Daniel Reisel studies the brains of criminal psychopaths (and mice). And he asks a big question: Instead of warehousing these criminals, shouldn’t we be using what we know about the brain to help them rehabilitate? Put another way: If the brain can grow new neural pathways after an injury … could we help the brain re-grow morality?
Survey: Task Force on Restoration of Rights and Status after Conviction
Sunday, March 30, 2014
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By Louis Hansen
_____ arrived at Norfolk Circuit Court on a cold December morning, guilty and worried.
On his mind was a pink slip buried in his mailbox for days - maybe weeks. The small piece of paper was a receipt for a registered letter from the state. His freedom depended on it.
_____, 68, is a convicted violent sex offender. The letter represented his remaining debt to Virginia. Every month, he is required to return it to the Virginia State Police with his fingerprints and signature.
For the past 14 years, his lawyer estimated, he met that responsibility 166 of 168 times. His failure to be perfect has earned him one thing - prison.
In 1966, _____ was convicted in Chesapeake of attempted rape and assault of a woman. The 21-year-old was sentenced to life, served more than three decades and won parole in 1999. Except for twice failing to register with the state, he has no criminal record since his release.
His case highlights what some say is a shortcoming in Virginia's approach to aging offenders. Critics say state law captures _____ and others in a life of dependency, costing public money and resources to follow men who usually pose little threat to the community.
The General Assembly continues to support the state's approach. The proposed two-year state budget calls for an increase of nearly $1 million to supervise a growing number of sex offenders.
Inside the Norfolk courtroom, _____ stood and listened as his lawyer offered a guilty plea. After the hearing, he talked again about the mailbox and the pink slip.
_____ can't remember his own phone number and often loses his glasses and keys. Nearly four decades in prison has worn hard his body and mind.
But he remembered finding the pink slip, and cursing himself.
By Joe Duggan
LINCOLN - _____ stands before two rare opportunities that could change the course of his life.
One could restore his reputation.
The other could revive a dream.
The 25-year-old Norfolk man recently participated in a free-agent tryout for a chance to punt in the National Football League. His odds of making it, though slim, would improve if not for three words that turn up on the background check: registered sex offender.
So when _____ isn't punting, he's working toward a pardon.
He took a step closer Thursday when the Nebraska Board of Pardons granted his request for a hearing. On May 20 he'll get to make a case for clemency, which also would scrub his name from the sex offender registry.
The Pardons Board rarely considers the applications of sex offenders. But board members said they are willing to listen to this one because _____ has lived an exemplary life except for one crime committed as a 14-year-old.
He didn't rape, fondle or even touch anyone. In 2003 he and two other teenage boys made a secret video of two or three female classmates using a shower at his mother's house in Pierce, Neb. The incident involved a game of truth-or-dare and the camera also caught one of the girls using the toilet, according to documents in his Pardons Board application.
Three years later the video was discovered and turned over to police by the girls. _____, who had turned 18, was charged as an adult and later convicted of two felony counts of child pornography.
His many supporters have argued that while _____ made a serious mistake, the charges didn't fit the crime. They pointed out that the video wasn't uploaded to the Internet, nor did _____ and the other boys use it for sexual gratification.
But the video still caused harm.
A 46-year-old Pierce man whose then-13-year-old daughter was on the tape said she underwent counseling and struggled with trust issues. He also said she endured pressure from those in Pierce who resented the charges against a star high school athlete.
The father said he has mixed feelings about the pardon application. On one hand, he thinks it's time for _____ to get on with his life. But it bothers him that _____ has never apologized to his daughter for what he did.
“I'm not saying he's a horrible, horrible person,” the father said. “But I wish he would have manned up and said 'Yeah, I did it, and I apologize.' ”
In an interview last week, _____ said he was friends with the girls before the crime and has long wanted to apologize. But his attorneys always advised him not to say anything.
“I feel really bad for ... the girls,” he said. “That had to be horrible.”
His mother, said the ordeal divided Pierce, a community of 1,800 in northeast Nebraska. She eventually moved and now lives in Fort Collins, Colo.
A divorced mother working two jobs to support her family, she said she has always carried guilt over what happened because she wasn't home at the time.
“I can't even tell you how bad I wanted to tell them 'Sorry,' ” she said.
