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November 23, 2015

Lawyer for 24 sex offenders says Nevada registration law is unconstitutional

10-5-15 Nevada:

CARSON CITY — An attorney representing 24 unnamed previously convicted sex offenders told the Nevada Supreme Court on Monday that a state law that would change the way such individuals are classified is a "one size fits all' approach that is inappropriate and unconstitutional.

Alina Shell argued that Assembly Bill 579, passed by lawmakers in 2007 to make the state compliant with the federal Adam Walsh Act, should be prohibited from taking effect until the constitutional claims can be resolved in court. The law was named after Adam Walsh, the 6-year-old son of TV personality John Walsh, who was abducted and murdered in Hollywood, Fla., in 1981.

Shell was appealing a January 2014 ruling by Clark County District Judge Douglas Smith that denied a request for a temporary restraining order to stop enforcement of the law while the constitutional claims are litigated.

The law has not yet been enforced. An effort to fix what critics said were flaws in the original law was successful in the 2015 session of the Legislature. But that measure, Senate Bill 99, was vetoed by Gov. Brian Sandoval because it also eliminated a requirement that certain sex offenders stay at least 500 feet away from schools, parks and other places frequented by children.

AB579 would create a classification system for sex offenders that places them into one of three risk tiers based solely on their crime of conviction.

Shell said the new rules will treat all convicted sex offenders the same whether or not they are rehabilitated, and subject them to onerous and humiliating reporting requirements.

"That is not the way sentencing and registration should work," she said.

Shell said the law violates the separation of powers doctrine because it usurps judicial decision making by a sentencing court. That, she said, is a constitutional argument that needs to be litigated.

Other issues raised include due process and equal protection violations.

But Kimberly Buchanan, a senior deputy attorney general, argued that many of the constitutional claims raised by Shell on behalf of the 24 "John Does" have been resolved in prior cases, including a challenge to the law made by the ACLU of Nevada in 2008. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2012 ruled in the ACLU challenge that the law was constitutional, including a retroactive application covering sex offenders who have already been convicted.

The Nevada Supreme Court also denied a challenge to the law in 2013, Buchanan said.

But Shell said the separation of powers argument, while raised in U.S. District Court, was not addressed in the 9th circuit opinion.

The court took the case under submission and will rule later. ..Source.. by Sean Whaley

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November 21, 2015

Free Press wins appeal over release of mug shots

11-21-15 Michigan:

The Detroit Free Press won an appeal Wednesday in a lawsuit regarding the public's right to see mug shots of criminal defendants charged in federal court.

But the ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 6th Circuit Appeals in Cincinnati hinted that the victory could be short lived.

In a 5-page opinion, the judges upheld summary judgment to the newspaper, citing a prior case brought by the newspaper that set a legal precedent.

But judges also urged the full court to take up the matter in a rare, en banc hearing.

"In particular, we question the panel's conclusion that defendants have no interest in preventing the public release of their booking photographs during ongoing criminal proceedings," the judges wrote.

The opinion noted that the federal Freedom of Information Act includes a provision for excluding the release of material collected for law enforcement purposes if public release "could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy."

"Booking photographs," the judges wrote, "convey the sort of potentially embarrassing or harmful information protected by the exemption: they capture how an individual appeared at a

particularly humiliating moment immediately after being taken into federal custody."

What's more, they wrote, booking photographs continue to be available on the internet long after a case ends.

The decision marks the fourth time a court has ruled in favor of the Free Press in the past two decades but the government is expected to again appeal the decision.

"This is a battle that the Free Press has been waging against the Department of Justice for 20 years, and this opinion reflects that it's still not over," said Herschel Fink, Detroit Free Press attorney. "The issue will now likely go back to the full 6th Circuit bench for yet another review."

The lawsuit involves the booking photos of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick; his father, Bernard Kilpatrick, and his longtime contracting friend Bobby Ferguson, as well as the photos of Detroit-area police officers who were indicted on federal charges.

