"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves." ~Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, September 14, 2014

August: Links of Interest from Florida Action Committee

Recent Posts

 

California RSOL fights Proximity Restrictions… WAKE UP BREVARD COUNTY!!! 

 

September 11, 2014 

Brevard County has an ordinance that not only precludes the residency of sex offenders, but where they can be physically present. Seriously! The Brevard County Ordinance states,...


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Did Brevard County Schools Have Problems With Sex Offenders

September 11, 2014


Brevard County Public Schools recently issues the following statement: “Sex offender check enhances safety in Florida schools… Administrators at Brevard County Public...

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FDLE Acknowledges Registrants Don’t Understand Requirements, But Refuse to Clarify

September 8, 2014


The Florida Action Committee has sent two letters to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) within the past couple of months, asking them to notify us of recent changes...

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Kansas Supreme Court to Rule on Constitutionality of Registry

September 7, 2014


The  Kansas Supreme Court is set to rule on the retroactive lengthening of the time one has to register under their state’s registry. Similar to what Florida has done, the...

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REMINDER: Member Call Thurs. September 4th

September 2, 2014


We hope you had an enjoyable summer, but it’s back to business! There will be a Member Call this Thursday, September 4, 2014 at 8:00 PM EST. The credentials to access the...

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“Sex Offender” history makes you an easy target.

September 2, 2014


Source SPRING LAKE, N.C. - A registered sex offender accused of sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl in Spring Lake is expected in court Tuesday afternoon. Nathan Cooley, 28,...

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Pierce County, WA to shift scrutiy to the limited high-risk offenders.

September 2, 2014

This article points out the financial absurdity of keeping tabs on the thousands of sex offenders registered in the county, 3/4 of which are lower risk to re-offend or are a...

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Federal Cybersecurity Director Found Guilty of Child Pornography

August 29, 2014

This week, Wired Magazine put out an interesting article about the former Cybersecurity Director for the US Department of Health and Human Services. As it turns out, this guy who...

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Miracle Village the subject of play at Indie Theater.

August 26, 2014

What’s this play about? Please give us a brief synopsis (a sentence or two) and also talk about what you believe to be the most important theme(s) in the play. MIRACLE VILLAGE...

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Miracle Village is the subject of a new photoshoot.

August 26, 2014

Photographer Noah Rabinowitz selected Miracle Village, of all places, as the subject for a series of photographs. The images, as well as the story behind the colony of Sex...

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Banished: A mini-documentary on Miracle Village

August 26, 2014

Watch the video on Miracle Village.  A small community of sex offenders living in a remote village near Pahokee, FL because there is nowhere else for them to...

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Air Force aiding Florida police in sex stings

August 26, 2014

Source: USA Today CLEARWATER, Fla. – Not only have Central Florida law enforcement officers violated federal rules in conducting “To Catch a Predator”-inspired...

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Broward Police to Ensure that Sex Offenders are Homeless

August 26, 2014

This past Sunday another Sun-Sentinel Sex Offender story came out. This time the concern is that Broward county sex offenders who are registering as homeless are not truly...

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There’s Literally No Evidence That Restricting Where Sex Offenders Can Live Accomplishes Anything

August 25, 2014

On Thursday, Joseph Goldstein of the New York Times reported that “Dozens of sex offenders who have satisfied their sentences in New York State are being held in prison...

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TX- EDITORIAL: Lonnie Green saga demonstrates need for better judgments, wiser laws

August 25, 2014

If Mart city employee Lonnie Green’s saga of triumph, despair and desperation demonstrates anything, it’s that justice is often blind in how it’s meted out. This can be...

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Federal Judge Questions Child Porn Sentencing

August 25, 2014

Source   Child-porn sentencing questioned   Are federal sentencing guidelines for possessing child pornography too harsh? Calling the guidelines “draconian,” U.S....

Read More »

 

FAC Responds to Ignorant Florida Atlantic University Course Description.

August 24, 2014

A member wrote: In the Lifelong Learing program of FAU, a professor, Laurence Miller, is offering a course on “Bad People: Modern Insights into the Criminal Mind”...

Friday, August 29, 2014

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Links of Interest from Florida Action Committee



FDLE Ignores Request from FAC

Over two and a half months ago the FAC send a request to FDLE requesting a comprehensive update of the new laws and requirements they will be enforcing against registrants. The FDLE ignored our request. Today, a second request was sent to the FDLE. We anxiously await their reply. The text of the letter appears below.  August 21, 2014     Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Florida Offender Registration &...

More on the Florida Sex Scams/Stings

August 21, 2014
At the end of this post is a re-post of a post on Lenore Skenazy’s blog; FreeRangeKids.com Lenore was the keynote speaker at this year’s RSOL National Convention and I’ve been following her since. Not only are her posts entertaining, but I’m so appreciative that an outsider (someone NOT on the registry or with a family member who is) can observe what’s going on and provide an objective account of how ridiculous...

