Paranoia, Not Sex Offenders, Are Greatest Threat to Trick-Or-Treaters

November 2, 2008

Boy Is Fatally Shot Trick-or-Treating

SUMTER, S.C. (AP) — A 12-year-old boy trick-or-treating with his family on Friday was shot from inside a home and killed, and his father and brother were wounded by the gunfire, the authorities said.

A suspect in the shootings, Quentin Patrick, was in custody, a jail official said. Mr. Patrick, 22, has been charged with murder and three counts of assault and battery with intent to kill. The jail official said she did not know whether Mr. Patrick had a lawyer, and his telephone number was unpublished.

The family was headed home from a city-sponsored event here, when they decided to stop at a few homes to trick-or-treat, Police Chief Patty Patterson said. The father and his four children approached a home with a porch light on about 8:30 p.m., while their mother waited nearby in a vehicle.

At the door, family members said they thought they heard fireworks. The 12-year-old boy, his father and brother were all hit by the gunfire. The boy died at a hospital, Coroner Verna Moore said. The other two children were not hurt.

The boy’s father and brother were taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The authorities have not released the identity of the family, and Chief Patterson would not release any more details about the shooting.

[Ed: The man who shot this youngster who was trick-or-treating, no doubt emotionally unstable, was as influenced by the irrational paranoia sweeping our nation - fear of the stranger - as all of our citizens and politicians who regard sex offenders as the greatest danger children face on Halloween, despite a complete lack of evidence to support such fears.

Pay attention! Your child is THOUSANDS of times more likely to be hit by a car, drown in a pool, or be shot by gang members, than to be sexually assaulted by strangers on Halloween. This obsession with "stranger danger" comes at the cost of your children themselves and is THE major contributor to the perilous erosion of trust and respect in our society.

Leaving aside for a moment the motivations of those who ostensibly wish to protect children, whether it be out of genuine concern for their well being or out of some dark and vicarious titillation derived from an obsession with children and sex, I urge you take the time and the effort to consider ACTUAL dangers to children and adolescents and instead express your concerns towards their remedy.]

Paranoia, Not Sex Offenders, Are Greatest Threat

Teacher ordered to stand trial over charges he abused teen

Salt Lake Tribune

In another case, the girl had sex with a West High counselor; 'I have lied a lot,' she says.

Is she a troubled teen who fabricated a story about sexual encounters with a teacher, or the victim of a predator who coerced her into a sexual relationship?

Both sides of that question were argued during a Tuesday preliminary hearing for a West High School teacher accused of sexually abusing a 16-year-old student. Jose Fanjul, 45, is charged in 3rd District Court with five counts of first-degree forcible sodomy and five counts of second-degree felony forcible sexual abuse in connection with allegedly having sex with the girl inside his classroom and at other locations. After listening to testimony, Judge Ann Boyden ordered Fanjul to stand trial on the abuse allegations, saying prosecutors presented sufficient evidence to advance the case. She set a Nov. 10 arraignment.

The case against the teacher will be the second for the teen accuser, who also had a sexual relationship with a West High guidance counselor before the alleged relationship with Fanjul. That prior relationship could become a factor in the case against Fanjul, because defense attorney Ken Brown questions whether the girl pursued a relationship with teachers. He said during Tuesday's hearing that the girl has a history of lying and had fabricated stories about her relationship with Fanjul. The girl testified she had lied to investigators and doctors during interviews about prior sexual behavior.

"You've made a habit of lying," Brown told the girl.

"Yes," she replied, but claimed she had been "under the influence of a predator" when changing her story. "I have lied a lot."

The girl struggled to answer many questions posed by Brown, often pausing before saying she didn't remember dates and some details about her time with Fanjul. But prosecutors maintain the girl is being truthful about her encounters with Fanjul, which began, she said, when she provided feedback on how to improve his teaching after he expressed frustration about the class performing poorly on a test. The two began exchanging e-mails about classwork, which later took on a sexual tone, prosecutors said. The girl testified she and Fanjul engaged in various sexual activities between March and July, both at his home and at school.

Several family members attended Tuesday's hearing in support of Fanjul, who is not in custody. The girl left West High School in late May and is undergoing counseling, her father said in court on Tuesday.

[Ed: One should always keep in mind, guilty verdicts in sexual assault cases are often based upon nothing more than the willingness of the jury to believe the alleged victim; no further evidence is required.]

