Monday, November 14, 2011

WI - Tale of teenage love also a crime story

Original Article


By Bruce Vielmetti

19-year-old, like his grandfather, jailed over romance with underage girlfriend

Christian Laes, 19, is in jail today because he wouldn't follow a judge's order to stay away from his younger girlfriend, just like his grandfather did in 1970.

Dean Teska made headlines in Milwaukee when, on probation for contributing to the delinquency of a minor, he married his girlfriend when she turned 18. He was 20. The union withstood Teska's brief stay in jail, produced four children and lasted until Teska's death in 1982.

But 2011 legal and moral realities could dictate a harsher outcome for Laes and his romance.

Laes, of Sturgeon Bay, has been jailed in Door County since Sept. 13, a day after he got together with his girlfriend, Crystal Muraski, 17. He wasn't supposed to communicate with her at all because they had touched each other sexually early last year, when she was 15 and he was 18.

That was in March 2010. She told some friends, who told a teacher, who told police, who told prosecutors. They charged Laes with sexual assault of a child that summer.

The state offered a deferred prosecution agreement on the felony. Laes pleaded no contest in December to third- and fourth-degree sexual assault, both misdemeanors, was found guilty and was sentenced to probation with a list of conditions, including get counseling, write an essay on appropriate sexual behavior, stay in school and get a job. If he could meet them all over a three-year period, his felony case would be dismissed.

The toughest condition was no contact with Muraski - no visits, phone calls, Facebook messages, letters, emails, texts or notes through go-betweens.

In September, they met up anyway. The next day, he landed in jail.

'Romeo law'

His probation officer has moved to revoke his probation. The deferred prosecution deal could get pulled, and Laes could be sentenced to three years in prison - and a lifetime on Wisconsin's sex offender registry.

Muraski and Laes' mother, Dena Teska, think that's wrong.

"Don't we have a Romeo law or something here?" Teska asked.

Wisconsin, like some other states, does allow some sex offenders to petition for removal from the registry in certain circumstances where the contact was consensual among people within a certain age range.

Teska noted the irony that her own father had been jailed over his romance with a minor. Dean Teska had been involved in long-running feud with his girlfriend's family, according Milwaukee Journal coverage from 1970. He wound up convicted of contributing to the delinquency of a minor after Pamela Pride's father learned she had visited Teska's apartment (when his roommate also was present).

Teska was ordered not to see Pamela, but instead married her the day she turned 18. He was later jailed for it. A judge eventually let Teska out in time for a wedding reception at his mother's house.

Dena Teska said she met her husband when she was a high school freshman and he was a senior. They got married when she was 19 and had their son Christian, but are now divorced.

Touching incidents

Laes was a senior, Muraski a freshman, at Sturgeon Bay High School when they started dating in the fall of 2009. In March 2010, he touched her sexually and she touched him sexually, and by the end of the month both had been interviewed by police and admitted the touching happened two or three times.

"I knew it was illegal for me to have sexual intercourse with (Muraski) but I did not know it was illegal to touch each other in a sexual manner," Laes said in a written statement to a Door County sheriff's deputy.

Muraski, now a junior, said she wasn't pressured by Laes, and that she thinks jealousy among her "supposed friends" led them to go to a school resource officer. Muraski did tell a detective that at first she said no to the touching, but agreed to it after Laes teased her for being chicken.

"The whole thing in the beginning was my friends suspected we were doing stuff that we weren't," Muraski said. "I have a feeling they all liked Christian at the time, but he didn't choose them."

Earlier that March, Laes had pleaded no contest to a 2009 misdemeanor drug possession charge, found guilty and sentenced to probation. His mother says his probation agent jailed him briefly after hearing about the investigation, even before he was charged with the sex crime in July.

Now, Muraski said, Laes' probation agent, Kim Bridenhagen, comes to her school nearly every week, talking to Laes' friends and to her. Muraski said people around school now pretty much all blame her for Laes being in jail.

"She's telling me she thinks I'm depressed and she's trying to help me, but she's also trying to get more information about Christian," Muraski said. She said she has told Bridenhagen she doesn't want to see her anymore.

Bridenhagen declined to discuss the case with a reporter, citing Department of Corrections policy. A Sturgeon Bay police officer involved in the case did not return a message.

