Saturday, September 22, 2012

WI - Parents Sue D.A. for Charging Their 6-Year-Old Son With a Felony After He Played Doctor With a 5-Year-Old Girl

Original Article


By Jacob Sullum

Last week the parents of a Wisconsin boy sued Grant County District Attorney Lisa Riniker for charging their son with first-degree sexual assault, a Class B felony, after he played "butt doctor" with a 5-year-old girl. He was 6 at the time. When the boy's lawyer tried to have the charge dismissed, Riniker replied: "The legislature could have put an age restriction in the statute if it wanted to. The legislature did no such thing."

According to the complaint (PDF), the girl is "the daughter of a well-known political figure in Grant County," and her brother, who is the same age, also was involved in playing doctor but was not charged. In addition to Riniker, the lawsuit names as defendants retired Grant County Sheriff's Sgt. James Kopp and Jan Moravits, an investigator with Grant County Social Services "whose regional the political figure's wife's sister-in-law"—i.e., the aunt of the alleged victim.

Although the boy, now 7, is too young to be prosecuted or named in a juvenile delinquency petition, reports, county officials are using the felony charge to force his parents into accepting "protection or services" for him. The lawsuit says that once he turns 18, he will be listed as a sex offender.

I noted a similar case in my July Reason story on sex offender laws.

LA - State to pay lawyers $110/hour in representing sex offenders

Original Article



Louisiana legislators balked Friday at using taxpayer dollars to pay attorneys $175 an hour to represent convicted sex offenders.

Whoo! I’m in the wrong area of the law,” state Rep. Tony Ligi said after hearing the Jindal administration’s request for $500,000 to fund legal representation for the offenders at court hearings that determine their post-prison supervision requirements.
- So is Mr. Ligi admitting he's in it for the money?  Sure sounds like it to us!

Ligi, R-Metairie, is an attorney.

Other concerns were raised during a meeting at the state Capitol on the issue, including how the Jindal administration can ensure state government has enough money to pay the $500,000 when storm bills still must be settled.

In the end, the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget compromised by agreeing to spend no more than $250,000 and pay attorneys $110 an hour.

The approval is supposed to end delays that resulted in the release of 13 sex offenders from prison without hearings to determine whether they need stringent monitoring.

Governor’s spokeswoman Shannon Bates said afterward that the reduced funding should be sufficient to jumpstart the court hearings since the committee adjusted attorneys’ hourly rate.

At issue was how to fund a legal process that allows the state to strap an electronic ankle bracelet on a released sex offender deemed by a judge to be sexually violent or a child predator.

The two-step process starts with an evaluation by a Sex Offender Assessment Panel six months before the offender’s release and results in a judge deciding whether the traditional method of registering with law enforcement and notifying neighbors is insufficient.

The SOAP process allows the state to go even further and monitor sex offenders’ Internet activities, read their emails and require life-time electronic monitoring.
- Reading their emails requires their passwords, which I believe is, or should be, illegal for anybody!

A legal battle over the law delayed the process. A lack of funding for offenders’ attorneys and mental health experts caused further delays, resulting in the release of offenders from prison before a court hearing could be held. One released offender died in the interim.

Under the funding request approved Friday, the Louisiana Public Defender Board will hire civil attorneys to represent the offenders at the hearings.
- Most court appointed lawyers are biased, and work for the state, so the people they represent are not going to get a fair trial.

Several legislators said there were unfamiliar with the SOAP process, which has existed several years.
- And this shows how out of touch they are on the issues!  Laws they heard and agreed to pass.

We’re fighting over whether to fund it or not,” state Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge. “I want to know if it actually works.”

John DiGiulio, the board’s trial-level compliance officer, said it probably is too early to tell.

No one has been happy with the legislation over the years,” he said.

The board’s general counsel, Roger Harris, said that even the courts are split on whose financial responsibility the legal representation of sex offenders is.
- Well the constitution states that if a person cannot afford a lawyer, then one will be appointed to them by the state, so it's kind of obvious that it's the states responsibility.

Questions also arose about the state’s ability to pay for the legal bills.

The Legislative Fiscal Office, which reviews state spending proposals, refused to back the funding request amid concerns that the needed dollars will fail to materialize.

We just don’t feel comfortable with it,” said John Carpenter, acting legislative fiscal officer.

Barry Dussé, state director of planning and budget for the Jindal administration, pointed out that the state budget shows $5 million that is not allocated for expenses.

He said the cases need to move forward.

State Rep. Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, the state budget bill’s sponsor, said the state’s unexpected expenses for Hurricane Isaac exceed $5 million. Those bills will have to be paid at some point, Fannin said.

We’ve had the cost of the storm, which far exceeds the $5 million that we have,” he said. “I’m trying to figure out how I support this today because, from the budget perspective, I don’t think the money’s there.”

