Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Once Fallen's Moving Day: Has a lack of residency restrictions improved the moving process?

Life as a Registered Citizen is filled with a number of worries, but perhaps no concern we have is greater than finding a place to live. For the past eight years, I have lived on Eden Avenue, just two blocks from the University of Cincinnati. It was not the greatest apartment in the world, but it was home. 

I had no intention to move, but I had no choice in the matter. On September 25, 2014, my apartment complex was bought by a company called Uptown Rentals, a big housing conglomerate in Cincinnati. They have been buying up older properties in the areas close to UC, tearing them down, and replacing the buildings with newer (and poorly built) properties they rent at a far higher rate. My apartment complex was built in the 1920s. It had survived being hit by a falling tree in a windstorm in 2008 because it was a brick building with steel frame construction. It will soon be replaced by a building lacking a steel frame, a cheap throw-together building that will rent for more than twice per month for the same size apartment I rented for the past eight years. 

Five days after buying the property, Uptown Rentals gave every person in the 14-apartment complex the 30-day notice to vacate the premises. My neighbors were mostly long-time residents, including people who were elderly and disabled. Uptown Rentals didn't care. They offered no assistance to any of us as we were forced to scramble to find a new place to live. They lied to tenants about offering help (even telling one they would write us a $1000 per tenant check to help us with the move) and they even threatened residents they felt were not working hard enough to find a new place to live. [I wrote a very scathing review of Uptown Rentals if you want the full story: CLICK HERE TO READ IT.]

Even though my move was not the result of my status on the registry, the prospect of looking for a new place to live was frightening. I didn't have much in the way of resources-- I don't have any money in savings and owe thousands of dollars in credit card and student loan debt, plus I live off Social Security so money is very tight. Also, I remembered the difficult time I had the last time I was forced to move to a new apartment. In 2006, when I last faced a forced move, I spent several months and dozens of phone calls--131 calls to be exact-- before I found the residence at Eden Avenue. In the time between my move in 2006 and this more recent move, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled residency restriction laws do not apply to anyone convicted before July 1, 2003. My conviction date was before then, so I didn't have to worry about residency restriction laws.

No doubt some of my readers are wondering if I noticed a big difference in finding housing between my move in 2006 and my recent move. I called 100 less places and out of those 30, three were open to renting to me. I still had my share of negative responses but it was not as bad as it was in 2006. Of course, this was merely a personal observation. A number of other elements could have factored into the relative success in finding a new place-- it could have been dumb luck, my improved ability to apartment hunt based on my previous experience and knowledge of the subject, having a better method of approaching prospective renters, or the fact that people are more understanding of the stupidity of sex offender laws in the past. (I had a few conversations with sympathetic landlords; however, we are still considered a liability and thus many wouldn't rent to us out of fear of lawsuits.) Whatever the case may be, it took only two months and 31 phone calls, five months and a hundred calls less, to find a new home.

Still, I hated moving to a new part of town. I miss the conveniences of my old apartment. The reason I've been able to survive off a mere $740 a month is because my rent was $395 per month AND included electric, water and heat. Now, I pay $420 plus heat and electric. Now I have far less money to invest in the cause than before. That means in order to complete much-needed activist projects, I will be more dependent on fundraising than in the past.

Back on topic, I feel residency restrictions (or lack of restrictions) play a major role in finding housing. perhaps the best way to study this issue further is simulate the apartment hunting experience in places with and without residency restrictions. I have a hypothesis that places with residency restrictions are more likely to believe in the efficacy of the laws and, as a result, even renters in places not covered by restrictions are more reluctant to rent to Registered Citizens than in areas where residency laws don't exist. I believe the human factor has been minimized in previous residency law studies. How much "available housing" in non-restricted area is actually available to us?

It would be nice to see the end of residency restrictions, but it seems that Wisconsin is poised to become the next state to push for residency restrictions. An activist's work is never done, is it?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Cars kill more kids on Halloween than Registered Sex Offenders, so we should ban Trunk or Treat

Another Halloween has come and gone. Halloween is my favorite day of the year, primarily because it is by birth date. I was born thirty-eight years ago, on a dark and stormy night. But I digress.

Over the past few years, we see the barrage of Halloween stories designed to scare the people in a different way. There was no shortage of news stories warning parents to check the registry before they send their kids out trick-or-treating. Still, there has not been a "stereotypical kidnapping" of a child by a "Registered Sex Offender" on Halloween so long as the registry has existed. In 2014, no child was murdered by a Registered Sex Offender.

The same cannot be said of motor vehicles. In fact, five children were killed by cars on Halloween this year, eight if you add the three kids (and their mom) killed by a train en route to a Halloween parade.

So cars 8, RSOs zero. And that is just for 2014.

Cars kill far more kids on Halloween than Registered Citizens. Yet, there are a myriad of laws targeting registrants on Halloween, preventing them from engaging in holiday festivities or forced to stay at a jail or police station, or stay home with the lights off. And yet, cars have been more dangerous to kids.

In light of this revelation, I propose we ban "Trunk or Treat." It makes more sense than sex offender Halloween bans, since cars are obviously a greater threat. After all, if it saves JUST ONE CHILD this would be worth it. Do you want dangerous cars around potential victims? Hasn't anyone read the Steven King novel "Christine"? We know cars can be evil, soulless killing machines. Maybe we can make all cars stay at home with the lights out.

I think my solution is more sensible than the sex offender Halloween laws.

As one final thought, there have also been more Halloween poisonings than child killing by Registered Persons on Halloween (a rare event also committed by someone the kid knew rather than by a stranger). But why let reason get in the way of a good Halloween scare? Or rather, (with Lenore Skenazy from Free Range Kids)...

