Thursday, June 20, 2013

NY - The Man Who Abused Me is Not on the Sex Offender List (The One who Saved Me Is)

Original Article


By Shana Rowan (Blog, USA Fair Inc.)

Folks, this is a long essay, but one I’m proud to share, as I continue to believe the Sex Offender Registry is not keeping kids any safer, and yet it is ruining a lot of lives. It comes to us from Shana Rowan, executive director of USA FAIR, Inc. (USA Families Advocating an Intelligent Registry), a nonprofit group founded by family members of people required to register. As Shana says, “USA FAIR promotes intelligent, fact-based sex offender laws and shines a light on the collateral damage imposed on loved ones of registrants.” A noble goal. – L.


In the middle of tenth grade, I was a fire engine red-haired, eyebrow pierced, plaid-mini-skirt-and-combat-boots-wearing 15-year-old, fighting a losing battle with depression and anxiety. Eventually, this would cause me to lose every friendship I ever had. By the beginning of my junior year, I had only one – a handsome, quietly sweet boy who was innocent obliviousness to my undying love. The few words he did speak meant that much more. I could always tell that he was in pain; it radiated from him. I never asked why and he never offered. For both of us, just knowing the other was aware of our silent suffering was enough.

One day he and I were leaning against the lockers in H building, me unable to focus on anything but his deep brown eyes. The next day he was gone – arrested, removed from school and from my life. I never got to say goodbye – much less find out what had happened. With my last support system gone, I floundered badly. I was lucky to graduate high school – not because I wasn’t smart enough, but because everything at school reminded me of what I had lost, and just being there was difficult.

My life was so desolate that by 23, I was four and a half years into a relationship to a man 14 years my senior, who had become my husband. He subjected me to physical and sexual violence on a regular basis. He isolated me from my family, refused to work while I worked two jobs, and wouldn’t let me go anywhere alone. The shame of allowing myself to be victimized over and over again coupled with the paralyzing fear I had of my husband kept me from ever hinting that anything was wrong. The only thing that kept me together was everyone else’s illusion that everything was fine.


One day my husband and I were attending a baseball card signing (regular “fun” outings were part of the jig). As we waited in line, a plug for a local nonprofit organization – for the prevention of domestic violence – played over the loudspeaker. My husband laughed and said sarcastically, “maybe you should go there.” Earlier that morning he had grabbed me by the hair and slammed my face into the floor (I had accidentally knocked coffee onto his Yankees jersey). I was attending the card signing with a split upper lip. His laughter that day awakened the last trace of dignity I had. My problem was finding a way to get out of the house before he caught up to me – and more than likely, killed me.

At a complete loss of where to start, I decided to track down my high school love – who had written to me from prison a couple of years prior. As overjoyed as I was to hear from him, especially when he admitted that he had always been in love with me, I was terrified my husband would find out. I threw away his letters and tried to forget about him. Luckily, it didn’t work. Through the powers of Google, I learned he was out of prison and working nearby. On my lunch break, I marched into the mechanic shop he worked in. He had his head under the hood of a gold Buick. When the door shut behind me, he looked up, and back down. Up, and back down. Up.

WI - Milwaukee officer (Michael Vagnini) to be sentenced in illegal strip search case

Michael Vagnini
Original Article


By Bruce Vielmetti

Victims of a former Milwaukee police officer convicted of illegal body cavity searches are saying plenty to a judge in advance of Michael Vagnini's sentencing Friday, including comparing him to offenders at war crimes tribunals.

Vagnini, 34, pleaded no contest in April to four felonies and four misdemeanors stemming from his practice of conducting illegal strip searches and cavity searches on male suspects, but avoided conviction for sexual assault.

The felony convictions, for misconduct in public office, will cost Vagnini his job and could land him in prison.

Some victims have filed their own statements with the court, and some may speak on Friday. Attorneys for two groups of victims also filed letters with Circuit Judge Jeffrey Wagner, who will sentence Vagnini.

