Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Guilty plea in child porn case

A 35-year-old Northeast Baltimore man pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court to possessing child pornography on his computer, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

Edward Dahling could face a maximum of 10 years in prison followed by a lifetime of supervised release and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced by U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz on April 24, prosecutors said.

Authorities said Dahling's name surfaced during an investigation by federal immigration agents of a suspected pornography business. The authorities said Dahling's name was on a list of customers obtained during the investigation.

The prosecutors said that the federal agents interviewed Dahling at his Baltimore County house Dec. 10 and that he admitted to downloading and accessing child pornography from Internet sites. Prosecutors said they found up to 600 illegal images on his computer.

Search continues for sexual predator

Police have released a sketch of the suspect, described as a Latino man in his 20s.

Police patrols near Hoover Street Elementary School in the Westlake District were stepped up Monday as the search continued for a suspected child predator.

It's nerve-racking news for parents in the Westlake District neighborhood. Authorities say on Friday a nine-year-old girl was walking to school when a man took her to an apartment building near the school and sexually assaulted her.

Police believe that the suspect may live in the area. The young victim didn't know the man's name but she did know his face. She says she'd seen him before in the neighborhood.

A number of parents chose to walk their children to school Monday after learning about the assault.

Alleged Sex Offender Arrested in Wheeling

There were also outstanding warrants for the man, including unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and failure to appear in court.

Wheeling -- An alleged Belmont County sex offender was arrested at his job site in Wheeling.

Police responded to Figaretti's Restaurant Saturday evening on a report that a fugitive was on site.

The manager took the employee to a back door, where he was taken into custody.

The man has been identified as 22-year-old Ricky Lee Lawson of Bridgeport, Ohio.

Outstanding warrants for Lawson include unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and failure to appear in court.

Lawson was taken to the Northern Regional Jail.

Ohio is expected to extradite this week.

Ex-cop to learn fate after refusing to testify

Former Ontario police officer Perry Dunlop, who lives in Duncan, B.C., is refusing to testify before a public inquiry into a pornography ring in Ontario.
Former Ontario police officer Perry Dunlop, who lives in Duncan, B.C., is refusing to testify before a public inquiry into a pornography ring in Ontario.

CORNWALL, Ont. — Former police officer Perry Dunlop learns Wednesday how much longer he'll be in jail for refusing to testify at a protracted and costly public inquiry into how authorities handled long-standing allegations of child sexual abuse -- an inquiry largely of his own making.

The fact he's in jail is seen by Dunlop's fervent supporters as evidence of a coverup by police, clergy, Crown lawyers and politicians -- proof he's being persecuted for blowing the whistle on what was billed as a massive pedophile ring involving Cornwall's rich and powerful.

Others in this tight-knit community who knew him as a "hero'' police officer and a "charismatic'' musician say they fear his crusade went off the rails long ago -- a point Dunlop is either too proud or too emotionally unstable to concede.

Dunlop's off-hours investigation of sex abuse allegations exploded onto the national stage in 1993 after local resident Ron Leroux claimed he'd seen for himself bizarre sex rituals involving powerful, robe-clad community leaders and young boys.

In a 1996 affidavit, Leroux claimed the pedophile ring operated for decades, beginning in the 1960s.

A police investigation, dubbed Project Truth, laid some 115 charges against 15 men but failed to uncover any evidence of a ring. Ultimately, only one person was convicted.

Testifying before the inquiry last summer, Leroux admitted he'd made the whole story up.

Dunlop, his wife Helen and their many supporters, however, claim Leroux was pressured into changing his story by powerful people in Cornwall who have long conspired to bury the truth.

"Perry was a bona fide hero in the eyes of the community, in my eyes as well at the time, when the whole thing began,'' said Ken Parker, a longtime Cornwall resident who attends the inquiry daily with his wife, Peggy.

"At some point his private investigation, I think, went off the rails. Probably because he believed some of the testimony of Ron Leroux.''

Dunlop's crusade began after he uncovered a $32,000 settlement between an alleged abuse victim and the local Roman Catholic diocese. The man's allegations had been the subject of an investigation that ended after Cornwall police concluded there wasn't enough evidence to lay charges.

Dunlop smelled a coverup and handed documents detailing the case over to the Children's Aid Society.

"A police coverup? I think there was some sloppy police work, but I haven't seen anything about a coverup yet,'' said Claude McIntosh, a columnist with the Cornwall Standard Freeholder newspaper.

Dunlop's work didn't end there. Along with his wife and brother-in-law, the police officer began his own investigation and interviewed alleged sexual assault victims, including Leroux.

"He bought into Ron Leroux's story about the ring . . . everybody bought into that story. It's a great story if you're into conspiracies,'' McIntosh said.

"Then, I think, in the last (few) years he saw that coming apart. That's when he moved to B.C. to get away from everything.''

Last month, Dunlop told two Toronto judges who'll decide his sentence for the contempt conviction: "I just don't have the heart to go in there and face the barrage of the inquiry.''

Dunlop, speaking frequently of himself in the third person, appeared emotionally fragile as he told the court he "felt from day one they were out to get Perry Dunlop'' and to "crucify Perry Dunlop.''

On Wednesday, he'll face those judges again as they sentence him to what could be up to six months in jail for refusing to testify at the inquiry his allegations helped give life to -- an inquiry that's already cost taxpayers more than $23 million.

Duncan, B.C., resident Evelyn Beaveridge was among the 75 supporters at Dunlop's home on Feb. 17 when he was arrested by the RCMP on a Canada-wide warrant.

Beaveridge said she doesn't know what to make of Dunlop's steadfast belief in a pedophile ring, but added she's convinced he hasn't been treated fairly by the justice system.

"I want to see justice done, and I don't know all the ins and outs of this, but I know that the justice system has not been served correctly with this case,'' she said.

Beaveridge said she can understand why Dunlop doesn't want to testify, especially after he's already provided a written statement to the inquiry.

"Can you remember 14 years ago every detail of what was said to you? With 62 lawyers grilling you in court, how would you do?''

Peggy Parker, who ran a music store in Cornwall and often attended Dunlop's music performances with her husband Ken, remembered a "charismatic, good looking, nice young man . . . who was a great singer.''

"And then Perry's health broke down . . . he's a tortured, tormented, beaten-down kind of personality,'' Parker said.

Last week, the former police officer who investigated the alleged abuse that touched off Dunlop's probe was excused from testifying before the commission after a psychologist's report deemed doing so could have "adverse effects'' on her mental health.

Paul Scott, president of Citizens for Community Renewal, a group with standing at the inquiry, said he's "very concerned about (Dunlop's) unwillingness to testify.''

"If there is a medical reason for him not testifying I think he should come forward with a proper authority attesting to that fact, bring it to the court, and let's be done with it,'' he said.

Ken Parker, a member of Scott's group, said he's also concerned that Dunlop may not be fit to testify, but wondered if there wasn't more to his defiance.

"I think he wants to maintain that hero status,'' said Parker, who taught school in Cornwall for 29 years and counts Dunlop's wife as one of his former students.

"If you want to be both a martyr and a hero at the same time, maybe that has something to do with not getting a medical certificate.''

Cornwall, for the most part, has lost its appetite for the 'clan of pedophiles' story, but that's not to say there aren't real victims of sexual abuse in Cornwall, McIntosh said.

The same could be said for any town across the country, he added.

"Go to any town . . . give me four (Ontario Provincial Police) investigators, unlimited budget and four years and I'll come up with the same thing,'' he said.

"It's there.''

Ex-cop charged with kidporn ran youth club

SYDNEY, March 4 (UPI) -- A former Australian police officer who ran police clubs for young people has been charged with child pornography.

A police document filed in court recently showed that the evidence against Gregory Minehan includes text messages, e-mails and telephone conversations, including one where he allegedly asked a 14-year-old boy about his sexual experience, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Minehan was arrested in December after a national investigation into pedophile networks.

