News Articles

Law and Order: Hundreds of Missouri sex offenders now required to wear GPS monitoring devices for life

On May 17, 2017, in News Articles, by tvadmin

"Hundreds of Missouri sex offenders now required to wear GPS monitoring devices for life

"By Jesse Bogan St. Louis Post-Dispatch 05/16/17

ST. LOUIS • A sex offender from St. Charles County thought he had moved on with his life after successfully completing five years of probation for sending webcam photographs of his genitals to an undercover police officer posing as a 13-year-old girl.

Now he’s among hundreds of people in Missouri who are learning they must attach GPS monitoring systems to their ankles for life, even though such a requirement wasn’t part of their sentencing agreement.

The devices send out alerts if an offender lingers near a school or a park. Cut the wide black strap and the waterproof device will tell on them. It beeps to prompt a verbal command from state officials, say to make a payment or report to probation officers immediately.

The retroactive requirements are part of a revised state criminal code that went into effect Jan. 1. Offenders either found guilty or who pleaded guilty to 13 various sex crimes in question based on an act committed on or after Aug. 28, 2006, are subject to the added security measures. Previously, the monitoring technology was used for a more limited class of high-risk offenders.

The St. Charles man is among several sex offenders who are suing and challenging the state. In the lawsuit, in which he is named only as D.G., the 40-year-old argues that the law didn’t exist when he pleaded guilty. He claims he’s no longer “legally subject” to the jurisdiction of state prison authorities.

He argues that he shouldn’t be required to pay monthly supervision fees for decades, nor have travel or residency restricted for life.

“I don’t think a lawyer can make a straight-faced argument that it’s constitutional,” said Clayton-based attorney Matt Fry, who is suing the state on behalf of D.G. and has many other plaintiffs in the wings.

A March 29 “Dear Sir/Madam” letter from chief state supervisor Julie Kempker lays out the law, including threat of a class D felony if conditions are violated.

He called it a “quality-of-life” measure.

“We understand that this change may be unexpected,” Kempker said in the letter. “Rather than being detracted by the lifetime supervision requirements, you are encouraged to remain focused on your daily supervision responsibilities and to do those things that improve your life and positively impact your family and the community in which you live.”

Many sex offenders panicked and started calling lawyers. Some are confused: for instance, those no longer on supervision who moved away from Missouri.

A 41-year-old sex offender from south St. Louis County said he sees the changes as unlawful, too costly and ineffective.
“Lifetime. For the rest of your life. I can’t even comprehend it,” said the man, who didn’t want to be identified to avoid bringing more unwanted attention to himself.
According to court records, he pleaded guilty in 2012 to first-degree child molestation for touching the genitalia of a friend’s 7-year-old daughter.
The first-time offender was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He spent four months behind bars before he was let out to undergo treatment in the community.
So long as he did well, he’d be done with state supervision after five years on probation, not including registering as a sex offender for life. But during a monthly visit to his probation officer in April, he found out about being subject to the added layer of oversight.
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Colorado’s pricey polygraph testing of sex offenders under fire as critics target accuracy, expense

On May 15, 2017, in News Articles, by tvadmin

"Colorado’s pricey polygraph testing of sex offenders under fire as critics target accuracy, expense

"By Christopher N. OsherThe Denver Post PUBLISHED: May 14, 2017 at 12:01 am

Psychologist calls state’s $5 million polygraph program “grossly excessive” as state legislature examines cost

Colorado has spent more than $5 million to administer polygraphs on convicted sex offenders over the last seven years despite concerns that the tests are so unreliable they can’t be used as evidence during civil or criminal trials.

Polygraphs help officials decide which prisoners convicted of sex offenses are suited for release from prison by probing their sexual history, attitudes about their crimes and whether they are committing new offenses. They also guide how offenders on parole or probation are supervised.

“The polygraph really gives useful information,” said Lenny Woodson, administrator for the Colorado Department of Corrections’ Sex Offender Treatment and Monitoring Program. “And we’ve made it clear in our standards that it isn’t to be used in isolation. We’re using as many avenues as possible to make treatment decisions.”

