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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Al Jazeera America Presents 8 Part Series “The System”, Examining the State of the Justice System in the United States

 
The System with Joe Berlinger 

Al Jazeera America Presents, a new original series from Academy Award nominated filmmaker Joe Berlinger exploring controversial cases within the criminal justice system. He’ll examine the underbelly and dark corners of the American justice system to investigate troubling cases embodying this all too human drama. Amidst the murky world where alleged miscarriages have taken place he’ll dig for the truth and ask the question, was justice served? Raising riveting questions about innocence and guilt, there will often be surprises: sometimes the person crying foul is himself lying; sometimes the disgruntled cop is discredited, but then vindicated; and sometimes the system has worked, and justice served. Focusing on any number of layers within the criminal justice system, each episode of the series will explore a controversial case – carried out by or impacting prosecutors, citizens, police officers, and businesses, among others. As we examine each story, we’ll see whether the vaunted system of US justice has triumphed or failed. 

Episode 1: False Confessions
Premieres Sunday May 18th at 9E/6P
Check the schedule for local times and repeat airings
 

Las Vegas detectives find a homeless man stabbed to death and a teenage girl confesses to the salacious crime. In NY, a high school girl is brutally raped and murdered and one of her classmates confesses. But what if both suspects are innocent? Who would confess to a crime that they didn’t commit? In this episode we’ll look at two cases where convictions were reached almost entirely on the suspect’s confession and explore whether the system got it right. 

Episode 2: Mandatory Sentencing
Premieres Sunday May 25th at 9E/6P
Check the schedule for local times and repeat airings
 
 

Confirmation at Last: The 2013 ‘Could’ to ‘Would’ Change to Virginia’s Writ of Actual Innocence Statute Makes Little Difference

 
Today the Richmond Times Dispatch had an article (see below) on the one word change in Virginia law that took effect last July 1st  for Writs of Actual Innocence. 

I’ve posted about Writs of Actual Innocence and Virginia’s 21 Day Rule a few times since starting this blog last July:
·       Recantations- http://goo.gl/ym9Gbb , http://goo.gl/ySe8Hp
·       2013 VSCC Statement on Writs- http://goo.gl/dMUvBO
·       2014 General Assembly Brochure: Writs/21 Day Rule- http://goo.gl/uAngwj 

At the 2013 Virginia General Assembly there were 7 “Writ” Bills : 
SB823 would have been the most effective “fix” to Virginia’s 21 Day Rule and I shared that with all the lawmakers back in 2013.

HB1355 came in second, HB1920 third and HB1432 would be the least effective, but it was Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s proposal that was patroned by Dave Albo (the Chairman of the House Courts of Justice Committee).

And so all other proposals “died” or were “killed” and HB1432 (“window dressing” per the below article) became law. Cuccinelli and Albo claimed it would fix the Writ problem but in reality it does NOTHING at all and the Virginia Court of Appeals has confirmed it. 

In today’s article, Delegate Albo’s response to his (and Cuccinelli’s) 2013 Virginia’s pathetic bill actually making NO difference is, “I don’t know what else can be done.” 

Well Delegate Albo, you could have passed 2013’s HB1355 or even HB1920, you knew the differences between them and the House Courts of Justice Committee picked the least effective one while claiming to “fix” the problem.  
 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Federal Bill SB2301: The Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Victim Restitution Improvement Act of 2014

 

Update: 

Congress Proposes to Fix Restitution for Child Pornography Victims, July 25, 2014
 

Original Post:

This is a follow up to the  May 14, 2014 post when I first found the text to proposed legislation SB2301: “The Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Victim Restitution Improvement Act of 2014” submitted in Response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Ruling in Paroline v. United States. 

I’ve been mulling this bill over for over 2 weeks; I’ve also been checking other “reform” websites and not one has posted about SB2301 as if it doesn’t exist. 