Jonathan Safran wrote:

"My clients have all expressed how their trust of police officers in general has been affected negatively; that many of them have felt like prisoners in their own neighborhoods, afraid to be outside due to fear of being stopped by the police, with no cause; that they were taken advantage of and robbed of their dignity, simply because of their skin color, socioeconomic background, and neighborhood where they live; and that Milwaukee Police Officers, in particular Michael Vagnini, took advantage of their authority and abused the trust and responsibility given to them to protect and serve them as citizens, but instead abused them physically and emotionally."

Safran wrote that some of his clients are upset Vagnini was allowed to plead to fewer than the original offenses charged, that what he did to some of them was never charged, and that Milwaukee police officials were aware of the abuses for some time before starting an investigation.

They want Vagnini to serve at least some time in prison "so as to punish him and to teach him and other police officers that they cannot violate people's rights and get away with those actions."

Robin Shellow's letter said her clients were victims of "the sodomy squad" which she said was motivated by racial prejudice.

"There has been much criticism that the victims have played the race card and that the race of the victims is unimportant here." Shellow wrote. "To believe so is to exhibit a naiveté on par with that of a four year old. The officers' handpicked the victims and -- to a person -- they were all African American, while the officers, as well as their supervisor Sergeant Jason Mucha, were all white."

She goes on to quote a passage from the tribunals to hear human rights violatons committed in Rwanda and Sarajevo describing the penetration of victims' bodies in coercive environments, and says it describes what Vagnini was doing.

Shellow lists other examples of male rape by invading or occupying armies around the world throughout the 20th century.

"It was not until the atrocities at Sarajevo that it was called a crime against humanity - unless you are black and live in Milwaukee and are a low-level drug dealer, then it is called an unclassified misdemeanor."

Shellow's client "LLR" specifically asks that Vagnini be incarcerated where he will be safe, that he undergo sex offender treatment and polygraphs meant to identify all his victims, that he be required to identify supervisors aware of the illegal searches and that he pay $10,000 for LLR to get counseling.

Vagnini has been suspended with pay pending the outcome of his case, and will be automatically removed from the city's payroll after his sentencing Friday, according to Fire and Police Commission executive director Michael Tobin.

Police spokesman Sgt. Mark Stanmeyer said Vagnini resigned from the department Wednesday.

Three other police officers charged with Vagnini - Jeffrey Dollhopf, Brian Kozelek and Jacob Knight - had their cases separated because they face fewer counts and were not charged with sexual assault. They are charged with misconduct in office and being parties to the crimes of illegal searches, based on their on-duty presence when prosecutors say Vagnini committed them.

They also are suspended with pay pending trials later this year.

See Also:

FL - Not ordered to register but Florida made me anyway

The following was sent to us via the contact form and posted with the users permission.

By James Coulton:
I was in the state of Maryland and falsely arrested and charged with a 4th degree misdemeanor by a woman who claimed to be my friends daughters mother . I sat in jail for months and couldn't get hold of anyone. my public defender was completely useless, I tried to fire him but he wouldn't let me. I was so scared that he would have me convicted due to his incompetence. He finally told me that if i were to plea guilty to a misdemeanor then I would be released that day and to come to his office to start the appeal process and overturn the verdict. he lied to me. I was never ordered to register as a sex offender though. the probation officers made me call them every day or face jail. I wasn't from Maryland and had nowhere to live and nobody would hire me. I am from Ft Meyers and went back there. I was assaulted and mugged at Ft Meyers beach, and hospitalized for a month because of broken bones in my head and face.

Even though it was a confidential hospitas called lee county mental health. a receptionist there named regina went through my records and called a deputy named foreman to take me out of bed and to jail to register. he took me to jail and told me that if i didnt sign those papers then i would be arrested and charged with a felony. i needed to get back to bed and my medication so i did as told from fear of the medical treatment in jail.

