November 27, 2014

Do Online Death Threats Count as Free Speech?

11-27-2014 National:

Exhibit 12 in the government’s case against Anthony Elonis is a screenshot of a Facebook post he wrote in October 2010, five months after his wife, Tara, left him. His name appears in the site’s familiar blue, followed by words that made Tara fear for her life: ‘'If I only knew then what I know now . . . I would have smothered your ass with a pillow. Dumped your body in the back seat. Dropped you off in Toad Creek and made it look like a rape and murder.'’

Exhibit 13, also pulled from Facebook, is a thread that started when Tara’s sister mentioned her plans to take her niece and nephew — Elonis’s children — shopping for Halloween costumes. Tara responded and then Elonis did, too, saying their 8-year-old son ‘'should dress up as a Matricide.'’ He continued: ‘'I don’t know what his costume would entail though. Maybe your head on a stick?'’ This time, Elonis included a photo of himself, holding a cigarette to his lips.

After Tara saw these posts — and another one, from the same time, which begins: ‘'There’s one way to love ya but a thousand ways to kill ya. I’m not gonna rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts'’ — she went to court in Reading, Pa., and got a protection-from-abuse order against her husband.

On Nov. 7, three days after Tara got the ruling, Elonis linked to a video satire by the comedy troupe the Whitest Kids U’ Know. On camera, a member of the group mocks the law against threatening to kill the president. Elonis mimicked the group’s lines but subbed in his own text, to make it about Tara. ‘'I also found out that it’s incredibly illegal, extremely illegal to go on Facebook and say something like the best place to fire a mortar launcher at her house would be from the cornfield behind it because of easy access to a getaway road and you’d have a clear line of sight through the sun room,'’ he wrote. ‘'Yet even more illegal to show an illustrated diagram.'’ Elonis added a diagram with a getaway road, a cornfield and a house. ‘'Art is about pushing limits,'’ his post concluded. ‘'I’m willing to go to jail for my Constitutional rights. Are you?'’

At the same time that he was posting about Tara, Elonis used Facebook to threaten his co-workers at an amusement park in nearby Allentown, where he worked. In one photo, from Halloween, Elonis held a fake knife to a co-worker’s neck. They were both dressed in costume, but Elonis added the caption, ‘'I wish.'’ His boss saw the image and caption and fired Elonis. He also called the F.B.I. In December 2010, Elonis was charged under a federal law that makes it a crime to use a form of interstate communication (like the Internet) to threaten to injure another person. ..Continued.. by EMILY BAZELON

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There's no free lunch - or breakfast or dinner - for Obama on Thanksgiving or any other day

11-27-2014 Washington DC:

There's no free lunch — or breakfast or dinner — for President Barack Obama on Thanksgiving Day. Or any other day for that matter.

He has to dig into his pocket to pay for his holiday feast of turkey, ham, two kinds of stuffing, sweet and regular potatoes, and six different kinds of pie. It's a longstanding practice that a president pays for meals for himself, his family and personal guests.

Obama also pays for other basics — everything from toothpaste to dry cleaning.

WHY IS THAT?

Gary Walters, who was chief White House usher for many years, said the payment rule dates back to 1800 when the White House was first occupied by President John Adams and there was no staff. Presidents brought staff with them and paid for everything.

Congress gradually began spending money to maintain an official White House staff to oversee operations and maintenance, but presidents continued to pay for personal expenses.

What it boils down to, Walters said, is that the White House is first and foremost the president's home.

"All those things that are personal in nature that we all pay for, the first family pays for," he said.

WHAT IS EXLUDED?

White House chefs who prepare the president's meals are paid by the government.

For the budget year that ended Sept. 30, Congress gave the White House $19,000 to pay for official receptions and $12.7 million to cover operating expenses for the residence, which may include entertainment. The cost of meals for some White House events, including state dinners and receptions, is picked up by the State Department or political parties. ..Continued and Interesting.. by DARLENE SUPERVILLE

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November 26, 2014

U.S. Department of Education widens campus sex probe

11-26-2014 Washington DC:

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Education's investigation into sexual violence and harassment on college campuses has expanded to include two-year schools, as evidenced by a recent settlement involving SUNY Broome Community College.

SUNY Broome, in Binghamton, New York, has signed an agreement to revise its grievance procedures as a result of an investigation into a sexual harassment complaint involving a student's Facebook posting in April.

Elsewhere, Hamilton College in Oneida County, Whitman College in Washington state and the San Jose-Evergreen Community College District in California were added this month to a list of 90 post-secondary schools under federal investigation for sexual violence allegations.

