Friday, May 16, 2014

CA - Wasco sued over sex offender ordinance

Original Article


By Jose Gaspar

WASCO (KBAK/KBFX) - A lawsuit filed Thursday in federal district court in Los Angeles by a group called California Reform Sex Offender Laws challenges a Wasco ordinance that restricts sex offenders.

"We allege that the Wasco sex offender ordinance violates both the federal and state constitutions," said Santa Barbara attorney Janice Bellucci, president of the nonprofit legal group.

Wasco approved the ordinance in 2007. It prohibits registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of any "children's facility."

But, it also bans registrants from being within 300 feet of a wide range of public and private locations, such as libraries, day care centers, parks and other places.

Bellucci said registrants have a right to access a library.

"There's a constitutional right to access to information. That's part of the 1st Amendment to the U.S. constitution, and that is being abridged by this city ordinance," said Bellucci.

She said the goal is to get rid of "presence restrictions" in every county in California in 2014.

Wasco city officials defend the ordinance, saying it was adopted with the intent of protecting residents and most of all, children.

"My intent is to protect the welfare and the safety of our children in our community," said Wasco Mayor Tilo Cortez.

According to Megan's Law website, Wasco has 15 registered sex offenders living within the city limits.

"Whenever you have registered sex offenders around small children, it's a concern for any parent," said Cortez.

The lawsuit is asking the federal court that it strike down the city's ordinance as null and void, and that Wasco pay all attorney fees and costs associated with the suit.

Five other cities in Kern County have similar sex offender ordinances in place: California City, Delano, Shafter, Taft and Tehachapi.

Just two weeks ago, the city of Shafter agreed to stop enforcing its ordinance after being informed by California Reform Sex Offender Laws that it, too, could be sued.

Cortez said he could not comment on the suit as the city has not yet been served.

"Obviously, we're just finding out about this, but we'll see where the law takes us," said Cortez.

DC - Pentagon punished nearly 500 for sexual harassment

Original Article



WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. military fired or disciplined nearly 500 workers for sexual harassment in a 12-month period, and nearly 13 percent of the complaints filed involved repeat offenders, according to new data.

The Pentagon on Thursday released its first formal report on sexual harassment amid months of criticism from Congress over how the department handles sexual assaults and related crimes.

According to the report, there were 1,366 reports of sexual harassment filed in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, involving 496 offenders across the services and National Guard. Officials acknowledged that much like sexual assault complaints, incidents of sexual harassment are vastly underreported, and they said there will be a concerted effort to increase reporting.

Sexual harassment involves unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is tied to a person's ongoing employment or interferes with the person's work.

The report reveals that in the vast majority of the cases the victim was a young, lower-ranking woman and the offender a senior enlisted male service member, often in the same unit. The most frequent location of the harassment was a military base.

More than half of the complaints involved crude or offensive behavior, and another 40 percent were described as unwanted sexual attention. Most involved verbal behavior.

Nearly 60 percent of the complaints were substantiated and the punishments ranged from court martial and firing to pay cuts, rank demotions, letters of reprimand, and other administrative actions.

The report noted the link between sexual harassment and sexual assaults, saying that surveys have indicated that up to 30 percent of the women and 19 percent of the men who said they had been assaulted reported that the offenders had sexually harassed them before and/or after the attacks took place.

The report also said that the military services are aware of the large number of repeat offenders and "are taking appropriate action."

Officials said they hope to use the data to begin to resolve any problems with department policy or programs.

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NY - Registry won't make us all safer

Original Article


The problem with feel-good public safety initiatives like the proposed Violent Offenders Registry is that they lull us into a false sense that we're doing something legitimate to protect ourselves from harm.

The state Legislature, once again borrowing from a tragedy involving a child, has proposed setting up a list of people who've served time for violent crimes. The bill, dubbed "Brittany's Law," is similar in design and purpose to the sex offender registries that became popular two decades ago.

Like the state’s 18-year-old sex offender registry, this bill would require violent felons to register with the state. Those subject to registration would be anyone convicted under the "violent offender" section of state Penal Law -- which covers such crimes as murders, assaults, kidnappings, terrorism and gang violence.

The information available to the public from the registry could include the person's name, address, photo and information about the crime he or she committed. How much information that would be available on each subject would be determined by ranking, again similar to sex offender registries, based on a subjective determination of the felon's propensity to commit more violent crimes, with Level 1 being the lowest and Level 3 the highest.

The crime upon which this bill is based is the 2009 murder of 12 year-old Brittany Passalacqua and her mother, Helen Buchel. Their killer, John Edward Brown, was on early release from prison after serving most of a 3-year sentence for violently assaulting his infant daughter.

Supporters of the registry claim Brittany's Law could have prevented their deaths by alerting the victims to the presence of a killer living among them.