Man in Michigan Assaulted Because He Was on Registry

Three men assaulted and beat another man simply because he was listed on the sex offender registry. On August 18th police responded to a hospital in Flint, Michigan where a man reported that three men from his neighborhood beat him solely because of his presence on the registry. Source Also this week, an incarcerated registrant was murdered in Kentucky. Source...

Time For A Change

August 18, 2014
The following was a series of posts from Phil Locke on The Wrongful Convictions Blog. The series was very well documented and contained links to a bunch of useful information, so I decided to copy and paste it as-is into our site in order to share the information. The source for these articles can be found here. The History of Sex Offender Registries in the US Sex offender registration in the US all began with the Jacob Wetterling Crimes...

Comments not so one-sided as Dallas considers Sex Offender restrictions.


“Sex offenders can’t change” is the motto of profit.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Dallas Considering Residency Restrictions

Posted by on August 7, 2014 in Articles

 http://floridaactioncommittee.org/dallas-considering-residency-restrictions/

The article below appeared in the Dallas News. Apparently, Dallas will begin studying residency restrictions in preparation of deciding whether or not to pass residency restrictions for registered sex offenders.

The popular but always backfiring sex offender management technique has consistently been proven ineffective or even counterproductive.

Despite the facts, our concern is that Dallas politicians will fold under the political traction they can get by further punishing those labeled “sex offenders” (whether deserving or not) and pass an ordinance regardless.

We strongly encourage you to reach out to Texas Voices (http://texasvoices.org/ or 877-215-6688) to find out what you can do to share insight and information with the decision makers.

Source

The Dallas City Council will consider a plan to prohibit sex offenders from living near schools, parks and other places where children gather.

City Council members, meeting Wednesday, said they were interested in looking at ways to further protect children from predators. But nearly all said they need more information on the effectiveness of buffer zones to prevent sex offenders from living in certain areas.
The idea, which has been implemented in other cities, will head to a council committee for further consideration.

“I do support sex offenders being responsible for their actions,” council member Jerry Allen said. 

“But the real questions I end up coming back to are: Will this ordinance increase public protection?”
Mayor Mike Rawlings has been pushing the idea, which would bar those individuals from living within a certain distance of kid-friendly areas. The proposal is also backed by Dallas police.

More than 3,300 registered sex offenders live in Dallas, though officials said those currently living near the areas in question could potentially be grandfathered in.
A couple of Dallas residents spoke out against the proposal.

Josh Gravens, who’s married and has five children, said he’s been on the sex offender registry for 15 years. Though he didn’t get into specifics, the northeast Dallas resident said he was a 13-year-old kid “who made a mistake.”

Gravens said there are many other registered sex offenders who fit his description, and he said the re-conviction rates for sex offenders are quite low. He said an ordinance like the one Dallas is considering would be devastating to him and his family.

“We’re enjoying the great things that Dallas is giving us,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to be forced out of this city.”

Ordinance specifics — such as how big the buffer zone would be — haven’t been worked out. In coming weeks, council members will evaluate how other cities have fared with such rules and whether they would make sense in Dallas.

“What I’m hearing from this group is that there’s enough interest that we need to do some more work on it,” Rawlings said.
  
Florida Action Committee (FAC), founded in 2006, is a state-wide consortium of concerned citizens and professionals whose purpose is to promote the prevention of sexual abuse while preserving the safety and dignity of all citizens through carefully structured laws targeting the truly violent, forced, and/or dangerous predatory acts of sex. FAC believes that many aspects of the current approach to sex offenders seriously undermine justice and actually increase the threat of sexual assault against others, particularly children. FAC opposes a publicized registry of sex offenders and seeks to bring an end to the humiliation of people who have already paid for their crimes. FAC asserts that only by supporting justice for all people—offenders and victims alike can a truly safe society be built and secured for all Americans.

Castration as treatment in FL sex offense cases.


The article concerns the denial of an inmate’s request to be physically castrated. However, it discusses the use of chemical castration as a form of sex offender management in Florida.
In Florida, castration is an acceptable form of sex offender management, and that is separate from the punitive sentence imposed.

Florida Judge Denies Sex Offender’s Request to Be Physically Castrated

By Jonathan Kendall Mon., Aug. 4 2014 at 12:50 PM

Lester Leroy Williams is serving ten years in prison for sexually battering a child. Back in 2008, he was also sentenced to 4.5 years of probation. Recently, the 35-year-old Williams made a bizarre request: He wants the state to physically castrate him.In a letter Williams wrote at the Union Correctional Institution in Raiford, he asked Fifth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Hale Stancil to modify his sentence to include castration at the expense of the state. 

