Thursday, March 29, 2012

Finally... This is good news!

Missouri House endorses changes to sex offender registry, allows petitions for removal

CHRIS BLANK  Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Republican-led Missouri House gave first round approval Tuesday to legislation that would allow some people eventually to be removed from the state's sex offender registry.

Sponsoring Rep. Rodney Schad said the registry must be sufficiently narrow to be a notification tool and not additional punishment. In recent years, lawmakers have expanded the public sex offender registry.

"We've piled on to the point that the registry no longer means anything to the public," said Schad, R-Versailles. "The public has become numb to the registry."

Under the legislation, several offenses no longer would require state registration, including promoting obscenity and furnishing pornographic materials. In other cases, people could petition a state trial judge to be removed if they meet certain requirements. Petitions for removal could be filed after 20 years for those convicted of particularly serious offenses such as forcible rape, forcible sodomy or child molestation — crimes that Schad labeled as the "seven deadly sins." People convicted of other sex offenses would need to wait 10 years before they could seek removal.

The local prosecutor, who would need to be notified by the person making the request, could present evidence suggesting some requirements for removal had not been met. Prosecutors also would need to make "reasonable efforts" to notify the victim of the sex offense of the dates and times for court hearings on the petition. Requests for removal would be granted unless the person has not properly registered, committed another offense requiring registration or failed to complete probation and sex offender treatment programs.

Lawmakers endorsed the legislation by voice vote during an evening session with few people watching from the public galleries. The measure needs another vote before moving to the state Senate. There was little apparent opposition to the measure, and Schad said the legislation was discussed at night to avoid conducting the debate in front of the many children who visit the state Capitol during the day on school field trips.

Besides allowing people to be removed from the registry, the legislation also would exclude juveniles who are required to register as sex offenders from the public list posted online.

Sex offenders is HB1700

Monday, March 19, 2012

Jury said it was ENTRAPMENT...

Jury said Menasha man entrapped in Perverted Justice sting

Written by
Jessie Van Berkel
Post-Crescent staff writer

APPLETON — For four days, Appleton police officers monitored the bust house on E. Fremont Street.
Behind the scenes, volunteers for the Perverted Justice Foundation Inc. — made famous by Dateline NBC's "To Catch a Predator" — posed as children, chatting online with Wisconsinites.

The volunteers, who initiated the 2010 sex sting, gave police profiles of 72 people they thought likely to turn up and have sexual contact with a minor. Four showed.

Their cases went to court — the last wrapped up March 12 — but one man's jury trial punched a hole in Perverted Justice's claim, still maintained on its website, "Hundreds upon hundreds of convictions... zero successful entrapment defenses. Zero."

Entrapment occurs when police lure people into committing a crime they otherwise wouldn't have done.

"Anyone who knows the law will never make the entrapment argument towards these crimes, because people who know the law understand that these people are predisposed to commit these crimes. It's why they hit us up to begin with," says the Perverted Justice website.

Wyn Adkins, 29, of Menasha, was not predisposed to having sexual contact with a child, his attorney, Kevin Musolf, maintained in arguing his client was entrapped. The jury agreed.

Jurors found Adkins not guilty of a felony charge of using a computer to facilitate a child sex crime.
"(Sexual contact) was something they put in his head," Musolf said.

Adkins, 29, was depressed, with anxiety and self-esteem issues, Musolf said.

Denise Moss — who was posing as 15-year-old "Cami" — told him he was nice, cute and had a nice smile. When the two discussed meeting, Moss baited him by asking: what's on your mind; what if we get bored; what should I wear?, Musolf said.

"She keeps throwing the hook out to him and eventually he bit," Musolf said. "What they did to this particular person is just that they took it too far. … I think in this case they were just frustrated that out of 72 people, only four showed up."

Protocol followed

Perverted Justice tries to prevent entrapment claims by never messaging anyone first.

"Rather we sit, wait, and allow them to knock upon our online 'door,'" its website states.
Moss followed protocol but the jury assumed she was "out to catch people," said Outagamie County Assistant Dist. Atty. Andrew Maier, who prosecuted all four cases.

