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Thursday, July 31, 2014

ACLU of Virginia: There Ought to be a Law Against Sexting

 
I understand not wanting to create new crimes of Teen Sexting in the VA Code (see editorial below) BUT the problem is the wording in the code for child pornography production, dissemination and viewing/possession includes Teen Sexting, like it or not. 

My suggestion: 

What if at the next G.A. session (January 2015) there is a proposal to the various Child Pornography statutes to add a line excluding Teen-to-Teen “Sexting”? This way over zealous Commonwealth Attorney’s and Magistrates don’t overstep in this area. 

Such a disclaimer/exclusion in code should have an age gap allowance (4 years) for age appropriate relationships.

This would stop any stubborn House or Senate members who have fought past Sexting proposals based on the claim it would open the door for 50 year old perverts to take advantage of our children. 

AND some how we need to include the 18 and 19 year olds. I know they are adults in the eyes of the law but it is completely appropriate for an 18 year old to date a 16 year old and a 19 year old to date a 17 year old. If the 18 and 19 year olds have not threatened, forced or intimidated the younger person, if they have not extorted them and if they have not forwarded the image on to others or posted it on the Internet then they should not face felony child pornography charges either. One other point to consider is the now 18 or 19 year old may have sent or received the images when they were minors but when the images are finally discovered months or years later they are legal adults, the time in which the images were sent or received should be the time considered by the state. 
 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Action Alert! If the Monitor and Manager of All Virginia’s RSO’s (Virginia State Police) Doesn't Know How to Comply Then How is an RSO Supposed to Know?

 
Back on Sunday July 20th I received an email from a reader (first time) looking for direction to remain compliant and avoid inadvertently committing a felony. 

He is a Virginian RSO and he’s getting married in the next few weeks and they plan to honeymoon in Europe following the wedding. 

He had visited the Traveling as a Registered Sex Offender page on this blog and read about the Federal requirement to notify the authorities of his intended travel abroad. On that page there are article about other RSO’s who failed to notify the authorities prior to travel and when they returned home they were arrested and charged with a new felony, so this reader understood the risk if he did not follow the process. 

Problem is I have been unable to find the process for Virginia RSO’s to submit the planned travel ahead of time.
 

SVP Residents of the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation Received Approval from a Staffer to Watch the Free HBO that Appeared on the Facility Televisions Last Month and Now They’re Being Punished for “Sexual Behavior” and Demoted in the Program

V.C.B.R.

I’ve previously given examples to the Virginia General Assembly Committees and to the Virginia State Crime Commission of the VCBR stacking the deck against the residents to retain them as long as possible (usually because legislation to expand their authority is being proposed) and this recent example is just another shameful example of how the staff/management regularly sets residents up for failure.

As ACLU of VA's Claire Gastanaga says below, “It’s about some people doing it because they can”. 

It's an abuse of power by the VCBR and it's been occurring for years, most examples just never make the news. 

Mary
 
Sex offenders upset over punishment for watching HBO, July 29, 2014
By Melissa Hipolit

A human rights advocate for a state facility that provides treatment for civilly committed sex offenders in Virginia has filed a complaint on behalf of one of those sex offenders alleging unfair treatment. 
 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Removal and/or Relief from Re-Registration of the Virginia Sex Offender Registry

 

Note: The VA statute links below from 2014 have expired. Virginia moved all legal statutes to a new website http://law.lis.virginia.gov/

Removal of Name and Information from VSP Registry: http://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title9.1/chapter9/section9.1-910/


 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
 
One of the more common questions I receive from readers is…… 

How long do I have to register? 

As of July 1, 2008, any Registrant classified as “Non-Violent” must remain on the Virginia Sex Offender Registry for a minimum of 15 years before they can petition the court to be removed. The 2008 Virginia General Assembly increased the minimum time from 10 to 15 years, retroactive to everyone in an attempt to become Federally Adam Walsh Act compliant, as of 2014 Virginia is NOT compliant. When this change occurred in 2008 some offenders that had been successful in a petition to be removed back in 2006 and 2007 were put BACK on the VSP Virginia Registry for an additional 5 years before they can petition for removal, again. 
 

How Can a Virginia Registered Sex Offender Attend Their Child’s School Sponsored Activities?