The Free Press filed a Freedom of Information Act request in 2012 for the defendants' mug shots with the U.S. Marshal's Office on Feb. 12, while all three men were standing trial on numerous public corruption charges. But the U.S. Marshal's Office denied the request.

Fink argued that the Freedom of Information Act requires government agencies to honor requests for the booking photos of criminal defendants who have appeared in court during ongoing proceedings.

"We believe that the Court decided it correctly in 1996, and will urge the Court to reaffirm its original holding," Fink said. "There simply is no privacy interest in booking photos of persons who have been indicted on federal felony charges, arrested, appeared in open court to answer those charges, and where the proceedings are on-going. That was the Court's original ruling, and it remains the right result." ..Source.. by Katrease Stafford:

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November 19, 2015

International Megan’s Law to Prevent Demand for Child Sex Trafficking

11-19-15 Washington DC:

Here we go again, AGAIN they changed the name of the bill HR-515 to "International Megan’s Law to Prevent Child Exploitation and Other Sexual Crimes Through Advanced Notification of Traveling Sex Offenders" and they consider this a SHORT title.

They also completely gutted the bill and inserted new language, so this is notice of what they have done, not a full review of the bill, we will get to that.

For now click on link above and goto "TEXT" the latest version will appear, then you need to scroll down past what they have gutted to get to the NEW language.

For now have a great day & a better tomorrow.

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Secret apps and what parents can do to protect teens

11-19-15 Colorado, National:

DENVER — Sexting in schools is a growing problem, even with kids as young as fourth and fifth grades. Sure, you know about Snapchat and Instagram. What about Kik and AskFm? How about Omegle? And now, there are other apps out there to hide those apps.

Authorities are worried. It’s not just sharing inappropriate pictures and messages, but all of this is opening up our kids to becoming victims of sexual predators.

The Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office has one of the leading programs in the country to not only take down predators, but also to educate kids and parents about the dangers. Mike Harris has been the leader of “The Cheezo Unit” since 1996. His team has arrested 853 predators. This year, they have already arrested 52 people.

We paid them a visit and were surprised at how quickly someone can get in trouble online. Harris was showing us an app called “Omegle” where users are anonymous. Child predators use the site to gather information on children. Within seconds, Harris, posing as a 14-year-old girl, was approached by a 45-year-old man. Within minutes, the suspect was asking to meet for sex. Harris said, “He is asking me what I like to keep secrets about.”

It’s not just apps, it’s online, in games, and in real life.

We met a 14-year-old girl who met a boy on Xbox Live. The boy claimed to be 11 years old. The girl got suspicious when he asked her to meet.

She said, “He didn`t want me to tell my parents. He said don`t tell your parents, they don`t need to find out, it`s just between you and me. That`s when I was like, ‘oh no, this is not good, what do I do?’ At that time, I didn`t know who to ask for help, at that time, I was too afraid to ask my parents, I was afraid they would be angry with me.” ..Continued.. by Deborah Takahara

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States Slowly Scale Back Juvenile Sex Offender Registries

11-19-15 National:

After years of establishing and strengthening sex offender registries, some states are rethinking policies allowing juveniles to be placed on them.

In states such as Oregon and Delaware, lawmakers have given judges more power to review who goes on the registry. In Pennsylvania, courts have ended lifetime registration for juveniles.

Driving the changes are concerns that putting juveniles’ names and photos on a registry—even one only available to law enforcement, as in some states—stigmatizes them in their schools and neighborhoods and makes them targets of police, sometimes for inappropriate behavior rather than aggressive crimes. Also of concern are laws that add youth sex offenders to adult registries once they turn 18 or 21, even though they were tried as juveniles, not adults.

Human Rights Watch in a 2013 report pointed to the case of a 10-year-old Michigan girl who served time after she and her younger brothers flashed one another in 1991. She was placed on the state’s adult registry when she turned 18. The report also cited a Texas juvenile court that convicted a 10-year-old of indecency with a child for touching a younger cousin—a crime resulting in lifetime registration.