SB2301’s goal is to amend section 2259 of title 18, United States Code. Proponents state that child pornography victims are especially in need of restitution to help put their lives back together and that the victim’s lifetime of losses include:  

1.       medical services relating to physical, psychiatric, or psychological care;
2.      physical and occupational therapy or rehabilitation;
3.      necessary transportation, temporary housing, and child care expenses;
4.      lost income;
5.       attorneys’ fees, as well as other costs incurred; and
6.      any other losses suffered by the victim as a proximate result of the offense 

In simple bullet points, this is what SB2301 would do:

I.      If a victim was harmed by a single defendant, the defendant must pay full restitution for all her losses
II.   If a victim was harmed by multiple individuals, including those not yet identified, a judge can impose restitution on an individual defendant in two ways depending on the circumstances of the case the defendant must pay “the full amount of the victim’s losses” or, if less than the full amount,
at least:
v      $250,000 for production
v      $150,000 for distribution
v      $25,000 for possession  

Federal law already provides a mechanism for creating a restitution payment schedule. 

Multiple defendants who have harmed the same victim and have paid at least those minimum amounts may sue each other to spread the restitution cost (the Supreme Court said in Paroline that this is important)  

So why should we care about this proposal? 
 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Inspiring Quotes of Maya Angelou: To Reflect Upon When Facing a Daunting Endeavour, Like Reform

 
v      “If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain”. 
 
v      “Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible”

v      “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them” 
 
v      “Whatever you want to do, if you want to be great at it, you have to love it and be able to make sacrifices for it”
 
v      “One isn't necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest”. 
 
v      “When you know better you do better” 
 
v      “We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated” 
 
v      “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again”

 

13 year old Suffolk Virginia Boy Charged with Felonies for Alleged "Sextortion", By Scott Daugherty

 
Suffolk boy, 13, charged in alleged "sextortion" By Scott Daugherty   May 28, 2014

Suffolk, Virginia- Police are investigating allegations that a 13-year-old boy blackmailed as many as six girls into performing sex acts. 

At least one of the girls - a student at John F. Kennedy Middle School - told police last month that she sent nude photos of herself to the boy and that he turned around and threatened to forward the images to his friends if she didn't do what he wanted, according to court documents. She said he coerced her into performing oral sex on April 10 on a school bus. 

When detectives looked into her story, they learned about five other possible victims, documents said. 

The boy - who no longer attends John F. Kennedy Middle School - has been charged in Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court with one count each of felony aggravated sexual battery and production of child pornography, Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney James Wiser said.

Diana Klink, a city spokeswoman, declined to comment on the case, noting that the investigation is ongoing. 

Bethanne Bradshaw, a spokeswoman for the school system, said the boy was suspended and recommended for expulsion.  
 

Monday, May 26, 2014

50 States: US Registration Laws Overview

 
Back on April 7 I decided to make a dedicated page on the number one Google search that brings folks to this blog, Traveling as a Registered Sex Offender off to the right side under Directory. 

I had searched the web prior looking at other advocacy groups and organizations sites and also sent email’s inquiring if anyone had a list for those who are traveling and trying to remain compliant, at the time no one did. But I was advised by California RSOL that they were working on something. 

On May 19 California RSOL posted a state-by-state list of statutes and a 50 state comparison to make compliancy a bit easier and perhaps assist RSO’s who are trying to decide if a move to another state would be better, worse or similar to what they are experiencing in their current state. 

It’s not really a list of travel restrictions and regulations but it is the only centralized list of statutes I’ve come across. 


Just remember, these lists are only current for a short time. Each state, each county and each city passes new laws, which could completely change what was posted  on May 19th. There is also the possibility of errors or missing information. 

I noticed one mistake and one missing piece of data on the Virginia list right away so keep this in mind when comparing the states from these lists. 

