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March 29, 2015

Oregon Supreme Court to consider: Is it 'cruel and unusual' to imprison public masturbator for life?

3-29-15 Oregon:

William Althouse is serving a life prison sentence -- but not because, like many in that situation, he killed someone.

Althouse, 69, has repeatedly exposed his genitals in public with sexual intent. In 2012, after a Marion County jury found him guilty of that conduct again, a judge sentenced him to life without any hope of being released.

The Oregon Supreme Court, however, announced Thursday that it will consider if that amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

The sentence is disproportionate to the offense, said Daniel Carroll, the defense attorney who represented Althouse at trial, told The Oregonian/OregonLive on Friday. "No one died," he said.

The high court's consideration of the case seems particularly timely given another lengthy sentence -- 18 years -- handed down to a 49-year-old Sherwood man last week who was found guilty of masturbating or exposing himself eight times at the drive-through windows of fast-food restaurants and coffee shops.

In Althouse's case, the state likely will point out that he isn't only a serial flasher -- his life sentence was meant to reflect a long and concerning history of sex offenses. His sex crime convictions include sexual abuse in 1982 and kidnapping, sodomy and sexual abuse in 1993.

Typically, first-time public indecency offenders receive probation and counseling.

It's unclear from court records how many times Althouse has been convicted of public indecency, but when he was convicted in 2002 of the crime, court records indicate that he had at least one earlier conviction. ..Continued.. by Aimee Green

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March 28, 2015

Court keeps man on sex offender list but says 'troubling'

3-26-15 Michigan:

MOUNT CLEMENS, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan appeals court says the Legislature should take another look at the state's sex offender registry.

A three-judge panel says some people are being added to the list even when their crimes aren't sexual. The court says the result is "ambiguity" and possible misperceptions by the public.

The court's remarks came Friday in the Macomb County case of Vincent Bosca. He was convicted of unlawful imprisonment for capturing teenagers who had broken into his home in 2011 in search of marijuana. The boys said they were beaten and held against their will.

Bosca's conviction puts him on the sex offender registry, although there was no sex crime. The appeals court calls it "troubling" and suggests lawmakers consider a separate list for non-sexual offenses against children.

Bosca's name stays on the registry. ..Source.. by ToledoNews

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March 27, 2015

ACLU of Virginia denounces governor’s signing of new sex offender registry bills

3-27-2015 Virginia:

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia today condemned Governor McAuliffe’s action on two bills that will create a new sex offender registry, SB 1074 and HB 1353.

“We are disappointed in the Governor’s decision to sign these bills,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga. “Not only does it create an added punishment beyond any penalty handed down as a part of a criminal conviction, it also fails to provide any rational connection to public safety.”

The new law will require the Virginia State Police to create a supplemental sex offender registry that includes all persons convicted between July 1980 and July 1994 for a crime that would mandate sex offender registration if it occurred in 2015. The supplemental registry will contain a name, year of birth, date of the conviction, jurisdiction in which the conviction occurred, the person’s age on the date of conviction, the offense of which he was convicted, and the Code of Virginia section of the conviction.

“Many people on the list may have lived decades without reoffending only now to be stigmatized retroactively. Others listed on the new registry may be in prison, may have long since moved out of the jurisdiction or may have died,” added Gastañaga. “Moreover, the new registry does not require inclusion of address or photo to minimize the chance of misidentification, a failure that could result in the labeling of innocent Virginians as sex offenders.”

The ACLU has long opposed the creation of sex offender registries as ineffective, counter-productive, and a waste of resources better spent on counseling and treatment. It has also maintained, however, that if a sex offender registry must exist, at a minimum, it must have a clear connection to public safety. Virginia’s new law fails to provide that clear connection.

“The reality is that these public registries don’t make us or our kids safer and do nothing to reduce the risk that a sex offender will reoffend,” Gastañaga also added. “The proposed new registry is particularly egregious in its lack of safeguards to ensure that the public is given the most accurate information regarding potential sex offenders, thus failing to provide a true safety net” concluded Gastañaga. ..Source.. by Chris Graham

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Lox, bagels, juice and sex offenders: Why I invited two pariahs into my home

3-27-15 New York:

Sunday morning at 10 found me slicing the tomatoes and arranging the cheese platter. My husband was setting up the chairs. At 11, the doorbell rang. And so began my very first sex offender brunch.

What exactly is that? It’s a brunch where I invited my friends in the press to meet my friends on the sex offender registry: Josh Gravens, 28, and Galen Baughman, 31. I’ll tell you their crimes in a sec, but first let me explain why this issue interests me.

