Monday, December 2, 2013

IRELAND - Ex-lord mayor jailed for one year over sex assaults

John Murray
John Murray
Original Article

12/03/2013

By Liam Heylin

In view of the fact that there was no plea of guilty and I see very little by way of remorse, I feel my hands are tied,” Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said.

He then imposed a two-year sentence on each of four counts of sexual assault, with the last year suspended on each count. He imposed a concurrent, four-year sentence on one of the counts with the last three years suspended. The net effect was a one-year jail term.

The offences themselves are different in nature and severity. (Four) involve inappropriate touching and fondling. (One) is much more serious, stripping her lower body and intruding on her, this is much more serious behaviour,” the judge said.

Outside the courtroom, the victim, who cannot be identified, said: “All I wanted was justice and to be believed.” Her father said of Murray: “He destroyed her life.”

Detective Garda Cathy Houlihan said the complainant did not reveal to her family what John Murray had done to her in the mid-1990s until Aug 2011. In the company of others she approached Murray.

He apologised for his actions and admitted kissing (complainant’s name) and touching her breasts and vagina,” Det Garda Houlihan said. He denied all charges when questioned in June 2012 by gardaí.

During the trial, the former lord mayor said he had made such an admission, but only because he was under duress at that meeting. “I said that out of duress because of the rumpus that was being created. I should never have said it. At the end of the night I said, ‘Is this what you want to hear — I touched her breasts, I touched her vagina’?

Donal McCarthy, defence barrister, said yesterday, “He is a first-time offender. He must live with the fact that whatever past life he had and society’s view of him, that has changed.”

The circumstances of the five counts were that: he kissed her lips and neck and groped her breasts while telling her she was beautiful; when she was a passenger in his car he leaned over, rubbed her vagina outside her clothes while moaning and rubbing his penis in his car; he whispered into her ear, “I would love to ____ you” as he fondled her; rubbing her breasts after approaching her as she left the toilet in a pub in Cork; and finally — the charge which the judge said was more serious — he pulled down her underwear when she was wearing a summer dress and put his fingers into her and with his other hand took out his penis and pulled at it.

Mary Crilly, director of Sexual Violence Centre Cork, said of the complainant, “She just wanted him to be held to account and show some remorse. It was a very difficult teenaged life for her because he had such a high profile standing. Talking to her afterwards she was not necessarily looking for him to get a custodial sentence, just for him to be held to account.”

Ms Crilly said that people sometimes did not make complaints of sexual assaults because the perpetrator was now elderly, but she encouraged people to come forward even in such circumstances.

Victim impact statement: ‘The abuse has consumed my life since I was 13’

The abuse began when I was only 13 and has consumed my life since then. I went from being a happy, outgoing child who was involved in everything from Girl Guides to drama and music, to being an angry, isolated and withdrawn teenager.”

I felt at the time I could not tell any of my family what was happening to me. I was ashamed of what had happened. I felt tainted by the abuse. I wondered, why me?

He was a former lord mayor and a prominent member of Cork society and I felt scared and worried that I wouldn’t be believed. He was only in his 60s at the time, a tall strong man and I felt very intimidated by him.”

Once the abuse began I quickly gave up all my hobbies and activities and I became withdrawn and broke away from my family. I fought a lot with my parents… I could never let them know the truth about why I was so angry.”

I became paranoid about how I looked and what I wore and spent years wearing tracksuits. I felt safer dressed like that.”

I finally found the courage to open up to my family and tell them what had happened to me. It was a secret I couldn’t carry anymore.”

The investigation process and trial have been very traumatic for me. I have had to sit and divulge my innermost secrets to a room full of people. It has made me re-live it all again in my head.”

There has been huge media attention on this case and I felt as if the eyes of the entire country were on me. I have had to put on a brave face each day and find the courage to carry on and try and go about my daily life.”

I only ever wanted for justice to be done and for everybody to know I was telling the truth.”

I would like to thank the Sexual Violence Centre, Support After Crime Services, An Garda Síochána, particularly Det Gda Cathy Houlihan, the courts and the jury. I now look forward to starting a new chapter in my life.”


MN - Task force proposes sweeping changes in sex-offender program

Panel to review Minnesota sex offender civil commitment laws
Original Article

12/02/2013

By CHRIS SERRES

An independent task force has recommended sweeping changes to Minnesota’s controversial system for confining sex offenders indefinitely after their prison terms end, according to a report released Monday.

There is broad consensus that the current system of civil commitment of sex offenders in Minnesota captures too many people and keeps many of them too long,” the report states.

The 15-member task force, appointed by Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson, recommends (PDF) that the state Legislature establish a centralized and independent screening unit with statewide jurisdiction to determine whether a person meets the criteria for commitment to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program. A decision by the screening unit would not be binding, but would be admissible in any court proceedings considering a petition to commit a sex offender.