Next year, leave out the tricks and stick with the treats.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Decades later, the pain of our label never goes away

I am not a fan of Mike Tyson or of boxing in general. The only boxing matches I've ever seen were from "Rocky." Mike Tyson isn't the most beloved celebrity athlete, either. He's the butt of a lot of jokes, whether it is about his looks, his manner of "thpeaking," or biting off part of Evander Holyfield's ear during a boxing match. But one thing you rarely, if ever, hear is people labeling Mike Tyson as a "sex offender" or a "rapist." 

That is, until a few weeks ago. 

Mike Tyson was asked to appear on CP24, a Canadian cable news channel based in Toronto, to discuss his visit to the city and his visit with Toronto mayor Rob Ford. During the interview, Nathan Downer asked the following question:

"Some of your critics would say, you know, that this is a race for mayor, we know you are a convicted rapist, this can hurt his campaign. How would you respond to that?" Mike Tyson then proceeded to chew Nathan's ear ear off... no, not literally. Tyson remained in his chair, but began speaking his mind. First, he told Downer he was being "negative" and he wasn't going to answer the question. Downer tried to change the topic but by then Tyson was upset. Tyson told Downer that he comes off as a "nice guy" but he's "really a piece of shit" and added a "fuck you" for good measure. Downer tried getting Tyson to cool his language but Tyson responded, "what are going to do about it?" The interview continues but Tyson is still upset and by this point has disengaged in the conversation, referring to Downer as a "rat piece of shit." 

Quite frankly, I don't blame Mike Tyson for caling Nathan Downer a "rat piece of shit." Out of all the controversies Tyson has been embroiled in over the years, Tyson is rarely discussed in discussions about sex offenders, despite the fact he still forced to register as a sex offender for his 1992 conviction (22 years ago as of this writing). After 22 years, calling Mike Tyson by the label of "convicted rapist" still angers him. 

Mike Tyson still has it better than most Registered Citizens. Oprah interviewed Tyson and promoted a documentary about the former boxing champion. Most sex offender law reformers/ abolitionists can only dream of getting the kind of exposure that Oprah could offer. Oprah did not condemn Tyson, instead  she humanizes Tyson, another thing most registrant reformers can only dream of receiving. 

Here is the link to the Oprah interview.

However, the "sex offender" label I share with Mike Tyson carries the same pain decades later. If anything, my own anger at the effects of the label grows with each passing year. 

We hear a certain statement all the time from random commenters on online discussions, from celebrity victim industry advocates like John Walsh, and even from politicians. The statement is "sex offenders" should be punished for life because victims have been given a life sentence. Sex crime victims are "shattered and broken," will "never recover," and are "scarred for life," labels that also cause lasting harm to people given the label of "sex crime victim." Despite the myriad of celebrity victim advocates like Walsh, groups like RAINN and SNAP, and the bombardment of victim-centered talk shows like Oprah or even Nancy Grace, we believe victims are "silent." For a silent group, there is an awful lot of talking! Samantha Geimer (the woman who would rather NOT be know as "that girl raped by Roman Polanski) rebelled against what she calls the "rape-victim girl" label and criticizes what she calls a "victim industry":

“We have what I think of as a victim industry in this country, and industry populated by Nancy Grace and Dr. Phil and Gloria Allred and all those who make money by manufacturing outrage. I've been part of it. If you spent years reading about yourself in the papers with the moniker ‘Sex Victim Girl,’ you'd have a lot to say about this issue, too. But for now I'll leave it at this: It is wrong to ask people to feel like victims, because once they do, they feel like victims in every area of their lives. I made a decision: I wasn't going to be a victim of anyone or for anyone. Not Roman, not the state of California, not the media. I wasn't going to be defined by what is said about me or expected from me.” -- Samantha Geimer, excerpt from her book, "The Girl: A Life in the Shadow of Roman Polanski." (pgs. 9-10)

Despite all this, we continue to mark people who committed offenses decades ago. It is a mark of infamy that causes harm in many ways people have not thought possible. I've written in the past about the many ways this mark has changed every registered person into a degraded class of American citizens. And even though I have not suffered as much as some of those who call me asking for resources, I have not lived without experiencing discrimination. 

I have a rather humorous story to offer as an example of the discrimination I have faced due to my status and how I chose to handle it (and no, I didn't bit anyone's ear off, either). A few years ago, I visited one of the local museums alone to view the exhibits. After a few minutes, I had that rather cliched moment of feeling like I was being watched. Out of the corner of my eye, a chubby middle-aged security guard kept eyeing me from a distance. It quickly became obvious I was the object of his attention. I proceeded to walk faster, Hollywood-style, until I found a set of double doors propped open. I hid behind one of the doors and waited for the rent-a-cop to enter. Sure enough, he entered the door, passing me by 10 feet, and his back was towards me, so I exited my hiding spot and walked up behind the guard. I stood behind him, again, Hollywood-style, and blurted out in a booming voice, "Is there a problem, officer?!" The guy almost leaped out of his shoes. I think I embarrassed the poor guy. He really didn't want to say why he was following me; he simply stated, "You know why." I replied loudly, "No, I DON'T KNOW why. How about you tell me why?" As we conversed, he tried excusing his behavior as just doing his job and someone told him I'm a sex offender. He said I didn't have to leave but he'd follow me around. I ended up leaving in disgust. In retrospect, I should have stayed and made this fat slob work for his pay. 

I've had other instances like this over the years, but this story was the most entertaining. Whether I'm on "Raising America with Kyra Phillips" or filling out paperwork to donate plasma, the same stupid questions and comments pop up. People have been hard-wired to believe they have a "right to know" everything about my past, even though they want their own lives to remain private. And yet, we're expected by people to understand this is all part of our punishment and we should just deal with it. 

I refuse to accept any more of this kind of treatment. Mike Tyson didn't stand for it, and neither should any of us. I wish all those registrants also facing this ill treatment by society would develop a similar attitude and start taking up for themselves. We can't sit around waiting for Oprah to give us air time. We can't wait for the ACLU to finally come around and start slamming the feds with lawsuits. It is beyond time we start fighting back for real and stop playing nice. If you think the namby-pamby weaksauce approach espoused by so many of our current "activist" groups is going to spark this cause, then you are sadly mistaken.

