October 21, 2014

Federal government says state's sex offender registry program still compliant with federal law

10-21-2014 South Dakota:

PIERRE, South Dakota — The U.S. Department of Justice has reaffirmed South Dakota's compliance with a national sex offender registration act.

Attorney General Marty Jackley says the state's Sex Offender Registry continues to comply with the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act.

South Dakota currently has 3,300 registered sex offenders living in the state.

Jackely says the state has a compliance rate of 98.9 percent and has had only 36 instances of non-compliance.

South Dakota was the originally the fourth registry in the nation to be certified.

South Dakota finished its renewal process in May. The Department of Justice reaffirmed the state's compliance status this week. ..Source.. by Daily Journal

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Citizen Pulls Over Police Officer

10-21-2014 Washington:

Citizen's arrests date back to medieval times. They are arrests made by a person who is not acting as a sworn law-enforcement official. Generally, citizens are encouraged to be mindful of unlawfulness and to take action when they see it.

In an attempt to bring attention to the issue of unlawful traffic stops by police impersonators, Gavin Seim of Washington state flagged down a police officer.

The former Republican congressional candidate and self-proclaimed "liberty speaker" stopped a Washington state police officer last week because he was driving an unmarked vehicle.

Seim asked the officer if it was a registered unmarked vehicle for undercover work.

When the officer replied that it was a patrol car, Seim informed him of the law, saying, "You're not allowed to have patrol cars that are unmarked, are you aware of that?"

In the state of Washington, police are allowed to drive unmarked vehicles for special undercover work but not for regular patrols. This is not a national law.

Seim then went through all the normal steps of a traffic stop: taking the officer's name and asking to see his license. Then after a lengthy discussion about the law, Seim let him off with a warning. He urged the officer to speak with his bosses about their illegal patrol cars.

As odd as this may seem, Seim explains that he has a reason for this type of activism. He says that police using unmarked vehicles for regular patrols puts citizens in danger, because people can never be sure if they're being pulled over by actual cops. On his blog he wrote, "If you think it's not a serious issue, try asking those that have been raped or lost loves [sic] ones because of unmarked cars." ..Source..w/video.. by Emily Scharnhorst

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October 20, 2014

Jean Auldridge, longtime director of C.U.R.E.-Virginia, dies at 83

10-20-2014 Virginia:

For 25 years, Jean Auldridge gave encouragement and hope to some of Virginia’s most forgotten citizens: prison inmates and their families.

From 1989 until recently, she served first as director and later as president of Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants-Virginia, better known as C.U.R.E., a nonprofit advocacy group with branches around the state.

In failing health for five years, she died Oct. 10 at her Northern Virginia home in Vienna at age 83.

Mrs. Auldridge learned about C.U.R.E. while working as an executive secretary on Capitol Hill to Sen. Robert T. Stafford, R-Vt., and met Charles and Pauline Sullivan, who came to see him.

The Sullivans had been jailed in Texas while protesting U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. “They saw the horrible conditions (that prisoners lived in) and founded C.U.R.E.,” said Mrs. Auldridge’s daughter, Judith Anne Fender of Falls Church.

An initial member of the state chapter, Mrs. Auldridge applied 35 years of savvy in dealing with legislators and lobbyists to educate and influence Virginia legislators for what one friend called “fair and common-sense prison reform.”

She dealt with issues including restrictions on family visits to prisoners, shipping inmates out of state, closings of prisons to direct media access, use of unnecessary force and abuse, geriatric parole, imprisonment past recommended sentences, access to health care, privacy of prison mail, telephone rates and restoration of voting rights.

Not the type to lead protests, Mrs. Auldridge arranged for legislators to speak at C.U.R.E. meetings “where people came in mad and would be saying not-so-nice things to them,” Fender said.

“She felt the only way change could be made was by having dialogue. She was good at bringing people together.”

She fielded calls from prisoners and their families as well as letters, which she always answered with her own handwritten letters.

Mrs. Auldridge also comforted people overwhelmed by the incarceration of their loved ones.

“I remember that she invited over a woman whose son had just been sent to prison,” Fender recalled.

“The woman was beside herself with hurt and upset. Through many conversations, my mother showed her that she and her husband could live again. There was something to live for.”

Mrs. Auldridge “had a heart of gold, but she wasn’t naive,” Fender said. “Not everyone could be rehabilitated.”

A believer in rehabilitation and preparing often poorly educated prisoners for their release from prison, “she worked a bit with re-entry issues,” Fender said.

“She thought that only through close contact with family and friends could inmates become successful in society and that it was better if we didn’t treat them like second-class citizens.”