A common theme seems to repeat itself every year as we approach “Back to School” season. 

v      I want to be able to drop and pick my child/children from school.
v      I am a single parent so I need to be able to drop and pick my child/children from school.
v      My child/children want me to attend their basketball, soccer, baseball, football games, is there any way to?
v      My child/children want me to attend their band, choir, orchestra, drama class production, is there any way to?
v      My child/children want me to attend their award ceremony, is there any way to?
v      My child is graduating from high school this year, how can I attend the graduation ceremony? 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Rachel Weiner: Manassas Case Rekindles Debate Over Penalties for ‘Sexting’


The below article is follow up to these previous posts
·         July 17, 2014
·         July 11, 2014
·         July 9, 2014
·         July 4th   

Now, we know the ACLU-VA does NOT support adding the word “sexting” to VA Code, even to make it a misdemeanor. Without adjusting the VA Code more Virginia teenagers who “sext” will face felony prosecution of child pornography which carry mandatory minimum prison sentences. 

It’s very disappointing to learn the only concrete fix to this problem (amending VA Code) is opposed by our ACLU. 

Mary Davye Devoy 

Manassas case rekindles debate over penalties for ‘sexting’ July 25, 2014
By Rachel Weiner

The recent efforts of Manassas police and Prince William County prosecutors to photograph the erect genitalia of a 17-year-old boy for evidence in a “sexting” case has revived a debate in Virginia over whether such conduct between minors should be illegal at all. 
 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

And the Virginia Federal Candidates for the November 4th 2014 Election Are….

 
Back on June 8th I posted about the upcoming Federal elections in November advising you who is retiring, who is running as an incumbent and who some of the party nominees were after the GOP convention and Primary Day. Plus why the Federal Representatives for Virginia matter for this platform (Sex Offender legislation, funding and restrictions) and the process to apply for restoration of rights (voting rights for citizens convicted of felony offenses) in Virginia. 

But even after all of that we did not know who all the candidates were because there was a filing deadline still pending. 

Well, now we know who all the Virginia candidates for Federal seats that are up for reelection this November are. 
 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Lenore Skenazy: I Saw a Man Get Arrested For a Sex Crime Because He Made a Scheduling Error

 
The below situation from Texas is just heartbreaking. He did everything he was aware of to remain compliant and yet he’s facing new felony charges.  

For some of you whose original conviction was a misdemeanor, the punishment for administrative issues is harsher than the crime that forces you to register. The punishment does NOT fit the crime.

All for a registry that to remain Constitutional is supposed to be administrative, not punitive. Yeah right! 

The below story shows exactly why I have continued to raise the point that the Commonwealth makes no effort to advise those who must abide by these rules of the requirements even when they change every year during the General Assembly. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Columnists and Editorials are Calling on Virginia Lawmakers to Change Virginia Criminal Code so that Teen Sexting Will Not be Charged as Felony Child Pornography

 
Past posts on the appalling Manassas Teen-Sexting case can be found here:
v      July 11th    
v      July 9th      
v      July 4th   

Since the warrant to force the 17 year old Manassas minor to be medically injected with a substance to erect his genitalia and then submit to photographs of his erect penis by Virginia authorities has been allowed to expire there have been many editorials written as the 17 year old is STILL facing felony charges of child pornography that carry mandatory minimum prison sentences and a lifetime on the Virginia Registry as a Violent Sex Offender. 

I’ve repeatedly told the current 136 (4 seats are vacant) Virginia Delegates and Senators that it’s time to separate Teen Sexting from our Child Pornography statutes and I asked you to tell them too. 

Well journalists are saying it too! 
 

Monday, July 14, 2014

50 States: Classification Systems, Adults, Juveniles, Public v. Private Registries and Duration of Registration


In Virginia legislation has been proposed and passed for many years under the claim its Adam Walsh Act/SORNA mandated. 

Like “tiering”, 15 and 25 years minimum registration (instead of the original 10 and 20 years) and juvenile mandates. 

What states tier based on risk or on the conviction which was probably a plea to a lower offense? 

What states have private registries and who is listed on them? 

I contacted numerous people looking for this data but no one had a complete list.  

So I took a December 2013 ATSA 50 State Level/Tier spreadsheet, I then visited http://klaaskids.org/megans-law/  for all 50 states, then I visited more than half of states registries (where I had missing info) and finally I did an Internet search for states with private registries. 