It's true, it would be nice to know when a violent felon, like a sex offender, is living in the neighborhood. But in reality, how many of us regularly check the lists to find out? The new registry wouldn’t take into consideration the fact that many violent crimes are committed by people under duress, or influenced by alcohol and other circumstances that might be precipitated by a single incident. In other words, a lot of violent people in your neighborhood, just like people with a propensity to abuse children or commit sexual assaults, wouldn't necessarily appear on this list unless they’d been caught and convicted. The registry also doesn't take into consideration the fact that most victims of sexual or domestic violence already know their assailants. So how extra-safe would this list really make the rest of us?

Several studies conducted over the years have questioned the effectiveness of such registries in preventing sex crimes, while other studies have challenged the validity of the recidivism rankings in assessing individuals’ propensity to repeat their crimes. Some studies have found that registries compel offenders to get treatment and behave themselves, while others have shown being on the list stresses out some offenders, drives them into hiding, discourages them from getting treatment and/or compels them to commit more crimes.

The registries do often allow police to keep better tabs on individuals with criminal backgrounds, which could lead to quicker identification of suspects in new crimes. But knowing someone's address doesn't mean their whereabouts is known 24 hours a day, to police or potential victims.

There's also the question of whether a person should be subject to registration after they've served their sentence. Even when a person is off the list, either by timing out or having their conviction overturned, the Internet would make their listing a permanent one.

For police and certain victims of violence, having a registry of violent offenders could provide a useful tool. So it's probably not a bad thing for the Legislature to set up.

But for most of us, it might make us feel like we're a little safer. But actually, we're all still just as safe ... and all still just as vulnerable.

NY - Bill would tighten sex offender rules

Morning paper and coffeeOriginal Article


Legislation introduced by state Sen. Patrick Gallivan concerning sex offenders makes sense and should be approved by lawmakers. The bill would require the state to notify local municipalities and schools when a sex offender is transferred from a state facility to a community residence or program. The commissioner of the Office of People With Developmental Disabilities would be required to make the notifications no later than 10 days before the transfer takes place.

The relocation of dangerous individuals to a residential neighborhood is always cause for concern. Local officials have a right to know about the transfer of sex offenders into a community program or residence in their community, so that they have time to properly address public concerns and security issues,” Sen. Gallivan said in a news release.

The bill, S7064, is co-sponsored by state Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, and has been referred to the committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities.

Such notification would go a long way toward easing concerns such as were raised when several developmentally disabled sex offenders were placed in group homes after the state facility where they had been staying was closed. People living near the state-owned group homes, in West Seneca and Scottsville, were caught off guard.

Notification is important. People do need to know when a convicted sex offender is living in their neighborhood. They also need to assess the level of danger that sex offender poses. Each convicted sex offender is evaluated and assigned a level. Factors taken into consideration include use of force, weapons, alcohol or drugs, the victim’s age, number of victims, assault or injury of the victim and relationship to the victim. Then a judgment is made according to how likely the offender is to repeat the behavior. Those at low risk of repeating the offense are assigned to Level 1; Level 2 is for those with moderate risk; Level 3 are those at high risk of re-offending and who present a threat to public safety.

Knowledge goes a long way toward easing fears and helping people deal appropriately with the situation. A Level 1 offender in the neighborhood is reason for caution, not panic. Sen. Gallivan’s bill would make sure people get the knowledge they need to keep everyone safe.

People should remember, however, that not every sex offender has been caught and conveniently labeled. Children need to be protected from known offenders, but they also need to be protected from offenders who aren’t yet known. In the end, there is no substitute for good parenting and precaution.

ME - Former Howland police chief (Carl Smith) charged with sexual assault

Carl Smith
Carl Smith
Original Article (Video available)


By Kaitlyn Chana

BANGOR (NEWS CENTER) - A former Howland police chief made his first court appearance today, on charges that he sexually assaulted two 5-year-old girls. 72-year-old, Carl Smith of Eddington made his first appearance via video conference in court this afternoon. Smith didn't want the courtroom to hear his complaints and charges, so his court-appointed attorney asked the judge to not talk about the sex charges.

The judge explained that this is an open courtroom. He didn't go into specifics but did read the four sex charges. Two are for gross sexual assault and the other two are for unlawful sexual contact.

On Saturday, the Wells Police Department arrested Smith and authorities say he molested twin 5-year-old girls. The alleged assaults happened in Eddington at the end of April. Prosecutors think Smith was babysitting the children. They say he used to work at Ironwood, a residential facility for troubled teens, but then after reports of the alleged assaults he quit his job and left the state. He recently came back to Maine and was arrested. In terms of the alleged victims, law enforcement said the girls told administration at their school about what they say happened. Penobscot County District Attorney, Christopher Almy said he's admitted to some of these sexual actions.

"I don't know if he is going to take responsibility or if he is going to fight it. At this point, we do know he did make some admissions about his role and that's significant."

The judge said the severity of this crime makes him a flight risk.The bail is set at $100,000 dollars cash and he can't have contact with the alleged victims, or with any children under the ages of 18. Smith served as Howland police chief up until he retired in 1988. He has no prior charges.