She not only talked the talk, but also welcomed a released inmate into her home. The man, who lived with her family about three years, delivered the eulogy at the funeral of her husband, David Auldridge, who died in 2008. She also found living situations for at least three other released inmates.

Born Mary Jean Williams in Washington, she grew up in Vienna and graduated from Falls Church High School. She worked on Capitol Hill from 1963 until she retired in January 1989.

A family genealogist, she had been active in raising funds to restore Chapman’s Mill in Broad Run, once owned by an ancestor, and was a member at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Alexandria, where a funeral was held Friday. Burial was in National Memorial Park in Fairfax County.

In her final weeks, she received an outpouring of letters from those she worked so tirelessly to help.

A death row inmate, who had been four hours away from execution and whose life suddenly was spared by an effort to which Mrs. Auldridge contributed, wrote, “I feel you made so many good and caring changes in so many lives that karma will be good to you.”

Another man wrote, “Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of your years of dedicated and selfless sacrifice and devotion to our cause. Without wonderful people like you championing our cause, we would not have a voice.”

Survivors, besides her daughter, include a son, John Robert Fender of Dillwyn; a sister, Harriet Williams of Matlacha, Fla.; a grandson and two great-grandchildren. ..Source..

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Teens Still Sending Naked Selfies

10-20-2014 Utah:

A new study from the University of Utah confirms that substantial numbers of teens are sexting – sending and receiving explicit sexual images via cellphone. Though the behavior is widely studied, the potentially serious consequences of the practice led the researchers to more accurately measure how frequently teens are choosing to put themselves at risk in this fashion.

The study surveyed 1,130 undergraduate students about their experiences sexting in high school. Nearly 20 percent reported they had sent a nude photo of themselves to another via cellphone and 38 percent had received such a picture. Of the number who had received a sext, nearly one in five had forwarded the picture to someone else.

“The results are nearly identical to the findings from our 2013 study of high school students,” said Don Strassberg, professor of psychology at the University of Utah and lead author on both studies. “We believe the consistency reflects a valid estimate of the prevalence of teen sexting – and the numbers are considerable.”

Strassberg points out the risks of using a cellphone to send intimate messages goes well beyond that of sharing say, print photographs as a form of flirting.

“Nothing has changed in that realm – except that the technology makes it easy and thus, more vulnerable to misuse,” he said. “You lose control of the image the moment you push ‘send.’ From there the risks, which can be especially grave for teens, range from embarrassment and humiliation to unwanted sexual advances to cyberbullying and blackmail, and though rare, possibly to felony charges for pornography trafficking because they are minors.”

According to Strassberg, the results of the two sexting studies from his lab, as well as those from studies conducted across the U.S., demonstrate that sending naked selfies is not limited to former U.S. congressmen or Hollywood starlets, but is going on in high schools across the country and in significant numbers. This behavior continues, despite the potentially serious consequences that can occur when sexting goes wrong.

How the study was conducted

The research, published online in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, was conducted at the University of Utah over a three-year period. Participants were students enrolled in undergraduate psychology classes and queried about their experiences sexting during high school – after 2007, when it became more commonplace. Though the research was completed at a single, public institution, a quarter of the 1,130 students surveyed attended high school outside Utah, and 7 percent outside the United States, providing a measure of economic and geographic diversity.

In addition, the definition of “sext” used in the study was very specific – sending, receiving and forwarding sexually explicit cellphone photos that reveal genitals of either sex or female breasts. The specificity of the definition and study design were intended to overcome the methodological variety of other previous studies and draw more reliable conclusions about how widespread sexting is.

“Sexting is far from a rare occurrence,” said Strassberg, “and the ability of a recipient to forward on a sext to others can be problematic, especially for young women who share an explicit photo. Because once a sext has been sent, the sender has no control over who, or how many, will eventually see that picture. Other than the adolescent mentality that overestimates benefits over risks, we don’t yet know why teens are choosing to put themselves at risk.”

And although men and women both sext, there are striking differences between the sexes. Equal numbers of men and women reported that they had sent a sext, but significantly more men than women said they had received a sext – 47.1 percent of males versus 32.1 percent of females. That may be in large part because of the participants who had received a sext, men were significantly more likely to have forwarded the picture than were women, 24.2 percent versus 13 percent.

Who gets sexts? Mostly “boyfriend/girlfriends,” although women indicated that as the target 83 percent of the time, while for men it was 55 percent. Men sent sexts to “a friend (not a boyfriend/girlfriend)” 31 percent of the time versus 15 percent for the women in the survey. Strikingly, men said they sexted “someone I wanted to date or hook up with” (12 percent) or “an acquaintance I just met” (2.4 percent), while women did neither. Strassberg concludes that these differences, which are all statistically significant, are consistent with findings that men have more positive attitudes toward casual sex than do women.