But Stancil denied the unusual request this past Tuesday, stating his court didn’t have jurisdiction to rule over the case.

“In 32 years, I have never had this request before,” said Stancil, who spoke about the case for the first time to New Times. “I know there is chemical castration, but I’ve never had an inmate ask to be physically castrated before. I don’t think I have authority as a judge to order such a thing.”

Williams

The story was first reported in the Ocala Star Banner. Florida already allows certain sex offenders to receive medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA) treatment as part of their rehabilitation. MPA, an artificial hormone, is normally used to treat symptoms of menopause in women, but when used by men, it decreases testosterone to pre-puberty levels.MPA has been used on sex offenders for years as a way of reducing the chances of recidivism by diminishing the sexual urges of men who have long histories of committing sex crimes.

According to Florida law, courts must sentence repeat offenders of sexual battery to MPA treatment but may choose to administer it to first-time offenders. The treatment does not replace or reduce any other penalty the court could impose, and the courts can order the treatment to last up to life.

The Florida Department of Corrections must begin MPA treatment one week before an incarcerated sex offender is released. The consequences for not going through with the MPA treatment are severe for offenders — a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both.

The law stipulates though that instead of undergoing the chemical form of castration, sex offenders may — of their own volition– ask a court for physical castration, which is what Williams has done. Though the legal leeway seems to exist, it is rarely chosen — Williams may be the first in Florida to request it even though he isn’t even required to have MPA treatment.

“Sex offenders are wretched,” said Maryam Sweirki, 25, a Miami advocate for victims of sexual assault. “If he can’t handle his penis, then I’m for his decision to take his weapon away.”

However, critics of castration believe it to be a cruel and unusual punishment that violates human and reproductive rights; with other critics arguing the law that allows for MPA castration, though it applies to both genders, is unequal in punishment because it has a greater impact on males. Some of the side-effects related to the drug (besides decreased sexual urges) are: a loss of body hair, hot and cold flashes, impotence, depression, thrombosis, and weight gain.

Though it has been shown to decrease the number of reoffenders, some opponents further argue that castration isn’t a panacea for all sex offenders because some of them are motivated to sexually abuse because of intense feelings of hatred and hostility, rather than sexual desire.

As it stands, the laws regarding castration apply to all convicted sex offenders across the state of Florida. Though Williams will not be physically castrated for the time being, if he keeps requesting it and appeals Stancil’s decision, he may get his wish.



Florida Action Committee (FAC), founded in 2006, is a state-wide consortium of concerned citizens and professionals whose purpose is to promote the prevention of sexual abuse while preserving the safety and dignity of all citizens through carefully structured laws targeting the truly violent, forced, and/or dangerous predatory acts of sex. FAC believes that many aspects of the current approach to sex offenders seriously undermine justice and actually increase the threat of sexual assault against others, particularly children. FAC opposes a publicized registry of sex offenders and seeks to bring an end to the humiliation of people who have already paid for their crimes. FAC asserts that only by supporting justice for all people—offenders and victims alike can a truly safe society be built and secured for all Americans.

Is Florida Sheriff that arrogant or just ignorant?


Posted by on August 7, 2014 in Articles


This past Tuesday, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd led a press conference proudly announcing the arrest of 132 “Bad Guys”, “Perverts”, “Pedophiles”, “Predators”, etc. The grandstanding Sheriff, flanked by Sheriffs from other counties, stood next to a board showing the mugshots of those arrested as he went on a fear instilling tirade.

What the Sheriff didn’t tell you was that of the 60 charges imposed on the 13 men arrested in his county; 10 were eventually dropped and that several were not even pursued by prosecutors. (see: http://www.theledger.com/article/20140805/NEWS/140809659?p=2&tc=pg&tc=ar)

What the Sheriff also didn’t tell you was that his office and others are the subject of several news investigations into claims of entrapment and other violation of legal policies. (see: http://www.wtsp.com/story/news/investigations/2014/07/01/sheriff-grady-judd-sex-sting-records/11929091/)

Sheriff Judd is the same guy who infamously charged  12 and 14 year old girls with felonies after the suicide death of a third girl. After that arrest, he proudly posted their mugshots and descriptions and held another grandstanding press conference. When asked whether it was necessary, he said of the two young girls; “We decided that we can’t leave her out there. Who else is she going to torment, who else is she going to harass?”   as if there was some imminent danger to the children in the community. In the end the charges against the girls were dropped because after a month of combing through social media and chat logs, authorities found no evidence of cyberbullying. (see:  

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/doublex/2014/04/rebecca_sedwick_suicide_sheriff_grady_judd_never_should_have_arrested_katelyn.html)

With respect to the sex offender stings here, in many cases they find individuals posting ads on Adult websites where you must be 18 years old to participate. They engage the men in sexually stimulating conversation for days or even weeks before disclosing that they (the person they are pretending to be) is underage and then continuing to bait the men and encouraging them to continue along.  Many had no intention of soliciting a minor but were entrapped. (see: http://floridaactioncommittee.org/are-police-catching-pedophiles-or-creating-straw-men/).

