Wednesday, January 23, 2008

14 is not old enough to consent to sex

City man receives 10 years for having sex with girl, 14

Published:Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The judge said the victim was not old enough to

consent to sex.



YOUNGSTOWN — The defense attorney for a city man sentenced to 10 years in prison for having consensual sex with an underage girl says the conviction and sentence should send fear into any coach, teacher or other person who spends time alone with teenagers.

“This was a he-said, she-said” situation, said Atty. John F. Shultz of the conviction of Brian P. Matthews, 37, of Argo Street. “There was no corroboration.”

Shultz said he wonders if the public’s attitude toward sex allegations involving children has changed since sexual misconduct among Catholic priests was uncovered several years ago.

“The attitude is every time there’s an allegation, everyone believes that he’s probably guilty,” Shultz said.

Natasha Frenchko, an assistant Mahoning County prosecutor handling the case, said she believes the victim’s testimony was adequate to convict Matthews because her story never changed during eight hours of testimony over two days.

She said she believes Matthews’ apology to the girl before sentencing also shows his guilt.

Matthews said, “I do accept the verdict of the jury. I do apologize to the family and to [the girl]. And I truly hope that she gets the help she needs to move on with her life.”

A jury convicted Matthews on Dec. 4 of 13 counts of unlawful sexual contact with a minor for having sex with the girl on a Canfield-area farm where he worked as a farm hand for four years. The acts took place between August 2004, when the girl was 14, through May 2006.

Judge Maureen A. Sweeney of common pleas court could have sentenced him to up to 65 years in prison, as recommended by Frenchko.

Instead, she sentenced him to prison and five years’ probation afterward. As a sexual predator, he will be required to report his whereabouts to authorities every 180 days for 25 years after he leaves prison.

The relationship came to light when an employee at the farm discovered the girl’s diary in the girl’s backpack. It contained graphic descriptions of her sexual encounters with Matthews.

The girl testified for parts of two days about the encounters and about the diary. No physical evidence was presented regarding the encounters, and no witness reported seeing any of them.

Shultz told Judge Sweeney that Matthews has a wife and child, no criminal record and used no force on the victim at any time. “But for the age of the victim,” he said, Matthews would have been charged with nothing or a lesser offense, he added.

In her sentencing, Judge Sweeney clarified that the sex acts between Matthews and the girl “would have been consensual if the victim was older,” but the girl was not old enough to consent to sex at the time.

The girl’s father spoke before sentencing, saying his research on sexual predators indicates that only 10 percent of offenders are ever convicted and that the only way to stop them from committing offenses against children is to put them in prison.

The father said outside of court later that he wished the jury could have seen his daughter when she was 14 to understand that she was just a child when the offenses started, not the 17-year-old who testified last month.

By Ed Runyan (Contact)

MySpace slags behind in safety

Our view on social networking security: MySpace stalls on safety
Popular site could move faster to verify users’ age, identity.

A chilling story last week underscored how easily sexual predators can operate on MySpace, the most popular social networking site for younger teens. A New York couple allegedly posed on the site as a sexually inexperienced teen seeking advice. They're accused of enticing two underage girls for sex, including a strip club orgy.

This wasn't an isolated occurrence. MySpace, with more than 70 million users in the USA, has long had a reputation as a magnet for sexual predators. Around the nation, law enforcement officers have set up false MySpace identities to lure and capture dozens of them. Last year, the site, under threat of legal action, scoured its database for known sex offenders and closed at least 29,000 pages. This did not include predators who have not faced charges or those who use pseudonyms.

Given these threats, it no doubt came as a relief to parents and children last week when, after two years of talks, MySpace and attorneys general from every state but Texas signed an agreement that the site would take more steps to protect young people.

Many of the steps are commendable. Among them, MySpace will begin to put privacy settings on accounts for those who say they're younger than 18 (up from 16), run ads to advise parents on Internet safety and perhaps set up a registry for parents to bar their kids from joining (though any parent who believes that a 14-year-old can't create a new e-mail address and identity is naive).

MySpace already posts warnings that people might not be who they say they are. But a truly trustworthy firewall that can stop older people from posing as youngsters, and vice versa, requires stricter identity verification.

And therein lies the problem, as we discovered with a simple test that any parent can repeat. When we set up a MySpace page for a non-existent 15-year-old named Lisa, she was immediately exposed to ads to meet sexy singles and to the news, in an ad, that someone has a crush on her. She was asked to provide her cellphone number. A text message was received instantly after she complied.

