Monday, June 3, 2013

MN - After legislative inaction, changes could loom for sex offender program

Eric Magnuson
Original Article

06/03/2013

By Rupa Shenoy

ST. PAUL - The future of Minnesota's sex offender program may become clearer this summer.

The state has long been criticized for its program, which indefinitely holds sex offenders whom judges in county courts think might commit new crimes, even after the offenders have served their sentences. Lawmakers did not change the program during the session that recently ended, and that could mean the federal courts will soon force the state to act.

Before the legislative session began, former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson set up interviews with the news media and sent a message: If legislators didn't act quickly, a federal judge in a class-action suit would rule the Minnesota Sex Offender Program unconstitutional. The program is supposed to provide treatment, but it has released only one of about 700 people being indefinitely detained. The program costs the state $326 a day to hold and provide treatment for each offender at two secure facilities at Moose Lake and St. Peter -- three times the average cost of keeping an offender in prison.

A few lawmakers tried to pass a handful of bills to reform the program. But some Republicans thought Magnuson was bluffing. At an April 10 House Judiciary Finance and Policy Committee, Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, advocated addressing the problem with a mandatory 60-year minimum prison sentence for the worst predatory sexual offenders.

Cornish put it bluntly: "We don't really have a huge obligation to treat them if we just sentence them."

He reiterated his stance May 30 in an email to other legislators. "If anyone in the future presents a bill to release these people, ask them to take the 'least offensive' criminal history of any one of the level III sex offenders in the program and read it on the House Floor," Cornish wrote. "Even the 'least offensive' of any of them would turn your stomach and make you wary of having this person in your community."

There are a few possibilities for the Minnesota Sex Offender Program. One is that the program will remain as it is. In a May 30 email to MPR News, Cornish said he thinks the U.S. District Court judges overseeing the class-action suit, Judge Donovan Frank and Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Keyes, will not force the state to change its practice of indefinitely holding offenders.

Magnuson, who is leading a commission that was mandated by the judges, disagreed. The panel is working on recommendations for changing the sex offender program, with its final findings due in December.

"The judge is going to bring out a broadsword and he's going to ... simply chop it into small bits and then say, 'Fix it,'" Magnuson said. "And he's not going to have much patience particularly for the state. They've had plenty of time to look at this, and he's going to tell them they have to get it done now."

When a federal judge in Washington state found that its sex offender civil commitment process unconstitutional in the 1990s, the ruling kicked off 15 years of court oversight of reform. Eventually, Washington set up a less restrictive community-based transitional facility for offenders.

Something similar might happen here, Magnuson said, and Minnesota's detainees will not be suddenly be released from the program in a flood.

Lucinda Jesson, the commissioner of the Department of Human Services, which oversees the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, said that for now her department can try to address some of the problems detailed in the class-action suit. For example, Jesson said the department plans more frequent mental health assessments.

"If I had a crystal ball and could read a federal judge's mind, it would be helpful, but I don't," Jesson said. "I really can't predict what a federal court will do in this situation, but I do know that we are taking this very seriously."

Jesson added: "What we can have by doing more regular assessments is ... We can make sure they're moving through the phases as quickly as appropriate. And I think some additional assessments, to the extent we have money in our budget to do that, is a step in the right direction."

Yet another possibility for the program is that the people represented in the class-action suit could settle with the Department of Human Services.

The DHS may agree to more generous terms in a settlement than the judges would order, said Dan Gustafson, the court-appointed attorney for the sex offenders suing the state.

"I can't go into the details of what we've talked about," Gustafson said, "but we've made several proposals, and the state has responded to them ... I think that the executive branch of the state and even many of the legislators recognize that the ... current program isn't working. They continue to commit people, and no one ever gets out. But it's a very difficult political program to solve because nobody wants to shoulder the political burden of changing a program that might release somebody out to the public who's perceived to be dangerous."

The families of those being held in the sex offender program are watching the situation anxiously. [name withheld]'s son was 18 when he went in to the sex offender program. [name withheld] is now 33. [name withheld] said her son has no idea what it's like to hold a full-time job, search for an apartment or balance a checkbook.

"And the longer he's there, the harder it's going to be for him to become un-institutionalized," [name withheld] said. "And to learn life. He has no idea what life's about. He hasn't had the chance to live any."

[name withheld] said her son may never have that chance without a federal judge's action.


UK - Ex-police officer (Philip Gaisford) guilty of teen sex abuse

Philip Gaisford
Original Article

06/03/2013

By Amy De-Keyzer

A former police officer who sexually assaulted teenagers at his homes in Caterham and East Sussex has been jailed for life.

Philip Gaisford, 64, was told he would serve a minimum of 12 years behind bars after being convicted of 28 sexual offences on Friday (May 31) following a seven-week trial at Lewes Crown Court.