Mike Tyson may not be well liked by a lot of people for many reasons, but people rarely refer to him as a sex offender. And it seems unlikely anyone will do that any time soon. If you choose to stand up for yourself, perhaps you can achieve the same results. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Lets charge McKayla Maroney with Child Pornography!

I am going to suggest something that is counter-intuitive to our efforts to reform America's sex offender laws, but I have a good reason for my proposal.

I want to see Olympic Gymnast McKayla Maroney charged with production of child pornography.

I know, it is a ludicrous proposal on its face. Maroney didn't mean for these pictures to go out; her personal pictures were part of the celebrity leaked photo fiasco from Labor Day weekend. At first, Maroney denied the photos, buy later claimed they were taken of her at age 17. In turn, someone started a petition on the White House "We the People" petition site to charge Maroney with producing CP. As of my writing, 561 have signed the petition.

This is the kind of case most people would say should not be tried. I agree. There have been a number of cases that should not have been tried, but a number of people have faced CP charges and have even landed on the registry. America is not alone in the insanity; Australia reportedly has charged hundreds of teens and placed some of them on their registries for "sexting."

On the other hand, celebrities have a unique privilege in our culture that cannot be denied. Am I the only one who noticed how quickly the FBI sprung into action and how the celebrity photos were taken down from the internet? Yet, the FBI can't seem to make a dent in deleting all that alleged child porn on the internet or the myriad of internet scams, even the scams pretending to be from the FBI itself. Yet, the FBI jumped into action like a Nazi Blitzkrieg once celebrities were involved.

My proposal to charge McKayla Maroney is not because I feel threatened by her in any way nor do I think she's a danger to society. What I do think is it would be yet another example of the craziness of our registry. If this push to prosecute Maroney is somehow actually successful, she could be on the registry next to someone who committed rape. Or, she could be next to the Oregon men who had relations with their wives in a Salem, Oregon park or the man who grabbed a teen's arm to chastise her for running in front of his car. We can find a place for her between the 10 year old kids on the list and the other sexters. She can sit in the celeb wing of the registry between Paul "Pee Wee Herman" Reubens and Mike Tyson. She can walk into the registry office and give her famous "not impressed" face while getting her mugshot.

Prosecuting McKayla Maroney would raise awareness to the dangers of taking nude pictures with devices that connect to the internet. It would raise awareness that sex offender laws have been expanded far beyond their original intentions, so much so that even some of those most responsible for the creation of these laws have spoken out against them. Star power alone would raise the level of debate.

Slowly, some states have made strides to prevent teens from landing on the registry for nude "selfies." It does not appear California is one of those states, and California has prosecuted teens for sexting in the past.  So there is nothing to stop the state from going ahead and prosecute Maroney.  In the interest of fairness, the state has a duty to prosecute Maroney. I say, "Go for it."

Monday, September 1, 2014

Bullshit Artistry: Blurring the lines between fiction and reality

A common problem in this age of "instant information" is that a lot of misinformation exists, and misinformation spreads like wildfire. It is possible for people to research before posting something, but few of us do. 

Someone sent me a link to a page from a news article about a kid named Paul Horner who engaged in something called "SWATTING" (calling in a fake threat of violence to get a SWAT team sent to someone's home) and was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison. The only problem is the source of the story is a site called the National Report, a satirical news site. In other words, this story is faker than Dolly Parton's bosom. 

There is indeed such a thing as "Swatting," and people have indeed fell victim to this prank. However, the National Report site is not a real news site. It even utilizes this mythical "Paul Horner" as a running gag; in addition to being featured in a number of stories in the NR (HERE as a Koran burning chef and HERE as a fundamentalist preacher who stones a woman to death), Paul Horner is listed as a "Staff Writer." The NR is just one of a number of satirical/ fake news websites out there (along with fake personalities like Georgia 15th District Rep. Steve Smith.)

This phenomenon isn't new-- remember the Weekly World News? But the fake sites are doing a better job at fooling people. If you've fallen for it, don't feel bad -- fake news led people to make harassing and threatening calls to a school, and even journalists from reputable news outlets have fallen for fake news. I can understand how people can fall for this stuff. We have other things to do than spend all day verifying news stories online. As social justice activists, we are sensitive to topics such as police abuse, so a story of a teen getting a 25-year sentence for a prank, even a potentially dangerous prank, catches our eye. Thus, 99% of us rely on the media as a primary source of info.

A lot of people try to pass off fake news as real, even if they are not writing satire. In fact, people have been far too willing to accept any myth about Registered Citizens, even claims of a massive underground ring of pedophilic satanists. A prime example of this mindset is a story that made the rounds in the media two years ago. A press release from Utica College in NY state proclaimed they conducted a study which concluded "1 in 6 sex offenders hide attempt to avoid monitoring" by use of various deceptive practices. Of course, the media was quick to pick up and run with the story. One headline reads "Some sex offenders turn to identity theft to avoid registration." Another claims, "Study: One in six sex offenders uses Internet to live undetected." A third outlet's headline reads "New study shows 1 out of 6 sex offenders 'manipulate' their identities." The entire basis for the article was the press release that may have been written by someone at The Onion.

