Stab murder man was sex offender

B.B.C. U.K.
Andrew Cunningham suffered stab injuries to his head, neck and chest A man found stabbed to death in a "frenzied" attack was a convicted child sex offender, it has been revealed.

Andrew Cunningham, 52, was found dead in his caravan in Riverside Road in Earlsfield, south London, on Wednesday.

A post-mortem examination said the cause of death was multiple wounds including mutilation of the groin.

Mr Cunningham who worked as a lorry driver, was convicted of a sex attack on a girl under the age of 16 in 2001, police sources said.

Scotland Yard sources said Mr Cunningham had recently been taken off the sex offenders' register.

Police do not know how many people may have been involved in the attack, which they described as "frenzied".

Mr Cunningham had been stabbed numerous times in the head, neck and body and his groin area was mutilated.

Det Chief Insp Nick Scola, leading the investigation, said: "We're currently at an early stage in our inquiries and are keeping an open mind about the circumstances of this man's death."

He appealed for anyone in the area on Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning to contact police.

Study quantifies proportion of teens and young adults sending or posting sexually suggestive text and images

In an effort to better understand the intersection between sex and cyberspace with respect to attitudes and behavior, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and commissioned a survey of teens and young adults to explore electronic activity. This is the first public study of its kind to quantify the proportion of teens and young adults that are sending or posting sexually suggestive text and images.

Note: Unless otherwise stated, teen means ages 13-19 and young adult means ages 20-26. A significant number of teens have electronically sent, or posted online, nude or semi-nude pictures or video of themselves.

How many teens say they have sent/posted nude or seminudepictures or video of themselves?
20% of teens overall
22% of teen girls
18% of teen boys
11% of young teen girls (ages 13-16)

Sexually suggestive messages (text, email, IM) are even more prevalent than sexually suggestive images. How many teens are sending or posting sexually suggestive messages?
39% of all teens
37% of teen girls
40% of teen boys
48% of teens say they have received such messages

Officer, lawmaker team up to criminalize "peering at children"

Editor: Yes, you read that correctly. The State of Maine is in the process of criminalizing those who look at children in public places. While your mind reels at the ramifications of this groundbreaking legislation, do consider that no one has ever been injured by someone looking at them. Consider too the practicalities and the inevitable selective enforcement flowing from such a law. Of course, we all realize how the law will be used: to further marginalize those who've already been through the legal wringer and to provide the mechanism necessary to imprison those whom the "child protectors" wish to permanently remove from society, having been unsuccessful in previous attempts. This is an odious law but one which is entirely predictable, given the succession of ever greater outrages introduced into law by very nasty and contemptuous lawmakers such as Dawn Hill.

Bill toughens law on "visual sexual aggression" against children in Maine

Those who peer at children in public could find themselves on the wrong side of the law in Maine soon.

A bill that passed the House last month aims to strengthen the crime of visual sexual aggression against children, according to state Rep. Dawn Hill, D-York.

Her involvement started when Ogunquit Police Lt. David Alexander was called to a local beach to deal with a man who appeared to be observing children entering the community bathrooms. Because the state statute prevents arrests for visual sexual aggression of a child in a public place, Alexander said he and his fellow officer could only ask the man to move along.

"There was no violation of law that we could enforce. There was nothing we could charge him with," Alexander said.

He attended a talk with Hill a week later and brought the case to her attention. Hill pledged to do what she could, Alexander said, and the result was a change through the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee in the House, which made the law applicable in both private and public places.

Alexander said he's grateful Hill was willing to take up the cause, and is hopeful the measure will clear the Senate.

"I'll be pleased that we were able to identify this flaw and take steps to rectify it," he said.

Under the bill, if someone is arrested for viewing children in a public place, it would be a Class D felony if the child is between 12 to 14 years old and a Class C felony if the child is under 12, according to Alexander.

Hill said she believes the move was necessary to correct what she called a "loophole" in the state's criminal law statutes.

"I told Lt. Alexander that I would be happy to work with him and sponsor a bill that would correct this in the 2008 session," Hill said. "And so we did."

In arguing for the bill, Alexander said she cited public rest rooms as places where the people using them should have a reasonable expectation of privacy. She said the committee determined that there would not be any major side effects from expanding the statute to include public places.

The bill recently cleared a fiscal review, done because of the state's major prison budget crunch, and Hill said it should be heading to the Senate before long.