We also found one 13-year-old who, like many of his friends, had gotten around privacy settings by claiming to be 22.

MySpace contends that adequate age verification software doesn't exist.

Several state attorneys general disagree, citing, for example, Aristotle software. So the two sides agreed to a classic tactic designed to give the appearance of action in the absence of it: a task force to study the matter.

Other social networking sites, such as Facebook, will be asked to join.

Even in the absence of a perfect software solution, interim steps are possible. How about using databases of drivers' licenses to cross-check ages? In more than 20 states, they are public records.

The point is, more effective safeguards are needed now, and not just against sexual predators, as another recent tragedy illustrates. A 13-year-old in Missouri, Megan Meier, hanged herself after an ex-friend's mother pretended to be a boy who befriended her, then sent her cruel messages.

MySpace declined to write an opposing view to this editorial. Had the site been confident in its protections, it probably would have been keen to trumpet them. More important, it would be moving faster to set up age and ID verifications, not just study them.

Internet Predator Caught

Catching sexual predators like 'shooting fish in a barrel

By Deborah McDermott
January 23, 2008 6:00 AM

PORTSMOUTH — An Internet crime detective with the local Police Department was key to the arrest Friday of a Worcester, Mass., man on numerous Massachusetts charges of Internet solicitation of a minor.

Scott A. Simoncini, 35, of 95 Sears Island Drive, Worcester, was arrested by Massachusetts state police on five counts of dissemination of matter harmful to a minor and two counts of attempting to entice a child under the age of 16.

According to the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, Simoncini is a history teacher and former coach at West Boylston Middle/High School and has been put on administrative leave with pay.

Portsmouth Police Capt. Janet Champlin said Simoncini's arrest was a direct result of work conducted by Detective Kristyn Bernier.

Champlin said Bernier was acting in her capacity as a member of the N.H. Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Portsmouth police are the lead agency of the task force.

Bernier, as part of her job, was going into Internet chat rooms and Web sites such as MySpace and Facebook when she identified Simoncini as a person using a screen name to entice minors into having sex, Champlin said.

Champlin said, while she could not go into specifics about this case, Internet investigators worldwide "pose as minors online. It's like shooting fish in a barrel. A child will go into a chat room and child predators will immediately start engaging in sexualized conversation."

Bernier's information was handed over to the Massachusetts ICAC task force and Massachusetts State Police. When Massachusetts authorities subsequently received a tip on the Cyber Tipline of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children regarding Simoncini, armed with Bernier's information, they sought his arrest.

Following his arraignment on Tuesday, Simoncini was released on $2,500 bail and ordered to have no unsupervised contact with anyone under the age of 16 and was prohibited from using the Internet, according to the Telegram and Gazette.

Evidence was seized at Simoncini's residence, and he was transported to Massachusetts State Police headquarters in Worcester, where he was processed. Champlin said that, based on the forensic investigation of Simoncini's computer, additional charges could be forthcoming.

Champlin said, while Internet investigators are constantly trolling the Web, they can't catch all the predators. Parents must play a part, as well, she said.
"Parental supervision is key," she said. "Here is someone actively online trying to solicit minors and disseminating sexual material to minors.

"So I can't stress enough: Parents need to know who their kids are talking to online, what chat rooms they are going into, because detectives online can't go into all of them.

"The old image of a child molester as a man with a trench coat hanging around a playground doesn't hold true any more," she said. "They don't have to be at a playground. They can sit in the comfort of their own home.

The Internet has provided a target-rich environment for people who want to prey on children."

Alicia's Law

Victim pushes for Virginia funding to catch sexual predators

The Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. - A Pennsylvania teenager who was abducted, held hostage and sexually assaulted by a man she met online is asking for more funding in Virginia to crack down on child sexual predators.

In 2002, 13-year-old Alicia Kozakiewicz (koh-zuh-KEH'-vich) left her home to meet Scott Tyree, a 38-year-old she had met online. He drove her to his home in Herndon, where he chained her to the floor in his basement for four days while he beat and raped her.

Kozakiewicz joined Alexandria Delegate Brian Moran on Wednesday in pushing for "Alicia's Law." The legislation would provide about $14.8 million to expand Virginia's two child predator task forces. It would also create three regional computer forensic labs and provide money to track Internet predators.

Tyree is serving a 19-year prison term.

Teen sex offender must move!

Teen sex offender, family must move away from school zone

From NBC4/Columbus

GRANDVIEW HEIGHTS, Ohio – Police said that a registered sex offender is living less than 1,000 feet from an elementary school in this Columbus suburb.