As a police officer, Minehan worked in Armidale, a country town in New South Wales, and ran police youth clubs in two other towns as well. He is now working in private security.

Investigators say that Minehan was part of a network of pedophiles. In addition to sharing pornography, the group allegedly traded tips on avoiding detection.

Allegations against former police chief's son examined by Cornwall inquiry

CORNWALL, Ont. — An inquiry looking into the response to allegations of child sex abuse in Cornwall, Ont., is examining accusations involving the son of the city's former police chief.

Earl Landry Jr. pleaded guilty in 1999 to sexually abusing five children.

The abuse occurred over a 10-year period that started in 1979, when Landry worked as a park custodian.

City police officer Garry Derochie has been tasked with looking at how the force dealt with complaints against Landry after an article was written on the successful prosecution.

Derochie says questions arose over why charges were not laid previously when one of the victims came forward in 1985.

He says the allegations were unfounded at the time because of insufficient evidence.

Pedophiles:A fitting punishment

Adults who molest children under age 12 face at least 25 years in prison under the Jessica Lunsford Act passed by the state Legislature in 2005.

One of the act's prime co-sponsors, Dick Kravitz, R-Jacksonville, has a related proposal for the current legislative session worthy of equal support.

Under House Bill 85, anyone convicted of molesting a child under age 12 prior to the Lunsford Act who is convicted for the same offense in the future would go to prison for life.

"It's a severe sentence, but the point of the matter is it's a much more severe crime," Kravitz said. "If you are convicted of doing this one time and could do it again, then you are what they call a classic pedophile and you are likely to do it a third, fourth or fifth time."

Kravitz said all the scholarly research he has read on the subject of pedophiles - as well as the physicians and psychiatrists he has consulted - say that people prone to sexually molesting young children rarely alter their behavior.

One incident can devastate a young person and their family and lead to lifelong emotional and physical problems.

People who choose yet another time to inflict that damage should pay lifelong consequences in a place where they can't hurt more children.

Kravitz's bill would see to it in Florida.

Good-time credits for predators

During this year's session of the Maryland General Assembly, lawmakers are demonstrating the arrogant contempt for the public that one-party liberalism breeds. Few subjects better illustrate what is dysfunctional about Annapolis than the politicians' failure to address to the issue of providing "good time" credits (e.g., good-behavior credits) that can substantially reduce prison sentences for violent sexual predators. In recent weeks. legislators have spent time bloviating about subjects such as the Towson College song and issues such as what Maryland's official state exercise should be (walking).

But judging from what has taken thus far, every indication is that legislation to toughen the laws dealing with sexual predators will die a quiet death in the Maryland General Assembly due to public apathy and the determination of prominent Democratic politicians to bury it.

Right now, there are at least three bills to fix the problem, two of which are languishing in the House Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by Del. Joseph Vallario of Prince George's — who has done his best to make his panel a graveyard for legislation that increases penalties on criminals. A third bill, introduced by Sen. Nancy Jacobs, Harford Republican, is scheduled to be heard Wednesday by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee chaired by Sen. Brian Frosh, Montgomery County Democrat, who is every bit as hostile to such legislation as Mr. Vallario. Last year, Mr. Frosh attempted to bury in his committee legislation to impose a mandatory 25-year prison sentence with no possibility of parole for persons convicted of a first-degree sexual offense against a child. We fully expect Mr. Frosh to fight Mrs. Jacobs's proposal.

Last year, Mr. Frosh was forced to relent after Senate President Mike Miller realized that that position was a political loser, and forced Mr. Frosh to bring the legislation to the floor for a vote. Public clamor for tougher sentences forced the politicians' hands. The bill passed the Senate 43-3 and the House of Delegates 139-0 and was signed into law. Only months later, voters learned that last year's bill contained a huge loophole: It did nothing about good-time credits that can reduce sentences by nearly a third. And this year, all indications are that Maryland voters have returned to their more docile, apathetic ways. So, the General Assembly will continue to give more consideration to silliness like the state exercise than to keeping violent predators away from children.

13,000 Abuse Claims in Juvie Centers

COLUMBIA, Miss. (AP) — The Columbia Training School — pleasant on the outside, austere on the inside — has been home to 37 of the most troubled young women in Mississippi.

If some of those girls and their advocates are to be believed, it is also a cruel and frightening place.

The school has been sued twice in the past four years. One suit brought by the U.S. Justice Department, which the state settled in 2005, claimed detainees were thrown naked in to cells and forced to eat their own vomit. The second one, brought by eight girls last year, said they were subjected to "horrendous physical and sexual abuse." Several of the detainees said they were shackled for 12 hours a day.

These are harsh and disturbing charges — and, in the end, they were among the reasons why state officials announced in February that they will close Columbia. But they aren't uncommon.

Across the country, in state after state, child advocates have deplored the conditions under which young offenders are housed — conditions that include sexual and physical abuse and even deaths in restraints. The U.S. Justice Department has filed lawsuits against facilities in 11 states for supervision that is either abusive or harmfully lax and shoddy.

Still, a lack of oversight and nationally accepted standards of tracking abuse make it difficult to know exactly how many youngsters have been assaulted or neglected.

The Associated Press contacted each state agency that oversees juvenile correction centers and asked for information on the number of deaths as well as the number of allegations and confirmed cases of physical, sexual and emotional abuse by staff members since Jan. 1, 2004.

According to the survey, more than 13,000 claims of abuse were identified in juvenile correction centers around the country from 2004 through 2007 — a remarkable total, given that the total population of detainees was about 46,000 at the time the states were surveyed in 2007.

Just 1,343 of those claims of abuse identified by the AP were confirmed by various authorities. Of 1,140 claims of sexual abuse, 143 were confirmed by investigators.

Experts say only a fraction of the allegations are ever confirmed. These are some of the most troubled young people in the country and some will make up stories. But in other cases, the youth are pressured not to report abuse; often, no one believes them anyway.

Undoubtedly, juvenile correction facilities and their programs benefit many of the youth who experience them by offering substance abuse programs, educational courses and mental health counseling. And for many troubled youth, the facilities are the last hope to straighten out problems that could eventually lead them to suicide, prison or other institutions.

Still, advocates for the detainees contend that abuse by guards remains a major problem and that authorities aren't doing enough to address the situation.

In 2004, the U.S. Justice Department uncovered 2,821 allegations of sexual abuse by juvenile correction staffers. The government study included 194 private facilities, which likely accounts for the higher numbers than the AP found.

But some experts say the true number of sexual incidents is likely even higher. Some youth view sexual relationships with staff members as consensual, not as adults in positions of authority abusing their power.

Sue Burrell, an attorney for the Youth Law Center in San Francisco, recalls investigating sexual encounters between female staff and male inmates at a juvenile facility in Florida. "One of the boys I interviewed said he didn't think it was fair that his roommate had a relationship with one of the staffers and he didn't."

Other abuse is physical, and often sadistic.

For boys at the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility, authority came in the person of 50-year-old Gilbert Hicks, and he wielded that authority emphatically.

Hicks was convicted of sexual assault in October 2005 after he "grabbed, squeezed and twisted" a boy's testicles, according to a federal lawsuit.

When the boy sought medical attention 10 days later because of pain and swelling, Hicks, who had worked at the facility for 24 years, taunted him by asking: "What, you want me to squeeze your (genitals) again?"

Hicks allegedly abused two other boys the same way.

His sentence? Five years probation and 90 days in jail to be served on weekends.

What sets the case apart from many others is the successful conviction. Often such cases come down to the word of a guard against that of a teenager with a long criminal record, the primary reason that so few charges of abuse are confirmed and prosecuted, child advocates say.

While it is likely that incarcerated youth make false allegations of mistreatment against their guards, there are cases of abuse not being reported because "many children are afraid of what would happen if they snitch on staff," said Mark Soler, executive director of the Center for Children's Law and Policy in Washington D.C.

The worst physical confrontations can end in death. At least five juveniles died after being forcibly placed in restraints in facilities run by state agencies or private facilities with government contracts since Jan. 1, 2004.