I was told that Maryland had passed an ex post facto law requireing me to register there. from that point on I was forced to pay 35 dollars every time that i slept in a bed for more than two days. I couldnt get a job or find anyone who would rent to me. my job of more than ten years couldnt hire me back because of it. after being tired and dirty for months after being released I couldnt take it, and asked how to be removed from the list. it was for ten years. the officer in charge of my case said to move away.

I went to Kentucky where friends believe in me still. and was forced to register there too but only because Florida had made me. I did as told and was whispered out of church, assaulted and had my door kicked in etc.

I decided to go back to California where I have family. and all was fine for two years, until I was pulled over and asked my name. I was arrested and charged with a felony for failure to register. I posted 3000 dollars bond and the charge was dismissed because of the ex post facto clause. however the officer contacted Kentucky and had them put a warrant for my arrest. . I was chained up in the back of a van for 5 days and nights. I was charged with a felony . and forced to sleep on the floor for 6 months of an overcrowded cell in Bell county Kentucky. I was told that i would be there for up to a year longer before I went to court. the law in Maryland was repealed the day before I was indicted, and the prosecutor named Karen Blondell didn't care and held me for months after she was aware of the repeal anyway. I was forced to plea f my own "free will" while in handcuffs and wearing stripes Or I would be there indefinitely. now I have a felony on my record and if for any reason i am pulled over i will be dragged back to a Kentucky prison . for a 4th degree misdemeanor out of Kentucky that they don't even care about. Kentucky is keeping me on that list because of Florida for life now and Florida says it will not release me from its list because they just wont. Maryland doesn't have me on their list. what can I do about this . I've lost everything I've ever owned and my entire family has turned away from me. i was "sweated " into a plea or i would still be in there right now. everyone I've ever known thinks I'm a pedophile except for the victims family who cannot believe this is happening to me. the dropped the charges even before the first court date. Can I be compensated by anyone for any of this? how can I get off one of those lists? Every time a policeman asks my name they want to charge me with something.

Sincerely James Coulton

NV - Clark County official (Donald Coburn) arrested on child prostitution charge

Donald Coburn
Original Article


By Molly Waldron

Las Vegas (KTNV) - A Clark County official was arrested Saturday on a child prostitution charge.

According to Las Vegas Metro Police Department paperwork, Donald Coburn was arrested for soliciting or engaging in child prostitution.

Coburn, 47, has worked for Clark County for more than 10 years. He's served as the head of Animal Control and Code Enforcement for about a year.

A county spokesperson said Coburn has not been suspended from his duties. County officials will determine whether to suspend him when they return to work Tuesday.

Regardless, county officials assure the public that Coburn will not be permitted to interact with the community pending an outcome of the investigation.

The circumstances of Coburn's arrest were not immediately released.

AL - Foster homes are now protected from sex offenders living near-by

Gabe and Melissa Ross
Original Article


By Rachel Keith

DECATUR (WAAY) - The Decatur Police Department is wanting foster families to know that they are now protected in the Sex Offender Notification and Registration Act.

The Sex Offender Notification and Registration Act of 2011 prevents more than 11,000 sex offenders in the state from living within 2,000 feet of a school or child care facility. The Decatur Police Department says that now includes foster homes.

"We've received notification of a recent Attorney General opinion which stated the section of the sex offender notification and registration act covering child care facilities also includes foster homes" said Lt. John Crouch with the Decatur Police Department.

Decatur Police are encouraging foster families to list their addresses with their local law enforcement agency.

"Then they can be included in the restricted areas where sex offenders are not allowed to live" said Crouch.

Foster parents like Gabe and Melissa Ross were happy to hear that option is now available to them.

"We have six children in our home and we try to do as much as we can but I feel like this law will really help and add to the security of our home" says Melissa Ross.

"Anything we can do to help protect these children is a great thing because they grow up with such difficult backgrounds, a tough foundation" said Gabe Ross. "Anything we can do to help protect them, provide safety for them."

One foster family has already added their address to the list with the Decatur Police Department and the Ross family says they could be next.

"We would consider putting our name on the list to help protect our children" said Melissa Ross.