According to the Franklin County Sheriff's Office, 18-year-old Matthew David Hensley registered as a sex offender on December 31 after being convicted of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor.

Hensley was living within 1,000 feet of Stevenson Elementary School on Oxley Road.On January 10, Grandview Heights school officials sent an e-mail alert and a letter to parents notifying them that a registered sex offender was breaking state law by living that close to the school.

The 18-year-old sex offender lives with his parents a block away from the school. His mother said that the family intends to move so that her son is in compliance with the law.

Hensley has 45 days from the date of his registration to move from the restricted area near the school.

Repeat offender gets 38 yrs

Sex offender gets 38 years to life in rape case

By Natalie Morales

Staff Writer

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

URBANA — A man who kidnapped and raped his ex-girlfriend then led police on a high-speed chase through two counties in June was sentenced Tuesday to 38 years to life in prison.

Joseph W. Rollins, 37, of 4458 Woodville Pike, was also placed in a higher sex offender category because he was previously convicted of two other rapes.

He had pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated burglary, failure to comply with the order or signal of a police officer, kidnapping and two counts of rape for the June 29 incident.

Champaign County Common Pleas Judge Roger Wilson gave Rollins consecutive prison terms for the charges, categorized him as a Tier III sex offender and suspended his driver's license for life.

On the morning of June 29, Rollins went to the home of a former girlfriend. When she opened the door, he forced her inside at knife-point, raped her twice and assaulted her during a four-hour period, Champaign County Prosecutor Nick Selvaggio said.

Rollins fled in a vehicle and led deputies and Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers on a high-speed chase through Champaign and Clark counties.

Rollins previously was convicted of sexual battery in Darke County. He has since been indicted of another rape charge in Miami County, Selvaggio said.

Rapists find pleasure not in the sexual gratification from the act, but in the power and control they feel, he said.

"The day you raped me, punched my face and held me at knife-point, you said you had control over me — now I have

control over your fate," according to a statement the victim wrote, which Selvaggio read in court.

Rollins, whose attorney declined comment, apologized to the victim and officers and said he needed help to find out what was wrong with him.

The victim said Rollins' apology did not excuse his actions and that the memories of the attack make her fear daily activities, like answering her front door.

"Judge Wilson has put this community in a position where it is unlikely that it will be harmed by Joseph Rollins ever again," Selvaggio said.

MySpace Predator

How a sinister MySpace predator targeted teen girls

By Dan Herbeck
Updated: 01/06/08 8:02 AM

On his MySpace page, he called himself “sex master Adam.”

He said he was 20 years old, and the page featured photographs of a muscular, shirtless young man.

His spelling and grammar were atrocious, but the words on his personal profile page left little doubt about the kind of girls he wanted to meet.

“yes i am from buffalo,” he wrote. “what im looking for are some bad lil girls and when i say bad i mean really bad girls who will do anything i ask them to.”

His MySpace page drew reponses from dozens of teenage girls, some as young as 13. And after communicating with Adam several times, some of the girls sent him pictures of themselves in the nude, sometimes in extremely lewd poses.

Police recently learned that Adam was really David W. Evans, a 48-year-old cafeteria worker who lived alone in an apartment on Buffalo’s West Side.

Cheektowaga police and the FBI arrested him last month, and charged him with coercing a minor to produce child pornography, a federal felony crime.
Six victims have been identified so far, but police believe there may be many more — dozens, possibly more than 100. They are trying to track down other teens whose pictures were found on Evans’ cell phones and computer.

As police continue their investigation and more girls are located, questions are being raised about the victims, too:

• Regardless of how old she thought Adam was, why would any teenage girl send naked pictures of herself to a man she had never met?

• How could the girls’ parents be unaware of what was going on?

• How common is this kind of conduct in the Internet age?

For cops and others studying the case, there are no simple answers.

“There was a progression,” said Cheektowaga Detective Michael K. Hockwater, who broke the case with Detective Terence J. Griffin. “It started out with girls using MySpace to meet a hot-looking 20-year-old guy. Then, [Evans] began making demands on them. And then, threatening to do things to them if they refused to send racier pictures. It just got out of hand.”

“I’ll tell you why it happened,” Griffin interjected. “Because their parents didn’t know what they were doing.”

The girls made terrible mistakes, but characterizing them as bad girls would be unfair, said Bonnie L. Glazer and Stefan Perkowski, who work with young sex crime victims through Child & Adolescent Treatment Services of Western New York.

