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In the face of multiple states following Florida's lead (the "Jessica Lundsford" (sp?) law) and considering laws that impose a minimum 25-year prison sentence for sexual assault of a child cases, some are having second thoughts:
Sex Crime Bill May Snare Teens (Atlanta)
Prosecutors call for selective use of 25-year minimum (St. Louis)
You can count on such a bill being filed in Texas next regular session. Thoughts?
Senator Bob Deuell
Texas Senate, District 2
P.O. Box 12068
Austin, Texas 78711
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 08, 2006
CONTACT: Don T. Forse, Jr.
Deuell Pledges to Strengthen Child Predator Laws
Will file "Jessica's Law" in next Legislative Session
AUSTIN - Pledging to take whatever action is necessary to protect the children of Texas, State Senator Bob Deuell (R-Greenville) announced today that he is working on legislation to enhance the penalties for individuals convicted of sex crimes involving minor children. The legislation will mirror "Jessica's Law" which is the model for state legislators across the country.
The law, which would be the most comprehensive sex offender punishment and control reform in the nation, would:
Ensure that all child molesters are put into a prison with a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years or 25 years to life.
Eliminate all "good-time" credits for sex offenders ensuring that these sex offenders are required to serve their entire sentence and will not be released for good behavior.
Electronically monitor convicted sex offenders for life, if they are ever released from prison, through GPS tracking.
Create a 2,000 foot "predator-free" zone around schools and parks to prevent sex offenders from living near where our children learn and play.
"This will be the first bill I file in the next regular legislative session," Deuell said. "We cannot do enough to protect our children."
"Jessica's Law" is named after Jessica Lunsford, who was abducted from her Florida home and sexually assaulted before being murdered. Several states, including Oklahoma, Florida, Louisiana, and Arizona, have passed Jessica's Law or it's equivalent.
I noticed that a fellow named David Melenson (sp?) running for the Texas House in Ft. Bend Co., has as apparently his sole campaign platform the promise to try to pass a statute mandating life imprisonment for "child molestation."
I suspect there will be a lot fewer child molesters prosecuted with a statute like that on the books.
Saw more on this topic on FOX's O'Reilly last night ...
LA Times article
A Bid to Toughen Stance on Sex Offenses
A proposal to restrict where such criminals can live and to track them for life is likely to go on the ballot. Some question its usefulness.
By Jordan Rau
Times Staff Writer
February 19, 2006
SACRAMENTO � A proposal to severely restrict and monitor the movement of released sex offenders has led to a bitter deadlock in the Legislature and appears headed for the California ballot this fall.
The initiative would bar convicted offenders from living in many neighborhoods in California � including most urban areas � and require them to wear electronic tracking devices for life.
Supporters plan to submit more than 600,000 signatures to elections officials Tuesday for verification, well more than the 373,816 needed. All sides expect the initiative to qualify for the November ballot, giving California voters their first chance to weigh in on how to handle sex offenders.
If approved, the Sexual Predator Punishment and Control Act, also known as Jessica's Law, would increase prison terms for many crimes, including possession of child pornography and Internet luring, and ensure that child rapists spend at least 25 years behind bars.
"It's the broadest change of sexual predatory laws in the nation," said Sen. George Runner (R-Lancaster), who sponsored the initiative with his wife Sharon, a Republican assemblywoman.
But the efficacy of several provisions is doubted by Democratic legislators, rape victim advocates, prosecutors in Iowa and therapists who treat offenders. That state banned sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools, a central element of the California initiative.
"It didn't take us very long in attempting to enforce the law to learn that it has nothing to do with the safety of children," said Corwin Ritchie, executive director of the Iowa County Attorneys Assn., which represents the state's prosecutors.
(see link for rest of article)
I think the legislature needs to craft a distinction between the sexual predator and the young male or female having consensual sex and are only a few years apart. We get numerous cases every month along these lines: 15-year-old girl sneaks out of her house late at night to meet and have consensual sex with her 19 year-old boyfriend. Both are "in love" and plan on staying together. Sometimes there is even a child involved and the boy wants to marry the girl and accept responsibility for the child. The two are more than three years apart in age and there is no question that the sex was consensual. So, the 19-year-old has commited sexual assault of a child, no question. We prosecute and he becomes a sex offender for life. How does he get a job to support the child? What chance does he have to make something of himself?
These are tough questions. We need to discourage sex with children under the age of 17, but these scenarios keep popping up. How do other jurisdictions handle these types of cases? These offenders are usually not the types of sexual predators that everyone is justifiably concerned about.
How about a non-registration state jail felony for Consensual Sex with a Minor that criminalizes consensual sex with a minor over the age of 14 where the offender is under the age of 21?
I am curious to know if these types of cases are posing difficulties for any other prosecutors out there.
I agree. Having prosecuted sexual assaults for a few years, and now defending persons accused, I believe that the law is not fair in some situations, as in the ones you mentioned.