But a bipartisan cross-section of legislators and a retired judge have joined with offenders and their families to question the validity of the tests. They contend too much weight is placed on what they argue is little more than junk science. Flawed polygraphs can complicate efforts for low-risk sex offenders to get paroled and lead to new restrictions for parolees or probationers, critics say. Failure to take the tests can lead to sanctions, including eventual revocation to prison.

Studies show that up to 70 percent of U.S. states polygraph sex offenders, but experts have testified that Colorado uses the tests aggressively, even polygraphing juvenile offenders for consensual sexting. Critics contend an entrenched and profitable cottage industry, rife with conflicts of interests, has grown up around polygraphing sex offenders in Colorado.

“To me, there is no question that it borders on a scam,” said Senate President pro tem Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling. “We incentivize the people who give the polygraph tests to have inconclusive results so an offender has to go back and pay for another one on a more regular basis.”

Colorado’s polygraphing is “grossly excessive,” said Deirdre D’Orazio, a psychologist who serves as an expert on a high-risk sex-offender task force in California, during testimony in federal court in Denver in 2015. D’Orazio led a team of consultants that issued a report for the Colorado department of corrections in 2013 blasting how it manages sex offenders and how it uses polygraphs.

She returned to the state to testify for Howard Alt, then 51, who a decade earlier was convicted for having sex with a 15-year-old girl and possessing nude computer images of teenage girls.

After his release from prison, Alt had taken 28 polygraphs, often with competing results. The treatment provider that tested Alt had a “fiduciary incentive conflict” to fail him, D’Orazio said. The firm was “making money on outcomes that are not in the offender client’s favor” by requiring him to pay for more tests and treatment, she said.

A deceptive finding on one sex-history polygraph had prompted supervision officials to bar Alt, a former software developer, from accepting a job that would raise his salary from $60,000 to $200,000 annually. Months later, the polygrapher found Alt to be truthful on the same questions even though he did not change his answers, showing the sanction against him was unwarranted, D’Orazio said.

“It is not a scientifically valid procedure,” D’Orazio testified. “It has a high false-positive rate, which means misclassifying people who are telling the truth as being deceitful. So there is a lot of controversy about using the polygraph in high-stakes decisions.”
Even Alt’s supervised-release officer said he had worked hard to learn from his past crimes. He was contrite after serving six years in prison. He was free of new transgressions, with tracking software on his computer monitoring his compliance. He had re-established relationships with his former wife and his daughter, according to testimony.
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Dr. Marty Klein: Changing the Way People, Politics & the Media Look at Sex

On April 5, 2017, in News Articles, by tvadmin

Changing the Way People, Politics & the Media Look at Sex

"Dr. Marty Klein April 01, 2017

Yesterday, Callahan Walsh of NCMEC—The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children—appeared on Good Morning America to urge parents to stop using the phrase “stranger danger”—the phrase that NCMEC itself popularized for decades. They rightly noted—finally—that most child sexual exploitation is from someone known to the child, not a stranger.

For decades, NCMEC has told parents to fear “stranger danger,” and instructed them to transmit this fear to their kids. They even got the phrase institutionalized in elementary schools.

NCMEC has been one of the single biggest drivers of parents’ fear in our lifetime. By conflating “missing” and “exploited,” they have panicked Americans into thinking the average child is “at risk” of being kidnapped. By talking about “children” they conflate the experiences of five-year-olds and 17-year-olds. According to their own website, over 90% of “missing” teens are not “missing,” they have run away. Some are no doubt living on the street and risking their health and lives, but they have not been kidnapped. In fact, over 3/4 of runaways are running away from institutions like foster homes and other social services.

NCMEC is driving the issue of sex trafficking as hard as it can. By expanding the definition of “sex trafficking” to include every sex worker, porn actress, and minor person having sex with an adult, they have successfully convinced Americans that huge numbers of Americans are sex trafficked. It’s a lie.