The recommendations would also shift the burden of proof to the state to prove that a sex offender is too dangerous to be released in the community and needs to remain in confinement. The task force recommends that the Legislature modify current law to provide for a biennial review of the commitment of sex offenders, without requiring that the offender request the review.

Unlike other states that civilly commit sex offenders, Minnesota currently does not allow for automatic, periodic judicial review of civil commitments of sex offenders.

The final report also contains strong language addressing the commitment of juveniles. “No person should be civilly committed based solely on behavior that occurred while that person was a juvenile,” the report states. Some 52 of the 698 people confined at Minnesota’s high-security sex offender treatment centers in Moose Lake and St. Peter have not been convicted of an adult crime, according to state records.

The task force was created in part to address claims that the sex offender program is unconstitutional because offenders who are committed are almost never released from confinement — amounting to what many argue is a de facto life sentence. On Dec. 18, a U.S. District Court judge in St. Paul will begin hearing arguments on the constitutionality of the program.

The size and cost of MSOP has exploded over the past decade.

In 2003, after the kidnapping and murder of Minnesota college student Dru Sjodin, the state Department of Corrections began recommending more sex offenders for civil commitment. The program’s population jumped from 199 in June 2003 to 698 today, and Minnesota now confines more sex offenders, per capita, than any other state.


IL - Woodstock cop's (Charles Amati) punishment angers parents

To serve and protect?
Original Article

11/27/2013

By Dan Hinkel

A 12-year-old girl got a series of text messages this summer from her mother's boyfriend, Woodstock police Sgt. Charles "Chip" Amati, according to copies of the messages obtained by the Tribune.

One message, punctuated with a text emoticon shaped like a heart, read, "Send me some sexy pictures!"

The girl's mother said she alerted authorities, and Illinois State Police investigators discovered something else — that Amati had used a taxpayer-funded law enforcement database to research his girlfriend's criminal record, a police report shows. Officers who use the database for personal reasons can be charged with official misconduct, a felony, state police said.

But McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi has not charged Amati. After a departmental inquiry, Amati, a 24-year veteran and one of the city's highest-paid employees, was suspended without pay for 30 days, though he can take them one at a time at the department's discretion within a year, police Chief Robert Lowen said.

Authorities have not suggested that Amati's text message broke any law. Experts said a mental health assessment would be key to determining whether the message was an isolated act or part of a larger problem.

The chief said Amati wasn't required to undergo a mental health assessment or counseling. Lowen said he did not think either was necessary.

The girl's parents are furious about what they say is light punishment for a city insider who they think should have been fired. Her father, who the Tribune is not naming to avoid identifying the girl, accused law enforcement officials of hypocrisy.

"He's no better than who he's arrested," the father said.

Lowen and Assistant State's Attorney Michael Combs declined to comment specifically on the text message.

In addition to having access to the database that includes information about driving records, gangs and licensed drivers, Amati coordinated the department's access to the system and was responsible for monitoring misuse, Lowen said.

An officer who coordinates his agency's database use and misuses the system should be fired, said Terry Mors, a former Gurnee police commander and the director of Western Illinois University's School of Law Enforcement and Justice Administration. Misusing the database is an abuse of power, Mors said, adding, "If you're doing this, what else are you doing?"

Lowen, who recommended the discipline to the city's police and fire commission, called Amati's conduct "unacceptable." But the chief defended him as a good officer and said, "I thought that the discipline was appropriate in light of all the circumstances."

Lowen acknowledged that misuse of the database can lead to criminal charges but said he thought the suspension was fair, in light of Amati's otherwise spotless disciplinary history, long record of service and the fact that he didn't use the database for a purpose such as his own financial gain.

In deciding not to charge Amati, prosecutors weighed the fact that he would face departmental discipline, Combs said.

"This guy made some serious mistakes, but I have to consider the background of somebody too," he said. "He'd been a police officer for a long time, and he made a mistake."

Amati could not be reached for comment.

His name might be familiar to those who follow local news because he is the department's spokesman, along with overseeing dispatchers and records, the chief said. A city budget document projects that Amati, 48, of Woodstock, will make about $93,000 in the 2013-14 fiscal year, though any potential overtime payments are not included in that total.

The girl's mother told the Tribune she started dating Amati in spring 2012. This summer she was unhappy to learn that he had given her daughter a gold pendant emblazoned with the word "Princess," she said.

She went to his home to confront him, she said. She cursed at him, he gave back the key to her home and she stormed off, the woman said.

The next day, she told the 12-year-old and the girl's 10-year-old sister to delete his number from their phones and let her know if he tried to contact them. The older girl then came forward with the text messages, her mother said.

In one exchange, dated Aug. 16, Amati sent a message reading, "Hi beautiful" and then told her to "feel free to send me a pic any time," capping the request with a winking emoticon.

