October 1, 2014

ComputerCOP: the dubious “Internet Safety Software” given to US families

10-1-2014 National:

245 police agencies in 35-plus states distribute a security program that's not so secure.

For years, local law enforcement agencies around the country have told parents that installing ComputerCOP software is the “first step” in protecting their children online.

Police chiefs, sheriffs, and district attorneys have handed out hundreds of thousands of copies of the disc to parents for free at schools, libraries, and community events, usually as a part of an “Internet Safety” outreach initiative. (You can see the long list of ComputerCOP outlets here.) The packaging typically features the agency’s official seal and the chief’s portrait, with a signed message warning of the “dark and dangerous off-ramps” of the Internet.

As official as it looks, ComputerCOP is actually just spyware, generally bought in bulk from a New York company that appears to do nothing but market this software to local government agencies using shady information.

The way ComputerCOP works is neither safe nor secure. It isn’t particularly effective either, except for generating positive PR for the law enforcement agencies distributing it. As security software goes, we observed a product with a keystroke-capturing function, also called a “keylogger,” that could place a family’s personal information at extreme risk by transmitting those keystoke logs over the Internet to third-party servers without encryption.

That means many versions of ComputerCOP leave children (and their parents, guests, friends, and anyone using the affected computer) exposed to the same predators, identity thieves, and bullies that police claim the software protects against.

Furthermore, by providing a free keylogging program—software that operates without even the most basic security safeguards—law enforcement agencies are passing around what amounts to a spying tool that could easily be abused by people who want to snoop on spouses, roommates, or co-workers.

EFF conducted a security review of ComputerCOP while also following the paper trail of public records to see how widely the software has spread. Based on ComputerCOP’s own marketing information, we identified approximately 245 agencies in more than 35 states, plus the US Marshals, that have used public funds (often the proceeds from property seized during criminal investigations) to purchase and distribute ComputerCOP. One sheriff’s department even bought a copy for every family in its county. ..Continued.. by Dave Maass, for the EFF

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Creator of spying app arrested

10-1-2014 Texas:

The creator of StealthGenie, a mobile app marketed as a tool for spying on cheating spouses and keeping tabs on children, has been arrested, according to federal authorities.

The FBI said the case marks the first time anyone has faced criminal charges for marketing and selling such an app.

StealthGenie could monitor calls, texts, videos and other communications on mobile phones without detection. It's among a handful of mobile applications called "stalker apps."

"Selling spyware is not just reprehensible, it's a crime," said Assistant U.S. Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell. "Apps like StealthGenie are expressly designed for use by stalkers and domestic abusers who want to know every detail of a victim's personal life -- all without the victim's knowledge."

The app's website appeared to have been taken down Tuesday morning.

Hammad Akbar, 31, of Lahore, Pakistan, was arrested Saturday in Los Angeles and appeared in court Monday. He faces charges of conspiracy, sale of a surreptitious interception device, advertisement of a known interception device and advertising a device as a surreptitious interception device.

Authorities indicted him in Virginia, where a data center that hosted StealthGenie is located, an FBI statement said.

According to the indictment, users of the app had to access a person's phone for just a few minutes to install the app.

"As technology continues to evolve, the FBI will investigate and bring to justice those who use illegal means to monitor and track individuals without their knowledge," said Andrew McCabe, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Washington Field Office, in the statement. ..Source.. by Doug Gross

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September 30, 2014

Only Few Sexual Assault Perpetrators Get Expelled, Survey

9-30-2014 National:

A recent "Huffington Post" survey found that less than one-third of college students found guilty of sexual assault are expelled.

The survey found that sexual assault perpetrators were expelled only in 30 percent of cases and received suspensions in 47 percent cases. Nearly 17 percent were subjected to educational sanctions and 13 percent were placed on probation sometimes, besides other disciplinary actions.

Researchers said that Association for Student Conduct Administration were partly to blame for telling universities not to be "punitive" when handling campus rape.