NCMEC can’t document even a half-dozen cases of women forced to act in porn, but they’ve planted the idea that porn actresses are trafficked. Outside porn studios in L.A., women are lined up, begging for the chance to act in their films. Trafficked? The industry doesn’t need to traffic anyone. They never, ever knowingly employ minors, and they haven’t been fooled in decades.

NCMEC’s position on cybersex and cybercrime is a disaster. As the internet grew, NCMEC’s warnings about internet predators grew. NCMEC champions government stings in adult chatrooms where adults roleplay age games, pursuing adults for thought crimes that harm no one. Obviously, actual child molesters don’t look for kids in adult chatrooms. And there’s no science that shows that adults who play age games with other adults molest children. But frightening parents about internet predators is where the money is—and that’s always where you’ll find NCMEC.

NCMEC also champions Amber Alert, an enormous waste of money and criminal justice resources that could be used far more effectively. Its main accomplishment is to terrifying parents. Similarly, NCMEC favors punitive, counter-productive sex offender laws and registries—which includes putting children on these registries when they mistreat (“molest”) their peers.

Created by a few agonized people who had been devastated by violence against their children, NCMEC’s initial shocking message was (and still is) “you could be us,” creating an atmosphere of fear, rage, and moral panic completely disproportionate to the actual danger. Yesterday on TV, they encouraged parents to ignore what they used to say, and to use different, more sophisticated words. But their fundamental message—that parents should be scared, that predators lurk everywhere—remains the same.

In revoking their position on “stranger danger,” NCMEC still doesn’t tell the key truth—that the rate of kids being molested is NOT increasing (so says the FBI). And while even a single missing child is too many, it isn’t even a fraction as many as NCMEC invites you to believe.

How many kids are kidnapped each year—150,000? 50,000? The fine print on NCMEC’s own website says the number is less than 1,400—of which over 1,000 are abductions by the child’s own family member. There are less than 200 stranger kidnappings in the U.S. every year. Your kid is more likely to get killed by lightning.

And yet by manipulating and reinforcing our deepest fears, NCMEC has entrenched itself as a political player getting significant government funding.

So good riddance to the fear of “stranger danger.” But don’t hold your breath waiting for NCMEC to apologize. Perhaps they could atone by encouraging parents to pay attention to the biggest danger that kids actually face—texting while riding their bikes.

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“If He’s Got a Pecker, Run Like Hecker!” Good Morning America’s Hypocritical Advice About Stranger Danger

On April 5, 2017, in News Articles, by tvadmin

"“If He’s Got a Pecker, Run Like Hecker!” Good Morning America’s Hypocritical Advice About Stranger Danger”

"Free Range Kids By Lenore Skenazy April 04, 2017; 12:15pm

Last week a spokesman for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children went on Good Morning America and told us to stop teaching our kids “Stranger Danger,” despite having rammed that fear down our throats for over a generation — a point I discussed in this post.

To demonstrate how important it is that children learn to approach a stranger for help, in case they ever need it, Good Morning America and the spokesman, Callahan Walsh (John Walsh’s son) staged a bizarre little experiment. They dressed a school stage like an abstract minimalist grocery store and then asked a gaggle of children who they’d ask for help if they were shopping with their mom and suddenly couldn’t find her. Would they ask:

a) A mom with a baby? b) A security guard with a badge? c) The checkout lady, also with a badge? Or — d) A guy.

Of course the children were encouraged to talk to everyone EXCEPT the guy…I guess on the very likely chance that any man in a grocery store will stop shopping for Doritos and steal a lost child, given half a chance. The instructions boiled down to this:

The paper notes that these laws have proliferated — “[a]t least 30 states and hundreds of cities” have them — because of some basic misunderstandings about how sex crimes are committed. There’s a collective American fixation on the creepy image of a sex offender salivating just beyond the playground fence, but that’s just not how things usually work. The guard, mother and clerk all had identifiable markers that signify a safe adult — including a badge, a baby and a name tag, according to Walsh. In a dire situation, a child should feel empowered to reach out to any of these strangers who possess the markers that signify they can be trusted for help.