The use of restraint techniques and devices and their too-aggressive application have long been controversial and came under intense scrutiny last year after the death of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson.

A grainy video taken at a Florida boot camp in January 2006 shows several guards striking the teen while restraining him. Six guards and a nurse were acquitted Oct. 12 of manslaughter charges after defense attorneys argued that the guards used acceptable tactics.

In Maryland, 17-year-old Isaiah Simmons lost consciousness and died after he was held to the floor face down at a privately owned facility that was contracted by the state. Prosecutors say the staff waited 41 minutes after the boy was unresponsive to call for help.

Scott Rolle, an attorney for one of the counselors, had said the men were only trying to prevent Simmons from hurting himself or someone else.

A judge dismissed misdemeanor charges against five counselors; the state has appealed.

Other restraint-related deaths were three boys — 17, 15 and 13 — in facilities in Tennessee, New York and Georgia, respectively. At least 24 others in juvenile correction centers died since 2004 from suicide and natural causes or preexisting medical conditions.

Supervision does not have to be abusive to be problematic. The absence of supervision creates its own misery.

Advocates say sex among detainees is also a major problem in some facilities, a claim backed by government findings. A U.S. Department of Justice report described sex at the Plainfield Juvenile Correctional Facility in Indiana as "rampant."

And sometimes suicidal youth or those who want to harm themselves in other ways don't get the personal attention they need.

Mississippi's juvenile correction centers have been under the supervision of a court-appointed monitor since 2005 as part of the settlement to end the lawsuit filed by the federal government.

But a 15-year-old girl on suicide watch at Columbia Training School used a toe nail and the sharpened cap off a tube of toothpaste to carve the words "HATE ME" backward in her forearm. The girl also said she was shackled 12 hours a day, and forced to wear leg restraints to classes, meals and other activities.

Another 15-year-old girl who spent time in Columbia told the AP she was twice groped by a male guard. She said she reported the abuse.

"They told me I was lying," she said with tears streaming down her face. "They told me that I was wrong for reporting it, that I shouldn't have brought it up."

Columbia sits atop a 2,200-acre campus with a manicured lawn that stretches out beneath the shade of oak trees. From a distance, the red-brick buildings and pastoral grounds could pass for those of a boarding school. Indeed, administrators pointed proudly to the fact that 90 percent of the girls got their general education diploma.

"We are giving them skills that they will take well into adulthood," insisted Richard Harris, a deputy administrator with the Mississippi Department of Human Services — a few weeks before the state announced it was closing Columbia "due to issues ranging from adequate staffing to quality of care, and the desire to most efficiently spend taxpayer dollars."

While officials in many states complain that funding can be a major challenge — salaries for guards in Mississippi's juvenile facilities start at $18,000 a year — it will take more than cash to fix the problems.

"What could be done to minimize or reduce these problems?" asked Melissa Sickmund, with the Pittsburgh-based National Center for Juvenile Justice. "Training. Oversight."

Columbia had about 120 staff members and a $5.8 million budget and at times housed only a few dozen girls. At that rate, it costs about $598 a day to house a girl, according to a study by Timothy J. Roche, an expert consultant hired by the state.

There are success stories.

Nancy Molever, an Arizona Juvenile Department of Corrections spokeswoman, said it would have been difficult to improve conditions there — or meet recommendations made by the federal government — without a willingness "to change the culture of the agency" that oversees the juvenile facilities.

Arizona recently emerged from a lawsuit the Justice Department filed after three youngsters committed suicide. Arizona invested $8 million to $10 million in facility improvements and increased the starting annual salary of youth correctional officers to over $30,000, Molever said. The state has also been weeding out employees slow to conform to the new rules, Molever said, but the downside is more employee turnover, which is already a problem nationwide.

Officials in Missouri, which has one of the most highly regarded juvenile correction systems in the country, agree that it takes more than money to run a safe facility.

"It's just a different approach that we take. It's a treatment approach," said Ana Margarita Compain-Romero, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Social Services. "In other states, they take a more punitive approach, more like corrections."

Victims' views mixed on prison proposals


The Iowa Legislature's debate over a $256 million plan to expand and upgrade the state's prison system strikes some raw emotions for Iowa crime victims.

Jennifer Bertagnolli, 38, discovered her father's body after he was stabbed to death in 1988 at his West Des Moines apartment. She said she's come to understand that many criminals deserve second chances.

But she wants to ensure that the two men who killed her father, Franklin "Ken" Eaton, a popular teacher at Brody Middle School in Des Moines, serve their life sentences without parole. The men convicted of first-degree murder for Eaton's slaying are Gary Titus, 38, and James Michael Green, 40, both of whom remain behind bars.

"I am not perfect, but I have never crossed the line and killed somebody, stolen from somebody or beaten them up," Bertagnolli said. "I feel that when they go to prison, it is not an easy life, but they get three meals a day, clothing, a bed, schooling, medical care and dental care. We as taxpayers are paying for that."

Bertagnolli was among several crime victims who said in interviews they have mixed feelings about Gov. Chet Culver's proposal to construct a new state maximum-security prison at Fort Madison and to expand and upgrade the Mitchellville women's prison. The package, which key lawmakers said stands a good chance of winning approval, also calls for expanding community corrections facilities in Des Moines, Waterloo, Sioux City and Ottumwa.

The crime victims said they feel uncomfortable spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to provide more modern prisons for Iowa's 8,700 inmates. But they also want to see that when convicts are freed, they have had drug and alcohol treatment, psychiatric services and other help to ensure that they don't commit new crimes.

Some of the proposed prison improvements are aimed at making the Fort Madison prison more secure and cost-effective to staff. Iowa taxpayers currently spend an average of about $26,000 annually on each state prisoner.

"What are we getting back for that $26,000?" asked Rodney Fritz of Des Moines, whose son, Cody, 19, died nearly three years ago in a traffic crash caused by a reckless driver. "I guess that's what the victims are wondering. Is the money being spent on programs that can actually help these people live a productive life and live in our neighborhoods? That's important to us."

Fritz is a strong advocate for restitution for crime victims, particularly because Benjamin Wiese, 25, the driver responsible for his son's death, didn't have insurance.

Wiese, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence at the Rockwell City state prison, was ordered by the courts to pay $150,000 in restitution to the Fritz family, plus other costs totaling thousands of additional dollars. But so far Wiese has been able to pay only a small fraction of the restitution - checks from prison ranging from 25 cents to about $35.

"I have to tell you that when I received that first check I was stunned. I was floored," Fritz said. "I let that check sit on my table for weeks before I could finally come to pick it up and touch it and finally put it in the bank. To think that my son's life was worth so little an amount of money."

Fritz said one positive thing is that he became a close friend of John Lyons of Burlington, an ex-prisoner who had nothing to do with his son's death. Lyons is an artist who drew a portrait of Cody Fritz for the Fritz family at no cost. "Words cannot describe the healing" the artwork has provided, Fritz said.

Sherry Knox of Des Moines, who was raped in 1993 by a man who is now dead, said she gets a little angry that Iowa politicians seem to worry so much about the perpetrators of crime. Victims' assistance programs are offered through government agencies, but many victims never report the crimes committed against them, and more should be accomplished to help them, she said.

"I don't see anyone going and saying, 'You know, here is a rebate for the victim because she suffered for 20-some years or longer,' " Knox said.

Knox now works for Polk County Crisis and Advocacy Services to help prevent senior citizens from becoming victims of sexual assault.

She remarked that when legislators spend money on new prisons, they should spend an equal amount for elementary schools "to teach our children that we could do other things than hurt each other when something is wrong."

Victim Bertagnolli, a mother of five children, feels the same way. Somehow, the cycle of societal failure that has led so many people to enter Iowa's prisons has to stop, she said.

"I suppose it starts at home with me saying to my children, 'This is the wrong choice that you made and this is what is going to happen to you,' " Bertagnolli said.