Apparently, based on the number of charges being dropped and individuals not being prosecuted, Prosecutors are agreeing.

All this leads to a more important question; what does this accomplish? The investigation that Sheriff Judd was touting was a three month investigation that spanned several counties. It took the resources of Federal, State, county and local police and ultimately prosecutors. Undoubtedly it took a lot of time and a lot of money to bait and arrest these 132 individuals who “could have” gone for a fictional victim. But aren’t there enough non-fictional victims out there that need resources? And of these 132 people; how many will actually be prosecuted? And how many tens of thousands of people did they have to bait in the three month process to find 132 that warranted arrest?

Could this just be another case of those who scream the loudest? (see: http://floridaactioncommittee.org/those-who-scream-the-loudest/)

Florida Action Committee (FAC), founded in 2006, is a state-wide consortium of concerned citizens and professionals whose purpose is to promote the prevention of sexual abuse while preserving the safety and dignity of all citizens through carefully structured laws targeting the truly violent, forced, and/or dangerous predatory acts of sex. FAC believes that many aspects of the current approach to sex offenders seriously undermine justice and actually increase the threat of sexual assault against others, particularly children. FAC opposes a publicized registry of sex offenders and seeks to bring an end to the humiliation of people who have already paid for their crimes. FAC asserts that only by supporting justice for all people—offenders and victims alike can a truly safe society be built and secured for all Americans.

UNO Researchers Document Harm Done by Nebraska Sex-Offender Law

Posted by on August 7, 2014 in Articles

Ground-breaking research into why most former sex offenders do not reoffend concludes that Nebraska’s policy of putting every registered citizen on a public website harms families and might contribute to the very problems that the law was intended to deter.

“ . . .  We have found that sex offenders in this study, representing predatory pedophiles to possessing child pornography, have not re-offended since their initial crime of conviction.  Most attribute this to the informal social relationships they have created or maintained since conviction.  Surprisingly, many have added members of the research team as more formal sources of social support, and attribute our interest in their lives as an added factor in their desistance,” according to a report on the study released today.

“Most importantly, we have found that registrants’ lives change over time, thus affecting their need for social support to continue desistance,” the report said.
Not one of the registered citizens in the study credits harsher laws for desistance from re-offense. In fact, the report said, harassment by law enforcement and others as a result of the law can contribute to conditions that make re-offense more likely.

The ongoing study is being conducted by Lisa Sample, Ph.D., and doctoral candidate Danielle Bailey at the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Nebraska-Omaha. Two-hundred twenty-one registered Nebraska citizens have come forward to participate in the study. So far, 155 of them have been interviewed.

“The questions asked during these interviews were meant to uncover how these sex offenders had managed to defy media stereotype and live in the community without sexually reoffending.  A common response across all subjects was that their desistance was mostly attributed to the help of family, friends, and/or their faith,” the report said.

"With this in mind, the study was then extended to registrants’ family members and friends to 1) triangulate information provided to us by registrants, and 2) give registrants’ loved ones a chance to voice their thoughts on what it is like living with people who are so socially stigmatized.”

To date, 30 family members of registered citizens have been interviewed. Five-thousand pages of interview material have been transcribed.

The “sex offender” label shadows everyone in the family, in that there is a constant state of paranoia and fear among spouses/partners about being judged, being labeled, or being ill-treated by members of the public,” the report said.

The research shows how misguided law, poor-quality news reporting and knee-jerk policymaking – all based on inaccurate information about former offenders – conspire to damage and destabilize families. In spite of research that shows former sex offenders have low rates of re-offense, news media stereotypes paint every individual on the public website as a predatory danger. Such inaccurate reporting then encourages institutions like churches, gyms and schools to issue blanket bans of former offenders, many of whom are parents and are thus barred from participating in their childrens’ lives, according to the study. Because the study is finding that social networks and strong family ties help former offenders desist from reoffending, current Nebraska law is eroding the factors that help prevent re-offense.

“The stigma of the “sex offender” label put forth on public registries creates single parent households, as responsibilities for child care and employment fall to the spouses/partners of registrants who are not allowed to participate in their own family activities as they did prior to conviction,” the report on the research said.

