Friday, April 28, 2017

Governor vetoes bill to restore ex-felon voting rights

As expected, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts vetoed a bill that would allow ex-felons to vote immediately after completing their prison sentence, parole, or probation. The legislature approved the bill (LB 75) with a 27-13 vote.
More than 7,000 Nebraskans with felony convictions who have completed their sentences do not have the right to vote, according to a report released this year by Nebraskans for Civic Reform. The number exceeds 17,000 when felons now in prison, probation or parole are included.
In his veto letter, Gov. Ricketts tied restoration of voting rights to higher recidivism rates.
“Requiring convicted felons to wait before allowing them to vote provides an incentive to maintain a clean record and avoid subsequent convictions,” the governor said in his letter.
 The bill's sponsor says he will seek to override the Governor's veto, which would require 30 votes.

Be FEARLESS in Lincoln

The Lincoln FEARLESS group will meet in a new location beginning Monday, May 1.

The new location is at the Calvary United Methodist Church, 1610 S. 11th Street.

Lincoln FEARLESS meets the first Monday of each month from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m.

FEARLESS is for registered citizens, their loved ones and friends, to connect, support one another, and share information about dealing with life on the registry.

Join FEARLESS in Lincoln this Monday night!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Can any sentence requiring registration be considered lenient?

The Buffalo County Attorney is asking the Nebraska Supreme Court to overrule a sentence in a sexual assault case, because he thinks the sentence is too lenient.

As reported in the Kearney Hub...
In February, _____ ________, 22, formerly of Gibbon, was sentenced in Buffalo County District Court by Judge Bill Wright to four years of intensive supervised probation on a conviction of attempted felony first-degree sexual assault of a then-12-year-old girl on Aug. 1, 2015, in Kearney. The charge is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
During the Feb. 23 sentencing hearing, Wright called ________’s victim the “aggressor” in the case saying, “She made the advances.”
In addition to probation, the 22-year-old must also register as a sex offender.

Read the story in the Kearney Hub.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Legislature approves bill to restore ex-felon voting rights

The Nebraska Legislature has approved a bill (LB 75) that would restore voting rights to ex-felons immediately after they complete their prison sentence or probation. The bill eliminates the current two-year waiting period before voting rights can be restored.

The Legislature approved the bill on a 27-13 vote, with nine abstentions. 

More information here.

Update: Governor Pete Ricketts says he will not sign the bill to restore felon voting rights. The legislature's 27-13 vote to pass the bill is three votes shy of the 30 votes needed to override a veto.

Read more in the Omaha World-Herald.

Alabama bill would change definition of "residence"

Someone should buy Alabama lawmakers a dictionary.

A bill making its way through the Alabama Senate would change the definition of what it means to "reside" in a place, in a way that would be detrimental to the state's registered citizens.
The definition of "reside" is being changed by this bill, and not for the better. Most residence definitions deal with where a person sleeps, but this law impacts even where a person spends his time during the day.
More information here.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Court strikes 19-year sentence for child porn possession

A federal court in New York has ordered a man be resentenced after it found the 19-year prison term and conditions of the 25-year post-release supervision he received for possession of child pornography "substantively unreasonable."

The 2nd District Court ruling came in the case of Joseph Vincent Jenkins, who was sentenced to 225 months in prison, thanks largely to sentence enhancements written into law.
The 2nd Circuit's decision illustrates the impact of congressional edicts that call for stiff sentencing enhancements based on factors that are routine in child pornography cases. Jenkins' criminal history was limited to a single misdemeanor, he did not produce or distribute child pornography, and his crimes did not involve contact with minors. Yet U.S. District Judge Glenn Suddaby calculated that the recommended sentence was 210 to 262 months, thanks mainly to enhancements for using a computer, for possessing more than 600 images (with each video counting as 75 images), for possessing images of prepubescent children, and for possessing images featuring masochistic, sadomasochistic, or other violent content. "These enhancements," the 2nd Circuit notes, "have caused Jenkins to be treated like an offender who seduced and photographed a child and distributed the photographs and worse than one who raped a child."
Read more about the case here and here.

