Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Judge dismisses lawsuit against Sarpy County authorities over child porn arrest

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against authorities in Sarpy County, who arrested a man on child pornography charges. The charges were later dismissed and the couple then filed a lawsuit.
Wadith “Paul” and Stacey “Nikki” Nader filed suit last year.In 2015, Paul Nader was arrested, charged with seven counts of child pornography and held in the Sarpy County Jail for almost a month. His arrest was reported on TV and online, along with his booking photo.Seven months after the arrest, the charges were dismissed.The Naders filed a federal lawsuit against Papillion, Sarpy County, Sarpy County Attorney Lee Polikov and several Papillion police detectives, citing the anguish and embarrassment of the episode.Senior U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon dismissed the suit Monday, writing that the officers and officials involved did not act improperly, even though the charges were later dropped.
Full story here

Lawsuit filed on behalf of juveniles placed on Nebraska sex offender registry

More fallout from a 2017 court ruling barring the state from listing a 15-year-old boy on the sex offender list. The Lincoln Journal-Star reports on a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Omaha.
The attorney who successfully sued to keep a 15-year-old boy's name off the state's Sex Offender Registry now is seeking to file a class-action lawsuit for those who the Nebraska State Patrol did list.  
Attorney Joshua Weir said it ruined the lives of the seven -- listed only as Johnny Doe I through VII -- and dozens of others.
"It's been devastating," one said Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity. 
He's no longer on the registry. But, in his late 30s, he got a letter from the state saying he had to register. He then landed on the registry, alongside adult sexual predators, for playing doctor with a girl when he was a prepubescent, 12-year-old boy, he said.
The Unicameral has held a hearing on a bill that would exclude juveniles from the state's sex offender registry.

Read more in the Lincoln Journal-Star.


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Are sex offender registries reinforcing inequality?

That seems like a silly question, but Trevor Hoppe writes about his research on sex offender registries and what he calls our nation's "war on sex." He says there are racial disparities tied to sex offender registries.
In my work on sex offender registries, I have found that black men in the U.S. were registered at rates twice that of white men – resembling disparities found in the criminal justice system at large. However, these findings speak to the scope of the problem of American sex offender registries, as approximately 1 percent of black men in the U.S. are now registered sex offenders. My research suggests that inequality is deeply tied to sex offender policies.
Hoppe also writes that sex offender registries in the United States have proliferated in recent years as prison populations have actually fallen.

Read more here.

Greeley's Alternative Homes for Youth works to rehabilitate juvenile sex offenders

The Greeley (CO) Tribune reports on a non-profit agency that works with teens who have committed sex offenses.
Alternative Homes for Youth works with boys ages 13-20 from Greeley, Fort Collins, Sterling and Nebraska. The facility has room for 26 residents. Residents usually stay for about 10 months, Miller said. 
The facility offers a number of different therapeutic services, including group therapy tailored to the crime they committed, art therapy, healthy relationship groups, independent living skills groups, family therapy, individual therapy and more.
Read the full story in the Greeley Tribune.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

#MeToo Movement has lawmakers talking about consent

This is a trend that includes Nebraska. From the Pew Charitable Trusts:
Fueled by accusations against titans of Hollywood, industry and politics, the #MeToo movement will prompt state lawmakers across the country this year to consider bills that could fundamentally change the culture of dating and sex. 
States are expected to grapple with legislation to establish affirmative consent — known as “yes means yes” — and rewrite rape and sexual assault laws. 
A bill introduced in the Unicameral (LB988) would establish affirmative consent as the standard in Nebraska.

Read the full article from Pew Charitable Trusts here.

Hearing held on bill to remove juveniles from sex offender registry

The Judiciary Committee held a hearing on a bill (LB689) that would eliminate sex offender registry requirements for juveniles in Nebraska.

The bill, introduced by Bellevue Sen. Carol Blood, applies to juveniles who commit sex crimes in other states and then move to Nebraska. It brings state law into compliance with a 2017 state Supreme Court decision.

Full story

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Sex offenders sue Minnesota city over restrictions

Cities that pass Draconian sex offender ordinances that amount to banishment should expect to be challenged, as is the case with the city of Dayton, Minnesota, which is being sued by three registered sex offenders who say the city's ordinance is unconstitutional.
The men are challenging a far-reaching 2016 ordinance that bars convicted sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of any school, day care center, park, playground, public bus stop — or even pumpkin patch and apple orchard — within the city of Dayton, a rural community of about 5,000 residents northwest of the Twin Cities.
Read the full article here.

