Thursday, September 26, 2013

UT - Girl, 13, and her boyfriend, 12, are both labelled sex offenders after having consensual sex with each other

Juvenile Sex Offenders
Original Article

09/26/2013

By HELEN POW

Utah Supreme Court justices have dubbed a 13-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy both sex offenders and victims for having sex with each other.

The Ogden girl and her boyfriend were each found guilty of violating a state law that prohibits sex with someone under age 14, after the 2003 encounter which resulted in the girl becoming pregnant.

The unnamed girl, who is now 23, is asking the high court to overturn the juvenile conviction, claiming the consensual sex shouldn't qualify as a crime because it doesn't for 16 or 17-year-olds who have sex with someone in their own age group, and she has a right to be treated equally under the law.

Oral arguments on the motion began this week and on Tuesday, the justices acknowledged they were struggling with the concept that the girl could be both victim and offender.
- What about the boy being offender and victim?  Why only point out the female?

'The only thing that comes close to this is dueling,' said Associate Chief Justice Michael Wilkins, referring to two people who take 20 paces and then shoot each other.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Chief Justice Christine Durham labelled the predicament a 'peculiar consequence' and wondered if legislators had intended it.

State authorities filed delinquency - the term used for juvenile convictions - petitions in July 2004.

These alleged the boyfriend and girlfriend had each committed sexual abuse of a child, a second-degree felony if committed by an adult.

The girl appealed the petition, saying that because her boyfriend was the same age as her she shouldn't be penalized.

Children aged 14 or 15 can be charged with unlawful conduct with a minor if they have sex with a peer, but mitigation renders the offense a misdemeanor.

But for juveniles under 14, there is no mitigation as the law deems them incapable of consenting to sex.

A juvenile court judge denied the motion brought by the girl and the Utah Court of Appeals last December upheld the judge's refusal to dismiss the allegation, saying the law had to protect minors from each other as well as from older teens and adults.

The girl then appealed to the state Supreme Court.

During Tuesday's hearing, assistant Utah attorney general Matthew Bates argued that the law was designed to prevent sex with children who are 13 and younger, even if the other person is in the same age group.

He said legislators were sending a message with the law that sex with or among children is unacceptable.

However, Randall Richards, the girl's attorney, claims prosecuting children under a law meant to protect them doesn't make sense.

'A child (victim) cannot also be a perpetrator in the exact same act,' Richards said, according to the Tribune.

The Utah Supreme Court will issue a ruling at a later date.


FL - Senator, representative offer sex-offender porn ban

Pornography
Original Article

09/25/2013

By Bill Cotterell

Convicted sex offenders would not be allowed to view pornography while on probation, under a bipartisan bill introduced in the Florida Legislature on Wednesday.

Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, and Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, proposed to amend existing law, which only forbids sex offenders to view, possess or have access to any "obscene, pornographic or sexually stimulating" materials that "are relevant to the offender's deviant behavior pattern."

But the women's legislation seems destined to run afoul of civil libertarians. The American Civil Liberties Union in Miami, which wages many free-speech and anti-censorship battles, said the proposal poses enforcement and constitutional problems.

"It's imperative that Florida act now to close a loophole in the law that restricts the court's ability to keep the public safe from sexual offenders," Edwards said in filing her bill (HB 73 PDF, SB 182 PDF). "This bill gives us one more tool to make sure that sex offenders don't risk relapse."

Stargel said pornography is "a catalyst to a range of sexual offenses in our culture."

"This bill is common-sense legislation. Currently, a sex offender can view pornography if it is not relevant to their sexual offense," she said. "I believe it is in the best interest of the offender and the public that all pornography is prohibited to sexual offenders, regardless of the person's prior deviant behavior."

Stargel said the bill would not change existing porn laws. She said it would not prevent an offender on probation from reading men's magazines or subscribing to cable TV channels -- unless the materials in question were deemed pornographic in court.

"Whatever criteria they're using, the only difference is that now they're having to take an extra step, to determine if the pornography is relevant to the offender's past offense," she said. "This would eliminate that step and say they can't have any kind of pornography at all."