The investigations include prestigious institutions such as Harvard College, Dartmouth College and Johns Hopkins University.

A recent Rolling Stone story detailed an alleged gang rape at a fraternity house at the University of Virginia in 2012. UVA President Teresa Sullivan has asked police in Charlottesville, Virginia, to investigate and has suspended all fraternity activities and social events until Jan. 9.

Meanwhile, federal education officials have concluded probes into several universities — including Binghamton University and Princeton — that were among the original 55 colleges under investigation in May.

SUNY Broome was not on the list published by the Education Department because that case did not involve sexual violence. Instead, it involved a female student who felt threatened by video of her posted by another student on Facebook. The post said "she looks just like my ex" and "I want to do her."

The college disciplined the male student who posted the video, but the female victim filed a formal complaint of sexual harassment on May 9 that triggered an investigation by federal education officials under the Title IX law banning gender discrimination.

Under the terms of an Oct. 17 resolution agreement, SUNY Broome has agreed to revise its grievance procedures for handling cases of sexual assault, sexual harassment and sexual violence. ..Continued.. by Brian Tumulty

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Don't Listen to Predators

11-26-2014 Tribal Nations:

The greatest resource of a tribal nation is their people. Every elected tribal council has a responsibility to the membership that they serve but more importantly they have a sacred obligation to protect the welfare of their future generations.

Over these past few years we have seen many legislative acts coming out of the Obama administration that have had a direct effect on the unique and detrimental issues that plague our reservations. VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) and SORNA (Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act) are just a couple of them.

These acts play an important roll in administering the safety of our membership on our reservations but more importantly they bring our nations into compliance with federal mandate as directed by these acts.

We can never measure which type of violence outweighs another. Violence toward anyone in any form is an atrocious crime and should be addressed by all tribal councils directly but when violence is committed against a child especially a sexual assault is when a tribal council must take strong action to eradicate this genocidal threat to our future.

Recently U.S. Attorney Eric Holder held a tribal consultation meeting in Bismarck, ND and spoke to the issues concerning VAWA and SORNA. SORNA has express statutory requirements that must be obeyed by the tribes. Native Nations are federally mandated that all sex offender registrations for offenders living on or visiting the reservations must be put on the tribes website and made available to the public and tribal law enforcement via the tribal website or the public safety funding for the tribe could be put in jeopardy. Simply having a link to the state sex offender registry just isn’t enough.

Where do we as an Oglala Nation take our stand to protect the welfare of our children? We begin by coming into compliance with current federal mandates by publishing the names of those tribal members on our website who have committed atrocious crimes against our children. We begin by making it our own sacred cause to defend our future generations against the sexual predators that roam our communities no matter who they are related to or who they are politically in the community or what they write in the newspapers. It shouldn’t take an act of congress for we, as a sovereign nation, to do what’s in the best interest of our children.

It is fundamentally wrong on every level to give power and protection to those who have committed the most heinous crimes against our children behind closed doors. We are better than that, our heritage is greater than that and we as a nation must take action on every level to address this issue. Dis-enrollment and banishing child predators are just a couple solutions but coming into compliance with federal law is where we must begin.

There is no one person more corrupt in our society than an individual who attacks our native children and any council representative who defends such an individual should also be held politically accountable.

Over these past few years I have been reading the editorials written by Oglala Sioux Tribal member but was surprised to find out that this Tribal member is a convicted sex offender but not just any sexual offender he is an offender of a child. He makes accusations toward our tribal leadership about being corrupt but how can an individual such as this criticize about an issue when their crime outweighs any issue concerning a tribal representative. Money issues can be fixed, leadership issues can be remedied but his victim will always suffer long after the tribal council issues are resolved.

Why hasn’t that person ever written an editorial to the victim for the crime he was sentenced for? Why hasn’t he ever apologized to his victim publically? I guess the bigger question would be… Why is he being published in the first place? ..Continued.. by Garfield Steele who is a Wounded Knee District Council Representative.

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What fuels college rape? An absence of consequences

11-26-2014 National:

After the horror at the University of Virginia, we must treat sexual assault like the crime it is and give students the means to defend themselves

It’s lucky for the family of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham that her alleged rapist and murderer Jesse Matthew wasn’t a fellow student. Otherwise, one wonders if he’d ever have been brought to justice.

That’s because students who commit rape on college campuses are rarely punished for it. And by “punished” I don’t mean prosecuted in a criminal court the way Matthew will be. I mean they are rarely even politely asked to pack up and leave school.