“They’re not bad kids; they’re victims of a seduction by an adult,” said Perkowski, the agency’s program director. “And they’re growing up in an age when you have an explosion of role models like Paris Hilton telling them that this kind of behavior is not only acceptable, but something they should aspire to.”

Sexual predators often try to excuse their actions by claiming their young victims were at fault, said Glazer, a clinical social worker who is also the executive director of the child and adolescent treatment agency.

“We’ve seen many cases where teenagers do things over the Internet without realizing the implications, the trail of information,” Glazer said.
“The Internet makes it too easy.”

U.S. Attorney Terrance P. Flynn said he finds the case “very disturbing” on two different levels.

It demonstrates the ease with which sexual predators can misuse the Internet, he said, and it also shows the immaturity and vulnerability of some teens who use social networking sites to make their private lives public.

Sites widely misused

One person who was not surprised by the Evans case or the teen girls’ conduct is Patricia McLain, a Buffalobased community educator for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

“I’ve spoken to about 250 different groups in the past two years, and at almost every event, someone tells a horror story about one of the social networking sites,” McLain said. “These sites are misused by bullies, by sexual predators and by kids posting very inappropriate pictures of themselves.”

McLain said she shares Perkowski’s concern about the influence of tainted celebrities like Hilton. McLain is aware of several local cases in which underage girls have e-mailed nude pictures of themselves to boys they “had a crush on.”

With an estimated 100 million registered users, is reportedly the world’s busiest social networking Web site. Critics say the Web site’s operators don’t do enough to stop child predators from misusing it.

Last February, a federal judge in Austin, Texas, dismissed a $30 million lawsuit filed against MySpace by the family of a 13-year-old girl who said she was sexually assaulted by a 19- year-old man she met on the site. The man had falsely told the girl he was a high school senior and convinced her to give him her telephone number.

The judge said MySpace was protected under the Communications Decency Act and cannot be required to verify the age of every user. MySpace officials have said they have worked with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children on security improvements, including free parental notification software.

“MySpace gets most of the publicity because it’s so big, but there are problems with all these sites,” McLain said. “You can pose as anyone on these sites. None of them verify the information that people post.”

Social networking sites can be used in many positive ways, McLain said. She noted that many soldiers fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan use the sites to keep in touch with friends and family members.

Threats and harassment

David Evans’ crimes went far beyond just misrepresenting himself on his MySpace profile, authorities said.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Evans used MySpace to meet teenage girls, and then — while posing as young Adam — got some of the girls to give him cell phone numbers.

“He convinced some of the girls to send him topless pictures of themselves. Then he’d ask for dirtier pictures,” Hockwater said. “If they refused, he threatened to call the girl’s parents and tell them what she had done, or post all her personal information and pictures on the Internet.”

Griffin said two girls told police Evans e-mailed them explicit pictures of him, and one girl said he threatened to come to her home and kill her if she stopped sending nude photos.

“One of the girls was petrified,” Hockwater said. “She finally went to her mother, and her mother came to us.”

So far, one victim has been found in Cheektowaga, one in Lancaster, one in the Town of Tonawanda, and three in the Rochester area, police said.

Evans pleaded not guilty in federal court after his arrest on Dec. 18. If convicted, he could face a mandatory 15- year prison term. His attorney, federal public defender John F. Humann, said the girls and their parents also should be scrutinized. He noted that Evans is not accused of having actual physical contact with any of the girls.

“I’m not trying to minimize [the allegations],” Humann said, “but where are these girls’ parents when they’re going on the Internet and sending out pictures of their private parts?”

Flynn said, “This case is a classic illustration of the need for parents to monitor their kids’ e-mail activity. Before they allow a son or daughter to sign up for a MySpace account, they need to talk to them and determine whether they are mature enough to handle it.”

“The Internet world is a mirror of the real world,” McLain said. “There are predators looking to take advantage of kids in the real world, and in the Internet world. Parents need to know that.”

Predator attacks mentally incompetent patient

At least predator's privacy was not violated

The facts that led to a patient being sexually molested at Manatee Glens -- by a registered sexual predator, authorities believe -- don't include any policy violation, it seems.

But what those facts do clearly violate is common sense.

As told by the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, the details aren't complicated.

Thomas Ango Oliver is listed by the state as a sexual predator, mainly because of his conviction on charges of molesting a 10-year-old child.

When released from the state prison system just before Christmas, Oliver, 40, moved to a boarding house in Palmetto.The Sheriff's Office notified neighbors of his predator status, as required by law.

And when Oliver's behavior led to concerned calls, a sheriff's deputy was sent to check on him. That's all good.