We know the 13, 14, 15 and 16 year old girls are having sex, consentually (sp?). How do we know? Planned Parenthood, and the Title X clinics. A girl, 13, 14, 15, and 16 years old can go to a title X clinic and BY LAW, not be turned away. She can tell the DR. she is having sex and needs protection. She can have a free gyno exam and be given condoms and spermicide, and no one has to tell her parents, EVEN THOUGH SHE IS NOT ALLOWED, BY LAW, TO CONSENT.
If she has a baby, and is still in Middle or High school, we will embrace them. Have School sponsored day care for them, modify schedules for them, etc...
Yet, the man she decides to have sex with (and by no means am I speaking of a non-consentual enounter by force, or the creepy situations of stepdads, dads, grandpas, uncles, etc...) will be the perv.
Then, what if she lies about her age, and agrees she lied about her age, and said she was 17, and happens to look it. The guy has ABSOLUTELY no defense, as case law goes, of mistake of fact, or the victim's active fraud.
Yes, the laws need to be changed, but as a society we are unwilling to accept that a young woman should be responsible for her actions. We'll just create an underclass of men, and make them pay.
Oh, watch out for O'Reilly!!
Shane for the Panhandle area there are plenty of these along with the problems that go with them. Besides the issues you have raised, we'll have one grand jury indict them all and the next refuse to indict any of them for anything.
Think all prosecutors will agree: 1) the law should discourage sex with individuals under 17; 2) the law needs to distinquish for registration purposes between the "Youthful, consenual" offenses v. the true preditor ones; and 3)the true predators need to be kept away from society.
An additional problem I see is how to draft it when sometimes, as we all know the young offender is a true predator and accomplishes the goal successfully and has "consenual" contact with the underage person. Thus, not sure age can be the only factor to distinquish which makes drafting that much more difficult.
If a blanket 25 minimum gets pasted or something similar, get ready to try them all.
We don't play games with the charging. It is what it is and the legislature sets the law.
This is not an easy issue to address nor will it be solved in one stroke. Most certainly, the registration issues has got to be addressed.
As for mandatory punishments, why not leave our wide punishment ranges alone and let the system decide what the right punishment is per case. Just because a few abuse something does not mean there is a flawed system. There will always be some abuse no matter what the system is.
That was very well stated, Randall. There are many problems. Thank you.
Pursuant to CCP Art. 42.017 and 62.301, the Court can exempt a defendant from registration if:
1. The defendant was younger than 19 years of age and the victim was at least 13 years of age on the date of the offense.
2. The sexual conduct between the two of them was consensual.
3. The prosecution was based on the age difference between them.
4. The defendant has filed a petition to exempt himself from registration as a sex offender
5. The court has had the defendant examined by a registered sex offender treatment provider and has reviewed the report.
6. The defendant does not presently pose a threat to public safety.
Sex offender bill in Missouri requires no warrant
By Matt Franck
St. Louis POST-DISPATCH
Wednesday, Feb. 22 2006
Thousands of Missouri sex offenders could have their home searched without a warrant each time a child in their neighborhood is reported missing, under a bill that had a hearing this week.
The measure, by Rep. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, would allow such searches even if law enforcement lacked probable cause to connect the sex offender to a missing child. The bill's only requirement is that the missing child was last
seen within three miles of the offender's home.
Schaaf said the measure is justified after the abduction of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford in Florida, whose body was found 150 yards from her home at property where a sex offender was staying.
Schaaf also cited common sense as grounds for his bill.
"The reason is simple: When a child is missing and there's a sex offender in the neighborhood, where should you look first?" he asked at a House committee hearing Tuesday evening.
But some of Schaaf's House colleagues are balking at the broad authority his bill would give law enforcement. And there's doubt the measure will be included in a more comprehensive bill being developed in the House.
"It raises all kinds of constitutional questions for me," said Rep. Rick Johnson, D-High Ridge.
Johnson asked Schaaf why police shouldn't continue being required to ask a judge for a warrant if they wish to search a sex offender's home.
Schaaf said that process often leads to delays. More fundamentally, he said, judges would require probable cause, which his bill does not demand.
"When you are a convicted felon, you give up a lot of rights," Schaaf said in an interview. "I'm willing to give up their rights in order to protect children who have gone missing."
No action has been taken so far on Schaaf's proposal, just one of several sex offender bills being pushed by at least a dozen lawmakers this session and most in response to Lunsford's death. The so-called Jessica's Laws, which are under debate in several states, share a common theme of mandatory 25-year sentences and lifetime monitoring for certain violent sex offenders.
Amid the bill stampede, some observers say Missouri lawmakers are competing with one another in seeking to throw the book at sex offenders.
"You kind of have one-upmanship in terms of who can be the toughest," said Rep. Scott Lipke, R-Jackson, who heads the House Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee.