In fact, according to an explosive new article published in Rolling Stone about a student who claims she was raped by seven men at a Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house over a three-hour period in 2012, “since 1998, 183 people have been expelled for honor-code violations such as cheating on exams. And yet, paradoxically, not a single student at UVA has ever been expelled for sexual assault.”

That defies both statistics and logic, considering that just between 2010 and 2012, there were 41 alleged forcible sex offenses on campus reported to authorities at UVA. Not a single one resulted in the expulsion of a student.

Students at UVA say they are “shocked” and “horrified” by the Rolling Stone story. And the school’s president, Teresa Sullivan, has suspended all fraternities, writing in a statement: “Rape is an abhorrent crime that has no place in the world, let alone on the campuses and grounds of our nation’s colleges and universities.”

But UVA’s problem with sexual assault is not new. Do a quick Google search and you’ll come across articles from 2013 like “Elite Schools Earn Title of ‘RapeU’” or “Burden of Proof: UVA’s Sexual Assault Policy Under Fire” in 2012, or “How UVA Turns its Back on Rape” back in 2004.

The problems are so rampant, in fact, that the school made a list of 55 schools under investigation for violating federal law over their handling of sexual assault complaints compiled by the Department of Education and released in May.

Ironically, a couple months before that list was released, UVA held a conference called “Dialogue at UVA: Sexual Misconduct Among College Students.” At the time, Sullivan said of the conference that its focus “will be on how we might together begin to change the culture that fuels sexual misconduct.” ..Continued.. by S.E.Cupp

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November 23, 2014

Victim: Viewing child porn isn’t harmless

11-23-2014 Florida:

Ashley Reynolds wants people who think viewing child pornography is harmless to think again.

“I think people who think it’s not a crime to look at child pornography are ignorant because they’re not thinking about what the child had to go through,” Reynolds said. “It’s damaging.”

Reynolds knows only too well. Now 20, the Arizona woman was victimized five years ago, starting when she was 14, by a Florida man who extorted her and hundreds of other girls around the country to send him vulgar pictures of themselves.

Lucas Michael Chansler, 31, was sentenced earlier this month to 105 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to nine counts of producing child pornography.

Chansler told detectives he targeted children because adult women were “too smart” to fall for his scheme. Investigators found thousands of videos and photos on his computers, including recordings of girls crying and pleading with him to stop and one girl holding a handwritten sign with a single word: “rape.”

The Tampa Tribune has a policy against naming victims of sex offenses. But Reynolds wants to be public because she wants to advocate for victims and to educate people about the real children who are damaged by child pornography.

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Reynolds says she’s not sure how Chansler found her online, but she suspects it has something to do with a video chat program she and her friends used for a while, the now-defunct Stickam, which she says was her only online activity that was publicly viewable. She had a Myspace account that was private.

After she had moved on from Stickam, Reynolds said, “I received a message from a random person on Myspace, and it said something about needing to open the message, ‘I have naked pictures of you.’ ... I didn’t even bother to open it. I didn’t know who the person was. So I ignored it.”

A few weeks later, she says, she received a text message on her AOL instant messaging account.

“It was him. I had no idea who ..Continued.. by Elaine Silvestrini

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Local child sex prosecutions at record rate

11-23-2014 Florida:

TAMPA — A defense contractor from Riverview is spending 30 years in prison for forcing a 16-year-old girl to have sex with him and using his computer to record their encounter.

A worship minister from Winter Garden was arrested and charged with receiving and possessing child pornography.

A former American Airlines pilot from St. Petersburg was sentenced to 21 years in prison for producing, distributing and possessing child pornography after he used two minor victims to make sexually explicit videos.

Federal prosecutors in the Middle District of Florida, which includes Tampa, prosecuted more cases involving child exploitation in the past fiscal year than any year before, according to U.S. attorney’s office records.

“It’s our most productive year ever,” U.S. Attorney Lee Bentley said.

Bentley credited a cooperative atmosphere among federal, state and local authorities for the high number of prosecutions.

“I do not believe that the prevalence of child pornography and crimes against children is higher here in Florida than elsewhere in the country,’’ Bentley said. “It’s a national problem. Law enforcement here has been particularly adept at dealing with it. It’s a huge problem nationwide.”

The cases fall under the umbrella of Project Safe Childhood, a Justice Department initiative aimed at preventing and stopping child exploitation.