ME - Former Somerset County sheriff’s deputy (Horace Barstow) gets four years for unlawful sexual contact

Horace Barstow
Original Article


By Rachel Ohm

SKOWHEGAN - A former Somerset County sheriff’s deputy pleaded guilty Wednesday to molesting four young girls at his wife’s former day care center.

Horace Barstow, 67, will serve 10 years in prison with all but four years suspended and 10 years probation. He accepted a plea bargain that was satisfactory to the victims and their families, according to Somerset County Assistant District Attorney Brent Davis.

During the hearing in Skowhegan District Court, Davis summarized witness accounts that he said would have been used as testimony if the case had gone to trial.

Each victim would have testified that they were touched by Horace Barstow. Each one said they were touched on the vagina by Mr. Barstow,” said Davis.

Barstow originally faced three charges of class B unlawful sexual contact with children under age 12, but another charge was added Wednesday. That charge of class C unlawful sexual contact related to information from a more recent allegation, Davis said.

During the hearing, Barstow acknowledged the crimes had occurred and that the accounts read by Davis were correct. He made no statements of his own, but responded with one word answers to questions from the judge and prosecutors.

His attorney, Bill Logan, said the decision to accept the plea deal was made in order for Barstow to put the entire experience behind him at once.

He wants to take responsibility for his actions,” said Logan. “We also wanted to spare the young children that are victims of the process of going through a difficult trial.”

Davis said that neither the victims nor any members of their families were in court on Wednesday.

Barstow was sentenced on each charge individually but will serve the sentences concurrently, effective immediately.

The initial charges come from contact with three different children that took place between Nov. 1 and Dec. 7 at ABC 123 Day Care, which was owned and operated by Barstow’s wife, at their home, according to court records.

The day care center was shut down by the Department of Health and Human Services in March shortly after Barstow was arrested on March 8.

He was indicted June 6 by a grand jury on three counts of unlawful sexual contact, a class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The most recent charge of class C unlawful sexual contact also took place at the day care and involved a female under the age 14 who said she was touched on the vagina by Barstow between Sept. 1, 2009, and June 1, 2010, said Davis. A class C felony is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of $5,000.

On Wednesday Barstow waived his right to indictment by grand jury for that charge.

He received individual sentences for each of the four counts he faced, although most of the sentences will be served concurrently.

Justice Robert Mullen said Wednesday that as terms of his sentence, Barstow is not allowed to have contact with females under the age of 16 or with any of the victims, whose names are not being released. He is not allowed to enter their residences, places of employment or places of education.

As a convicted felon Barstow is not allowed to own or operate a firearm and must also register as a sex offender for life, said Mullen. He also told Barstow that any probation violation or future charges would come with greater consequences than what he received Wednesday.

Your conduct will affect four children for the rest of their lives. You will be under probation for a significant period of time and if you violate that probation in any way, the sentence would be considerably harsher than what you received today,” Mullen said.

Barstow is a former sheriff’s deputy with the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department and was a reserve officer with the Norridgewock Police Department, which closed in 1986.

FL - Deputy (Dale Couch) charged with child molestation resigns from Manatee sheriff's office

Dale Couch
Original Article


MANATEE - A Manatee County Sheriff’s Office lieutenant charged with child molestation has resigned from the sheriff's office.

In an letter dated May 23 Lt. Dale Couch, charged with three counts of child molestation, cited “personal reasons” for his resignation, effective immediately. The sheriff's office said it received the letter on Tuesday.

Couch had been suspended without pay, and the sheriff’s office was trying to fire him. State law requires that a hearing be granted; the hearing had been set for Tuesday.

Judge Thomas Krug set bonds totalling $207,500 for Couch.

I am denying the motion for pretrial detention," Krug said. “A bond is reasonable in this case and these circumstances.”

Tuesday’s hearing had been called after Assistant State Attorney Dawn Buff filed a motion asking that Couch be held without bond pending trial. Judge Robert A Farrance had delayed setting bond on Friday after Buff said she had just received information that Couch had made threatening comments that made him a danger to the community.