Below are two charts (too wide to leave as one) for all 50 states:
  1. Which ones have classifications systems for their Sex Offenders and which ones don’t
  2. If they do group the offenders is it Risk-Based or Conviction Based
  3. How long registration is required in each state before petition is allowed
  4. What states have private/authority registries (not on the Internet) and if they do who is included on the private lists
  5. Which ones require juveniles to register or not
  6. And with all of these differences, what states have been certified as AWA/SORNA compliant by the SMART Office
There are a few pieces of missing data (it notes undetermined) that I'm still looking for and hope to fill in soon.
 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Radley Balko: We Must Destroy the Children in Order to Save Them


What a great piece (see below), unfortunately inspired by the Manassas case where charges are still pending against the 17 year old male.  

Mr. Balko was one of the many speakers at the Center for Prosecutorial Integrity’s Summit that I attended in Washington, D.C. last month. As did two Virginia Commonwealth Attorney’s and a Virginia Attorney General contact that I chatted with. Too bad C.A. Paul Ebert didn’t attend the Summit. 
 
In 2009 the Virginia Crime Commission voted against legislation separating Teen Sexting from Child Pornography on the claim that our Commonwealth Attorney’s use proper discretion in these types of cases and uniformity.  
 
As the 2009 article (above link) reminds us. Delegate Albo said, taking the discretion away from the state's 120 elected prosecutors could result in a teen being punished for a stupid mistake while allowing a serious predator to receive a mere slap on the wrist. Mr. Albo called possible legislation a total minefield. We are dancing on very, very scary territory here if you're talking about changing the law, he said. 
 
I beg to differ. 
 
The current situation of a 17 year old male in Manassas who is being charged and facing a lifetime on the Virginia Registry for reciprocating with a sexual image when a 15 year old female initiated the sexting and she is not facing any charges, plus the despicable warrant (that will now be allowed to expire) that would have forced the 17 year to become sexually erected and then submit to photographs. THAT is “scary territory”. 
 
Unnecessary damage is already occurring in the Commonwealth because there are prosecutors who are over zealous and lack common sense in these cases.

It’s time for Virginia to separate “Teen Sexting” from Child Pornography and that includes production, dissemination and possession AND it should include 18 and 19 year olds who are in age appropriate relationships and “sext” without force, threat or intimidation. They pose no threat to society and to prosecute, imprison and stigmatize them as Sex Offenders is no benefit to the Commonwealth and it destroys any chances of a positive and productive future for the youth.

"It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer"
                                                                                                -William Blackstone
Mary Devoy

We Must Destroy the Children in Order to Save Them
By Radley Balko                               July 11, 2014

My colleague Tom Jackman’s story about the efforts of officials in Northern Virginia to forcibly induce an erection in a teenage boy in order to pursue “sexting” charges against him has deservedly provoked national outrage. As Jackman points out, Manassas police have since backed down and now say that they won’t execute the warrant. Of course, there remains the problem of why the warrant was issued in the first place. No one in the  Manassas Police Department, the office of Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Ebert or the judge who signed off on the warrant was able to see what the rest of the country saw, here: an outrageous abuse of power and an unfathomable violation of this kid’s privacy. The Commonwealth of Virginia was prepared to create child porn in order to prosecute a 17-year-old kid for sending videos of himself to his then-girlfriend, who was 15 years old. 

There’s a lot going on in this case. We can start with Paul Ebert, a dinosaur of the Virginia criminal justice system. I wrote a bit about Ebert’s history in a previous post here at The Watch about prosecutorial misconduct. The general takeaway is that Ebert, who has been in office for more than 40 years, has a long and sordid history of poor judgment yet has never been sanctioned or disciplined for his conduct. In 2011, his office was the subject of a blistering opinion by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. As Andrew Cohen points out in the linked article, it wasn’t the first time that has happened. 
 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

More Info on Manassas Virginia 17 Year Old Forced By Virginia Authorities to Have Genitalia Photographed and then a Warrant to Force Sexual Arousal and More Photographs. He’s a Minor!

 
July 10th Update:

A revised version of Jackman’s article was posted later on Wednesday deleting some areas and adding new ones.

