Thursday, September 4, 2014

FL - Why were service members targeted in local sex stings?

Original Article

08/26/2014

By Noah Pransky

Former Army JAG tells 10 Investigates the Air Force is breaking the law by participating in local sex stings where no military members are involved.

PINELLAS COUNTY - Not only have Central Florida law enforcement officers violated federal rules in conducting "To Catch a Predator"-inspired sex stings, but 10 Investigates has learned they may also violate longstanding federal law that prohibits the use of military resources to enforce state laws.

While Tampa Bay-area law enforcement agencies continue to refuse to turn over public records from questionable "predator" roundups, 10 Investigates has learned through court records that a member of the Air Force's Office of Special Investigations (OSI) has been a regular member of Central Florida undercover stings for more than a year.

In a recent deposition, the agent indicated his goal was to try and trap service members who might be willing to break the law. But he also admitted to targeting -- and helping arrest -- civilians as well. According to an operation plan from a recent Pinellas County sting, the agent, William Glidewell, acted as a "chatter," communicating with potential investigative targets online. He was put up in a Clearwater Beach hotel for four days and reported to the sting's lead agencies, the Clearwater Police Department and Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

"It's odd that you would have a military (investigator) being so treated like civilian law enforcement," said Charles Rose, a Stetson Law professor and retired Army JAG Corps member. "You cannot assign military personnel -- on orders -- to a (local law enforcement) organization."

10 Investigates previously showed how the sex stings were taking valuable resources away from other areas of law enforcement and frequently targeted young men who were merely looking for women their own age.


NY - Sex Offenders Housing Restrictions Are Pointless

Sex offender housing
Original Article

08/25/2014

By Jesse Singal

On Thursday, Joseph Goldstein of the New York Times reported thatDozens of sex offenders who have satisfied their sentences in New York State are being held in prison beyond their release dates because of a new interpretation of a state law that governs where they can live.” In short, since 2005, sex offenders in the state can't live within 1,000 feet of a school, and a February ruling from the state's Department of Corrections and Community Supervision extended that restriction to homeless shelters.

Because the onus is on sex offenders to find approved housing before they’re released, Goldstein reported, they've been left with very few options, especially in densely-populated New York City, where there are schools everywhere. This has led to an uncomfortable legal limbo and sparked at least one lawsuit (so far) on behalf of an offender who is still in custody even though he was supposed to be out by now.

The unfortunate thing about this situation is that laws designed to restrict where sex offenders can live are really and truly useless, except as a means of politicians scoring easy political points by ratcheting up hysteria. There are many tricky social-scientific issues on which there are a range of opinions and some degree of debate among experts, but this isn't one of them. Among those whose job it is to figure out how to reduce the rate at which sex offenders commit crimes (as opposed to those whose job it is to get reelected, in part by hammering away at phantom threats), there is zero controversy: These laws don't work, and may actually increase sexual offenders’ recidivism rates.

Maia Christopher, head of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, sent Science of Us a policy paper her organization has prepared on this issue (it’s not yet online, but should be later this week). ATSA’s views on housing restrictions for sex offenders are completely straightforward: The group “does not support the use of residence restrictions as a feasible strategy for sex offender management” because of a lack of evidence they do any good.

The paper notes that these laws have proliferated—“[a]t least 30 states and hundreds of cities” have them—because of some basic misunderstandings about how sex crimes are committed. There’s a collective American fixation on the creepy image of a sex offender salivating just beyond the playground fence, but that’s just not how things usually work.

Rather, these crimes are generally committed by someone known to the victim—93 percent of the time when it comes to child victims, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics—and the majority take place either in the victim’s home or the home of someone they know. “Therefore,” the authors write, “policies based on ‘stranger danger’ do not adequately address the reality of sexual abuse.”


NJ - Twenty years later, has Megan’s Law delivered?

Maureen Kanka
Maureen Kanka
Original Article

08/24/2014

It’s been 20 years since New Jersey’s Legislature passed Megan’s Law. The two decades since have been filled with legal challenges and disappointment it didn’t accomplish what many thought it would. It’s what happens when politics and emotion team to shortcut the legislative process.

The law is named for Megan Kanka, who was raped and killed in 1994 when she was 7 after being lured into the home of a twice-convicted sex offender, Jesse Timmendequas, who lived across the street from the child.

Her parents, Maureen and Richard, lobbied the Legislature for a law to require registration of sex offenders; it was named after their daughter. It went into effect just months after her horrible death.