Sex offender seeks Supreme Court ruling on park ban

Indiana Star

Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union warn that if Plainfield's ban on convicted sex offenders in the town parks is allowed to stand, similar bans and permanent punishment could spread across the state.

The ACLU, representing a Marion County man identified only as John Doe, have asked the state's highest court to review a September ruling by the Indiana Court of Appeals that upheld Plainfield's ban.

The state's high court is expected to decide by mid-November whether to accept the case or allow the appeals court decision to stand.

Plainfield's Town Council adopted an ordinance in 2000 that prohibits anyone on the Indiana registry of sex offenders from being in the town parks or recreation center.

In 2005, Plainfield police saw an Indianapolis man they recognized as a convicted sex offender in one of the town park facilities. He was with his young son. Police later told the man about the town's ordinance and told him not to return.

Court rulings have allowed Doe to remain anonymous even though his real name and criminal history are public and listed on the registry online. He has completed a prison term and probation.

The ACLU sued Plainfield in November 2005. Since then, the town's ordinance banning convicted sex offenders from town parks has been upheld in Hendricks Superior Court and the state Court of Appeals. So Doe and other sex offenders are still prohibited from Plainfield parks.

ACLU Legal Director Kenneth J. Falk said in the recent 19-page filing with the Supreme Court that Plainfield's ordinance, if allowed to stand, has the potential for far-reaching and statewide impact.

Greenwood, Lafayette and Michigan City have enacted similar bans. The ACLU has a suit pending against a Jeffersonville ordinance.

An Indianapolis ordinance passed two years ago was struck down in court as being too broad because the geographic areas of the ban covered most of the city.

Falk said the central issue in the appeal of the Plainfield lawsuit is whether access to the parks and recreational facilities is a legally defined "core value" for everyone in a community.

Plainfield claims convicted sex offenders do not have that right.

The ACLU claims that a permanent ban, even after an offender has completed prison and probation, is excessive punishment.

Sending Messages, Receiving None

It used to be that, as a society, we valued the analysis and recommendations of those whose knowlege and expertise surpassed our own.

Residency restrictions for sex offenders popular, but ineffective

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Despite research that shows sex offender residency requirements actually hamper the rehabilitation of offenders, jurisdictions across the country continue to pass them, including Allegheny County last year.

Experts say the laws, which prohibit convicted sex offenders from living within a certain distance of schools, day care centers and parks, also don't work to help cut down on recidivism.

These types of residency restrictions have been passed in at least 30 states and thousands of municipalities nationwide. Even as prosecutors, criminal justice researchers and child advocates say they don't work, parents and legislators continue to push for the tough laws.

County Councilman Vince Gastgeb, R-Bethel Park, who was the primary author of the local bill passed in October 2007, said he wrote the law that parents wanted.

Mr. Gastgeb said he originally intended for the restrictions to apply only to offenders whose victims were children. But after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit against the county this month, Mr. Gastgeb learned that the law actually applies to all registered sex offenders, no matter their victims' ages.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of six sex offenders who said they could not find anywhere to live because of the restrictions.

At the time the suit was filed, Mr. Gastgeb said he would amend the law so that it applied only to sex offenders whose victims are children.

But days later, he changed his mind.

"I do think it's legally sound, and I do think we'll prevail in court," Mr. Gastgeb said. "So a certain section of the county is off-limits. That's the way it is.

"There's plenty of places for people to live."

Even if there are "plenty of places for people to live," those who have studied the issue know that residency restrictions push sex offenders outside of metropolitan areas into rural communities.

That means less access to family, housing, employment and treatment programs, said Dr. Jill S. Levenson, a professor at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., who has been studying sex crime policy for six years.

"At first glance, these laws sound good in theory," she said. "But it's much more complex than that."

The visceral reaction of "not in my neighborhood," needs to be balanced with pragmatism, she said.

Part of the problem, she continued, is that residency restrictions are often one-size-fits-all.

They often don't distinguish among the types of crimes that have been committed, Dr. Levenson said. Just because someone is designated a sex offender under state law does not necessarily mean that that person is a sexually violent predator or a pedophile.

Further, studies conducted by the Minnesota Department of Corrections and Colorado Department of Public Safety have not shown any correlation between sex offender recidivism and living near schools or parks.

