Thursday, May 22, 2008

Reoffending sex offender lived within 1000 ft of a school

indictment IN LANCASTER
Kids get message on sex abuse


Saturday, May 17, 2008 3:06 AM

By Mary Beth Lane
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
LANCASTER, Ohio --

No. Go. Tell.
That is the advice that children in Fairfield County are hearing to protect themselves from sex abuse.
Educators from the Child Advocacy Center of Fairfield County, which opened in September to investigate and prosecute child abuse and provide treatment to young victims, are visiting schools.
Their message goes like this: The parts of your body covered by a bathing suit are private, and if someone tries to touch those parts, you should say no, then go and tell a trusted adult.
The program is working, said Lancaster City Prosecutor Terre Vandervoort.
As a result of its efforts, a convicted sex offender is back in court on new charges.
A third-grader at Cedar Heights Elementary School in Lancaster listened to the presentation in class Feb. 26. Two days later, the 9-year-old indicated by her comments and behavior in the classroom that she had been sexually abused.
School administrators contacted her parents and county Child Protective Services workers the same week, and the girl was interviewed at the center the next Monday morning by a Lancaster police detective. She identified a neighbor, registered sex offender Virgil E. Larson Jr., as the abuser. The detective interviewed Larson later the same day.
"He made confessions, which resulted in him being arrested, and he was taken into custody that evening," Vandervoort said.
A county grand jury has indicted Larson, 27, on two counts of rape and six counts of gross sexual imposition. He is being held in county jail in lieu of a $50,000 cash or securities bond and a $25,000 recognizance bond. He is scheduled for trial on Tuesday.
"Obviously, that child was waiting for the affirmation to tell someone. It was an ongoing situation. It was not something that wasn't going to occur again," Vandervoort said.
Larson is among four registered sex offenders who Vandervoort has been trying to force to move because they live within 1,000 feet of a school, which is in violation of state law. Larson lives too close to Cedar Heights Elementary.
Common Pleas Judge Chris A. Martin ruled in July that Larson and the others must move, but he granted a stay of the ruling while the men appeal. Meanwhile, the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that the residency restrictions don't apply to sex offenders who committed their offenses or were convicted before the law took effect in 2003. That includes Larson and the others.
"The (new) charges, as far as we are concerned, have nothing to do with the fact that he is living near a school," said David Singleton, executive director of the Cincinnati-based Ohio Justice & Policy Center, which represents Larson and the others in challenging the residency restrictions. "Drawing an arbitrary line does not do a thing to stop these types of crimes from happening. Kids live everywhere, not just near schools."
David Stansbury, Larson's court-appointed attorney defending him against the new charges, could not be reached for comment.
"Sometimes in government, the success of what you're doing is very intangible," Vandervoort said. "This time, you can actually say this project, this education did actually work and stop something for her and probably for another child. We don't get that very often."
mlane@dispatch.com

Background checks for camp workers

Bill would require camps to run background checks

COLUMBUS — Testimony began Wednesday on a new bill that would require camps to run background checks on their counselors.

Camp safety is now under intense scrutiny after what occurred last year at a central Ohio camp.

Timothy Keil, a camp volunteer, was caught sexually molesting a child inside a cabin at a Perry County youth camp. His crime revealed a loophole that legislators are working to close. The state requires background checks at summer day camps but no checks for residential or overnight camps.

Senate Bill 321 calls for criminal background checks for all camp staffers, FBI checks if the person has not lived in Ohio for the past five years and requires Social Security number background checks on camp volunteers.

If the bill is passed, it probably won't go into law before camps kick off in June.

The state is now teaming with health inspectors to notify camp directors that criminal records are now required."I promised you that last year and we're doing it this year," said Helen Jones-Kelley, the director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

According to Jones-Kelley, the department is working to protect children despite the loophole.

"We're just kind of taking on a more positive, proactive kind of role so that we can get out of there and make sure children are safe," Jones-Kelley said.

Carl Morgan, the business manager for the Scioto Youth Camp, Inc., where Keil volunteered, said that he received a letter from the Perry County Health Department through the ODJFS. According to the letter, all workers including volunteers need to be fingerprinted if they have contact with children.

Anyone from the dish washer to the evangelist will have the fingerprint background check. According to Morgan, Keil would not have been caught that way but he said that the checks are worthwhile.

Camp operators and directors are also being cautious. Central Ohio's YMCA calls its policies more stringent than state requirements. There is fingerprinting on camp counselors and reference checks, including a Social Security number background check, on paid staff and volunteers.

"Once a counselor is hired and gone through the background checks, they are required to go through pretty impressive and stringent child prevention and care training and we do that, actually, the first week on the job," said John Bickley, the YMCA's chief executive officer.