Somehow wearing a badge or being female makes people good. But a man, even one just minding his own business, is simply not to be trusted, even if the kid is in a “dire” situation. So maybe the new slogan should be: “See a guy/Run and cry.” Or, “If he’s got balls/Jump the walls!” Or, “He’s got a penis?/Those are the meanest!” Feel free to supply your own mnemonic device.

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There’s Literally No Evidence That Restricting Where Sex Offenders Can Live Accomplishes Anything

On March 31, 2017, in News Articles, by tvadmin

"There’s Literally No Evidence That Restricting Where Sex Offenders Can Live Accomplishes Anything

"By Jesse Singal August 25, 2014; 12:15pm

On Thursday, Joseph Goldstein of the New York Times reported that “Dozens of sex offenders who have satisfied their sentences in New York State are being held in prison beyond their release dates because of a new interpretation of a state law that governs where they can live.” In short, since 2005, sex offenders in the state can’t live within 1,000 feet of a school, and a February ruling from the state’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision extended that restriction to homeless shelters.

Because the onus is on sex offenders to find approved housing before they’re released, Goldstein reported, they’ve been left with very few options, especially in densely-populated New York City, where there are schools everywhere. This has led to an uncomfortable legal limbo and sparked at least one lawsuit (so far) on behalf of an offender who is still in custody even though he was supposed to be out by now.

The unfortunate thing about this situation is that laws designed to restrict where sex offenders can live are really and truly useless, except as a means of politicians scoring easy political points by ratcheting up hysteria. There are many tricky social-scientific issues on which there are a range of opinions and some degree of debate among experts, but this isn’t one of them. Among those whose job it is to figure out how to reduce the rate at which sex offenders commit crimes (as opposed to those whose job it is to get reelected, in part by hammering away at phantom threats), there is zero controversy: These laws don’t work, and may actually increase sexual offenders’ recidivism rates.

Maia Christopher, head of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, sent Science of Us a policy paper her organization has prepared on this issue (it’s not yet online, but should be later this week). ATSA’s views on housing restrictions for sex offenders are completely straightforward: the group “does not support the use of residence restrictions as a feasible strategy for sex offender management” because of a lack of evidence they do any good.

The paper notes that these laws have proliferated — “[a]t least 30 states and hundreds of cities” have them — because of some basic misunderstandings about how sex crimes are committed. There’s a collective American fixation on the creepy image of a sex offender salivating just beyond the playground fence, but that’s just not how things usually work.

Rather, these crimes are generally committed by someone known to the victim — 93 percent of the time when it comes to child victims, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics — and the majority take place either in the victim’s home or the home of someone they know. “Therefore,” the authors write, “policies based on ‘stranger danger’ do not adequately address the reality of sexual abuse.”

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Should sex offenders be allowed to use Facebook? Supreme Court will decide

On February 27, 2017, in News Articles, by tvadmin

"Should sex offenders be allowed to use Facebook? Supreme Court will decide

"Jordan Rudner, Washington Correspondent 12/10/16

WASHINGTON — Like tens of thousands of other Texans on the sex offender registry, Andrew, who lives in Dallas, is legally barred from using the vast majority of social media websites, including Facebook and Snapchat.

Every state places different restrictions on the rights of convicted sex offenders, limiting where they’re allowed to live, travel and work. And several, including Texas, also severely limit the websites that sex offenders are allowed to visit.

But on Monday, lawyers argued before the Supreme Court that such blanket bans may be a violation of their right to free speech.

Andrew, who was arrested for possession of child pornography in 2004, spent 10 years in federal prison. He’s still on parole today, his keystrokes and clicks are constantly monitored, and he isn’t allowed to own a smartphone. He knows his story isn’t a particularly sympathetic one.

“My choice cost me everything," said Andrew, who agreed to discuss his case if he were referred to by his middle name only. "But it isn’t a sob story, it’s just a fact. I know I did this to myself.”

Since his arrest, Andrew’s wife has left him. Of his three children, only one will speak to him. He had to seek special permission from the court to activate a LinkedIn profile so that he could find another job, and he describes his boss as “probably my only friend.”