That deputy decided Oliver should be taken for evaluation under the Baker Act, which allows forced psychiatric reviews for people thought to have mental health problems that seem to make them a threat to themselves or others.

Manatee Glens has long handled Baker Act cases and has a reputation for doing so competently. Those brought in are often depressed or mentally ill and potentially suicidal.

More than a few have some sort of arrest record, perhaps involving drugs and such. But not many are so dangerous as to be a grave threat while under the close supervision that Manatee Glens provides.

Very few -- almost none -- are officially classified sexual predators. Oliver was an unusual case.

But when the deputy brought him in and made a point of mentioning that Oliver had been released from prison days earlier, a sheriff's spokesman says, the deputy didn't mention that Oliver was a sexual predator.

To be clear: The deputy knew. He just didn't mention it.

That's hard to figure. There was good reason to mention it, and no apparent reason not to. Though no policy spells out what Manatee Glens should or must be told, good sense certainly required a mention that Oliver was on the sexual predator list.

Heck, even the gossipy nature of ordinary human interactions encourages sharing that information. Cops had just been posting fliers about the guy's predator status, so why become shy about discussing it?

Soon after this odd lapse, Oliver managed to get a mentally incompetent patient alone in a room at Manatee Glens and, the arrest report says, was in the process of a sexual act with her when a staff member discovered him.

Mary Ruiz, the president of Manatee Glens, is unable to talk much about this, because of our extreme patient confidentiality laws. But she answered some generic questions, notably this one: Why the heck wouldn't intake staff ask a deputy about a patient's criminal history if the deputy had mentioned one?

That's the first thing almost anyone would want to know about when told that someone they must supervise has just been released from prison.

Asking would have made the difference. A quick check of the Department of Corrections Web site would have done the trick, too. You'd think that would be routine.

I was not satisfied with the answer. Ruiz said that since so many Baker Act patients have an arrest record, usually of a much lesser sort, the word of a recent release isn't much of a red flag.

That's like an airline executive saying planes are usually in such good repair that no one saw a need for a pre-flight checklist.

I have to suspect Manatee Glens intake staff somehow felt it was improper to ask. And if that sounds impossible, think about the extreme confidentiality laws I just mentioned. As Ruiz interprets them -- correctly, I assume -- they prevent her even now from so much as acknowledging that Oliver was ever there.

The man was arrested at Manatee Glens while a patient and charged with committing a sexual assault there on another patient, but Ruiz is required to totally protect Oliver's privacy.

Manatee Glens and the Sheriff's Office, and other agencies including some local hospitals, now plan to create policies about what information must be handed over when the Sheriff's Office brings a felon as a patient.

Good idea, obviously. It's amazing no such policy existed already.

But even without a policy, common sense would have done the job.

Tom Lyons' column runs on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. He can be contacted at or (941) 361-4964.

Galveston schools making rules for sex offenders

School district adapting sex offender policy

By Chris Paschenko
The Daily News
Published January 6, 2008

HITCHCOCK — A new law passed recently by state legislators requires more stringent safety procedures at schools, including having a written policy on how to allow sex offenders access.

Michael Bergman, superintendent of the Hitchcock Independent School District, said he is amending the school’s policy that will primarily affect registered sex offenders who are parents of schoolchildren.

“It’s not an issue of sex offenders, but when a sex offender has children in the district and how we will accommodate them,” Bergman said. “I’m in the process of writing that, and we’re going to share that with principals and have it ready for the board to review in February.”

Bergman said he wants principals to give their thoughts on the matter before it’s placed on the school board’s agenda for discussion.

Bergman said the district has a policy now but doesn’t have a procedure in place, which will likely require someone, such as faculty or an administrator, to escort sex offenders on campuses.

When asked whether sex offenders were in the past allowed unescorted in schools, Bergman said he came to Hitchcock only six months ago from the Brazos school district, and he couldn’t remember such an occasion at Hitchcock.

“I hate to speculate, but my feeling is that sex offenders were not accommodated heretofore,” Bergman said. “They were just refused access to campus for any reason, but the Legislature has indicated there are parameters, especially when parents are going to have to be accommodated.”

The new law requires fingerprinting and background checks for all employees and contractors, and Bergman said administrators would run checks on visitors to see if they are registered sex offenders. He said the policy would likely pertain strictly to school hours, between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., and wouldn’t affect sporting events.

Pat Turner, who has been a school board member for 15 years, recalled three occasions where parents who are sex offenders asked for permission to be on campus, including one man less than a year ago who wasn’t allowed to chaperone elementary students on an off-campus field trip.