York Police Chief Doug Bracy said the statute would represent a fairly minor change that would help keep the public safer, especially children. He noted that York police respond fairly regularly to reports of public peepers on the town's beaches.

With ever-growing concern over sexual predators, Bracy said the arrests will also allow police to check backgrounds and determine if there is a criminal history involved.

"There is a growing outcry by the public to protect our children," Bracy said, noting that tourists from all over the country visit York.

Alarming number of teens send nude pics

Editor: Once again, the ALARMISTS are ALARMED!!! It would seem that the recognition of adolescents as sexual beings never ceases to alarm them. Sadly, their alarm will take the form of even more government regulation, even more criminalization, and even more surveillance in a society that already distrusts itself to the point of hysteria having already cast off nearly all vestiges of liberty. Those of us who are not so easily alarmed need to open our mouths and tell the alarmists to shut theirs!

1 in 5 admits to sending, posting nude photos

Last Edited: Wednesday, 10 Dec 2008, 7:11 PM EST
Created On: Wednesday, 10 Dec 2008, 6:13 PM EST

WPRI - A new survey reveals that nearly one in five teenagers has posted or sent explicit photos of themselves, either over the computer, or via their cell phone.

The study was conducted by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and Researchers questioned 1,280 teens and young adults. Twenty-two percent of the teenage girls surveyed admitted having sent or posted nude or semi-nude photos of themselves.

Even more disturbing, 11% of girls between ages 13 and 16 admitted doing the same. But the girls are not alone. 18% of teenage boys also admit sending or posting nude or semi-nude photos of themselves.

And those racy photos often end up going to more viewers than intended. About one-third of girls and a quarter of boys say they've seen nude photos of others that were originally meant to be private.

"It's as simple as right click, copy, paste, and someone owns that picture forever," says

Scituate Middle School principal Lawrence Filippelli, who educates Rhode Island middle and high school students about cyber safety. Filippelli tells us parents are often the last to know when their children are taking part in explicit activities, online.

"When you're dealing with online activity, or IM-ing activity, believe it or not the child will keep that information private and not tell an adult for anywhere from three to six months."

He's says the best way to keep your kids away from racy behavior, is to keep a close eye on what they're doing.

"Our message is always for the parents to be aware of what their kids are doing online, what they're texting to each other, and investigating that."

Rye sex offender indicted on charges he worked with youths

PORTSMOUTH — A Rockingham County Superior Court grand jury has handed up three indictments against a convicted rapist accused of working as a youth counselor and not informing his employer of his sex offender status.

Jeremy "Jay" Semprebon, 40, of 541 Washington Road in Rye has been indicted on felony charges of "prohibition of child care services" and failure to report as a sex offender. He was also indicted on a misdemeanor charge of prohibited sales of alcohol to a minor.

Portsmouth police arrested Semprebon on Aug. 14 and charged him with five felony counts of "prohibition from child care services of a person convicted of certain offenses."

Semprebon's Portsmouth charges resulted in him being held on $30,000 cash bail at the Rockingham County House of Corrections, where he remained as of Tuesday, according to jail officials.

Authorities say Semprebon is a registered sex offender on New Hampshire's public list, having been convicted in 1995 in Strafford County of aggravated felonious sexual assault on a 5-year-old child.

Three of the Portsmouth charges alleged that Semprebon failed to disclose his sex offender status before counseling minors at Seacoast Outright, while acting as an agent of AIDS Response Seacoast.

A separate felony charge alleges that he provided services as a youth education coordinator at Cross Roads House homeless shelter, and a fifth alleges he failed to inform AIDS Response Seacoast that he is a sex offender.

Police allege Semprebon had contact with minors during his course of employment with AIDS Response Seacoast, despite a court order to not have contact with children. He is alleged to have begun working as a youth coordinator for the nonprofit in the summer of 2007 and did not disclose his sex offender status when he was hired.

As part of his job, Semprebon was sent to other nonprofits and worked with both adults and minors.

In August, investigators said they knew of five instances in which Semprebon was in the presence of youths.

Calls to the Rockingham County Attorney's Office regarding which "prohibition" charges he was indicted on, were not returned on Tuesday.

The "failure to report" and "prohibited sales" indictments stem from charges brought forward by the Rye Police Department.