So he wishes he could rejoin Facebook, if only to temper his isolation. Unlike sex offenders, perpetrators of violence, kidnapping and even murder are still allowed on social media, he noted.

“I’ve been through treatment, I’ve paid my dues,” he said. “I’m no danger to anyone.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who co-signed a brief in support of the North Carolina law now before the Supreme Court, disagrees. In the brief, Paxton and 12 other attorneys general argued that laws restricting the use of social media by sex offenders is a “practical solution to a practical problem.”

“The problem is that social media is a dangerous place for children and that registered sex offenders disproportionately commit additional sex crimes online,” the brief read.

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Illinois Court Strikes Sex Offender Park Ban

On February 14, 2017, in News Articles, by tvadmin

"Illinois Court Strikes Sex Offender Park Ban

"By MARCIE SHIELDS February 14, 2017

(CN) – An Illinois appeals court ruled that a state law making it a crime for convicted sex offenders to set foot in public parks is unconstitutional because it can punish innocent conduct.

Friday’s ruling stems from the 2013 conviction of Marc A. Pepitone, a previously convicted sex offender who was arrested while walking his dog in a public park in Bolingbrook, Ill., a southwest suburb of Chicago.

A Will County jury found Pepitone, who was convicted in 1999 of predatory criminal sexual assault, guilty of being a child sex offender in a public park, in violation of an Illinois law.

As written, the law at issue makes it a crime for convicted sex offenders to attend concerts, picnics, rallies, or Chicago Bears games at Soldier Field, for example, or visit popular places like the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, the Art Institute, the Adler Planetarium, or the Museum of Science and Industry, all of which are public buildings on park land.

Pepitone was sentenced to 24 months of conditional discharge and 100 hours of public service and given a $400 fine, but he appealed the conviction, claiming the banishment of sex offenders from public parks is “unconstitutional on its face because it bears no reasonable relationship to protecting the public.”

Pepitone argued in his appeal that the law sweeps too broadly and therefore must be struck down. He said, “The specific issue is . . . whether an all-out banishment, of all child sex offenders, from all public parks . . . at all times. . .is a reasonable means of achieving the legislature’s stated goal of ‘protect[ing] users of public parks from child sex offenders and sexual predators.’”

The Illinois Appellate Court’s Third District agreed with Pepitone on Friday in a 2-1 ruling and reversed his conviction of being a child sex offender in a public park.

“We hold that section 11-9.4-1(b) is facially unconstitutional because it is not reasonably related to its goal of protecting the public, especially children, from individuals fitting the definition of a child sex offender or a sexual predator,” Justice Mary McDade wrote for the majority. “Nor is it drafted in such a way as to effect that goal without arbitrarily stripping a wide swath of innocent conduct and rights he has as a citizen and taxpayer from a person who has paid the penalty for his crime.”

McDade said the sweep of the law “is extraordinary.”

“Section 11-9.4-1(b) is an outright ban on all individuals with certain sex offense convictions from public park buildings and public park property without any requirement that anyone—particularly a child—be actually, or even probably, present,” the ruling states.

The appeals panel’s majority found that the law “criminalizes substantial amounts of innocent conduct” and “makes no attempt to assess the dangerousness of a particular individual.”

Quoting a previous ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court, McDade wrote, “’Statutes that potentially punish innocent conduct violate due process principles because they are not reasonably designed to achieve their purposes.’”
Justice Robert Carter dissented, disagreeing that the state law is facially unconstitutional.
“By keeping sex offenders who have committed sex offenses against children away from areas where children are present, the legislature could have rationally sought to avoid giving those sex offenders an opportunity to reoffend,” he wrote. “Whether the statute could be more finely-tuned to accomplish that goal is a question for the legislature, not for the courts.”
In December, a federal judge in Indiana struck down part of a similar city ordinance that prohibited sex offenders from loitering near parks, schools and other places children most commonly frequent, calling the ordinance “unconstitutionally vague.”

