Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Can Words Alone Exonerate This Sex Offender? By Meagan Flynn

Can Words Alone Exonerate This Sex Offender?  January 6, 2016
By Meagan Flynn

On a sunny December day, Kelly Simon takes her father, a registered sex offender just released from prison, to visit Big Bass Resort. It's a sprawling apartment complex, complete with grassy courtyards and enough palm trees to resemble Orlando, and 57-year-old Roderick Dixon would like to live here. 

He's visited at least a dozen complexes like this one that seemed feasible, places that were nowhere near a school or a playground or any children at all—“adult living,” most of the signs say. He wears his golden-brown argyle sweater with the cuffed white dress shirt underneath, the outfit Simon bought him on his first day out of prison. Then he puts on his best smile for the cheery apartment managers who haven't yet run a background check. 

Once they do, this is what they'll find: In 1993, Dixon was accused of sodomizing his four-year-old nephew. After pleading no contest, he was only supposed to do five years probation, but one month later a judge revoked it and ordered Dixon serve the full 40-year sentence after a drug-related run-in with police.  

Both Dixon and the alleged victim say the crime never happened, and the Texas Southern University innocence project has been pushing for his exoneration since 2004. The Harris County District Attorney's Office's conviction integrity unit recently agreed to investigate Dixon's case as a potential wrongful conviction.  

Still, none of that changes the fact that apartment managers don't welcome sex offenders.

Wash Post: The Yellow Star, the Scarlet Letter and ‘International Megan’s Law’ (HR515), By David Post

Back on December 18th I posted an action item so readers could contact every Virginia Federal Representative asking them to oppose HR515. 

One of the 15 Co-Sponsors of HR515 is Virginia Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, she needs to hear from ever single one of you! 

If you have not previously acted on HR515 please click on the above link and do so today! 

Mary Devoy

The yellow star, the scarlet letter and ‘International Megan’s Law’, January 6, 2016
By David Post

When I was growing up, in a Jewish family in Brooklyn in the 1950s, Hitler and the Holocaust were common subjects of conversation in my household.  Though at the time it all seemed like ancient history — along with the Civil War, the Black Death, the fall of Rome, and everything else that had ever happened before I was born — I realized, when I became an adult, that to my parents and their generation it must have seemed as though it had happened the day before yesterday.

I remember asking my dad, when he had been talking about the roundup of the Jews and the infamous “yellow star,” a simple question that deeply puzzled my 7-year-old brain: How did the Germans know who to round up? How did they know who was, and who wasn’t, Jewish? My own family wasn’t observant in the least — we didn’t go to synagogue, or celebrate the Jewish holidays, I didn’t go to Hebrew School, etc.; so if they were rounding up all the Jews in Brooklyn, how would they know about us? 

And I vividly remember his reply: They knew it because in Germany, they recorded your religion on your birth certificate, and on all your other important government documents (ID card, passport, etc.). [I’m not sure that that was entirely accurate — but it does capture the substance of the matter]. And, he reassured me, we — here in the United States — don’t allow that sort of thing. 

I was reminded of all that by a provision in a statute that recently sailed through the House and Senate: “International Megan’s Law” (IML for short), ostensibly designed to “prevent child exploitation and other sexual crimes through advanced notification of traveling sex offenders.” 

The statute (full text here) requires the secretary of state to affix a “unique identifier” on all passports issued to “covered sex offenders” — a “visual designation affixed to a conspicuous location on the passport indicating that the individual is a covered sex offender.” A “covered sex offender” is anyone previously convicted, at any point in his/her life, for a sex offense involving a minor. 

It is, as far as I can determine, the first time in U.S. history that any such special designation will appear on the passports of any U.S. citizens, and I think it should send at least a small chill down all of our spines. Not to overdo the analogy, but it does call to mind Martin Niemoller’s famous dictum (“First they came for the communists . . .”). It is part and parcel of a dispiriting and disheartening campaign (on which I have commented a number of times in the past — see e.g. here, here and here) piling punitive disability upon punitive disability — not just public shaming, but also restrictions on residency locations, employment, Internet use, etc. — on this particularly despised class. 

Passports are not merely the necessary implements for international travel — they are a basic badge of citizenship, and they are used for all sorts of identification purposes (opening a bank account, getting a job, getting a driver’s license) having nothing to do with international travel. There is something truly odious — “Scarlet Letter”-esque, one might say — about requiring people to bear, for their entire lives, this conspicuous badge of dishonor, whatever their prior crime (for which they have already been duly punished) may have been. And the fact that the category of “covered sex offenders” includes many thousands of people whose crime involved consensual sexual relations with an underage partner, in many cases when they themselves were teenagers, just serves to make it seem even more wildly disproportionate; the notion that this entire class is somehow predisposed to engage in child sex trafficking is nonsensical, and squarely at odds with the actual recidivism data. 

It is fundamental to our notions of a free society that we do not punish people because we fear that they might commit a crime in the future, even if we would be safer if the government locked up all potential murderers, rapists, robbers and sex offenders. Disrupting the horrific international sex-trafficking industry is a laudable and important goal — but surely there is some line beyond which the government may not go in ostensible pursuit of that goal, and in my eyes this statute crosses it.

4.5 Months Later Still Waiting on One Virginia Attorney General Opinion, While Another Was Declined in 9 Days Called a “Hypothetical” by AG Herring’s Office, it’s NOT a Hypothetical!

The 4.5 Month Old Pending AG Request 

For the last 7 years I have asked numerous Virginia Delegates who are also attorneys “Can a Registered Sex Offender legally attend worship services or other activities on church property if there is a daycare or school also on the property"?  

Not one of them has been willing to give a straight ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.  

Some have told me "it depends" or "the code could be interpreted either way". Some have said, "Only if the daycare or school is operating" and others have said "Even if the school or daycare is closed they could be committing a felony" which would mean a 100% ban for RSO’s worshipping in the Commonwealth. 

The Virginia State Police have also been of no assistance on getting a clear answer to this very simple but VERY IMPORTANT question. 

The two Virginia statutes in question in this matter are:
§ 18.2-370.5. - Sex offenses prohibiting entry onto school or other property
§ 18.2-370.2. - Sex offenses prohibiting proximity to children on School and Daycare Property 

Back in late-2011 my Delegate Chris Peace -R offered to submit an A.G. Opinion on the matter, he never did. 

So on July 2, 2015 I reminded him (in an email) of his 2011 offer and asked him to please submit a request to the A.G., two weeks went by and I heard nothing. So I stopped by his local law office and made my request in-person. He did not out-and-out deny my request but he suggested he wanted the verbiage to be narrowly worded like for Violent Offenders, but not Non-Violent Offenders or only during daycare operating hours. At the end of the impromptu meeting I had a feeling he wouldn’t be submitting the A.G. Opinion. 

Per law § 2.2-505 , citizens can not submit requests for an A.G. Opinion but Virginia Legislators can so can the Governor, a constitutional officer, or the head of a state agency.