There were a number of issues with the study. First, this was a preliminary study, so the study had not been subject to peer review. Second, the author of the study is not in the field of sex offender criminology, but the executive director of Utica College’s Center for Identity Management and Information Protection (CIMIP). In other words, he studies identity theft and economic crime (which may explain at least one of the aforementioned headlines). Third, the study had some interesting criteria for deciding who was manipulating registry info. Preliminary findings indicated that several of the most frequent identity manipulation methods utilized by sex offenders to avoid detection were:

  1. Using multiple aliases.
  2. Using various identifying information such as SS#s or date of birth.
  3. Stealing identifying information from family members.
  4. Manipulating either their own names, or changed name through marriage.
  5. Using the address of family members or friends.
  6. Altering physical appearance.
  7. Moving to other states with less stringent laws 

The last few criteria are intriguing. because it has little to do with identity theft. People get married, move to where life is better for them, or decide to try new hairstyles. I have moved a few times over the years, and I cut my hair shorter and have grown the "Stone Cold" goatee for a few years until it started going gray. Also, who is to say the discrepancy in the data is not result of clerical errors? (It happens to the best of us.) So I am likely ranked among those the researcher determined to be trying to shirk the system. Below are the techniques the researcher claims he utilized:

Rebovich and his colleagues employed various techniques to carry out their research such as: 

  • Conducting site visits where they interviewed subject matter experts in several states to discuss the registration, monitoring and absconder location process. 
  • Sending out a nationwide survey to law enforcement involved with sex offender registration, monitoring and location.
  • Analyzing data on registered sex offenders from the FBI/CJIS national database to develop estimates of the extent and nature of the missing sex offender problem, examine missing sex offender locations and to identify the factors that distinguish compliant from noncompliant sex offenders.
I honestly don't know how the first two techniques helped the researcher arrive to a conclusion. In particular, the "survey of law enforcement" method was the flawed technique that gave rise to the thoroughly debunked "100,000 missing sex offenders" myth. I must ask whatever happened to this study? To this date, the study has not been subject to peer-review (neither was the Parents For Megan's Law study that gave rise to the 100,000 missing RSO myth).

Another question is why the results were announced at a conference before anyone had a chance to review the findings:

And at least one longtime Dallas sex offender treatment provider questioned the motives for even conducting the study in the first place. “I’m extremely skeptical and I welcome an opportunity to read” the study when it’s finally published, said Philip Taylor, who has treated sex offenders for almost 20 years. “It seems to me that the premise fits in with the crafty, scheming sex offender that’s smarter than everyone else, and that’s just not the case.” Taylor said releasing some of the results of the study before all the data is ready for publication in its entirety touches on the issue of “research ethics.” “You don’t hold a conference and announce your findings before you’re ready to publish your paper,” Taylor said. “It’s a lot like rumor-mongering, and that’s when it becomes problematic.”

Thankfully, this study has not been utilized as the basis for a lot of public policy and has been all but forgotten. However, other studies, like the Prentky study (which claims high recidivism rates for registrants) and the Butner study (which claimed a link between CP viewers and hands-on offenses), despite being flawed studies, continue to influence public policy today.

One of the most important things you can do is verify what you read. I suggest reading the original source work, not the press release or the news story. If we are discussing a research paper, then try to obtain the original study. Sometimes, a simple email to the authors of the study will work, or, if you have access to a university, you might be able to download it from a university computer. Research papers can be stuffy and a bit confusing if you aren't trained in statistics. However, you can read the abstract and the discussion after the results to find a plain language summary of the study. I have found that sometimes the reporter did a terrible job of simplifying the study or neglecting such things as disclaimers (most research has a brief discussion on potential limitations of the study, such as sample size or demographics concerns). If you are verifying the news source, check with other reputable news sites (I don't consider many independent sites like Brietbart or The Examiner to be accurate news sources; as bad as the national media can be, independent news outlets can be far worse).

Doing your research takes time and a little know-how. It is not convenient but it saves time in the long-run. If you see a report that looks crazy, like a story of a kid getting 25 years for a phone threat, then verify the facts before you pass it on. That is not to say all crazy stories out there that are true, like the story of the woman who called the cops on her teen for looking at porn. Just remember to take the time to verify a story by doing a little fact-checking. Not every parody site is as obvious as The Onion, but it is embarrassing to have to tell people who read your pages that you posted a smoking pile of bovine excrement and you have to retract. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Vigilante Violence is NOT "Justice"

Christine and Jeremy Moody -- Skinhead "Heroes"
How do we rehabilitate a sex offender? They cannot be fixed, what they can do, is convinced the Psychologists that they are ‘fixed’ and they are safe to be released into society. The only cure for child abusers and molesters is to have every member of their immediate family killed. These nefarious crimes and people should not be allowed to procreate. By destroying their immediate family members, you purify the blood line. This is the only way to ensure that they (the pervert or family) cannot ever hurt a child again. Liberals will think that these statements are immature and that I must be empty headed. How many people consider the children that were abused or molested? What about the mental destruction that this child has to live with for the rest of their lives? How these children will find it difficult to ever trust another person. How these children may possibly never be able to have children of their own, because they were raped so severe, that it damaged them permanently? I don't think my suggestion is immature, I think it's the only answer, and if you don't agree, then you two should be destroyed[i].” – Jeremy Moody, “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.” Lulu Publishing, 2012. p.5

On Sunday, June 8, 2014, Jay Maynor[ii] of Cullman, Alabama shot and killed Raymond Earl Brooks, a registered citizen, who had served time for a sex crime against Maynor’s daughter 12 years ago[iii]. As with any story involving so-called “vigilante justice,” there are plenty of individuals coming out of the woodwork proclaiming this man a “hero.” The killer’s family has set up a Facebook page[iv] and a defense fund[v], and has raised $1500 in 10 days (the listed goal is $5000). A few of the comments from the fundraiser page are frightening and disturbing indeed:

There is no room in this world for pedophiles. They cannot be rehabilitated, and there is no cure. They should all be chucked off a boat and left for sharks.” – Holly Perkins

We have several sexual offenders living around us. Unless they start neutering them, I am with Mr. Maynor kind of justice.” – Kat Perry, who donated $5.00

As a survivor of abuse I support Mr. Maynor for seeking justice for his daughter. This demon should have never been allowed to walk the streets again, to have the chance to abuse another child. You are a hero to me Mr. Maynor.” – Jeanna Phillips, who donated $20.00