Florida ministry deals with sex offender registry

Steven Yoder writes an article for the Christian Century about a residential ministry in Florida that helps sex offenders transitioning out of prison. One would think these kinds of programs would be well supported as a way to help people get back on their feet.
Baptist minister Glenn Burns calls the evening of April 7, 2016, the “crucifixion.” It was the toughest test of his 40-year career. 
Burns leads a Christian social services ministry in northern Florida called the Good Samaritan Network. Until last April, the nonprofit was headquartered in the town of Woodville, just outside Tallahassee. Its food bank served 7,000 people a month. It also ran a thrift store and a home for women transitioning off the street from sex work. And it operated a Christian home for men re-entering society after prison who had no other place to live. Many of them were on Florida’s registry of sex offenders.
It was that last program that got Burns in trouble.
Burns isn't a fan of harsh sex offender laws.
Politically, he’s voted Republican in every presidential election since Reagan, calls abortion a “deal-breaker,” and quotes conservative Christian writer James Dobson in his morning devotional. But when it comes to keeping his guys straight, he thinks current policies—especially posting their names and photos on registries and limiting where they can live—are doing more harm than good. “I’m very sensitive to the perspective of the victims and their families. I get it,” he says. “But a hopeless person is a dangerous person.”
Read the full article and a related article about church sex offender policies at the Christian Century.

Monday, January 22, 2018

New registry classification proposed in Iowa

An Iowa State Representative has proposed a new registry classification for the state -- something called Tier IV registration. Rep. Dean Fisher explains his utterly misguided proposal in his newsletter.
Tier IV Sex Offender Registry – House File 163. This is a bill that I introduced during the 2017 session which I am continuing to work on. This bill addresses the problem of sex offenders that “time out” of the registry after a set number of years (usually 10 years) and then move to a new area of the state or move into Iowa from another state. If a sex offender has timed out, law enforcement has no way of knowing this person is in their community. This bill establishes a new requirement for any person that has ever had to register as a sex offender in Iowa or any other jurisdiction to register with the county sheriff when they move into or around the state. This classification of sex offenders would not be required to re-register quarterly or annually like other classes of sex offenders. Previous Iowa Supreme Court cases (such as Iowa vs. Pickens, 1997) have determined that such registry requirements are constitutional because they do not constitute ex post facto punishment, they are merely regulation. This requirement will give law enforcement greater insight into who is living in our communities. This bill passed subcommittee on Thursday of this week and now goes to the full committee.
No, Rep. Fisher. If someone has completed their registration requirement -- without reoffending -- there is no benefit to keeping them on a such a registry. And there is no reason why law enforcement, or anyone else, should know they live in the community.

Supreme Court denies appeal of Pennsylvania sex offender decision

The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear a challenge to a recent decision that found part of Pennsylvania's sex offender registration law to be unconstitutional.

The high court denied a petition from the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office to review a July decision from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that found the state’s current sex offender registration law was punishment and thus could not be imposed retroactively.
Read more about the Pennsylvania case here.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

An explanation of some legal doctrines and other legal information

Robert Wolf's latest post at SOSEN. It's a long, technical, read, but with much useful information.
I’ve decided to create an article with some legal terminology in it. The reason I’m doing this is because there are a lot of organizations and individuals that are working with attorneys in an attempt to change the sex offender registration laws. A lot of times there are unique little pieces of information that the attorneys may not know about and if their clients bring the information to them it opens a whole new area for the lawyers to litigate in. This information is not intended to be legal advice, simply information in all cases it is best to work with an attorney.
Read the full article at SOSEN.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Douglas County Sheriff's Office Warns of Phone Scam Targeting Registrants

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office is warning of a phone scam targeting registered sex offenders.

Someone is calling registrants, claiming to be from the Sheriff’s Office, and then telling the registrant he/she will be arrested for a violation if the registrant does not immediately send the caller payment in the form of an iTunes or other money transfer.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office says several people may have fallen victim to this scam.

Remember: no legitimate law enforcement officer will ask you for money over the phone. If you receive such a call -- DO NOT send the caller any money -- but do contact the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department to report the scam attempt.

We know that sex offender registries make registrants, their families, and employers easy targets for public ridicule, ostracism, harassment, and threats of vigilante violence.

Add this latest phone scam to the long list of examples of how public registries decrease public safety and reasons why they should be abolished.

Nebraska ACLU prison overcrowding lawsuit survives legal challenge

U.S. District Judge Robert Rossiter has ruled that the ACLU's lawsuit against the state of Nebraska over conditions in the state's prisons can proceed, though the judge dismissed portions of the lawsuit.
“This is a complete victory for us. All of our claims survive, all of our claims go forward,” said David Fathi, who directs the ACLU’s national effort to ensure civil rights of prison inmates. 
The judge, in his ruling, clarified that the lawsuit can proceed, though the state agencies cannot be sued directly. Fathi said that the state agencies are still part of the lawsuit, however, because the agency heads, in their official capacities, remain as defendants.
The story is reported in the Omaha World-Herald

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Colorado man removed from sex offender registry in "unusual" case

Reporter Kaitlin Durbin writes about a Colorado Springs man who has won his battle to be removed from the sex offender registry, in a case described as "unprecedented." The man was convicted in a Romeo-and-Juliet case in Missouri, for having sex with his 14-year-old girlfriend when he was 17. 
For more than a decade, David felt "like trash" having to register as a sex offender because he had consensual sex with his girlfriend when they were both minors. 
Now, with the help of a local attorney, those days are behind him. 
He was officially removed from the registry Jan. 2. 
"Now I feel like everybody else," David said. The Gazette agreed to use only his first name to protect his identity.
It's sad that anyone should be labeled a "sex offender" under such circumstances...or that anyone should be on a sex offender registry.

