August 28, 2015

Court Denies Challenge to D.C. Sex Offender’s Website on Registry Officials

8-28-15 Washington DC:

A website that “registers” and posts photos of government employees who work in the District of Columbia’s sex offender registration office is protected by the First Amendment, a D.C. Superior Court held in a February 14, 2014 memorandum opinion.

Dennis Sobin, a convicted sex offender, is required to register every three months with the D.C. Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA), and his picture is posted on the District’s sex offender registry. Sobin, 70, spent over ten years in prison for using a minor while filming a pornographic movie, though he is not your run-of-the-mill pornographer.

Following his release he founded the non-profit Prisons Foundation and Safe Streets Art Foundation, which sell artwork created by prisoners. The foundations also maintain a D.C. art gallery and sponsor programs at the Kennedy Center; they have received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities. [See: PLN, March 2007, p.19].

Using his creative skills, Sobin designed a website called the Idiots Registry and posted a list of employees responsible for enforcing the District’s sex offender registry. “Here at you will find the names of politicians and public figures who have encouraged the creation of, or have refused to denounce, government registration websites that target citizens for harassment,” the site proclaims.

In addition to posting employees’ names and photos, the website includes information about other registries, including a registry of Jews in Nazi Germany prior to World War II, and examples of opposition to sex offender registries in the U.S.

“In the tradition of Nazi registration of Jews and Gypsies and the Salem lists of alleged witches, modern government registries are unfair and un-American,” Sobin declared.

The Idiots Registry site includes photos of a number of CSOSA employees with insulting nicknames provided by Sobin, such as “Fat Man” Leonard Dunning, “Limp Dick” Edmond Pears and “Aunt Jemima” Yolanda Stokes. He distributed flyers containing the photos in the CSOSA office building.

The website was not well received by CSOSA registry specialist Stephanie Gray, who filed for a civil protection order and accused Sobin of stalking her. ..Continued.. by Prison Legal News

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August 27, 2015

Collateral damage: Harsh sex offender laws may put whole families at risk

8-27-15 National:

Research says that registries and residency bans leave children of sex offenders vulnerable to bullying, homelessness

When William Quarles, 38, bolts from his desk around 5:30 most weeknights, he’s up against his most important deadline of the day. Quarles is an audiovisual editor and social media manager at a Christian television studio in St. Petersburg, Florida. By the time he gets home, he and Ashley, his wife of nine years, have just over three hours to make dinner for their three children, squeeze in a half-hour of playtime, get the kids bathed and dressed for bed, and read to them for a few minutes.

At 9:30 sharp, William kisses Ashley, walks out the door and drives his van 12 miles to a spot at the end of a dirt road off Interstate 275. From there he calls her, and they read and pray together from the devotional Our Daily Bread before they fall asleep — Ashley at home and William in the back of the van. Every couple of hours, William wakes up sweating and turns on the engine to run the air conditioner.

William’s name and photo appear on Florida’s public sex offender registry. A state law bans him and most others on the list from living within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, playgrounds and child care facilities. The house the family rents lies inside a banned zone, so William can’t stay there between 10 at night and 6 in the morning.

With finances always tight and much of the city off limits, the Quarleses have struggled to find an affordable place to live. From May 2013 to May 2014, Ashley and the kids lived with Ashley’s sister in Lakeland, 60 miles from St. Petersburg. Ashley drove to the city every day for a job she had at the time. William stayed behind in St. Pete, sleeping in the van — a 2,500-foot residency ban for registrants in Lakeland and the surrounding county forbade him from living with the rest of the family.

When the commute became untenable, Ashley and the children moved back to the city into their current house, which belongs to their pastor. The pastor’s daughter lived there but was away on vacation for several months. That worked until October, when the daughter returned.

This time, the Quarleses wanted to find a place where William could live with them. They estimate that they researched 100 to 150 addresses. All either fell inside a forbidden zone or were rented by the time they applied. So after spending a week in a motel, from October to March of this year, they all became homeless. Ashley and the kids — ages, 7, 4 and 2 — camped out in the sanctuary of the church where William works, taking showers every other day at the YMCA.

They got a break in the spring when their pastor’s house again became available. He charges them only $800 a month, well below market. But because it’s inside a banned area, William still can’t live with them.