Jay Maynor's mugshot

A woman by the name of Kayla Maddux[vi], whose Facebook picture is a blue variation of the “Keep Calm” internet meme proclaiming “Keep Calm and Free Jaybird,” posted a comment to detractors at the Cullman Times, stating, “Dont [sic] go trying to tell facts when you dont know them.” When has the lack of facts stop the mass media from exploiting the tragedy for ratings? Even though the AP story didn’t mention the shooter’s name to “protect the victim’s identity,” they had no reservations posting the victim’s mug shot and proclaim him a sex offender[vii]. The lack of details didn’t stop Catherine Connors, an executive with the Walt Disney Company and “award winning blogger,” from writing a post on the Nancy Grace HLN site hinting that what Maynor did, although legally wrong, is understandable and she would be tempted to do the same thing. Connors states, “I know, if something like this happened to me, I might be tempted to do wrong, too[viii].” Michelle Lund from called the victim’s father a “pedo-sympathizer” and claimed that Cullman County Sheriff Mike Rainey cares more about sex offenders than “a father who had to watch her child suffer[ix].” Dr. Drew’s “Behavioral Bureau” also added their two cents[x]. HLN is notorious for focusing on stories such as this one.

The Dr. Drew show deserves a more in-depth critique. I have had the privilege of taking on Dr. Drew’s “Behavior Bureau” on two occasions in the past year. This is how the Bureau works – the show invites a panel of personalities to come on the show to discuss various topics, and not all of the panelists have explicit knowledge of the subject at hand. For this particular episode, the panelists were Leeann Tweeden, a TV sportscaster for poker and baseball’s Anaheim Angels, Anahita Sedaghatfar, a civil defense attorney and TV analyst, and Jason Ellis, a journeyman MMA fighter (who only fought two matches) who hosts a show on Sirius XM radio. Out of three individuals, only one has any degree of criminal justice experience, so the outcome of the show should come as no surprise.

Defense attorney Anahita Sedaghatfar stated she was against vigilante violence and that we can't be allowed to take the law into our own hands, but in the end, she still stated, “I would definitely defend [Maynor]. I think he has a strong case for mitigation in terms of sentencing.” As expected, the discussion simply went downhill from this point. Leeann Tweeden stares glaringly into the camera and proudly proclaims, “You do that to my child, I will shoot you in the head.” Jason Ellis gave the strangest statement of all. So, I don`t wanna -- I already said what I had to say, this -- when you bring up the extra -- I mean, I didn`t remember until I was 40 who the guy was that molested me. So, I didn`t know until I was about 26 that I`d been molested. I had to take a bunch of acid and they also recall it. Then, at 40 I find out who it is, because my body can`t even handle knowing who it is. You did that to that girl in that fashion, I don`t need to be related to the girl, I`ll kill him right now[xi].” It is interesting that Jason Ellis just stated that he “recalled” abuse that happened decades ago. (The False Memory Syndrome[xii] controversy continues, but that is a discussion for a different day.) The point is whether we want a person who took headshots for a living (like Ellis) or some “eye-candy” model who peddles her body for a living (like Weeden) to dictate the rules of society, especially not knowing the whole story behind the murders.

Returning to Kayla Maddux’s statement about knowing “all the facts,” supplemental articles have put together the facts. This is the complete story up until this point. The day of the murder, Jay Maynor got into an argument with his stepdaughter’s boyfriend (investigators say there was “bad blood” between the two men), and apparently, somewhere along the way, the boyfriend used the sexual abuse narrative to criticize Maynor, sending him into a rage. Maynor pulled out a gun and shot into the Berlin Quick Mart gas station where the boyfriend was sitting. Painter then went to the home of Raymond Earl Brooks and ambushed him, killing him in the home of his parents. The defense made the claim that a “catalyst” or “triggering event” that should considered mitigating factors for lowering his bail[xiii].

It is rather ironic that the term “trigger” was used Maynor’s defense since pulling a gun trigger landed Maynor in jail. The term “Trigger Warning” (or TW for short) is a relatively new buzzword. “In the area of mental health, a trigger is something which causes instant distress in a vulnerable person. If you know what can trigger a bad reaction, you can try to avoid those triggers in the same way that someone with an allergy might take steps to avoid dogs.” Trigger warnings first appeared on feminist websites to flag up stories of abuse[xiv]. This word is particularly dangerous because, in the words of Rhiannon Cosslett, triggers “smacked to me of victimhood.” Cosslett does not believe triggers hinder free speech, but states, “they do display an increasingly nannying approach to language that is being used to shut down discourse and to silence. Often, it is coupled with a sense of passive aggressive glee…I do not doubt that they are of enormous service to survivors with specific triggers likely to reoccur on feminist websites, but it has got to a point now where I feel women I have never met are trying to wrap me in cotton wool, and I detest that. PTSD can make you hypersensitive and hyper-aware…[xv]”Furthermore, trigger words perpetuates cultural victimhood; as one example, college campuses are considering placing trigger warnings on classic literature because people do not like feeling even slightly uncomfortable. As one RT reporter proclaimed, “Our kids WANT to be nannied. They WANT to be protected, and feel safe, and coddled[xvi].” And fear justifies some very atrocious behavior, like canonizing a man who shoots into a business establishment because he later killed a pariah of society.

When society canonizes a vigilante, society overlooks a lot of things; however, we should not forget Maynor’s actions have harmed many people, not just the murdered Registrant. Those victimized by Maynor’s actions found Maynor to be anything but heroic.

At Maynor’s bond hearing, “Cullman County District Attorney Wilson Blaylock called two witnesses, Jeremy Trimble and Bobby Weeks, who were present for the gas station shooting. Trimble testified he was present in the store at the time of the shooting and claimed one of the stray bullets came within 10 feet of hitting his child. ‘I was alarmed for my son’s safety and it made my heart stop,” he said. “He tried to shoot someone and shot another man.’Weeks was attending a child’s birthday party at the karaoke business located beside the gas station and said he heard a gun shot then looked outside to see Maynor with a gun drawn chasing another man. At that point, Weeks said he gathered the children together and took them inside for safety. ‘It sounded like he was yelling, ‘Come here you motherfucker,’ Weeks testified. ‘It scared me and the kids[xvii].’”

