Probation ordered in beating of Appleton Sex Offender

APPLETON — A 22-year-old Appleton man, who attacked another man because he was a registered sex offender, was placed on probation Friday for 18 months.

Outagamie County Circuit Judge Dee Dyer imposed and stayed a one-year jail sentence for David T. Starkey, who was convicted of disorderly conduct and bail jumping.

At a Nov. 5 jury trial, Starkey was found not guilty of the more serious charge of substantial battery but was found guilty on the misdemeanor charges.

"I am really sorry for everything that happened," Starkey said.

Starkey beat a 33-year-old Appleton man on Aug. 30, 2007. Starkey had targeted the victim because of his status as a registered sex offender, according to the criminal complaint.

The victim required hospitalization for treatment of extensive facial injuries and lost teeth.

[Ed: So, here's a clear illustration of how we, as a society, ajudge two different kinds of criminals. On the one hand, we think that a demonstrably violent crime in which the perpetrator beats the victim, a registered sex offender (having located him on the sex offender website), so severely that he is hospitalized and "loses teeth," warrants probation and not jail time. On the other hand, the man he has beaten was reported to have been convicted 15 or more years ago for having consensual sex with his then-14 year old girlfriend. He was 19 at the time. And yet he is still required to wear the scarlet letter of "sex offender".  The message couldn't be more clear: maim or kill a sex offender and it will be as if you had attacked a subhuman who is worth far less than the rest of society. This is comparable to the value that the Jim Crow south placed upon "nigger" lives. ]

Vigilante hunted down alleged paedophile

County Durham, U.K.

A vigilante who armed herself with a large kitchen knife to attack an alleged paedophile has been spared jail.

Michelle Smith said she was "going to kill" the Sunderland man who she believed had been involved in a sexual offence against a child, and also his partner.

Newcastle Crown Court heard how the potential victims of the knife attack were not at home and Smith was arrested when a neighbour contacted the police.

The 39-year-old told officers: "I took a large knife with me.

"I was going to stick them both.

"He's not going to get away with it.

"I was going to kill both of them, I had a lot of vodka to drink to give me courage."

Smith, of Patrick Crescent, South Hetton, admitted having an offensive weapon.

Defence barrister Julian Smith said Smith was drunk when the incident happened.

Mr Recorder Hatton told her: "You cannot take the law into your own hands in the way that you did.

"You cannot take weapons to other people."

The judge sentenced Smith to a community order for two years with supervision. 

[Ed: And now for one of those delightful reader comments which appeared below the original story]:

J.Moffatt, chilton says...

5:39pm Fri 21 Nov 08

The only cure for filthy paedo scum is execution.I'm glad this lady wasn't jailed.For once could our police protect children from paedo filth,because they can always protect child molestors fom so called vigilantes and angry parents.

Man killed himself after (false) paedophile allegation

Brighton, U.K.

A man wrongly accused of being a paedophile suffocated himself at home.

William Chandler, who was known as Bill, placed a plastic bag over his head after police were told he was grooming a young boy for sex.

But an inquest in Brighton was told detectives could find no evidence the 31-year-old had behaved in any improper way with the youngster.

A coroner suggested Mr Chandler had killed himself because he could not cope with the false allegations.

He was found dead at his flat in Eaton Gardens, Hove, on September 1.

Days earlier police had received a complaint from the boy’s father about online computer messages exchanged between his son and Mr Chandler.

A police investigation concluded there had been no offence committed and no sexual grooming had taken place.

The police had been handed 12 pages of transcripts of online conversations between the boy and Mr Chandler, which took place on August 25 and 26.

Detective Sergeant Vanessa Britton, of Sussex Police, told the inquest: “In my opinion it is a conversation between a curious young male and a role model he can trust.”

Mr Chandler, who worked for the Learning and Skills Council, was found after police were alerted by his worried family who had not been able to contact him and he had failed to turn up at work.

He had suffered from depression in the past and had left a suicide note addressed to his mother. The contents of the note were not read out at the hearing but the inquest heard the note did not mention the allegations about the boy.

Mr Chandler, a music lover, was described as a kind and cheerful man by his friends and family.

Dr Karen Henderson, Brighton and Hove’s assistant deputy coroner, said she concurred completely with the police report that there had been absolutely no evidence of any sexual grooming or paedophile activity.

She said he had been accused of something that is “every man’s nightmare”. Dr Henderson added: “Once accused it is so difficult to refute. There is no suggestion that his relationship with the boy was anything but loving and caring.

“I am sure he was a very fine and upstanding member of the community.”

She recorded a verdict that Mr Chandler took his own life. 

[Ed: In previous centuries many of those accused of witchcraft also took their own lives rather than endure the hell which was sure to follow. Pity that in some ways we have made no progress.]

Accused molester shot dead

An 18-year-old youth, who had been accused of molesting a five-year-old relative, was shot dead in Montego Bay, St James, Jamaica on Tuesday.