The ACLU of Florida issued a statement saying there is no evidence banning pornography for probationers will curb sex offenses.

"Also, by expanding the universe of banned materials to any material that could be 'sexually stimulating,' the bill would make the law vague and subject to inconsistent and abusive application," said the ACLU. "Reducing recidivism and ensuring public safety require looking at genuine policy solution based on facts, not fear."


How 'civil commitment' enables indefinite detention of sex offenders

Civil Commitment
Original Article

09/26/2013

By James Ridgeway

Many sex offenders are held indefinitely past their sentence on a recidivism assessment that's almost impossible to challenge

Most people would think that once you have served a jail sentence, you are free to go. But that's not always the case.

When it comes to sex offenders, a number of states and the federal government have laws that allow them to keep you in jail, simply because they consider you a potential recidivist. Through a legal procedure called "civil commitment", you can be classed as a sexually violent predator based solely on the subjective opinion of a state-employed psychologist or sex expert.

Once placed under a civil commitment, you are essentially in prison indefinitely. This can quickly become a nightmare, particularly in instances such as an "agreed disposition'' – similar to a plea bargain in a criminal trial – where a person may have been pushed to waive his right to appeal (pdf) during negotiations.

No one knows for sure how many sex offenders there are in the US, but well over 747,000 people are listed on registries. Some are, indeed, pedophiles, but one third of offenders have committed their crime as children. The recidivism rate for sex offenders in general is low, with government statistics showing the rate at around 5%, versus 60% for all criminal activity.

The topic, especially with the Ariel Castro horror in Cleveland fresh in everybody's minds, is charged with emotion. There is little regard for sex offenders in the justice system: defense lawyers are loath to take a case before a jury, fearing instant conviction, and judges often can barely hide their disgust should they render a decision at a bench trial.

So, the Virginia case of a young gay college student named _____ is all the more remarkable. _____ gambled with his future when he decided to take his case before a Virginia jury. Yet, amazingly, he won.

_____ had been a college student in the early 2000s at the University of Indiana, studying to become an opera singer. He was sentenced in a Virginia court in 2004 to 30 years in prison for "aggravated sexual battery" and sex with a minor (aged 13-15), after having been charged initially with soliciting sex over the internet and disseminating indecent materials to minors. _____ claimed the sexual encounters were not forced.

The judge suspended part of the sentence; even so, _____ spent nine years in prison – half of that time in one sort of segregation or another, despite serving his sentence without any infraction.

In 2007, just as he was looking forward to release, Virginia officials unexpectedly informed _____ that they believed he might qualify for civil commitment. In June 2009, Virginia authorities decided this was indeed the case. Without filing any additional charges, they held him in prison for a further 25 months in order to assess his behavior.

One day, a psychologist arrived at the prison, and said he wanted to interview _____ to determine whether he was a sexually violent predator. _____ said he would be glad to answer questions but wanted an attorney present. At that, the psychologist left, never to return.

_____'s two attorneys, Charles Burnham and Eugene Gorokhov of Washington, DC, asked the state to conduct an evaluation with _____ and one of his attorneys present. Virginia refused, and as _____'s subsequent habeas petition claimed, "took the position that the request for counsel constituted a refusal to participate, and indicated that it was contrary to office policy to conduct an evaluation if the respondent first sought advice of counsel". The state court agreed.

Then, on 9 October 2009, Virginia initiated formal proceedings against _____. All along, _____ had sought to introduce testimony from his own expert witness: a Johns Hopkins medical doctor and an acknowledged expert in sex offense matters, who has consulted with the FBI, testified before the US Senate, been a member of the White House conference on sexual disorders, and worked with the Boston archdiocese on pedophilia cases.

Under civil commitment, the state can hold a person for an undetermined length of time until its therapy works to the satisfaction of law enforcement agents. His doctor's report, made available to me by _____ and his attorneys, concluded with an assessment that despite past actions:

"[_____] has no condition which makes him likely to engage in 'sexually violent' acts. Therefore, in my professional opinion, he does not meet the statutory requirements for civil commitment as a 'sexually violent predator'."