Teska said her son has a probation revocation hearing Tuesday.

She said at this point Laes hopes his probation is revoked and he is sentenced to serve a year in jail, with the other conditions dropped. That way, he could at least see Crystal on visiting days. Both she and Muraski have sent letters to the judge.

"But we're not sure" how it will turn out, Teska said. "We're all scared."

Muraski said it's all adding to the stress she already feels about going in for some heart surgery the day after Laes' hearing. She said it's part of ongoing treatment for a congenital heart defect.

She said whatever comes for Laes, she'll wait for him because he and Teska "are like family to me now."

MO - Legislators look at adjusting laws for sex offenders

Original Article


By Jessica Machetta

A House committee looks at sex offender facts to determine if registry and compliance laws need to be changed. The state is working to cut down on its corrections costs … and the House Interim Committee on Criminal Justice is looking at whether the state’s sex offender laws should be revamped.

Former Corrections Director Gary Kempker, who now does consulting on a nationwide basis, presents legislators with the facts … and the myths. He says one belief is that strangers are the biggest threat, when in reality, only about 34 percent of sex offenses are committed by strangers.

Kempker tells the committee one startling set of statistics is that incarceration — while appropriate — does not reduce the recidivism rate for sex offenders.

He says what does reduce the likelihood that sex offenders will re-offend is supervision once they’re released, good relationships between corrections, parole, law enforcement and treatment providers, as well as ensuring offenders’ stability of employment and housing upon re-entry into society.

A lot of jurisdictions, including this one, use polygraphs,” he says. Another system many states are using is GPS.

A multi-faceted approach to supervision, prevention and rehabilitation is required to cut crimes and cut costs, he says, that that includes a unified collaboration between investigations, sentencing, prosecution, assessment, registration, victims’ centers, having specialized knowledge in law enforcement, supervision, and treatment.

Kempker points out that Missouri joins a host of other states in tackling the issue: Corrections costs and sex offender registry were both in the top ten concerns analyzed by legisltors in the U.S. last year.

The state, while looking at preserving public safety and reducing corrections costs, also wants to make sure it’s in compliance with the federal SORNA Act, the Sex Offender Registry and Notification Act.

Lawmakers are also compiling data compiled by the PEW Research Center, which is working with a group of state officials on analyzing numbers from Missouri’s corrections facilities and inmate populations. Among those studies breaks down crime by type, recidivism and costs.

VA - Flawed screenings pack sex offender facility, JLARC says

Original Article


By Frank Green

The explosive population growth at Virginia’s treatment center for “sexually violent predators” is largely the result of a flawed selection process, says a new state study.

A review presented this morning by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission concluded that the program’s rate of growth can be slowed if a risk assessment method used to select the offenders is changed.

The Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation in Nottoway County holds rapists, child molesters and others who have completed their prison sentences but who the courts have deemed too dangerous to release because of the risk they will reoffend.

They can be civily committed and kept off the streets but only if they are receiving meaningful treatment, a requirement that makes the VCBR much more expensive than a prison.

When the VCBR began in 2003, it was not projected to reach 100 residents until 2013. Instead, the population is now 282 – at a cost of $91,000 a year each -- and will soon reach the 300-bed capacity of the $62 million facility in Nottoway.

Growth at the center took off after 2006 when the number of eligible crimes was increased from four to 28 and a new assessment instrument, the so-called “Static 99,” was adopted as the initial tripwire for commitment consideration.

The unforeseen growth prompted the JLARC study released today. The commission, however, will not vote on whether to adopt it until its Dec. 4 meeting.

Study: Parents Let Their Underage Children Lie to Join Facebook

Original Article


By Pamela Cytrynbaum

Is Facebook, the social networking site, becoming free childcare?

We're all struggling to keep up with the hectic lives, schedules, homework, struggles, friendships of our children and grandchildren. It's hard enough to keep track of the basics in the actual world. Now a series of new studies reveals too many of us are failing to keep track of what's going on with our children in a place they're spending far more time: the online world of social networking called Facebook

What if I told you 7.5 million pre-teens (5 million age 10 and younger) are spending hours each week exploring – unsupervised – a world where:

  • True identities can be completely hidden.
  • Kids post personal information, photographs, and video clips of themselves.
  • Children can post – and so others can track – their real-time location.
  • Privacy is murky and you are often a couple of clicks away from accidentally revealing everything you post, write, share with millions of people.
  • For adults in this world, the privacy rules are confusing, unclear and ever-changing. Imagine your 8-year-old child or grandchild navigating through it without adult supervision.