I’ve inserted the additional paragraphs and noted what was removed below.
Mary
 

Original Post: 

When I posted the original article about this unbelievable case on July 4, I expected to see numerous media outlets pick up the case.  I knew it was a holiday weekend but news stories don’t stop just because of a holiday.

But for 5 days, not one additional article, until today (see below).  

This Washington Post article expands a bit on what has occurred so far in this case. 

Below we learn that on July 1st, Foster said Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Claiborne Richardson told her that her client must either plead guilty or police would obtain another search warrant “for pictures of his erect penis,” for comparison to the evidence from the teen’s cell phone. Foster asked how that would be accomplished and was told that “we just take him down to the hospital, give him a shot and then take the pictures that we need.”

That’s right, plead guilty to child pornography instead of going to trial or the State will force a minor to get an erection and then take photos of it! 

This is an abuse of power! 

This is unequal justice under the law by only charging and threatening sexual abuse and humiliation of the 17 year old male when the 15 year old female initiated by sending the first nude image! 

And ……..its State sponsored sexual abuse and humiliation of a minor! 
 

August 19, 2014: First of Two Special Elections in Virginia for State Legislature Seats, House 48th and 90th Districts and Senate 38th District, Candidates are Now Known

In June 2014, 3 State Representatives retired/resigned from the Virginia Legislature:
  1. Senator Phillip Puckett  -D           of the 38th District
  2. Delegate Algie Howell   -D           of the 90th District
  3. Delegate Robert Brink   -D          of the 48th District
On July 1st a Special Election date for these 3 Districts’ was announced:
August (19th) special elections set for 2 Va. House seats
Editorial: Virginia special election date flies in the face of democracy, July 4, 2014
The 38th District includes:
-          Bland County (all)
-          Buchanan County (all)
-          Dickenson County (all)
-          Montgomery County (part)
-          Norton City (all)
-          Pulaski County (all)
-          Radford City (all)
-          Russell County (all)
-          Smyth County (part)
-          Tazewell County (all)
-          Wise County (part)
 
The 90th District includes:
-          Cities of Norfolk (part)
-          Virginia Beach (part)
 
The 48th District includes:
-          Counties of Arlington (part)
-          Fairfax (part)
 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Steve Yoder: Do Residency Bans Drive Sex Offenders Underground?


Do Residency Bans Drive Sex Offenders Underground?
By Steve Yoder  July 7, 2014

Early last year, Los Angeles set aside a sliver of land in its Harbor Gateway neighborhood for the city’s newest and smallest park: two jungle gyms on a fifth of an acre. 

The project was more than just an effort to increase the city’s green space. City Council members made clear that one of the park’s principal reasons for existence was to force 33 people on the California sex offender registry who were living in a nearby apartment building to move out. State law bars those on its registry from living within 2,000 feet of a park or school. 

 “We came together, working with the police department, to problem-solve, to send a message that Harbor Gateway cannot be dumped upon with a high number of registered sex offenders,” councilman Joe Buscaino said at the park’s opening. 

But the state ban itself already clusters registrants into a limited number of areas, according to a September 2011 report by the California Sex Offender Management Board, which was created by the state legislature to advise it on sex offender policies. 

California hasn’t been alone in its tough approach to ensuring that formerly incarcerated sex offenders pose no danger after they are released. As part of a wave of new sex offender laws starting in the mid-1990s, about 30 states and thousands of cities and towns passed such residency restrictions—prompting in turn a pushback from civil liberties advocates, state legislators and registrants themselves who argued the restrictions were not only unduly harsh but counterproductive. 

But a court decision in Colorado last year could mark a shift in momentum.
 

Action Alert: 8 Proposals for 2015! Contact Your One Virginia Delegate, One Virginia Senator, Attorney General Mark Herring and Governor Terry McAuliffe Asking Them to Sponsor or Find Sponsors Today!

 
Back on April 18th I asked you all to look over the Top 7 Goals I have been asking the Virginia Legislators to sponsor over the last 6 General Assembly sessions and pick one or two that you believe in and to then ask your District’s Delegate and Senator to sponsor for the 2015 Virginia General Assembly (begins January 14th) because most Legislators decide on all their bills by September in a non-election year like 2014. In an election year they usually wait till late November or even mid-December to make their final decisions/selections on bills for the upcoming January. 