At the subsequent trial, the judge refused to allow the expert's evaluation to be entered in _____'s defense, instead relying wholly on the state's own expert's report. This was based on written evaluations made years ago.

In the end, a jury of six women and one man found _____ not likely to be a sexually violent predator. After listening to the state's prosecutor describe what _____ might do if let out of jail, one perplexed juror was reported to have asked: "But what's the crime?"

_____ is thus believed to be the first person in Virginia ever to win such a civil commitment jury trial, and one of the few nationally. He was released on probation, and subject to the state's policy that relies on polygraphs, therapy sessions, and a process called the "containment model".

The therapy is unusual in that _____ believes the therapist functioned as a sort of surrogate cop. As he put it:

"It is absolutely the case that everything I say to my therapist ends up on my probation officer's desk – which means it also ends up on the prosecutor's desk."

_____ sought to re-enter the University of Indiana, but was blocked by the state of Virginia. The school eventually reversed the decision, but _____ then found himself blocked by the state of Indiana.

So, he is stuck in Virginia. He does not drive a car because he fears any cop who runs his plate will notice he is on the sex offender registry and look for a reason to pull him over, if only to harass him. Even a simple traffic ticket leads him to worry whether the encounter could turn into a violation that would land him back in prison.

_____'s parole officer, at least, has been generally supportive of his charge, even moving away from containment model therapy. Still, many would find the terms of _____'s probation over the top. He has been asked by Virginia sex inspectors, who are employed to enforce sex offender treatment, how many times a day he masturbates and what he thinks about when he masturbates, along with the details of actual sexual activities. _____ says, "As part of that program, I was required to disclose this information to them." The state probation officers declined to discuss _____'s case with me.

_____ faces six more years on probation. He had studied to be an opera singer, but like so many sex offenders, he has little chance of obtaining meaningful employment. He has come to see no future for himself in the US. Instead, he might go to Europe, maybe France, to obtain actual freedom and intimate liberty.

His probation conditions may be restrictive and intrusive, but _____ is lucky to have two aggressive attorneys fighting in his corner. Most accused sex offenders are simply told to plea-bargain their way into civil commitment. Once under civil commitment, they may spend the rest of their lives in prison.

While there are, undoubtedly, some irremediable sex offenders who need to be confined for reasons of public safety, the civil commitment protocol denies some of the basic rights afforded other criminal defendants. These include the right to a speedy trial, full right to counsel and, perhaps most importantly, the right to introduce testimony from a defendant's own experts. Without the protection of this last right, some defendants are sent off to prison for an indefinite sentence on the basis of questionable opinions from the state's expert witnesses.

Civil commitment for sex offenders needs to be reformed root-and-branch or abandoned. The policy may be popular in law enforcement circles, fewer than half of US states have such laws. But in those states that have it, _____ is the rare exception; most do not escape this largely invisible American gulag.


H.R. 2848: Department of State Operations and Embassy Security Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 2014

See the section titled "SEC. 213. AUTHORITY TO RESTRICT PASSPORTS" which pertains to sex offenders.


ATTENTION: When you go to re-register, make sure you check the online registry for accuracy!

A personal friend of ours, and other people who view this blog have told us from time to time that when they check the registry to view what the state / local police have about them on the online registry, people have noticed new words, terms, etc added to their profile.

This could be an honest mistake, or done on purpose, but any time you go to re-register, ALWAYS check the accuracy of the registry information in a day or so after you register, and if there is anything new added to your original crime, contact the local police to tell them about it.

One person who contacted us before who was originally charged with "child molestation" went to re-register and a couple days later checked the registry. They had inserted "AGGRAVATED" in front of their original crime, which was false and made it look more serious that it actually was. So they contacted the local police and they fixed it.

Again, we have no idea why this happens, but humans do make mistakes.