It is believed that his death might have been a reprisal.

Dead is Keneil 'Ticky' Simons of Salt Spring, Montego Bay, St James. He was shot dead at the Cornwall Courts housing scheme in the parish.

Reports are that at 4:35 p.m., Simons alighted from a taxi at the housing scheme and was approached by a lone gunman who asked his name. Shortly after he responded, the gunman opened fire, hitting him several times.

He died on the spot. The police were alerted, the crime scene processed and the body removed to the morgue for post- mortem. The Montego Bay CIB is investigating.

What is this world coming to?

A man, who pleaded guilty to wining on his six-year-old grand niece until he had an orgasm, was remanded when he appeared in the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court on Wednesday.

The accused appeared before Senior Resident Magistrate Glen Brown where he pleaded guilty to indecent assault.

The court heard that the accused wined on the child until he ejaculated.

His fingerprints were ordered taken and he was ordered remanded until December 2 when the matter is to be sentenced.

Accused molester shot dead

An 18-year-old youth, who had been accused of molesting a five-year-old relative, was shot dead in Montego Bay, St James, on Tuesday.

It is believed that his death might have been a reprisal.

Dead is Keneil 'Ticky' Simons of Salt Spring, Montego Bay, St James. He was shot dead at the Cornwall Courts housing scheme in the parish.

Reports are that at 4:35 p.m., Simons alighted from a taxi at the housing scheme and was approached by a lone gunman who asked his name. Shortly after he responded, the gunman opened fire, hitting him several times.

He died on the spot. The police were alerted, the crime scene processed and the body removed to the morgue for post- mortem. The Montego Bay CIB is investigating.

What is this world coming to?

A man, who pleaded guilty to wining on his six-year-old grand niece until he had an orgasm, was remanded when he appeared in the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court on Wednesday.

The accused appeared before Senior Resident Magistrate Glen Brown where he pleaded guilty to indecent assault.

The court heard that the accused wined on the child until he ejaculated.

His fingerprints were ordered taken and he was ordered remanded until December 2 when the matter is to be sentenced.

Contra Costa prosecutor charged with raping colleague

(11-21) 12:58 PST MARTINEZ -- A Contra Costa County sex crimes prosecutor pleaded not guilty today to charges that he tied up, raped and sodomized a colleague while threatening her with an ice pick and handgun.

Deputy District Attorney Michael Gressett, 51, is accused of tying and binding the woman at his home in Martinez on May 8, according to a copy of the criminal complaint.

Prosecutors filed 12 felony counts against him in Contra Costa County Superior Court, including rape, sodomy, oral copulation by force and forcible sexual penetration, with enhancements for using deadly weapons - the handgun and ice pick.

They also accused Gressett of falsely imprisoning the woman in his vehicle the same day and threatening her with "a crime which would result in death."

Gressett and his attorney, Michael Cardoza, strongly denied that he had done anything wrong. Cardoza said Gressett and the alleged victim had a consensual relationship.

They spoke outside the Martinez courthouse after the charges were filed by the state attorney general's office. State prosecutors took over the case to avoid a possible conflict of interest for the Contra Costa district attorney, although Deputy Attorney General Peter Flores said the D.A. is helping with the investigation.

Although the alleged crime took place in May, Gressett was not arrested until Oct. 2, a week after Martinez police say they learned of the incident. Flores would not discuss the reason for the delay.

If convicted of all counts, Flores said, Gressett could be sentenced to life in prison.

In court this morning, Gressett appeared upbeat as he waited for the arraignment to begin. He smiled several times as he joked with his defense team and said hello to other attorneys in the courtroom.

Judge Charles Treat ordered Gressett to return to court Jan. 27 and to stay away from his accuser, a condition that Gressett called "perfectly acceptable."

The alleged victim was not identified, but two sources close to the investigation have said she is also a deputy district attorney.

Gressett is free on $1 million bail and is on paid administrative leave from the district attorney's office.

"The truth will come out," Gressett said outside the Martinez courthouse. "I do feel sorry - this is painful for my family, my loved ones, my colleagues. I am standing now in disillusionment of the system. ... I hate this route we're taking, but it's probably the only way to have public vindication."

Cardoza insisted that Gressett and the woman had a consensual relationship and sought to discredit her and the investigation, questioning why it took more than four months for the probe to begin. He said a trial will "hurt a lot of people" and said the woman had made the accusations because she was at risk of losing her job.

Cardoza said Gressett and the woman had exchanged text messages that would prove they had a romantic relationship, but that those messages -as well as any other forensic evidence - had disappeared by the time she went to police.

"She would have known that (text messages disappear) as a prosecutor," Cardoza said. "They let evidence go by the wayside. ... They both knew what the relationship was about, and that's why those text messages are so important."

He also noted that Gressett has run unsuccessfully for district attorney three times, most recently in 2002, and said the district attorney's office - which is helping in the investigation - should recuse itself entirely.