Lipke is working on a single House bill that would roll together measures from numerous sex offender bills. He said he has not yet decided whether Schaaf's provision on searching offenders' homes would be in the substitute bill. Lipke said he has concerns about the constitutionality of the measure.
In general, leaders in the Legislature have increasingly shown signs of restraint on sex offender legislation. The Senate, for example, is aligning behind a compromise bill that lacks many of the tougher measures filed by
lawmakers this year.
Prosecutors across the state have urged lawmakers to step back. In particular they've taken issue with bills that would impose 25-year sentences for a broad range of sex crimes, including statutory rape. Critics say such sentences could be a tough sell to a jury, particularly in a case with little forensic evidence.
Jefferson County prosecutor Bob Wilkins has also pointed out that such laws would force virtually every case to trial, potentially re-traumatizing young victims. He says prosecutors need the flexibility to negotiate plea agreements in some cases.
Concerns like those prompted Rep. Jeff Roorda, D-Barnhart, to back down Tuesday from pushing a bill that many described as the toughest filed this year in terms of imposing mandatory sentences. Roorda said he trusts the judgment of
prosecutors, many of whom had raised specific concerns about his proposal.
Authority for police to search the homes of registered sex offenders for missing children is one reform idea that makes sense. Felons lose the right to vote and to keep and bear firearms once they are convicted, so why can't their abodes be subject to search in such cases?
Perhaps all the tough guys in the next legis. that propose mandatory life sentences or mandatory minimum 25 year sent. cases in all sex cases involving children under 17, can be talked into supporting such a bill, which, in contrast to their counter-productive mandatory sentencing bills, might save a few lives.
Here's another thought: all those calling for tougher sentences for child sex cases should also support prison expansion. Obviously if the pen is holding more child sex inmates for vastly longer periods of time, other criminals must be let out that much sooner, unless room is made to hold these crooks that much longer.
Maybe something good can come out of reform. But that will require more legislators like Mo.'s state rep Jeff Rooda, who pulled his tough sentencing bill after getting lot's of complaints from prosecutors, saying "he trusts the judgement of prosecutors." Sounds like a pretty radical guy.
All prosecutors are against mandatory minimum sentences in sex cases. A bill that would help with evidentiary problems, or make the perps prior problems automatically admissable, would be great. The next session we will have to fight with some legislators about what sounds good vs. what is good as a practical matter in the courtroom.
My concerns with these mandatory minimums or "no probation" laws is the effect on border line case. You know, the ones with poor or reluctant victim witness or no physical evidence. The "he said - she said" case or the delayed outcry case several years later. I know I have indicted many cases like these knowing that I may have to offer probation or even deferred. I, however, would rather have the defendant supervised and registering than running around scott free. If we end up with these minimums, these cases will, most likely go unindicted.
Well stated and so true.
Also you have the V and her parents who are dead set against a trial because they don't want the V having to publicly go through that. Goes probably goes unindicted with mandatory minimums.
Nevermind this discussion; Governor Perry announced on O'Reilly's FOX show last week (3/3/06) that "you'll see Jessica's Law being implemented in the next [legislative] session" -- "absolutely." Apparently because Texas has "very lenient sentencing on child predators," acc. to Mr. O'Reilly. So I guess we can quit debating it.
The Guv also said our avg. prison sentence for (agg?) sexual assault of a child is 25 TDCJ, fyi.
To view the tape, click on the link below. If it doesn't start playing, search for the excerpt with Gov. Perry on illegal aliens; the Jessica's Law portion starts with 01:12 remaining, if you want to FF to that point.
O'Reilly Show video
Gov. Sebelius signs "Jessica's Law"
Harsher penalties to be imposed on sex offenders who prey on children
By John Hanna - Associated Press Writer
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Olathe - Many first-time sex offenders who prey on children will face 25 years in prison under a politically popular "Jessica's Law" signed Wednesday by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.
The law, which applies to crimes committed after July 1, also imposes harsher penalties on repeat criminals, so third-time sex offenders will be sentenced to life without possibility of parole. The 25-year sentence for a first-offender contrasts with the maximum of 13 years and nine months for the rape of a child.
Both Sebelius and Atty. Gen. Phill Kline have called for tougher punishments for sex offenders, arguing that Kansans overwhelmingly support them. But even as Sebelius and Kline celebrated the law's enactment, at least a few legislators harbored doubts about the new law.
The bill was modeled after a Florida law and named for a 9-year-old girl killed last year by a convicted sex offender. Arkansas, Oregon and Virginia have enacted similar laws this year.
"These are the very criminals who need to be behind bars and away from children in our neighborhoods," Sebelius said before signing the bill.
"It is part of an ongoing correction of Kansas law, which has been much too weak on those who harm our children," Kline said.
Sebelius introduced Morrison as a representative of the state's county prosecutors, but he's also running against Kline this year, having switched to the Democratic Party to challenge the GOP incumbent. The two men shook hands before the ceremony began.