"(Adkins) just made a very sympathetic defendant. At the end of the day, he got up there and looked very neat and very mild … and they bought it," Moss said. "In my eyes, and in the eyes of the prosecution … he had to drive to the house, he had to get dressed, get his keys, drive down the road — there were many places he could have turned around. It wasn't like I was saying, 'Come here, come here, you can do it.' That's not entrapment; that's just not entrapment."

Moss, 39, who lives near Olympia, Wash., has volunteered for Perverted Justice for about six years. She joined the organization to protect her kids and others. Although she's not paid for her work, she says it's her full-time job.

"It's all for the greater good. … At the end of the day we make a difference, and you can't get any better than that," Moss said.

Despite the Wyn Adkins outcome, Moss said the sting turned out pretty well and had a good impact on the Fox Valley.

She remains adamant that she didn't coerce Adkins' actions and the defense was not successful.

"She's wrong," said Neenah attorney Robert Bellin, who represented another man charged in the sting. "It goes to show. Look at what they say on their website to what the actual practices are — I think you'll find a lot of contrasts there."

Adkins was the only man caught in the sting who pleaded not guilty. The others — two from the Fox Valley, one from Racine — pleaded no contest to their charges, including Neil Frank, who Bellin represented.

Frank was sentenced last Monday to three months in jail with work release privileges and five years of probation with a stayed jail sentence of nine months. If he errs during his jail time or probation he'll return to jail for nine more months.

Frank, 27, of Kimberly, was convicted of felony possession of child pornography and resisting or obstructing an officer. The two other men — Michael L. Krezinski, 28, of Racine, and Ryan J. Gidlof, 23, of Neenah — were each convicted of child enticement-sexual contact.
Frank's wife is pregnant and he didn't want to risk a jury trial — but if had, he would have won, Bellin said.

Costs for police

The Adkins trial didn't diminish the reputation of Perverted Justice, Maier said, but it did expose pitfalls in the large stings.

The organization has become a victim of its own success, he said, adding that jurors think cases will be like an episode of "To Catch a Predator" — but the crimes are rarely that simple.
Instead, cases are logistically complicated by the distance between the two people chatting online, Maier said.

Moss, based in Washington, might not be familiar with the state laws of Wisconsin, he said.
"Sometimes they're stretched too far with volunteers who are three time zones away from a person here," Maier said.

Before the October 2010 sting, Appleton police worked with Perverted Justice on individual cases. A volunteer from the organization chatted with people and if she determined someone was a potential sex offender, she called police and asked how to proceed, Maier said.

"Now they're doing whatever they want and police are sitting in the background waiting for results," Musolf said.

The goal of Perverted Justice is good, but decoys need to be better trained and police need to be more involved, he said.

Bellin has handled similar cases outside of Outagamie County where the stings were run by police detectives, not Perverted Justice.

"The cases handled by detectives seemed to do a better job at identifying potential offenders instead of trapping someone who may just be curious or stupid," Bellin said.

Soon, the Fox Valley might have resources to run its own online stings, Maier said. When Perverted Justice began nearly a decade ago, it was taking on computer crime that most police jurisdictions didn't have the ability to tackle.

The organization allows police to be proactive in hunting for sex offenders without being a financial burden on an agency, Moss said.

"If we chat for 40 hours and there's an arrest, there's 40 hours the police weren't billed for," she said.

Nonetheless, stings cost local law enforcement.

The 2010 sting lasted from a Thursday to Sunday. At any given time, there were four to seven officers working the case, Appleton police Capt. Todd Freeman said. Because police didn't know how many people would show up at the bust house, officers were constantly on patrol.

Appleton formed a task force of 12 officers and two supervisors for the Perverted Justice sting, and a total of about 20 police worked on it, Freeman said.

While most of the monitoring was done during officers' normal shifts, it did require some overtime and the department spent $6,450 in overtime pay on the investigation, he said.

The department likely would not run another large-scale bust with the foundation but would continue to work with Perverted Justice on smaller-scale investigations, he said.

There was a lot of discussion about whether all the time and manpower was worth catching four people, Sgt. Chad Allaback said.

"But, you know, it's four that — had this been an actual contact with a child — would have committed significant felonies and significant sexual assaults," he said.

The sting also raised awareness of online predators in the Fox Valley, Allaback said.