E-mail Marisa Lagos at mlagos@sfchroncile.com.

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/11/21/MNHJ149JCO.DTL

High Court mulls sex abuse question Does intimate touching over the clothes merit six years in prison?

[Ed: Few have any idea of what actual offenses "molesters" have really committed. They hear the word "molest" and they immediately think of the most egregious sex acts committed forcefully and without consent. The range of qualifying offenses has grown dramatically over the years to include even such terrible assaults as running ones fingers through a child's hair and giving a hug. This is the hysterical  reality of sex offense prosecution and persecution today. I remain hopeful that one day most of society will look back at this period of injustice with the same horror with which we now regard the Salem Witchhunts of the 17th Century.]


The Hillsboro Argus

SALEM - An attorney for a former employee of the Hillsboro Boy's and Girl's Club told the Oregon Supreme Court Tuesday that six-plus years in prison for touching her clothed breasts to the back of a 12-year-old boy's head amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

A Washington County jury found Veronica Rodriguez, now 28, guilty of sex abuse in the first degree after Hillsboro investigators saw her breasts touch the boy's head while she ran her fingers through his hair at the club in 2005.

At sentencing, now-retired Judge Nancy Campbell said the circumstances only merited one year and four months in prison instead of the prescribed sentence of six years and three months required by 1994's voter-approved Measure 11.

Rodriguez and attorney Peter Garlan concede that Measure 11 is constitutional, but claim its application against Rodriguez violates Article 1, Section 16 - the proportionality clause of the Oregon Constitution.

Rodriguez's case is combined with another appeal from Linn County, where 36-year-old Darryl Buck was convicted of first-degree sex abuse for touching a 13-year-old girl's clothed buttocks several times during a fishing trip.

Garlan said the girl overreacted to Buck's using his hands to help her remain upright, and her "histrionics" had an effect on the jury. The judge agreed, and handed down a 17-month sentence, appropriate for the action, Garlan said.

The state's Court of Appeals rejected both judge's decisions, and said both defendants should serve another five years.

Garlan said while it was clear there was wrongdoing, the pair's actions didn't merit the same sentence as someone who committed obviously violent acts of sex abuse or those convicted of attempted rape or attempted sodomy, as Measure 11 requires.

Rodriguez was an exemplary employee at the Boy's and Girl's Club, praised by her superiors, Garlan argued.

"There is no doubt that Miss Rodriguez, but for this offense, was an extremely positive influence on this victim," Garlan said. Even the boy's mother praised Rodriguez for helping him deal with his troubled past. But police and prosecutors said the relationship rose to an inappropriate level, with the boy seen kissing her on the cheek and sitting in her lap. A second charge of sex abuse ended in a mistrial.

When Assistant Attorney General Timothy Sylwester began his arguments, Justice Thomas Balmer took him to the wood shed immediately, noting sharply that Sylwester's brief continually used the word "rubbing" to describe the physical contact between Rodriguez and the boy, when that word was never mentioned in testimony.

"You have strong constitutional, legal argument here," Balmer said tersely. "Why did you mischaracterize testimony?"

Sylwester said he didn't feel it was a mischaracterization, but apologized if he'd made a mistake.

Department of Justice spokesperson Jake Weigler said Wednesday voters passed the measure to eliminate judges' discretion in a range of crimes. Clearly, Rodriguez and Buck fell within that range, he said. If Measure 11 is to be changed, it should be by the will of the voters or the legislature, he said.

"This court never has struck down a sentence within a permissible scheme," Sylwester said.

Justice Robert D. Durham asked both attorneys if it was the role of the court to make an evaluation of offenders, when the law only mentions "the offense." Should the court treat each offense as if it were a videotape of the act that turns on when the abuse begins and turns off when it ends?

"Does that imply there should be no investigation into the actor?" Durham asked. And did that also imply there should be no consideration of whether a defendant lied on the stand, or lied to the police?

Sylwester answered: "You don't just look at the good stuff, you look at the bad stuff, too."

As to Garlan's argument that some kinds of sex abuse were worse than others, Sylwester said it was defined by law as sexual touching with sexual intent.

"The victim has been violated, whether it lasted for five seconds or 10 minutes," he said.

The law says sex abuse occurs when it "subjects another person to sexual contact and the victim is less than 14 years of age."

Sexual contact is "any touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of a person or causing such person to touch the sexual or other intimate parts of the actor for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of either party."

The Supreme Court is expected to return an opinion within six months.


Naked Jogging Priest Must Register As Sex Offender

Robert Whipkey Given Five Years Probation, Must Register As Sex Offender For Life

GREELEY, Colo. -- A former Catholic priest, who was caught jogging naked in the small Weld County town of Frederick, was given five years probation Thursday and was ordered to register as a sex offender.