As founder of the book, blog and movement Free-Range Kids, I am always trying to figure out, as the subtitle of my book says, “How to raise safe, self-reliant children without going nuts with worry.”

I like programs that actually help kids avoid abuse, such as teaching them the three R’s: Recognize (that no one can touch where your bathing suit covers), Resist (kick, scream, run) and Report (tell me if anyone is making you uncomfortable, and I promise I won’t be mad at you).

The three R’s make kids safer and take away an abuser’s biggest asset: a child’s silence.

What I learned through my research, though, is that one thing not making kids safer is the public sex offender registry. Study after study keeps showing two things: First, that “stranger danger” is a myth. The vast majority of crimes against kids are committed by people they know.

Second: In New York State, as elsewhere, there’s been no difference in the number of sex offense arrests before and after implementing the public sex offender registry. And yet, it is very scary to send your kids outside once you see a red dot locating a sex offender on your neighborhood map.

The problem is that the registry is cluttered with people who don’t actually pose a threat to children. So while it’s easy to think “dot= monster,” many registrants are actually teens who had sex with other teens, people who urinated in public, men who visited prostitutes, etc.

A study by the Georgia Sex Offender Registration Review Board, for instance, found that of the 17,000 people on the state’s registry, just over 100 were “predators” compelled to prey on kids. But, of course, all 17,000 dots look alike.

Which brings me to my brunch.

Through my research, I’d met Josh and Galen.

Josh is a Texan who was visiting New York last week. At age 12, he played doctor with his sister. His sister told their mom, their mom called a counseling center to ask what to do, the counselor was a “mandated reporter,” and Josh ended up in juvenile prison for 31/2 years. His “therapy” there consisted of sickening things like acting out sex acts for the therapist. Josh was still a virgin!

Ever since he got out, he has been on the registry, even though his sister has long forgiven him. I wanted my guests to meet him.

I wanted them to meet Galen, too. When Galen was a 19-year-old opera student in Indiana, he met a young man, 14, at a friend’s family party. They started emailing. When the 14-year-old’s mom found out her son was writing to a gay teen, she took his computer to the local district attorney, who gave it to a cop.

The cop continued the online conversation, pretending to be the 14-year-old. He asked Galen to send him gay teen porn, and when Galen complied, he was arrested for distributing kiddie porn. On Galen’s personal computer, cops found evidence that he’d had a sexual encounter (once) with a different 14-year-old. The emails showed it was consensual, but this still constitutes rape.

He went to prison for nine years.

They told their stories to my reporter friends as we ate our brunch. Then everyone went their separate ways, filled with carrot cake to die for, and a new skepticism about just who we label a “sex offender.” ..Source.. by Skenazy is host of the reality show “World’s Worst Mom” on Discovery Life Channel. She is also a public speaker and founder of the book and blog “Free-Range Kids.”

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March 26, 2015

Ohio Supreme Court hears arguments at Mansfield Senior

3-26-15 Ohio:

MANSFIELD, Ohio--The auditorium of Mansfield Senior High School was transformed into a courtroom on Wednesday morning as the Ohio Supreme Court convened to hear oral arguments as part of the Off-Site Court program.

Eleven area high schools attended three separate sessions of the Supreme Court throughout the morning to observe the court’s proceedings, including oral arguments and a debriefing with attorneys from both sides after each session. Mansfield Senior High students also participated in a special question and answer portion with the seven justices before the day’s proceedings.

The Off-Site Court program was first created in 1987, and Wednesday’s session marked the 70th time the Supreme Court has heard oral arguments outside Columbus since the program’s inception. This is the court’s first visit to Richland County.

“We take the Supreme Court on the road, so to speak,” said Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor. “We bring it to communities and we invite students to come and be the audience for the court so the students can understand and appreciate what the Supreme Court does, and how it fits into our government here in Ohio. It is a program to enlighten to the students.”

Members of Richland County’s justice department were also present on Wednesday, including Prosecutor Bambi Couch Page and Judge Brent Robinson. Robinson emphasized the value of students witnessing a “real-life” court experience as opposed to what they might see on television.

“They actually get to see how it works and they get to see how decisions are made, which will affect the lives of everybody in Ohio,” he said. “These are all issues that could affect all of us, issues regarding driving, how school buses are operated, how roads are maintained, how juvenile adjudications are to be handled – it’s stuff that could affect all of us.”

The three cases presenting oral arguments on Wednesday all involved juveniles, which O’Connor said was purposeful.

“I chose those cases specifically because I thought they would be cases that the students could possibly identify with, and would be of interest to them,” she said. “Then it would be easier for them to be prepped to understand the oral argument and then the debriefing.”

