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Victim’s Legacy: Tough Sex-Crime Laws

September 2, 2010 1 comment

Victim’s Legacy: Tough Sex-Crime Laws

1 man, 2 murders lead to tough laws for sex crimes against children

(CNN) — Brent King says it still “takes my breath away” to talk about his daughter in the same sentence as the man who killed her.

But he takes comfort in the knowledge that new California legislation named after his daughter, Chelsea King, will help protect other people’s children from sex crimes.

“If this legislation would’ve been in place before, Chelsea would still be with us,” King said, speaking Tuesday about Chelsea’s Law, which he and his wife, Kelly, worked on with state Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher.

Chelsea’s Law is awaiting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signature after unanimously passing the Senate and Assembly in a rare display of bipartisanship.

Formally known as AB 1844, the bill creates mandatory sentences of life without parole for violent sexual offenses against children. Another major provision of the 62-page bill is lifetime parole for people who commit certain sex crimes against minors.

Read the complete text of the bill

It’s not the only proposed legislation to arise out of the heinous acts of registered sex offender John Gardner III, who admitted in March to killing 17-year-old Chelsea King.

A few days after her body was found, he led authorities to the remains of 14-year-old Amber Dubois, who had been missing for more than a year. Gardner was sentenced to three consecutive terms of life without parole for the murders and an attack on a jogger.

The deaths of the young girls provided impetus for a flurry of tougher proposed laws aimed at protecting children.

If this legislation would’ve been in place before, Chelsea would still be with us.
–Brent King, father and bill proponent

Dubois’ father is behind three assembly bills concerning law enforcement response to missing children. Among the legislative proposals:

– Creating a rapid response team in the state Attorney General’s Office to help find abducted children.

– Reducing the minimum time for reporting a missing child from four hours to two.

– Enhanced training for police officers who search for missing children.

The four bills are on their way to Schwarzenegger’s desk after being fast-tracked through the Legislature. Chelsea’s Law also has an urgency clause that means it will take effect as soon as Schwarzenegger signs it. The Dubois bills do not have an urgency clause and would take effect in January 2011.

The bills could have a ripple effect as King actively tries to get other states to adopt similar legislation.

Read how Chelsea’s killer targeted others

The speed of passage was rare for the California legislature, but not without precedent from other child safety legislation, said Mark Klaas, president and founder of KlaasKids Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to fighting crimes against children.

“California has a history of responding very strongly to vicious sex crimes against kids, especially in an election year,” Klaas said. “When you have the fresh memory of a beautiful young girl murdered by a person who shouldn’t have been out in the first place, they’re going to respond accordingly.”

He cited the passage within months of a three-strikes law named for his daughter, Polly, who was abducted during a sleepover and murdered in 1993. Jessica’s Law, which increased penalties for certain crimes against minors, also passed within months of being introduced, Klaas said.

Klaas said he believes the Dubois bill will have a more immediate effect than Chelsea’s Law.

No matter how slight the offense, everyone in California is included in the same net.
–Anonymous mother of man on sex offender registry

“Sentencing gets a lot of publicity, but they rarely seem to deliver on the promises. Other administrative bills are less colorful and more localized, but they have a possibility of helping shore up infrastructure,” he said.

Gardner was paroled September 26, 2005, after serving five years for two counts of lewd and lascivious acts on a child younger than 14 and a single count of false imprisonment for attacking a 13-year-old neighbor.

Under Chelsea’s Law, lewd and lascivious acts on a minor will carry a mandatory sentence of life without parole. The “one-strike” provision applies to forcible sex crimes against minors that include aggravating factors, such as the victim’s age or whether the victim was bound or drugged.

“Because of what he’d done previously to the 13-year-old girl, he would have been given life without the possibility of parole,” Brent King said. “He never would’ve been let out, and Chelsea never would’ve been harmed.”

King and other supporters say the bill is the most sweeping reform of its kind in recent California history, touching upon sentencing and parole as well as treatment and funding.

Opponents of Chelsea’s Law call it another feel-good measure that pushes registered sex offenders further to the fringes of society.

“No matter how slight the offense, everyone in California is included in the same net, ridicule, rules and restrictions,” said a San Diego woman whose adult son is on the registry for improperly touching a 16-year-old girl.

He lost custody of his son. As a result of residency restrictions, he had to move in with his parents, she said.

The mother asked that her name be withheld for fear of reprisal against her family.

“Our constitutional rights are violated daily, and no one in this country cares,” she wrote in an e-mail. “This new law is yet another ‘feel good’ law that further damages families of those on the registry, and will no doubt add millions of tax burdens to taxpayers.”