Michelle Coles of Des Moines, an activist with Polk County Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said the justice system gives more consideration to victims of drunken driving crashes now compared with the past. But she is still troubled that drunken driving isn't seen by some Iowans as criminal behavior.

"I am sorry, but when a repeat offender with alcohol gets into a car, it is just as dangerous as a loaded gun. He can wipe out himself. He can wipe out a family," Coles said.

The Iowa Department of Corrections operates victim and restorative justice programs to provide victims with support, information and opportunities to participate in decisions concerning an offender's liberty. The Iowa attorney general's office administers several victim programs, including crime victim compensation, sexual abuse examination and victim services grants.

Betty Brown, a victims advocate and a Department of Corrections administrator, said she has come to realize that many Iowa prisoners, perhaps as many as 80 percent to 90 percent, were victims of abuse when they were children.

This could include physical abuse, sexual assault, emotional abuse, neglect and other harm, she said.

"The No. 1 question that victims ask is, 'Why me? Why my house? Why my car? Why did it happen?' " Brown said. "So I go back to the offender and ask why and all of this childhood stuff comes out. It is never, ever, an excuse for criminal behavior because there are lots of people victimized as kids who don't hurt other people. But these offenders did hurt people. and we want it to stop. So we try to get community people wrapped around them. We need to get people interested in supporting them, helping them to make decisions."

Reporter William Petroski can be reached at (515) 284-8547 or

Abuse figures murky for juvenile centers

Claims rampant, but tracking, credibility issues hinder inquiries
12:00 AM CST on Monday, March 3, 2008
From Wire Reports Holbrook Mohr, The Associated Press

COLUMBIA, Miss. – The Columbia Training School – pleasant on the outside, austere on the inside – has been home to 37 of the most troubled young women in Mississippi.

If some of those girls and their advocates are to be believed, it is also a cruel and frightening place.

The school has been sued twice in the past four years. One suit brought by the U.S. Justice Department, which the state settled in 2005, claimed detainees were thrown naked in to cells and forced to eat their own vomit. The second one, brought by eight girls last year, said they were subjected to "horrendous physical and sexual abuse." Several of the detainees said they were shackled for 12 hours a day.

These are harsh and disturbing charges, but they aren't uncommon.

Across the country, in state after state, child advocates have deplored the conditions under which young offenders are housed – conditions that include sexual and physical abuse and even deaths in restraints. The U.S. Justice Department has filed lawsuits against facilities in 11 states for supervision that is either abusive or harmfully lax and shoddy.

In Texas, the juvenile detention system has been churning for more than a year, following allegations of sexual abuse in several facilities. The Texas Youth Commission has had four executive directors in a year, a fifth left in February.

Even though abuse reports are nationally widespread, a lack of oversight and accepted standards for tracking abuse make it difficult to know exactly how many youngsters have been assaulted or neglected.

The Associated Press contacted each state agency that oversees juvenile correction centers and asked for information on the number of deaths as well as the number of allegations and confirmed cases of physical, sexual and emotional abuse by staff members since Jan. 1, 2004.

According to the survey, more than 13,000 claims of abuse were identified in juvenile correction centers around the country from 2004 through 2007 – a remarkable number, given that there were about 46,000 detainees when the states were surveyed in 2007.

Just 1,343 of those claims of abuse were confirmed by various authorities. Of 1,140 claims of sexual abuse, 143 were confirmed by investigators.

Experts say only a fraction of the allegations are ever confirmed. These are some of the most troubled young people in the country and some will make up stories. But in other cases, the youths are pressured not to report abuse; often, no one believes them anyway.

Undoubtedly, juvenile correction facilities and their programs benefit many of the youths who experience them by offering substance abuse programs, educational courses and mental health counseling. And for many troubled youths, the facilities are the last hope to straighten out problems that could eventually lead them to suicide, prison or other institutions.

Still, advocates for the detainees contend that abuse by guards remains a major problem and that authorities aren't doing enough to address the situation.

In 2004, the U.S. Justice Department uncovered 2,821 allegations of sexual abuse by juvenile correction staffers. The government study included 194 private facilities, which likely accounts for the higher numbers than the AP found.

But some experts say the true number of sexual incidents is likely even higher. Some youths view sexual relationships with staff members as consensual, not as adults in positions of authority abusing their power.

There are success stories.

Officials in Missouri, which has one of the most highly regarded juvenile correction systems in the country, agree that it takes more than money to run a safe facility.

"It's just a different approach that we take. It's a treatment approach," said Ana Margarita Compain-Romero, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Social Services. "In other states, they take a more punitive approach, more like corrections."

Holbrook Mohr,

The Associated Press

Former teacher facing child porn charge

Staff reporter

A former teacher already facing two counts of sexual assault has been charged with possession of child pornography.

Two 10-year-old girls were allegedly inappropriately touched and assaulted in January and February of 2008 at the Just For You Catering on Eagle St., just off Yonge St., in Newmarket, police say. The accused owns the catering service.

Several computers, a camera and photographs were seized in a February investigation.

Newmarket resident Shawn Ahluwalia, 31, is facing two counts of sexual assault and one count of possession of child pornography.

Ahluwalia was fired from his elementary school post in 2001, and his teaching licence was revoked in 2003.

The accused remains in custody and is scheduled to appear in a Newmarket court on Tuesday.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Det. Const. Dan Fowler in the Sexual Assault Bureau at 1-866-876-5423 ext. 7071 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

Plum man pleads guilty in child porn case

A Plum man has pleaded guilty in federal court to a charge of violating federal child pornography laws.

Michael Scott Witherspoon, 40, of Monte Carlo Drive pleaded guilty to one count before U.S. District Judge Terrence F. McVerry. Prosecutors said Witherspoon had material that included child pornography in August 2006.

Witherspoon's sentencing is scheduled for 10 a.m. May 30. Witherspoon faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Westside man sentenced for child porn possession

A West Rutland man who pleaded guilty to a federal charge of possessing child pornography was sentenced to four years and three months in prison on Friday.

Roger Grandchamp, 43, was indicted last April after federal investigators seized his computer and found more than 150 images of child pornography depicting children under the age of 12.

During sentencing in U.S. District Court in Burlington on Friday, Judge William K. Sessions III sentenced Grandchamp to 51 months in prison — the lowest recommended sentence which ranged from 51 months to 63 months for the offense.

The court denied a request by Grandchamp's lawyer to lower the sentence based on the degree of rehabilitation Grandchamp has attained since his incarceration.

In addition, Grandchamp will remain under federal supervision for two years after his release from prison, during which time he will be required to limit his contact with minors, participate in counseling and he would be required to register as a sex offender.

He was also ordered to pay a $100 special assessment.

Grandchamp has been in federal custody since he violated conditions of his release in September 2007.

According to court records, the charge against Grandchamp stemmed from an investigation by the Scranton, Pa., office of the FBI.

During a child pornography investigation in Pennsylvania, the FBI determined a computer screen name registered in West Rutland had been used to send sexually explicit images of pre-adolescent children to a Pennsylvania resident.

The FBI in Pennsylvania alerted FBI agents in Rutland. On March 29, FBI agents in Vermont executed a search warrant at Grandchamp's home and a computer was seized.

U.S. Attorney Thomas D. Anderson commended FBI investigators as well as Vermont State Police and Rutland Police who assisted in the case.

Protecting the public: Agency aims to keep track of convicted sex offenders

GateHouse News Service
Posted Mar 02, 2008 @ 11:05 PM


Editor’s Note — This is the second part in a series on the state sex offender registry.

SALEM — Saundra Edwards spent more than half her career in Plymouth County trying to lock up sex offenders.

Now, the 43-year-old woman is leading the state agency that keeps track of them when they’re out.

Edwards, who spent seven of her 13 years as a prosecutor in Plymouth County trying sex offenders, was appointed by Gov. Deval Patrick last fall to head the Sex Offender Registry, based in Salem.