In 1996, Congress passed Megan’s Law, which allowed states to publicize the names of those convicted of sex offenses. A wave of federal and state laws followed that created online sex offender registries, broadened who is listed and restricted where registrants can live. ..Continued.. (Excellent article, loaded with statistics) by Steven Yoder

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Controversial Sex Offender Law Being Challenged

8-27-15 Indiana:

An Indiana state law that prevents sexual offenders from entering school buildings will be challenged in court. The basis of the lawsuit argues the law inhibits certain individuals from the right to vote. The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana.

While the law may seem to serve an important public interest, it could also easily be seen as an undue burden affecting a person’s constitutional rights. The aim of the original law was to prevent certain offenders from access to places where children frequent; however, children are not allowed in polling locations unless accompanied by an adult.

Opponents of the lawsuit claim sexual offenders’ right to vote is unaffected due to absentee voting. While this may seem like a logical assertion, voting via absentee ballot often requires separate applications and does not offer the in-person assistance that is available at the actual polling locations. In addition, opponents feel those convicted of sex crimes should not possess the privilege and right to be on school property. This is an interesting argument because by preventing this class of citizens from voting, fundamental rights are being directly violated.

The act of physically voting is fundamental to our rights as Americans and this law unfairly discriminates against a select class of individuals. These individuals have already paid their debt to society, and in many cases, are still doing so in the form of registering as sex offenders. It is unfair to prevent a free citizen from exercising the same rights and privileges afforded to everyone else. ..Source.. by The attorney’s at Bleile, Witte & Lape are extremely knowledgeable in the field of criminal defense throughout the State of Ohio and the Commonwealth of Kentucky. If you seek the best possible representation, hire a law firm that puts the client first and fights hard to protect their rights. Contact us today for a completely confidential consultation at 513-564-0088.

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August 26, 2015

Illinois Top Court Rules Online Commenter Identity Must be Revealed

8-26-15 Illinois:

The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that Internet service provider Comcast must reveal the identity of an online anonymous commenter who implied a county board candidate was a child molester and had attempted suicide.

The Freeport Journal Standard published an online article about Bill Hadley running as a candidate for the county board of Stephenson County, Illinois. An online commenter using the name “Fuboy” posted the comments; “Hadley is a Sandusky waiting to be exposed. Check out the view he has of Empire [elementary school] from his front door” and “Anybody know the tale of Hadley’s suicide attempt?…”

Defamation action filed

When Hadley filed a lawsuit against the parent company of the Freeport Journal Standard, Gatehouse Media, the case was dismissed. Hadley then filed a defamation action against Comcast Internet subscriber Doe a/k/a “Fuboy.”

Hadley claimed the “Sandusky waiting to be exposed” comment, which referred to Penn State Football coach Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted of sexually abusing numerous boys, was defamatory per se because it “imputed the commission of a crime to Hadley.”

Hadley also issued a subpoena and filed a motion for entry of an order directing Comcast to turn over records and information concerning the IP address associated with “Fuboy.”

Hadley later amended his complaint to reflect the circuit court’s instruction that Illinois Rule 224 that provides a means to identify potential defendants prior to the commencement of a suit, would be the more appropriate procedure to follow.

The circuit court found that the “Sandusky” comment imputed the commission of a crime to Hadley, that it was not capable of innocent construction, and was not considered an opinion making it per se defamatory.

The court also ordered Comcast to provide identification and the last known address of “Fuboy” but stayed its order pending the appeal process. The appeals court affirmed the circuit court decision.

Suing a defendant using an alias

“Fuboy” appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court, asserting that Hadley had missed the one-year statute of limitations for defamation because his original lawsuit filed was against a fictitious name for a defendant, having no legal effect. Fuboy claimed the amended complaint could not relate back to the original complaint that would be legally invalid, causing this action to be barred by the statute of limitations.

The court disagreed, writing that there is a “significant difference…between a plaintiff suing an unknown John Doe and a plaintiff suing a known defendant using an alias adopted of the defendant’s own volition. The court found that Hadley filed suit against an alias used for the defendant, and as valid and within the statute of limitations.

Fuboy also argued that Hadley’s lawsuit should be dismissed, as the Illinois rule required Hadley to file a Rule 224 petition as an independent action to identify defendants before commencing the separate defamation lawsuit.

