrongful death lawsuit dismissed in Zina Linnik case

Original Article

07/21/2011

By ADAM LYNN

A King County judge has dismissed a wrongful-death lawsuit brought against the city of Tacoma, Pierce County and the state of Washington by the family of Zina Linnik, the Hilltop girl who was kidnapped and murdered by a sex offender four years ago.

Superior Court Judge J. Wesley Saint Clair issued the dismissal orders this morning.

Zina’s family had alleged the county and state negligently supervised the girl’s killer – Terapon Adhahn – after his conviction for a sex crime and that the city mishandled the issuing of an Amber Alert after he snatched the girl July 4, 2007.

Lawyers for the city, county and state countered their governments acted appropriately and that they should not be held liable for the actions of a murderous sex offender.

Issues raised during the lawsuit – including the fact the Tacoma police spokesman fell back to sleep instead of issuing the alert the morning of July 5, 2007 – led former City Manager Eric Anderson to reprimand Police Chief Don Ramsdell and to call for an outside investigation of the way the police department handled the Zina’s death.

The lawyer for the Linnik family said this morning that Saint Clair’s ruling was not unexpected and that the family would appeal.

"The original purpose of this case was twofold," Tyler Firkins said in an email. "It was to expose the significant errors and omissions that resulted in Zina’s death. We have accomplished that goal. We also set out to change the laws regarding the various agencies and their duties to protect children and the public. We have yet to accomplish that goal. To reach the family’s second goal, we always knew the case would be resolved in the appellate courts. We intend to create a higher duty of care for (Child Protective Services) and law enforcement when it comes to protecting children. When we have done that, we will have justice for Zina."

Firkins said Saint Clair’s ruling did not address the governments’ alleged negligence in the girls death but rather whether they had a legal duty to protect her.

The court’s rulings were premised on the government entities’ technical defense that they did not owe a duty to Zina,” he said. “It is a form of sovereign immunity. Under this legal premise the defendants’ errors are irrelevant to whether they owed a duty to Zina.”

Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland said the city appreciates Saint Clair’s thoughtful consideration of their argument in the case. The investigation of the police department’s handling the case would continue with an eye toward improving departmental policies and procedures, Strickland said.

Deputy prosecutor Dan Hamilton represented Pierce County in the case.

Hamilton said government agencies should be protected from such lawsuits.

Municipalities cannot be liable for all crimes that happen within their jurisdictions,” he said. “Otherwise, they’d do nothing at all out of fear of liability. There has to be something more than you let somebody slip through your fingers.”

Hamilton said he was sympathetic to the Linnik family.

"It’s understandable that someone who’s had a loss like this, a terrible loss, would want to find everyone they could to share that pain," he said. "Those feelings are certainly understandable. They’re just not the basis for a lawsuit."


TN - On 'Caylee's Law,' mob mentality and our state legislators' willingness to join right in

Original Article

07/21/2011

By Steven Hale

Contrary to America's seemingly unanimous gut feeling on the matter, a jury on July 5 found Casey Anthony not guilty of murdering her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee. Crowds outside the courtroom chanted, demanding that "justice for Caylee" be served. Within hours, a doctored photo featuring Anthony cozying up with the most notorious fugitive of the public trust, O.J. Simpson, began making the rounds on Facebook.

Now, less than a month later, what many an angry Facebook status or tweet has called a miscarriage of justice has inspired a familiar response: the conception of a new law bearing the name of the departed. Naturally, Tennessee lawmakers are at the front of the hysterical-response curve with their version of "Caylee's Law," a bill that would punish parents for failing to report a missing child within a certain time frame.

Public outcry over such a heinous crime is understandable, but similarly inspired legislation has had mixed results. One such case is Megan's Law, passed in New Jersey in 1994 and named after 7-year-old Megan Kanka, who was raped and killed by a convicted sex offender who had moved in across the street from her family. Once enacted at the federal level in 1996, it required that all states adopt a procedure for notifying the public of any registered sex offenders in an area.

But in 2009, a study of the law's effectiveness in New Jersey funded by the Department of Justice found its effects did not match its intent. The concluding report said the law had not reduced sexual re-offenses, and its growing cost might not be justifiable.

While the particulars of the Anthony case are different, the call for corrective legislation is similar. "Caylee's Law" would criminalize what many found to be the most offensive piece of circumstantial evidence against Anthony: her failure to report Caylee missing for 31 days. As of this writing, more than 1.2 million people had signed the Change.org petition, where — after an online feedback loop appeared to give a semblance of substance to the outrage — the idea for the law began. Attentive to the publicity, lawmakers in as many as 20 states have proposed some version of it.

Legislators in three states have already filed versions of the bill: Florida, New Jersey and Tennessee. Here, state Rep. Tony Shipley proposed HB 2162, "The Caylee Anthony Act," on July 11, less than a week after the verdict. The bill would make it a Class E felony for a physically able parent not to report a missing child within 24 hours of the time they "knew, learned or believed" that child was missing.

The bill recently found a Senate sponsor in Murfreesboro's Bill Ketron, chairman of the Senate's Republican Caucus and a master of surfing the winds of the political fringe. His greatest moves include proposals to outlaw the Muslim practice of Shariah (it has since been amended), give driver's license exams in English only, and study the possibility of creating a unique currency for Tennessee, should the Federal Reserve collapse. To those who believe the bill is based more in reaction than reason, Ketron's endorsement was a confirmation of sorts.

Such slapdash legislating is no way to build a sensible legal structure, says Terry Maroney, a criminal law professor at Vanderbilt University whose areas of expertise include the role of emotion in law. She says that, while she understands the instinct behind this and similar movements, it's not a tendency she supports.

"I think the problem with this kind of approach to criminal law is that it's shortsighted," she says. "It takes something about a particular case, takes it out of context, and then builds this new legal rule around it and patches it onto the pre-existing legal framework."

Ketron didn't respond to a request for comment. In a recent Tennessean op-ed, he summoned the public frustration to prove a point no one is arguing: When it comes to reporting a child missing, time is of the essence.

To those who doubt the prudence of "Caylee's Law," that's precisely the problem: What attentive parent would intentionally wait to report their child missing? And on the flip side, would a negligent parent — or one with murderous intent — be deterred by the threat of a Class E felony?

"It's never a good idea to build rules around the exceptions," Maroney says. "In the vast majority of cases, parents are going to report their children missing. What upsets people about the Casey Anthony case is that she didn't for so long, but that's extraordinarily aberrant."

Rather than adding a law that could easily ensnare the innocent, Maroney says increased efforts on the front end of cases like Caylee Anthony's are a better approach.

"Passing 'Caylee's Law' may be easy, but I don't think it will do anything, and it could do a lot of harm," she says. "What I'd rather see is that kind of mobilization to strengthen our mechanisms for child welfare enforcement. Of course, that's not as easy as, say, liking something on a Facebook page."


UK - Ex-councillor Martin Fisher jailed for child pornography

Martin Fisher
Original Article

07/21/2011

A former Sheriff of Canterbury has been sent to prison today after admitting indecently assaulting a vulnerable youngster and downloading child pornography.

Ex councillor Martin Fisher, 61, later told one police officer: "Some people like Picasso..I like pictures of children with no clothes on."

The paedophile pleaded guilty at Canterbury Crown Court to five charges, including two sexual assaults on an adult and 11 charges of downloading disgusting images of children - including one depicting sado-masochism on a child.

Fisher, from Queen's Road, was told by Judge Adele Williams he had a "deviant sexual interest in children" who had shown no insight about the effect on his victim.

Fisher, who ran his own insurance business in Sittingbourne, was jailed for a total of 15 months and banned him from working with children for 10 years.

The sentence was the culmination of a 15-month long investigation by the East Kent Public Protection Unit, based at Canterbury Police Station.

Investigating officer, Detective Constable Richard Allen, said: "This was a joint investigation with Kent Social Services in which Kent Police took the lead."

"We arrested Fisher in April 2010 after one of his victims reported the offences. During the course of the investigation computers, video cameras and cameras were seized from Fisher's home in Whitstable and his business address in Sittingbourne."

"We found indecent images of children and paedophilic stories that had been downloaded from the internet both on his home and business computers. Paper copies of indecent images were found in the office at his home and copies of paedophilic stories were discovered underneath his bedside cabinet."

"When Fisher was arrested and interviewed he admitted accessing and printing the images and stories but he said he didn't accept they were indecent - he felt they were artistic."

Throughout police interviews Fisher denied the sexual assaults, but changed his plea to guilty at a court hearing on June 20.

Detective Chief Inspector Paul Fotheringham, head of CID at East Kent, paid tribute to Fisher's victims, who, he said, had been prepared to give evidence against Fisher, should there have been a trial.

He also paid tribute to officers at the Public Protection Unit for carrying out a meticulous investigation: "Thanks to their dedication and thoroughness a damning case was built up against Fisher," he said.

"Throughout the investigation Fisher refused to accept that he was sexually interested in children, despite using search engines on his computers to look for sites specifically involving sex with children. He maintained that indecent pictures and explicit paedophilic stories were 'art'."

"He has also since claimed that he pleaded guilty to save his victims the trauma of going to court and that he was also a victim in the case."

"We wholeheartedly dispute that. Hopefully, following today's sentence, he now understands that this behaviour is not acceptable and the only victims in this case are the people he sexually assaulted."

"I also hope that the case shows other victims that Kent Police will do everything in its power to bring offenders like Fisher to justice," DCI Fotheringham said.

Alongside the 15 month sentence Fisher will stay on the sex offenders' register for 10 years. He was also given a sexual offences prevention order, banning him from working with children for 10 years.


CO - Sexual abuse lies keep man in prison; courts refuse to hold new trial

Original Article

07/20/2011

By Alan Prendergast

They took away the children eleven years ago. They took away the family photos just the other day — 212 glossy images of kids now grown, of smiling grandchildren he's never seen or held.

[accused name withheld] kept the pictures in his cell in the Sterling Correctional Facility, a collection that expanded with every letter, every precious word from his far-flung tribe. He's never made a secret of them. But men convicted of terrible crimes aren't allowed to have certain kinds of photos in their possession. So when a recent shakedown turned up a snapshot of his youngest grandson having his diaper changed, the kid just lying there exposed — well, that was the end of the pictures.

That's what happens when you're condemned to a mountain of time. Piece by piece, inch by inch, they take it all away. Your freedom. Your memories. Your ties to anything human.

But [accused name withheld] isn't a man who gives up easily. He's filed a lawsuit over the seizure of his "contraband" family album. The dispute has already cost him his clean disciplinary record, his job in the prison upholstery operation, and his place in an honor pod reserved for the best-behaved inmates in Sterling.

[accused name withheld] doesn't care. The pictures mean that much to him.

"Hope has been snatched from me so many times," he says. "They put me in here for life. Family is basically what has kept me going. The biggest reason I don't do away with myself is my kids. I want to make sure they're doing okay."

Family may be what keeps [accused name withheld] going, but it's also what put him behind bars. In 2002 an Arapahoe County jury found the former bakery worker guilty of multiple counts of sexual assault on a child after hearing the horrific story told by his oldest stepdaughter, ["victim" name withheld]. She testified that [accused name withheld], often assisted by her own mother, had subjected her to more than a hundred instances of molestation, rape and sexual abuse from the age of eleven until she was fifteen. Judge John P. Leopold sentenced [accused name withheld] to 145 years to life — the kind of time usually reserved for serial killers, terrorists or Bernie Madoff.

Like many convicted sex offenders, [accused name withheld] has always maintained his innocence. Unlike most of them, he doesn't bother to hide the nature of his conviction, even though child molesters can expect brutal treatment from other prisoners. But what truly sets his case apart is the degree to which family members continue to support him, insisting that he couldn't possibly have done such a thing. And his staunchest defender for the past eight years has been the one person, other than [accused name withheld] and his co-defendant, who knows what really happened: his alleged victim.

Shortly after [accused name withheld]'s trial, prosecutors dropped similar charges against ["victim" name withheld]'s mother, [mother name withheld], because ["victim" name withheld] refused to testify against her. A few months later, after ["victim" name withheld] turned eighteen, she went back to court and told a very different story.

She said that she'd lied, that she'd fabricated the allegations against [mother name withheld] and [accused name withheld] so she could live with her grandparents in Oklahoma. That she'd made fools out of the cops, the social workers, the prosecutors, who not only swallowed her preposterous tale, but coached her on how to tell it better on the stand. And when she tried to call the whole thing off, two caseworkers and a prosecutor pressured her into sticking to her story and ignored her assertions that it wasn't true.
- It is people like this caseworker and prosecutor, who should be in prison.

"I ultimately testified against my stepfather at his trial because I was scared by threats of being placed in a mental institution," she wrote in an affidavit submitted in court. "I have had trouble sleeping since I made these allegations. When I do sleep, I have nightmares about ruining innocent lives."

["victim" name withheld]'s explosive claims triggered a series of hearings before Judge Leopold. Prosecutors and social workers took the stand to deny any misconduct; relatives testified that they'd expressed doubts about ["victim" name withheld]'s story to officials but had been told to keep quiet. If it had been a different sort of crime at issue, in any county other than Arapahoe — which has a formidable reputation for aggressively pursuing child sexual-assault cases — the new evidence might have made [accused name withheld] a free man. Instead, the case has become a long, tortuous gauntlet of legal wrangles and appeals, and [accused name withheld] remains in his cell.

In America's holy war on sex offenders, it's a matter of gospel to believe the children — no matter how improbable the claims, how inadequate the investigation, how suspect the credibility of the alleged victim. The children must be believed. Unless, of course, they change their story to something nobody wants to hear.

"This is a terrifying case," says attorney Mark Walta, who's worked on [accused name withheld]'s appeals since 2003. "The prosecution's entire case was staked to this woman's credibility. But when you're dealing with someone who is more or less a pathological liar, you don't know where the truth starts and ends."

"It's crazy," says Craig Truman, the veteran criminal defense attorney who represented [accused name withheld] at trial. "I just find it amazing that some judge somewhere didn't say that without this girl, there's no evidence and he deserves a new trial."





NM - State judge (Albert S. Murdoch) accused of sex assault on prostitute

Albert S. “Pat” Murdoch
Original Article
Judge steps down after sex crime charge

07/20/2011

A state judge in New Mexico is facing charges that he sexually assaulted a prostitute in his home, a crime that police say was videotaped by the victim out of concern for her safety.

State District Judge Albert S. “Pat” Murdoch, 59, was arrested Tuesday and charged with criminal sexual penetration and intimidation of a witness, NBC affiliate KOB-TV in Albuquerque reported Wednesday. He was released on a $50,000 bond overnight, it said.

A criminal complaint said the prostitute told police that she had visited Murdoch approximately eight times in his home after he answered an online personals ad and exchanged money for sexual acts.

She said that the first time she met him, he said he wanted to perform oral sex on her but she refused. But Murdoch nonetheless “forced himself on her to perform the oral sex,” according to the complaint.

She later videotaped another encounter with the judge where he again performed oral sex on her against her will, it said.
- So why in the hell did she keep coming back?  Sounds fishy to me.

It said she did so after she began posing hypothetical situations regarding a woman making allegations against him and he responded that “...he would use the police and his connections to take care of the situation," according to the complaint.

The prostitute also told police that she saw what appeared to be child pornography on the judge’s computer on another occasion, the complaint said. Albuquerque Deputy Police Chief Paul Feist told Reuters on Wednesday that investigators were “trying to determine if there were other people involved or other locations.”

No attorney was listed for on Murdoch, a veteran criminal judge, on the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court’s Web docket and calls to his home and office were not answered.

KOB reported that the Judicial Standards Committee was meeting to consider suspending Murdoch until the case is resolved.

Murdoch was due for his first court appearance on Thursday, but the Albuquerque Journal reported that the appearance was likely to be delayed by judges who have worked with the veteran judge recusing themselves from hearing his case.