The organization highlights that "campus proceedings are educational and the process should not be punitive. Rape' is a legal, criminal term," ASCA President Laura Bennett said. "We're trying to continue to share we're not court, we don't want to be court - we want to provide an administrative, educative process," she said, Jezebel reports.

"The worst thing we can do is tell someone they can't go to school at our institution," said Bennett, who feels that sanctions could discourage victims from reporting attacks, Huffington Post reports.

The Huffington Post surveyed 50 colleges and universities, public and private, to determine types of punishments handed down to students responsible for campus sexual assaults. Overall 32 schools provided data.

The Huffington Post also acquired another set of data from the U.S. Department of Justice to ascertain how 125 higher education institutions treated reports of campus sexual assaults from fiscal year 2011 through 2013. An analysis of the data found that 13 to 30 percent of students guilty of sexual assault were expelled, and between 29 and 68 percent were suspended.

Several college administrators, attorneys, experts and consultants believe that students found guilty of campus sexual assaults shouldn't be allowed to enter school.

However, sexual assault offenders at the University of Kansas, Michigan State University and the University of Toledo, weren't suspended or expelled, but instead received probation and educational sanctions. In another incident at James Madison University, students found responsible for an assault were penalized with "expulsion after graduation."

"By no means do I think sexual assault is a funny topic. I've had friends that have been victims of things like that. I think it's absolutely disgusting. If I could take back the comments that were said or at least change them in a way I would've expressed them in a sober manner, I absolutely would," One Kansas student, who only went by Arthur to protect his identity, said, KCTV5 reports. ..Source.. by Stephen Adkins

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September 29, 2014

Easton settles Boobies costs for $385,000

For background and earlier articles see HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE
9-29-2014 Pennsylvania:

Easton Area School District has agreed to pay $385,000 to attorneys who successfully challenged the district's policy banning breast cancer awareness bracelets with the slogan "I ♥ Boobies!"

The settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania ends nearly four years of legal action on behalf of two former middle-school students who challenged the policy after being threatened with discipline in October 2010 for wearing the popular rubber wrist bands.

Brianna Hawk and Kayla Martinez argued that the ban violated their First Amendment rights to free speech and sued the district in federal court in Philadelphia. U.S. District Judge Mary A. McLaughlin ruled in favor of the girls, and the school district appealed, saying it should have the power to regulate lewd or vulgar messages in school.

After hearing arguments in the case twice, the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals found in a 9-5 opinion that the breast cancer awareness message, "I ♥ Boobies! Keep A Breast" is protected by the First Amendment, notwithstanding its potential to offend, because it is a social or political statement.

Encouraged by the dissenting opinion that the decision "entirely eviscerates the school district's authority," Easton officials asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the case. The high court announced in March it would not take the appeal.

Under the federal Civil Rights Act, anyone who wins a lawsuit challenging a violation of a civil right such as freedom of expression can ask a judge to award attorney fees and court costs.

ACLU attorney Mary Catherine Roper said Monday her organization and the school district reached an agreement on attorney fees and costs through negotiations, rather than continuing to litigate over what rate and how many hours were appropriate to determine the attorney fees.

Roper said Hawk and Martinez did not seek money in their lawsuit, and that the fees paid by the school district under the settlement agreement will compensate the ACLU for its work on the case.

According to Roper, the district must pay the fees in three installments: $150,000 in a lump sum, to be made within 30 days; $100,000 on Jan. 1; and $135,000 on July 1.

Easton schools solicitor John Freund said the settlement amount is a substantial reduction from the $499,000 the ACLU initially demanded. The entire $385,000 payment to the ACLU will be funded by taxpayers, Freund said. The school district's own legal fees totaled $110,000, and insurance covered 90 percent of that cost, he said.

The fees Easton Area School District will pay in the "Boobies" case are more substantial than in other recent Pennsylvania student-speech cases.