“Children often react to the prohibition of their registrant parent from their activities with anger, acting-out behaviors, and/or socially isolating themselves.”
The study found that Nebraska’s draconian law, enacted as LB 97 and LB 285 of 2009, has had the effect of creating a strong community of “social refugees” among former offenders in Nebraska. Advocacy groups established after the law’s passage as well as the researchers at UNO have therapeutic value for the registered citizens.
“Registrants and their family members have responded to their ‘refugee’ status by creating their own organizations and advocacy groups that engender a sense of collective identity that thwarts some of the isolation they feel,” the report said.
The study’s conclusions:
  • There are negative consequences socially, professionally, and parentally for being on the public registration website, and these consequences are not only felt by registrants but also by their spouses/partners, parents, and children.
  • To the degree to which these consequences exacerbate the senses of loneliness, anxiety, isolation, and fear associated with sexual offending and disrupt family and friend relationships, public notification may exacerbate the behaviors it is meant to deter.
  • In fact, no registrants mentioned sex offender laws or their prohibitions from public spaces as a motivating factor in their desistance from crime.
  • Sex offender laws have, however, created a sense of a collective identity among those in this sample that helps abate their social isolation and feelings of rejection.
  • In contrast to juvenile delinquency literature, deviant peers among the adults in this sample provide them with social support that helps them avoid behavioral triggers and manage their behaviors as opposed to encouraging them.
  • This study demonstrates the importance of social integration in ending sexual reoffending.
  • Findings also suggest the need for some social support interventions for those living with or related to registered sex offenders who are also experiencing social isolation, rejection, and stigmatization not for a crime they committed but simply because they live with someone who committed one.
  • Changes to child abuse mandatory reporting laws would allow families to seek therapy and counseling without fear of legal reprisals for the thoughts and feelings they share.  In this way, perhaps these changes can be seen as preventative crime control measures to ensure the children of registrants do not grow up to be angry, anxious, and frustrated criminal adults.

Click here to read the full report.


Florida Action Committee (FAC), founded in 2006, is a state-wide consortium of concerned citizens and professionals whose purpose is to promote the prevention of sexual abuse while preserving the safety and dignity of all citizens through carefully structured laws targeting the truly violent, forced, and/or dangerous predatory acts of sex. FAC believes that many aspects of the current approach to sex offenders seriously undermine justice and actually increase the threat of sexual assault against others, particularly children. FAC opposes a publicized registry of sex offenders and seeks to bring an end to the humiliation of people who have already paid for their crimes. FAC asserts that only by supporting justice for all people—offenders and victims alike can a truly safe society be built and secured for all Americans.

MUST SEE: Officers bend rules to boost sex sting arrest totals

Posted by on August 8, 2014 in Articles


http://floridaactioncommittee.org/must-see-officers-bend-rules-to-boost-sex-sting-arrest-totals/

You must see the video that accompanies this news article.
 
Police in Florida have been doing the unconscionable for years. Taking completely innocent men and luring them into a crime.
 
In the case of too many Florida sex offender sting operations, not only are the the underage victims fictional, but the offenses they are accused of committing are too. Police place or respond to listings on adult website, engage with someone who had absolutely no intention of soliciting a minor, then pull a fast one on an innocent person by saying they are actually underage. Even if the target tries to back away once they shockingly discover the claimed age, they police continue vigorously provoke sexually explicit conversation just so they can get a response.
 
No only do the officers know that the significant stigma of being charged with a sex offense completely throws “innocent until proven guilty” out the window, but they also know that the threat of 20+ years in prison will cause anyone to plead guilty… even someone who has done nothing wrong! It’s easy, it makes great headlines, it gets funding… who cares if it destroys the lives of innocent men? These sick predators (the Police, not the accused) don’t care!
 
WTSP, Tampa’s Channel 10 CBS affiliate, reporter Noah Pransky is among the first to have the courage and journalistic integrity to uncover and expose the horrific injustice taking place. The Florida Action Committee is grateful this horrible practice is being exposed and hopes more people will step up and demand the exoneration of the thousands of innocent men who are unjustly accused.
 
Mr. Pransky’s article appears below:
 
POLK COUNTY, Florida – In the decade since Chris Hansen and “To Catch a Predator” popularized Internet sex stings, more than 1,200 men in Florida alone have been arrested, accused of preying on underage teens and children for sex.
 
But as the stings put more and more men behind bars, detectives are working harder and harder to keep up their arrest numbers. And the tactics they’re using to put alleged sexual offenders in jail are sweeping up large numbers of law-abiding men, too.
 
A yearlong investigation by 10 Investigates reveals many of the men whose mugshots have been paraded out by local sheriffs in made-for-TV press conferences were not seeking to meet children online. Instead, they were minding their own business, looking for other adults, when detectives started to groom and convince them to break the law.
 
While detectives used to post ads suggesting an underage teen or child was available for sex, they now routinely post more innocuous personal ads of adults on traditional dating sites. 