Rye police charged Semprebon with a felony-level count of "duty to report" for allegedly failing to notify police of his employment status after he lost his job with AIDS Response Seacoast.

They also charged him with a Class A misdemeanor of prohibited sales for allegedly providing a 17-year-old boy with a mixed beverage.

Sex offender charged with photographing children

[Ed: Let this sink in a moment: A man has been charged with taking pictures of children while on his property without their permission. Given that they were trick-or-treating, it is safe to assume that the children were fully clothed and not engaged in sexual behavior, so the photographs could in no way be considered "child pornography". The salient and disturbing fact of his arrest and charge is that he, as a registered sex offender, has had his liberties greatly reduced by the state to exclude such things as taking pictures of minors without permission, a right which everyone else enjoys throughout the United States.

This right is summarized in the publication "The Photographer's Right" by attorney Bert P. Krages:

"Members of the public have a very limited scope of privacy rights when they are in public places. Anyone can be photographed without their consent except when they have secluded themselves in places where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy such as dressing rooms, restrooms, medical facilities, and inside their homes. Despite misconceptions to the contrary, the following subjects can almost always be photographed lawfully from public places: accident and fire scenes, children, celebrities, bridges and other infrastructure residential, and commercial buildings, industrial facilities, and public utilities transportation facilities (e.g., airports), Superfund sites, criminal activities, and law enforcement officers".

The state of Alaska has seen fit to eliminate liberties of a sex offender NOT currently on probation or parole (an important distinction often lost not only on the public but by reporters) for the rest of his life, a disturbing trend playing out across the U.S. In other words, rights enjoyed by everyone else and thus perfectly legal become felonies when exercised by registered sex offenders who are then sent to prison for having failed to recognize that they have no rights. ]

JUNEAU — A registered sex offender accused of taking photos of children while they were trick-or-treating has been charged.

Edward Lieber, 35, of Waupun, made his initial court appearance Monday in Dodge County Circuit Court. He is charged with three felony counts of a registered sex offender intentionally photographing a minor without consent. Each count carries a maximum penalty of up to 3½ years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

The Waupun Police Department was contacted by three Waupun parents who said that Lieber had taken pictures of their young children, ages 2, 3 and 4, while they trick-or-treated at his Madison Street home on Oct. 31. A woman told police that the children entered a “Halloween-type structure” where Lieber was sitting inside with a camera. As the children entered, witnesses say he followed the children and proceeded to take pictures of them without asking permission, according to the criminal complaint.

Uncomfortable with the situation, one of the parents logged onto the Wisconsin Sex Offender Registry and found a photograph of Lieber, who was convicted of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old Fairwater girl in 1993, according to the criminal complaint.

When questioned, Lieber told police that he took about five to six photographs that were intended for his father. Lieber then surrendered the role of film to police. Upon developing the film, Waupun police Officer Brian O’Donovan discovered six images of underage children on the film, according to the criminal complaint.

A preliminary hearing date has not been set.

Kids who photograph themselves naked are child pornographers and sex offenders in Ohio

A fifteen year old girl in Newark, OH faces being labelled a "sex offender" for sending naked cellphone photos of herself (a minor) to other minors. If convicted, she'll spend the next ten years on public registries, classed as a producer of child pornography. No word on what compensation she (as the victim of the crime) will be able to get from herself (as the perp).

According to Ohio law, 2907.323(A)(3) states anyone possessing material that shows a minor in a state of nudity is guilty of a fifth-degree felony. The violation also might qualify the juvenile as a Tier I sexual offender, which requires annual registration for a decade.

The section of the law the girl, who is a foster child, was charged with allows parents or guardians to take photos of their unclothed children for a list of acceptable purposes but does not provide an exemption for the child themselves.

Parents say assault charges against son too much

[Ed: As outraged as I am by the treatment of adults as sex offenders, I am doubly so by cases in which children or adolescents are subjected to the sex hysteria witch hunt. Those self-proclaimed "child savers" who would torture children in this manner should themselves be regarded as predators and punished for their actions! And, what the hell, put them on a publicly accessible registration and subjected to a lifetime of second-class citizenship and restrictions. It is long past the time when they come to be seen for the threat to society that they pose. District Attorneys such as Sandy Williams need to be held criminally liable for their offenses against children. ]

Mequon - In a case his parents consider prosecutorial overkill, a 14-year-old Mequon boy has been charged with five counts of fourth-degree sexual assault and faces the prospect of being tagged a sex offender for touching several girls in what his parents admit was an inappropriate manner.