The court agreed that the circuit court instructed Hadley to pursue the Rule 224 petition in an inappropriate manner after he had already filed his defamation lawsuit, but that “dismissal of Hadley’s defamation suit would be too harsh a sanction” for the incorrect order of filing.

Implied the commission of a crime

Finally, Fuboy claimed Hadley did not sufficiently meet all the defamation claim requirements, asserting that using or having the last name “Sandusky” is not a crime, and a defamatory meaning would not be discerned from the name without the use of extrinsic facts.

The court sided with Hadley, ruling that the comment, considered in context with the timing of national events surrounding the Sandusky sexual abuse scandal, implied the commission of a crime and conveyed that Hadley was a child molester, living across from an elementary school.

The court found that Hadley had established a cause of action for defamation and affirmed the judgment of the appellate court, allowing Hadley to proceed with his defamation action and requiring Comcast to reveal the identity of Fuboy.

The case is Hadley v. Doe, case number 2015 IL 118000, Illinois Supreme Court. ..Source.. The National Trial Lawyers

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Alabama Sex Offender Law Challenged

8-26-15 Alabama:

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (CN) - Sex offenders living in Alabama are being forced to comply with a debilitating set of restrictions that encompasses "virtually every facet of their lives," a group of registrants claims in court.

Eight John Doe plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit last week against Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange III and Secretary of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency John Richardson in Federal Court.

The Aug. 20 complaint seeks court relief to prevent application of the Alabama Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification Act, or ASORCNA, claiming the law is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit argues that the act violates due process by denying sex offender registrants certain fundamental rights. It also claims that the law is vague and should be declared void.

"The plaintiffs ask this court to recognize what other courts across the country have increasingly found: that the nature of sex offender registration has fundamentally changed since 2003, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a registration scheme that imposed registration and Internet notification only with effects that were 'minor and indirect' restraints on registrants," the complaint states.

Alabama first passed a sex offender registration law in 1967, according to the complaint. The law at the time called for a one-time registration with the sheriff of the offender's home county, and the registration information was only available to law enforcement.

The state passed its Community Notification Act in 1996, which "was not retroactively applied, and required only written notification upon an offenders change in address," as opposed to in-person registration, the complaint states.

And in 2011, Alabama passed the current version of its sex offender law, which is retroactively applied to all adult sex offenders in the state and requires quarterly, in-person registration.

The law places restrictions on where registered sex offenders are allowed to live and work and "requires the distribution of community-notification flyers to those living near a registrant's residence," according to the complaint. It also requires registrants to carry a driver's license or ID card that "enables law enforcement officers to identify the licensee as a sex offender."

In addition, registered sex offenders are required to report their travel plans whenever they intend to be away from their home county for three or more consecutive days, the lawsuit states.

"ASORCNA violates the plaintiffs' fundamental rights to travel, to work, to speak and to be free from arbitrary and oppressive laws without being lawfully tailored in a manner to meet Alabama's interest," the complaint states.

The law's provisions are applied "for life and without regard to the nature of the offense, the age of the victim, or the passage of time since the underlying sex offense," according to the complaint.

The anonymous plaintiffs claim Alabama imposes an unprecedented number of "obligations, disabilities, and restraints" on registered sex offenders, making its law the most restrictive of its kind in the country.

"ASORCNA severely limits registrants' ability to: maintain intimate associations with family; find housing and employment; travel; engage in free speech activities or refrain from speaking; be free from shame, embarrassment, humiliation and stigma; and understand what is required of them under the statute," the complaint states.

The lawsuit seeks a declaration that Alabama's current sex offender law is unconstitutional and void. The eight plaintiffs are represented by J. Mitch McGuire in Montgomery, Ala. ..Source.. by JOHN BRACKIN

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Father loses effort to get his girls out of sex offender’s home

8-26-15 Nebraska:

LINCOLN — An appeals court has rejected a Central City man’s attempt to gain custody of his two daughters after his ex-wife married a registered sex offender.

On Tuesday, the Nebraska Court of Appeals upheld the decision of a district court judge who ruled that the girls — ages 16 and 14 — should remain in the household of a man who served four years in prison for the attempted sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl.

Phelps County District Judge Terri Harder relied heavily on the opinion of the girls’ mental health therapist, who said the children were not at “significant risk” from their stepfather.