Robert Whipkey was also ordered not to have contact with any children younger than 18, including family members. He must also serve 100 hours of community service and pay various court fees.
Whipkey's attorney has filed an appeal so the sentencing has been stayed until the appeal is heard, the Weld County District Attorney's Office said. No date has been set on the appeal.

Weld County Judge Timothy Kerns could have sentenced Whipkey up to 18 months in prison.
Whipkey, who was ordained in 1983, was the pastor of St. Theresa Catholic Church in Frederick when he was arrested June 22, 2007 by an off-duty police officer who saw him walking nude along one of the main streets in Frederick just before daybreak.

The priest told the police officer that he was nude because he "sweats a lot" when he exercises. He said he had been jogging on the track at nearby Frederick High School.

Whipkey told Kerns before sentencing that the indecent exposure conviction had ruined his life.
"This conviction has cost me my career and my life," Whipkey is quoted as saying by the Greeley Tribune.

The case attracted nationwide attention.
[Ed: while the advisability of running around a track naked in the predawn hours as a means of controlling perspiration might be questioned given today's climate of hysteria, that this "offense" rises to the level of a sex offense is quite preposterous. When one compares the widescale acceptance of nudity in much of Europe (for example, in Germany, nudity in public parks is quite commonplace), it should surprise no one that America is regarded by Europeans as extremely puritanical. But leaving aside comparisons to other countries, in our own country, a mere thirty years ago, "streaking"was a phenomenon that played out across the nation. Streaking, in which (mostly) adolescents ran around town, their school auditoriums, across the football field during a game, etc. completely nude was seen as a kind of exuberant display of personal courage and audacity.  Everyone (except for the most humorless prudes) laughed and maybe blushed but got over it very quickly. The "streakers" were not imprisoned nor did they face lifetime registration as sex offenders, nor were they otherwise "pathologized" and permanently castigated.  What the hell has happened to this country??]

Campaigning paedophile given lifetime bans

U.K.
A convicted paedophile from Loughborough who campaigned for the age of consent to be lowered has been handed lifetime bans from contacting children or going near play areas, police have said.

Leicestershire Police applied for the court orders against David Joy after a parent spotted him in an alleyway next to a primary school.

The 67-year-old, was given an indeterminate jail sentence in August 2007 for making and possessing indecent images of children - but was released from prison earlier this year.

Before his sentence, Leicester Crown Court was told the ex-teacher was a member of the notorious Paedophile Information Exchange, an international organisation of like-minded people who believe children are sexual beings in their own right.

Joy now faces arrest and up to five more years behind bars if he breaks the terms of the orders, which were imposed at Loughborough Magistrates' Court.

The orders ban him from contacting children, directly or indirectly, and from "lingering" near, or being in sight of, any play area in Leicestershire.

A Leicestershire Police spokeswoman said: "We asked the courts to grant these Sexual Offences Prevention Orders (SOPOs) to assist in managing Joy's behaviour and the risk he poses to children.

"SOPOs place further restrictions on convicted sex offenders. If they breach these orders then this is a criminal offence and could lead to a custodial sentence of up to five years. They are one of a number of means we use to manage sex offenders and protect the public."

Steven Gosnell, defending, said his client had not touched a child for more than 20 years and now led a reclusive life with no access to children.

A legal representative of Joy's at Loughborough Magistrates' Court said his client claimed to have been in the alleyway in the town "unwittingly".
[Ed: If it is possible for any country to have exceeded the U.S. in degree of hysteria and injustice, it is the U.K.  So-called "SOPO" orders ( the Sexual Offences Prevention Order ) are a mechanism enabling some quite scary government law enforcers and sex crusaders to effectively keep men (and it is almost always, thus far, men) under total lifetime control. In this case, a man with a past child porn conviction is going to be on their leash for the rest of his life. The "precautionary principle" is being integrated into British law and society in a most alarming way as a means of curtailing the freedom of those they suspect might commit a crime in the future. ]

Making Punishments Fit the Most Offensive Crimes

Societal Revulsion at Child-Pornography Consumers Has Led to Stiff Prison Sentences -- and Caused Some Judges to Rebel

By AMIR EFRATI, Wall Street Journal

Are people who download and view child pornography -- but aren't themselves molesters -- as much of a threat to society as rapists or murderers?

The question, being raised by federal judges in response to tough sentences meted out to consumers of child pornography, goes to society's view of repugnant behavior and the legislative response to it.

The average federal prison sentence for individuals who possess, receive or share child pornography jumped to roughly seven years in fiscal 2006 from about three years in 1994, according to Justice Department data. In federal cases, the mandatory minimum for downloading images is five years in prison without parole. Defendants who download particularly lewd images, possess a large number of images or share some of them with others often get sentences of 15 or even 20 years.

In Arizona, the minimum mandatory sentence for one count of possessing child pornography is 10 years. Several years ago, a former teacher with no prior criminal record who was convicted on 20 counts of possession was sentenced to 200 years in prison.