So, last week in Ozaukee County Circuit Court, the boy's parents said no when Ozaukee County District Attorney Sandy Williams offered to reduce the charges to two counts of fourth-degree sexual assault and, if he pleaded no contest, to expunge his conviction if he stayed out of trouble for a year.

The parents said their son was guilty of nothing more than disorderly conduct.

"We don't want to have anything to do with sexual assault," said the boy's father, who along with the boy's mother is not being identified to protect the identity of the juvenile boy. "He could be put on a sex offender registry list that would come back to haunt him."

Now the boy is scheduled to appear in court again Feb. 3 for an evidentiary hearing, which amounts to a trial, in which the girls are likely to be compelled to testify and experts will be called to give their opinion on whether a 12- or 13-year-old boy can be sexually aroused by grabbing a girl's buttocks.

The maximum penalty for each of the five misdemeanor charges is nine months' incarceration, according to a juvenile delinquency petition. According to state Department of Corrections spokesman Rachel Krueger, those convicted of fourth-degree sexual assault are not required to register as sex offenders, but a judge could order the boy to do so, especially since the alleged victims were children and because of the number of counts against him.

According to the petition filed in July by Williams, here's what happened:

Two girls at Steffen Middle School in Mequon told officials June 6, a Friday, that the boy, 13 years old at the time, during class had grabbed the buttocks of one girl, 14, and unhooked the bra of the other girl, 13.

Under questioning by police, officials learned of other unreported incidents going back to October 2007, when the boy was 12, when he grabbed other girls' buttocks or their breasts, licked a girl's neck and tickled another girl in the stomach, according to the petition.

The boy's father met with Steffen Principal Deborah Anderson later that day and was informed that his son would be suspended for the last four days of the school year and that the matter was being referred to the school's police liaison officer "as matter of routine," the father said.

Mequon-Thiensville Schools Superintendent Demond Means declined to comment.

On the following Monday, the parents learned that what they thought was a school issue had become a police matter when the boy was called into the Mequon Police Department to be interviewed and was arrested.

The father had hoped that a visit to the police station would be little more than an attempt to help his son "man up" to what he had done, he said.

"I was in total shock" when his son was arrested, he said, especially after he had told the police officer they had already taken steps to discipline their son.

The weekend before the arrest, the boy's parents had made arrangements for their son to be taken to a wilderness camp for troubled teens in Utah.

It was a surprise to the boy when he was whisked away in the middle of the night on Wednesday and flown to the camp.

He stayed there for the next two months.

Mequon police Capt. Dan Buntrock, who recommended the charges to Williams, said the charges are appropriate for the behavior.

"If someone touches someone sexually in a bar, is that fourth-degree sexual assault? Yes," he said. "It doesn't really matter where it occurs. And when the victim is of a certain age, it's even more serious."

State law says fourth-degree sexual assault occurs when someone intentionally touches another person to gratify himself sexually, or sexually degrades or humiliates that person.

In the opinion of Buntrock and Williams, that's what the boy did.

To the parents, however, their son is guilty of inappropriate behavior, disorderly conduct and "numskull friendliness," the mother said, quoting a therapist with whom her son has met.

"A 12-year-old boy does not do these things to sexually gratify himself," she said.

According to affidavits submitted in court Thursday in an attempt to block an order to testify in court, the girls and their parents said they did not feel degraded by the boy and that they did not want him criminally prosecuted, only disciplined by the school for the two events on June 6.

Their son and the girls remain friends, the boy's parents said.

OKC molester removed from treatment, sent to prison

[Ed: One of the myriad bizarre implications flowing from residency restriction laws]

OKLAHOMA CITY — A convicted child molester has been sent to prison after a judge learned the treatment center where he was living was located near a city park.

District Judge Virgil C. Black on Friday ordered 58-year-old Claude Stanley Fontenot be removed from the Avalon Correctional Services' Carver Center in south Oklahoma City and sent to prison. Fontenot has been at the center since being sentenced Oct. 15 on two counts of child sexual abuse.

At Friday's hearing, Black said he could no longer allow Fontenot to stay at the center because it violates a state law that prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a park.

