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The Guilty Project: The First Rape is a Freebie, then Loc Buu Tran Slaughters A Young Woman

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Courtwatcher Orlando’s Laura Williams brings attention to the case of Loc Buu Tran:

2006-CF-014820-O In custody since 10/19/06 ~ Trial now scheduled for 11/16/09 with Judge John Adams.  1st Degree Murder. Allegedly stabbed a UCF student to death 10/06 when she tried to break up with him. Also was convicted 8 years ago in Clearwater for rape. Mistrial was declared 8/12/09 after Judge Jenifer Davis realized during the first witness’ testimony that she had worked on the case when in the PD’s office.
Why can’t we seem to get this guy tried?

Good question.  The judge, who rose to the bench after working as a defense attorney, claims that she “didn’t remember” that she had previously represented Tran.  How, exactly, does that happen in an extremely well-publicized murder case of a college student?

Judge Jennifer M. Davis was presiding over the case until she officially disqualified herself this morning on the grounds that she previously had worked in the public defender’s office as an attorney. Davis said she was part of Loc Tran’s defense.

“I’ve had this case for awhile,” Davis said. “It had not occurred to me I had worked in the office that initially represented this case, so legally I have no choice but to disqualify myself.”

Davis apologized to the jury and said she had worked as a supervisor with the attorneys defending the case. She said she didn’t realize until she heard the witness testimony from Nhat-Anh’s sister.

Here’s another question: why did Tran get probation from a judge in Clearwater, Florida in 1998 for the crime of burglary, sexual battery and kidnapping?

Probation for sexual assault.  Pinellas County’s on-line records are sketchy, but it appears that some judge in Clearwater, Florida gave Tran mere probation in December of 1998 for several serious crimes including sexual assault.  Think about that.  Rape a woman, get probation.  “First” offense, a freebie (though it appears it isn’t his first offense — a previous case is listed but there are no extant records).  In other words, nobody bothered to prosecute him that time, so the rape became a second first offense.  That makes the murder a fourth eighth offense.

There is a “sentencing guideline departure” page listed on the County website, but I can’t open that either.  No kidding they departed.

I would love to hear the justification for granting probation for rape.  Especially because Tran went on to take another woman’s life.

From what I can tell, and I’ll check on this after the holiday, after Loc Tran received probation for the 1998 rape, he went on to violate his probation with a fistful of credit card fraud charges which led to his finally being sentenced to prison in 2002.

Rape a woman, walk.  Steal a credit card, and you’re going to the big house, buddy.

But not for very long.  In July, 2002, Tran was sentenced to serve seven concurrent sentences of 3 years, two months each.  Take a good look at the offenses, all telescoped down to one concurrent prison term.  This is how crimes are disappeared by the courts every day, and victims are denied even the semblance of justice.  Or safety.

Current Prison Sentence History:
Offense Date Offense Sentence Date County Case No. Prison Sentence Length
04/27/1998 BURGLARY ASSAULT ANY PERSON 07/24/2002 PINELLAS 9807111 3Y 2M 0D
04/27/1998 SEX BAT/INJURY NOT LIKELY 07/24/2002 PINELLAS 9807111 3Y 2M 0D
04/27/1998 KIDNAP;COMM.OR FAC.FELONY 07/24/2002 PINELLAS 9807111 3Y 2M 0D
04/27/1998 OBSTRUCT CRIME INVESTIGATION 07/24/2002 PINELLAS 9807111 3Y 2M 0D
12/22/2001 FRAUD-CREDIT-CARD 07/24/2002 PINELLAS 0120895 3Y 2M 0D
12/22/2001 FRAUD-CREDIT-CARD 07/24/2002 PINELLAS 0120895 3Y 2M 0D
12/22/2001 FRAUD-CREDIT-CARD 07/24/2002 PINELLAS 0120895 3Y 2M 0D

Then, of course, after letting Tran get away with a known rape for four years, then catching him violating his probation with several other charges, then sentencing him to an absurdly short prison term . . . well, why break a perfect record of sheer contempt for victims of crime, not to mention the safety of women?  The State of Florida let him go early, after serving only 26 months of a 38 month sentence.

They also apparently trash-canned the rest of his probation, for good measure.  It’s all about prisoner “re-entry,” you know.  Probation’s a drag.  How dare we ask judges to enforce the law when rapists need to be rehabilitated back into society and given job training and that all-important-help getting their voting rights reinstated (Florida Governor Charlie Crist’s weird hobbyhorse)?