The woman and her son live in the same neighborhood where the Kings lived when Chelsea was alive. After Chelsea disappeared, the King family asked neighbors to tie blue ribbons around trees in her memory. The King family relocated to Illinois a few weeks ago.

A lot of laws regarding child safety just aren’t really implemented. All you have to do is look at John Gardner.
–Mark Klaas, child safety activist

“Every morning, I awaken to blue ribbons tied to the trees across the street. A daily reminder that we are now lepers,” the San Diego woman said in her e-mail. “What happened to Chelsea was an unimaginable tragic event caused by one sick individual.” In response to criticism that the legislation took a “one-size-fits-all” approach to punishing sex offenses and managing paroled sex offenders, Fletcher amended the bill in committee. It now includes criteria for assessing the risk of recidivism and, based on that risk, placing certain paroled sex offenders under greater supervision. The bill also calls for those risk assessment “scores” to be included in the offenders’ online profiles on the Megan’s Law website, California’s version of the sex offender registry. “We will be instituting a dynamic risk assessment, which means it can change on a monthly basis and it will be based on a whole series of factors, not just the crime,” said Fletcher, who introduced the legislation in the state assembly in April. The bill also allows the use of polygraphs in parole supervision. “This legislation provides experts with better tools than the ones available now to assess risk. If you have a sex offender who’s not compliant, their risk assessment level will go up, they’ll get more visits and supervision,” Fletcher said. The amended legislation also addresses funding for changes expected to cost tens of millions of dollars over the next decade, according to a preliminary study by the state Legislative Analyst’s Office. The crime of petty theft will be downgraded to a misdemeanor, clearing clogged court dockets and freeing space in jails and prisons. Despite its broad sweep, Brent King says the bill’s cornerstone is the one-strike provision. “It was my and Kelly’s belief that there was no reason that we could find that people who targeted young children violently could ever be reformed, so why give these violent sexual predators an opportunity to strike twice? That was our premise and it grew from there,” he said. King said he has identified four states that are interested in adopting similar legislation but he would not name them. “I think California has taken such a strong step forward that I’m excited about taking Chelsea’s Law across the nation.”

Respectfully Submitted Via:

Emanuella Grinberg, CNN

NC NEWS ALERT: NC Lawmakers Voted and PASSED To Close Sex Offender Loophole

July 7, 2010 Comments off

NC NEWS ALERT:  NC Lawmakers Voted and PASSED To Close Sex Offender Loophole

IN  A TAD BIT OVER A MONTH SINCE UNCOVERED (MAY 27TH) – NC Lawmakers JUMPED on this major threat/issue and rectified it immediately!  Thank you!

RALEIGH (WTVD) — The North Carolina Legislature has passed a bill to close a loophole in North Carolina’s sex offender registry law that was exposed by the ABC11 I-Team.

Last month, ABC11 Eyewitness News discovered sex offenders living in North Carolina, but not registered in North Carolina –32 of them in Wake, Durham and Cumberland counties alone.

The loophole allowed offenders convicted or released from prison before 1996 –who moved to North Carolina before December of 2006– to not register.

After the I-Team exposed the loophole, Representative Tim Moore (R-Cleveland County) promised to help close it.

Representative Moore introduced the bill in the Legislature that would fix the legal loophole. House Bill 726 would require sex offender registration for out of state convictions.

“As a parent it terrified me,” Moore said. “Fortunately, with the passage of this law, that loophole is now closed and we can continue to tighten down on these folks.”

The bill is now on its way to Governor Bev Perdue’s desk for her signature.

It’ll become law on Oct.1 and sex offenders will be required to register on that date.

Respectfully submitted from  WTVD-TV/DT

Thank you to the RALEIGH (WTVD), ABC11 I-Team Investigative Reporters  and Representative Moore for all that you have done in your work to make NC more safe.  Residents will now at least have a fighting chance in protecting themselves and their children from predators.  Keep up the great work.


NC Lawmakers working to close sex offender loophole…

July 7, 2010 3 comments

NC Lawmakers working to close sex offender loophole…

RALEIGH (WTVD) — The North Carolina Legislature is working to close a loophole in North Carolina’s sex offender registry law that was exposed by the ABC11 I-Team.

Last month, ABC11 Eyewitness News discovered sex offenders living in North Carolina, but not registered in North Carolina –32 of them in Wake, Durham and Cumberland counties alone.