The two victims, now teens, were in the courtroom. The girls' mother said she's relieved Fontenot is going to prison.

"That's what we've wanted all along — to see him behind bars," she said.

Attorney Josh Welch said sending his client to prison for three years after he was sentenced to the Carver Center violates the double jeopardy provision of the Constitution.

Welch said he hopes to have Fontenot released within 30 days and keep him out of jail while his case is under review.

Fontenot initially was sentenced to three years at the Carver Center and 17 years of probation and was required to register as a sex offender. The Carver Center, on south May Avenue, is 813 feet from Ted Reynolds Park. District Judge Virgil C. Black said at the time Fontenot was sentenced, no one involved in the case realized the center's proximity to the park.

Videotapes Could Reverse Sex Abuse Convictions

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The discovery of thousands of videotaped medical examinations recorded during child sex-abuse investigations in Santa Clara County could effect the outcome of a number of criminal convictions dating back to 1991.The Santa Clara County district attorney's office says the tapes were found by medical experts hired by two convicted defendants. Those experts determined that the tapes contradicted medical findings that sex abuse had ever occurred.One of the two convictions, that of Agustin Uribe, has already been overturned by a state appeals court because of the tape. The second conviction is now in question.Prosecutors will review some 3,000 tapes recorded in cases dating back to 1991 and determine which cases ended in convictions. Defense attorneys will be notified by prosecutors in any cases where new evidence appears.

Advocates for sex offenders take aim at registry, other rules

December 7, 2008 7:37 PM
Sandy Kennedy hates that her husband’s picture is on Maryland’s sex offender registry. 

Elected officials and victims’ advocates say tough sex-offender laws are necessary to protect society from dangerous criminals. But some offenders and their relatives, like Kennedy, see the restrictions as overly intrusive and unnecessary. 

Her husband has served his time and is a danger to no one, Kennedy argues. 

“In Salem, they had a witch-hunt, and in America, we’re still having a witch-hunt, and the witch-hunt is just different,” said Kennedy, a Parsonsburg nurse. “It’s the sex offender.” 

Kennedy runs a blog called Sex Offenders and Their Wives, where she vents about the difficulties of living with sex-offender restrictions and debunks what she said are myths about offenders, like the high probability that they will re-offend and their imperviousness to treatment. 

She also heads the Maryland chapter of the national group Reform Sex Offender Laws. So far, there are only three other members, she said. 

Out eight years 

Sandy Coulbourne, now 48, met Michael Kennedy, now 53, in 2007 at a bookstore. Both were browsing the murder mysteries. 

After only a couple of dates, Michael Kennedy sat his new girlfriend down and told her he had spent 20 years in federal prison for rape and murder before being paroled in 2000. He hadn’t done it, he insisted. 

She cried at the thought of an innocent man imprisoned for that long. The two married a few months later, despite his parole officer spending 45 minutes trying to convince her not to go through with it. 

People ask how she can love a killer and rapist, but the man she knows could never have done those things, Sandy Kennedy said. She can recite the details of his case, pointing out police, prosecution and witness errors along the way. In fact, it took three trials, with two hung juries, to convict him. 

She was spurred to activism when Michael Kennedy was required to register as a sex offender earlier this year, even though he had been out of prison for eight years. 

The directive to register came out of a recent federal law that Kennedy and other convicted sex offenders are fighting. 

She started reading about sex offender laws on the Internet and found that lots of offenders, their family members and some advocacy groups agreed the restrictions had gone too far. 

Human Rights Watch released a study last year arguing that registration laws are overbroad, that registries have led to violence and harassment against registrants, and that residency restrictions “banish[] offenders from entire urban areas.” 

Like Sandy Kennedy’s blog, offender-advocacy Web sites argue that the majority of registered sex offenders are not monsters who repeatedly kidnap and rape children — or, as Baltimore criminal defense lawyer Thomas P. Bernier put it, “some lecherous guy pulling 10-year-olds into a van.” 

Many don’t pose a continuing threat to children, Bernier said; some never did in the first place. 

Challenging the premise 

Fred Berlin, founder of the Johns Hopkins Sexual Disorders Clinic and an associate professor of psychiatry, said sex offender monitoring laws and restrictions are predicated on the premise that offenders are more likely than not to commit another offense. 