10TV checked on other camps, including the Boy Scouts. Thousands of campers will spend part of the summer at all Boy Scout sites in central Ohio.

A Social Security background check and youth protection training are required to become a registered volunteer."There's no one-on-one interaction between any youth and any adult that's not in public view," said Don Sheppard, the development director for the Boy Scouts of America's Simon Kenton Council. "We can make sure that's adhered to and that all of our staff and volunteers understand that policy and several others aimed at protecting kids."

Catholic church pays for hiding pedophiles

Church actions show why jury award was justified
May 20, 2008
By BARBARA BLAINE and DAVID CLOHESSY

Following is a statement by Barbara Blaine and David Clohessy, leaders of the national Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a support group based in Chicago:

When a corporation knowingly hides the flaws in dangerous products and hurts unsuspecting consumers, no CEO tries to escape responsibility by saying, "I've reformed and won't do it again." Nor can the CEO of a nonprofit that deliberately risks others' safety say, "But ours is a nonprofit that helps people. Don't make us pay a fine."

In both cases, the institutions are held accountable, because that's what will make them (and other institutions) be safer and more responsible in the future.

So how can Vermont Bishop Salvatore Matano claim that his organization shouldn't face consequences for decades of recklessness, secrecy and deceit surrounding hundreds of horrific child sex crimes by clergy?

Matano is stunned by the $8.7 million punitive damage decision by an impartial jury. But such a decision will certainly help deter future wrongdoing. It gives employers more incentive to screen out molesters. It also prods employers to train employees how to spot warning signs of child molestation and respond appropriately when allegations surface. Vermont kids are safer now because of these wise jurors.

Any reasonable person will applaud that result. But within hours of the verdict, Matano vowed to fight it. He could accept responsibility, admit wrongdoing, and make genuine reforms to prevent future crimes and cover ups. Instead, he's pointing fingers, shifting blame and making excuses.

He claims he has already "reformed.""This stuff isn't happening any more," one of his defense lawyers insists.

That's tempting to believe, but evidence, history and common sense suggests otherwise.

Common sense tells us that decades, perhaps centuries, of deceptive and self-protective patterns cannot be reversed in just a few short years. This is especially true in the church hierarchy — an ancient, rigid, secretive, all-male monarchy that essentially answers to no one. Thousands of crimes were successfully covered up for dozens of years. None of the complicit church officials has been disciplined. So, on its face, it's just plain silly and na├»ve to think that this deeply rooted, Mafia-like behavior has suddenly and magically ended.

A look at recent evidence leads us to the same conclusion.

If Matano has reformed and clergy sex crimes aren't being covered up any more, then why does he refuse to take simple prevention measures like some of his colleagues? Why isn't he:

Posting the names of proven, admitted and credibly accused predator priests on his Web site.
Working to reform the archaic laws that prevent predators from being exposed in court.
Personally visiting parishes where predators worked and begging victims to come forward.
Insisting that his pedophile priest live in a remote, secure, independent treatment center where neighbors are warned, kids are protected and sick men get treatment.

Several Catholic bishops are taking these steps. But Matano is doing none of this. Instead he continues to do the absolute bare minimum. When credible allegations of child molestation arise, he follows the advice of his insurers, lawyers and public relations staff and suspends the priest. But he stops there, ignoring Jesus' admonition that shepherds leave the 99 behind and search for and help the one lost sheep.

If Matano has reformed, why hasn't he disciplined even one church worker who suspected or knew of sexual abuse but stayed silent or concealed it? (With at least a dozen credibly accused pedophile priests in his diocese, surely Matano knows of one employee — whether priest, principal or custodian — who kept quiet or did nothing about an abuse charge.)

If he has reformed, why does Matano tolerate hardball legal maneuvers by his defense lawyers? (One church attorney's excesses caused a judge to harshly criticize him and declare a mistrial, possibly deterring other victims from coming forward and certainly rubbing even more salt into the already deep and still fresh wounds of a clergy sex abuse victim.)

And why, just two years ago, did Matano wait four months before telling police about child sex allegations against the Rev. Steven J. Nichols? That's ample time for a possible criminal to invent alibis, fabricate evidence, intimidate witnesses, and threaten victims.

Finally, if Matano has reformed, why did national church authorities find him in violation this year of the bishops' own weak abuse policy, even though he has had six years to comply? Why, when this finding was announced, did Matano not discipline a single staff member who was at fault?

Actions like these would show remorse, reform and commitment to change. On the other hand, passivity, inaction and mere words do not. In Vermont's Catholic diocese, there has sadly been little of the former and plenty of the latter.

Because of this disturbing and persistently callous track record, these 12 unbiased men and women were right to send a strong signal that neither child sex crimes by predators nor ongoing complicity by officials will go unpunished.