As we know now, Tran “re-entered” society with a bang.  A slash, really, stabbing a young woman to death when she tried to break up with him.   Given the court’s repeated bungling of his case this time, you have to wonder if he’ll ever really be off the streets.

Take a good look at his face.

This is a man who knows there are no consequences for the crimes he commits against women.  Expect endless, expensive appeals for him, and more of the same when he walks out of prison a second time.

Journalistic Ethics Fortnight, Part 5: Vanity Fair’s “Up With Pedophilia!” Issue

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Imagine if reporters actually behaved neutrally when approaching subjects like the government’s efforts to stop child predators.  Imagine if they sat themselves down and said: I am going to suspend my natural tendency to side with the accused and control my adolescent rebelliousness towards all authority.  I am going to behave as if I am the blank slate I am supposed to be, suspending judgment as I gather and report facts.

No?  I didn’t think so.

In the very same issue in which Graydon Carter advances his theory that certain people (his friends) shouldn’t have to go to prison for child rape, but should be permitted to make art expressing the pain of child rape instead, Vanity Fair ran this article ostensibly investigating the “shadowy” world of police stings of internet sexual predators.

Note that the term “shadowy” here refers to the cops, not the suspects.

In every way this is a companion piece to Graydon Carter’s weepy panegyric to Roman Polanski.  Author Mark Bowen’s intense effort to paint an entirely sympathetic portrait of child predators is matched only by his presumptions that the police are naturally acting in bad faith:

After months of prowling Internet chat rooms, posing as the mother of two young daughters, Detective Michele Deery thought she had a live one: “parafling,” a married, middle-aged man who claimed he wanted to have sex with her kids. But was he just playing a twisted game of seduction? Both the policewoman and her target give the author their versions of the truth . . .

I’ll save you the trouble of reading it to find out which “truth” Bowden chooses: he completely buys the sex offender’s line — which is, astonishingly, that he didn’t really want to sleep with the children being offered to him on-line, but merely initiated talk of raping the children on a fetish chat line, then spent months planning on-line to have sex with them, and arranging on-line to have sex with them, and fantasizing on-line about having sex with them, and then showed up with a bag of sex toys, handcuffs and condoms to have sex with an 8 and 11-year old because he is really shy and awkward around women and was afraid the mom wouldn’t like him anymore if he didn’t seem like someone who wanted to rape her children.

A great deal of the article is delivered in a creepy first-person narrative, Bowen weaving the sex offender’s “version” in through other details, as if it is the real story, not one of the “two truths” he briefly purports to be exploring.  Before long, the predator’s version literally takes over:

Bingo! A woman! The line popped up in a window at the top of J’s screen as soon as he logged in to the chat room.  He had peeked into a number of active chats to see how many women were there, and logged on to the ones with a promising ratio. His screen name, parafling, was a nod to paraflying, the tiny parachute/tricycle flying machines he had once or twice enjoyed. It was the only really different, exciting thing about him. He imagined it was like a colorful lure on the surface of a pond.

See.  He’s just lonely, and kind of pathetic.

The sun blazed in from the window to his back porch. J had about an hour before his wife would be home from work. She knew nothing of his cybersex life, or if she did, she ignored it. A burly, round-faced man of 42, with a thickly muscled neck and shoulders, thinning hair, and a goatee, he was seated before the computer in their living room in a small, two-story town house in suburban Philadelphia. J had just finished a long day repairing copy machines, driving from one job to the next. This was his time, a quiet interlude before his wife came in the door from her job at the local hospital. He would have to deal with her until about eight p.m., which is when she usually retired upstairs.

J didn’t sleep much. The steroids he was injecting to help him bulk up made his heart race and filled him with explosive energy and lust. He felt like a walking hard-on. The Internet was his only outlet, and it had become a compulsion.

Compulsion, addiction.  Not his fault, of course.  Now here comes the crux of his “excuse”:

In the years he had been dipping into these chat rooms, he had learned a few things about the women who entered them. They were skittish. J was convinced that everyone, down deep, had twisted sexual desires, and he had reasons in his own life for believing this—his first sexual relationship, as a teenager, which had lasted five years, was with a slightly older girl who liked sadomasochistic play. In this sense, women were no different from men, except they were more reluctant to show themselves. The ones who entered the fetish rooms had desires that were very specific. Men were eager and up for whatever—that certainly defined J—but women were looking to scratch a particular itch. He knew that if he answered the query from heatherscutiepies wrongly, she would simply stop responding. Her question was a polite nibble. The response was critical. He had chatted about this online with other men, comparing notes on opening moves, and the safest approach seemed to be simply to announce that you were into “everything,” right off the bat.