Researchers also looked at the role of religiosity in a teen’s sexting behavior. Participants were asked to rate the importance of religion in their lives on a five-point scale from “extremely important” to “not at all important.” Those describing religion as extremely important were far less likely to have sent a sext than others, only 4.6 percent for males and 6.9 percent for females. The same difference between those rating religion as extremely important and others held for those having received a sext – only 10.8 percent for males and 10.7 for females – even though they have less control over receiving than sending.

Strassberg concludes that there are still a number of important questions about teen sexting that need reliable answers before adults can decide how – or even if – they should respond to the popular phenomenon. Further study is warranted to better understand teen motives, get a clearer sense of their appreciation of possible consequences of sexting and whether sexting increases or decreases initiation of physical sexual interaction, among other issues. ..Source.. by Research from the U News

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Jacques: Could your teen face child porn charges?

10-20-2014 Michigan:

Michigan teens beware. An indiscreet photo on your phone or computer could land you in court as a felony sex offender.

Sex has always preoccupied teens. With the broad proliferation of cellphones and social media, however, young people have a wealth of new ways to make bad decisions.

"Anyone who has a teenager — or has been one — knows that they are impulsive, they feel that they are invincible, and may not understand the long-term implications or the gravity of their actions," says Rana Elmir, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.

Sexting could even place teens on the sex offender registry, Elmir says.

Consider what's going on right now in Rochester Community Schools, where 30 high school students could face felony charges for sending and spreading suggestive pictures of themselves and other teens.

And Michigan State Police officials are investigating high school students in Romeo for sexting.

It's ironic that child pornography laws designed to protect young people could be turned on these same youth.

"The prosecution of these children would go against the intent of the laws that were meant to protect children from adults," Elmir says.

The Oakland County Sheriff's Department is investigating the Rochester situation after receiving a report last month from a police liaison officer at the school. Rochester Schools spokeswoman Debra Hartman says school officials didn't alert the Sheriff's Department and know little about the specifics of the case.

Paul Walton, chief assistant prosecutor for Oakland County, says the Prosecutor's Office hasn't seen any of the details of the Rochester case yet, though one fact is certain.

"There is no such thing as a sexting charge," says Walton.

That means teens can potentially be charged with very serious felonies relating to child pornography. The creation, distribution, solicitation or possession of sexually explicit material of a minor under 18 is a felony in Michigan. If charged as adults, students could get prison time.

Teens under 17 are considered juveniles and likely face much lighter punishment, Walton says. The Rochester students involved are under 17.

But the experience could still haunt them for life.

Given the wide number of youth that participate in sexting, education is a much better approach than criminalization. A study from researchers at Drexel University earlier this year found that 54 percent of college students surveyed had sent or received sexually explicit images or text images before the age of 18.

Walton says school officials often make decisions regarding how to handle instances involving sexting and similar behavior. Schools should warn students about the dangers of sexting.

And many schools in Oakland County have worked with County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper to present middle and high school students with the consequences they could face.

Yet school districts should stop short at turning such cases over to the police.

This is a matter best handled between the students and their parents. Just as parents have to talk to their children about the dangers of drugs and sex, they now have to include subjects like sexting and social media bullying.

And there should be ramifications for such behavior — perhaps suspension from school, getting grounded or lost phone privileges. But legal action that could impact a teen's future doesn't protect anyone.

"While there's no doubt that the students used poor judgment and should deal with the consequences of their actions, criminal charges are a hard price to pay for teens exploring their sexuality," Elmir says. "We can use this as a teachable moment without throwing the book at them." ..Source.. by Ingrid Jacques is deputy editorial page editor of The Detroit News.

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October 19, 2014

Feds: Michigan teen cyberstalked for 5 years for nude pics

10-19-2014 National:

She was just 13 when the cyber-stalking started.

The Michigan teen had sent naked pictures of herself to a man named Bruce in Florida, records show.

What followed was a hellish nightmare: For the next five years, the girl received nonstop text messages and emails from strangers, demanding she send them nude pictures of herself – or they would post the explicit pictures they already had of her on the Internet.

Scared and intimidated, she complied – but suffered silently.

Twice, she attempted suicide. She pleaded with the stalkers to stop.

They refused.

In a cautionary tale that's unfolding in U.S. District Court, the FBI says it has arrested a Florida man who was part of a years-long extortion scheme that involved taunting and blackmailing a teenage girl in St. Clair County. Her identity and hometown have not been disclosed.