Registries Vary

State laws requiring juveniles to register as sex offenders came into wide practice after Congress passed laws such as the 1996 Megan’s Law and the 2006 Adam Walsh Act, which were named in memory of children murdered by sex offenders. They were designed to better track sex offenders and make information easily accessible to law enforcement and the public. They sought more community notification and greater consistency among state registries.

Thirty-eight states now add juveniles to sex offender registries. The remaining 12 states only add the names of youths convicted in adult courts.

States with juvenile registries vary greatly in what they require. Sixteen states publish juvenile offenders’ names, addresses and photos on a website. In some states, youths may petition to have their name removed from a registry, although it can take more than a decade before they can begin the process. Some states add names to a registry for a set amount of time, while others keep offenders on the list until they die. As their photos are updated through the years, the offenders begin to look less like children and more like pedophiles. ..Continued.. by Rebecca Beitsch

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November 18, 2015

Appeals court orders Cook County sheriff to cease campaign against Backpage

11-18-15 Illinois, National:

CHICAGO — A federal appeals court has ordered the Cook County Sheriff’s Department to cease lobbying major credit card companies that do business with the online classified portal

The sheriff’s department of the second-largest county in the U.S. was sued by Backpage in July after it successfully pressed Visa and MasterCard to stop processing credit card transactions for Backpage, which Dart and other lawmakers have complained has exacerbated the problem of sex trafficking of women and minors.

Both credit companies announced they would cease doing business with Backpage shortly after Dart wrote to the company’s top executives calling on them to cease processing transactions for the website’s adult services section. Law enforcement officials have complained for years that the adult services ads on Backpage have given pimps the ability to easily advertise and set up dates with johns.

After receiving Dart's letter, the credit companies decided to cut off all business with Backpage, which also publishes listings from people looking to advertise jobs, apartment rentals and other advertising. (American Express decided earlier this year to end processing transactions for Backpage before Dart started his campaign.)

Attorneys for Backpage say the campaign by Dart has had enormous impact on the Dallas-based company’s bottom line and also violated their First Amendment protections.

U.S. District Court Judge John Tharp in August denied Backpage’s request for an injunction against Dart, while the case is litigated. Tharp concluded that because the sheriff had no authority over the credit card companies that his letter demanding that the credit card companies curtail business with Backpage did not amount to censorship.

But the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled late Monday that Dart went too far and ordered the department to cease “taking any actions to formally or informally request, direct, persuade, coerce, or threaten credit card companies, processors, financial institutions, or any other third parties to discontinue, terminate, disallow or interfere with credit card or other financial services to” as the lawsuit moves forward.

At a hearing on Friday, Judge Richard Posner expressed unease with the notion, presented by the sheriff department attorneys, that Dart’s First Amendment rights protected his individual right to express his displeasure with Backpage to the credit card companies. Backpage attorneys say that the letters to the credit card companies, written on the sheriff department's letterhead, amounted to cease-and-desist orders.

“He can use the office of the sheriff to express any antipathy that he has to anything?” Posner posed to the sheriff’ department attorneys. “So you’re saying there is no limit? He can express his opinion on his office stationery on any subject that occurs to him. What if he doesn’t like pets? He doesn’t think people should have animals in their house. He can suggest to everyone they euthanize their pets?”

Dart was also directed by the appeals court to send a copy of the order to Visa and Mastercard and all other recipients of the June 29 letter within 24 hours. The sheriff’s department on Tuesday morning began contacting the credit card companies — as well as media outlets — and other organizations that they had distributed Dart’s letter to.

“We are disappointed with the court’s ruling,” said sheriff’s department spokesman Benjamin Breit, who declined further comment citing the pending litigation.

Officials at Visa and MasterCard did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday. The injunction only calls on the sheriff’s department to cease its activity and does not call for the credit card companies to take any action.

Backpage accounts for about 70% of prostitution advertising among five websites in the U.S. that carry such ads and earned more than $22 million from prostitution ads, according to a 2012 estimate by AIM group, a media research and consulting company.