Jay Maynors shows the world how he feels about the laws of society
“Mike Hays, who cooks and operates a small barbecue restaurant inside Berlin Plaza Quick Stop, where the shooting occurred, said he came face-to-face with the shooter after the man opened fire outside and then entered the store looking for his intended victim, who wasn't hurt. ‘People here are calling him a hero for killing a child molester. I'm calling him a psychopathic lunatic for endangering peoples' lives, including mine,’ Hays said. After stopping his motorcycle at an intersection outside the store, the father fired once at a man who was standing beside an ice cooler, Hays said. The bullet entered an exterior wall of the store and chipped a window but no one was injured. Hays said he retrieved his own weapon and confronted [Maynor] near the cash register. ‘He had the gun down by his side. He was calm, as calm as you are standing there now. But he had that look in his eye,’ said Hays. ‘I have no problem with him shooting a child molester, just not 12 years later. If it was my daughter he would have died back in 2002[xviii].’”

“Brooks' father, Ralph Brooks, told WBRC-TV in Birmingham that his son did not deserve to die. He said Raymond Earl Brooks turned his life around after his conviction and lived a godly life that included being active in his church. Because his son's conviction happened so long ago, he said he couldn't be sure if the shooting was a form of revenge. ‘It would be unbelievable to hold animosity in your heart for 12 years,’ Brooks said[xix].

It should not be surprising with anyone that Jay Maynor had a criminal history. Maynor had made several court appearances over the years—once for DUI and three times for domestic violence (though the domestic violence charges were eventually dropped). It is laughable Maynor’s defense attorney brought these prior charges up in attempt to show the court that Maynor would come to court responsibly and should thus receive a lower bond. Thankfully bail was not reduced [xx].

This story has played out numerous times over the years. This brings me to the statement by Jeremy Moody at the beginning of this article. Moody’s proclamation could have been written just as easily by any anonymous commenter. But Moody’s proclamation was written in a self-written skinhead manifesto, alongside discussions on racial purity and ethnic cleansing. (Ironically, the head of Moody’s skinhead group, known as “Crew 41,” is a Registered Citizen[xxi].) Patrick Drum, who murdered two registrants in Washington State in 2012, had 47 criminal convictions over a 15 year period, including assault, drug, and burglary charges. One of his victims landed on the list for a consensual act with a teen when he was 17 years old. Drum and the Moody clan were unrepentant thugs with disgusting pasts. Had they killed anyone else, society would not have given any of them a second thought except to call for the heads of these men on a silver platter. But because their victims were Registered Citizens, people want to give murderers a free pass.

Even the Neo-Nazi skinhead Jeremy Moody had support from the public, as illustrated by this statement from a CNN commenter:

Kimberly269life – “In this case the dude had been convicted of a sex crime on a child!where is the good old killemall mindset we normally apply to pedophiles?What is your prob people? Pedophilia is a well known incurable condition-even castration doesn not cure this despicable condition in many men! He def needed killing.His wife on the other hand seems to have been collateral damage-but thats the price you pay for being connected to child molesters! Its true that many wives allow crimes against children-their own and others-by doing nothing and turning away.They are culpable.They are helping ! Nazis and other white supremists are really disgusting people-yes-but the pedophile is probably even lower ...frankly its a win/win from what I can see[xxii]” [Grammatical errors included]

The vigilante violence and the people who support them are definitive proof the registry, or any degree of public disclosure of Registered Citizens in the community, should be abolished. Until the registry is abolished, we will see this same story play out repeatedly in the coming years. Patt Morrison from the LA Times says, “Justice in a democracy cannot be some tit-for-tat clan vendetta, or determined by bribes or bias. It must be the dispassionate act of the people and the state, whose good order and laws have been violated. Vigilante justice erodes the authority and regard for a legal system that can’t be about vengeance or passion… And when an Alabama father or a California mother usurps that role, they are not heroes, because vengeance is not justice. And justice, not just someone’s child, becomes a victim too[xxiii].” 

The registry is a “catalyst” and a “trigger event” that enrages the community, and when a person is assaulted or murdered because of this registry, justice is perverted.

[ii] In terestingly enough, the AP did not publish the perpetrator’s name, stating “The Associated Press doesn't identify victims of sex crimes, and it isn't naming the man charged with murder to protect his daughter's identity.” Yet, they published the victim's name and picture and proclaimed him a sex offender. See Jay Reeves, “ALABAMA MAN CHARGED IN SLAYING GAINS SUPPORT.” AP, June 10, 2014.
[iii] Trent Moore, “Cullman man charged with murder in Berlin shooting.” Cullman Times, June 9, 2014.
[vi] Apparently Kayla the daughter of Jay Maynor, though she does not list him as her father on her Facebook page.
[viii] Catherine Commons, “Avenging a horrid crime: Right, but still wrong?” HLN, June 18, 2014.
[ix] Michelle Lund, “Jay Maynor, Hero Shoots Man Who Molested His Daughter.”, June 14, 2014.
[x] Dr. Drew staff, “Father charged in shooting death of daughter's molester.” HLN, June 12, 2014.
[xiii] Trent Moore, “Maynor’s attorney: ‘Trigger event’ caused shooting, seeking bail reduction.” June 12, 2014.
[xiv] “Trigger warnings: What do they do?” BBC, Feb. 24, 2014.
[xv] Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, “Why I don’t agree with trigger warnings.” New Statesman, Jan. 29, 2013.
[xvi] “Our Kids Want to be Nannied. We’re Screwed.” The Resident (Russia Today), May 27, 2014.
[xvii] Trent Moore, “BREAKING: Bond reduction denied in Maynor murder case.” Cullman Times, June 19, 2014.
[xviii] Jay Reeves, “ALABAMA MAN CHARGED IN SLAYING GAINS SUPPORT.” AP, June 10, 2014.
[xix] Ibid.
[xx] Moore, “Breaking”
[xxi] “Killing Sex Offenders: The Apparent Hypocrisy of Crew 41.” Southern Poverty Law Center, July 29, 2013.
[xxiii] Patt Morrison, “Opinion Does an angry parent killing a child molester ever serve justice?” LA Times, June 17, 2014.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Defending the “Worst of the Worst”