According to a criminal complaint unsealed today, the girl spent five years living in fear before she finally went to the authorities last month. She had reached a breaking point, as she noted in one of her emails to a man described as Suspect No. 5:

"I don't understand why you can't leave me alone. I'm already in therapy, I've gone to psych hospital twice now for trying to commit suicide. Are you trying to kill me," the girl wrote in a March 8 email, which was disclosed in court documents.

Within weeks of going to the authorities, an electronic paper trail led the FBI to a Tallahassee, Fla. man named Bruce Powell, 26.

At 10:35 p.m. Tuesday, an FBI agent spotted Powell outside his Tallahassee apartment. He was arrested and charged with cyberstalking and child pornography.

His arrest, records show, came three days after he allegedly sent what is presumably his last threatening email to the Michigan girl.

"This is literally your last chance to answer me," Powell allegedly wrote in an Oct. 11 email to the girl. " You have 24 hours. I know where you are, I know where your family is, all will be exposed unless you answer."

According to the U.S. Attorneys Office in Detroit, Powell was ordered detained in Florida today and is awaiting extradition to Michigan. During his detention hearing, authorities said, Powell admitted he was the stranger sending all the threatening texts and emails to the Michigan girl.

A lawyer for Powell has not yet been assigned in the case.

The case should serve as a wake-up call for parents, said U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade.

"Parents should talk to their kids about the very real danger of online predators. The Internet is a window to the world, and predators are lurking outside, looking for ways to get in. When you send private information and photos to strangers, they obtain power over you," she said. "Parents should also tell their kids that no amount of shame should prevent them from asking for help when they find themselves in bad situations. Victims sometimes suffer in silence and make the situation worse by complying with the demands of predators because they are too ashamed to admit their own roles."

Here, according to court documents, is how this case unfolded:

At 13, the girl communicated with a stranger online and eventually sent him nude photographs of herself. He said his name was Bruce, and that he lived in Florida.

In late August 2008, when she was still 13, she started receiving text messages on her cell phone from a second stranger, who told her that he had naked pictures of her, and that if she didn't send him more, he would post her photos on the Internet.

Scared and intimidated, she ..Continued.. by Tresa Baldas

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October 18, 2014

Why Kids Sext

10-18-2014 National:

It was late on a school night, so Jennifer’s kids were already asleep when she got a phone call from a friend of her 15-year-old daughter, Jasmine. “Jasmine is on a Web page and she’s naked.” Jennifer woke Jasmine, and throughout the night, the two of them kept getting texts from Jasmine’s friends with screenshots of the Instagram account.

It looked like a porn site—shot after shot of naked girls—only these were real teens, not grown women in pigtails. Jennifer recognized some of them from Jasmine’s high school. And there, in the first row, was her daughter, “just standing there, with her arms down by her sides,” Jennifer told me. “There were all these girls with their butts cocked, making pouty lips, pushing their boobs up, doing porny shots, and you’re thinking, Where did they pick this up?

And then there was Jasmine in a fuzzy picture looking awkward.” (The names of all the kids and parents in this story have been changed to protect their privacy.) You couldn’t easily identify her, because the picture was pretty dark, but the connection had been made anyway. “OMG no f‑ing way that’s Jasmine,” someone had commented under her picture. “Down lo ho,” someone else answered, meaning one who flies under the radar, because Jasmine was a straight‑A student who played sports and worked and volunteered and was generally a “goody-goody two shoes,” her mom said. She had long, silky hair and doe eyes and a sweet face that seemed destined for a Girl Scouts pamphlet, not an Instagram account where girls were called out as hos or thots (thot stands for “that ho over there”).

That night, in March of this year, Jennifer tried to report the account to Instagram’s privacy-and-safety center, hoping it would get taken down. She asked several friends to fill out the “report violations” page too, but after a few hours, the account was still up. (Instagram’s help center recommends contacting local authorities in cases of serious abuse.)

She considered calling 911, but this didn’t seem like that kind of emergency. So she waited until first thing the next morning and called a local deputy sheriff who serves as the school resource officer, and he passed the message on to his superior, Major Donald Lowe. Over the years, Lowe had gotten calls from irate parents whose daughters’ naked pictures had popped up on cellphones, usually sent around by an angry boyfriend after a breakup.

But he immediately realized that this was a problem of a different order. Investigation into the Instagram account quickly revealed two other, similar accounts with slightly different names. Between them, the accounts included about 100 pictures, many of girls from the local high school, Louisa County High, in central Virginia. Some shots he later described to me as merely “inappropriate,” meaning girls “scantily clad in a bra and panties, maybe in a suggestive pose.” But some “really got us”—high-school girls masturbating, and then one picture showing a girl having sex with ..Continued.. by Hanna Rosin

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Rabbi accused of voyeurism pored over questions of sex and ethics

10-18-2014 National:

If Barry Freundel secretly violated sexual ethics, in public he pored over them.