And though residency restrictions might prohibit a sex offender from living in a certain neighborhood, they can't keep such a person from sitting across the street from a playground.

"They really do nothing at all to stop sex offenders from having access to children during the day," Dr. Levenson said.

On the other hand, there is ample scientific evidence that shows residency laws do interfere with the reintegration of sex offenders into society.

"Criminal offenders who have stable housing, stable employment and support systems in their lives, those people are less likely to go on and commit new crimes," Dr. Levenson said.

Sex offender residency restrictions were approved in Iowa in 2002, though the law was put on hold pending the outcome of a court case. In 2005, the state Supreme Court upheld the law there.

Law enforcement opposition

Almost from inception, law enforcement entities have been fighting to get it repealed, said Corwin Ritchie, the executive director of the Iowa County Attorneys Association.

The prosecutors' group issued a policy statement on the issue, outlining what it sees as numerous problems.

In addition, residency restrictions have made it less likely for people charged with sex offenses to plead guilty, for fear that they will lose their homes.

That means that more cases must go to trial -- potentially causing additional trauma for victims -- or more offenders go free because sex crimes can be hard to prove.

Another important factor to be considered, Mr. Ritchie said, is the vast amount of resources being spent to enforce residency laws with few tangible results.

In Iowa, according to his organization, the state has lost track of more than half of its registered sex offenders since restrictions went into place, making the jobs of probation and parole officers much more difficult and time-consuming.

Also, Department of Justice research shows that at least 90 percent of children who are abused are victimized by someone they know and trust.

"[The incidence of] stranger danger is tiny," Mr. Ritchie said. "It's tragic, but its incidence is really, really small."

And despite public opinions to the contrary, research shows that sex offenders are among the least likely criminals to re-offend, Dr. Levenson said.

But in Iowa, legislators don't want to hear any of that, Mr. Ritchie said.

"We ran into the politics of it," he continued. "No one wants to be seen as soft on sex offenders.

"It's just politically untenable."

Soon after Iowa's law went into effect, a small panel of legislators who wrote it told Mr. Ritchie that they were wrong and that it should be overturned, he said.

But those same lawmakers said they would not be the ones to do it, he said. Instead, they left it up to the courts.

"They're a fearful bunch," he said. "They've done such a good job of selling it, they can't turn and go the other way."

Advocates for repealing Iowa's law came close two sessions ago, Mr. Ritchie said. They will take up the fight again in 2009.

"The general public doesn't really care if it's good public policy," Mr. Ritchie said.

Parents insistent

The decision by Mr. Gastgeb to write the local law was influenced by listening to many parents in Mt. Lebanon speak at community meetings.

They were outraged last year to learn that a convicted sex offender was living near Howe Elementary School in the Sunset Hills neighborhood.

Last week, parents there continued to support the residency restriction law.

"It would be very difficult to have a whole lot of sympathy for sex offenders at all, having three children," said Kathy Graziano, who lives in the community.

One of the reasons she feels so strongly about the restriction is that the Mt. Lebanon School District does not have a busing system. Many students walk to and from school, she said, which makes them more vulnerable.

"There were children passing his residence at any time of the day," Ms. Graziano said. "We don't have buses . . . or designated adults that would be one more set of eyes."

She doesn't care if local sex offenders have access to housing or jobs.

"Then I suppose they should work out in a cornfield in the middle of Iowa," she said.

Another neighbor, Bill Crock, who has four children, believes the residency restriction should stick.

"From what I've read, these guys don't get better," he said. "It's a lifelong problem."

A teacher, who also lives in the community, was the only one to express mixed feelings on the issue.

She wouldn't give her name for fear of reprisal from her school district, but the woman said she felt sorry for the offenders.

Though the most important thing is to protect children, she also added that sex offenders do have to live somewhere.

That's a notion that Dr. Levenson backed up.

"When sex offenders become homeless, they do become more difficult for probation and parole to track," she said. "That, in itself, defeats the very purpose of Megan's Law."

Though most jurisdictions pass residency restrictions when they are introduced, the Kansas legislature in 2006 chose not to after listening to expert testimony during two days of hearings.

"This is not about sympathy for criminal offenders," Dr. Levenson said. "Housing instability is one of the strongest indicators of recidivism in the criminal justice literature."

If jurisdictions want to enforce some residency restrictions, Dr. Levenson suggests that it be done only after an evaluation is performed to assess the person's potential for future danger.