A couple of months ago, I was invited to “Dr. Drew On Call” on HLN. This was my third HLN appearance in less than a year. The topic for discussion was whether a person deemed the “Pillowcase Rapist” should be released into the community after serving 18 years in civil confinement for a series of rapes. The idea, of course, was to find somebody willing to defend this person on TV so the rest of the “Behavior Bureau” can act shocked and appalled and stir up the emotions of those watching the program. Predictably, there was some outrage directed at me for defending this man. One person suggested I should've joined the chorus of condemnation, while a fellow activist claimed I set the movement back five years. I find these assumptions absurd, of course.

If anything, the sex offender reform movement seems to have a great fear of actually standing up for our rights at times. There is a bit of philosophical disagreement, even in a relatively small movement such as this. We have individuals who only fight for “R&Js” (for outsiders reading this, that is short for “Romeo and Juliet,” or teens on the list for having consensual sexual relations with one another), or some only for hands-off offenders, or those only considered low level registrants. It certainly is not easy to try to defend the rights of an individual who was convicted for raping 38 women. Obviously, a couple of comments directed towards me were based out of fear – at the least, a fear of losing what little reputation or credibility we have as a movement.

I recognize there is an erroneous belief by the general public that “sex offender advocacy” somehow implies that we condone what the individual did, or “advocating for the right to abuse people.” Or, if we allow this person to obtain any degree of comfort or stability, such as having a roof over his head or a job, then we condone his past behavior. I do not condone his past actions. However, the argument is not about condoning a man's past, but about giving this individual the opportunity to become a productive member of society once he has served a court mandated sentence, no more, no less. He was tried, convicted, and confined to civil commitment, and now the civil commitment center deems he is ready to be released. The system has spoken.

It is not easy to stand up for the constitutional rights of an individual of somebody as notorious as someone who has a nickname like the “Pillowcase Rapist.” However, as a person who believes that the U.S. Constitution should apply equally to all citizens, as it has been interpreted since the values were committed to paper. The rights that were enumerated by the Constitution were put in there for good reason. The individuals who founded this country felt persecuted and their individual freedoms violated by the British, so they instituted policies to ensure that the rights of the few were not trumped by the rights of many. Instead, a balance was to be achieved between individual freedoms than the needs of society as a whole. Obviously, the founding fathers had a number of injustices committed against them in their minds as they wrote the U.S. Constitution.

As I mentioned before, many outside our cause obviously believe that we are advocating the right to sexually abuse other individuals. That is untrue, obviously, but people cannot separate the past from the present. My personal belief is if an individual commits a crime, we have a system in place that punishes wrongdoers and that that individual should be punished in accordance with the law of the land. The system is far from perfect, and there are always reforms to be made in the system, but the system is what it is.

However you may feel about an individual sentence, what should remain constant is that when an individual serves a court mandated sentence, the individual who served time should be given a fair chance to become a productive member of society. That is not to say I demand an individual to invite a registered citizen into their home, cooking dinner, and let Junior set on his lap (though very few registered citizens would be a threat to Junior in the first place). What I advocate is that post-conviction “remedies” such as public shaming registries, residency restrictions, extortion fees, and related laws be abolished. Punishment should remain within the confines of the criminal justice system, whether the person being incarcerated or placed on community supervision.

What I desire to see is that the system continues to be reformed in a way that honors the Constitution passed by our original founding fathers, one that seeks a true balance between individual freedoms and public safety. We must pass laws based upon evidence, not raw emotion. Allowing the victim industry to call the shots and pass public policy on the basis of revenge motive has created a system by which we punish teenagers for taking naughty pictures of themselves or having consensual sexual relations with one another the same way we would treat an individual who was convicted of raping 38 adult women.

A more ideal system would allow an individual accused of a sex crime an adequate defense; because sex crimes are emotionally charged, we must make steps to ensure that individual rights are not trumped by emotional appeals and public opinion. The accused must be given the opportunity to mount it adequate defense without running afoul of laws that limit the ability to bring the credibility of the accuser into question. The media must be held accountable for their portrayals and sway over the public opinion of the case before it goes to trial. Potential jurors should be questioned on their views about sex offenses and those who commit them before they are allowed on a jury. I person should be convicted based upon evidence, not just on the basis of an unfounded allegation alone.

A more ideal system would couple punishments with rehabilitation. By rehabilitation, I mean evidence-based, heterogeneous programs that holding individual accountable while helping them to overcome their personal struggles. Programs that shame the individual and the simple act of warehousing individuals with lengthy prison sentences have proven to be ineffective methods of rehabilitating individuals serving time. If a person is incarcerated, then that person should be placed in the programs that will help an individual prepare for an offense free life in the outside world.

A more ideal system was established more transitional housing for individuals released from incarceration in order to assist them in successfully reintegrating to society. There are ready a number of successful programs across the country, including faith-based initiatives and groups like Circles of Supports and Accountability (CoSA), which have been proven to increase the likelihood that a person convicted of a sex crime will not re-offend. It is especially important during those important first three years of post-release to assist in individual in obtaining adequate housing, employment, and support to minimize the already low likelihood of recidivism. Public registries, residency restrictions, and other shaming tactics should be completely abolished, as they have been shown to disrupt the successful reintegration of individuals who have already served their sentences.