He typed:

—I am into bondage s/m breeding incest young rape spanking you name it . . .

He had learned from earlier chats that if he said he had never tried a thing the woman would stop responding. It was best to claim to have done everything. Besides, making these things up came easily to him. In the years he had been chatting sexually online, J had learned to ease fluidly into a realm of complete make-believe.

The story goes on, and on, and on . . . and on, about how poor J keeps talking about raping children because he is really, really worried “Heatherscutiepies” won’t like him unless he does, and he’s kind of a lonely guy. Except for having a wife, of course.  And, except that he started the child sex stuff.  And that he keeps this part of the conversation going when the undercover detective steers away to other subjects.  And that he is actually trolling other sites and trying to talk to other women about raping their children, too, a fact that ought to give Bowen a clue but doesn’t:

He had engaged other women online within the last few weeks with highly descriptive talk about sex with their children. So he asked specific questions about how physically able the girls were to have sex, and then slid back onto his own erotic turf . . .

You see, everyone’s making him talk about raping children, and he just wants to be loved in a different way.  Isn’t that, like, weird?  Mark Bowen, at least, agrees:

Words were J’s game. Perverse ideas. He had never been aroused by images. He was not a porn addict. What gripped him was a woman limning her darkest dreams—for him. This was the essence of his personal fetish, a woman baring all, not the private parts of her body but the private parts of her mind, her unique sexuality, her heart’s most peculiar desire. It drove him wild. He was after heatherscutiepies’ singular taboo. The key to her erotic zone, the thing J sought to provide in return, was complete acceptance. His chatting partner had to feel free to go anywhere with him.

Not even a quarter of the way through this stuff, you really have to wonder if Bowen even gets how much he has lost his way, that he’s utterly riffing on this guy’s justifications, holding up every facet to the light, urging him on and not critically examining a word the sex offender is claiming.

This isn’t journalism: it’s pure advocacy.  “A woman limning her darkest dreams for him.”  Really?  Is that true?  Or is it something people say when they get caught trying to solicit multiple children for sex on the internet?

One of the most staggeringly dishonest aspects of this article lies in Bowen’s refusal, after all this chest-heaving, woman-limning stuff, to proceed to show J’s actual description of what he wants to do to the 8 and 11 year old girls.  Astonishingly, Bowen throws a veil over this, the heart of the police case.  He turns the moment into yet another opportunity for J to claim that he didn’t intend to rape the girls, instead:

If he could get her alone, they could play and he would be long gone by the time she came home with the girls. That could work. Real sex! He was tremendously excited by the idea.

—I have thought about this for so long baby

—yea its been a while for them

“Them.” O.K., he thought, I get it. At this point J plunged in, inventing a sexual encounter with her and the girls, giving heather exactly what he thought she was after. The details are graphic and sickening, and cannot be printed.

The last sentence is Bowen’s.  It’s really hard to tell, isn’t it?

It’s also very hard to actually evaluate the police’s case, since Bowen refuses to reveal it.  You know, to protect us.  So the police are simply hung out to dry, narrated and condemned away by a predator and a journalist entranced by his views.

There are some minor things Mark Bowen gets right: statistics on the prevalence on child internet sexual predators are exaggerated, of course.  There is a moderately interesting history of legal entrapment larded in between all the method-acting-stream-of-consciousness child molester stuff, too, though it is, of course, also shamelessly one-sided.  I would call it unprofessionally one-sided, but journalism is a profession in which such one-sidedness advocacy for offenders is the professional standard.

Imagine a world where journalists actually bother to report on the vast historical and current predominance of cases where the police do an exemplary job bringing offenders to justice.

No?  I didn’t think so.

But all of this pales beside the story Bowen is telling. His article literally mutates before our eyes, into a raw plea for a sexual predator’s twisted justifications for his crime, gussied up with paragraph breaks.  The end of the article is an extended sob-fest for J.  All pretense of examining the issue is long gone:

J is off steroids. His body has slipped back into a normal shape, slightly pudgy. His manner is subdued, submissive, earnest, eagerly friendly, and polite. He helped several inmates earn high-school diplomas when he was in jail, and he is proud of that.