Last week I made more than 25 separate requests for 2015 sponsors, now I wait for their answers. 

Today, I am asking all of you once again (if you have not already done so) to contact your one Delegate and one Senator before the end of July. 

This way they hear their constituents asking for these reasonable changes and asking them to step up and patron/sponsor one “good” bill for the next session.

        Side Note:
Since the April action item post, two Delegates and one Senator have retired/resigned in June and then on July 1st another Senator retired/resigned. This mean there will be one or two Special Elections for 4 District’s in the Commonwealth to fill these vacated seats.

       They are:
1.       Senator Phillip Puckett          -D           of the 38th District
2.      Delegate Algie Howell           -D           of the 90th District
3.      Delegate Robert Brink           -D          of the 48th District
4.      Senator Henry Marsh             -D           of the 16th District 

If you live in one of these districts then you need to wait until the Special Elections occur to know who is representing your district. Then you can contact the newly elected Legislator, introduce your self and make a request for 2015.

The candidates for the upcoming Special Elections in these 4 Districts’ are not finalized (as of today). Once they are I will post about the candidates. 

2015 (an odd year) will be a short-session this means the Virginia Delegates are limited to a maximum of 15 bills, that’s it! Whereas, Virginia Senators do not have a bill limit in a short session. 

Both the Governor and the Attorney General have their own Legislative Agendas each session, known as “Administration Bills”.  So they too are looking for Delegates and Senators to patron/sponsor their bills leaving fewer opportunities for constituents and advocates during a short session. 

I’ve selected one additional goal from the full list, for this post. #8 in this post is in response to the Manassas, Virginia case of the 17 year old boy who “sexted” with his girlfriend and was forced by the state to submit to official photos of his genitalia. Goal #8 is not specific to him being forced to be photographed but to separate Teen Sexting from Child Pornography. 

From the 8 goals below, please select one or two that speaks to you the most and ask your representatives to sponsor a bill proposing the change. You can ask them in a phone call, in an email or in an in-person appointment at their district office (near you). 
 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Manassas Virginia 17 Year Old (a minor) Who “Sexted” His 15 year old Girlfriend is Forced by a Warrant to Allow the Virginia Authorities to Take Photos of His Genitalia

 
Update:
See July 9, 2014 Post


Original Post: 

Even though this 17 year old and his aunt voluntarily participated in this NBC interview/article he is a minor so I have made the decision to remove his name from this post to limit any future damage a Google search could do to his reputation, re-entry and future endeavors 2, 5 or 10 years from now.

This is the 4th case in 2014 that I have come across in the news since a bill HB1260 proposed at the 2014 Virginia General Assembly session to fix the issue of treating Teen Sexting the same a Child Pornography was killed by the House Criminal Sub-Committee. Virginia juveniles, who create, distribute and/or possess sexual images under no threat, force or intimidation need to be treated differently than adults who produce sexual abuse images of children. Felony charges, prison time and a lifetime public label as a Violent Sex Offender is not only excessive and unnecessary but cruel and unusual. Such a fate is not productive for the state or for the juvenile and neither is the looming threat of prosecution while the Commonwealth Attorney take their time gathering evidence and violating the Manassas 17 year old. In the meantime the family spends tens of thousands of dollars for legal representation while the possibility of being publicly labeled a predator, pedophile and pervert looms overhead for him. Most teens and adults can not deal with this pressure, for example Christian Adamek of Alabama gave up and committed suicide in October 2013 because a future as a Registered Sex Offender was too much to bear and his family later learned the prosecutor wasn’t going to go forward with his “streaking” case. Too little too late. 

4 cases in 7 months I wonder how many more cases that haven’t been in the local news are churning through the Virginia courts today? 

It’s time for Virginia to separate Teen Sexting from Child Pornography! 

Mary

 
Va. Teen Could be Jailed for "Sexting" Girlfriend, July 3, 2014

Manassas VA, Prince William County 

A Virginia teen is facing two felony charges after he was caught sexting with his girlfriend. 

If he's convicted, he could be forced to register as a sex offender and spend time in jail. 

_________, 17, was charged with manufacturing and distributing child pornography in January, while exchanging texts with his then-girlfriend, who was 15 at the time. His iPhone and iPad were seized by police, and he was taken into custody.