Parents should not rely simply on sex offender registries to keep their children safe, she said.

"With the reliance on sex offender registries, we do parents a disservice," she said. "They need to be aware of what to look for in anyone who spends time with their child."

[Ed: Continuing to promulgate bad public policy, despite the evidence of both its ineffectiveness and damage to society, is the definition of irrational behavior. When politicians pander to the most irrational and  hotheaded amongst us to the exclusion of all reason, we must fear for our safety and our liberty. ]

Judge Blocks Rules Limiting Sex Offenders on Halloween

New York Times

A federal judge in Missouri on Monday temporarily blocked parts of a new state law that requires sexual offenders to remain in their homes on Halloween evening and to avoid any contact with children related to the holiday.

The judge, Carol E. Jackson, of United States District Court in St. Louis, said the law was unclear, questioning language that prohibits “all Halloween-related contact with children” and allows sexual offenders to leave their homes from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. only if they have “just cause.”

Two issues raised by the case were whether sexual offenders could celebrate the holiday with their own children or grandchildren, for example by hanging decorations or carving pumpkins, and on what grounds they could leave home during the curfew.

The attorney general’s office said it would appeal the order, but declined to comment further.

Chief Judge Jackson allowed two provisions in the law to stand, requiring sexual offenders to post a sign stating “no candy or treats at this residence” and to turn off any porch lights.

Illinois and Louisiana have also passed state laws restricting sexual offenders’ activities on Halloween, and some other states have similar agency regulations or municipal ordinances.

Missouri’s law was enacted as part of broader legislation cracking down on sexual offenders.

“We’re counting it as a victory that kids going trick-or-treating will be a degree safer,” said State Senator John Loudon, a Republican who sponsored the legislation, speaking of Monday’s ruling. “And then we’ll have to go back to the drawing board depending on court action.”

The ruling came after four anonymous convicted sexual offenders sued this month, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri. They say the law is not only vague but also unfair and unconstitutional, an argument their lawyer vowed to keep pushing. “Once people have completed their sentences,” said the lawyer, Anthony E. Rothert, “you can’t go back and punish them for the same crime.”

Detective Gary Coxen of the St. Louis County Police Department had planned to knock on doors to ensure the sexual offenders were home, but he worried they would ignore him, mistaking him for children trick-or-treating. After the ruling, he said his job would be easier; he would simply go to each house to ensure that a sign was posted and the porch lights were off. “It takes the guesswork out,” he said. [Ed: This ruling provides only the slightest bit of justice in a sea of ex post facto persecution]

Law Enforcement Cracks Down on Sex Offenders as Halloween Nears

Chattannoga, TN-

Halloween is a time of fun and games for kids, but for sexual predators it can mean easy prey, that's why local law enforcement will crack down on sex offenders leading up to the 31st. Tennessee passed a law in July that prohibits convicted sex offenders from impersonating, or dressing as, or professing to be any fictional character or real person that would entice a minor to come around them.

 The Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole has issued restrictions to sex offenders during the Halloween season. Offenders are not allowed to pass out candy, decorate their homes for Halloween, go to haunted houses or other seasonal activities, or wear costumes.

 "Halloween is about children, and it's a time of disguise, and that's one of the reasons why.", says Hamilton County Sheriff's Detective Jimmy Clift.

 "It would be very difficult to prosecute a case of a stranger on a child if all we have is he was dressed as a baseball player or had a mask on or whatever, we can't really determine that."
 Despite the Halloween crackdown, officers say Tennessee law hinders them from doing more.
 "I believe in Georgia or Florida, one of the neighboring states, they have to post in their yard they are a convicted sex offender.", Clift says. "In Tennessee, we're kind of lax in that area, and it's not the Police Department or Sheriff's office, we can only enforce the laws that are on the books." 

That means parents must do more to ensure a safe Halloween for their children. Clift stresses the best way to do that is to go to the TBI's Sex Offender database and "know who's in the area they are going trick or treating in, you know know the addresses, and don't let your children go there. Not every offender is a predator, but I can't know that and I would treat all offenders as dangerous."
[Ed: Hey kids! It's "Boogey-Man" time again! And there ain't nothin' scarier than a nation of ignorant and bigoted adults brain washin' children to be extra paranoid about non-existent threats.  Hell, they don't need no damned statistics to tell them otherwise!]