“He was going to be a guardian,” Turner said. “But another parent saw this guy and reported it to the principal.”

The man offended when he was a minor, Turner said, and hadn’t “done anything since,” she said.“

(In) another case, a guy was trying to see his nephew in the nursery, but they didn’t let him in there,” she said.

Predator rapes and kills seniors in California.

Attacks at Hemet senior housing complex put safety in spotlight

10:00 PM PST on Friday, January 4, 2008

The Press-Enterprise

A gated community may make people feel safe in their surroundings, and they may think no one is going to walk in.

But one of the first tips Jeannette Casillas discusses with senior citizens when giving a safety talk is keeping doors and windows locked.

"When people see a place is a gated community, they think they're automatically safe, that they don't need to lock that door," said Casillas, prevention and education coordinator and self-defense instructor for the Hemet-based Center Against Sexual Assault of Southwest Riverside County, or CASA.

Police say doors or windows were left unlocked in apartments inside one gated Hemet senior complex where two women had been raped in recent months. Police suspect the death of one of the women was related to the attack.

A third woman, whose open window had locks to keep it from being pried open wider, alerted police Dec. 28 when a prowler tried to break in. Surveillance cameras at Oak Terrace Senior Apartments caught footage of police cars, staked out nearby, closing in on a man and making an arrest as he attempted to leave.

Unsettling is the fact that Oak Terrace participates in the city's Crime Free Multi-Family Housing program, which educates people about curbing crime through measures such as adequate lighting and locks, proper gate location and building design.

Hemet police Lt. Jeff Pinney called the development "a leader" among complexes with annual safety programs that welcomes safety inspections and recommendations.

"After the second assault, we actually put on a class specifically for the community about keeping their doors and windows locked," he said by phone. "It certainly is a deterrent in most places."

In this case, Pinney has described suspect Kenneth Daniels Jr., 21, of San Jacinto, as a sexual predator.

Until the recent series of assaults, Pinney described crime at Oak Terrace as limited to the "occasional rare vehicle burglary" and calls related to elderly health issues, like dementia.

Daniels faces 14 charges, including murder and rape, in the attacks. The Riverside County district attorney's office has not decided whether it will seek the death penalty in the case, district attorney's spokeswoman Ingrid Wyatt said by phone.

Daniels pleaded not guilty to the charges in a court appearance Friday at the Southwest Justice Center.

A 63-year-old woman was assaulted twice -- in August and October -- and less than a month ago, a 74-year-old wheelchair-bound woman was found dead with signs of blunt-force trauma. Although police are waiting for a coroner's report, they suspect her death is related to the attack.

Last week, Lewis Ashcraft, one of the owners of Oak Terrace, declined to comment on the cases, but he said steps were being taken to protect residents, including conducting seminars where residents could get self-protection tips from police.

The Center Against Sexual Assault, the nonprofit where Casillas works, offers a senior safety fair each April, schedules speakers for safety talks to groups and offers a four-week, eight-hour senior self-defense class as interest warrants, Casillas said by phone.

The Hemet Police Department also offers speakers.

Curtailing Abuse Related to the Elderly, a Riverside County Adult Protective Services Division program also known as CARE, is designed to protect the elderly from abuse and consumer fraud. The program partners with law enforcement to put on programs about personal safety at home and when out in public, said Margo Hamilton, the program's regional manager.

Seniors are "vulnerable targets," Casillas said. "Unfortunately, an attack can happen at any time of day. That's something we've learned here at CASA."

Sometimes once inside a gated community, people "think they're automatically safe, that they don't need to lock that door," she said.

"We want everybody to be aware and take precautions," said Pinney, the Hemet police lieutenant. "The key really is being attentive and aware of your surroundings and keeping things locked up."

Casillas works with a California Highway Patrol officer in the self-defense classes. Her oldest graduate was 82, she recalled.

"It gives them self-empowerment," she said of the class.

She teaches seniors to trust their instincts and to use their senses, voice, even a cane. She also shows them simple self-defense techniques such as going for vulnerable parts of an attacker's body, the throat and eyes.

Few senior victims of assault sought help from CASA in the 2006-2007 fiscal year, which ended in June, its statistics show. There were three victims age 61 or older, but there were 77 victims ages 41 through 60 and 275 in four younger age groups.

Reach Gail Wesson at 951-763-3455 or

Safety tips for seniors

Be aware of your surroundings.

Keep doors and windows locked.

After dark, rely on the buddy system if you must go outside.

Trust your instincts and report anything suspicious to law enforcement.