Read more here.

Read commentary on the case here.

New DOJ report demonstrates stunning disingenuity on cases involving sexual exploitation of children

Guy Hamilton-Smith writes for In Justice Today about a Department of Justice report, ostensibly about federal prosecutions of commercial sexual exploitation of children.

A recent bombshell report from the Department of Justice claims that the number of people prosecuted in federal court for commercial sexual exploitation of children roughly doubled between 2004 and 2013.
The title of the report from the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, Federal Prosecution of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Cases, 2004–2013, conjures the specter of children being forced into sexual slavery. The titling and framing of the report leaves a casual reader with the impression that more and more children are falling victim to commercial sex offenses — such as sex trafficking — and that DOJ has placed a high priority on prosecuting these offenses. 
The actual data contained within the report itself, however, merits no such dramatic conclusion. The DOJ defines the phrase the “commercial sexual exploitation of children” (CSEC) as involving “crimes of a sexual nature committed against juvenile victims for financial or other economic reasons,” the obvious implication being that these “CSEC” defendants are directly involved in the trafficking of children for sexual purposes. However, according to the BJS’ own data, the vast majority of the defendants charged with CSEC offenses were accused, not of producing of child pornography or of child sex trafficking, but of consuming child pornography, including images of cartoon obscenity.
Read the full article at In Justice Today.

Saturday, January 13, 2018


The initial Omaha Fearless gathering of 2018 is at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, January 15. at St. Michael's Lutheran Church, 13232 Blondo St. in Omaha.

Fearless is a chance for registrants and their loved ones to meet for support and to learn about how to navigate life on the registry.

Join us Monday night!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Lawsuit filed over IML passport marker

Attorney Janice Bellucci and the Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws has filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of the "unique identifier" being added to the passports of registered child sex offenders. The lawsuit was filed Thursday in the Central District of the U.S. District Court of California.

Bellucci estimated that the requirement could affect more than 500,000 Americans and their families. She said it is having "a dramatic chilling effect," causing some sex offenders to avoid traveling overseas or to avoid applying for a passport. 
Her suit says the State Department violated procedures by failing to let the public comment on its plans. It says the department also exceeded its legal authority by threatening not to issue passports to some offenders.
Read more about the lawsuit here and here.

Bill would change standard of consent for sex to "yes means yes"

A bill introduced in the Nebraska Legislature (LB988) would change what it means to consent to sexual activity. Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks introduced the bill that would move the state to an affirmative consent standard, as reported in the Lincoln Journal-Star.
As it is now, state law says a person must express a lack of consent through words or conduct. 
With the bill, consent means words or overt actions that indicate a knowing and voluntary agreement, freely given, to engage in sexual contact or intercourse. A person could also still withdraw consent with words or conduct. 
According to the bill, these things would not imply or give consent: current or previous dating, social or sexual relationship by itself; how the person is dressed; the victim's use of drugs or alcohol.
That is the standard used by the University of Nebraska in its sexual misconduct policy, according to the report.

Read more of the Journal-Star article here.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

IL Supreme Court considers validity of ban on sex offenders in parks

The Illinois Supreme Court has heard arguments in a case challenging the constitutionality of the state's law prohibiting child sex offenders from being in public parks. The attorney for the man challenging the law told justices the law keeps those affected by the law from a wide range of places in Illinois.
Strohl told the justices there’s a ton of parkland in places people might not realize, meaning it criminalizes innocent conduct by barring them "from ever touring the Art Institute, running the Chicago Marathon, disembarking the Metra train at Millennium Station, or merely being in a public park and enjoying its amenities."
The state is asking the Supreme Court to overturn a state appellate court ruling that found the law facially unconstitutional.

Read more here.

Listen to the oral arguments here.

Sex Offender Registries invite vigilantism

At his Life on the List blog, Steven Yoder has a couple pieces detailing how sex offender registries lead to vigilante attacks against registrants and their families.