Mary

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Virginia Governor's School and Campus Safety Task Force: 2013 Report

 
In late 2012 Governor McDonnell implemented the School and Campus Safety Task Force following the mass shooting in Newtown Connecticut at Sandy Hook Elementary. Governor McAuliffe has continued the Taskforce in 2014. 

I have been following the Task Force and even attended one meeting last summer to see if “Sex Offenders” were on the agenda or if they were planning to propose any legislation or policy changes for Registered Sex Offenders in the Commonwealth.  I wanted any such proposals to be based on facts not on myth. 

Everything I have read and heard for the last year and a half has been on mental stability of students and staff, allowing unarmed and/or armed Resource/Security Officers to patrol campuses, building infrastructure, escape and emergency procedures, civil liability and future funding. If Virginia Sex Offenders had been part of a discussion of the School and Campus Safety Task Force I had missed it. 

So when I received an email last week from DCJS with the subject Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety: Results from the 2013 School Safety Survey of all schools in the Commonwealth I was a bit surprised to find Sex Offenders in the survey. 

  • On page 32 its background checks for volunteers
  • On page 35 the asterisks for “Other” includes policies for Sex Offenders
This survey isn’t making any recommendations for future RSO policies or legislation in Virginia but you never know it could. So I will continue to monitor the issues and recommendations of the Virginia Governor's School and Campus Safety Task Force. 

Mary

Friday, May 23, 2014

Virginia State Crime Commission: 2014 Studies, Meeting Dates and Agendas


 
Update: 

May 23, 2014 2:55pm Email

Immediate Release - Governor McAuliffe Announces Administration Appointments including to the State Crime Commission: 
·        The Honorable Michael R. Doucette of Lynchburg, Commonwealth’s Attorney, City of  Lynchburg
·        Lori Hanky Haas of Henrico,  Virginia State Director, The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
·        The Honorable Brian K. Roberts of  Lawrenceville , Sheriff, Brunswick County
Original Post:

The Virginia State Crime Commission is a criminal justice agency established in the legislative branch of government in accordance with section 30-156 et seq. of the Code of Virginia. 

The purpose of the Commission is to study, report and make recommendations on all areas of public safety and protection. In so doing, the Commission shall endeavor to ascertain the causes of crime and recommend ways to reduce and prevent it, explore and recommend methods of rehabilitation of convicted criminals, study compensation of persons in law enforcement and related fields and study other related matters including the apprehension, trial and punishment of criminal offenders. 

The Commission is directed to make such recommendations as it deems appropriate with respect to the foregoing matters, and shall coordinate the proposals and recommendations of all commissions and agencies as to legislation affecting crimes, crime control and criminal procedure. The Commission cooperates with the executive branch of state government, the Attorney General's Office and the judiciary who are, in turn, encouraged to cooperate with the Commission. The Commission also cooperates with governments and governmental agencies of other states and the United States. 

The Commission consists of 13 members that include nine legislative members, three non-legislative citizen members, and one state official as follows: six members of the House of Delegates to be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Delegates in accordance with the principles of proportional representation contained in the Rules of the House of Delegates; three members of the Senate to be appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules; three non-legislative citizen members to be appointed by the Governor; and the Attorney General or his designee. Non-legislative citizen members must be citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The term of each appointee is for two years, except that the Attorney General and legislative members shall serve terms coincident with their terms of office. The Commission elects a chairman and vice-chairman annually, who shall be members of the General Assembly. 