Read the decision here.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Judge rules Wisconsin residency restriction ordinance unconstitutional

A federal judge relied on facts in striking down an ordinance that made most of the town of Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, off-limits to registered sex offenders.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge J.P. Stadtmueller is reported in the Kenosha News.

In granting summary judgment to the nine plaintiffs, Stadtmueller found the village imposed restrictions on where the offenders could live without considering any studies or data regarding the safety risk that posed to other residents. 
“The village has admitted that the ordinance was based on its own conjecture about the dangers posed by sex offenders,” Stadtmueller wrote in the 19-page order. 
Village Administrator Michael Pollocoff testified in a deposition that the ordinance’s goal was to reduce the number of child sex offenders living in the village. 
The ordinance may be counterproductive to citizen safety, as Pollocoff admitted that turning child sex offenders into outcasts had “more deleterious (or harmful) impacts.”
Read more about the ruling here and here.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The real reason for residency restrictions

A Florida television station inadvertently uncovers the real reason for our nation's harsh sex offender registry laws.  

In March, WFTS-TV in Tampa reported on a dust-up between the Tampa Police Department and residents in one neighborhood who complain that the TPD isn't enforcing a county ordinance prohibiting registered sex offenders from clustering in one area.

Police officials seem to understand that the ordinance does not improve public safety...facts that are smashed to bits when they collide with the brick wall of political reality.
"There are legitimate legal and policy concerns with this ordinance," said Guzina.
He cited three states he found have ruled anti-clustering measures unconstitutional. Adding, forcing them to leave makes the community less safe.
"Legislating them into transients and homelessness undermines the very purpose of registries," said Guzina.
The detective's lengthy report full of expert statements backing up his point was cut off by council member Frank Reddick
"You can state all the quotes from the experts and all of that but its not going to solve the problem we are dealing with," said Reddick.
Council members agreed to a special workshop where they'll discuss the best solutions with all involved local agencies. They also suggested the city make its own ordinance. Chairman Mike Suarez reminded TPD, perceptions are as important as reality.
"We have to actually make them feel safe in addition to actually making them safe," said Suarez.
The "problem" of registered sex offenders clustering in certain areas could be relieved by getting rid of residency restrictions altogether. But that would run afoul of the real reason such restrictions give politicians a chance to scare up votes by making people feel safe.

Florida man sentenced to 100 years for possession of child porn

A Florida man, with no prior criminal record, is looking at spending the rest of his life in prison, after a judge sentenced him to 100 years for possession of child pornography. 

The story is reported in the St. Augustine Record.
The sentencing came nearly two months after a jury found Jesse Graham Berben guilty on 20 counts of possession of child pornography at the end of a two-day February trial.
Berben, who maintained his innocence even through his sentencing hearing Wednesday, was arrested by St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office detectives in April 2015 after authorities obtained a search warrant for his Washington Street apartment — where he was living with his father at the time — and finding files containing the pornography on his computer.
 The 100 year sentence is more than four times longer than the minimum sentence he could have received, and was longer than prosecutors asked for.

Saturday, April 15, 2017


The April FEARLESS meeting will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, April 17, at St. Michael's Lutheran Church, 13232 Blondo St. (the northwest corner of Blondo & 132nd) in Omaha.

FEARLESS is a place for registered citizens, their families, and friends to connect.

How do we reach out to other individuals and organizations? Join the discussion Monday evening. Hope to see you there!

Friday, April 14, 2017

UK: Men reluctant to volunteer to help with scouts

From the UK, an article in the Telegraph tells how fewer men are volunteering to help with scouts -- partly for fear of how they'll be perceived.
Sadly, the truth is that volunteers aren’t stepping up for good reason.The first barrier is red tape, in the form of an exhaustive, compulsory background check, overseen by the Disclosure and Barring Service. This was supposed to be less bureaucratic than the Criminal Records Bureau it replaced in 2012, as it only targets “sensitive” posts with intensive contact with young people.
 The article continues...
The second barrier is a more general red flag: the very real fear among many men who want to work with children that they will be branded a potential paedophile. 
The article also notes that there are relatively few men who work with young people as primary school teachers.

This story is from the UK. Whether this is true in the United States, how many young men are -- or some day will be -- unable to be a scout leader, coach a youth sports team, or volunteer at their child's school, because of a mistake they made when they were young.