The Cook County Sheriff’s Department says it has made more than 800 arrests since 2009 connected to Backpage adult services ads. Fifty of the arrests were for sex trafficking, involuntary servitude or promoting prostitution.

A federal judge in Boston threw out a lawsuit against Backpage earlier this year that alleged the website was designed to facilitate sex trafficking. Judge Richard Stearns ultimately agreed with the company’s argument that under federal law Web service companies are immune to crimes by users. ..Source.. by Aamer Madhani

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November 16, 2015

Suit alleges California database violates law, prompted attacks

See earlier story: Registrants sue CA DOJ — Demand improvements to, or end of, Megan's Law Website
11-16-15 California:

An advocacy group is challenging California in a controversial lawsuit over a public sex offender database, claiming the state’s inaction has led to the fatal attacks of four individuals.

The lawsuit, filed on Nov. 10 by a pair of registered sex offenders and the advocacy group California Reform Sex Offender Laws, alleges that Attorney General Kamala Harris and the state’s Department of Justice have repeatedly failed to adequately update a website established to publish the names and locations of offenders, in violation of state and federal law. Now, they’re asking that a judge compel the state to fully revise the site, or shut down the database until the changes can be made.

The complaint charges that roughly 92 percent of offender profiles on the site “lack either the year of conviction or the year of release, or both, among other errors and omissions,” even though the department already has the necessary information to update the profiles.

The suit claims that the incomplete profiles prompted attacks on offenders by providing their exact locations without accurate information about the nature and recency of their convictions. It also argues the deficiency is in violation of a 2006 state law that stipulated that the site be completely updated by 2010. Additionally, the plaintiffs allege that the department is violating federal law by accepting federal funds to overhaul the database and then failing to do so.

The suit also claims that the department has “expended substantial taxpayer funds to modify and change the format of the website in trivial ways” yet still failed to address the outdated offender information.

“The real irony or the stupidity or extreme sadness of the situation is they have the information,” Janice Bellucci, president of the advocacy group, told StateScoop. “For whatever reason, one part of the agency can’t seem to communicate that information to the other part, which, quite frankly, is not our problem. Except they’ve made it our problem.”

Bellucci noted that her group wrote a letter to the department about these issues back in October 2013 and engaged in “informal talks” with state workers, but those efforts ultimately led nowhere.

“They never even bothered to reply to our letter,” Bellucci said. “At that point they were three years late, now they’re five years late, and it was just the time to take action.”

A department spokeswoman didn’t return multiple requests for comment on the suit’s claims.

As evidence of the detrimental effects of the website’s “incomplete and erroneous” information on offenders, the suit cites the cases of seven different people attacked based on their profiles on the database, including the two plaintiffs. The complaints includes descriptions of one offender who was killed after he was “stabbed 58 times” and another who died after he “was attacked by a stranger lying in wait who stabbed him more than 70 times.” The suit alleges that a lack of information about their release dates were factors in seven attacks, including four that were fatal.

Roy Matagora and Frank Lindsay, the plaintiffs in the suit, charge that they’ve not only been attacked as result of similar incomplete information on their profiles, but that it’s also made it incredibly difficult for them to find housing or employment.

Mark McBride, a defense attorney and certified criminal law specialist in California, believes the approach of drawing a direct line between the attacks and the database is a unique one.

“I don’t see them asking for any money, which makes it unique,” McBride said. “You have people taking a principled approach who are considered sex offenders.”

He questioned whether there was enough evidence for the complaint to hold, suggesting the state would likely argue, ” ‘Even if we didn’t do it correctly, we didn’t know it would lead to vigilantism.’”

Beyond the question of connecting vigilante violence to the site’s deficiencies, McBride said the suit’s claims present an “interesting double jeopardy” conundrum for the court to consider.

“These people have served hard time, and then their punishment continues,” McBride said. “They’re functionally banished from our society. We lock them up, and then when they get out, apparently that’s not good enough.”