The members of the VSCC do change periodically and for 2014 new members include Delegate Richard L. Anderson , Delegate Jennifer L. McClellan and a different representative from Attorney General Mark Herring’s office.
 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

HR4573 International Megan's Law: U.S. House Passes 5 Bills to Combat Human Trafficking


Update:

I have been unable to find any official info on HR4573 since yesterdays vote.

eAdvocate advise me that the old Thomas.gov site had this:

   Date  All Actions, Including Floor Amendments
  05/20/2014-5:57pm  
On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended Agreed to by voice vote.
Type of Action: Floor Consideration
Action By: House of Representatives
  05/20/2014-5:33pm  
DEBATE - The House proceeded with forty minutes of debate on H.R. 4573.
Type of Action: Floor Consideration
Action By: House of Representatives
  05/20/2014-5:33pm  
Considered under suspension of the rules.
Type of Action: Floor Consideration
Action By: House of Representatives
  05/20/2014-5:33pm  
Mr. Royce moved to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended.
Type of Action: Floor Consideration
Action By: House of Representatives
  05/09/2014  
   
Ordered to be Reported in the Nature of a Substitute (Amended) by Unanimous Consent.























There is NO mention of passports being valid for only one year, or the ability to revoke passports.

The word passport is nowhere to be found in this version of HR4573!

But the long array of crimes against minors which would include Romeo and Juliet cases and teens sexting teens is still part of the bill.

Mary

Original Post:

They now head to the U.S. Senate, first to Committee then to the floor for a vote. 

Mary


The House on Tuesday passed five bills to boost law enforcement efforts against human trafficking.

 

HR4573 International Megan's Law: Eric Cantor's Office Has Built Website on Human Trafficking and a Campaign Linking the Pending Human Trafficking Bills to the Nigerian Girls Who were Kidnapped a Month Ago - They Have No Shame!

 
This post is a follow-up to yesterday International Megan’s Law Action Item post.

Per the below article Virginia Congressman (my representative) and Majority Leader Eric Canter has hopped on the Human Trafficking bandwagon with other Republicans building a new website to promote the 5 Human Trafficking bills being voted on by the U.S. House this week including the 2014 IML bill linking them to the Bring Back our Girls Nigerian Africa campaign, nice huh?

Boko Haram Militant Islamists are being held up as the example to fight U.S. Human Trafficking, one has nothing to do with the other but I guarantee it will work. No politician would dare vote against a such a campaign, whether it's true or not. It's an election year for Congress and if they vote "nay" it will be used against them in November.

From the below article:
 
The bipartisan bills are part of an agenda spearheaded by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican, to emphasize issues beyond taxes and spending. Cantor — and the Republican Party in general — are attempting to rebrand the GOP by promoting a more compassionate legislative plan as it seeks inroads with a broader range of voters, particularly young women. Although the effort has faced significant growing pains, the bills presented Tuesday are likely to pass. 

As part of the vote series’ rollout, Cantor’s staff built a website about human trafficking, and the bill’s lead sponsors, all Republican, produced a video promoting the cause. 

When emotions drive our legislation not only are bad decisions made, but people who pose no threat to society will be unable to provide for their families, travel for school or work or reenter society as positive contributors to their communities because of the lifetime of restrictions, regulations, fees and hoops to jump through that is always expanding. Their court-ordered debt to society has been fulfilled and to be successful the numerous and ridiculous barriers must stop being placed in front of them. 

HR4573 was renamed (AFTER the Committee on Foreign Affairs moved it forward) to International Megan's Law to Prevent Demand for Child Sex Trafficking. This new title is extremely misleading. Congressman Poe’s 2010 piece of legislation would be a more honest title for what HR4573 is really intended to do and has been intended to do since 2008, To restrict passports of certain sex offenders, and for other purposes 

One article I found earlier today tied the 5 Human Trafficking Bills including HR4573 to Backapge.com and now the below article and Eric Cantor’s office is tying the bills to the Nigerian girls abduction. 

It’s become obvious these Federal Republicans are willing to say anything including misleading and completely unconnected abductions to get these Human Trafficking bills passed in the U.S. Congress. 

Facts are insignificant in a panic and that’s what the Human Trafficking, Campus Sexual Assault and Military Sexual Assault campaigns have become a moral panic. 

Fear-monger by any group for any purpose is wrong. The end does not justify the means. 