"One of the things that we're trying to get better at doing in Kansas is trying to separate offenders that we're mad at versus those we're afraid of," Morrison said. "These people are the ones we need to be afraid of, and that's why they're going to be getting longer prison sentences."
But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman John Vratil, R-Leawood, called the new law "a huge gamble" and said it would not deter sex offenders from victimizing children.
He agreed offenders in prison won't have new victims but added, "We're going to have to pay for it, too."
Legislators didn't approve any plan this year for expanding the state's prison system, or allowing the state to place inmates in private prisons in Kansas. Officials estimate the new law will require 1,000 additional prison beds over the next decade.
"The Legislature has shown no inclination to deal with our problem with near-capacity prisons," Vratil said, noting that state prisons are more than 95 percent full.
But Sebelius said: "The number of prison beds should not determine our criminal penalties. We need to anticipate keeping dangerous folks behind bars."
Sen. Phil Journey worried the new law could warp criminal justice policy.
For example, he noted that second-degree murder can result in a 15-year prison sentence, so that someone who kills a child might end up getting 10 years less in prison than someone who molests one.
"Proportionality has to be preserved, or we end up with strange things," said Journey, R-Haysville.
The bill calls for a minimum 25-year sentence for adults convicted of any of seven violent sex crimes against anyone younger than 14, including rape, aggravated sodomy and sexual exploitation.
Legislators included a provision allowing judges to impose lesser sentences for compelling reasons, something Journey said would make the law less harsh.
Still, Journey said he's concerned that the law "casts the net too broadly." For example, he said, a 19-year-old man might become infatuated with a 13-year-old neighbor girl and not realize her age.
But such an argument didn't move the bill's sponsor, Rep. Patricia Kilpatrick, R-Overland Park, who said: "Clearly, we need to address rape and molestation of children. It doesn't matter if they're infatuated or not. This is a crime."
Under the new law, a second conviction, no matter the victim's age, means a sentence of 40 years. Third-timers face life without the possibility of parole, while the current maximum for the rape of a child allows parole after 49 years and four months.
Once released, offenders face a lifetime of parole and wearing a Global Positioning System bracelet, so the state can track their movements.
All other offenders, such as those convicted of a first offense in which the victim is older than 14, face lifetime parole when released. If they violate parole, they must wear the tracking bracelet for life.
Sex crime penalties may rise
First-time offenders face 25 years in jail
By ERIC MOSKOWITZ
May 25. 2006 8:00AM
Lawmakers ended the 2006 session yesterday by passing a bill to impose tougher sentences and increased monitoring for sex offenders and those who assault children. The House and Senate initially disagreed on whether first-time offenders should receive 25-year mandatory minimum prison terms, but lawmakers negotiated a compromise.
The agreement: Create an expectation of 25-year minimums but allow judges some leeway to shorten prison terms. The House and Senate both passed the bill by wide margins yesterday, and Gov. John Lynch is expected to sign it into law.
The Legislature approved more than three dozen bills yesterday, as lawmakers acted on the deals that emerged from end-of-the-year negotiating sessions. In addition to passing the Sexual Predators Act, lawmakers approved new rules for people who register to vote on the day of an election and narrowly passed a bill to change the laws governing end-of-life care decisions.
Lynch proposed the sex offenders bill and championed it through the Legislature. Like the attorney general and a majority in the Senate, Lynch supported mandatory 25-year minimum sentences for first-time offenders; current law calls for a maximum of 10 to 20 years.
The sentencing compromise passed yesterday, proposed by Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, will still mean longer sentences for first-time offenders, Lynch said.
"New Hampshire will now have among the toughest and most comprehensive child-protection laws in the nation,"Lynch, a Democrat, said in a statement. "This bill will allow the state of New Hampshire, and our parents, to better protect our most precious resource, our children."
Any judge who deviated from the minimum sentence would have to explain why in writing, and prosecutors could appeal a decision to a three-judge review board. "Except in the rarest of circumstances, these sentences will be given out,"said Sen. Joseph Foster, a Nashua Democrat. "It remains a tough bill."
Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, part of a three-senator minority who initially opposed the mandatory sentences, was pleased by the compromise. "It's a situation that brought all components of government together, and it took something and made it better," he said. "We should all be proud of that."
The Senate approved the agreement unanimously. The House approved it by a wide majority on a voice vote, without discussion.
Do tough sex laws help or hurt?
State's crackdown easier to apply to strangers; 93 percent of offenders know victims
11:25 AM CDT on Saturday, October 20, 2007
By DIANE JENNINGS and DARLEAN SPANGENBERGER / The Dallas Morning News
Even at 46, Deena Harbaugh says it's hard to see her father as a monster.
She loved the "good Daddy" who took her for rides on his motorcycle and watched sports with her. She hated the "bad Daddy" who came into her bedroom at night and molested her for years.
As a sexual abuse survivor, the Dallas woman understands the emotional appeal of harsher sentences for child abusers. But she says the new get-tough Texas laws promise more than they can deliver because they won't affect the vast majority of sex offenders.