State law does not require the automatic removal of children from homes shared by a sex offender if the courts find that there is no significant risk of harm.

The three judges on the Court of Appeals said they were unwilling to overrule the district judge’s determination that the sex offender in the Phelps County case posed a low risk of doing harm.

“In order to conclude there was no significant risk to the children, the court had to consider the best interests of the children,” Judge Riko Bishop wrote for the Appeals Court. “Implicit in the district court’s holding is the determination that it was not in the children’s best interests to modify custody based solely on the fact that (the sex offender) lived with them.”

The girls’ parents divorced in 2004 after five years of marriage. The mother won primary custody and the father was granted visitation.

In 2011, the mother moved in with the sex offender, who had been convicted of felony attempted sexual assault on a stepdaughter from a prior marriage. She married the man in 2012 when the girls were ages 12 and 10.

It marked the second time the mother had been in a relationship with a sex offender. After her first marriage ended, she lived with a man who was later convicted of sexually assaulting her 5-year-old child, who is not one of the two girls in the custody dispute.

In 2013, the father of the two girls filed a petition for custody, arguing that living with a registered child sex offender put his daughters at risk and was not in their best interests.

At trial, the mother testified that the girls had been instructed to change clothes behind closed doors and not walk through the house wearing towels. She also said the bathroom door was equipped with a lock but added that she didn’t consider the lock necessary to protect her daughters from her husband.

The stepfather testified that he had successfully completed three stages of sex offender treatment along with inpatient treatment while in prison. He said he learned to identify red flags for child molesters, which include spending a lot of time with one child alone, granting special privileges to one child or asking a child to keep secrets.

He testified that he is rarely alone with just one child.

Joan Schwan, a licensed therapist who started treating the girls in 2013, testified that she asked the girls about their stepfather’s behavior to determine whether he was trying to “groom” them as victims. No such behavior was reported and there appeared to be good boundaries at home, the therapist told the judge.

Schwan, however, said her clinical background did not involve adult sex offenders. She also said that while she reviewed some of the stepfather’s prison files, she did not interview him.

Nonetheless, the therapist said she did not perceive a risk to the children. Relying heavily on the therapist’s opinion, the judge ruled in the mother’s favor regarding custody.

In its review, the Court of Appeals focused on a provision from the Nebraska Parenting Act that relates to children living with sex offenders. The law says that when the custodial parent moves in with a sex offender, it represents justification for a change in custody.

However, if the court determines the children are not at risk, it has the discretion to leave the living arrangement unchanged.

Mindy Lester, an attorney who represented the father, said the law also puts the burden of proving safety on the parent who is involved with the sex offender. Lester argued that no testimony was offered from a mental health specialist who interviewed the stepfather to determine his risk of re-offense.

Therefore, the girls’ mother did not meet the burden required under the law, Lester said.

A message left Tuesday with the mother’s attorney was not returned.

Tuesday’s opinion marked the first time an appeals court in Nebraska was asked to consider a custody case involving a sex offender convicted of a felony. A previous State Supreme Court ruling related to the same law involved a misdemeanor sex offense.

A decision on whether to appeal the Phelps County case to the Supreme Court had not been made, Lester said. ..Source.. by Joe Duggan

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Sex offenders challenge Nevada supervision law

8-26-15 Nevada:

More than a dozen sex offenders are challenging the Nevada Parole Board's authority to impose conditions on their lifetime supervision.

The offenders, identified only as Does 1-16, filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against several state and local officials, including Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt.

According to the lawsuit, the Parole Board has relied on an unconstitutional Nevada law to place movement and residency restrictions on convicted sex offenders who are under its supervision. In some cases, those restrictions have prevented the plaintiffs from attending religious services or associating with certain people in certain areas.

"The state of Nevada should not be allowed to violate the Constitution," attorney Robert Draskovich said. "It doesn't matter whether a person has been convicted of an offense that the public may hate. No one is above the law, and it should be followed."

Draskovich and two other Las Vegas attorneys, Gary Modafferi and Allen Lichtenstein, are representing the plaintiffs in the case.

The plaintiffs seek a permanent injunction to prohibit enforcement of the law, officially known as Nevada Revised Statute 213.1243. The statute, passed in 1995, gives the Parole Board authority to establish a program of lifetime supervision. Residency and movement restrictions were added to the law in 2007.