NOTE: In some states it is illegal for a registrant to view the registry, for reasons unknown, so make sure it's legal to access the registry before you do so. We believe California is the only state that has this rule, but we could be wrong.

Sincerely,

Sex Offender Issues


UK - 12-Year-Old Rapist Freed By U.K. Judge Though He Declared No Sympathy For 6-Year-Old Victim

Juvenile sex offenders
Original Article

09/25/2013

By Jonathan Vankin

Despite telling a court officer that he has no sympathy for the six-year-old girl he raped not once but twice, a 12-year-old English schoolboy walked out of a courtroom this week with a fine of £300 -- or about $480.

He also was given a year-long restraining order ordering him to stay away from his victim and her family.

The boy, whose name has not been made public for legal reasons, admitted to police that he twice forced the girl to perform a sexual act on him. His parents took him to the police station after catching wind of the rumors about their son.

When a court officer who was preparing a sentencing report asked the boy how he felt knowing that his victim was scared and upset, the youth replied, “I don’t care how she feels.”

When the boy appeared in an Ipswich court Monday, District Judge Celia Dawson referred to the boy’s statement, saying she hoped it was mere bravado.

I hope in a way that is you trying to be brave and tough things out,” the judge said. “When you start work with the Youth Offending Team you will begin to think about what you did, about how serious it was, and about how badly this has affected (the girl).”

The judge said that she did not send the boy, who lives near the border of Suffolk and Norfolk counties on the east coast of England, to a youth detention facility in order to keep him away from “older and more sophisticated criminals.”

But local advocates for rape victims were distressed by the judge’s decision not to punish the boy more severely.

"There is no point in getting a child to pay £300,” said Yvonne Traynor, a local rape crisis worker. “Something has to be done to show to the offender and to the wider public that this is a serious crime, as well as to look at the reasons that made him do it.”

In 2011, in England, 30 underage rapists were allowed by judges to walk free without being placed in custody.


Keep teens safe while they're online

Internet Safety
Original Article

09/25/2013

By Kim Linton

According to a teen Web survey commissioned by Cox Communications and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 61 percent of those surveyed had profiles on social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook. In addition, one-third of the teens said they were considering a face-to-face meeting with someone they met online.

When faced with the potential dangers of social networks, some parents think the only way to keep their kids safe is to ban them from the Web. The problem is that tech-savvy teens know how to get around most software blocks, and can get online at other locations. Although it's impossible to eliminate every online threat, here are a few practical tips that will minimize the risks.

Take Advantage Of Safety Features On Social Networking Sites
Most social networking sites have built-in safety features and settings. In MySpace, for example, click on the "Safety Tips" link at the bottom of the home page to access its security information. Learn as much as you can about the security features each site offers, then share the information with your teens.

Teach Teens To Keep Certain Information Private
Teach teens to avoid sharing personal information such as phone numbers, addresses, school, age and their real name. Also, they should avoid creating screen names and passwords that contain information such as birth dates or social security numbers. According to the Federal Trade Commission, Web users should "only post information that they are comfortable with others seeing and knowing."

Join A Social Networking Site Yourself
One of the best ways to monitor a teen's online activity is to join the same social networking site and become their "friend." Keep in mind that they may have accounts set up that you don't know about, but most teens have at least one or more MySpace or Facebook profiles. Don't hang out on the site too much, but do drop in occasionally to see what they are up to.

Let Teens Know About Sexual Predators
Social networking sites have become "candy stores" for sexual predators, and most teens are not aware of how dangerous they can be. Teens should avoid posting or texting (especially seductive or nude) photos of themselves, and should never flirt or engage in sexually explicit discussions with anyone. According to the FTC, teens who don't talk about sex with strangers online are less likely to come in contact with predators.

Teach Teens To Report Suspicious Activity
If teens feel threatened by someone or afraid because of something said online, they should tell an adult they trust, report it to the social networking site, and the police if necessary. It's usually easy to tell when someone has crossed the line, the hard part is being brave enough to do something about it. Let teens know that by reporting suspicious activity, they might keep someone else from becoming a victim.