"We're focusing on stranger danger," she said of the crackdown, which includes 25-year minimum sentences and the death penalty for some child rapists. "That's not who's molesting the vast majority of our children."
According to federal statistics, juvenile sexual assault victims know their perpetrator a staggering 93 percent of the time. Often, it's a family member. Frequently, it's another child. Rarely is it a stranger.
Texas' push to increase punishment for sex crimes was driven by top state officials wanting to send a "no tolerance" message. Although the laws are politically popular, most such crimes are never reported; those that are prosecuted often end in a plea bargain with a relatively light sentence, and about a third of sexual offenses are committed by juveniles not covered by the enhanced penalties.
Like most survivors, Ms. Harbaugh never told anyone what her father did. In nine years as a counselor, she's known just one client who prosecuted. It wasn't her.
Even when abusers are prosecuted, they rarely get long sentences. A Dallas Morning News analysis of sentencing in more than 13,000 cases of aggravated sexual assault of a child since 1991 found that four of every 10 offenders initially received no prison time at all. And when an offender was sent to prison, less than one in five got 25 years or longer.
Among the reasons: Parents are reluctant to take a relative or friend to trial; children may make poor witnesses; and despite depictions of the tattooed ex-con hiding in the bushes, most sex offenders look like the harmless guy next door.
"We all have a kind of image of what a monster is ... one of them is that guy lurking out there who's going to kidnap our child and sexually molest and abuse them," said Dr. David Lisak, psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, who works with prosecutors, judges and police.
"Unfortunately, the majority of sex crimes involve people like 'Uncle Jimmy,' " he said, "and Uncle Jimmy's not a monster. And all of a sudden we're not so sure Uncle Jimmy should be put in prison."
The strict sentencing laws sweeping the country are a direct response to the horrific abduction of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford of Florida. She was abducted and raped by a convicted sex offender, then buried alive, still clutching a stuffed animal.
"Jessica's Law" as the legislation was called, "sends a message to those monsters who want to hurt our children," declared Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, a Republican who championed the bill in the Legislature. "Not in Texas."
Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, had the same reaction when she heard about the Lunsford case.
"It took me about 30 seconds to call my chief of staff," she said, to tell him to find a way to punish sex offenders "firmly and harshly."
The measure she authored took effect last month, but dealing with sex offenders "firmly and harshly" is harder than it seems, experts said.
"It is our family members; it's our friends. It's our big brothers; it's our Little League coach," said Torie Camp, deputy director of the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, a nonprofit organization of rape crisis centers across the state. "And when it comes to putting away that person in prison, it gets really difficult."
Ms. Riddle said she's confident the new law will deter and punish those who know their victims and strangers � "anybody who has such a hole in their heart, such a high degree of evil, that they would sexually assault or sexually abuse a child."
Such talk sounds good, Dr. Lisak said, but "it's actually very rare that that kind of political reaction makes for good public policy."
Crimes in which a child is snatched by a stranger are extremely unusual, despite public paranoia. Of almost 800,000 missing children in a one-year period, just 115 were victims of a stereotypical kidnapping, and half of those involved sexual assault, according to the Department of Justice.
The legislative changes are "a way for everybody to feel like they've done something that's going to be real helpful � but not have to really deal with the issue," said Dr. Liz Hodges, director of the incest recovery program at The Family Place in Dallas.
Dr. Hodges said a better way to combat child sexual assault would be more affordable counseling services and greater awareness and education to increase reporting.
Deena Harbaugh worries that instead of keeping more sex offenders off the streets, the new laws may discourage victims from speaking up.
When she was being abused, she didn't know her father's actions were criminal. But even had she known, she said, she probably wouldn't have prosecuted because she wouldn't want the responsibility for sending Daddy to prison or death row.
"I just wanted the abuse to stop," she said. "I didn't want my dad to be killed."
She also didn't want to destroy her family.
Carole Hemler, Ms. Harbaugh's mother, said she had concerns about her husband's behavior, such as when he wrestled with his daughter in a way that didn't always seem playful. But she didn't recognize what was going on at the time.
"I never really dreamed that my husband would do something like that," she said.
Like Deena, she said she's not sure she would have prosecuted.
"I don't know that I would have, especially when you're talking about 25 years or death," she said. "I hope I would have had the strength to say, 'I'm getting a divorce.' "
The abuse continued until Ms. Harbaugh was around 15, when her father fell ill. He died three years later without ever being confronted about the abuse.
Ms. Riddle said she doesn't worry that fewer victims will come forward. Most children don't comprehend the concept of a 25-year sentence, she said.
"If you're the one abused and you're more concerned about your dad going to prison than you are for your safety or your child's safety, that's your decision," she said.
Dr. Hodges said families find it difficult to report a relative or friend because it's hard to believe a loved one would do such a thing. Wives, in particular, may find it difficult to acknowledge that their husband is capable of molestation because they believe it reflects poorly on them. And reporting the offense may destroy the family. They may also be pressured into not reporting friends accused of abuse.