AND…..This place is always unveiling the coolest new games and ways to merge your online life with your 'real life.' For example, now you can track and post your location instantly. If you're walking from school to a friend's house, you can post your location. Then all your pals know right where you are and where you are going at the very moment you're doing it!

What if I told you this world was free, easily accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and that it is the coolest, hottest, hippest place kids have to hang out? Nobody wants to be left out.

There is one rule, though. You must be 13 to enter.

Now what if I told you that a series of studies recently confirmed what many of us already knew – that many parents and maybe grandparents – are letting their children and grandchildren lie about their age to get into this world. And, once those kids are in, these parents and grandparents are allowing them to roam around completely unsupervised – to share information, locations, pictures and videos of themselves.

Consumer Reports Survey Finds Disturbing Trends

Consumer Reports released this:

"Our survey unearthed several disturbing findings about children and Facebook:

  • Of the 20 million minors who actively used Facebook in the past year, 7.5 million—or more than one-third—were younger than 13 and not supposed to be able to use the site.
  • Among young users, more than 5 million were 10 and under, and their accounts were largely unsupervised by their parents.
  • One million children were harassed, threatened, or subjected to other forms of cyberbullying on the site in the past year.

Clearly, using Facebook presents children and their friends and families with safety, security, and privacy risks."

The Fake ID's of Cyber Space: Getting Into Facebook

To join Facebook you simply type in your information and your birthdate. If you're too young, they'll bounce you out. But there's no credit card confirmation or other precaution to confirm the accuracy of the information. Anyone can join if they lie about their age.

According to the recent reports, including The New York Times, many parents aren't worried, are actively helping their kids lie, or are completely unaware of what's going on.

Where are Mom and Dad?

"Parents of kids 10 and younger on Facebook seem to be largely unconcerned. Only 18 percent made their child a Facebook friend, which is the best way to monitor the child. By comparison, 62 percent of parents of 13- to 14-year-olds did so. Only 10 percent of parents of kids 10 and under had frank talks about appropriate online behavior and threats."

'Why Parents Help Their Children Lie' to Facebook

A study co-authored by Eszter Hargittai, associate professor of communication studies at Northwestern University, called: "Why Parents Help Their Children Lie to Facebook About Age: Unintended Consequences of the 'Children's Online Privacy Protection Act' found that "many parents knowingly allow their children to lie about their age—in fact, often help them to do so—in order to gain access to age-restricted sites in violation of those sites' terms of service."

Is it really SO wrong? What Should Parents Do?

Look, I'm crazy about Facebook and am on it a lot. As a former new media communications prof and current journalism teacher I use it as a teaching tool for my students, as a way to keep track of great articles and resources and as a way to connect with a wide range of personal and professional 'Friends' I don't often see in my 'real-time' life.

But I'm also the parent of a 10-year-old girl who reminds me nearly every day that she is, like, the only person in her class that doesn't have a Facebook page. Why can't I just sign her up and watch her, she suggests? She promises she'd 'Friend' me so I could monitor everything.

Here's what I say:

"When you are 13 and thus legally able to have your own Facebook page, we will see what the latest technology and social media trends are. We will explore, discuss and evaluate them together and your father and I will come up with a plan we feel is the safest and most appropriate path for you to take. And then whatever action we take, we will supervise your activities closely.

We will regularly discuss issues with you that may arise. We will re-think it as we go and make appropriate adjustments as we go along. You will be required to 'Friend' us and give us full access to whatever page you have. You will not 'Friend' anyone you don't know and if anything strikes you as fishy, you will immediately alert us.

We will continue to openly discuss your online experiences.

We would not hand you the keys to the car at 10 years old because you want them desperately, because everybody else in your class claims they have them and that statistically, probably nothing bad will happen if we just cave and hand them over.

But I won't. Why? Because I'm the Mother and I say so, that's why."