The former Metropolitan Police chief superintendent, of Old Lane, Crowborough, East Sussex, was found not guilty on six further counts. He had denied all the charges.

Gaisford was convicted of offences against several victims between 1997 and 2008.

The charges included indecent assaults on three teenage boys in Caterham and Crowborough; attempted sexual assault on two teenage girls in Sussex; two sexual assaults and an attempted sexual assault on a male teenager in Crowborough; five sexual offences, including one rape, against a teenage boy in Crowborough; one offence of sexual activity with a teenage boy in Sussex; the rape of a woman in Caterham; and 10 offences of possession of indecent videos of children.

Gaisford was found not guilty of three indecent assaults on boys in Caterham, one sexual assault on a boy in Crowborough, one act of indecency with a boy in Crowborough and a charge of perverting the course of justice.

Speaking after the sentencing, Detective Inspector Rob Morland said: "Gaisford systematically and cynically abused trusting young people who had become involved with him in his capacity as a scuba diving instructor, and the court clearly found his conduct to be a gross breach of trust."

"The investigation of this case was complex and I thank the witnesses for their courage in giving evidence."

"The verdict shows that if victims are willing to come forward, they will be supported to be able to give their evidence and justice can be achieved."

During his trial, the court heard how Gaisford started running scuba diving sessions from the swimming pool at his Caterham home in 1999 after retiring from the police. He continued with the business after moving to Crowborough.

Jurors were told it was during one-to-one lessons and "pool parties" when Gaisford would ply youngsters with alcohol and abuse them.


Court: Police can take DNA swabs from arrestees

Original Article

06/03/2013

By JESSE J. HOLLAND

WASHINGTON - A sharply divided Supreme Court on Monday said police can routinely take DNA from people they arrest, equating a DNA cheek swab to other common jailhouse procedures like fingerprinting.

"Taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the court's five-justice majority.

But the four dissenting justices said that the court was allowing a major change in police powers.

"Make no mistake about it: because of today's decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason," conservative Justice Antonin Scalia said in a sharp dissent which he read aloud in the courtroom. "This will solve some extra crimes, to be sure. But so would taking your DNA when you fly on an airplane - surely the TSA must know the 'identity' of the flying public. For that matter, so would taking your children's DNA when they start public school."

Twenty-eight states and the federal government now take DNA swabs after arrests. But a Maryland court was one of the first to say that it was illegal for that state to take [name withheld]'s DNA without approval from a judge, saying [name withheld] had "a sufficiently weighty and reasonable expectation of privacy against warrantless, suspicionless searches" under the Fourth Amendment.

But the high court's decision reverses that ruling and reinstates [name withheld]'s rape conviction, which came after police took his DNA during an unrelated arrest. Kennedy wrote the decision, and was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer. Scalia was joined in his dissent by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the court's ruling created "a gaping new exception to the Fourth Amendment."

"The Fourth Amendment has long been understood to mean that the police cannot search for evidence of a crime - and all nine justices agreed that DNA testing is a search - without individualized suspicion," said Steven R. Shapiro, the group's legal director. "Today's decision eliminates that crucial safeguard. At the same time, it's important to recognize that other state laws on DNA testing are even broader than Maryland's and may present issues that were not resolved by today's ruling."

Maryland's DNA collection law only allows police to take DNA from those arrested for serious crimes like murder, rape, assault, burglary and other crimes of violence. In his ruling, Kennedy did not say whether the court's decision limits DNA only to those crimes, but he did note that other states' DNA collection laws differ from Maryland's.

Scalia saw that as a flaw. "If you believe that a DNA search will identify someone arrested for bank robbery, you must believe that it will identify someone arrested for running a red light," he said.

The ruling was praised by the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

"DNA has already aided nearly 200,000 investigations, and thanks to today's decision it will continue to be a detective's most valuable tool in solving rape cases," said Scott Berkowitz, the group's president and founder. "We're very pleased that the court recognized the importance of DNA and decided that, like fingerprints, it can be collected from arrestees without violating any privacy rights. Out of every 100 rapes in this country, only three rapists will spend a day behind bars. To make matters worse, rapists tend to be serial criminals, so every one left on the streets is likely to commit still more attacks. DNA is a tool we could not afford to lose."


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The Hunt Official Trailer

Amazon.com

Sound familiar? Happens all the time to those who are accused and/or convicted of sexual crimes, innocent or not.

Plot:
Lucas is an average member of a small, close-knit, Danish community. Being a divorcee who is struggling to maintain a relationship with his son and having lost his former job as a secondary school teacher, he is facing some difficulties in his life, and resorts to working at a kindergarten to make ends meet. Yet he enjoys wholesome interaction with the children, and there seems to be a silver lining when an attractive female coworker makes advances towards him and eventually moves in as his girlfriend.