Pocono Mountain School District in 2013 paid $90,000 to lawyers after the 3rd Circuit ruled a fifth-grade girl's First Amendment rights were violated when school officials refused to let her hand out invitations to a church Christmas party.

A federal court in Scranton awarded $246,048 in fees and $29,403 in costs to the ACLU after the 3rd Circuit ruled in 2010 that Blue Mountain School District officials violated an eighth-grade girl's rights by suspending her after she lampooned her principal on a Myspace page she created. ..Source.. by Peter Hall

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Billing for rape: Louisiana sex assault victims often face hefty bills for medical care

9-29-2014 Louisiana:

She was questioned, prodded and photographed over the course of six hours. Nurses collected samples of tissue and fluid from her mouth and her body. They took her urine, drew her blood and bagged her clothes. They offered her drugs to prevent pregnancy, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Then, they led her to a private shower and sent her home.

Her life, she felt, was now divided into two eras: Pre-rape and post-rape. Eight days into the shock of this new reality, she received a letter she couldn't comprehend.

The cost of some of the medical services she received totaled nearly $2,000, it said. Insurance would pay $1,400. She would owe the remaining $600 -- for her share of the cost of two HIV drugs and two other medications designed to stave off side-effects of those drugs.

She folded the papers, stuffed them in her purse and tried to calm down. A few days later, another bill would arrive, showing an additional $1,700 in charges for her care, including an $860 fee for her visit to the emergency room.

"You never really think, 'Is rape covered by insurance?'" the New Orleans woman said. NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune does not generally identify victims of sexual crimes.

The letter from the hospital was no aberration. In Louisiana, victims of sex crimes often face paralyzing bills for forensic medical exams and related care, even though state and federal guidelines require that many of these services be provided at no cost to the victim. And there's little continuity in how rape victims are treated from parish to parish and hospital to hospital.

While the state's Crime Victims Reparations Fund does permit victims to apply for reimbursement for some medical expenses, there are strict limitations regarding who can qualify, including a requirement that the victim file a police report. Research by the U.S. Department of Justice indicates nearly two-thirds of sex assault victims don't ever go to law enforcement.

Victim advocates worry that prohibitive costs will only increase the likelihood that rape victims will suffer quietly without seeking the medical assistance they may need.

"Sexual assault is already one of the most underreported crimes, period," said Amanda Tonkovich, a counselor at New Orleans Family Justice Center and coordinator of the New Orleans Sexual Assault Response Team. "Even if people don't want to report, we want them to come to the hospital and make sure they're OK, medically speaking." ..Continued ..LOADED with addition info.. by By Rebecca Catalanello, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

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Department Announces $17.6 Million in Awards to Support Sex Offender Registration, Intervention and Treatment

9-29-2014 Washington DC:

The U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) Office of Justice Programs (OJP) today announced more than $17 million in Fiscal Year 2014 grant assistance for states, territories, tribal governments and other entities to use to implement, enhance and maintain sex offender programming throughout the United States.

"These awards provide a wide range of assistance to help states, communities, tribes, and even institutions of higher learning manage sex offenders," said Dawn Doran, Acting Director of the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking (SMART). "They will give jurisdictions the tools they need to protect their citizens, intervene in cases involving deviant sexual behavior, and offer families, neighbors, and students valuable information and resources."

These grants, administered by OJP's SMART Office, provide funding for the implementation of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), the development of a campus sexual assault perpetrator treatment program, continued support for sex offender management fellows and the SORNA Tribal Training and Technical Assistance Program. They also support partnerships between the SMART Office and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), as well as the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW).

Of the $17 million awarded, nearly $13 million will be used to develop or enhance sex offender registration programs, improve law enforcement and other justice agency information sharing as it relates to sex offender registration and notification, and implement other efforts aimed at furthering the objectives of SORNA.

More than $1.3 million will be used to create and implement a treatment curriculum for individuals who commit sexual assault on college or university campuses through the SMART FY 14 Campus Sexual Assault Perpetrator Treatment Project.