When men – many of them under 25 with no criminal history – respond, officers switch the bait and typically indicate their age is really 14 or 15 years old. However, sometimes the storyline isn’t switched until the men, who were looking for legal love, already start falling for the undercover agent.
 
According to arrest affidavits inspected by 10 Investigates, law enforcement is also now routinely making first contact with men who have done nothing wrong, responding to their ads on dating sites like PlentyOfFish.com. After men start conversing with what they think are adults, officers change the age they claim to be, but try to convince the men to continue the conversation anyway.


Officers bend rules in sex stings to boost arrest totals.
 
Other examples include undercover officers showing interest in a man, then later introducing the idea of having sex with the undercover’s “child.” If the men indicate they weren’t interested, they were still often arrested for just talking to the adult.
 
Critics of the stings, including a number of prominent Tampa Bay law enforcement leaders, tell 10 News the operations make for better press conferences than they do crime fighting. Many of the men who are arrested for sexual predator crimes see little jail time.
 
But Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, when asked about over-aggressive detectives, instead went on the offensive: “The concern (I have) is that you inflate your investigative reporting to make it glitzy.”
 
Judges have also been very critical of some of the tactics used in the stings, which violate Internet Crimes Against Children guidelines. Among the comments from judges in recent entrapment decisions (case numbers withheld to protect the defendants):

  • “It was the agent who repeatedly steered the conversation back to sexual activity with a minor.”
  • “The government made a concerted effort to lure him into committing a crime.”
  • “The undercover officer failed to follow the procedures …”
  • “The law does not tolerate government action to provoke a law-abiding citizen to commit a crime.”
The judge in one dismissed case criticized the undercover officer for failing to follow procedures and “the officer controlled the tone, pace and subject matter of online conversation, pushing toward a discussion of sexual activity.”
 
The blurring of legal and ethical lines has led many agencies such as the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, and most of South Florida to focus their cybercrime resources on other areas of online abuse. Instead of conducting “To Catch a Predator”-style stings, they spend their time and effort on areas where there are known victims and children at immediate risk, like child porn and sex trafficking.
 
But the time- and resource-intensive predator stings are still alive and well in West/Central Florida, operating under the watchful eye of ICAC task force leader Judd.
 
Grady Judd’s ‘favorite topic’
 
Sheriff of Polk County since 2005, Judd has made it clear that targeting sexual predators is his top priority. He called hunting predators his “favorite topic” at a recent predator sting press conference, and he has invited national media outlets along for some of the operations. 

The predator stings have been featured in three MSNBC specials as well as a recent CNN series.
 
But Judd has been much less forthcoming when it comes to questions of how detectives lure in their targets and whether innocent men are getting swept up to.
Judd has failed to provide public records to 10 Investigates on the following issues:

  • The language in the ads detectives post.
  • How detectives responded when innocent men showed no interest in speaking to teens.
  • If detectives are doing the stings because there is a problem of teens looking for adults online.
  • How many men get baited before detectives find someone to investigate.
PREVIOUS: Judd secretive on sex stings (7/1/14)
 

PREVIOUS: Law enforcement refuses to turn over records on sting (3/14/14)
 
Judd said the overwhelming majority of men who communicate with detectives do the “right thing” and either end communication or report the officer posing as an underage teen — or parent offering up a child — to authorities. But he won’t even turn over those communications over, a possible violation of Florida State Statute 119.
 
Judd says the records are exempt from state records laws because all of those men are still “under investigation,” for they may surface in future stings. However, that indicates Judd – and other law enforcement leaders around Tampa Bay and Sarasota who have now used the same exemption to withhold records – have active investigations open on hundreds, if not thousands, of men who did nothing more than legally communicate with adults on legal websites.
 
The state’s best-known lawman also showed little concern for due process during a Tuesday press conference to tout arrests since March in predator-style stings. He pointed to 132 mugshots on a giant posterboard and called the men “sexual predators.”
 
But when 10 Investigates pointed out some of the men had already been cleared of charges, he said they were still fair game because “we have a very liberal – a very forgiving – criminal justice system.”
That system may give defendants the benefit of doubt and assume “innocent until proven guilty;” but Judd makes sure the mugshots and stigma of being arrested for a sex crime haunts the men for the rest of their lives.
 
Critics point out many of the 1,200 men who are ultimately arrested in Florida and called “sexual predators” weren’t preying or even looking for kids; many were seeking adults. The majority of them were in their teens or 20s at the time, and approximately 97 percent of the men had zero history of any sexual crimes or accusations.
 
“The biggest waste ever”
 
While countless West/Central Florida law enforcement agencies have gotten involved in the predator stings, including the sheriff’s offices in Polk, Pinellas, Manatee, Citrus, and Sarasota, some agencies were noticeably absent at Judd’s season-ending press conference.
Judd indicated the Hillsborough sheriff’s office was a part of the operation, but was unable to attend. 