All this is ruined, however, when he is wrongly accused of showing his genitals to Klara, a little girl at the day care who he walks home from school and who is also the daughter of Theo, Lucas' closest friend. Klara was earlier shown a picture of an erect penis by her older brother in jest, and she makes unclear comments about the event that involve Lucas. She is asked leading questions by the nursery personnel during an investigation and unintentionally states that Lucas acted sexually inappropriately around her. All the adults in the community readily believe her story and urge her not to expand on it, lest she relive the supposedly tragic event.

As a result, Lucas is shunned by the majority of the community as a sexual predator. He loses his girlfriend, and his son is publicly ostracized. The end of his friendship with Theo is particularly painful, with Theo's attempts to sympathize with Lucas thwarted by his overprotective wife. Eventually, the ostracism turns to violence when Lucas' dog, Fanny, is killed and Lucas is beaten by the employees of his local grocery store for trying to buy food there. While drifting off to sleep, Klara apologizes to Lucas for her lie and what has transpired. Theo hears her and realizes his friend is innocent.

Lucas confronts Theo during a public mass on Christmas Eve, and the two gain some trust of each other as a result, but they remain largely distanced.

A year after the incident, tensions in the community have lessened. Lucas' girlfriend from the kindergarten is again with him, and his son is being accepted into the local hunting society as an adult member. Yet on a hunting expedition to commemorate the event, an anonymous individual shoots at Lucas and nearly hits him. Lucas looks, blinded by the setting sun, at his attacker, who cannot be seen in the rays, and then almost begins crying with this painful reminder that he will never be fully vindicated.


MO - Lawmakers move to toughen sexual violence laws

Original Article

06/02/2013

By JORDAN SHAPIRO

JEFFERSON CITY (AP) - Several measures aimed at strengthening Missouri's sex offender laws are in front of Gov. Jay Nixon, including an effort to lengthen prison sentences.

One proposal advanced by the Legislature during the recently ended session would redefine the crime of rape to include instances when a victim lacked the capacity to consent to sex.

Under current law, rape is defined as sex with another person by "forcible compulsion," which includes using a substance to impair victims without their knowledge or approval. But the measure awaiting the governor's signature would define rape to also include crimes committed on someone who is "incapacitated, incapable of consent or lacks the capacity to consent."

"It reframes the crimes to include the experience of the victim of the crime. It is not the crime based on the offender's actions. It is the crime against the victim without her consent," said Colleen Coble, a lobbyist for the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.
- Her consent?  What about men who are raped as well?  Stop making this a male only issue!

Under current law, victims cannot give "consent" if they have a mental illness or are intoxicated. The measure passed this year would add "drug-induced state or any other reason" to that definition. It also would delete a section of current law that allows the jury to find a person charged with rape not guilty if he or she "reasonably believed" the victim consented.

Coble said under the law's current language, an offender could only be tried with a misdemeanor if they sexually assaulted a victim sedated in a hospital room. By changing the definition of rape, she said, that example would become a felony, which currently carries a five-year minimum sentence.

The bill would also rename some sexual offenses and categorize them in tiers — first- and second-degree — which could allow a jury to convict someone of a lesser offense.

Joel Elmer, a division director for the Missouri public defender system, said all of these changes could cost Missouri taxpayers because more people may be in prison for longer.

"While there may be public support for increasing the punishment for this behavior, I don't think there is public support on spending more money on incarceration," he said.

Missouri is slated to spend $677 million on the Department of Corrections out of a roughly $25 billion budget during the next fiscal year.

Continuing their crackdown on sexual offenses, lawmakers also sought this year to reverse recent court rulings that could potentially allow certain "sexually violent predators" to be released.

A Missouri law that took effect in 1999 permits certain sex offenders to be civilly committed after completing their criminal sentences. It requires a mental abnormality and a "more likely than not" probability that the person would commit sexual violence if released.

It also requires an offender be convicted of a specific crime that's on a list of sexually violent offenses. Over time, lawmakers have changed the names and definitions of sexual offenses without changing the list of crimes needed for civil commitment.

Two Missouri Appeals Court decisions last year prevented the state from seeking civil commitments for offenders found guilty of crimes that no longer exist on the list. Lawmakers are hoping to override those court decisions and add old crimes to the list of violent crimes to correct the problem.

Although Missouri lawmakers passed tough measures, they also approved legislation that would ease restrictions for juveniles on the state's sex offender registry. People under the age of 18 convicted of sexual offenses would remain the registry for law enforcement purposes but would no longer appear on public websites. They also could ultimately petition the court for removal from the registry entirely.
- This is how it should be for all ex-offenders.  The list should be taken offline and used by police only.  Right now it's nothing more than a phone book for vigilantes to use to hunt down people to harass, or worse.

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