The first case of the morning questioned whether Ohio’s juvenile sex-offender law is unconstitutional. Attorney Brooke Burns of the Ohio Public Defender’s office argued in defense of her client, D.S., who was charged in 2010 with two counts of gross sexual imposition occurring when he was 13 and 14 years old.

Juvenile court held a sexual-offender classification hearing in June 2013 and classified D.S. as a tier II juvenile sex offender, which requires him to register his address with law enforcement every 180 days for 20 years. Burns argues this punishment is unconstitutional.

“What’s amazing about oral arguments is you only get 15 minutes and as you can see, 15 minutes goes by really quickly,” said Burns in the debriefing session. “There’s all this pressure to say as much as you can and try to get through your argument. But sometimes the justices want to ask questions you were not planning on answering when they asked them, so the big thing is trying to make sure you say what you think is necessary to try and get them on your side and get their vote.”

Arguing against Burns was Michael Hendershot from the Ohio Attorney General’s appeals section. Hendershot contended that D.S.’s constitutional rights were not violated when the juvenile court classified him a sex offender, and that there was no double jeopardy or multiple punishments because there was only one conviction and then a later hearing for other consequences – as the law allows.

“You prepare thousands of different things, and the questioning focuses on maybe a dozen of those,” said Hendershot during debriefing. “If I have only one regret, then I consider that a very good argument.”

The second case argued on Wednesday addressed bus drivers’ obligations when dropping off students, citing a case where in 2009, six-year-old Amber Sallee got off the bus and ran down the same side of the street instead of crossing to her residence, despite the bus driver honking the horn to get her attention. When Sallee attempted to cross the street after the bus driver continued her route, she was hit by a car and suffered a broken femur; Salle’s family argues a bus driver’s supervisory duties include making sure a child crosses to her residence side of the road.

The third and final case of the day questioned when the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) makes specific highway improvements, do only those particular improvements need to meet current construction standards? The case referenced an incident on Sept. 12, 2009 when teenager Amber Risner was killed after the vehicle she was riding in collided with a tractor-trailer in the intersection of State Routes 220 and 32. The intersection was marked with a stop sign and a red flashing light, and yellow flashing lights faced traffic traveling in both directions on S.R. 32 – Risner’s family contends the addition of lights and signs constituted “improvements,” which requires ODOT to make changes to the intersection conforming to sight-distance standards for motorist safety. ..Source.. by Brittany Schock, Staff Reporter

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March 25, 2015

Tracking rape, on and off campus

3-25-15 National:

Campus rape is a serious problem. But while public attention is focused on students carrying mattresses and the discredited Rolling Stone report about rape at the University of Virginia, the fact is that sexual assault is more common off campus than on.

Consider this: If you lived in Gallup, New Mexico in 2013, you were 47 times more likely to be raped than if you attended Harvard, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) statistics. Yet chances are you won’t see any protesters in New Mexico. Coverage of campus rape has likely increased for a variety of reasons – the social media influence of the at-risk demographic, the ability of victims and supporters to articulate the problem and because it — like any other type of violent crime in poor communities — is more of a surprise. That’s not to lessen one or the other; just a diagnosis of the arc of public attention.

A 2014 report from the Department of Justice called Rape and Sexual Assault Victimization Among College-Age Females, 1995–2013 found that non-students aged 18-24 were 20% more likely to be sexually assaulted than students. Also, as these Reuters graphics show, the severity of the assault was worse for non-students, the rate of completed rape as opposed to other kinds of assault being 50% higher. ..Source..w/Charts.. by Lewis Braham

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March 24, 2015

Should Children Who Have Sex With Each Other Be Prosecuted?

3-24-15 National:

If two people are equally unable to give consent but have sex anyway, should either be charged with a crime?

It's a question that many college administrators wrestle with when drugs and alcohol are factors in sexual assault disputes. The verdict often seems to be that male students are uniquely responsible for ascertaining that their sexual partners are in a state of mind to consent, even when the female is the initiator and both are intoxicated.

This double standard for men seems to apply to underage teenagers as well. Take, for example, this recent story in The Courier-Journal: The Kentucky Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of "B.H.," who was 15 when he was charged with sexual misconduct and possessing pornographic material featuring a minor (the latter is a felony charge).

B.H. was in trouble for having sex with his 13-year-old girlfriend and exchanging nude pictures with her. The acts were voluntary, though neither teen could legally consent to sexual activities since they were both under age at the time.