"For better or worse, Perverted Justice has developed a reputation of being a little vigilante at times and a little over-aggressive," Maier said. "I think that they do fairly difficult work and step in the places where law enforcement can't — or just haven't — stepped yet."

Wisconsin got a C- and they are not the worst...

Grading the Nation: How accountable is your state?

The tales are sadly familiar to even the most casual observer of state politics.

In Georgia, more than 650 government employees accepted gifts from vendors doing business with the state in 2007 and 2008, clearly violating state ethics law. The last time the state issued a penalty on a vendor was 1999.

A North Carolina legislator sponsored and voted on a bill to loosen regulations on billboard construction, even though he co-owned five billboards in the state. When the ethics commission reviewed the case, it found no conflict; after all, the panel reasoned, the legislation would benefit all billboard owners in the state — not just the lawmaker who pushed for the bill.

Tennessee established its ethics commission six years ago, but has yet to issue a single ethics penalty. It’s almost impossible to know whether the oversight is effectively working, because complaints are not made available to the public.

A West Virginia governor borrowed a car from his local dealership to take it for a “test drive.” He kept the car for four years, during which the dealership won millions in state contracts.

When representatives of a biotech company took Montana legislators out to dinner, they neither registered as lobbyists nor reported the fact that they picked up the bill. They didn’t have to — the law only requires registration upon spending $2,400 during a legislative session. And in Maine, one state senator did not disclose $98 million in state contracts that went to an organization for which he served as executive director. The lack of disclosure was not an oversight; due to a loophole in state law, he was under no obligation to do so.

The stories go on and on. Open records laws with hundreds of exemptions. Crucial budgeting decisions made behind closed doors by a handful of power brokers. “Citizen” lawmakers voting on bills that would benefit them directly. Scores of legislators turning into lobbyists seemingly overnight. Disclosure laws without much disclosure. Ethics panels that haven’t met in years.

See the rest here

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Wisconsin High Court Sides with Sex Offender

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a homeless sex offender should not have been convicted of failing to report his address, arguing that he made efforts to find a home and that other monitoring procedures were available.

William Dinkins Sr. was sentenced to 10 years in prison for first-degree sexual assault of a child in 1988 in Dodge County. He was supposed to provide his address for the sex offender registry 10 days before his release from prison in 2008, but he couldn't find a home.

He was then charged with failing to provide required information to the registry, a felony. A Dodge County judge determined that Dinkins tried to comply with the requirements by unsuccessfully reaching out to relatives, but still found him guilty during a bench trial.

The Court of Appeals reversed the conviction, and the Department of Justice appealed to Wisconsin Supreme Court arguing that Dinkins could have listed a park bench or other on-the-street location.

In the ruling Tuesday, the Supreme Court said the case isn't about whether homeless sex offenders are exempt from registration requirements, but whether they could be convicted if they tried to comply. The court agreed that homelessness is not a defense, but justices rejected claims that Dinkins was capable of complying by listing a park bench or other on-the-street location.

The ruling notes that the law isn't intended to be punitive in nature. Justices said it's unreasonable to believe lawmakers believed such a registrant should be prosecuted for a felony with a maximum prison sentence of six years.

The court also noted that the Legislature set forth an alternative procedure for monitoring the whereabouts of those who are unable to provide an address, including reporting to a police station and providing information about places the offender is frequenting.

The Department of Corrections has since instituted a new rule that requires a registrant who is unable to find a permanent residence to call the registry every seven days to report the "homeless status," locations where he or she has been frequenting and the plan for the upcoming week, according to the ruling.

Dinkins' situation was unusual because he spent his entire sentence in prison and wasn't paroled early, so the state had no supervision authority over him when he was released, said his public defender, Steven Phillips. Under new laws, convicts are required have a term of supervision after prison.

Dana Brueck, spokeswoman for the Department of Justice, said the case is a matter of statutory interpretation and the Legislature could consider amending the law.

"Because this case involves the interpretation of state statutes, the Wisconsin Supreme Court's decision is authoritative," she said in an email Tuesday.

Read more:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Internet stings: Does the fantasy defense hold water?

In the news by Karen Franklin PhD

Monday, March 5, 2012

Internet stings: Does the fantasy defense hold water?