One of the first people Edwards, of Lawrence, picked to help her on the job was Jeanne Holmes of Brockton, another Plymouth County prosecutor whose 25-year career included trying to convince judges and juries to civilly commit convicted sex offenders.

Edwards, who started in November, said their time in the courtroom prosecuting sex offenders gives them a unique perspective on the job.

“I’m not coming just from a managerial perspective,” Edwards said. “I come from the perspective of an individual who prosecuted sex offenders, who worked intimately with victims and understands what victims go through.”

Edwards, a graduate of Suffolk University Law School and mother of two, joined the Plymouth County district attorney’s office 13 years ago. She quickly moved from prosecuting cases in district court to dealing with sex crimes — including those who prey on children.
“You see the effect these crimes have,” Edwards said. “You meet with the victims, you feel compassion and you see what they go through.”

Holmes, her chief of staff, spent the bulk of her career trying to lock up sex offenders.
She first worked in the child protection unit at the district attorney’s office, prosecuting suspects accused of molesting children. Then she became the prosecutor who tried to keep the worst of the worst locked up civilly under the state’s sexually dangerous laws.

In Massachusetts, prosecutors can press the court to keep sex offenders locked up in a treatment center for a day to life if it can be shown they pose a danger to the community and are still sexually dangerous.

Holmes said she’s seen offenders whose crimes span years — and multiple victims and that experience highlighted how important it is to keep tabs on sex offenders.

“It is almost worse the second time around because there is a feeling that, somehow, it could have been prevented,” she said.

Holmes, 52, grew up in Randolph and later moved to Brockton with her husband, where they raised two children. She graduated from Boston College and Ohio Northern University Law School.

The two women said dealing with the victims of sex offenders makes them realize how important the registry is.

“You see first-hand the impact on victims, the devastation, the loss,” Holmes said.

Kansas' Offender List Ever-Growing

Violent offender registry

Kansas launched a sex offender registry in 1993, and the list has since grown to include more than 250 offenders who are required to register because they committed crimes of violence. These are the most common crimes on the state's violent offender registry.

Involuntary manslaughter85
Voluntary manslaughter39
Aggravated assault25
Attempted second degree murder14
Aggravated battery13
Attempted voluntary manslaughter10
Second degree murder8
Unlawful sale of a controlled substance7
Attempted kidnapping7
Aggravated kidnapping5
Solicitation to commit murder5

Perform offender searches

To look up the Kansas Registered Offender registry on the Internet, go to

To look up the Kansas Department of Corrections records, go to

What began as a small registry for a select group of Kansas sex offenders has mushroomed into a statewide criminal clearinghouse that could tell you whether there's a convicted murderer living down the street.

Today, the list includes 4,500 names -- 250 of which belong to criminals who have been convicted of such violent crimes as murder, manslaughter and aggravated kidnapping.

Criminal justice experts say the ever-expanding registry brings into public view what police and prosecutors have known for years: that Wichita is home to hundreds of criminals who have been released into society on probation or parole.

But maintaining an ever-expanding registry may have a downside, some contend.

Brian Withrow, a criminologist at Wichita State University, said it doesn't make sense to put all ex-cons on the registry.

"I'm not suggesting who should or shouldn't be on the list," he said. "But at some point you have to stop and ask yourself the question, 'How long do we follow these people?' "

And Deputy Sedgwick County District Attorney Kim Parker said residents who have no registered offenders in their neighborhoods should not be lulled into thinking they don't have to take precautions against crime.

"You could be concentrating on a person who's registered and be murdered by the guy down the street who's not," she said.

The Kansas Legislature passed the registry law after concluding that even if the state can't prevent sex offenders from living in certain neighborhoods, it can at least arm residents with information about where they live.

Once aware that an offender lives nearby, proponents reasoned, residents can take steps to protect themselves and their children from them.

The registry

Wichita's 700 registered offenders include 484 who have committed sex crimes against children, 150 who have committed sex crimes against adults and 54 who were convicted of violent crimes such as kidnapping, murder or manslaughter.

KBI Special Agent David Hutchings, who oversees the state's registry, said the registry last week had 4,483 "open offenders," whose names are considered to be public records and are posted on the Internet. A smaller list of 1,377 "restricted offenders" is available only to law enforcement agencies.

State courts have ruled that those whose crimes occurred before the registry law took effect on April 14, 1994, cannot be placed on the public list.

Drug offenders started appearing on the registry after the 2007 Kansas Legislature decided that those who engage in dangerous drug crimes, such as the manufacture of meth, also pose a danger to society, Hutchings said.

There were seven drug offenders on the public registry as of last week, he said.

Registry history

Kansas' sex offender registry law took effect July 1, 1993, and was originally designed to offer a nonpublic list of names that police could use to develop suspects during sex crime investigations.

The parents of Pittsburg State University student Stephanie Schmidt, who was killed that year by a paroled rapist, asked the Legislature the following year to make the list public.

The Legislature agreed. In April 1994, county offender lists were made available for the first time to anyone willing to drive to local sheriff's offices.

After Congress passed Megan's Law in 1996, all states were required to maintain offender lists. On April 25, 1997, the KBI posted a statewide list of 300 offenders on the Internet for the first time. The group consisted primarily of people convicted of rape, indecent liberties, indecent solicitation and sexual exploitation of a child.

Although the Kansas registry initially applied only to sex crimes, the Legislature in 1996 began requiring people convicted of such violent offenses as murder, manslaughter and kidnapping to register as well.

Under the law, most first-time offenders are required to stay on the registry for 10 years. Second-time offenders, and offenders convicted of certain aggravated crimes, stay on the list for life.

The growing list

Although there are 700 registered offenders in Wichita, that doesn't mean there aren't even more ex-convicts living in the city.

As of last week, there were more than 1,200 offenders living in Sedgwick County who were under the supervision of probation or parole officers, according to Kansas Department of Corrections records.

Many of those people committed crimes that do not require registration or whose crimes were committed before the registry law took effect.

Criminal justice officials said there was no way to know how many ex-cons live in the Wichita area who are not required to be on the registry and have completed their parole or probation.

With the list of registered offenders continuing to grow, Withrow, the WSU criminologist, said he wonders whether the state is going overboard in its efforts to keep track of ex-convicts.

"Obviously the pro of this is that it's always a good idea to know if there are violent offenders or sex offenders in your community," he said. "The con is when can you say this person has paid off his debt to society?"

One drawback to a large offender registry is the amount of time and money it takes to maintain the list and enforce the registry requirements, Withrow said.

He said ex-cons trying to reintegrate into society often have a hard time finding work or housing when their names and faces are posted on the Internet offender registry.

"We do a really good job of shaming people and getting them out of society," he said. "We do a really bad job of getting people back in."

Sex offenders in, out of hotel

JUSTICE: Carson Plaza location meets Megan's Law rules.
By Larry Altman, Staff Writer

CARSON - The men started checking in a few months ago, not long after state parole agents stopped by. They pay in cash, rent rooms, stay for a few days before they move on.

It's unclear how many actually live at the 60-unit Carson Plaza Hotel in north Carson at any one moment, but as of Friday, the state's Megan's Law Web site listed 30 names with the inn's address, up from 25 a week earlier.

Each man is a sex offender, and all are properly registered with deputies at the Carson sheriff's station.

Although the motel's registry doesn't list anything about customers' backgrounds, each man was recently paroled from prison. Each man committed a sex crime serious enough to find himself on the Megan's Law list of serious offenders.

They include Carlos Vega, who committed lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 and indecent exposure; Thomas Harold Lee, who served time for kidnapping with the intent to commit rape, sodomy and oral copulation; and Ulman Lynn Haynes, who raped and sexually assaulted a child.

"They need to find housing for these folks who have been released from jail. They are parolees," said Hitesh Patel, general manager of the hotel at Main and Albertoni streets. "We are engaged in a business and it's not legal for us to discriminate."