"It's not hard to get the guy hiding in the bushes," she said. "But it's hard to get people to look into their children's bedrooms. We ask children every night in this country to live with their rapist."
Ms. Hemler said she wishes she'd known what was happening so she could have helped her daughter. "I cannot tell you how much shame there is ... that you did not protect your child," she said.
'Far more awareness'
LaTonsha Carraway did what few people do: She prosecuted her abuser as a child, testifying against her father for impregnating her when she was 13 years old.
Ms. Carraway, 33, of Dallas, would like to hear politicians rail less about strangers who snatch children and more about stamping out sexual abuse at home.
"There has to be far more awareness," Ms. Carraway said.
That's why she's telling her story for the first time, painful as it is.
She experienced all the misplaced shame and guilt, the unwillingness to break up the household that keeps many victims from stepping forward. But she said that if children can endure sexual abuse, they can endure the pain of prosecuting.
Though there is often little physical evidence in cases of child sexual assault, Ms. Carraway had indisputable proof: a DNA test that proved her father was also the father of her child.
Freddie Carraway was sentenced to 16 years in prison; he served five.
In the 1990s, after he went to prison, legislators began tightening release policies. Today, 80 percent of sex offenders serve their entire sentences, said Geralyn Engman, manager of the prison system's Sex Offender Rehabilitation Program.
Ms. Carraway is in touch with her family only infrequently. Aside from an occasional twinge of loneliness, she said, she's never regretted pressing charges. She did not send her father to prison, she said, his actions did.
"I'm the person who kind of broke the family secret," she said. "But I don't feel bad about that because I think about the next generation. ... Somebody has to protect the children."
Sometimes victims speak up years later. "What perpetrators fail to realize is that kids keep their mouth shut," Ms. Harbaugh said, "but then we grow up, and then we're adults � and we tell their dirty little secret."
"Mary," who agreed to speak on the condition that she be identified with a fictitious name, reported her uncle for sexually assaulting her � but not until she was 26, years after the abuse ended.
The new law eliminated the statute of limitations for many sex crimes � which used to be 10 years after the victim's 18th birthday � and many survivors are pleased with that aspect. That's good, experts say, because victims rarely come to terms with their abuse until well into adulthood.
Mary reported her uncle for sexually assaulting her when she was 11. The abuse lasted a few months, the Dallas woman said.
It stopped when "I got in trouble for spitting on him," she said. She told her mother what he was doing, but was befuddled by the response.
"The first question she asked me was, 'What were you wearing?' "
Then her mother asked, "What do you want to do about it? It's your choice.' "
"I was just a scared little kid," Mary said, "so she didn't do anything."
Mary said she struggled emotionally for years, even attempting suicide. Then last year, she reported the abuse out of concern for children in the family.
Her mother asked her to keep quiet. "She said, 'You don't know what you're doing; you don't know how this is going to affect the family.' "
But Mary filed charges anyway. At the request of police, she taped a conversation in which her uncle admitted the abuse.
"I've had to disassociate myself from my family," she said, but she has no regrets. "People like that, that don't support me, I don't need 'em if they think that it's OK to molest children."
Last month, her uncle received deferred adjudication � a type of community supervision that is not considered a conviction.
Mary's not surprised he won't serve any time behind bars. Unlike the public image of sex offenders, he's a hardworking, churchgoing family man.
Most Texans are shocked to learn that someone charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child can be sentenced to community supervision, but The News analysis found that 36 percent of such cases resulted in deferred adjudication.
That hasn't changed much since 1991, when a study of seven Texas counties, including Dallas, showed that offenders got deferred adjudication in 40 percent of cases involving sexual assault of a child.
Though prosecutors are frequently criticized for using it, there are good reasons for it, said Shannon Edmonds, director of governmental relations for the Texas District and County Attorneys Association.
"They do it because there is a problem with the case," he said. For instance, physical evidence may not exist. Children may be easily confused on the witness stand. They may not want to testify at all, or their parents may want to spare them the trauma of a trial. Their truthfulness may be doubted, and there have been cases in which children have made false allegations.
And, like Mary's uncle, many sex offenders look good on paper � they support their families, go to church and play golf at the country club, making it harder for judges or juries to see the need to put them behind bars.
In those cases, deferred adjudication offers a way for authorities to keep an eye on an offender and, if he breaks the rules, put him in prison.
When legislators were debating the new law, prosecutors fought to retain deferred adjudication. It stayed, though juries are no longer allowed to give probation on certain charges.
Losing the chance to get jury-ordered probation, combined with the 25-year minimum sentence if the case goes to trial, may result in plea agreements to longer sentences.
"People who got 10 years on a plea bargain may now get 20 years," Mr. Edmonds said. "People who got five years may now get 10 years."