What does it really mean to be an advocate for the rights of registered citizens? It does not mean advocating against punishment of individuals who commit harm to others in a sexual manner. What it does mean is advocating for a fair and just system by which individuals who have committed crimes are punished justly, while maintaining the rights granted to us by the U.S. Constitution. We advocate a system in which decisions are based upon factual evidence, not appeals to revenge oriented emotion. It seems quite simple, because it is quite simple. The standard is universal, and we do not make exceptions. After all, the proclamation was made that "all men are created equal," even the “worst of the worst.”

Do I honestly believe on a personal level that the so-called “Pillowcase Rapist” will succeed? Probably not. The evidence is not in his favor, as repeat offenders are more likely to reoffend than single-offense registrants. He's going to be closely monitored, with the GPS monitor and a probation officer looking for any reason to send him back to prison. If anything, he may be back in prison within a couple of weeks for missing a curfew or not plugging in his GPS. People will feel better and move on to the next scare story of the day. There is also the possibility that this man keeps his nose clean and lives out the rest of his days of free man, much to the disdain of all those who have an opinion about him. We simply can't admit that we can't predict human behavior. I can be completely wrong about this man. What I do know is so long as this person is free I want him to be as productive a member of society as he can possibly be, because I know if he fails, no matter the reason, all of us on the registry pay the price.

Of course, making an entire group pay for the mistakes of a single individual is unconstitutional, but that is a rant for another day.

Friday, May 16, 2014

L'Oreal provides the makeup to hide the monster Lauren Book has become

Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you. – Friedrich Nietzsche

It is often said a picture is worth 1000 words. This particular picture speaks volumes. This picture was taken some time during the international embarrassment known as the Julia Tuttle Causeway sex offender colony, a.k.a. “Bookville.” Standing in the forefront is the notorious Ron Book, along with his daughter Lauren, standing defiantly. Behind them is a homeless camp created by the very policies these two worked to create, along with two people the Books forced to live under the bridge. Together, Ron and Lauren Book campaigned to create the most onerous residency restriction laws in the country in Dade County, forcing a number of registered citizens to live under a bridge. Years after the homeless camp was dismantled, homelessness remains a problem among a significant portion of Miami's registered citizens.

Much of the focus over the years has been on Ron Book, while for the most part his daughter Lauren has been pretty much relegated to the view of her of Ron’s lackey or puppet. After all, Ron was by far the more visible and vocal of the two. Ron is the powerful and corrupt South Florida lobbyist, while Lauren has always been invoked whenever Ron needed a victim to justify his policies. Ron is even the president of Lauren's Kids, a victim industry organization named for Lauren. We seemingly forget the role that Lauren has played in the debacle that was Bookville.

Lauren's annual “Walk in My Shoes” campaign turned into campaigns and even legislation designed to further erode the rights of the accused. In fact, the state of Florida passed the “Walk in Their Shoes Act,” which expanded the admissibility of collateral crime or “similar fact” evidence in cases where a person is charged with child molestation or a sexual offense. In other words, the Act allows hearsay evidence such as a prior allegation, even a false allegation, as evidence in abuse cases.

It was brought to my attention that L'Oreal Paris has an annual award event entitled, “Women of Worth,” and Lauren Book was given the award in December 2013. Considering the recent controversial actions that Lauren Book has taken, the L'Oreal company should reconsider giving an award to a person like Lauren Book. It is obvious that Lauren, in her quest to fight “monsters,” has become Nietzsche's proverbial monster herself.

Consider her more recent actions. Last month, during Lauren's annual Walk in My Shoes campaign, Lauren stopped to give her blessing to a pocket park that was built specifically to force registered citizens to move out of a community, driving untold numbers of registrants into homelessness. “I can't tell you how many times I ask parents, ‘Do you know who's living next door?' and they're afraid to look,’” Lauren said. “So, it's being educated within the law: know who's around you and use examples like (Bayberry Lakes), where you build a park to keep a vulnerable section of your community safer.” Lauren is now encouraging other communities to build pocket parks in order to force registered citizens out of communities. She wants to make the rest of Florida like Miami-Dade County.

More recently, Lauren put her support behind a controversial bill that would literally play scarlet letters on the driver's licenses of registered citizens. The state of Florida already marks the driver's licenses of registered citizens with the number of the statutes under which they were convicted. Under the new law, those the state considers “sexual predators” will have the term sexual predator written on their licenses in scarlet letters. It is interesting that Lauren Book invokes both the term scarlet letter and the TSA in the following statement:

 “This designation is a tool that we as community members – from law enforcement officers to TSA agents to teachers, daycare workers, doctors, nurses and everyone in between – can use to further protect the children and families of Florida… I believe a statutory reference is too benign. This is a scarlet letter that clearly states ‘WARNING! Keep this individual away from children!’ They are a clear and imminent danger, and parents and families have a right to know.”

If there is a true imminent danger to our society, it is individuals like Lauren Book using her position and the law to harm other individuals. Perhaps the most distressing of all is the fact that Florida passed a bill this year that gives victim industry advocates like Lauren a place on a committee that determines which registrants become candidates for civil commitments upon their release from prison.

I guess to some small degree we can reasonably expect a makeup company to do a very good job of screening candidates for some meaningless award created by their company. In our society, it seems the victim industry is rarely, if ever, scrutinized for the policies that they support or advocate. What Lauren Book advocates for is summarized by a picture. Lauren Book advocates for the suffering of human beings. Lauren Book is just as responsible for the Julia Tuttle Causeway sex offender colony as her father was. It was not just Ron we thought of when I and fellow members of SOSEN started calling the colony “Bookville” in 2009.

However, I also feel it is our responsibility as citizens to scrutinize those who use of emotional stories to justify sweeping laws that cause potential harm to thousands of citizens. It seems Lauren Book has failed to heed Nietzsche's warning, choosing to become a monster to fight those she considers monsters. Not even all the makeup produced by the L'Oreal Corporation could cover a Miami sized blemish on Florida's sex offender policy. Giving Lauren Book such an award is as much a faux pas as naming Hitler time magazine's Man of the year.