Tuesday, May 22, 2012
By Solomon Syed
ALBANY - This now the fourth shooting in eight days in Albany, but this one comes with a bit of a twist, one that has neighbors scared and police wondering if this shooting wasn't random.
On Monday, Swinburne Park looked much like it did Sunday afternoon when a man was shot in broad daylight as kids played nearby.
"This world is just going to pieces right now. I'm just shocked," said Albany resident Jamaica Harris.
The victim, [name withheld], 26, sustained three gunshot wounds. One of the bullets is now lodged in his spinal cord. But [name withheld]' own criminal history's raising some questions about why he was near the park in the first place and why he may have been targeted: He's a level three sex offender out on parole since April 13th for the statutory rape of a 14-year-old girl.
- So, is the reporter trying to justify the shooting? A man was shot, his past should not have anything to do with it, except to prove motive in court.
"It's very frustrating. We can't be in this fight alone. This is our city, our neighborhoods, too, and we need everybody to work together," said Albany Police PIO Steve Smith.
Police say witnesses have not been forthcoming, which hasn't gotten them any closer to cracking the case, one that now has parents in this neighborhood on high alert.
Harris said, "I mean, I have a baby myself. It's unbelievable. So many things are going on in the world right now. You just have to be a lot more careful."
Now as part of his parole, [name withheld] has to stay at least a thousand feet away from any park or school, so even as the victim here, he could face some legal problems of his own. Police are still looking for two suspects. Anyone with information urged to give Albany police a call.
|Andrew James Cody|
By Lauren Trager
A murder suspect admitted to deputies he pulled the trigger, all because he believed the murder victim had molested his five-year-old daughter.
Andrew James Cody appeared before a judge for the first time Monday, charged with first degree murder.
Deputies say he told them he waited for 65 year-old [name withheld] in [name withheld]'s home off Shadow Lane in London in Pope County and then shot him once in the head.
Cody's supporters believe his actions were justified.
- Really? It has never been proven the man molested anybody, so you are supporting random killings? Careful what you wish for, someone may accuse you of molesting their child and shoot you in the head as well.
"He did me a favor, my little girl could have been the next victim," said Heather Shrives-Dornan.
Before a judge, a deputy recounted his interview with Cody just hours after the murder.
"He stated he went into the residence to confront Mr. [name withheld] about molesting his daughter," said deputy Sgt. Stephen Pack.
Pope County Sheriff Aaron Duvall confirmed to KARK, Thursday they received allegations [name withheld] sexually abused a child.
- So allegations don't give anybody the right to kill someone in cold blood!
But deputies say Friday, Cody put trash bags over his shoes to conceal evidence and put one shot into [name withheld]'s head.
"There's nothing I can say," Cody said in court, regarding his bond.
He was handed a half million dollar bond.
But outside the courtroom, his supporters were very vocal, saying they don't blame Cody one bit.
- I do, I blame him 100%!
"I wish more daddies would stand up for their children like this, they should," said supporter Tara Laffoon.
- Just wait until someone accuses you or your husband of sexual abuse and then kills them in cold blood without a court date, then I'm sure you will see it differently.
Supporters of [name withheld] declined an on-camera interview, but soon, began a shouting match, calling out to Cody's supporters to prove the allegations of sexual abuse.
Deputies forced the crowd to break it up.
But people say as the case proceeds in court, they'll be back.
"This is what daddies have to do," Laffoon said.
- No it's not! If they suspect abuse, they should go to the police and let the justice system do it's job! We don't need vigilante justice, it's not the Wild, Wild West!
While Cody's wife was originally arrested for being an accomplice to murder, the prosecutor says he won't be pursuing charges on her for now.
As of 4:00 p.m. Monday, Cody had not yet posted bond. His next court appearance is scheduled for July.
By Shannon Beck
Rolla - There are more than 30 registered sex offenders in the Rolla area and more than two dozen more throughout Phelps County.
115th District Rep. Rodney Schad (R) is hoping that a bill he sponsored, which is supported by 149th District Rep. Keith Frederick (R), would help many of those sex offenders become more productive members of society.
“For eight years I have received emails and letters and had people walk through the door explaining to me what they had done and admitting their guilt and then sharing with me what they are going through with the current laws,” Schad said. “I pretty well ignored it for six years thinking it was very few people.”