In one post, Yoder lists some of the more egregious examples of vigilantism that occurred in 2017 and explains how the government lists themselves tacitly encourage such actions.
First, the public display of registrants’ personal details—photos, names, addresses, make and model of vehicles, employers–implies that we should consider registrants an ongoing threat. (In fact, their re-offense rates are lower than nearly all groups of ex-offenders.) Second, the public display of their details makes it easy for those bent on doing harm to track them down.
In another post, Yoder asks whether a newspaper's reporting contributed to an attack on the registrant in Wisconsin.
Last July, the Hudson Star Observer in western Wisconsin wrote a story about a man moving into a building in town. His name was Brandon Langel. He was on the state’s sex offender registry for crimes he’d committed in 2008, for which he spent four years in prison. The paper ran the story because now he’d be moving into a building where three other registrants also lived. 
The paper interviewed a neighbor who lived right across the street. “It’s really concerning,” said Daniel Steltz, who had a wife and child. “The fact that four convicted sex offenders all live about 25 feet from his family’s doorstep is a chilling one for Steltz,” the reporter noted. Steltz said his family hadn’t experienced any problems with them. But now Steltz said he was exploring selling their home. 
Further down in the article, the writer inserted more information about Langel. He was a small man: 5-foot-5 and 152 pounds. A giant photo of him ran at the top of the story. 
Yoder says journalists need to do a better job reporting these stories when fear and emotion often trump facts and logic, often leading to tragic results.


Monday, January 8, 2018

LB-60 still on Legislature's radar?

Of the myriad of carry-over bills the Nebraska Legislature will consider over the course of its 2018 session, one horrible bill that could have serious implications for registered citizens and their families is LB-60.

LB-60 was introduced in the Judiciary Committee last year by Sen. Brett Lindstrom. The committee held a hearing on the bill but took no action on it. Bills introduced in odd-numbered years but not acted on in committee are automatically carried over to the next legislative session.

LB-60 would amend section 43-2933 of Nebraska code.

Nebraskans Unafraid testified against LB-60 when it was introduced. Contact your state senator to make your voice heard on this bill.

Text of LB-60

Justice Department examining NY civil commitment of SO's

The U.S. Department of Justice is examining New York's civil commitment program for sex offenders, according to a report in the Albany Times-Union. The paper says the investigation was started after a Justice Department attorney spoke with a man confined at the Central New York Psychiatric Center. Interviews the paper conducted with men confined there cast doubt on whether the intent of civil commitment is "treatment" or punishment.
The system has drawn a number of legal challenges in recent years, and some of those who are committed have said they aren't receiving the kind of treatment that was contemplated when the law was passed 10 years ago. They characterize their confinements as little more than extensions of prison terms, albeit in a hospital rather than a correctional facility.
In a series of interviews with the Times Union in recent months, numerous men who are being held at the Central New York Psychiatric Center after having served prison terms for crimes ranging from sexual abuse to rape said they are receiving little meaningful treatment. They said that sexual activity often goes unpunished, that there is access to pornography, and that mental health sessions often devolve into debates about who controls the television.
Read more at the Albany Times-Union.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Letter: Base sex offender laws on facts not myths

Leo Carroll, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Rhode Island, dispels some common sex offender myths in a letter to the editor of the Providence Journal.
Two decades of research regarding the effects of sex offender laws have produced no evidence that such laws achieve their stated purposes. A recent review of research on community notification and residency restriction laws in the Oxford Handbook of Sex Offences and Sex Offenders concludes that such legislation is “misinformed and simply incorrect.” 
These laws are knee-jerk reactions to hysteria fueled by media narratives of sensational but exceptional tragedies; they are based on myths rather than facts.
Read more at the Providence Journal.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Illinois task force recommends changes to sex offender registry

Major changes could be coming to Illinois' sex offender registry laws, based on recommendations from a task force that has spent months assessing the state's laws. The task force released its recommendations this week.
Among the recommendations is a revision to automatically remove low-level offenders from the public registry after a set time, a move that could allow law enforcement to focus tracking efforts on high-risk individuals. 
The task force also supports a tiered registry system to reflect a person's actual risk to sexually re-offend based on an assessment completed after their conviction.
The level of offense also would be a consideration in proposed changes to stringent state laws that limit where sex offenders may live and go. 
Read more here.

There are more than 32,000 people on Illinois' sex offender registry. Approximately 1 in 227 men (1 in 100 African-American men) in Illinois is labeled a "sex offender."

The task force's full report can be found here.

Senators introduce criminal justice bills on first day of session

The Unicameral opened its 2018 session this week. Senators introduced bills beginning on Wednesday, including several pertaining to the state's criminal justice system.

Lincoln Journal-Star reporter JoAnne Young has a rundown of some of the bills that were introduced on Wednesday. Bills deal with prison overcrowding, medical release of inmates, and rates for phone calls from county and city jails.

One bill, LB-689, would amend the Sex Offender Registration Act to bring it into compliance with a 2017 federal court ruling.

LB-689 specifies that juveniles adjudicated delinquent in Nebraska and other states are not subject to the states sex offender registry.