These acts alone are disgusting to most people. But not everyone buys into the idea that they warrant two decades or more in prison. Federal judges around the country are speaking out against what they view as harsh mandatory and recommended sentences, spurred by Congress in recent years.

The sentencing guidelines for child pornography crimes "do not appear to be based on any sort of [science] and the Court has been unable to locate any particular rationale for them beyond the general revulsion that is associated with child exploitation-related offenses," wrote Robert W. Pratt, a U.S. district judge in Des Moines, Iowa, in a case earlier this year. In that case, he gave a seven-year sentence to one defendant, even though the advisory guidelines called for a minimum of roughly 18 years.

Some judges and other critics of the sentences say they stem from lawmakers' exaggerated reactions to societal alarm over very real problems. The crack-cocaine epidemic of the mid-1980s led Congress to pass much tougher sentencing laws for possession of crack, dwarfing the sentences for possession of the cocaine powder from which crack is derived, says Douglas Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University who writes an influential sentencing blog.

Last year the Supreme Court said it was permissible for federal judges, who had complained for years about the disparity in sentences for the two types of cocaine, to give "reasonably" shorter prison terms for crack.

Similarly, the critics argue, concern over sex offenders is being stoked by television shows like "To Catch a Predator," which followed authorities as they captured individuals attempting to have sex with undercover agents posing as minors, whom they met online.

In possession cases where there is no evidence that defendants sought to abuse minors, several judges are giving much lower sentences than the guidelines intend, which they are allowed to do if they believe the recommended punishment doesn't fit the crime. They cannot go below a mandatory minimum.

In sentencing a defendant in July to five years in prison rather than the minimum recommended sentence of eight years, William Griesback, a federal judge in Green Bay, Wis., wrote: "The fact that a person was stimulated by digital depictions of child pornography does not mean that he has or will in the future seek to assault a child."

Some judges are making even more noise. In April, Jack Weinstein, a federal judge in Brooklyn, N.Y., threw out a conviction in a highly unusual manner. He made the argument that he himself had infringed on the defendant's constitutional rights by not informing the jury of the "harsh" five-year mandatory minimum sentence for receiving child pornography.

It is unclear whether most viewers of child pornography are likely to commit acts of physical abuse, some psychologists who treat sexual deviants say. Fred Berlin, founder of the Johns Hopkins Sexual Disorders Clinic, says many of his patients have a "voyeuristic" interest in child pornography. "Absent any evidence that they have done something other than view child porn, I'm not prepared to conclude they are at a heightened risk of physically abusing a child," he says.

But Ernie Allen, who heads the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, argues the sentences are simply "catching up to reality." Hundreds of thousands of Americans currently possess illegal images and may be tempted to generate child pornography themselves -- by molesting children and taping the acts -- to gain acceptance in Internet groups whose members share images, he says.

The Justice Department, which launched an initiative in 2006, argues that this heightened acceptance is leading to "an escalation in the severity of the abuse depicted" and has made child pornography prosecutions a priority. Many such prosecutions in the U.S. now occur in federal court.

In fiscal 2008, U.S. attorneys' offices brought 2,211 computer-based child exploitation cases, the vast majority against child pornography viewers, who mostly pleaded guilty. That was more than double the number five years earlier.

Drew Oosterbaan, chief of the Justice Department's child exploitation and obscenity section, says that even if they haven't committed child abuse, some individuals who view child pornography undoubtedly "pose a threat against children." Mr. Oosterbaan says the Internet has led to an explosion of new child pornography images and cites studies showing that viewing them may empower people to act on their sexual interest in children. There is no consensus on how many of the viewers will pursue physical abuse, Mr. Oosterbaan says, but "if your daughter's camp counselor is using child porn, common sense dictates there is a threat to your daughter."

This perspective, of a potential for danger, troubles Troy Stabenow, a public defender in Jefferson City, Mo., whose critique of child pornography sentences has been cited by judges. "You shouldn't punish someone for something they haven't done -- it's not American," he says.

He compares the long child pornography sentences with those given to online predators who drive hundreds of miles to engage in sex with minors they met in online chat groups. The mandatory minimum federal sentence for those offenders is 10 years, while receiving child porn carries a five-year mandatory sentence.But under the guidelines set by the U.S. Sentencing Commission -- a federal agency tasked with turning legislation into rules that guide judges on sentencing -- child pornography viewers often accumulate penalties, known as "enhancements," that magnify recommended sentences for individuals who use a computer, have a large number of images or possess images of prepubescent children, among other things. As a result, the recommended sentences for viewers can easily be higher than those for predators.

In 1990, Congress criminalized the possession of child pornography, and later passed legislation to significantly increase penalties for these offenses. In 1991, a person with no criminal history who possessed violent child pornography images and movies and shared them with others would face a maximum of two years in prison in federal cases. Today, that same person could face more than 20 years, Mr. Stabenow notes.