Dussé said the governor will find the revenue.

You have the possibility of criminals running around without the monitoring devices,” Dussé said.

FL - A different take on sex offender lists

Original Article


By Tom Lyons

A local psychologist sees a lesson in the news of 43 men just arrested in Manatee County and charged with driving to a house to have sex with girls under 14 years of age.

The girls they had met in online chatrooms were fictional. As in many similar operations, they were actually cops. The house where the men went was full of law officers with handcuffs.

When Sue Krinsk (Facebook) called me about this, I first thought she was criticizing the operation. But she wasn't, she just saw a different key point than most of us might.

Krinsk is a psychologist who works with sex offenders of various sorts. Most are sent to her by court order. Part of her job is trying to determine which are beyond any likelihood of reform.

But she believes many don't fit that stereotype and usually aren't pedophiles, either. She insists the huge majority of those she deems fit for her therapy programs, and who can "graduate" from them, do not offend again.

But they are still branded as likely offenders for life. That branding is a serious problem, for two reasons, she says. It's not just that it makes the former offenders' lives very difficult, often in ways not helpful at all. She says it also gives the public the false notion that preventing sex offenses mostly just requires zealous monitoring of previous sex offenders.

Doesn't it?

Well, Krinsk says, a far greater number of potential or active offenders have never been caught. And Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube's sex sting just provided more evidence of that, she insists.

Of the 43 men arrested, only one was a registered sexual predator or offender.

Of course, Krinsk soon heard from that man's probation officer, saying "I told you so" about him. Or, anyway, that's how she took the message, though the offender wasn't one of her graduates.

But, Krinsk said, if the stereotype that every sex offender arrested is likely to re-offend were accurate, the 43 arrests surely should have included plenty more of them.

Maybe. Anyway, the headline she wants would say 97 percent of those guys had never been put on a flier or posted on a sexual offender website.

Steube told me that some of the 43 are now believed to have been far from new at seeking sex with girls under 14. Post-arrest interviews provided clues that some are regular cruisers, he said.

And, first time or not, it is a crime, he said. Those men got into a car and drove to have a sexual encounter with a way-underage girl.

"There's no excuse for that. None," Steube said.

Krinsk agrees, and says she isn't criticizing the technique law enforcement used and she isn't saying anyone was unfairly enticed or entrapped. She just thinks deputies should notice who was busted.

Overwhelmingly, it was apparently regular guys who would have passed background checks and who were never featured on neighborhood watch notices.

"We need to protect our children," Krinsk said, but not with extreme discrimination, forever, against anyone known to have committed any sexual offense.

For the most part, she said, "It's the ones that haven't been caught yet we need to worry about."

Stuebe said maybe Krinsk will get some of the arrested men as therapy clients. Fine with him, especially if she can sort some of them out.

Worrying about if they get stereotyped is not his main worry, I'm pretty sure. He's just glad 43 more are now known.

PA - Forum to address sex offender registration laws

Original Article


By Jennifer Harr

A forum on Wednesday will address Megan’s Law and the Adam Walsh Act, both of which deal with sex offenders, in an attempt to educate the public about how both work.

This forum is a time for our community to ask questions,” Jacquie Fritts, executive director of the Crime Victims’ Center of Fayette County (CVC), said. “I’m a firm believer that the community needs to be eyes and ears and a protector for our neighbors. It only can be done as a community, and you can’t do it if you don’t have the information and the knowledge.”

The CVC and Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus, are co-hosting the forum in advance of the Adam Walsh Act, which goes into effect in January. The forum will be held at Penn State Fayette starting at 6 p.m.

Fritts said many people aren’t sure how Megan’s Law, the current law under which released sex offenders can be mandated to register addresses, works. And when the Adam Walsh Act goes into effect, there will be additional changes to registration requirements, including an increased length of time that a sex offender will be required to register.

The act also divides sex offenses into tiers, based on their severity, said Herbert Hays, a longtime member of the state’s Sexual Offenders Assessment Board. That board, established as part of Megan’s Law, sends examiners to interview people convicted of most sex crimes to determine if they fit into the category of sexually violent predators.

Such a designation, made by a judge following a hearing, leads to even more stringent reporting requirements for sex offenders.

The biggest change under the Adam Walsh Act, Hays said, is that it holds juvenile offenders more accountable by also requiring them to register as sex offenders.
- Juveniles should NOT be on a sex offender registry, especially one that is public, and the public registry, in our opinion, should be taken offline and used by police only.  It's becoming an online hit-list for vigilantes to use to target ex-offenders.

That act is much more strict than the Megan’s Law provisions, Hays said.

From a professional standpoint, we as adults have a responsibility to protect our children from sexual offenders and sexual predators. The Adam Walsh Act, in my opinion, strengthens the law to protect children,” Hays said.