For information about speakers and classes, call:

CASA: 951-652-8300

CARE (Curtailing Abuse Related to the Elderly): 800-476-7506

Hemet Police Department: Sgt. Mark Nipp at 951-765-2400

California Sex Offender roam the streets at night

Roaming sex offenders on the rise
Some made homeless by law barring them from areas near schools, parks

By John Simerman, STAFF WRITER

SAN PABLO — S.T. is a registered sex offender with a wife, three kids and a cozy apartment near Hilltop Mall. But every night he roams the dark streets in a pea coat, a wool cap and a GPS tracker strapped to his left ankle.

He'd rather stay home. But that could mean running afoul of Jessica's Law, and a return trip to prison.

So at 10 p.m. he slips on the prison shoes he wore out of San Quentin this month and walks to his favorite bus stop shelter. He and chats with the drivers. He circles the mall. Then he treks down near the Richmond BART station to watch the hookers and drug dealers and to lie on a sheet of cardboard plucked from behind a KFC.

When light breaks he shakes off the chill and heads home — but never before 7 a.m., because that's when his parole officer says it's OK, said S.T., who asked to remain anonymous, saying he fears upsetting his parole agent.

"My hands get so cold they turn actually red and get numb," he says on a recent night out. "Mentally and psychologically, I'm fighting."

Reverse curfew

S.T. lives under a kind of reverse-curfew that owes to the state's enforcement of Proposition 83, the 2006 ballot measure that bans newly released sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park.
He's not alone. State corrections figures show a big spike in parolee sex offenders who, like him, are registering as transient — homeless or bouncing from bed to bed, doing anything to comply with the 2,000-foot rule.

The surge started in August, when parole agents began to enforce a law that was billed as a way to ease safety fears over children. Yet concern is mounting among state officials, parole agents, victim advocates and even the law's Republican author, that this is not the way.

Of the 3,952 parolees who now fall under the ban, nearly one in five were registered as transient last week, up from very few before the law, officials said. In the region that runs the coast from Ventura north to the Oregon border and includes the Bay Area, more than a third of the 859 sex offender parolees who fall under Jessica's Law are officially transient.

The situation is most acute in urban areas, where the 2,000-foot rule leaves few places for newly released offenders to live.

Prop. 83, or Jessica's Law, added several get-tough measures against sex offenders. The most controversial is the ban on newly released sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet — about four-tenths of a mile — of a school or park where children "regularly gather."

As judges and policymakers sort out the legal and practical implications, what has emerged is a makeshift — some say slipshod — system of enforcement.

Legal leeway

Parole agents measure off the 2,000 feet "as the crow flies," under state policy. But they have leeway over what it means to live somewhere. For S.T. and others, it's where they spend the night.

The rise in transients is a concern, said Gareth Lacy, spokesman for Attorney General Jerry Brown, whose office keeps the state sex offender registry.

"It's much harder to track and manage offenders who are moving around and not in one location," he said.

Most of the transients are fitted with GPS anklets. They also must report daily to their parole agents, instead of weekly. But the tracking is no cure-all, said Mark McCarthy, a parole agent who oversees sex offenders.

"The big fallacy with GPS is that it's going to curtail crimes. It isn't going to make them not molest kids or rape women. We'll just know if they did it or not," he said. "For public safety purposes, I'd rather know where a guy's at, at home, than have him transient, out in the streets somewhere."

A state corrections official denied any policy for parole agents to tell people like S.T. to go transient. Some agents, though, say it is written between the lines of an Aug. 17 memo detailing the agency's policy on the law.

Few choices

The choices are few in some counties. In San Francisco, where state maps show virtually no compliant housing, 31 of the city's 97 Jessica's Law parolees are now registered transient.

"We had an obligation to make sure parolee's knew their options under the law," said state corrections spokesman Bill Sessa. "We weren't directing them. We were simply saying, you either have to find a compliant address or register as transient."

A third option: a parole violation and possible return to prison.

As many as 700 sex offenders are paroled each month. They all fall under the 2,000-foot rule unless a court rules otherwise. The state Supreme Court is expected to rule in spring on a challenge to the law.

"The continuing issue is there have to be places for people to live," said Sessa. "The number of sex offenders covered by the law will be constantly expanding."

Transients can't set up anywhere, said Sessa. They can't sleep, for instance, under a bridge for several nights if it's too close to a school or park, he said. But parole agents have discretion.

"There's a common-sense perspective of what it means to live somewhere," he said. "There is a balancing act here, because all the research shows that having a stable environment is the biggest key to rehabilitation, and so agents are always trying to strike a balance."