Recent studies have shown that, at most, 20 percent to 30 percent re-offend, a lower rate of recidivism than other criminals, he said. (Other sources point out that different types of sex offenders re-offend at different rates, and that this statistic only covers reported offenses.) 

Annapolis lawyer Thomas A. Pavlinic said few offenders need to be monitored for life, although many are anyway. 

“There are these evil people,” said Pavlinic, who specializes in defending accused child molesters. “Those are violent sexual predators, people from whom the public has to be protected. There are a lot of people who have in the course of their life simply made a mistake, either with their own children or because of the age difference.” 

They “get treatment and then they never do it again,” he said. 

Sandy Kennedy suggested that the government register criminals with a higher risk of recidivism, like drug dealers. 

She said she is not opposed to all sex offender restrictions, just the pointless ones. 

“I’m not against totally what they make us do,” she said. “I know there’s a reason people need to be protected. But come on, that Halloween stuff was a joke.” 

She was referring to a widely mocked Maryland effort to get certain sex offenders to post “no candy” signs on their houses, turn off their outside lights and ignore knocks on the door on Oct. 31. 

The signs were provided not only to child sex offenders but to those registered as sexually violent. So Michael Kennedy received a sign, even though the crime for which he was convicted did not involve children, his wife said. 

Elizabeth Bartholomew, who runs Maryland’s Sex Offender Registry, said the effort was merely a “request” on the state’s part, designed to protect the offenders “so the community knows that they’re trying to make sure everyone’s safe.” 

Opposing the registries 

“Safe,” though, was not what Sandy Kennedy felt when a local newspaper published her husband’s name. 

“[O]ur hick town’s little newspaper, decided to use a full page to report every sex offenders name and address,” she wrote on her blog. “I’ve read about the vigilantes who prey on sex offenders. We are small town Delmarva and I could just see some red neck get his buddies loading up in his pick up and start working on the list.” 

Vigilantism is one reason some activists oppose putting offenders’ identifying information, including pictures, on Internet registries. 

Paul Shannon, a founder of Reform Sex Offender Laws, said registries encourage people to target sex offenders, citing the 2006 murder of two Maine offenders by someone who found their names online. (Shannon would like to see public registries abolished; information about truly dangerous criminals should be shared among law enforcement officials, who would decide whether to alert the community.) 

One of the men killed in Maine had served time for having otherwise consensual sex with his girlfriend when he was 19 and she was a few days shy of 16. 

So-called “Romeo and Juliet” offenders shouldn’t be required to register as child sex offenders alongside pedophiles, Shannon said. 

“Virtually all adolescent sexuality is now criminalized,” said Shannon, who said he is not an offender or ex-offender, just a civil liberties advocate. “This is a serious attack on children and their right to grow up.” 

ABC reporter John Stossel did a series earlier this year on offender laws gone overboard; among other people, he featured a man who had, had sex with his girlfriend when he was 19 and she was 15. Twelve years later, they are married with four children, but he must still register as a sex offender. 

Russell P. Butler, executive director of the Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center Inc., said cases involving two consenting adolescents are usually dealt with less harshly than other sex cases. Judges often give statutory offenders probation before judgment so they do not have to register, he said. 

Besides which, he said, he is primarily concerned with protecting children who don’t have the capacity to consent to sex, not the older people who have sex with them. 

“If we have to balance the rights of pedophiles versus the rights of children, I’m going to balance those to protect children and not pedophiles,” Butler said. 

Legislators seem to feel the same way, said defense lawyer Bernier, a shareholder at Segal, McCambridge, Singer & Mahoney Ltd. 

“In general, the real problem is, any time someone in the legislature feels they haven’t done enough, they propose a law on sex offenses,” he said. 

He said sex offenders have begun pushing back against the regulations but haven’t gotten much traction. 

“Who wants to be the guy who wants to be known as out in [the] legislature championing sex offenders?” Bernier said. 

‘Opportunity to know’ 

Bartholomew, of the state’s Sex Offender Registry, said critics of sex offender laws actually have much less to complain about in Maryland than they would elsewhere. 

For example, some states prevent offenders from living within a certain distance of schools, daycares or churches, forcing them out of cities, into the country or even onto the streets. Critics say such residency restrictions ultimately do more harm than good by forcing offenders underground. 

In Florida, several sex offenders were famously discovered to be living together in a colony under a bridge because it was the only place where they wouldn’t be living too close to a forbidden landmark. 