The loophole allowed offenders convicted or released from prison before 1996 –who moved to North Carolina before December of 2006– to not register.

After the I-Team exposed the loophole, Representative Tim Moore (R-Cleveland County) promised to help close it.

Representative Moore introduced the bill in the Legislature that would fix the legal loophole. House Bill 726 would require sex offender registration for out of state convictions.

On Tuesday, a Senate committee unanimously passed an amendment to close the loophole and require registration for out of state convictions.

“I really appreciate you guys getting to this story,” Rep. Tim Moore said. “Had you not called me I would not have known that we needed to file this bill and this law needed to be changed.”

The bill now goes to the full Senate and then the House for approval.

Respectfully submitted from  WTVD-TV/DT

NC Lawmaker Works To Close Sex Offender Loophole…

June 23, 2010 4 comments

NC Lawmaker works to close sex offender loophole

Lawmaker works to close sex offender loophole

RALEIGH (WTVD) — After the I-Team of ABC11 exposed a loophole in North Carolina’s sex offender registry law, Representative Tim Moore (R-Cleveland County) promised to help close it.

Our investigation revealed sex offenders convicted of things like rape and sexually abusing children are living in North Carolina, but they don’t appear on the state’s sex offender registry.

Triangle resident Reem Baloch contacted the I-Team after discovering the father of her child was convicted of a sex offense but doesn’t appear on the state registry. Instead, she found him in the national database.

The I-Team then discovered there are 32 sex offenders in our three largest counties – Wake, Durham and Cumberland – who appear on the national registry, but not on the North Carolina registry.

Under state law, sex offenders who were convicted or released from prison before 1996 – and moved to North Carolina before December of 2006 – do not need to register in North Carolina.

Representative Moore has now introduced a bill in the Legislature that would fix the legal loophole. House Bill 726 would require sex offender registration for out of state convictions.

“We need to close that loophole and ensure those folks are required to register,” said Moore.

Respectfully submitted from  WTVD-TV/DT, Steve Daniels.

Sex offenders not registered in North Carolina…Who’s In Your Neighborhood/State???

May 31, 2010 Comments off

Sex offenders not registered in North Carolina…Who’s In Your Neighborhood/State???

RALEIGH (WTVD) — An ABC11 Eyewitness News investigation has uncovered a startling loophole in North Carolina law that allows some sex offenders listed on the national registry to skip registering here.

That means some people convicted of things like rape and sexually abusing children in other states are living in the Triangle and a search of North Carolina’s sex offender registry doesn’t show them.

Reem Baloch made that discovery about a man she lived with for two years and had a child with.

“I got up and I started yelling and just horrified and scared,” she recalled.

She says she met Rob Fish on the internet in September, 2001 when he moved to Raleigh. It wasn’t until earlier this year while in the midst of a custody battle that she discovered his past. She had checked the state registry for sex offenders multiple times in the past, but that day she did something different.

“I have a feeling in my heart that there’s something not right about him. And so one day, I went to the national registry,” she recalled. “And that’s when I discovered it.”

She discovered Fish is on the national sex offender registry – with an address in Apex – but he does not appear on the North Carolina sex offender registry.

“No one knows. No one has any idea he’s a level 3 registered sex offender,” said Baloch.

Fish is not an isolated case. The I-Team discovered 26 sex offenders in Wake County who are on the national registry, but are not required to register in North Carolina. There are five more in Cumberland County and one in Durham.

Click here to see the list (.pdf)

How does it happen? Under state law, sex offenders who were convicted or released from prison before 1996 and moved to North Carolina before December 2006 do not need to register in North Carolina.

That means many years sex offenders who committed their crime in another state and then moved here can keep their sex crime a secret.

We took the findings of our investigation to State Representative Tim Moore — who co-sponsored previous sex offender laws.

“First of all, thank you for doing this story because it’s bringing to the attention of legislators something that we need to look at,” he said. “It’s my intent to come back and file a bill to fix this loophole we have.”

Also during our investigation, we discovered the majority of sex offenders listed on the national registry have only a city with their information – so it’s not clear exactly what neighborhood they live in.

Baloch told ABC11 she was shocked that it took an I-Team investigation to bring the issue to the attention of lawmakers.

“I mean it’s ridiculous. It should not happen. And that’s why there’s future victims out there because people can’t keep their children safe, because they have no way of knowing,” she offered.

The I-Team contacted Rob Fish for comment on this story. He declined.

Respectfully submitted from  WTVD-TV/DT, Steve Daniels.

References:

National Sex Offenders Registry

FamilyWatchDog

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