Mary Devoy 

House prepares for rare votes on standalone bills to curb human trafficking, May 20, 2014
A heavy focus on the problem within U.S. borders

Monday, May 19, 2014

Reminder of May 11th Action Alert: Federal Bill HR4573 International Megan's Law Will Be Debated/Voted on by the Full U.S. House This Week!

 
This post is a reminder for you to contact your one U.S. Congressional Representative in Washington D.C. For more on HR4573 go to May 11, 2014 post and please take 10 minutes out of your day to fax, email or call your Federal Representative.

H.R. 4573: International Megan’s Law to Prevent Demand for Child Sex Trafficking has been added to the House’s schedule for the coming week, according to the House Majority Leader. See the week ahead. 
 

Federal Bill HR4660: Sponsored by Virginia Congressman Frank Wolf. Approriations, Funding and Grants for FY 2015: A Hodgepodge Mix of Unrelated Issues All in One Bill

 
HR4660 Making appropriations for the Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2015, and for other purposes.
 
HR4660 is not a bill I would typically post on here, but I am doing so that you all can see how much money is spent in one bill with a hodgepodge mix of unrelated issues.
 
For those of you who scan the text of HR4660 you’ll find Federal Grants for sexual assault services, transitional housing for victims of sexual assaults, the back-log of rape kits (which is already covered and pending in the Justice For All Reauthorization Act of 2013 S822, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 S47 and the Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act of 2014 HR4323), victim’s of trafficking (which includes prostitution and slavery) blocking child pornography on-line and funding for the PROTECT Act of 2008, just to mention a few.
 
But this is the one allocation I wanted to highlight of the proposed legislation:
 
State and local law enforcement assistance
 
(10) $21,000,000 for sex offender management assistance, as authorized by the Adam Walsh Act, and related activities, of which $1,000,000 is for the National Sex Offender Public Website;
 
So $20 million from the Federal Government to be divided among 50 states, the District of Columbia, 5 U.S Territories and 566 Tribal Governments to manage their mandatory (Federal Adam Walsh Act of 2006) Sex Offender Registries.

HR4660 also includes the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program which is $376,000,000. This is the Grant that the Adam Walsh Act uses as “bait” for the 50 States, D.C., U.S. Territories and Tribal Governments to become AWA compliant/SMART Office certified.  

10% of the Byrne Grant will be withheld from those who are not AWA compliant. 

 As of today that includes:
1.       Alaska
2.      Arizona
3.      Arkansas
4.      California
5.       Connecticut
6.      Georgia
7.       Hawaii
8.      Idaho
9.      Illinois
10.   Indiana
11.    Iowa
12.   Kentucky
13.   Maine
14.   Massachusetts
15.    Minnesota
16.   Montana
17.    Nebraska
18.   New Hampshire
19.   New Jersey
20.  New York
21.   New Mexico
22.  North Carolina
23.  North Dakota
24.  Oklahoma
25.   Oregon
26.  Rhode Island
27.   Texas
28.  Utah
29.  Vermont
30.  Virginia
31.   Washington
32.  West Virginia
33.  Wisconsin
34.   Plus the District of Columbia  (which is governed by the U.S. Congress, creator of the Adam Walsh Act and SMART Office)
35.   Territory of American Samoa
36.  Territory of Puerto Rico
37.   Too Many Tribal Lands to list here  

The Federal Government is baiting the states with grants for these programs but in the end the states are footing the bill.         

We know from an October 2011 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that I submitted to the Virginia State Police (the monitor and manager of Virginia’s Registered Sex Offenders) that the VSP spent $5.48 million in 2010 monitoring and verifying offenders who weren’t incarcerated OR on probation. So out of the entire 2010 population of 17,623 the $5.48 million was for only 6,562 of them. That was only 37.25% of our entire RSO population. That works out to be $835 per RSO per year. 

The majority of Virginia RSO’s will be released from prison one day and then released from VA-DOC Probation and then VSP will be responsible for monitoring and managing them.