A few months ago, state parole officials approached Patel, telling him they had identified his hotel as a viable spot to house sex offenders because of its location. With last year's passage of Jessica's Law placing increased restrictions on how close sex offenders can be housed near schools, parks and residential areas, parole officials deemed the Carson Plaza Hotel ideal because of its isolation.

The hotel sits alongside the Artesia (91) Freeway in an industrial area, far from schools, parks and homes.

"It has never been easy to house sex offenders," said Suzanne Brown-McBride, executive director of the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault and chair of the California Sex Offender Management Board.

"Residency restrictions create larger swaths of area where sex offenders can't be."

Patel said parole officials asked if they could issue state checks to the hotel to pay for the parolees' rooms. Patel told them he did not accept checks and declined to enter into a formal agreement.

Since then, men have walked into the hotel with cash, sometimes alone and sometimes with parole agents, to rent rooms that cost from $80 to $105 a night, Patel said.

Patel said his front desk clerks cannot ask for the guests' backgrounds or turn them away without crossing lines of discrimination.

"I think what I'd be worried about most is the connotation that we endorse the activities of these folks and what they've been indicted for and that we approve of what they did," Patel said. "We are legally bound to enter into business with these folks if they come to our counter and ask to do business."

Patel said he informed his employees about the men staying at the hotel. So far, they have had no problems with them.

The hotel general manager would not say whether he was glad to be receiving the business, or if he preferred that it disappear. He declined to say whether he would have his own mother stay there.

Community concern

Carson Mayor Jim Dear said the concentration of sex offenders in the north end of his city is a concern.

"Ideally I don't want a single registered sex offender living in the city of Carson," he said. "If we could have our druthers, that's what I would want. But the state of California trumps us with its laws. ... To me these individuals can be a real, genuine threat to our community."

Capt. Todd Rogers, commander of the Carson sheriff's station, said he became aware of the hotel a few months ago. He said it is not alone.

Similar concentrations of sex offenders have been found in other jurisdictions.

Sheriff's deputies from several police agencies have met to discuss the development, which is occurring in other cities in the county as parole officials try to keep sex offenders in areas away from children and homes.

"We do know about it and we've actually had meetings with the city over it. What can you do? I can't go in there and kick them out," Rogers said. "It appears to be at this point legally compliant. To us it's an extraordinarily large concentration of sex offenders."

Avoiding confrontation

Placing the parolees at the isolated hotel is an effort to avoid the kind of problems that occurred in February in Long Beach.

Last month, after Long Beach residents complained that about a dozen sex offenders were living in a 12-unit Alamitos Beach apartment building near two day-care centers, the City Council took action to restrict them from living there.

The city attorney is working to develop an ordinance that would restrict sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of licensed day-care centers and within 2,500 feet for high-risk sexual predators.

"The debate is, is it better to have them in one place or to spread them all out so you have a sex offender living on every block," said Gordon Hinkle, deputy press secretary for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. "This is not an easy situation. There is no easy answer."

State law requires that parolees be returned to the counties where they were convicted. Hinkle said a debate needs to be held on whether placing them in light industrial areas can solve the problem of providing an alternative to putting them in residential neighborhoods, and whether housing them together makes it easier for law enforcement to monitor them.

Sex offenders don't belong out on street

TOWARD THE bottom of the list of "most wanted" fugitives put out by the Mobile County Sheriff's Office last week was an item that was truly scary: A child rapist, previously imprisoned for five short years, is at large and authorities don't know where he is.

Authorities have lost track of Michael Ray Peavy, 51, who once lived in Theodore but moved about three years ago without telling the sheriff's department where he was going.

Right-thinking Mobilians can appropriately ask why he was let out of prison after only five years, when some property crimes in Alabama can put a thief away for decades. Moreover, why weren't Mr. Peavy's movements monitored better?

Mr. Peavy raped an 8-year-old girl. Sent to prison in 1995, he was released in 2000. He moved to Theodore, duly reporting his address to the Mobile County sheriff, as required by law. But within three years, he had disappeared from law enforcement's radar.

That's unacceptable, and frightening.

Mental health professionals have concluded that no amount of therapy and no amount of punishment can erase a pedophile's perverted obsession. Driven by a sick compulsion to prey on young children, pedophiles will strike again and again if they are not confined.

Mr. Peavy isn't the first pedophile in Mobile to slip underground. Earlier this year, authorities announced they were searching for another, Jessie Michael Brooks II, 38, who disappeared from his Lipscomb Street address where he had lived since being released from prison in 2007. He had been imprisoned in 2003 for sexually assaulting a 9-year-old girl.

The histories of Mr. Peavy and Mr. Brooks should alert Alabama officials that pedophiles are getting off too easy. Sentences of four or five years for raping young children don't cut it for such a heinous crime that leaves life-long mental scars on its helpless victims.

Indeed, a person can get 10 to 30 years in federal prison for possessing sexual videos or photos of children. It stands to reason, then, that the penalty for actually assaulting a child deserves a sentence that's at least as long as the sentence for receiving and possessing child pornography. And the chance for parole should be eliminated.

Moreover, the propensity for pedophiles to slip out of sight once released from prison underscores the need not only for longer sentences, but also the need to consider committing particularly heinous pedophiles to indefinite confinement in a mental health facility after their prison sentence is served.

Meanwhile, all sexual offenders deserve scrutiny after being released from prison. That's why restrictions on housing and employment make sense.

In Alabama, convicted sexual offenders can't live or work within 2,000 feet of elementary and high schools. Now state Rep. Jamie Ison, a Republican from Mobile, is trying to broaden this restriction to include college campuses.

The House Judiciary Committee has approved Rep. Ison's bill. Lawmakers would be right to join her in making the bill a law.

Restricting where a sexual offender lives or works doesn't remove the risk posed by offenders such as Mr. Peavy, but it can help protect children and college students.

The likes of Mr. Peavy, though, require even tougher laws. Authorities need to find him and return him to prison.

In the meantime, legislators can toughen the penalties against pedophilia, locking up the worst offenders for the rest of their sorry lives.

County eyes sex offender buffer


A worried mother wrote to Bay County Commissioner Mike Thomas, concerned about the sexual offender and predator ordinance proposed for unincorporated areas of the county.

Though the state requires sexual offenders and predators to live at least 1,000 feet away from places where children gather, all eight Bay County municipalities have increased the specified distance to 2,500 feet within the last couple of years. County officials are considering the same.

In the Feb. 26 letter, the mother recounts how her 20-year-old son had a sexual relationship with his 15-year-old girlfriend, whom he met at church, and subsequently spent eight years behind bars.

On Feb. 1, Justin Geiger was released into society. Finding himself effectively zoned out of local municipalities, he now lives in an RV in the unincorporated area of Bay County.

“I will never be able to live a normal life,” Gieger said. “It’s like a joke on me; you’re free, but you’re not really free.”

But Gieger doesn’t consider himself a “sexual deviant.” Such cases have given Thomas pause as he considers Bay County’s proposed ordinance.

“The more I dig into this and the more I find out about this, I’m more undecided about changing things,” Thomas said. “It’s a lot more complicated than it looked when it was first handed to me.”

The commissioner said he fears someone caught urinating in public or “mooning” someone, or “kids that have done crazy things” might be unfairly labeled as an “offender” and be subject to such ordinances.

“They’re not a danger to the community,” Thomas said. “I’m not comfortable penalizing people who aren’t a danger to anybody.”

The County Commission is considering the local ordinance upon a request from Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen, who made the request last year of all local governing bodies.

“He feels ordinances like this work best when they’re uniform,” said Ruth Sasser, spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Office.

Lynn Haven adopted such an ordinance last year. City Manager John Lynch said at the time that offenders could be pushed into the city because of 2,500-feet-ordinances in surrounding municipalities.

“We’re not a haven for sexual predators,” Lynch said.

State Attorney’s Office spokesman Joe Grammer said local sexual offender ordinances have become fashionable lately. There are not many people, he said, willing to carry the banner against such regulations.

“It makes you look like you’re being tough on those guys,” Grammer said.