For S.T., it feels more like an imbalance.

He was convicted in 1990 of an assault with intent to commit rape against his son's teacher. Court documents say he sprayed her with mace, hit her in the head and tried to force her legs open with his knees before a school janitor came with a shovel and he ran off.

Court documents show he suffered bouts of alcoholism, depression and hallucinations. He pleaded guilty and received a 64-month prison sentence.
He has since committed other crimes, records show. The latest came early this year. He was convicted of battery on a police officer after a takedown in 2005 during an attempt to arrest him as a parolee-at-large. He bit an officer's finger. When he left prison early this month, he fell under Jessica's Law.

His wife often joins him early on his nightly journey. They hold hands and circle the mall. Then he walks her back home, across from a church school.
"This is for me to feel what he's going through," she says as they walk. "He has a place to come to. He has a family. We have children. It is so weird. He just can't be home."

S.T. says his parole officer told him: "Wherever you go, just keep it moving." That's usually what he does, if only to keep warm.

"I'm really — how would you say? — traumatized," he says. "Being in the cold, being tired, walking in the rain . . . What if I have to use the bathroom? It is very degrading."

Creativity needed

The author of Jessica's Law now says the state is misguided in its early enforcement of the law, and that policymakers need to be more "creative."

Sen. George Runner, R-Antelope Valley, described S.T.'s case as "a very tortured interpretation, obviously. Somebody in corrections has decided it was easier to go let somebody be transient than to insist that they follow the law."

Still, Runner said he never meant the law for people such as S.T. who fall under Jessica's Law only because of non-sex convictions. That borders on being retroactive, he said.

He also disagrees with how the state strictly measures 2,000 feet, when in some cases freeways split a home from a school or park. He thinks cities can better define parks. Should all of Golden Gate Park count, or only areas that children frequent?

"We're always concerned if there are issues that make something impossible to implement," he said. "We believe there's a big difference between impossible and hard. The bottom line is it's going to work."
Critics blame Runner for writing a vaguely worded law that was ripe for trouble. Corrections officials say they are merely enforcing the letter of a law that 70 percent of voters passed.

The California Sex Offender Management Board, formed under Jessica's Law, is studying the fallout and possible fixes, including the idea of "cluster-housing" for sex offenders.

"It's really about keeping sex offenders from living in a place where they have easy access to children," said Nancy O'Malley, chief assistant district attorney in Alameda County.

O'Malley couldn't grasp the purpose of S.T. wandering the streets at night.
"That's not good," she said. "What does that do?"

Reach John Simerman at 925-943-8072 or e-mail

Bill Introduced To Keep Bus Stops Away From Sex Offenders' Homes

Bill Introduced To Keep Bus Stops Away From Sex Offenders' Homes

POSTED: 5:51 pm EST January 4, 2008
UPDATED: 6:42 pm EST January 4, 2008

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. -- A northern Virginia lawmaker wants to bar school districts from placing bus stops in front of sex offenders' homes.
News4 first reported last January on a Clifton father's concerns that his daughter's bus stop was directly in front of a registered child sex offender's home.

Related: Watch The Report

A second family raised similar concerns to a northern Virginia lawmaker when school officials refused to change the stop.

"I was flabbergasted. I could not believe it was right in front of the house, and when I called the school and tried to explain it to him, I was told the school does not move bus stops for this purpose," said Fairfax County parent Kathie Truitt.

Jim Foley encountered the same response more than a year ago when he began his battle to have a bus stop changed.

"Our children's safety is the most important thing to my wife and I, and it's not a fight we're going to quit on," said Foley.

Now Delegate David Englin is introducing a bill that would prohibit school districts from locating bus stops within 50 feet of registered sex offenders' homes and require all districts to publish a plan detailing safety rules for bus stops.

"It really defies common sense for, as a matter of public policy, the commonwealth of Virginia to allow children to congregate each morning in front of the home of a person who has committed a crime against a child," Englin said.

But Fairfax County public school officials said they will oppose the legislation, and they stand by their policy.

They said they do not move bus stops solely because of a sex offender's residence.

School security officials said with more than 350 registered sex offenders in the county, it would be a logistical nightmare to avoid sex offenders' homes.

"FCPS has reviewed this issue with detectives who work with sexual predators and found no data to support the claim that children are at a greater risk from sexual offenders who live near bus stops," said Superintendent Jack Dale in a letter.

The 2008 session of the Virginia General Assembly convenes next Wednesday.