The job of weighing remorse, justice and public safety falls to the members of the Pardons Board: Gov. Dave Heineman, Secretary of State John Gale and Attorney General Jon Bruning. It requires a majority vote to grant a pardon.
Not only does the board rarely pardon sex offenders, it usually requires felony applicants to live 10 years crime-free after their sentences. _____ has not yet hit that mark.
For those reasons, Gale said _____ has a high bar to clear. Heineman said he will reserve judgment until the May hearing, waiting to see if victims or others submit letters or testimony of opposition.
But it appears _____ has gained Bruning as an ally. The attorney general had one of his investigators look into the case in advance of Thursday's meeting. Bruning, who pointedly confronts applicants when he senses dishonesty, said _____'s story checked out.
However, there is some dispute about what happened to the tape after it was made. In his pardon application, _____ said he never watched the tape after that day, which Bruning adamantly supported based on his office's examination of the case. Gale said the way he understood it, _____ had shown the tape to friends.
If the tape had been discovered before _____'s 18th birthday, _____ would likely have been charged as a juvenile, Bruning said. As it was, the attorney general suggested that less-serious charges would have been a better option.
Pierce County Attorney Verlyn Luebbe prosecuted the case. He did not respond to multiple messages left last week with his receptionist.
Other factors in _____'s favor include pre-sentence psychological evaluations that found he is not a sexual predator and showed he was a minimal risk to reoffend. He completed all of his probation requirements, which included more than 20 sessions with Dr. Kevin Piske, a Norfolk psychologist who specialized in treating sex offenders.
“As part of this process, he took full responsibility for his actions while coming to a thorough understanding of the effect of his actions on the young women involved,” Piske wrote to the board, noting _____ is the first former patient he has ever endorsed for a pardon.
The psychologist was one of 93 people who submitted letters in support of _____, which likely represents a record number, said Sonya Fauver, the board's administrator.
At the top of the list were letters from a state trooper with knowledge of the case and retired District Judge Patrick Rogers, who presided over _____'s trial.
“I commend him for all of his accomplishments since 2007, even while carrying the burden of his offense,” Rogers wrote. “He could have easily given up, as I believe so many others do.”
_____'s status forced him to give up on his dream of playing football for a major college program. He had been invited to walk on at Kansas State University, but he was told the school couldn't take a chance on a sex offender. He also had to leave the dorms.
Although it was difficult, he found off-campus housing and finished his second semester at Kansas State. He transferred to Highland Community College in Highland, Kan., where he played football. Then he got a call from Dan McLaughlin, head football coach at Wayne State College.
McLaughlin had recruited _____ in high school and he still wanted him to play at the Division II college. McLaughlin knew about the circumstances of the conviction, but he also said he knew _____ personally. The coach worked it out with college administrators and offered _____ a scholarship.
Moving back to Wayne meant he would have to cross paths with others who knew about the tape. But in 2009, he accepted the offer, which required him to live off campus.
Some teammates were uncomfortable with his status as a sex offender, _____ said. When they learned that the incident did not involve violence, most players accepted him. McLaughlin said he was aware of no conflicts over the issue during _____'s years on the team.
McLaughlin called _____ the best punter he has seen in his 30 years as a coach. During _____'s junior and senior seasons he won numerous conference, regional and All American honors.
He graduated with a degree in business management in 2012.
McLaughlin appeared before the Pardons Board in December, when _____'s request initially came up for consideration.
“I don't go and speak in front of the attorney general and the governor of Nebraska for a kid that doesn't deserve it,” he said.
The registry still haunts _____, especially when it comes to finding employment and housing. He said he has held some temporary jobs but hasn't been able to get an offer related to his major when employers learn he is a registered sex offender.
Melissa Stevens, a former criminal justice instructor who spent years working with abused children, got to know _____ when he was a student at Highland. She was skeptical for several months, but she grew to admire _____ for his kindness to other students.
“How many people do you know in the world who would even have a chance to make it in the NFL?” she asked. “But he can't because of this. It just doesn't seem fair.”
Still, _____ said he finds it hard to complain. He has had so much support from family, friends, teachers and coaches, he rarely gets depressed. They and his faith in God are the reasons he has never quit, he said.