"Imprisonment of at least five years for this defendant is cruel," wrote Judge Weinstein, the Brooklyn judge who argued he had infringed on the defendant's rights himself, in his April opinion. "Few jurors or others would send a psychologically stunted man who: had suffered vicious sexual abuse as a child ... had established a home and family with a loving wife and children ... to prison for five years because he repaired to a locked room in his garage to watch child pornography received on his computer."

The Justice Department is appealing the judge's decision.

Write to Amir Efrati at amir.efrati@wsj.com

Georgia's sex offender law blocks religious redemption

PERSONA NON GRATA: Omar Howard's parole officer told him he shouldn't give testimony during church services.

Lori Collins, an ordained minister from Henry County who found religion in prison, is no longer allowed to work with church groups that perform prison outreach.
Andrew Norton of Cobb County has been told he can't sing in his church choir or help set up for church events. Steven Lee Williams of Polk County is forbidden from playing drums at services.

Churches frequently invite College Park's Omar Howard to offer testimony about how God rescued him from a life of violent crime. Eventually, he hopes to join the ministry. For the time being, however, Howard risks a mandatory 10-year term if he so much as performs a Bible reading before a congregation.
This past Thursday, lawyers with the Southern Center for Human Rights argued in federal court that a new law unconstitutionally criminalizes religious practice by making it illegal for people on Georgia's sex offender registry to volunteer at a church. A judge's ruling is expected within weeks.
It was the latest challenge to a controversial law that targets registered sex offenders with wide-ranging restrictions and stiff punishments. Initially authored by state House Majority Leader Jerry Keen, R-St. Simons, and adopted in 2006, the law was overhauled by the Legislature this year after large chunks of it had been thrown out by various courts.
Even so, the chipping away continus. Last month, the state Supreme Court struck down a provision to send homeless sex offenders to prison for being unable to register a valid address with their county sheriff's office. The plaintiff in that suit, William James Santos, had spent a year in a Hall County jail and was facing a life sentence for failing to register his address – even though he didn't have an address.

If you think aspects of the sex offender law seem to defy common sense, welcome to the club.

"My parole officer doesn't understand it," says Howard, the would-be minister. "He told me it's safer just to stay away from church."

Howard, 34, admits he used to be a rough character. He spent 14 years behind bars for voluntary manslaughter, armed robbery and false imprisonment of a minor during a 1993 home invasion. That last charge landed him on the sex offender registry despite not having been convicted of a sex crime.

During his long incarceration, Howard got religion; he led Bible study and became a chaplain's aide. "My goal is to do full-time ministry," he says. "That was the only hope I had that got me through my time."
After entering probation last year, he devoted much of his time talking at churches about his experiences in an effort to warn at-risk young men away from the thug life. He's even spoken at the invitation of the Georgia Department of Corrections and the State Board of Pardons and Paroles.

But as of July 1, when the newest incarnation of the sex offender law went into effect, Howard had to give up most of his church-related activities. The law offers no guidance as to what constitutes volunteering; His parole officer has told him to no longer sing in the choir or take part in revivals, seminars or prayer vigils. Howard still accepts invitations to visit churches, but he's limited to sitting in the congregation. Offering testimony is off-limits.

In a court brief, Howard complains that the law "interferes with my religious freedom and prohibits me from expressing my strongly held religious beliefs." He adds that none of his previous church activities involved being around minors unsupervised.
Also testifying, Andrea Shelton, founder and president of Heartbound Ministries, a prison outreach program, told Judge Clarence Cooper that "religion makes recidivism less likely" for all convicts. Shelton explained that most churches routinely perform background checks on would-be volunteers before giving them positions of responsibility. The chance that a church would give a registered sex offender free access to children is fairly slim, she said.

Permitting Howard, who volunteered at Heartbound in the past, to continue work with churches will allow others to "see that redemption is possible," added Shelton, her voice choking with tears. "Rehabilitation rarely takes place without redemption."
Ironically, Rep. Keen, whose law criminalizes religious volunteerism for sex offenders, is the former head of the Georgia Christian Coalition.

Collins, the Henry County woman, also took the witness stand to explain that, although she's ordained, her parole officer told her she can't even lead an adult prayer group in her home. Said Collins, who served three years in prison for sleeping with an underage boy: "I don't know what I can and cannot do."

That's the problem with the law, argued Southern Center attorney Gerry Weber: It's too vague.
"The law prevents 'volunteering,' but doesn't define what that is," Weber told the judge. "Law enforcement is making up the rules as it goes along."

The result is that enforcement is likely to vary greatly, depending on how each county's sheriff interprets the volunteering provision. In one Georgia county, a sex offender was prosecuted for playing the piano during services, Weber said.