The SMART Office continues to collaborate with OJJDP in support of the Youth with Sexual Behavior Problems (YSBP) Program. The SMART Office contributed $900,000 to the program to help fund multidisciplinary approaches to treating youth with sexual behavior problems and their child victims and families, document the evolution of intervention models developed to respond to these cases, and evaluate the YSBP program. For the first time, these funds will be available to develop YSBP programs in Indian Country. Additionally, the SMART Office is collaborating with NIJ by providing $1 million to support research related to a key component of SORNA: information sharing and its effect on tracking sex offenders and promoting community awareness.

A supplemental award of $45,000 was made for the Sex Offender Management Fellowship Program to help SMART broaden programming that supports the fellowship that focuses on victims' issues in sex offender management.

The SMART Office also continues to support the SORNA Tribal Training and Technical Assistance Program, awarding $500,000 to provide training and technical assistance to help tribal jurisdictions substantially implement SORNA. This year, funds will be used to qualitatively evaluate SORNA implementation in Indian Country.

An award of $899,748 will provide continued support for the maintenance, operations and enhancements of NSOPW, the Sex Offender Registry Tool, the SORNA Exchange Portal and the Tribe and Territory Sex Offender Registry System. NSOPW contains links to state, territory, and tribal sex offender public websites to provide a free service to the public to search for registered sex offenders on a national scale and provides prevention and educational resources to users. ..Source.. by Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs

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Federal court rules police raid of barber shop excessive, unreasonable

Lets see, when sex offender addresses are checked, what type of "Show of force" is used? Address checking is likened to an "Administrative Check on Licenses."
9-29-2014 Florida:

A panel of judges chastised Florida sheriffs for a routine inspection of a barbershop that included masked officers, handcuffs, and illegal search as being a violation of the Constitution.

The three-judge panel held that deputes of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office violated the civil rights of those inside an Orlando barber shop during a warrantless raid of the business conducted in 2010. The court maintained that the deputies violated the barber’s Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures as they served as the “muscle” for a routine inspection of the business by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR).

Although the action had been ostensibly to check the licenses of the barbers as allowed by law, court documents tell of an armored and masked group of deputies who stormed the business with guns drawn, barking orders.

“We first held nineteen years ago that conducting a run-of-the-mill administrative inspection as though it is a criminal raid, when no indication exists that safety will be threatened by the inspection, violates clearly established Fourth Amendment rights,” wrote Judge Robin S. Rosenbaum of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in the panel’s ruling on Berry v Leslie last week.

“We reaffirmed that principle in 2007 when we held that other deputies of the very same Orange County Sheriff’s Office who participated in a similar warrantless criminal raid under the guise of executing an administrative inspection were not entitled to qualified immunity…Today, we repeat that same message once again. We hope that the third time will be the charm,” Rosenbaum said.

Rosenbaum, a recent appointment from President Obama, and Judge Charles R. Wilson, an appointment by President Clinton, held the majority of the three-jurist panel. Judge William H. Pryor, a 2004 appointment of President George W. Bush, dissented on part and concurred on part.

The action that gave birth to the federal lawsuit occurred on August 21, 2010 when members of the OCSO descended on Strictly Skillz barbershop which, being just before the first day of school, was packed with customers. According to court documents, eight to ten deputies, including narcotics agents, blocked the entrances and exits so that no one could leave, then handcuffed and searched the occupants of the business. This was so that regulatory inspectors from the DBPR could verify that the facility and those who were working there were properly licensed by the state to give haircuts.

Barbering without a license is a second-degree misdemeanor in Florida. Although a series of similar raids conducted by the DBPR on nine other shops led to 35 arrests on the seldom-used charge, the barbers at Strictly Skillz were within the law.

A number of the barbers were handcuffed and detained for approximately an hour while deputies, not DBPR inspectors, searched their workstations and parts of the building that were not connected with cutting hair, although the agency had not procured a search warrant.