Allegations that the Georgetown rabbi hid a camera in a ritual bathing area have astonished people from Washington to Israel, in part because Freundel had positioned himself as an ethical beacon. The internationally known Orthodox rabbi served as spiritual guide to the likes of former U.S. senator Joseph I. Lieberman and Supreme Court expert Linda Greenhouse and proffered wisdom on a wide range of moral matters.

Freundel’s writings, interviews and sermons, however, reveal that he appeared deeply worried about the dangerous overlap between sex and ethics, especially where it concerns technology.

Technology, he told a 1999 congressional bio­ethics panel, is “value-neutral. You can use it for good, you can use it for bad; the concern is how you use it. Every technology is a tool given to us by God to improve the world, if we use it the right way.” Same with knowledge, he said. Jews “style ourselves the ‘People of the Book’ because we think knowledge is valuable. But are you using it ethically?”

“The lack of sexual morality that pervades this society is all over the place, and the Orthodox community, no matter how traditional, is not immune from this,” he told Washington Jewish Week in a story last month about divorce among the Orthodox. “Pornography and its accessibility is wrecking marriages. It’s two keystrokes away. You get on the computer, you hit the button twice and you’re there.”

This week, police charged the rabbi of Kesher Israel Congregation with voyeurism, saying he used a hidden camera to videotape women using a neighborhood mikvah. The mikvah is a large bath that observant Jews, mostly women, are required to immerse in at certain ritual times, such as conversion or marriage and after the menstrual cycle. On Thursday, police said they were expanding the investigation after finding additional computers and storage devices, including one with more than 100 deleted files — some labeled with women’s first ..Continued.. by Michelle Boorstein

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October 17, 2014

Sex-offender laws are ineffective and unfair, critics say

10-17-2014 National:

Experts say public registries don't reduce assault — and sex offenders are increasingly challenging the rules in court

Frank Lindsay, 62, is a father, small-business owner and avid surfer. He’s also one of 105,000 people in California — and 760,000 nationally — listed as a sex offender. In accordance with federal law, his name, photograph and home address appear in a public, online offender registry. In 1979, Lindsay, then 27, was convicted of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor under the age of 14.

“I thought I could do whatever I wanted,” Lindsay says. “Add on some alcohol, and I was a real asshole.”

Today, Lindsay considers himself a reformed man. He says he hasn’t had a drink in 30 years, is a Taoist and advocate for restorative justice — encouraging violent people to make amends for their actions. But, he says, “It seems that I can never be forgiven.”

Few groups are as widely despised as sex offenders. Activities prosecuted as sex offenses vary by state, but can include public urination, consensual sex between teenagers, streaking, prostitution, downloading child pornography and rape. In some states, law-enforcement officials distribute flyers to notify neighbors of registrants’ convictions. Some registrants are prohibited from using the Internet. In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that indefinite detention at psychiatric hospitals — or “civil commitment” — of sex offenders is constitutional.

The first law requiring sex offenders to register publicly and for life was passed in California in 1947 and targeted gay men, according to Andrew Extein, executive director of the Center for Sexual Justice. But many of today’s laws have their origins in the late 1970s, when feminists and social conservatives worked together to publicize high-profile “stranger danger” attacks on children, says Roger Lancaster, anthropology professor at George Mason University and author of “Sex Panic and the Punitive State.”

Beginning in the mid-1990s, several laws went into effect that changed how sex-offense cases were prosecuted. In 1994, states were required to create databases of sex offenders. Two years later, Megan’s Law, named for a 7-year-old in New Jersey who was brutally raped and murdered by a neighbor with two previous sex convictions, allowed states to make those registries public. States passed their own versions of the law; in some cases, they required that neighbors be notified of paroled offenders’ previous convictions. Later laws moved those sex-offender databases online, created a national registry, required lifetime registration of people 14 years old and up and imposed harsh mandatory minimum sentences for crimes involving children.

But almost 20 years after the passage of Megan’s Law, criminologists and judges, along with a burgeoning movement of sex-offender registrants and their families, are challenging not only the constitutionality of the laws but their effectiveness in reducing sexual assault. In January, a California court ruled in favor of a paroled sex offender who had argued that city and county “child-safety zone” ordinances prohibiting people in the registry from using parks, beaches and similar recreation areas were an unconstitutional form of banishment. In April, the state Supreme Court upheld the ruling by ..Continued.. by Puck Lo

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