A pardon would afford him a degree of freedom he has never experienced as an adult.
If a pardon is denied?
“We try again,” he said. “I'm ready for both.”
|Brandon Haws (Right)|
By Geoff Liesik
SANTA CLARA - The council responsible for disciplining wayward Utah peace officers meted out sanctions in 14 cases Thursday, including the case of a former school resource officer who sent inappropriate photos to a teenage boy.
Lindsay Jarvis, attorney for former St. George police officer Brandon Haws, told the Peace Officer Standards and Training Council that her client's involvement with the 17-year-old began out of a desire to help the boy.
"Mr. Haws lost his father at 4 years old," Jarvis said. "This particular student had lost his father in a car accident. Mr. Haws, with his position, attempted to act as a mentor or big brother to this student."
The officer and the student began exchanging text messages, sharing photos and communicating through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
"That interaction became inappropriate, quite frankly," Jarvis said.
But she also pointed out that an internal affairs investigation showed Haws was not trying to develop a sexual relationship with the teen. Instead, the officer made a mistake and "started acting like a teenager," the attorney argued.
Haws also addressed the council, asking that its members not strip him of his police certification — a sanction that would forever bar him from working in law enforcement in Utah.
"I have lived my entire life in order to be a police officer," Haws said. "I'm not here to have a pity party. I want to take accountability for what I did. I will say though that I don't think it meets the standard of revocation."
Haws admitted he sent the lewd photos when questioned Thursday by Utah Highway Patrol Col. Daniel Fuhr, a member of the POST Council. Shortly after that admission, the council voted unanimously to revoke Haws' certification for life.
The council also voted to revoke the certification of former Utah County sheriff's deputy William M. Barney for having a sexual relationship with a female probationer.
Council members approved lesser sanctions in 12 other cases.
Former St. George police officer Rick B. Goulding had his certification suspended for three years for engaging in sexual activity while on duty.
Christopher Schoenfeld, a former deputy with the Summit County Sheriff's Office, had his certification suspended for two years for willfully falsifying his application for certification.
Former Garfield County sheriff's deputy Cache Miller also had his certification revoked for two years for assaulting his wife in the presence of their children.
Wayne County sheriff's deputy Craig W. Brown and Unified Police Department dispatcher Chastity T. Corona each had their certifications suspended for 18 months for DUI.
The council suspended former Utah Department of Corrections officer Randall Scott Hall's certification for 15 months for theft and disorderly conduct.
One-year suspensions were handed down to former Springville police officer Nathan N. Brimhall for falsifying a police report, and to former UHP trooper Jon Gardner for a DUI arrest in Colorado that happened before he retired.
Sunset police officer Brian Kirby's certification was suspended for three months for a trespassing incident.
South Salt Lake police officers Anita Bench and Eric R. Jensen each received letters of caution for accessing the state Bureau of Criminal Identification database for unauthorized purposes. The council also issued a letter of caution to Makette Morgan, a dispatcher with the Utah Department of Public Safety, who slapped her former husband's face during a domestic dispute.
Lt. Al Acosta, who heads up POST's investigative unit, said Thursday that his staff received 176 reports of alleged misconduct by officers in 2013. From those reports, 108 cases were opened.
POST Director Scott Stephenson acknowledged that's "an upward trend" from what the agency has seen in past years.
"Just like with anything, there are peaks and valleys," Stephenson said. "These are tough situations. We're dealing with people and their lives. These are never easy things. This is the ugly side of my job."
Less than 1 percent of Utah's nearly 9,000 peace officers ever become the subject of a POST misconduct investigation, the director noted.
By Alexis Stevens
A Stephens County jailer was arrested Friday and charged with aggravated child molestation, the GBI said.
Bobby Byargeon, 57, of Toccoa, faces 10 charges related to the alleged molestation and was booked into the Rabun County jail, GBI spokeswoman Sherry Lang said in an emailed statement.
On Thursday, the Toccoa Police Department requested the GBI's assistance with an investigation after a victim came forward alleging "Byargeon had been molesting them for over a year", Lang said. Byargeon's residence was searched for evidence related to the allegations, she said.
The GBI then obtained arrest warrants for Byargeon, Lang said.
Byargeon has worked as a jailer at the Stephens County jail for seven months, according to the GBI.