According to the complaint, the law:

• Violates the First Amendment by infringing on the plaintiffs' freedom of religion and right to assemble.

• Violates the double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment because it imposes multiple punishments for the same crime.

• Violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, because violating a condition imposed by the Parole Board subjects an offender to another felony and a mandatory sentence of one to six years in prison.

"The sentence received for a violation of a condition inflicts a sentence disproportionate to the actual condition violated," according to the document.

• Violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.

• Violates the ex post facto clause, because "these punitive conditions did not exist in law when the plaintiffs committed their offenses."

• Violates the contract clause, because it "substantially impairs the terms of plaintiffs' plea agreements by imposing conditions that did not and do not exist in any statute."

• Violates the separation of powers doctrine "by delegating the power to legislate to an executive agency without any intelligible standards and allowing the executive agency to interpret and apply the law," thereby infringing on the powers of both the legislative and judicial branches.

• Violates the bill of attainder clause by allowing the Parole Board "to inflict further punishment without a judicial trial."

Among the plaintiffs in the case is "Doe 7," a Las Vegas man who pleaded guilty in 1997 to sexual assault and battery with the intent to commit sexual assault. He received a prison term of 10 to 25 years and was released on Nov. 30, 2010. He is now on lifetime supervision with more than 21 conditions imposed by the Parole Board.

"Doe 7 had difficulties finding a job due to the conditions that he is subject to," the complaint alleges. "Doe 7 also incurred expenses for computer monitoring on his work and personal computers, which can be faulty and corrupt his work files by no fault of his own. This has created a financial burden to Doe 7 considering that he also has a family he needs to provide for. Furthermore Doe 7 has family out of state and has difficulty seeing them due to movement conditions imposed on him."

Another plaintiff, "Doe 13," is an Arizona resident who committed a sexual offense in 2006 and accepted a plea agreement the following year. He was sentenced to probation with lifetime supervision.

According to the lawsuit, the conditions of his supervision "have had a disabling impact" on his life, including forcing him to stop working as a phone line splicer because of travel restrictions.

"He has not been able to engage in any relationships with the women he has met because they have children and he cannot be near children," the document claims. "He cannot go to a movie without getting prior permission. Recently, his best friend died but he was unable to attend the funeral because of the travel restrictions."

Among the officials named as defendants in the case are Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo and Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson. Neither could be reached for comment. Patty Cafferata, spokeswoman for Laxalt, said in an email that the attorney general's office does not comment on pending litigation. ..Source.. by Carri Geer Thevenot

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August 25, 2015

Juvenile Sexual Offender Registration (JSOR) Impact Survey

8-25-15 National:

Apparently researcher needs a few more folks to finish the research.

So folks, see if you qualify by clicking HERE, if you do and haven't previously completed this survey, help her out and do so now.


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August 24, 2015

White House Door Isn’t Always Open to Ex-Cons

8-24-15 Washington DC:

Visitors with a criminal record say roadblocks show a disconnect with Obama’s message of redemption

President Barack Obama, as part of his push to overhaul the criminal-justice system, has said ex-offenders should have a chance at redemption. The White House’s security operation, however, hasn’t always been on board.

Invited guests with convictions in their past have encountered an array of roadblocks when attending meetings with administration officials. Some have been denied entry. Others have been assigned an escort. Several said they felt stigmatized by the experience.

There are many factors that could prompt tighter security, including the rise of Islamic State and concerns about lone-wolf domestic threats. The Secret Service also has experienced some miscues—including not preventing a man who jumped the fence from making it inside the White House—that have raised questions about Mr. Obama’s protection.

Still, those who have been stopped at the gate, among them leaders on criminal-justice issues, say their experiences reveal a disconnect between the administration’s rhetoric and its real-life practices. And, even with bipartisan agreement that change is needed, their treatment shows how hard it will be to alter business and government practices ingrained through decades of use.

“I was treated like a second-class citizen as a prelude to a conversation about how to overcome a criminal record,” said Glenn Martin, an ex-offender who is now an advocate for reducing the correctional population and overhauling sentencing laws.

A spokesman for the Secret Service declined to detail precisely what would preclude someone from entering the White House or the adjacent Eisenhower Executive Office Building but said all guests are subjected to screening. ..Continued.. by Colleen McCain Nelson and Gary Fields

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