Scott Ritter, the former U.N. weapons inspector, was among the most vocal in insisting that the Bush administration fabricated its claims of “weapons of mass destruction” in order to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Ritter didn’t receive much public gratitude for his efforts to avert a costly and destructive war. Instead, he lost his career and his life gradually unraveled. Sinking deeper into depression, he fled into chat rooms, where he arranged rendezvous with adult women willing to watch him masturbate. At first, the meetings took place in cars or out-of-the-way places. Later, he switched to using a webcam, according to a profile by Matt Bai in the New York Times Magazine.

Then came that fateful day in February 2009 on which, in a Yahoo chat room for adults, he conversed with “Emily.” Although she told him she was 15, Emily was actually a small-town police officer, trolling for sexual predators online.

After doing his usual thing of masturbating in front of the webcam, Ritter announced he was signing off to take a shower.

Not so fast, retorted the officer:

"U know ur in a lot of trouble, don’t you? I’m a undercover police officer. U need to call me ASAP."

"Nah," Ritter typed back. "Your not 15. Yahoo is for 18 and over. It’s all fantasy. No crime."

"I have your phone number and I will be getting your IP address from Yahoo and your carrier," the officer responded. "We can do this 2 ways call me and you can turn yourself in at a latter date or I’ll get a warrant for you and come pick you up."

Ritter turned himself in. At his trial, he testified that he never for a moment believed he was talking to a minor; he assumed he was chatting with a bored housewife pretending to be 15.

Unfortunately for Ritter, jurors were told of his two prior arrests in similar cases, for which he was never prosecuted. In both cases, undercover police had lured him into meetings with fictional teenage girls. His claim that he knew that he was actually talking to undercover police in both cases likely strained the credulity of jurors, who convicted him in the case of “Emily.”

After hearing testimony from a government evaluator who called Ritter a sexually violent predator, the judge sentenced him late last year to a prison term of 18 months to five and a half years.

Fantasy defense succeeds in Queensland

Had it not been for his two earlier cases, Ritter’s defense might not have been all that far-fetched. After all, it worked for Darryl Plumridge of Queensland, Australia back in 2007.

Just like Ritter, Plumridge engaged in online chat with an undercover police officer posing as a teenage girl, in this case a 13-year-old with the screen name of “Erin Princess Baby.”

His defense was simple, according to a forthcoming article in Psychiatry, Psychology and Law: “He claimed that he knew the person with whom he was communicating was an older male and he was simply role playing.”

At trial, he testified that the covert police operative inadvertently supplied various content cues as to his true age and gender. For example, he signed off by saying "see ya later alligator," something no self-respecting 21st-century girl would say. Even more tellingly, he accidentally said he ("she") was at the office when "she" was supposed to be home from school, a glaring error that "she" immediately corrected.

Plumridge was acquitted. 

Study: Can people see through online deception?

Criminologist Robyn Lincoln of Bond University and forensic psychologist Ian R. Coyle, a Gold Coast practitioner and associate professor of law who testified in the case, decided to conduct a study to test the plausibility of Plumridge’s defense. Given the flat nature of internet communication, lacking in physical or tonal cues, can people actually deduce the true age and gender of someone who is pretending to be someone else?

Bottom line? Yes, they often can.

Lincoln and Coyle randomly assigned 46 students as either "deceivers" or "receivers." Each volunteer participant was met off-site and individually led to one of several private study locations, to avoid encounters with other participants. Deceivers were instructed to play the role of a 13-year-old girl. Receivers, in contrast, were misled to believe that they might be talking with individuals ranging in age from young children to the elderly. The pairs then chatted with each other for 30 minutes.

Despite the deceivers' best efforts, the majority of receivers were able to correctly identify the age and gender of the person with whom they were chatting, within a five-year bandwidth. None of the receivers believed they were talking to someone under the age of 16.

Thus, the claims of Plumridge and Ritter, that they knew they were chatting with adults but ignored that reality for purposes of fantasy role-playing, appear to have some scientific basis.

As law enforcement officers increasingly partake in trolling the internet for sexual predators in their spare time, it is probably only a matter of time before the Bond University study is introduced into court as evidence.

The study, "No one Knows you’re a Dog on the Internet: Implications for Proactive Police Investigation of Sexual Offenders," has been accepted for publication in Psychiatry, Psychology and Law. Correspondence may be directed to the first author, Robyn Lincoln.