Maryland does not have automatic residency restrictions, Bartholomew said. Judges can, however, order individual offenders as a condition of parole or probation not to live within a certain distance of a place. 

For those who doubt the necessity or fairness of registries, U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein points to Richard D. Morris. 

Morris was a baseball coach about to take three of his players on a trip to Florida, according to a press release Rosenstein’s office issued earlier this year. A suspicious grandfather of one of the boys searched the Maryland Sex Offender Registry and found that Morris was a convicted sex offender. 

The trip was halted. The grandson told police Morris had touched him inappropriately in the past, and when police searched Morris’ home computers, they found child pornography. 

“The community ought to have an opportunity to know and therefore be alert to any sex offenders who might present a risk to other people,” Rosenstein said. 

Freedom to fight 

As a convicted rapist and murderer, Michael Kennedy is hardly a sympathetic poster boy for changes to the sex offender monitoring laws. 

Still, his wife tries. 

Sandy Kennedy said she started the blog and the Maryland chapter of Reform Sex Offender Laws so she could find other women who could relate to the experience of living with a convicted sex offender. 

“I can talk to my husband and I do a lot, but I thought it would be nice to talk to other wives or other girlfriends,” Sandy Kennedy said. 

Shannon, the national organization’s founder, said it’s typical for women who are close to sex offenders to advocate on their behalf. The offenders themselves don’t necessarily want to call more attention to themselves, he said. 

“These stories are absolutely heartbreaking,” he said. “The people who are carrying around the pain are mostly the women: the mothers and the wives.” 

Kennedy has her own pain. She said her sister, who didn’t know about Michael’s past, stopped returning her calls after his picture went online. 

Though Kennedy worries about her safety and that of her husband, she said she needs to speak publicly in order to bring change. 

“I figure he’s on the registry; how much more visible can you get?” she said. “I felt that if we didn’t want publicity, that we won’t be able to change the way things are. 

“We were trying to keep a low [profile], not being public,” she said, “until he registered and they kind of gave us the freedom to go on out and make it known, and fight some of the injustices.”

An accusation is enough to land people on California's list of child abusers, but only long legal battles can clear their names.

Child Abuse Central Index offers no way out, even for the innocent

Accused of child abuse by a vindictive ex-girlfriend 22 years ago, Bakersfield stockbroker Scott Whyte ceased contact with their son for years, fearing that another allegation would land him in prison, before a court cleared him.

Craig and Wendy Humphries went to jail after a rebellious teenage daughter fled to Utah and told police there that her father and stepmother had abused her. While the Valencia couple were locked up in Los Angeles County on charges eventually ruled groundless, their two younger children were placed in foster care.

Esther Boynton, a Beverly Hills lawyer who helped Whyte and the Humphrieses fight to clear their names, had her own hellish experience getting off the state's Child Abuse Central Index, a database containing 819,000 names from which even a judgment of innocence isn't enough to secure removal.

Unlike the better-known database created by Megan's Law, which registers and tracks 63,000 named sex offenders, the child abuse index is neither actively managed by the state nor periodically purged of erroneous or unsubstantiated entries -- despite efforts by the wrongly included to escape its shameful stain.

The California Department of Justice has been ordered in at least three court decisions in recent years to create a standard way to remove from the index the names of those exonerated by courts or social service investigations.

But in response to the latest judgment, a U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling last month that the Humphrieses' privacy rights had been violated, the Office of the Attorney General plans another appeal in defense of the state's handling of the database.

Whyte, 59, looks back on a life irreparably damaged by the abuser label and the threat of punishment for a crime he didn't commit.

When the mother of his then-4-year-old son made the false allegations against him in 1986 and Kern County authorities put his name in the abuser index, Whyte said, his initial anger "quickly gave way to complete terror."

The mother's report was made during a veritable witch hunt that grew out of child abuse allegations against day-care workers in the county throughout the 1980s.

"The atmosphere was such that if you were accused, you might as well turn yourself in to prison and look to spend the rest of your life there," Whyte recalled.

For months after learning of the report, Whyte so feared his arrest was imminent that he left a blank check and the deed to his house with a relative to post bond for him.