However, an HCSO spokesperson said the the agency has not been a participant.
 
While HCSO has a full-time “Internet Predator” unit, it has been reluctant to dedicate the huge resources needed for a “To Catch a Predator”-style sting. Instead, HCSO detectives are focused on offenders that are participating in “the proliferation of child porn,” focusing on infants and young children who are exploited.
 
Hillsborough detectives say those type of arrests tend to yield better conviction rates, longer prison terms, and also provide law enforcement other leads on areas of crime like sex trafficking.
 
Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco has adopted similar priorities, saying his cybercrime unit is extremely proactive and focused on the areas of the worst abuse.
 
“Any way you can take a sexual predator off the street is tremendous,” Nocco said. 

“Especially those that are online looking at child pornography … they may do something physically against a young little kid.”
 
Pasco also spends a lot of time and effort focused on teen-on-teen cybercrime because it can often be addressed before it ruins a person’s life permanently.
 
Nocco was complimentary of ICAC, but says he’s not a huge fan of the “To Catch a Predator”-style stings, saying the prosecutions often don’t hold up.
 
“You spend your resources, you arrest somebody and then they walk right out. It’s the biggest waste ever,” Nocco said.
 
ICAC stings typically cost tens of thousands of dollars – sometimes close to $100,000 – in costs and officers’ time, and that doesn’t include the costs to prosecute and jail defendants.
10 Investigates found light plea sentences are sometimes offered because the suspects simply aren’t considered dangerous offenders, contrary to Judd’s claims.
 
Local law enforcement leaders also refused to turn over ICAC guidelines, claiming they were confidential investigative material. But a copy 10 Investigates obtained through court records indicates the online undercover stings, which typically don’t involve real children or victims, are not even specified in the list of priorities agencies are supposed to target:

  1. A child is at immediate risk of victimization.
  2. A child is vulnerable to victimization by a known offender.
  3. A known suspect is aggressively soliciting a child(ren).
  4. Manufacturers, distributors or possessors of images that appear to be home photography with domiciled children.
  5. Aggressive, high-volume child pornography manufacturers or distributors who either are commercial distributors, repeat offenders, or specialize in sadistic images.
  6. Manufacturers, distributors, or solicitors involved in high-volume trafficking or belong to an organized child pornography ring that operates as a criminal conspiracy.
  7. Distributors, solicitors and possessors of images of child pornography.
  8. Any other form of child victimization.
Almost all of South Florida’s law enforcement agencies have moved away from the stings as well. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office, which is in charge of the South Florida ICAC task force, told 10 Investigates it was time for the agency to move on to other areas of cybercrime fighting.
 
The “other” victims
 
There may be no excuses for men who victimize children or those that look for underage victims online.
 
However, it’s easier to make the case for the men who were swept up in the stings when they were looking online for adults.
 
“(My son) was stalked by law enforcement for three days,” said the mother of a 22-year-old arrested in one of the stings. 10 Investigates is protecting the identity of her family.
 
The son was on Craiglist’s personals pages, looking to meet other adults. He responded to a “no strings attached” ad for a 26-year-old woman. He says her story changed a few times, including the claim she was only 13, but he was skeptical.
 
He spoke on the phone to the undercover and she sent a photo, in which she was wearing a wedding ring. He said he was sure she was an adult (she was), so he made plans to meet her. When he arrived, he was arrested. He was later sentenced to two years of house arrest and a lifetime as a registered sex offender.
 
“He had a life of promise; he had an education,” his mother said. “That’s all been shot.”
 
She says her son is paying the price of opportunistic lawmen.
 
PREVIOUS: Law enforcement may have entrapped men illegally (1/30/14)

Board-certified defense attorney Anthony Ryan says law enforcement officers have become experts in coercing innocent men into breaking the law.
 
“They are really good at subtly turning conversations and normal statements into sexual 

innuendo – whether or not the other side intended that,” he said.
 
Ryan, who has a practice in Sarasota, just got a 23-year-old client’s case dismissed in Manatee. A judge ruled deputies entrapped his client, writing that their tactics had “no place in modern day law enforcement.”
 
Ryan adds that officers are pushing the boundaries further and further to keep up their arrest numbers and keep the federal ICAC grants flowing. And responding to legal ads on legal dating sites crosses the line.
   
“Once the low-hanging fruit is sort of gone, taken off the tree,” Ryan said, “there’s still pressure from high above to justify these actions.”
 
Tune in to 10 News on Thursday and Friday nights at 11 p.m. for the two-part investigation.