The girl's parents went to the cops after they found out, and B.H. was prosecuted. (Even though his parents could technically have done the same thing to his girlfriend, they opted against that course of action.) He pleaded guilty, had to register as a sex offender and was remanded to a youth treatment center for almost a year. He is now challenging that outcome after the fact.

Kentucky Assistant Attorney General Gregory Fuchs maintains that B.H. pressured the girl and had been involved in one other incident—a prank of a sexual nature—that justified his punishment.

He also cites the girl's testimony that B.H. said he "would tell me what to do and how to do it," and says B.H. was more culpable because he sent the first photo and threatened to tell friends they were having sex if she didn't send him one back.

"There was only one victim in this case, C.W.," Fuchs writes, "and it was just as illegal" for B.H. to "possess child pornography"—the sexted photos—"as it would have been if he was 51 years old."

That may be a defense of what was done to B.H., but it's not a very good defense of the soundness of the law. Of course it's different for a 15-year-old to possess nude photos of a 13-year-old, compared with an old man doing the same. One is predatory and unnatural; the other is an awkward yet remarkably common part of growing up.

When authorities in various states take it upon themselves to crack down on sexting, they invariably find that half the kids are doing it. What's more likely, that half of all underage kids need to be put on a sex offender registry and packed off to reform school or that laws designed to prevent adults from abusing children were written so broadly that they are inadvertently ensnaring some unlucky young miscreants?

Even if I believed these teens were guilty of sexual crimes, I would balk at Fuchs's approach. What better way to foster unhealthy sexual predilections in a kid could there be than telling him he is an illegal exception, publicly labeling him a deviant and exiling him to a school for other deviants?

Some states have recognized the absurdity of criminalizing consensual sexual experimentation between teens, by granting exceptions if they are close in age, both underage or in relationships. As The Courier-Journal noted:

And in neighboring Ohio, the state Supreme Court in 2010 held that it was unconstitutional to criminally charge a child who was himself legally unable to consent when he engaged in sexual conduct with a same-aged peer.

"Each child is both an offender and a victim," that court said, "and the distinction between those two terms breaks down."

The distinction breaks down, except with poorly written laws and in the eyes of overzealous authorities. ..Source.. by Robby Soave

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Sex Offender Policy: Registries, Residency Restrictions, And Beyond

3-24-15 New Hampshire:

Laws limiting where sex-offenders can live have been used in many towns and states aimed at protecting vulnerable populations, especially children. But a growing chorus of critics from police to civil rights attorneys argues these laws are unconstitutional and even counterproductive. We'll look at the options that communities have in dealing with this sensitive issue. by The Exchange CLICK to listen to a 50 minute discussion


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March 22, 2015

Restricting housing for sex offenders counterproductive

More nonsense by lawmakers, who cannot cite any statistics proving there is a need for these restrictions. There is no public safety benefit in residency laws, but there is PR for the lawmaker touting them; its a ruse...
3-22-15 Connecticut:

While well intentioned, a proposal backed by Norwich state Rep. Emmett Riley that would make it nearly impossible to house former sex offenders in urban areas is "misguided and irrational" as one witness succinctly stated at a public hearing last week.

The concerns of the Norwich lawmaker are understandable. Norwich and other urban areas have been stung by the placement of former sex offenders in their communities. The burden seems unfair. The fear among families in these neighborhoods is real, even if misplaced.

The solution proposed by Senate Bill 1087 is to make Connecticut compliant with the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, requiring that sexual offenders reside at least 1,000 feet from any school or child-care center.

That would effectively block such housing in "virtually every urban area" in the state, said Eric Ellison, deputy director for parole and community services at the Department of Correction.

While forcing this housing into suburban and rural areas might provide some degree of satisfaction to cities that have grown tired of handling a disproportionate share of societal burdens, it would be, as noted above, irrational.

The treatment and support services that boost the chances of these ex-offenders not reoffending and that can help them become productive are located in the cities, as is the affordable housing.

Mr. Ellison said the state is having good success and that the rate of recidivism among sex offenders is low. The reality is that a child faces a much greater chance of being sexually assaulted by a family member or other person of authority in their life than a former sex offender being monitored nearby.

A 2000 U.S. Department of Justice report determined that strangers were the offenders in just 3 percent of sexual assaults against children under age 6, and 5 percent in the case of children 6 through 11.

If monitoring former sex offenders is the goal, making it impossible for them to find housing is not the solution, testified David McGuire, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, and the witness who called the bill irrational.

"In 2007, after residency restrictions took effect in Miami, more than 100 former sex offenders set up a shantytown under a causeway," noted Mr. McGuire.

That is not the future Connecticut or its cities want. ..Source.. by TheDay

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