Sunday, February 28, 2010

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Shame On Lake Michigan College

An educated person is one capable of drawing distinctions. The goal is something akin to wisdom, or at the very least, mastery of the art of learning. But those skills are not apparently valued at Lake Michigan College. Hysteria will do there, and unreasoning moral panic.

LMC president Robert Harrison told the press recently that a new rule is about to be promulgated on the campus: sex offenders need not apply. The college intends on adopting a blanket prohibition against permitting any enrolled sex offender to step foot on the campus.

I wonder whether the campus police intend on interviewing faculty members to see whether there are unknown offenders on staff. Odds are, there are at least a few folks who had sex with a minor in the hazy and steamy days of their youth. And I suspect there are more than a few folks who touched places they ought not to have toucvhed. And what of urination in public? That's a sex offense, too, at least in some jurisdictions.

Apparently, the dead of students at the college just discovered that three undergraduates were registered sex offenders. The press does not report the underlying offenses of conviction. But the mere sound of it is chilling enough for the hysteria mongers at LMC.

Harrison says that the college has not yet decided if such a policy violates state and federal law. The college Board of Trustees is likely to consider adopting an official policy soon.

What a pitiable example of why our sex offender policies are haywire. Three young men, and they are certain to be men, are at the campus trying to get an education. Sure, they've erred. But they are on the road to rehabilitation. The blue noses at LMC don't see it that way, however.

Somehow, I doubt that this is an example of the "New Way of Thinking," the Benton Harbor, Michigan college hypes on its website. It looks like the same old hysteria to me.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Connecticut Poised To Eliminate Limitations On Sex Claims

Connecticut's nickname is the Land of Steady Habits. Perhaps its time to change the moniker. The State is poised to jump feet first into the front ranks of the lunatic fringe.

Legislation proposed by two central state Democrats would eliminate any statute of limitations for the filing of civil suits alleging sexual misconduct. It's not as though the state has a tight limitations period under the current regime. An alleged victim has until they are 48 years old to bring a claim of childhood sexual abuse.

State Sen. Mary Ann Handley, D-Manchester, and state Rep. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, don't think that's long enough. They want an alleged victim to be able to bring a claim at any time.

"It's a very lonely kind of abuse," Handley said. "It's a kind of abuse that people try to forget, try to ignore."

Such long statutes of limitation are an invitation to injustice. Don't recall what you were doing ten, twenty or thirty years ago? Let your niece or nephew, together with a bevy of so-called experts on delayed disclosure, incremental disclosure and recovered memories help you recall.

I recently tried a criminal case in which the alleged victim claimed to have been abused ten years before the trial. There was no physical evidence to corroborate her claim. While the case was pending, the accusations cascades from mere touching to cunnilingus. By the time of trial, experts were on hand to explain why it was all so perfectly plausible that the memories were late in taking shape. Of course, the jury was kept from hearing information about the sexually charged atmosphere in which the child was reared -- her father was barred from the home for a time to got to a sex addiction center.

Statutes of limitation serve important purposes. We expect claims to be raised in a timely fashion or not to be raised at all. People have lives to lead beyond the trauma they suffer. And defendants have rights, too. It simply doesn't square with justice to haul someone into court thirty years after the alleged facts and have them give an account of themselves. How do you defend if you have absolutely no idea what the so-called victim is talking about?

Handley and Bye are dead wrong. They're body-suffering in the wake of sex offender hysteria. Lawmakers ought to be narrowing, and not expanding, the manner in which ordinary folks are plucked from their lives and dumped unceremoniously into legal catastrophe.

Here's legislation much needed:

o No person claims to have been sexually abused ought to be permitted to raise a claim beyond a five year statute of limitation unless there is either another witness or physical corroboration of the claim. To do otherwise is to throw open the courthouse doors to folks seeking all sorts of secondary gain from their claims. (I once read a letter seeking admission to a college from a person claiming to have been abused years earlier. It remains unclear what scholarly acumen that portends.)

o Rape shield laws ought to be relaxed in cases in which plaintiffs or victims bring claims beyond a five-year statute of limitations. Clearly, a person who wants to claim the trauma of an ancient event has been marked by many experiences. Let the jury determine whether the testimony offered is fact or a fanciful accretion of a lifetime of hurt.

o If a party seeks to rely on recovered memory or incremental disclosure testimony, the evidence code ought to be amended to permit liberal admissibility of other sources of sexual tension in a victim's home. It is wrong to permit a jury to hear only the memories a victim claims to have recovered, but not other sources of sexual tension and shame that could well remain buried at the time of trial but to which it is reasonable to believe the child was exposed.

The law of sex offenses is a mess. We are in love with every claim of victimhood, but blind to the new class of victims created daily in our courts. Who speaks for those accused based on little more than fantasy? What protections do these men and women enjoy?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

18 Percent Of Teens Are Sex Offenders?

The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project reports that 18 percent of 800 youths aged 14-17 with cellphones reported receiving "sexually suggestive" nude or semi-nude images of someone they know. I suspect the number understates the extent of sexually charged horseplay on cell phones among the nation's youth. But tell me, truly, do you really think each and everyone of these kids is a criminal, or even a sex offender?

Sending a sexually suggestive picture of a minor over the Internet is a crime. The practice of sexting can land you in a federal prison. It can also put you behind state bars. And because sexting is a sex offense, you'll be required to register as a sex offender.

Oh, what I tangled web we are weaving with these silly laws.