The statements of the therapist is concerning to the court,” Krug said. “That statement coupled with the multiple firearms and ammunition is of concern to the court.”

Krug said the threat was of concern enough that a high bond was necessary.

Couch was also ordered to be on supervised released if he makes his bond. He will be required to wear an ankle bracelet and he is not permitted to have any contact with the victims or their father.

Other conditions of his release were that he could not posses any firearms and that all his firearms be turned over to the sheriff’s office.

Couch’s former therapist took the stand in Tuesday’s hearing.

On that day during a session he said that it was a good thing he wasn’t going to be charged with molestation because as a law enforcement officer he couldn’t go to prison and that he was not going alive and neither were they,” Jane Vittitoe said.

Buff said that Vittitoe came forward because she felt obligated to warn of any threat despite that existence of privilege.

He had been a sniper and he had a list of the people that had come up with the charges and they would be going down with him,” Vittitoe added.

Vittitoe felt the danger became imminent once she learned of Couch’s arrest.

Couch’s attorney Greg S. Hagopian questioned whether the removal of the firearms from the home and that he went peacefully at the time of arrest gave her comfort. She said yes.

Sheriff's Major Connie Shingledecker also took the stand and was questioned about her involvement in Couch’s arrest. She said Couch was taken into custody without incident.

The defense also called Ken Smith, a long time friend of Coach’s to the stand.

Smith says that he went to the Couch home and was assisted by Coach’s wife in collecting all the firearms and ammunition in the home. Three long guns, a handgun and a quantity of ammunition were found in the master bedroom in addition to one gun in a lock safe.

We looked here and there, anywhere else they might be,” Smith said.

When questioned by Buff, however, he said he only looked in the living room and kitchen himself, not in any other bedrooms or office.

Smith said he could not be certain there were no other guns in the home.

I think there was even ammunition for odd things that weren’t in the pile,” Smith said.

Prior to being arrested and resigning, Couch had been on administrative leave with pay since March 29, when an earlier investigation was reopened after the sheriff's office said it received new evidence in the case.

A complaint was filed July 25, 2012. At the time Couch was suspended for four months and did not return to work until Nov. 22.

TX - Lawsuit Alleges Sexual Abuse of Female Inmates at Live Oak County Jail

Original Article


LIVE OAK COUNTY (Kiii News) - There are new allegations against three former Live Oak County jailers who were convicted in 2012 for violating the civil rights of two female inmates and engaging in improper sexual activity.

A second lawsuit has been filed detailing some new and stunning charges against those former guards and Live Oak County. The new lawsuit involves two other inmates who claim that the Live Oak County Sheriff's Office ran the Live Oak County Jail as a "rape camp."

The suit says that, in the facility, numerous jailers employed by the Sheriff's Office repeatedly raped and humiliated female inmates over an extended period of time. The alleged acts include forcing female inmates to repeatedly perform oral sex on male guards, and the male guards forcing other sex acts against the female inmates. Guards also allegedly forced female inmates to engage in sexual sex acts with other female inmates.

According to the suit, in order to facilitate their carnal impulses, the guards would withhold food and water, engage in physical abuse, restrict privileges and verbally and emotionally abuse the women, and even threaten to kill them in order to compel their compliance. The three former jailers named as defendants in the suit are Vincent Aguilar, Israel Charles, Jr., and Jaime E. Smith.

"I really think it's something to look into," Alice resident Aaron Stehle said. "I mean, they need to dig a little deeper, and background checks and stuff like that, and find out where these guards are coming from."

"It's pretty horrendous to hear that they could carry this on for that long a period of time particularly, and no one find out about it," Edinburg resident Ed Lemaster said.

"That's disgusting," San Antonio resident Jeremy Jenschke said. "There's no other words to describe that. It's just disgusting."

Live Oak County Sheriff Larry Busby said that, at the advice of the attorney hired by the county, he could not give an on-the-record comment on the situation. The attorney for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit said the same thing.

See Also: