Friday, September 30, 2011
By Betsy Sundquist and David Henke
[name withheld]'s former schoolmate says he has asked a state representative to look into introducing such a law in the 2012 Legislature.
A former schoolmate of a Simley High School senior charged with statutory rape has asked a Minnesota state representative to introduce “Romeo and Juliet” legislation intended to keep teenagers in consensual sexual relationships from being charged as sex offenders.
Tsistas Yang, 18, who graduated from Simley last spring and and is currently studying criminal justice and psychology at Briar Cliff University, has asked District 39B Rep. Joe Atkins (DFL) to consider introducing a Romeo and Juliet law when the 2012 Legislature convenes in January.
Under Minnesota law, anyone who engages in sex—even consensual sex—with a partner who is at least 13 but younger than 16, and who is more than 24 months older than the victim, can be charged with statutory rape.
Romeo and Juliet laws protect 18-year-olds involved in consensual intimate relationships with 14- to 16-year-old minors from being classified as sex offenders, provided the older person has no prior convictions and is not more than 48 months older than the younger one.
Michigan, Florida and Texas have such laws on their books. A similar proposal failed earlier this year in the Illinois Legislature.
Yang describes himself as a lifelong friend of [name withheld], 18, was charged this month with third-degree criminal sexual conduct, a felony that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. If he is convicted, he will be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
Authorities say [name withheld], who turned 18 on July 17, had an ongoing sexual relationship over the summer with a 14-year-old girl. Under Minnesota law, anyone who engages in sex—even consensual sex—with a partner who is at least 13 but younger than 16, and who is more than 24 months older than the victim, can be charged with statutory rape.
“This stuff happens all the time,” said Yang, who grew up playing soccer with [name withheld], and learned about the charges via Facebook.
“It happens on a daily basis. It’s kind of like when you get to high school, the age doesn’t really matter anymore.”
[name withheld] is currently free on bond and has an omnibus hearing scheduled for Nov. 28. However, because the conditions of his release include having no contact with his victim—also a student at Simley—or anyone else under the age of 18, he is taking classes online rather than attending classes at Simley, according to his friend.
“I’m studying to become a lawyer,” Yang said. “As a lawyer, you want the law to be fair to both sides, and I thought they were too harsh on [name withheld]."
“Laws like this basically separate actual, real sex offenders from accidental sex offenders like [name withheld].”
Atkins confirmed Wednesday that was approached by Yang. The state representative said he thanked Yang for researching the issue and promised to look into it. In a phone interview on Wednesday evening, Yang said he had also approached District 39 Sen. Jim Metzen with the same request.
Atkins, who practices civil law, wouldn’t comment on the [name withheld] situation, which has polarized the residents of Inver Grove Heights and students at Simley. At last count, a Facebook page, “Free George,” had 172 likes.
- Everybody who can legally use Facebook, click the link above and like the page. Help this man get this law passed.
“I practice law for a living, and I don’t do criminal stuff,” Atkins said. “But one thing I’ve learned: Don’t assume any facts until you’ve heard the full story of what’s going on.”
Keith Joyce, whose son played on the same soccer team with [name withheld] last year, said that when the story first surfaced in Inver Grove Heights, “there were two camps: one incredibly supportive of [name withheld], and one where people said, ‘Hang him high.’"
“Now a lot of them are going, ‘We knew it was wrong, and he has to pay some consequences, but oh my God, that is just too much.’”
A lot of students don’t understand why the girl isn’t also culpable, Joyce said.
“And she’s getting harassed for that,” he added, noting that fellow Simley students have shouted insults at her. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there.”
The case isn't the first of its kind. In 2003, Georgia native [name withheld] was convicted of statutory rape and aggravated child molestation after a sexual encounter with a 15-year-old classmate. [name withheld], 18 at the time of the encounter, was given a 10-year prison sentence after a high-profile criminal trial that attracted national media attention. The Georgia Supreme Court eventually overturned the felony child-molestation charge.
Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom acknowledged that teenagers engage in sexual relationships, often without considering the legal implications.
“But it’s a crime under Minnesota law to have sex with anyone, even if it’s consensual, under the age of 16,” he said. “That’s the law. That’s the reason the charges were filed.”
But a St. Paul criminal defense attorney, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is working on a similar case, said the law should make a distinction between young offenders and older adults accused of statutory rape.
"I think there’s an absolute distinction," the attorney said. “I understand why you make it a crime, but the issue is whether or not these people are predatory sexual offenders. When people are within the same peer group, to me, that isn’t an abnormal sexual drive."
Registering as a sex offender can have a significant impact on a young person's life in these cases, the attorney said.
“Suddenly your whole future is gone ... It’s a good way of ruining someone’s life.”
- Yep, these last two sentences sums it all up pretty well!
So really, it's not about disclosing criminals, it's about demonizing and shaming ex-sex offenders. They say it's for child sex offenders only, but I am willing to bet it's for all who wear the sex offender scarlet letter. Why not have one registry for all criminals, so you can "protect" kids from other criminals, who harm more kids than the boogie man sex offender?
Detective Inspector Mark Cuddihy, lead for the Counties Safeguarding Team and architect of the Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme for Leicesterhire Police, tells of the schemes's benefits. He says clear factual infomration about the past offending of a person can help a responsible parent or carer make informed decisions about who should be in contact with their child.
Talk about the punishment not fitting the crime!
The Corpus Christi Police Department (Facebook) Sex Offender Unit investigated allegations that sex offender [name withheld] (07/10/62) had failed to register every 90 days as required by state law. [name withheld] failed to return to the police department to update his registration.
[name withheld] was found guilty of failing to register as a sex offender and sentenced to 50 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for a Motion to Revoke for Theft (Enhanced), a 20 year sentence for Failure to Register as Sex Offender in addition to four 20 year sentences each on the remaining four charges.
The Sex Offender Unit routinely monitors sex offenders to ensure that they are in compliance with their registration.
Of course companies are lining up at the door, there is big money to be made in exploiting fear and ex-offenders.
By Alan Travis
More than 30 firms said to be keen to bid for new contracts as Ken Clarke seeks to improve confidence in alternatives to prison
Ministers are preparing for a massive expansion in electronic tagging of offenders, with private security companies being invited to bid for more than £1bn worth of contracts next month.
The use of electronic tagging has grown rapidly since it was first used in 1999 by courts in England and Wales to enforce curfews. Now more than 20,000 offenders are monitored by private security firms on any given day.
The current eight-year contracts, which are held by G4S and Serco electronic monitoring services, are due to end shortly. The Ministry of Justice says more than 30 companies have expressed an interest in competing for the new contracts when bids are invited this October.
Fewer than 3,500 electronic tagging orders were made in 1999, a figure that rose to cover more than 70,000 people last year. It is estimated that more than 450,000 people in England and Wales have spent time electronically tagged over the past decade.
The justice secretary, Ken Clarke, is planning a further significant expansion in the use of tagging as part of his drive to improve public confidence in alternatives to prison. His sentencing and punishment bill, which is now before parliament, will give the courts powers to extend the tag curfew limit from 12 hours a day to 16. The bill also proposes doubling the length of a curfew order from six to 12 months.
The extension of tagging comes as G4S prepares to take over the Victorian inner city prison at Winson Green, Birmingham, this weekend, the first in the UK to be transferred from the public to private sector. Serco is about to start the first "payment by results" offender services pilot scheme at Doncaster prison with similar schemes to follow at eight more prisons. Plans for the largest-ever wave of jail privatisation with nine public sector prisons being put out to tender this autumn have already been announced.
Only last week the justice minister, Lord McNally, warned a Liberal Democrat conference fringe meeting of the danger of a "semi-monopoly" developing with the largest security companies, such as G4S and Serco, winning the majority of justice contracts.
The main form of tagging used in England and Wales involves the offender wearing a tag around their ankle or wrist which sends a signal back to a monitoring unit at their home address. A text message-style signal is sent to the company's monitoring centre if the offender breaks the circuit by leaving home during the curfew hours. Tagging is used both as a community penalty and to monitor prisoners released early on home detention curfews.
- You sure it's not on the right hand or forehead?
The latest expansion in tagging comes despite official statements that electronic tags have no impact in reducing the reoffending rates of criminals or the number of contractual penalty payments of more than £273,000 over the past four years by G4S and Serco for service failures.
"The re-competition [sic] of these contracts offers the market an opportunity of significant scale (based on current spend, the total contract value is likely to be in the region of £1bn)," says the Ministry of Justice in its latest competition strategy document.
Ministers hope the new contracts will cut the current unit cost of £1,063 for a 90-day adult curfew and £1,935 for a 120-day juvenile curfew.
"The expected reductions in the unit cost of delivery are likely to provide significant opportunities for both savings and service improvement. This will also provide opportunities for greater involvement of small and medium enterprises – in this case, companies offering innovative tagging technology," says the strategy.
Up until now more ambitious uses of electronic tagging, such as satellite tracking and voice verification to monitor an individual's daily movements, have been limited by the impact of tall buildings on the patchy mobile phone networks the system relies on.
The Ministry of Justice has always maintained that tagging provides the courts with a credible alternative to prison. But ministers admitted to MPs two years ago: "Current evidence suggests that electronic monitoring has a neutral effect on reoffending. However, international research does suggest that it can be effective in helping to ensure compliance with other, more rehabilitative, community penalties."
- But a person who is truly dangerous will commit another crime, if that is their intention, even if they are being tagged like an animal! This is just a waste of money in order to pacify the sheeple, to make them "feel" safe while not actually doing so.
Harry Fletcher of Napo, the probation service union, said he was shocked that tagging had become a £1bn industry: "There is no evidence that tagging has any impact on reducing crime. It is also very expensive, with a 90-day tag costing £1,100 to the taxpayer. That is for an outlay of only £400 to £500 assuming only one call-out to the offender for each order. So there is a huge markup," he said.
- It's all about money. I would not be surprised if the Lords and others had stock in these companies.
The Louisiana Supreme Court has reinstated a Rapides Parish jury's 2009 decision to convict former Lecompte Assistant Police Chief Todd Andrew Jones for attempted indecent behavior with a juvenile, according to the Rapides Parish District Attorney's Office.
Jones, 36, appealed to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal, which overturned the conviction. The DA's office appealed the 3rd Circuit's decision, and the Supreme Court reinstated Jones' conviction in a 4-3 decision.
In the 2009 trial, the jury believed that Jones "verbally suggested to a 16-year-old that they engage in oral sex," a DA's office news release states. Jones testified that he made the remark, "but that it was a joke."
All during the court process, Jones remained in jail. He is out of jail now, but must register as a sex offender for 15 years.
Assistant District Attorney Mike Shannon prosecuted the case.