Three days later, according to copies of the messages, he requested "sexy pictures." The girl did not respond to that request.

Responding to a Tribune request for records of the investigation, state police cited laws restricting the distribution of information about children. But police did release the report showing that officers confronted Amati about his use of the Law Enforcement Agencies Data System, known as LEADS.

Amati admitted running his girlfriend's name and said he knew that using the system for personal inquiries was forbidden because he coordinated LEADS use for his department, state police wrote.



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CANADA - How one man removed himself from the sex-offender registry

Off the online registry
Original Article

12/2/2013

By Michael Friscolanti

The perpetrator’s name is shielded by a publication ban, a measure put in place to protect the identity of his victim. Only his initials — J.M.S. — can be printed here.

Twelve years ago, J.M.S. pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a teenage girl in British Columbia. As the judge said, he “groomed” his target (the daughter of his then-girlfriend) and committed a “serious” crime that “involved full assaultive behaviour.” The teen trusted him, and he preyed on that trust.

J.M.S. was sentenced to two years in prison plus three years of probation, and when the federal government launched the national sex offender registry in 2004, he was required to comply. Like everyone else listed on the RCMP database, J.M.S. was ordered to check in once a year with his local police department and provide his address, phone number and employer. At any moment, an officer had the authority to knock on his door to make sure he was actually living there.

Today, J.M.S. is a free man, one of the few registered sex offenders who have quietly managed to erase their names from a list that includes such odious entries as ex-colonel _____, ex-bishop _____, and ex-Saint John, N.B., city councillor _____. In fact, only 10 other people—out of 33,137 pedophiles, rapists and child pornographers currently listed on the database—have convinced a judge to approve an early “termination order.” It is such a rarity that J.M.S.’s application, heard in March, is the only published ruling of its kind. (Because the registry is private, the Mounties will not disclose any details about the other 10 terminations, except to say that seven were granted in Western Canada while the remaining three were issued in Central Canada.)

He does not come to the court as an angry, resentful person, which is very interesting,” said Madam Justice Deirdre Pothecary, the Port Coquitlam judge who deleted J.M.S.’s name (whatever it is). “I get the strong impression from him that he is grateful for what he has learned. However difficult and challenging the experience was, it turned his life around in a very, very good way.”

Now nine years old, the national sex offender registry is itself a work in progress, to put it gently. Unveiled as a high-tech policing tool, it was designed to help investigators pinpoint potential suspects by churning out the names of all convicted sex offenders living near a crime scene. But as Maclean’s revealed in 2008, the system was a dysfunctional mess. Hundreds of offenders were missing, thousands more were never registered in the first place because inclusion wasn’t mandatory, and the computer system was so archaic—and so handcuffed by weak legislation—that it couldn't record the most basic fact of all: When is Joe Offender scheduled for his next check-in? Some police forces actually used a Rolodex to monitor compliance.

The Maclean’s investigation (described in one RCMP briefing note as “a highly critical article” that could finally “encourage the government to make some of the legislative amendments that have been sought”) did trigger political action. In 2011, the Criminal Code was amended to include mandatory registration, increased information sharing among partner agencies, and other common-sense upgrades. Offenders’ licence plates, for example, are now recorded on the registry.

But as Stephen Harper’s Conservatives contemplate more tweaks to the system—including making portions of the registry public, as the Prime Minister suggested during a September speech—the story of J.M.S. is a timely reminder that not all sex offenders are _____ or _____. J.M.S.’s crime was horrific, his young victim forever scarred. But would posting his face and address on a website increase public safety?

According to Madam Justice Pothecary, he doesn’t even belong on a private registry, let alone a public one. J.M.S. participated in multiple sex-offender treatment programs, takes full responsibility for his actions, works in a “supervisory position” with “substantial responsibility,” and has remained crime-free for more than a decade. “Society is well-protected at this point,” she ruled. “One can never make a guarantee of human behaviour, but I would be astonished to find Mr. S. before the court for any new reason at this point.”

To be removed from the registry, an offender must establish that the impact on his privacy and liberty is “grossly disproportionate” to the public safety benefits of staying on. As the judge pointed out, “there is almost nothing” in the case law that examines the gross proportionality test as it relates to termination orders. The only other published ruling, a 2011 application by a Waterloo, Ont., piano teacher who sexually exploited a student, offered no analysis at all; the judge simply denied the request, saying the registry conditions cause no “undue hardship.” But in Pothecary’s opinion, J.M.S. was the rare applicant who met the test. “He has been in the same relationship for the past 4½ years with a woman who is age-appropriate; she has adult children,” the judge continued. “He wants to be able to move forward, away from the restrictions and away from the risk of disclosure of this history to those in his life.”

J.M.S. never even told his girlfriend he was a registered sex offender, fearful the news could doom their relationship. Now, for the first time in years, he doesn't have to worry that a surprise visit from a police officer might blow his cover.