Whether such laws actually reduce the number of sexually related crimes is unclear. A 2003 Minnesota Department of Corrections study found that offenders tend to travel outside their area of residence to ensure anonymity. The same study concluded the toughened ordinances might further isolate offenders and move them farther from employment and treatment options.

Two years later, a survey of 135 sexual offenders in Florida found that residential restrictions serve to increase triggers for reoffending.

Sasser said McKiethen did not refer to any studies when making his recommendations. “He based his request simply on common sense.”

Panama City Beach was the last local municipality to adopt a local ordinance in September. There was a rush to ensure the measure cast as wide a net as possible.

“All you have to do is add a playground and, presto, you’re protected by the ordinance,” City Planner Mel Leonard said prior to its passing.

Panama City Beach City Manager Richard Jackson said he is not sure what effect the new ordinance has had. He estimates it wound up encompassing about half the Beach.

“We haven’t had any problems,” he said. “What it has accomplished, I couldn’t tell you that.”

‘Romeo and Juliet’ law

Echoing Thomas, Grammer said one possible problem lies in the varying degrees of sexual offenders. A recent state law passed last summer attempts to differentiate: the so-called “Romeo and Juliet” law provides protection for younger adults engaged in sexual acts with a slightly younger, underage partner.

“Everybody that is on the sexual offender list is not your typical dirty child molester,” Grammer said. “The 18-year-old boy with the 15-year-old girlfriend might should be handled differently than the 40-year-old mama’s boyfriend fondling the 12-year-old daughter.”

But the Romeo and Juliet law does not help Gieger; there is a four-year age difference stipulation. He is branded a “sexual offender.”

“It makes me look like something I’m not. I’m totally stigmatized,” he said, adding that he hopes one day to live a normal life. “I want to be somebody’s father, somebody’s husband. I want to be an upstanding citizen.”

The Bay County Commission meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday at Panama City City Hall. The sexual predator and offender ordinance requires two reads by the commission before passage.

Sexual predator vs. sex offender

What’s the difference between a sexual offender and a sexual predator?

A sexual predator:

* Has been convicted of a serious sexual crime against a minor or an adult. The crime usually is one involving violence.

* Has received a “sexual predator” designation by a court.

A sex offender:

* Has been convicted of any listed sex offense.

* Has been released from prison or probation on or after Oct. 1, 1997.

Source: Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, FDLE

Sex offenders barred from St. Charles County parks

Monday, March 3, 2008 6:40 AM CST

St. Charles County parks are now off-limits to registered sex offenders.

The County Council on Monday approved an ordinance that forbids some registered sex offenders from entering or loitering in county parks without permission.

Council member Joe McCulloch, D-District 5, who sponsored the bill, said the measure would give police another investigative tool if a person is suspected of loitering near children.Some people have cautioned that restricting the places where convicted sex offenders can go only gives people a false sense of security. McCulloch said the ordinance isn't intended to replace parental supervision of children.

The council also approved a 15 percent pay raise for future elected council members. Council members elected in November will be the first to receive $14,375 a year, and the remaining members would receive the higher salary after the November 2010 election. Currently, council members are paid $12,500. The council chair receives an additional $150 each month.

Council Chairman Dan Foust, R-District 6, said the increase is comparable to what other county employees have received during the past four years.

Two council members, Nancy Matheny, R-District 3, and Paul Wynn, R-District 4, voted against the measure. Both members said they wouldn't support such a large raise when the budget for 2008 was so tight. In December the Sheriff's Department requested and was granted a raise so that the starting salary for deputies would be comparable to other area departments.

To comment, visit

Kenosha City Council to consider sex offender residency ordinance

KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) - The Kenosha City Council is to consider tonight an ordinance that would restrict where convicted sex offenders could live there.

It would prohibit convicted offenders who were not previously from Kenosha from living within 2,500 feet of all schools, churches, parks, trails, day cares, places of worship or wherever children gather.

The limit would be 500 feet for convicted sex offenders who already lived in Kenosha.

No offender would be able to live within six blocks of another registered offender.

And registered offenders would be required to notify the alderman of the district they move into.

Information from: Kenosha News,

What Exactly Did The JuicyCampus Founder Think Would Happen?

I’m not sure what JuicyCampus founder Matt Ivester expected when he launched a gossip site for college students, but apparently things are getting out of hand. People, who can post anonymously, are being “mean.” And despite some legal protections, Ivester might be getting a little nervous about defamation and libel lawsuits.

In a blog post on Friday, he says “Some of the things that have been posted have been mean-spirited, and we have received emails from people claiming to have been defamed on the site,” and adds “We want you to make JuicyCampus Juicy, not hateful.”

He’s also quick to point out that he’s not liable for anything said on the site: “Please be advised that Juicy Campus is not the author of the posts that appear on the site. Rather, Juicy Campus is the provider of an interactive computer service. As such, pursuant to 47 U.S.C. Section 230, Juicy Campus is immune from liability arising from content posted by users.”

As users, posting anonymously, accuse others of being child molesters and debate who is the sluttiest girl in school, page views will likely rise. But Matt will be dealing with a nearly constant barrage of legal threats from quite-rightly angry students and parents. Appeals to simply be nice won’t do anything to stop it. And those legal protections may not be as bullet proof as he thinks. The whole thing may fall apart when the daughter of the wrong politician gets attacked.

Philip Kaplan dealt with almost exactly the same issues with FuckedCompany back in 2000-2001. Matt, you may want to give him a call, and ask for a referral to a good attorney.

Letter: Some bills save money

The editorial "Legislators can't help themselves" unfairly casts local representatives in a very unfair and misinformed manner.

My 2007 and 2008 legislative package was introduced for the purpose of making government more efficient, more responsive, and to help address our fiscal crisis. I do not introduce bills that cost taxpayers money.

The legislation I introduced last year makes the Medi-Cal system more efficient, makes it easier for charter schools to function, protects public safety by prohibiting convicted child molesters from getting a license to practice dentistry, makes it easier and more cost effective to screen for cervical cancer, ensures that there will be non-state budget funding and federal funding to build the Redding veterans home, and to propose the sale of state-owned surplus property where the proceeds of $1.5 million would go to pay the state's billions dollars of debt.

I would challenge the editorial board to choose which of these bills are not worthy of introduction.

The notion that the introduction of bills is a waste of time and money is extremely shortsighted. I was elected to the Senate to represent the constituents of the 4th Senate District and I have found that simply saying "no" to legislation is not very effective.

I believe being proactive in a deliberate and thoughtful way through the introduction of legislation that reflects the needs and views of the people in the 4th Senate District is part of my job.

— Sen. Sam

Abusers employ similar tactics, experts contend

By Gary Harki

David Mullins didn't have a dad growing up.

His half-brother's father taught him how to drive, took him out to eat and spent time with him. All Mullins got to do was watch.

Then, when Mullins was about 14, he started going to church at the Shrewsbury Church of God near his home. He says the church's senior pastor, Sandy Martin Cook, took an interest in him.

"He started offering to do things with me, to teach me how to drive a car, to take me to McDonald's - all the things my brother would get to do with his dad but I didn't," Mullins said.

Then Mullins said Cook offered to let him stay at his house overnight, because the two were friends.

"He wanted us to sleep in the same room, the same bed. I thought it was weird but I didn't say anything," Mullins said.

That night, Mullins said, Cook performed oral sex on him: "I woke up later that night and there he was."

Child molesters have patterns in how they select, groom and keep their victims, says Anna Salter, a national expert on child sexual abuse who has interviewed many child molesters.

"What they do for sure is set up a double life," Salter said. "Sex offenders seem to understand intuitively that people trust people that they like. So they act in very likable ways."

Selecting victims

Jack Pierce chose his victims by how they carried themselves, said St. Albans Police Detective Mark Burdette.

"It was the kids that either had low self-esteem or possibly had problems within the family," Burdette said. "He could tell the difference between the ones where he could do what he wanted and the ones where there was no sense in trying."