The new laws are "sheer demagoguery," said veteran Dallas defense lawyer Vincent Perini, noting that long sentences were already available. And while plea bargains could result in longer sentences than before, the ability to plead to a lesser offense still exists.
"You wind up going elsewhere to get what you need," he said. "Both sides are creative."
Mr. Edmonds does not expect the death penalty for child rapists to be used frequently � if at all.
Prosecutors may be hesitant to seek the death penalty because defense attorneys can use the fact that the victim was left alive to show that the offender does not deserve to die.
And more important, it's not clear whether the U.S. Constitution allows for execution in any crime that doesn't involve the death of a victim.
"Since there is a chance it will be found to be unconstitutional, whatever prosecutor decides to charge this is going to have to commit his county to a trial that's going to cost several millions of dollars and years of work � and that's not something that prosecutors do lightly," Mr. Edmonds said.
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a Louisiana case this session regarding the legality of the death penalty for rape of a child.
'I'm the bad guy'
Nine men enrolled in the sex offender rehabilitation program at the Hightower Unit in Dayton, near Houston, doubt that the harsher sentences will do much good unless awareness and reporting are increased.
Of the group, only one was sentenced to 25 years or more. And seven of them assaulted someone they knew.
If his victim hadn't spoken out, Rob Avara, 49, said, his behavior would have continued unchecked. "I would absolutely have been one of those hidden sex offenders," said Mr. Avara, who is nearing the end of a nine-year sentence for sexual assault of a child.
Most of the men said they've never made amends because contact with victims generally is prohibited.
But if he could, Mr. Avara said, he'd tell her: "It's not your fault. You did nothing wrong. I'm the bad guy."
Those who know their abusers shouldn't worry about turning them in, he said.
"Nice guys don't do that," said Mr. Avara, a father of nine. "If I was a good daddy, I wouldn't be sitting here on my blessed assurance. Good daddies aren't in prison. ...Good men don't rape women. It's the bad ones."
Some sex offenders go untracked
A measure approved by voters last year fails to clarify how to pay for satellite monitoring and which offenders require supervision.
By Michael Rothfeld
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
October 19, 2007
SACRAMENTO -- Hundreds of California sex offenders who are supposed to be monitored for life under an initiative approved by voters last year are now unsupervised because the law does not detail who is responsible for tracking them or how to pay for enforcement.
The ambiguity in the measure, Proposition 83, commonly known as Jessica's law, could affect thousands of sex offenders returning to local communities.
State corrections officials are warning local sheriffs and police that 553 convicted sex offenders who they believe fall under Proposition 83 have already been dismissed from parole and are not being monitored.
Therefore, there is no way to check whether they are complying with the law's requirement that they live more than 2,000 feet from schools and parks, and they are not being tracked by satellite for life.
An additional 98 are expected to leave parole by year's end.
California Corrections Secretary James Tilton on Thursday began notifying local law enforcement agencies that the state would no longer take responsibility for placing tracking devices on the ankles of sex offenders once they leave parole.
But few if any local agencies around the state are equipped to handle the expensive and intensive satellite monitoring the law requires. And the law is not clear on whether they should have to do so.
"They may determine that they have responsibility and step up and put GPS on them, or they may determine, 'Nope, I don't need to do anything,' " Tilton said in an interview. "All I know is I no longer have jurisdiction over this population."
Last week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and corrections officials began returning hundreds of freed sex offenders to prison for violating the law's strict residency requirements.
The problems are surfacing in part because the initiative, approved by 70% of voters last November, does not specify many basic details of implementation, including which sex offenders require supervision, who should monitor them, how to define the restrictions on living near places where children congregate and how to pay for satellite tracking, which could ultimately cost hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
"It was a very badly written bill," said Tom Tobin, a Bay Area psychologist who treats sex offenders and is on a state board overseeing the law's implementation.
"It's too easy to make these [initiatives] up. But to make them fit the way the world actually works is much harder."
There are an estimated 80,000 sex offenders in California, but most are not covered by Proposition 83 because their crimes predated it.
Nearly a year after the law passed, even the state has not yet fully outfitted all the sex offenders under its supervision with satellite tracking, with only 2,000 wearing the devices out of more than 4,000 offenders who are required by law to have it.
State corrections officials say they will have to ultimately monitor 8,000 who are still on parole at any given time, at a cost of more than $25 million a year, not including the expense of additional parole agents.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke said she doubted that local government would be able to afford it.
"It's going to be a tremendous burden," she said. "The sheriff has very little ability right now. He's trying to expand his electronic monitoring, but my understanding is that they just don't have the people to follow up on it."
But Sheriff Lee Baca said he thought the task was manageable.
He said the department already has a program to monitor low-level offenders with ankle bracelets and could use that to monitor sex offenders.
"There's no question that we have to do it," he said. "This is going to get expensive, which could in effect cause us to have to continue to find ways to fund this, but I have no doubt that this is what the public wants."