Public misperceptions about sex offenders skew public policy

From the Prison Legal News, word of a perhaps unsurprising study that finds that public misperceptions about sex offenders has influenced legislators to pass punitive sex offender laws.
A 2015 study authored by Christina Mancini, an Assistant Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Kristen Budd of MiamiUniversity (Ohio) found that numerous misperceptions about sex crimes--such as the myth of "stranger danger," the perception of abnormally high sexual recidivism, and offense amplification--have been the impetus behind laws passed by "get tough" legislators spurred on by a misinformed public.
Read more at Prison Legal News.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Bills target registered sex offenders

When state legislators run out of original, useful, ideas, they often fall back on the one fail-safe for anyone who harbors political ambition -- pass laws to make life more difficult for registered sex offenders.

For instance:

-A Missouri legislator has introduced a bill that would prohibit registered sex offenders from coming withing 500 feet of children's museums and zoos.

-A bill in South Carolina would prevent registrants from becoming locksmiths.

-Meanwhile in Rhode Island, politicians are seeking to address the problem of homeless sex offenders by limiting the number of registrants who can stay at the state's homeless shelters.

Petition seeks change to Nebraska law

A petition seeks support for a change to Nebraska law. Specifically, the petition asks Nebraska senators to adopt a "mistake of age" defense in criminal cases.

Click here to read and support the petition.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Records indicate ties between FBI and Best Buy Geek Squad

Court records in an ongoing case in California claim that the FBI paid Best Buy computer technicians to ferret out child pornography on customer's computers. The Washington Post reports the relationship between the FBI and Best Buy may be more extensive than either admits.

The allegations are made by lawyers for a California doctor charged with possessing child pornography, after the doctor took his computer to a Best Buy store for repair. Computers which require data recovery are typically sent from Best Buy stores around the country to a central Geek Squad City facility in Brooks, Ky., and customers consent to having their computers searched — and turned over to authorities if child porn is found.While there is no question that Geek Squad technicians have notified authorities after finding child porn, the new court documents assert that there is a deeper relationship than has previously been revealed between the company and federal authorities. The court is now considering the extent of that relationship and whether it is grounds to throw out a pending child porn case, though it could also have ramifications for the dozens of cases which originate from the Kentucky facility annually.

Read more in  the Washington Post online.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

FSU Prof.: Reforming Registries

Florida State University Law Professor Wayne Logan has written a report, titled "Reforming Registries," that looks at the evolution of Sex Offender Registration and Notification laws, and offers some suggestions for reforming the laws.
Since the 1990s, laws in U.S. jurisdictions have required that convicted sex offenders, living in communities, provide identifying information to authorities, which is then made available to community residents in the dual hope that they will undertake safety measures and that registrants will be deterred from re-offending. The laws have been and remain popular with the public and political actors alike, but have long been criticized for being predicated on empirical misunderstandings, most notably that sex offenders as a group recidivate at higher rates than other offenders and that most sexual offending involves strangers. Today, moreover, a considerable body of social science research calls into question whether registration and notification achieve their avowed public safety goals. This chapter summarizes the research undertaken to date and offers several concrete suggestions for ways in which registration and notification laws can be improved.  
Read the report here.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Calling out NCMEC hypocracy on "stranger danger"

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has has done an about face and is now encouraging parents to quit using the phrase "stranger danger." The NCMEC's Callahan Walsh made that point last week in an appearance on ABC's Good Morning America.

At least one blogger is not impressed. Dr. Marty Klein says the NCMEC is largely to blame for perpetuating the discredited "stranger danger" myth, despite knowing for years that it has no basis in fact.
For decades, NCMEC has told parents to fear “stranger danger,” and instructed them to transmit this fear to their kids. They even got the phrase institutionalized in elementary schools.
NCMEC has been one of the single biggest drivers of parents’ fear in our lifetime. By conflating “missing” and “exploited,” they have panicked Americans into thinking the average child is “at risk” of being kidnapped.
Self-styled "experts" -- like the NCMEC -- should not get credit for merely telling the truth.

Read more of Dr. Klein's post here.