2016 Crime Review: A look at the effectiveness of sex offender registries

On February 14, 2017, in News Articles, by tvadmin

"2016 Crime Review: A look at the effectiveness of sex offender registries

"By Joshua Vaughn The Sentinel Feb 13, 2017

It may run counter to conventional wisdom, but it is exceedingly rare for a person registered as a sex offender to be charged with a new sexual offense in Cumberland County.

Of the 75 charged sex crime cases in Cumberland County in 2016, only two were committed by a person listed on the sex offender registry, according to an analysis of court records conducted by The Sentinel.

Neither of those offenses involved a direct assault on a child.

Of the more than 300 charged sex crime cases in Cumberland County between 2013 and 2016, only six cases involved a person listed on the sex offender registry.

Those stats show that the more than 290 remaining cases — including some of the most heinous sexual assaults against children — were committed by people who were not registered.

“It’s really clear that all of the evidence and all of the data shows that most sex offenses are committed by first-time offenders,” said Emily Horowitz, professor of sociology and criminal justice at Saint Francis College. “For whatever reason, people who are on the registry have a very low recidivism rate, and if one is really concerned about decreasing sex offenses, they kind of have to look elsewhere instead of people who have already been convicted of sex offenses.”

The Sentinel reviewed more than 450 charged sex crime cases in Cumberland, Dauphin, Perry, Franklin and Adams counties in 2016 and found only 15 cases where the defendant was on the registry at the time of the offense.

More than 96 percent of all sex crime cases in those five counties involved defendants who were not on the sex offender registry.

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Registered sex offenders see fewer places to work, live

On January 16, 2017, in News Articles, by tvadmin

"Registered sex offenders see fewer places to work, live

"Patrick Johnston , Times Record NewsPublished 10:45 a.m. CT Jan. 15, 2017

Almost 11 years ago, the Wichita Falls City Council chose to limit where a registered sex offender could live within the city limits as a way to safeguard the children of the city.

The ordinance, which was passed by a unanimous vote on April 4, 2006, prohibits any registered sex offender with a victim under the age of 17 from living in an estimated 80 to 85 percent of Wichita Falls if they weren’t already living there before the new law passed.

It states that they can’t live within 1,000 feet – from property line to property line – of public or private schools; youth centers; certain child-care facilities; and public parks, including the Circle Trail. If the victim was 17 or older, the ordinance restrictions do not apply.

The Wichita Falls Police Department maintains a database that Detective Sammy Motsenbocker likened to a “living document” with the exact locations affected by the child safety zones. As locations that meet the criteria of the ordinance are opened, he said the child safety zones are added.

“If a part of the property line gets caught in the zone, the entire property falls into the zone,” Motsenbocker said.

If the person lived in the house before the ordinance was approved, they are still allowed to live there as long as they don’t move from that residence.

“As long as they don’t move, they are grandfathered in,” Motsenbocker said. “… For the state of Texas and registration reasons, they say seven days – whether voluntary or not – is considered a move.”


Sex offenders monitored, even after probation ends

On January 16, 2017, in News Articles, by tvadmin

"Sex offenders monitored, even after probation ends

"Patrick Johnston , Times Record NewsPublished 10:28 a.m. CT Jan. 15, 2017

While a deferred adjudication or probation sentence might seem like a slap on the wrist to some, it can completely change the life of someone convicted of a sexually-based offense.

Soon after punishment is given, the offender must meet with a probation officer to complete an initial intake documentation.

The form tells the offender if, based on a checklist, he or she must register for life, or for how many years. It’ll also notify them if they must check in annually, every 90 days or every 30 days.

Next, if they plan to live in Wichita Falls, they meet with Detective Sammy Motsenbocker with the Wichita Falls Police Department.

“I collect what state they were born in, height, weight, hair color, eye color, blood type, shoe size, shoe width, nicknames, tattoos – any identifying information,” Motsenbocker said of the initial meeting. He also goes over the information included on the form he receives from the probation officer.

Once everything is verified, Motsenbocker enters the information into a secure sex offender database through the Texas Department of Public Safety.


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