It's no surprise that the revamped law lacks well-articulated guidelines for determining what behavior is illegal. Keen was never much interested in clarity or even enforceability. Back in 2006, he indicated that his goal was to make life so difficult, costly and perilous for sex offenders that they'd be forced to leave Georgia. Speaking at a Senate hearing, he said, "Candidly, senators, they will in many cases have to move to another state."

Certainly, Keen's law has succeeded in harrassing Wendy Whitaker, a Columbia County woman who was the subject of a CL cover story in July 2006 when she was ordered to leave her house because it was within 1,000 feet of a church-based child-care facility. That provision eventually was struck down.

Whitaker, lead plaintiff in the Southern Center constitutional challenge, was back in court last week. trying to keep her home. She'd moved back after the state Supreme Court struck down the law late last year, ruling the restrictions made it practically impossible for sex offenders to remain in their homes.

This time, Cooper ruled her lawyers failed to establish that the restrictions barring her from occupying her home rose to the level of banishment from the county. The judge appeared to be swayed by the argument that other sex offenders had managed to find some form of housing in Columbia County.

On the witness stand, Whitaker indicated that if she and her husband are forced to rent a place to live, in addition to paying their home mortgage, they'll likely face foreclosure. "It will be bad for us," she said.

Sex offender law mindlessly harsh

One-size-fits-all laws don't fit all cases, and this is one of them

Should the law punish a motorist who is ticketed for a broken tail light as harshly as it punishes a drunken driver with multiple offenses who's found guilty of causing a fatal crash?
Of course not. Traffic law violations, like other crimes, are punished according to the seriousness of the offense. But that's not necessarily true when it comes to Georgia's sex offender law. Just ask Wendy Whitaker of Harlem.

More than 10 years ago, when she was a 17-year-old high school student, she engaged in consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old male classmate. In 1997 she pleaded guilty to sodomy and was put on five years' probation.

Since then Whitaker has gotten married and been free of any hint of misconduct. Yet she still must register each year as a sex offender. Her photo appears on the sex offender Web site and she is subject to a Georgia law that prohibits convicted sex predators from living within 1,000 feet of places where children gather, such as schools, parks and day care centers.

Her Harlem home is within 1,000 feet of a day care center, which as of now means she'll have to leave that home this week. Federal Judge Clarence Cooper denied Whitaker's motion last week to halt enforcement of that part of the state law that would force her out.

Before she and her husband moved into their Harlem home a few years ago, the couple had to move several times because of the sex offender law. It's very difficult to find a place to live that's not within 1,000 feet of where children gather, a point Whitaker's lawyer made to the federal judge, but to no avail.

The main point ought to be that the sex registry law shouldn't apply to Whitaker. She's clearly not a pedophile who preys on teenagers, and it's a travesty of justice that she's being treated like one.

Adding to Whitaker's pain is that the law she was sentenced under was repealed by the legislature shortly after her guilty plea and was replaced by a law that is much lighter on teenagers having sex. Had she been sentenced under the new law, she would not have to register as a sex offender or move out of her home.

Clearly, the toughest provisions of Georgia's sex offender law should not apply to persons like Wendy Whitaker. Distinctions must be made between nonviolent sex offenders -- particularly those with no record of repeat offenses -- and potentially dangerous predators.

One-size-fits-all justice does not work in sex predator cases any more than it would in traffic cases. We want strong laws against sex predators, but not at the exclusion of common sense. Judges must have the authority to make distinctions between the severity of sexual offenses -- and impose punishment accordingly.

Georgia's children won't be any safer because Wendy Whitaker is forced out of her home. [Ed: I would add to this that we must begin talking about SPECIFIC ACTS that were alleged to have been committed. Sorry folks, but you're going to have to get over your squeamishness in discussing specific sex acts if you're going to take it upon yourselves to judge sex offenders. You want to understand risks posed by individuals? Learn what the specifics and the circumstances are, first. This also requires viewing assertions by District Attorneys with a great deal of skepticism.]

Man tells of 'paedophile ordeal'

A man has told a court he was accused of being a paedophile by animal rights activists because of his company's links to an animal testing laboratory.

Vincent Howard of Biocair in Cambridge also said he was sent a hoax bomb.

Five defendants, from Hampshire, London and Newcastle, allegedly blackmailed firms connected to Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) in Cambridge.

The five, said to have been part of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), all deny conspiracy to blackmail.

Heather Nicholson, 41, of Eversley, Hampshire; Trevor Holmes, 51, of Newcastle; Gerrah Selby, 20, of Chiswick, London; Daniel Wadham, 21, of Bromley, south London and Gavin Medd-Hall, 45, of Croydon, south London, are accused of being closely involved in a campaign, from 2001 until 2007, which targeted companies in Britain and Europe.

Three other people, Gregg Avery and Natasha Avery, both of Hampshire, and Daniel Amos, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to blackmail, Winchester Crown Court court was told.

Paint stripper

Biocair and its employees were targeted in 2004, jurors were told on Wednesday.