One of the barbers, a lawful concealed carry permit holder, was disarmed after he was handcuffed. According to court documents, when the legally armed barber asked deputies what he had done wrong, he was told, “It’s a pretty big book, I’m pretty sure I can find something in here to take you to jail for.”

When OCSO agents and deputies in fact found no violations, the barbers were released. No citations were issued or charges filed by either DBPR or deputies as a result of the inspection.

The court was not impressed by the fact DBPR field inspectors had conducted a walk-through of Strictly Skillz just two days before the raid, in which they verified that the barbers’ licenses were valid and found no violations. DBPR is permitted to inspect a barbershop only once every two years. Judge Rosenbaum wrote that this fact made the “show of force and search were all the more unreasonable.”

In the end, the majority of the panel held that the action the deputies named as defendants in the lawsuit were involved in was not an inspection for barber licenses, which they were not authorized to perform, but an unlawful, warrantless search. As such, they affirmed a lower court’s ruling that the deputies were not immune from civil liability from the barber plantiffs.

“Here — where the authorized purpose of the inspection was simply to check for barbering licenses and sanitation violations, and there is no indication that the defendants had any reason to believe that the inspection would be met with violence — the manner in which the supposed inspection of Strictly Skillz was undertaken was unreasonable from its inception and was, in fact, a search,” wrote Rosenbaum.

Judge Pryor, in his dissent, concurred with the majority that an unlawful search was held that violated the barber’s civil rights, however he argued that the argument presented against one of the deputies was not compelling enough to rule against all of them. ..Source.. by Chris Eger

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Sex offenders offended by lie tests

9-29-2014 New Jersey:

TRENTON — Convicted sex offenders on the streets of New Jersey are asking Mercer County’s top judge to block parole officers from giving them polygraph tests to make sure they’re staying out of trouble.

A convicted child molester, identified only as J.B. in court papers, is contending that because lie detector tests aren’t reliable enough for use at a trial, they can’t be used to lock up a parolee for a new violation.

J.B. was part of a wider class-action lawsuit by Jersey sex offenders that argued that restrictions on them using social media and submitting to lie testing were violations of their constitutional rights.

In a lengthy opinion written by Superior Court Judge Jack Sabatino, virtually all the molester constitutional arguments were shot down. The appeals panel ruled, in short, that public safety outweighed the molesters’ rights.

“Nevertheless,’’ Sabatino wrote, “appellants have at least preliminarily raised genuine and material issues about the actual utility of polygraphs (for lifetime parolees) particularly in light of the long-standing case law underscoring the unreliable and controversial nature of this testing device

“For these many reasons, an evidentiary hearing is vital to explore the existence and strength of what the State asserts are the therapeutic, rehabilitative, and risk management benefits of polygraph examinations as administered to released sex offenders.

“Such a hearing ideally should encompass expert testimony, cross-examination, and neutral judicial inquiry. Appropriate findings of fact (and, on the points where the experts may disagree, findings of credibility) must also be generated. That amplified record, along with detailed factual findings, will enable this reviewing court’s more informed ultimate resolution of the competing constitutional interests at stake.’’

The job of doing all that fell to Mercer Assignment Judge Mary Jacobson, who held a hearing on the issue Monday, and is expected to hear more legal arguments before making a call.

In the appeals ruling handed down a year ago, Mercer’s go-to judge was told to have her review of the issue completed by April 30.

But that was before Jacobson also ended up refereeing the complex Bridgegate case involving Gov. Chris Christie, as well as the fiasco of succession that following the conviction of ex-mayor Tony Mack on federal corruption charges. ..Source.. by Paul Mickle

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Appeal success frees offender

9-29-2014 Oregon:

Sex offender. Crime victim. Police informant.

Joseph Ferraro of Eugene falls into the category of “all of the above.”

But he had none of those labels until after he began dating Selena Irene York, the woman who gained notoriety for poisoning a former landlord with an antifreeze-spiked peach smoothie.