Pierce, a piano teacher, had sexual contact with a male student in 2004, according to a criminal complaint filed earlier this month. Since he was arrested, more people have come forward. St. Albans police are working with 17 alleged victims, at least seven of whom are willing to testify, said Chief Joe Crawford.

Four alleged victims are involved in Sandy Cook's case, said State Police Trooper M.J. Napier.

Police say both cases have been bound over to a Kanawha County grand jury. Neither man has been indicted or convicted.

Child molesters will often pay as much attention to the family's opinion of them as to the child's, Salter said.

There are different types of child molesters, she said, but they are usually someone the parents and children know well.

Mike Lewis says he was 14 when he, like his cousin David Mullins, began being sexually molested by Cook.

"In 1992 or 1993 I started running around with him a lot," said Lewis, now a pastor in Cedar Grove. "My family was great, both my parents worked real hard, but with three kids at home it was tough. He took me out to eat, on trips. He always wanted me to attend church."

Lewis said he lived with Cook throughout high school. He said his parents thought the move was in his best interests.

"They believed he could give me opportunities I didn't have at home," Lewis said. "I didn't have the guts to say what was happening."

The abuse began not long after he moved in, Lewis said.

Grooming the family

Child molesters groom not only the child, but the entire family, Salter said.

"They win the parents' trust. In one case, this man, he was a music teacher and a 'good Christian,'" Salter said. "He volunteered to head the children's choir. Slowly over time he lulled several communities into thinking that he was just a good person who takes an interest in kids."

The man described how he offered to take underprivileged kids to professional baseball games.

"He always asked the mother with the kid there, to put pressure on the mother," Salter said. "And since it was so far away and they were leaving at dawn, she let him sleep over.... You see many variations on this process."

Pierce would take many of his piano students, boys and girls, on trips, Burdette said.

"He would take them to New York, buy them clothes, slowly work his way into their trust," he said.

Later, Pierce would show children gay pornography to groom them for abuse, the detective said.

"He would ask the kids, what do you think about his, or that and if they didn't respond quickly by saying that's disgusting, no, whatever, then he knew he got them," Burdette said.

Pierce would often ask the victims to stay at his house three or four times before he got up the nerve to get into bed with them, the detective said.

"It may sound stupid, but I don't think he thought what he was doing was a crime," he said.

Mullins said at 14, when he got curious about sex, he asked Cook questions.

"I got curious about women. I was feeling guilty and looking for guidance on how to deal with those thoughts from a pastor, a father figure," he said.

But Mullins said the conversations took turns that he was uncomfortable with. He believes now they were Cook's way of grooming him.

Salter said that often, if parents get suspicious and ask their kids if anything has happened, molesters have the kids so well groomed that they tell them about the questions.

"That gives them warning to hang back, not to touch the kid when the parent is around," she said.

Public persona

Child abusers set up a public persona so that when abuse allegations arise, people simply don't believe them, Salter said.

"This nice, kind, generous man is not their image of a child molester," she said.

The public persona also creates problems for the victims.

"It's extremely confusing for the kids. They feel betrayed, bad about turning them in, bad about when they go to jail," she said. "There are times when they are kinder to the kids than anyone has been to them in their entire lives."

Lewis said he lived with Cook through his high school years because he was afraid of the alternative.

He said he was convinced if he left Cook's house, the pastor would find another child to abuse. If he turned Cook in, he said, he was convinced the church would collapse.

"I didn't realize how big the circle of abuse was," he said.

Both Cook and Pierce had been accused of sexual misconduct in the past.

Pierce taught the children of many prominent families in Charleston, Burdette said. "There were students like that, but most were everyday students that enjoyed music of singing and took lessons from him," he said. "The oldest complaint we got was from 1968."

Lewis said Cook was accused of abuse around 1990, but the allegations never made it to police.

In 1990 Pierce was accused of sexually abusing a young boy, Crawford said. The case went to the grand jury but he was never formally charged, Crawford said.

"A lot of times you hear things but you don't have evidence to support it," he said.

State of denial

The extent of a sex abuser's actions seldom becomes known, Salter said: "Child molesters are very professional and do a good job of [hiding their actions]."

Mullins says Cook abused him one time and tried to abuse him once after that. Mullins left the church.

"There were times when I went around him because I didn't want anyone to know something was wrong," he said. "I couldn't understand it coming from someone supposed to be a man of God."

Lewis said he finally stopped the abuse shortly before he left Cook's house. It didn't deter him from becoming a pastor himself, he said.

"He would tell me, 'These things have to happen for God to use your life,'" Lewis said of the abuse. "I was lucky to have many people around me who had strong relationships with God. At the time I thought the church revolved around one man. Now I know it is about a personal relationship with God."

People often just can't face the fact that someone they like, someone they trust, is a child predator, Salter said.

"Often you get a lot of denial from people. They confuse likeability with trustworthiness," she said. "You can't recognize a sex offender. Most people don't want to face that fact."

The victims of child sexual abuse often have a lot of shame, she said.

"Most got talked into going along with it for a long period of time," she said. "They can't explain that to themselves. They don't really understand why they didn't scream and run from the room."

School Molesters

Virginia takes overdue steps to keep child abusers out of schools

Virginia has 19 fewer teachers on its roll of prospective educators.


The state Department of Education last month deemed these former teachers unfit for the classroom because they have been convicted of crimes, including child abuse, rape and child pornography. It revoked six licenses, and another 13 were surrendered when the state told their holders they would be revoked. On the list were 13 teachers who worked in Hampton Roads, including one from Hampton's Kecoughtan High School.

Compare that to the last eight years, when the state took, on average, just four licenses a year.

The new push to make sure known criminals aren't in the classroom is welcome. But it's alarming to find that Virginia has not been conscientious in patrolling the ranks, and in making sure that educators who abused children didn't get another chance.

Some school districts have done no better. In an ugly variant of the practice known within the system as "pass the trash," some districts are content to get a known abuser out of their schools, voluntarily or otherwise. If the case doesn't go to court, they may want to keep it quiet. If it does, they don't alert the state licensing office. That should be required in Virginia, but it's not.

Protecting children has to be the business of every school. That's the way to prevent tragedies like the one that happened in central Virginia when a teacher who was accused of sexually abusing three girls in Bedford County was later hired by adjacent Nelson County, where he molested more children. The schools didn't communicate, and the state didn't know to yank his license.

The problem of sexually abusive teachers came to light not because educational bureaucracies figured it out, but because The Associated Press did a big story on it. It uncovered, across the nation, 2,750 educators whose licenses were revoked, denied, surrendered or sanctioned over a four-year period because of sexual misconduct, typically with students. The offenses ranged from rape to inappropriate relationships.

And experts think most sexual misconduct by teachers goes unreported, and even when it is, many teachers go unpunished. That AP story revealed the scope of what was to many communities a dirty little secret.

So whether Virginia's Board of Education takes the initiative or responds to a need identified by someone else, this is a welcome step.

There's something particularly alarming when children are abused by people who hold the position of trust and authority that teachers enjoy. But the truth is: Some perverted and dangerous people are drawn to children, and they go where children are. The people convicted in this area recently for child sex abuse and child pornography have included teachers, former teachers, coaches and a teacher's aide.

As it stands in Virginia, there's no requirement that schools or licensing agencies are notified if teachers are convicted of crimes against children. The General Assembly is considering a bill that would require courts to inform local school districts and the state if a licensed educator is convicted of a felony related to child abuse or molestation or drugs. Child protective service agencies would have to report if they find a complaint of child abuse or neglect against an educator founded. And the state would have to revoke the teaching license of anyone who is fired or resigns as a result of the conviction or founded complaints.

Another bill would correct another obvious problem: There's no requirement that the state, before issuing a license, or a school district, before hiring someone, check crime records or child abuse registries.

The House and Senate should sort out their differences, pass these bills and send them to the governor to be signed.

Because our schools are no place for people who have demonstrated that they have a taste for abusing or molesting children.