- This is exactly why more people need to step up, contact legislature. If they do not hear from you, then they think everything is working. You must speak out on how these laws are harming ex-offenders and families lives. Until you do that, then the laws will not change.
Schad says he realized there are many people who have to register after committing offenses like exposing themselves in public or having a sexual relationship with someone underage while they themselves were still fairly young — for example a 19-year-old who dated a 16-year-old.
“I know it is not legal to have sex with an underage person, but these people have gone to prison, they have done their time ... they are absolutely not a danger to society,” he said.
Frederick said it is this group of people he wants to help with this bill.
“They could end up staying together and getting married and having a family,” Frederick said, “but one of them could end up on that registry creating all sorts of complications in their lives.”
Some complications include being banned from school functions, and not being allowed to pick their toddler up from day care.
Schad said he also realized that by registering it made it difficult for some to find housing, employment and other necessities.
“They are on the welfare system — many of them are anyways — and that is a problem right there,” Schad said.
With these realizations, Schad set out to draft a law to revise Missouri’s sex offender registry.
What he came up with was House Bill 1700, which was co-sponsored by Speaker of the House Steven Tilley.
The bill passed in the house in late March by a vote of 126 yes votes, including Frederick’s, to 20 no votes but was taken off the Senate calendar after being referred to committee in mid-April.
Schad fears the bill is dead.
“It would appear that until a senator gets interested in it, it’s never going to be fixed,” Schad said.
Frederick said he knew he was taking the risk of appearing “soft on crime” when he cast his yes vote, but felt it was the right thing to do. He said he hopes his constituents take the time to learn about the bill before allowing that vote to cast a negative shadow on his work at the Capitol.
The version of Schad’s bill that passed the House held several revisions that would affect the sex offender registry in Missouri.
Some of those revisions are aimed at beefing up the registry — including requiring that the photos of the offenders are kept current — while the majority of the bill is aimed at lightening the registry requirements for lesser crimes.
Schad’s bill would exempt people convicted of five specific crimes currently requiring registration from registering. Those crimes are sexual misconduct in the second or third degree, promoting obscenity, furnishing pornographic materials to a minor, public display of explicit sexual material and coercing acceptance of obscene material.
The bill would also revise what information is available on Missouri’s sex offender website maintained by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Information that would be removed is a description of the person’s vehicle and addresses for the person’s work, school or temporary residence.
There are no temporary residences registered in Phelps County.
According to the MSHP sex offender website, two offenders have temporary residences on Lake of the Ozarks, which is in Schad’s district. One individual was convicted of statutory sodomy of an 11-year-old girl in 2004, and the other was convicted of sexual assault of a six-year-old girl in 1986.
Schad said he is most concerned about the removal of the person’s place of employment because he believes employers are afraid to hire sex offenders out of concern for employee safety.
“These folks become targets when we publish some of that information,” Schad said.
“No one in their right mind would hire these folks knowing that their buildings and their other employees would be in danger just because they had hired a known sex offender.”
The third major change proposed in the bill is the removal of the requirement to register for a lifetime.
The bill breaks sex offenses into two categories, some that the offender could ask a judge to remove them from the registry after 10 years, and six that the offender could ask a judge to remove them from the registry after 20 years.
“Even those heinous crimes would be eligible (for removal from the registry) after 20 years, but you have to realize the minimum punishment for those crimes is 10 years ... So, we are talking about 30 years of being crime free at a minimum,” Schad said.
Schad also noted that, contrary to popular belief, the recidivism rate for sex offenders is low, between three- and seven-percent. Recidivism is the rate at which criminals offend again.
He thinks the portion of the law that no longer makes registration a lifetime duty of a sex offender may be why the Senate is not interested.
“That may be one of the hang-ups, and we have just tried in the last few days removing that if that is one of the things that is keeping the senate fro taking it up,” he said.
Another possible deterrent is that Missouri laws are not the only ones that govern sex offender registries. A federal law commonly known as SORNA or the Adam Walsh Act requires certain information be included in every state’s sex offender registry.
According to the U.S. Justice Department, one of those mandatory requirements is the address of the person’s employer.
Regardless of the reason the Senate is shying away from the bill, Schad was encouraged by the response from his peers in the House, and hopes another legislator will champion this cause in his absence.
“This was my last attempt at this,” he said. “Someone else is going to have to take over from here.”
That someone may be Frederick.