Hays will present information about Megan’s Law and the Adam Walsh Act from 6 until 7 p.m. The second hour will be a panel-type discussion that includes representatives from local law enforcement, the district attorney’s office, Children and Youth Services and Penn State faculty.
- What about experts who have treated ex-sex offenders?

Susan Brimo-Cox, spokeswoman for Penn State, said the university is hopeful that partnering with CVC to present the forums will give the public a chance to become educated on important topics such as the laws that govern sexual offenders.

Penn State Fayette is pleased to be able to provide a forum for community discussion again this year. This is an important topic and has far-reaching importance throughout the community,” Brimo-Cox said. “We want people in this community to get involved and learn about different kinds of abuse, how to prevent it and what to do if they encounter it.”

Over the next year, CVC and Penn State are going to host other panel discussions.

We’re going to hit everything that effects our community,” Fritts said. “We’re really hoping to get community members at these discussions so they can get educated to find out who they need to talk to and what they need to do to keep our children, our neighbors, our seniors — everyone — safe.”

Fritts lauded Penn State Fayette for partnering with CVC to present the forum.

Penn State has been real instrumental in working with us on educating people in general about child sexual violence and sexual violence. Our Fayette campus works well with the community, and always has,” Fritts said.


Now lets see if we can get over 1,000 likes on our Facebook page?

NY - State Supreme Court Dismisses Town's Sex Offender Trailer Lawsuit

Original Article


By Lisa Finn

The long-simmering controversy surrounding two homeless sex offender trailers sited in Riverside and Westhampton ignited again on Friday.

The Southampton Town Board expressed outrage after news that the appellate division, second department of the New York State Supreme Court overturned a Suffolk County Supreme Court judge's decision — and dismissed the town's lawsuit against Suffolk County regarding the use and placement of the trailers.

The appellate division, in a unanimous decision, ruled that Southampton Town had only four months from the initial installation of each of the trailers to file the lawsuit.

For years, town residents have rallied to voice their anger at what they say is an unfair burden, housing the majority of the county's sex offenders at the two locations, at the Suffolk County Correctional Facility parking lot in Riverside and a Suffolk County police parcel in Westhampton.

Suffolk County Legislators Jay Schneiderman and Ed Romaine have long worked to resolve the situation and relieve constituents of what they say is an unfair burden.

The decision to dismiss the lawsuit comes only months after County Executive Steve Bellone held a press conference and promised a solution to the situation was on the horizon.

"Just a few months ago, the County Executive himself clearly stated his agreement that the current homeless sex offender trailer housing system is unfair and illogical, yet the court failed to examine the compelling merits of the case, and instead, based its decision on a poorly applied technicality," Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said. "My priority is to ensure the trailers are removed from their current locations. The town will continue to litigate as needed, but I sincerely hope the county will bring this relief first — and soon."

Southampton Town Councilwoman Christine Scalera said the bulk of sex offenders are housed in the trailers, no matter where they originally come from. "It is a county-wide problem that our residents should not bear alone. The town is now in the unenviable position that to preserve its rights, litigation must continue. It is unfair, it is unreasonable and it needs to be stopped now,” she said.

According to the Southampton town attorney's office, the goal of the lawsuit was to seek injunctive relief and prohibit violations of its local building and zoning codes by the use and installation of the trailers.

The appellate division, however, ruled that the case must be interpreted as an Article 78, a proceeding used to appeal a court's decision, or, in that instance, to challenge the county's determination to site the trailers — and said, as an Article 78, the minimum statute of four months to file applied. The town's lawsuit hit a roadblock because it was brought two years after the trailers were set up.

The town attorney's office and the Town Board have long said that when the trailers were initially set up, it was with the understanding that the placement was meant to be temporary — and that the location of the trailers would be rotated throughout the county; when the Town Board learned of actions to make the locations more permanent, action was commenced to pursue litigation, Town Board members say, within 24 hours.

The County Executive came to Southampton in May of this year and pronounced that the county was moving to implement a new plan that included dispersing the population of homeless sex offenders to more fairly distribute the burden," Councilman Chris Nuzzi, a co-sponsor of the town’s resolution to commence litigation against the County in 2009, said. “As no action has been taken with the exception of the trailer being moved a few hundred yards in Westhampton, the town has no choice but to continue to compel the county to finally take the action promised.”

Councilwoman Bridget Fleming said the decision sets a bad precedent "and will only result in increased litigation costs to be shouldered by the taxpayers."

The Town Board, said Councilman Jim Malone, has authorized the town attorney's office to take "whatever steps are necessary to overturn this misguided decision. Southampton Town residents have been shouldering a disproportionate share of this housing concern for far too long and it's time for the county to honor its promises to share this burden across all ten towns, not just Southampton."

Bellone did not immediately respond to a request for comment.