Florida Action Committee (FAC), founded in 2006, is a state-wide consortium of concerned citizens and professionals whose purpose is to promote the prevention of sexual abuse while preserving the safety and dignity of all citizens through carefully structured laws targeting the truly violent, forced, and/or dangerous predatory acts of sex. FAC believes that many aspects of the current approach to sex offenders seriously undermine justice and actually increase the threat of sexual assault against others, particularly children. FAC opposes a publicized registry of sex offenders and seeks to bring an end to the humiliation of people who have already paid for their crimes. FAC asserts that only by supporting justice for all people—offenders and victims alike can a truly safe society be built and secured for all Americans.

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"When an American says that he loves his country, he means not only that he loves the New England hills, the prairies glistening in the sun, the wide and rising plains, the great mountains, and the sea. He means that he loves an inner air, an inner light in which freedom lives and in which a man can draw the breath of self-respect."
~Adlia Stevenson U.S. Vice President (1893–1897) and Congressman (1879–1881)

On a Personal Note

Thanks for the opportunity to express my thoughts regarding the issue of citizens’ rights, particularly addressing certain sex offenders’ crimes that do not fit the devastating, inequitable and endless punishment given.


As you know, many young men and women lives across the nation are being destroyed by incarceration, life-time registry and restrictive laws that do more harm than good. For those individuals, there is no second chance.

Below is a personal letter to President Obama:
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“Dear President Obama,

I truly agree with your sentiments that individuals, such as ex-felons, should be able to receive a second chance at life. Since we all know that one can veer off that path of life and travel along rough, rocky terrain, sometimes running off and ending up in some ditch. We all have made our fill of mistakes and sometimes those held a costly consequence that changed life forever. So we lived through it, trying harder to make things right with family, friends and those around us, but what about those who aren’t able to make things right even if they tried…because they’re labeled as too dirty, a leper, a person who is rejected from society and home.


But what if they’re a seventeen year old and had sex with a fifteen year old, consensual at that? Or they’re a teen that had gotten so enraged after a breakup that he sent out naked pictures of his girlfriend on his cell phone or email? Or an individual urinates where someone just happens to see them?


All are wrong and a travesty but do they deserve the life of no second chance with a registry that ends all. They are labeled, no jobs, no where to live…they have been deemed a menace to society, a plague. These certain circumstances, and many other situations similar to these, I believe still deserve a second change.

Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution


Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.


After my son’s early release and two years of prison, I thought I had handled that fact graciously knowing after serving his time he would be able to get that fresh start, that second chance. He was an exemplary inmate, GED, college courses and vocational classes. Little did I know that a second chance on the outside was the farthest from the truth? He now struggles and lives in a trailer park sharing a trailer with another and surrounded by others in the same rocking boat, one to float endlessly in shark infested waters. I see him little because of probation requirements (he couldn’t live with us because we were 800 feet near a school). My family is afraid of what would happen to them if he lived with them…vigilantism. My son has no other place to stay since others condemn him of his crime that is screamed from the highest rooftop. Sex offender, sex offender!

Not all sex offenders are pedophiles or predators but some are simply young kids that make one stupid and rash decision that eventually changes everything, and they have no idea what they’ve done until their life is never their own. Exactly, where is that second chance for those sex-offenders who are lumped together with pedophiles and predators? Now, it makes me sick to think of my son’s future and many like him that are on the registry and many with no second chance…ever. I am asking you as a mother and as another concerned citizen of the United States that these laws are looked at again and taken into serious consideration in what they are doing to the Constitution of the United States, not for sex offenders in general but the future rights of every citizen, before anymore are put into effect. They unjustly strip an offender of their rights and place them in a guillotine that can be easily set off by anyone and at anytime. Where is the second chance for ex-sex offenders in the present, pending and future laws?”
* * * *
What truly saddens me is the weakness and deterioration of what the sex offense issue is doing to our once, great nation. Across Europe, others are seeing the injustice and disregard of rights, but we ignore this problem and it makes me wonder where humanity is heading….

We have become a hysterical society in which our latest witch-hunt is a sex offender--no matter his/her crime.

Below is a email sent from a foreign advocate to a father of a sex offender:
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“The tragic story of your son's death is just so sad that it's difficult to explain how. It was very hard to read your letters. It seems almost unbelievable that this can take place in a democracy! From our point of view, there is no justice in this. Not in any way: not for you, your son, the former girl friend – or even the state.

It is an abusive legal system. It seems barbaric. And we are so very sorry that this takes place. That's why it's so important for us to try to neutralize the debate with this…, hopefully making some changes. ….. to show the every day life of the sex offenders, trying to show how they keep on being punished, even after served prison time…..But we will for sure tell the story of the injustice that your son has been exposed to.”
* * * *
I appreciate everyone's commitment and backing to protect everyone's civil rights, plainly as noted in the Constitution of the United States and is presupposed, giving ALL men are “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.”