“I’ve talked to some of my colleagues, and I’ve talked to one of my colleagues in particular on the other side of the aisle, and we both think it is something that we will continue to work on,” Frederick said.
In the meantime, he encourages his constituents to contact his Jefferson City office and share their thoughts on the issue.
By Mike Ward
In the latest rebuke of state policies for classifying parolees as sex offenders, an Austin federal judge has ruled that top state parole officials can be held personally liable for continuing missteps.
U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel of Austin, in an order issued late Friday, blasted the state's continuing refusal to provide due process hearings before imposing restrictive sex-offender conditions on felons never convicted of a sex crime.
Yeakel for the first time ruled that the seven-member state Board of Pardons and Paroles, 12 parole commissioners, state parole director Stuart Jenkins and other parole officials can face monetary damages for their actions.
It's a significant determination that, if not reversed on appeal, could prove costly for both the officials and taxpayers, if several pending inmate lawsuits are successful.
A jury verdict in another case two years ago cost the state approximately $80,000, officials involved in that case said earlier.
"The state has not reached the end of their rope. They're way past the end of it. They're in free fall," said Denton attorney Richard Gladden, who hailed the order as significant in curtailing a long-standing state policy of classifying as sex offenders convicts who have no sex crime conviction without a full hearing in which they can challenge the designation.
"There's nothing to stop another trial now except a settlement," Gladden said. "It's just a question of how much in damages will be awarded."
Rissie Owens, chairwoman of the state Board of Pardons and Paroles, and other parole officials were not available to comment Monday. A spokesman said the ruling was under review.
The order was the latest setback for the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and state corrections officials, who have insisted for years that, to ensure public safety, they could impose the stringent conditions on parolees without a due process hearing.
- Why the hell do we even have a Constitution with corrupt idiots like this running the government? They are foaming at the mouth for power.
Although previous court rulings have required the hearings, the state has not routinely offered them until recently — and only then under certain circumstances.
Yeakel's order — the latest ruling to indicate that federal courts have lost their patience with the state — came in a suit filed by parolee [name withheld].
Last fall, the judge blocked the state from enforcing the sex offender restrictions — officially known as Special Condition X — on [name withheld], an unusual step for a judge to take.
According to state records, [name withheld] pleaded guilty to drug charges in 2003 in Johnson County, south of Fort Worth, and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Though he was initially indicted on charges of aggravated sexual assault of a child, his sentence order states that "the sex offender registration requirements (in state law) do not apply to the defendant," according to the suit.
Despite that, state records show that when [name withheld] was paroled in the summer of 2007, parole officials required him to register as a sex offender, placed him under the restrictive sex-offender conditions of release and ordered him to participate in a sex offender treatment program.
In his order Friday, Yeakel ruled that the state has for six years been aware that it must provide hearings to parolees in such cases and that officials' continuing failure to do so leaves them open to liability.
"In light of the resistance of the state of Texas to providing parolees with the procedural due process guaranteed them by the Constitution, even after receiving repeated mandates from federal and state courts, the court is unconvinced that Texas will not return to its unconstitutional policies and practices," the 31-page order states.
"Any stigmatic injury suffered by [name withheld] due to the imposition and continued enforcement of Special Condition X may entitle [name withheld] to compensatory damages."
Yeakel refused to dismiss [name withheld]'s lawsuit, as state officials had asked. Instead, he said it would head to a trial.
He did dismiss as a defendant in the case parole board general counsel Bettie Wells, who advises the board but does not vote on cases or set policies.
The ruling comes after years of legal decisions requiring state parole officials to provide hearings before they impose sex offender restrictions on felons never convicted of a sex crime.
In addition to federal courts, the state Court of Criminal Appeals last fall ordered the restrictions removed from the parole conditions for a Houston kidnapper because he was not afforded a due process hearing before they were imposed and because he had not been convicted of a sex crime.
This video is tailored for Maryland ex-offenders, but the advice is the same for all other states, and I recommend others watch it.
Nancy is the attorney whose case is due to be heard in November 2012 at Maryland's highest court. She is attempting to have the retro-active laws passed by the Maryland Legislature in 2010 declared unconstitutional. These laws were passed as a reaction to the murder of a young girl by a registered sex offender a few months before.
- Lobbying Your Representatives In Annapolis
- Richardo Flores (Public Defenders Office) Tips on Testifying in Annapolis