Typical of legislation rushed through, New Jersey’s version has been much challenged. Other states and the federal government took their time and did it better. In New Jersey, there is a back story involving Republican Garabed “Chuck” Haytaian, who was Assembly speaker and wanted to replace Frank Lautenberg in the U.S. Senate. His colleagues saw the law as an opportunity.

In his campaign ads, Haytaian bragged he “fast-tracked Megan’s Law.” Both chambers of the Legislature were controlled by Republicans, and so was the Governor’s Office. They wanted to see Lautenberg, a Democrat, beaten. Haytaian came within 3 points of winning.

Emotion and political ambition are not a good combination for strong, effective legislation — the usual vetting and debate got lost. After its passage, it was tied up in court for years, a lot of it because of unforeseen problems. As much as we hate it, there is a reason the legislative process is slow and deliberate by design.

In 2009, a study by the state Department of Corrections and Rutgers University concluded Megan’s Law doesn’t deter sex offenders in New Jersey. The report says it makes it easier to find them because of registration, but you don’t need a report to tell us that. It also said the cost of carrying out the law — the report used $5.1 million, the cost in 2007 — may not be justified.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

FL - Officers bend rules to boost sex sting arrest totals

Sheriff Grady Judd
Sheriff Grady Judd
Original Article (Video available)

08/09/2014

By Noah Pransky

This is the first of a two-part series examining how law enforcement is blurring the lines on due process.

POLK COUNTY - In the decade since Chris Hansen and "To Catch a Predator" popularized Internet sex stings, more than 1,200 men in Florida alone have been arrested, accused of preying on underage teens and children for sex.

But as the stings put more and more men behind bars, detectives are working harder and harder to keep up their arrest numbers. And the tactics they're using to put alleged sexual offenders in jail are sweeping up large numbers of law-abiding men, too.

A yearlong investigation by 10 Investigates reveals many of the men whose mugshots have been paraded out by local sheriffs in made-for-TV press conferences were not seeking to meet children online. Instead, they were minding their own business, looking for other adults, when detectives started to groom and convince them to break the law.

While detectives used to post ads suggesting an underage teen or child was available for sex, they now routinely post more innocuous personal ads of adults on traditional dating sites. When men – many of them under 25 with no criminal history - respond, officers switch the bait and typically indicate their age is really 14 or 15 years old. However, sometimes the storyline isn't switched until the men, who were looking for legal love, already start falling for the undercover agent.

According to arrest affidavits inspected by 10 Investigates, law enforcement is also now routinely making first contact with men who have done nothing wrong, responding to their ads on dating sites like PlentyOfFish.com. After men start conversing with what they think are adults, officers change the age they claim to be, but try to convince the men to continue the conversation anyway.

Other examples include undercover officers showing interest in a man, then later introducing the idea of having sex with the undercover's "child." If the men indicate they weren't interested, they were still often arrested for just talking to the adult.

Critics of the stings, including a number of prominent Tampa Bay law enforcement leaders, tell 10 News the operations make for better press conferences than they do crime fighting. Many of the men who are arrested for sexual predator crimes see little jail time.

But Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, when asked about over-aggressive detectives, instead went on the offensive: "The concern (I have) is that you inflate your investigative reporting to make it glitzy."


IA - The people's voice is angry: Outcry over sex offender's release fires up social media — but when does the fire get out of control?

Hateful idiot
Original Article

08/08/2014

By Sarah Tisinger

MUSCATINE - When a 23-year-old Muscatine man convicted of lascivious acts with a child was released from prison after serving four years of a 15-year sentence, the People of Muscatine exploded.

The outrage began after a July 30 post that appeared on the People of Muscatine Facebook page began taking on a life of its own. The post by the page's administrator was asking about the release of _____ from prison. Howard was sentenced to prison in 2010 after being found guilty of sexually abusing his girlfriend's baby son.

It didn't take long before responses to the post included death threats, graphic descriptions of bodily mutilation, and even jokes about _____'s arrest. The anger wasn't directed entirely at _____. One post said that the child's mother should be "stomped." Another person, who posted a defense of _____, was the target of outrage: "I guess Jessica needs to have her baby molested by this [man] to feel different."

The original post, and others after it, generated several hundred comments, nearly 50,000 views, and attracted the attention of KWQC-TV, who reported on _____'s release under the headline, "Child sex offender released early from prison."

What got lost in the public's outcry was the fact that _____'s release wasn't really early. He was released exactly when the law allowed.