"I just couldn't believe that this could happen to a person in this country, that [authorities] would destroy families with nothing but a phone call," said the father who protected his liberty at the cost of any relationship with his son. "There are not any words strong enough to describe that situation, the shame, the travesty. Somebody ought to be shot."

The Humphrieses, still listed as abusers, "are living every parent's nightmare," the appeals court said. It ruled the state in violation of the 14th Amendment because people in the index aren't given a chance to challenge the allegations against them.

The couple's ordeal began in March 2001, when Craig Humphries' 15-year-old daughter from a previous marriage took their car without permission and drove to Utah, where her mother and stepfather lived. She told them she had been abused since being sent to California nine months earlier, and a Utah emergency room doctor who examined the teen reported to Los Angeles County authorities that she had "non-accidental trauma with extremity contusions."

On the basis of that one phone call, the Humphrieses were arrested, jailed and charged with felony torture. The arresting sheriff's deputy filed a "substantiated" child abuse report that got them entered in the index. Their two younger children were placed in protective custody.

"My clients didn't have any idea where their kids were," said Boynton, who, because the case is still in litigation, has advised the couple against discussing their ordeal with The Times.

The Humphrieses got their children back about 10 days later, and California medical records proved that the daughter's bruises were the result of surgical removal of melanoma.

"The Humphries have taken advantage of every procedure available to them, including the California courts," Judge Jay S. Bybee wrote in the 9th Circuit Court opinion. "They went to the dependency court, which found that the allegations were 'not true' and returned their children to them. They went to the prosecutor, who dropped all the charges against them. They went to the criminal court, which declared them 'factually innocent' and sealed their arrest records. None of this had any effect on their CACI listing."

Wendy Humphries, a teacher, had to hire an attorney to avoid losing her credentials, because employers of people who work with children are required to consult the index. The list can be accessed by educational, child-care, adoption, foster-care and child-welfare agencies throughout the country and is referenced about 400,000 times a year, said Abraham Arredondo, spokesman for the attorney general's office.

Boynton landed in the child abuse database in 1990 after accidentally splashing her 17-year-old daughter with hot coffee. She learned three years later, when applying to volunteer as a reading tutor, that the Los Angeles Police Department had reported her to the state based on her expressions of remorse to emergency room personnel for the burn on her daughter's shoulder. 

It took two years and much expensive litigation to get their names expunged from the index, and Boynton remains suspicious that distorted records of the incident still linger elsewhere.

The state agreed to make individual changes in its listing, notification and challenge practices in Whyte and Boynton's cases and in a negotiated settlement with Amelia Gomez, a Los Angeles woman denied custody of her grandchildren because of index errors.

"We have an order requiring them to rewrite the regulations. As far as we know, they haven't done anything to comply with it," David Greene, a lawyer with the First Amendment Project in Oakland, said of the state court ruling a year ago that the index violated constitutional privacy guarantees.

Among the changes the state agreed to were the rights of named individuals to see their government dossiers, to challenge inaccuracies and to have their versions appended to the records.

"To the extent you want this index to serve some function, to have usefulness, it has to be accurate," Greene said.

The law now requires that anyone added to the abuser index be notified, but the lawyers say decades of secrecy in compiling and maintaining the list created in 1965 probably means many on it are unaware of their inclusion and the need to pursue removal.

Those listed can now demand a hearing among officials of the reporting agency, whether a county child protective services office or law enforcement.

But the standard of proof of wrongdoing remains so low and the pressure to continue identifying any potential abuser so high that the hearings are often "almost worthless," said Peter Sheehan, a lawyer with the Social Justice Law Project in the Bay Area.

Though the intent of the index was noble in seeking to protect children, Sheehan said, its value and reliability are compromised by its flaws. 

A halfhearted and piecemeal effort a few years ago to update the index showed significant error rates -- more than 20% in some counties -- among the few reporting agencies that carried out the reviews, Sheehan said. The 9th Circuit Court ruling in Humphries vs. County of Los Angeles cited a 2004 review of listings from San Diego County that suggested as many as half were erroneous.

Sheehan called the state's request for 9th Circuit rehearing of the Humphries ruling and the possibility of an eventual appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court "the scary part," in light of the high court's conservative majority and its tendency to rule against claims of government interference with privacy rights.

"What happened to the Humphries could happen again today," said Boynton, noting the state's resistance to reforming its administration of the index. "Ultimately there will be critical mass, and the government will have to fix the system."