My home state, Connecticut, is is guilty of this silliness as the next. But there is a ray of hope on the horizon. In the current session of the General Assembly, lawmakers have proposed legislation to transform sexting from a felony to a class A misdemeanor. It is a small step in a journey that really should end with decriminalization of curiosity and adolescent tomfoolery.
sex-offender registry.

Two Republican lawmakers from Naugatuck are pressing for a law lessen the penalty for sexting between consenting children. State Reps. Rosa Rebimbas and David Labriola propose the measure. Labriola is also a practicing lawyer and a regular in the Brass Valley criminal courts. I am heartened to see him proposing much needed legislation to dampen the hysteria associated with claims of sexual misconduct. The Legislature's Judiciary Committee plans a hearing on the proposal later this term.

It's hard to say where law enforcement stands on the issue. West Hartford Police Chief James Strillacci, speaking for the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, said officers use their discretion in dealing with sexting. Officers are trying to protect children from the unforeseen consequences of their actions, he said.

But it is small comfort to leave discretion about whether to charge a crime, whether felony or misdemeanor, in the hands of a cop. What such discretion typically means is that the cop's kids and his friends get a pass. Those who are unpopular or unconnected stand a greater chance of falling on the wrong side of police discretion.

I don't want to look a gift horse in the mouth, but why stop at lessening the penalties associated with sexting between consenting minors. Why not decriminalize it altoghter. It shouldn't be a crime to be be curious.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Toddler Seized: "Incipient Sex Offender"

Glassdale, Idaho -- Margaret Shipley is fighting state officials for the return of her son. She does not deny that he touched his privates in public. Indeed, she admits he was most likely masturbating. But, she points out, Rayford Shipley is only twenty-six months old. Why, she asks, did child welfare workers take the child into custody under Idaho's new "incipent sex offender" law?

Idaho law permits state officials to seize a child in immanent risk of harm. A new law that just went into effect on January 1, 2010, adds a new harm to be avoided: incipient sex offenses. The statute requires a child to be placed in a foster home if there is overwhelming evidence that the child is raised in a lewd and lascivious environment.

In Rayford's case, a worker at the local A&P market saw the toddler sitting strapped into a child restrain seat. "I thought the boy was playing with a toy," Penelope Trugood told state workers. "Imagine my shock when I saw he was playing with himself. He had such an evil little grin."

The seizure of Rayford has some activists crying foul.

"This is not what lawmakers had in mind, " Ms. Shipley protests. "My son is not a sex offender."

The head of Idaho's new task force on child sex offenses, Ronald McSweeney, is unpersuaded. "The young man was playing with himself in public. He was on the slippery slope toward pedophilia. The state has an interested in preventing deviancy no matter what the age of the deviant."

Under the new law, Rayford's school records will henceforth reflect his designation as an ISO, or incipient sex offender. School officials are encouraged to adopt a zero tolerance policy to all potential acts of deviance. If Rayford can avoid further incidents of sex crimes, he will be able to petition the court to have his name stricked from any list of sex offenders at age 18.

"I do not see the wisdom of this law," Ms. Shipley states. "Rayford is just learning to talk, and already the state has labelled him a sex offender? When did innocent curiosity become a crime?"

There will he a hearing next week to determine whether Ms. Shipley can take her son home again. To prevail, she must demonstrate a treatment plan that addresses the risk of recidivism. The state is offering her the use of a shock belt that will startled the child should his hands wander again. The device is controversial, however, and has not yet been approved by federal regulators.

"This is a nightmare," Ms. Shipley said. "I feel as though I am living in a science fiction film."

Editor's Note: If you fell for this hoax that's because you, too, believe it is only a matter of time until nonsense such as this becomes the fodder of daily news.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sexting A Sex Offense

Three Washington State teenagers have been charged with sexting, sending nude photographs of themselves to one another using the Internet. If convicted, the three will be added to the legions of those required to pose as a sex offender. Since when is curiosity a crime? And do we really need to stigmatize the children for life to feel safe.

Reprinted from the King 5 website:


Posted on January 29, 2010 at 6:57 PM


LACEY, Wash. - Thurston County Prosecutors charged three teenagers Friday with Class C felonies for allegedly texting a naked picture of an underage girl.

Earlier this week authorities confiscated nine cell phones with the "sexted" picture on it. Lacey police say it all started when a 14-year-old girl took an explicit photo of herself and sent it to her 14-year-old boyfriend. When the relationship ended badly, that is when police say the now ex-boyfriend started to forward the picture to others.

Prosecutors say the pictures can be considered child pornography. If convicted of the felonies, the students would be required to register as sex offenders. Wayne Graham is a juvenile deputy prosecuting attorney and warns teens they need to "think before they hit send on their phone. Once they hit send they are no longer in control who views a very private or intimate photo."

The North Thurston School district is using this case as a educational opportunity. When news of the "sexting" scandal broke, middle school teachers held a lecture to warn kids about the dangers of sending graphic photos out into cyberspace. School spokesperson Courtney Schrieve says,"I don't think young people today think about when they press send. It's going global. It's out there forever."

The school is planning to hand out flyers to students and parents to warn them about the "sexting" trend. Thursday, school officials called every middle school family to tell them about the "sexting" case.

Grandparent Trish Arehart got the call and says she had not heard of "sexting." She immediately "went through everything " in her grandson's phone. She also warned the 13-year-old about sending bad pictures out.

"I told him this can get you into trouble. I said girls that send you pictures like that are not girls you want to be with," she said.
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