While officials are grappling with how to enforce Proposition 83, they said sex offenders will remain on their radar because of Megan's law, which requires offenders to register with law enforcement. Their addresses and photos are posted on the Internet.
As enforcement of the law has played out, there have been other bumps.
Critics contend that the law's requirements are so strict that offenders may not be able to find anywhere to live. Indeed, state officials have allowed those who have declared themselves homeless to avoid arrest for violating the 2,000-foot residency restriction. So far, nearly 200 have become homeless because of the law, state officials said.
In a letter Thursday to the state's Sex Offender Management Board, which is overseeing the law's implementation, Tilton said that "clarification is urgently needed" within 60 days on who should enforce the law after sex offenders are dismissed from parole.
"There are quite a few of these issues that people are trying to get to the bottom of who's responsible for what," said Suzanne Brown-McBride, chairwoman of the state sex offender board. "There's no magic answer."
As the state has begun discussions with local agencies about what do to next, some have offered different interpretations of whom the law covers.
Some district attorneys have said that only those offenders convicted after the law's passage are included; Sen. George Runner (R-Lancaster), who co-authored the initiative, said Thursday that only those who began parole after the day it was passed are covered, and not those who recently violated their parole as the Department of Correction and Rehabilitation has decided.
Although there are several ongoing court challenges to the law, those questions have not yet been settled.
Runner said he believed that none of the questions were insurmountable and that the legislation could be revised if needed.
"Oftentimes, there are ambiguities that have to be dealt with," he said. "You go ahead and see what needs to be done and you clarify, you work out, you make it happen."
Posted on Fri, Oct. 26, 2007
Petition drive targets sex offenders
By ROBERT CADWALLADER
Special to the Star-Telegram
MANSFIELD -- Mayor Barton Scott plans to start a petition drive Saturday for even tougher sex offender regulations, less than a week after the City Council rejected his latest effort to create an ordinance.
Scott's proposal would not only limit where certain registered sex offenders -- those convicted of crimes against minors younger than 14 -- can live but also where they can visit and loiter. It would also include restrictions to keep offenders away from children on Halloween and would forbid people to rent homes or apartments to them.
Scott and his volunteers have 30 days to collect the 930 signatures required to force the council to either approve his version of the ordinance or set it for a public vote, likely in May 2008.
"I'm very saddened it has come to this," said Scott, who was elected in May on a platform that included promises for a sex offender ordinance. "I've done everything within my power to compromise with the City Council."
The council voted 4-2 on Monday to kill debate on the issue for the third time in three months. That version would not have allowed registered convicts of sex crimes against minors to live within 1,000 feet of a school, playground, church or other place children often gather. State law currently has a 1,000-foot buffer, which applies to sex offenders who are on probation or parole.
Scott's version calls for 2,000-foot buffers and would measure that distance also from the estimated 1,550 school bus stops in the city. Scott said that would limit offenders mostly to remote, undeveloped areas in south Mansfield.
A majority of the council and the city's public safety director have argued against residency limits, saying they would not protect children and could discourage offenders from registering with the city, making them harder for police to track.
Councilman Mike Leyman said he believes that existing state law, particularly recently enacted tougher sentences for child molesters, are sufficient protections.
But Mike Stanton, a father of two young children who plans to volunteer for the petition drive, said the ordinance could help.
"I think the more we can do to protect our little ones, the better," he said.
Some council members worry that strict limits would invite expensive lawsuits.
"The citizens can't afford to spend a million dollars defending something that's way out there," Councilman Darryl Haynes said. Scott said all provisions in his ordinance were taken from existing ordinances in other cities. And he had the Liberty Legal Institute, a nonprofit law firm that focuses on religious freedoms and free-speech rights, review the petition and ordinance.
"It's highly unlikely that a lawsuit would occur," Scott said. "But we cannot be afraid of our own shadows when it comes to protecting our children."
Proposed Mansfield sex offender ordinance
Residency: Registered sex offenders convicted of crimes against children younger than 14 would have to live at least 2,000 feet from churches, playgrounds, schools, arcades, school bus stops, homeowner association parks and pools and other places children congregate.
The state law applies only to offenders who are on probation or parole. The city ordinance would apply to all offenders, including those who have completed probation or parole. Violating state law is a felony. Violating the proposed city ordinance would be a misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine.
Visiting: Offenders could not set foot on any site listed as a place children gather in the ordinance. They also could not loiter within 300 feet of any such site.
Halloween: On Oct. 30-31 each year, offenders could not turn their front porch light on, decorate their yard or give candy to children.
Notification: Police would mail alerts annually to residents who live within 500 feet of a sex offender's home, and mail additional alerts whenever a sex offender moves nearby or changes address within the neighborhood. Police would also maintain a Web site providing updated photos and information on sex offenders in the city. The police launched such a Web site this week, but Scott said he wanted to require it in the ordinance so that future budget cuts, for example, would not affect the Web site.
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