Bellucci hopes to see the situation resolved as quickly possible for that exact reason. While the filing of the suit could spur the department into action, she expects not to see any results until a judge weighs in.

“They’ve haven’t been doing what they should be doing for so long that it’s hard to be optimistic that they’re going to, all of a sudden, wake up and say ‘Wow, we should do the right thing,’” Bellucci said. ..Source.. by Alex Koma

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November 15, 2015

Jail beatings show need for advisory committee

11-15-15 National:

This is a tough column to write, and maybe to read.

Sex offenders have not only violated the law, but have sometimes done things most of us find unimaginable. Sexually abusing children is unimaginable to me.

But people who commit such crimes do not give up their humanity, or their entitlement to the protection of our laws. Unfortunately, it may take fresh lawsuits and more huge jury verdicts to get that point through the skulls of the folks who run the Doña Ana County Detention Center.

We’ve all heard how sex offenders are often treated by other prisoners. Therefore they’re housed separately; and when they’re in contact with others, you watch carefully; and you don’t let other inmates know that a particular inmate is a sex offender. These are the rules.

Case: Mr. A writes me that after his arrest (for an unspecified sex crime) a jailer placed him in a holding cell with a regular inmate and let that inmate see what he was in for. Mr. A was beaten to within an inch of his life. (Call me if you’re a lawyer who has time and the skills to represent him.)

Case: Mr. B had just returned from court. Completely shackled, he sat on a bench, helpless, waiting for the guard to remove his restraints. The jailer first unlocked a maximum-security inmate who had apparently heard the charges against Mr. B in court. The other inmate beat Mr. B so badly Mr. B was beyond the capabilities of our local hospitals and had to be transferred to El Paso.

Sorry, but that’s just wrong.

We’re not talking about a father or brother so angry over the rape of a sweet, innocent girl (or boy) that he attacks the rapist. (I’ll admit having said and meant that if someone molested a certain innocent, creative, and loving 11-year-old female relative, I’d kill him myself. Even though I understand that most such molesters have first been victims.)

We’re talking about the deliberate indifference of a jailer who likely hasn’t met the victim, but dislikes sex offenders, or gets some jollies watching a beating. Or is so careless that he should find some job where people’s lives aren’t at stake.

Meanwhile, “sex crimes” have expanded far beyond what most of us realize. Some poor soul who never touches anyone but watches a couple of pornographic films with underage kids in them could be locked up for decades. Such films aren’t to my taste; and I understand the theory that jailing customers diminishes the market for such films. But the penalties can be draconian.

Too, an 18-year-old having a fling with a 15-year-old who says she’s 17, and looks and acts it, could be jailed on a charge that sounds worse than it was.

I concede that the two incidents cited above are allegations, not yet tried in any court of law, civil or criminal.

But note that I don’t do criminal law or hang around the jail a lot. If I know of these two cases, from the past few months, how many more might there be that we know nothing of?

As a tax-paying citizen, I don’t want jailers conducting themselves this way: it’s legally wrong, and it risks a Slevin-size jury verdict. Folks complaining about alleged waste at the county should sure complain far more loudly about this stuff.

These problems illustrate why we need a Citizens Advisory Committee here. Ethically or financially, we cannot afford to view our jails as septic tanks into which we need not look. ..Source.. by Peter Goodman

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November 14, 2015

Iowa court upholds sentence, reverses sex offender order

11-14-15 Iowa:

MASON CITY, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Court of Appeals has upheld the 35-year prison sentence of a Minnesota man for kidnapping and beating a woman last year, but has struck down an order requiring him to register as a sex offender.

Albert Mesenbrink III, of Vadnais Heights, Minnesota, was sentenced last year after pleading guilty to reduced charges of second-degree kidnapping and willful injury.

The Mason City Globe Gazette reports ( ) that the appeals court ruled Thursday that a Cerro Gordo County District judge or jury must review and establish whether the kidnapping was sexually motivated, thereby allowing Mesenbrink to be required to register as a sex offender. ..Source.....

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