In Tampa alone, federal prosecutors brought 49 Project Safe Childhood cases last year, up from 29 the previous year and 16 the year before. In the Middle District, prosecutors brought 127 cases, up from 104 the previous year and 82 the year before.

Jim Skuthan, chief assistant public defender for the district, said a substantial majority of the cases prosecuted here involve possessing, receiving or trading child pornography rather than hands-on offenses against children.

“A lot of those defendants will pass polygraph exams confirming they have never, as an adult, had inappropriate sexual contact with a minor,” he said. “Those polygraph examinations are used in risk assessments done by psychologists to determine future dangerousness or risk ..Continued.. By Elaine Silvestrini

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November 22, 2014

Ohio Supreme Court to hear arguments in appeal of man sentenced to 112 years in prison as teen

11-22-2014 Ohio:

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Supreme Court has set a date for arguments in an appeal from a man who claims a 112-year prison sentence imposed when he was 15 years old violates his constitutional rights.

Brandon Moore was tried as an adult and convicted by a jury in the 2001 armed kidnapping, robbery and gang rape of a 22-year-old woman.

The 28-year-old Moore, who received his sentence in 2008 after two resentencings, claims a definite sentence that exceeds his life expectancy for crimes he committed as a juvenile violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Prosecutors argue the sentence is constitutional because it involved multiple and consecutive sentences.

The Supreme Court says it will hear arguments from both sides Feb. 4. ..Source.. by The Republic

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Op-ed: Utah justice reformers ignore huge factor: sex offenders

11-22-2014 Utah:

Utah’s Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCJJ) is tackling some of our communities’ most difficult challenges. One of their key objectives is to "coordinate statewide efforts to reduce crime and victimization in Utah." For the past year, in partnership with the Pew Charitable Trust, CCJJ has been researching implementation of criminal justice best practices to manage Utah’s incarcerated individuals – and again manage those same individuals once they have served their time and are released back into our communities.

CCJJ recently announced 18 recommendations for "Justice Reinvestment," supported by data analysis from Pew. These recommendations, to be presented for legislators’ approval in 2015, would institute changes to help decrease our prison population (and future correctional spending) while posing little risk to public safety.

Great work, but there’s a glaring omission: solutions for dealing with Utah’s tsunami of incarcerated "sex offenders." Though Pew’s research revealed that nearly one third of Utah’s prison inmates are serving time for sex-related crimes, there is nothing among CCJJ’s recommendations that addresses this huge and growing population. This is a big missed opportunity.

Utah’s Department of Corrections reports that of 4,421 state inmates serving time for 1st or 2nd degree felony convictions, 1,992 are incarcerated for sex offenses. That’s a whopping 45 percent! Among all felony levels, 32 percent of inmates are in Utah’s prisons for sex offenses. Comparatively, the national figure is 6.2 percent. Idaho’s at 19 percent, Arizona’s at around 11 percent, and Nevada just over 12 percent. In 2014, there were more sex offenders behind bars in Utah than any other major category of offender.

CCJJ’s report does not reflect much curiosity about these shocking figures. The report avoids this serious question: Why are Utah prison cells packed with people convicted of sex crimes?

Penalties for sex crimes in Utah have been getting harsher and harsher. We’re keeping the people we put in prison for these crimes, longer and longer.

Our state also has been enthusiastically expanding the range of crimes for which people are required to register as a sex offender. Offenses range from child rape (clearly the most serious) to public urination (more silly than serious), but because our criminal justice system has a conviction- rather than risk-based orientation, all these people fall under the same umbrella and are thus treated the same. This approach floods the system with more offenders of an increasingly broad spectrum of offenses, some of which are decidedly non-violent and for which there is little risk of re-offense, especially with adequate treatment.

Contrary to popular belief, research shows that repeat offenses are less common among people convicted of sex offenses than for those convicted of other crimes. However, we still treat all types of sex offenders as if they will re-offend as soon as they can, regardless of intervention. Operating the system this way results in low-risk offenders consuming limited correction resources, while dangerous offenders get far less correctional attention than we would be wise to provide. It doesn’t help that the State Legislature has not increased funding for prison and community-based treatment for this population since 1996.

There are many ideas for correcting this misallocation of resources in our system, but Utah seems more interested in cracking down on any offense with the word "sex" attached to it. CCJJ hasn’t done the state any favors by letting us avoid the reality of this issue. Too bad. We’re missing a big opportunity to address a very unique Utah problem – which is likely to become only more pronounced over time. ..Source.. by Kendall Robins

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