Ferraro was arrested in December 2010 and charged with sexually abusing a teenage girl. York, who lived with him at the time, emerged as a key witness in the case.

Ferraro was later found guilty and sentenced to prison, but left jail Wednesday as a free man after resolving the case in a plea bargain sparked by a successful appeal.

Ferraro’s case first took an unusual turn in early 2011, when he found out that York was draining money from his bank accounts while he awaited trial in the Lane County Jail. Left with no cash, Ferraro struggled to find an attorney to represent him.

After learning of the thefts, Ferraro fired off a jailhouse letter to police in Utah, implicating York in the 2008 poisoning of a 76-year-old man. Authorities said Ferraro’s letter gave them the break they needed to charge York with attempted murder.

Two months after sending the letter, Ferraro was convicted of 21 felony sex abuse charges, following a trial at which York testified against him.

Lane County Circuit Judge Lauren Holland subsequently sentenced Ferraro to 10 years in prison. But the Oregon Court of Appeals overturned the conviction in July, ruling that Holland had improperly denied Ferraro’s request to postpone his trial in order to give his attorney sufficient time to prepare a defense.

Rather than schedule a second trial, Lane County prosecutors struck a deal with Ferraro that allowed him to plead guilty on Wednesday to a single count of third-degree sodomy. The remaining 20 felony charges were dismissed.

Holland sentenced Ferraro, 40, to three years in prison. But he was released from custody later Wednesday because he’d already spent nearly four years behind bars since the day of his arrest.

“Of course, the state is not happy the case has been reversed,” Assistant District Attorney David Schwartz said in court. “That being said, we’re satisfied with this outcome ... because he has served a significant amount of time (in prison).”

Had the conviction not been overturned on appeal, Ferraro — with earned “good time” credit — would not have been eligible for release until January 2019 at the earliest, a state prison spokeswoman said Wednesday.

According to the Court of Appeals opinion, Ferraro and York were living together in Eugene when police began investigating allegations that he had sexually abused and sodomized a girl who was younger than 16. Ferraro admitted the crimes to investigators, and York — who also knew the victim — became a central witness in the case.

A judge initially denied Ferraro a public defender because it appeared that he could afford to hire his own attorney, according to the opinion.

But Ferraro soon learned that someone had looted his bank accounts and sold his assets using a forged power of attorney document. York was later convicted of being responsible for the thefts.

After finding out a few months before his eventual trial that York had stolen his cash, Ferraro wrote a letter to police in Vernal, Utah, claiming that York had boasted to him about poisoning a man who had given her and her child a place to live. Ferraro’s letter mentioned that York had mixed antifreeze into the victim’s peach smoothie, and had planned to obtain power of attorney in order to take control of the victim’s property and finances.

The victim was hospitalized after being poisoned, but survived. He was initially reluctant to believe that York would intentionally harm him. Without his cooperation, the case stalled.

Police said Ferraro’s letter revived the investigation, and York was charged with attempted murder. She pleaded guilty in 2012 to a reduced charge of aggravated assault, and was sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

Ferraro, meanwhile, ended up getting court-appointed attorney Gary Deal to represent him in the sex abuse case. But Deal had just 34 days to prepare his defense prior to trial, according to the opinion.

The appeals court ruled that Holland should have given Deal more time to investigate the case. The defense attorney had been working to obtain evidence or find witnesses who might have impeached the credibility of several other witnesses, including York, according to the opinion.

Ferraro’s defense theory involved the idea that York and the victim had a motive to lie, and that he had confessed to sexually abusing the girl as part of a plan to help York, according to the opinion. The Register-Guard generally does not identify crime victims.

Ferraro is now required to register as a sex offender. Deal said Wednesday in court that Ferraro agreed to plead guilty in order to get out of prison, and hopes to now get back on his feet with the help of friends and family. ..Source.. by Jack Moran

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