SHAC, which was based at near Hook, Hampshire, demonstrated outside the company's offices as part of a worldwide campaign to target suppliers or any company with a secondary link with HLS, jurors heard.

Biocair, a distribution company, did not deal directly with HLS but it did work for firms that had links with it.

Giving evidence, operations director Mr Howard said in September 2004 his and his partner's cars had paint stripper poured over them and tyres punctured.

He said letters were later circulated in the village where he lived in Cambridgeshire falsely accusing him of being a convicted paedophile.

'Completely bogus'

"There were 25 to 30 sent around the village, if not more, and it became fairly well known in the village and people offered to pass them on (to the police) without opening them up for forensics," he explained.

When asked how it had affected him, Mr Howard replied: "I was very lucky. I work long hours and I didn't have that many connections with the village.

"Whereas my partner was well connected with the schools and well known in the village, which helped a lot because she was able to contact the schools and say these letters were completely bogus."

The couple also received a hoax bomb through the post in April 2006, the jury heard.

"My partner was suspicious because there were inaccuracies on the address label," he explained.

"I probably unwisely asked her to lift up a bit and look inside. She saw a DVD case with wires inside and I started to come home straight away."

The trial continues.

JOHNSON: We need a change in approach to sex offenders

By RICHARD JOHNSON
News And Tribune – Indiana

— Most people seem to believe that sex offenders have a higher re-offending rate than any other category of criminal. A figure I hear tossed around a lot says that 95 percent of sex offenders will commit another sex crime if they get the chance.

If this is true, then it is evidence that most sex offenders - almost all of them - will continue to commit sex crimes. If this is true, then it means that most sex offenders can?t help their behavior. They will never change. They are beyond help.

If sex offenders really cannot and will not change, then society is justified in wanting to lock them up and throw away the keys. After sex offenders serve their time and get out of prison, it is right that they should be required to register on a database for the rest of their lives. Again, this sounds fine to me; at least, it would if that 95 percent re-offending rate was true.

It is not true. A study done by the U.S. Bureau of Justice in 1994 says so.
There were 9,691 male sex offenders released from prison in 1994, representing two-thirds of all sex offenders released from custody that year. This was not one of those studies where they interview 100 people and then stretch their conclusions to cover 100,000 people. This was an excellent study with a huge sample, whose conclusions can be trusted.

For those of you who might be interested and can read PDF files, I can e-mail you the entire 49-page study. Just e-mail me and ask for it. For those who may not have the time or inclination to wade through the whole thing, let me highlight a few of its conclusions.

First, only 5.3 percent, or 517 men, of released sex offenders tracked in the study were arrested again for another sex crime. Only 3.5 percent, representing two-thirds of those arrested, were convicted. While I absolutely agree that 3.5 percent is still 100 percent too many, it?s a whole lot smaller than that 95 percent figure so many of us throw around.

The 9,691 men in the study included 4,295 child molesters. Of these, 3.3 percent, or 141 men, were arrested again for another sex crime involving a child; again, hardly 95 percent. Half of the child molesters were 19 years of age or younger when they committed their crime. And 60 percent of their victims were children 13 years of age or younger.

The study goes on to show that released pedophiles with more than one arrest for molesting a child were three times as likely - 7.3 percent to 2.4 percent - to be arrested again for child molesting than those with only one prior arrest. This seems to indicate that the sooner pedophiles are caught, the less likely they are to re-offend.

Finally, sex offenders (including child molesters) were less likely to be re-arrested for any kind of crime after their release than non-sex offenders ? 43 percent for sex offenders versus 68 percent for non-sex offenders.

OK, we've got some figures and statistics to look at here, but so what? How does this help us prevent sex crimes? How does this help us stop sex offenders from re-offending? How can we find a way to reduce the number of victims, especially children, who are being abused by some very sick people?

For starters, if we're going to reduce sex crimes, then we ought to have good intelligence and gather the best information possible. We need to understand the true nature and actual scope of the problem. We need to deal with facts, so we can develop a plan of action based on those facts. The figures given in this study help us get there.

As long as most people believe that 95 percent of sex offenders will re-offend; as long as too many of us think that sex offenders cannot and will not change; as long as we lump all sex offenders into one category and fail to take the exact nature of each offense into consideration; as long as we let our emotional responses to a truly heinous crime drive our public policy (especially our anger and outrage); and as long as we think that putting every sex offender into a public database will solve our problem: We will not be ready to craft an effective response to this tough and emotional issue.

Almost every day, someone asks me, "What can we do about sex offenders"? That's too short a question, and the answer is quite long- too long for one column.
For the moment, let me just say that something can be done. Change is in the air, and a change in our overall approach is needed. But before we can start discussing solutions, we've got to get the rest of the facts out on the table.
In the weeks ahead, I will do my best to bring facts to this public forum in the hope that our community can find a reasonable and effective way to deal with sex offenses, and the people who commit them.

In the meantime, please don't shoot the messenger.