How touching.  Amazing, all the people helping offenders get their diplomas in jail (and how he did this in a year’s time in a county jail, I don’t know, but hey, who has time to fact-check these things?).  It’s not like he’d make anything up.

He lives alone in his suburban town house with his dogs. He has joined a church. He says the pastor there has embraced him, forgiven him, and provided him with support and direction. After his arrest he went to every neighbor in his suburban cul-de-sac, knocking on doors to tell each of them his story. He did not want them to know only what they learned from the police.

Yeah, I bet he did that.  I often hear from decent people who are shattered that they trusted someone who claimed he was merely framed for prior crimes.  Then the person rapes and kills again.  We must let go of this fantasy that our prisons are filled with innocent men.  They aren’t.

He says they believe him, and he feels accepted. He recently found a new job, after telling his whole story to the man who hired him.

Let’s hope he’s not working with children.

He sees the years he spent obsessed with cybersex as an illness, or a lapse into sinfulness, that drew him deeper and deeper into depravity. He is embarrassed. He has been humiliated.

But he has stayed angry. The classes he attends as a condition of his probation demand that he admit a sexual desire for children. It is considered an essential step toward recovery. J told his instructor that he has no such desire. He never did. He was told that if he persists in this denial he will jeopardize his probation and could be sent back to jail.

So he pretends to be something he is not. He is good at it.

Cue to violins.  What the hell is the matter with Vanity Fair?  Why are they so up with pedophiles?  Isn’t there some less degrading taboo they can go break to make themselves feel all rebellious and brave?

Journalistic Ethics Fortnight, Part 4: Vanity Fair’s Pedophilia Problem

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Graydon Carter has a problem. How do you pose as a moralist while excusing your own history of peddling young flesh — and justifying the child-rape committed by your friend?

It’s a tall order.  Under Carter’s tutelage, Vanity Fair has acquired a strange fixation on certain types of photos of nude young women.  It’s simply weird how often the editor feels compelled to litter his pages with shot after shot of extremely youthful actresses in the buff surrounded by other people in clothes — also weird how vehemently and frequently he defends this basement-porn aesthetic in the magazine’s pages.  This tightrope act occasionally threatens to unravel beneath the weight of one too many coy verbal gestures toward the breasts of girls who could be one’s daughter, or rather grand-daughter.  But Carter just can’t seem to help himself.

Of course, the Vanity Fair editor has a dial-in justification for all of this, the very same justification he uses when sending camera crews around the world in private jets to shoot photographs of movie stars berating non-private-jet-flying-people for burning fossil fuel in Vanity Fair’s annual “Green” issue:

But these are celebrities raping children (or the planet).  Rules don’t apply to celebrities, do they?

Such a worldview is merely laughable when the product is giant-carbon-footprint eco-porn featuring Leonardo DiCaprio looking sad over melting icebergs, wedged between ads for luxury products that actually are accelerating the warming of the planet.  It’s less funny when Graydon Carter mounts the well-worn stairs of his bully pulpit to insists that there is nothing troubling about pressuring young actresses to pose nude alongside fully-clothed male actors, or nothing wrong with publishing topless shots of an underage Miley Cyrus: the photos were taken by Annie Leibowitz, so it’s OK that she pressured the child to take off her top because the end result was artistic.

The “artistic” stuff is harder to swallow when you see how the magazine packaged the photo shoot controversy, and I quote:

Sweet niblets, Annie Leibovitz’s photographs of Miley Cyrus sure have caused a stir. . . as this exclusive video shows, the nefarious photo shoot that has parents threatening to host Hannah Montana bonfire parties was actually a relaxed family event in one of the most picturesque settings imaginable: the green hills of Calabasas, California. Check it out!

Check it out, indeed.  The mag promises “candid images” from the shoot.  And the video still accompanying this cheeky proffer is a jarring, grainy back-shot of Cyrus swinging from a tree limb with her bare-skinned bottom coming out of her pants.

It resembles nothing more than the dirty playground snapshots a pedophile would take on the sly.

What message is Carter sending, framing the debate over his decision to publish “artistic” topless photos of an underage girl with a troubling photograph like this one?  What does it mean that he runs a photo so obviously resembling child porn with a blurb insisting, of all things, on the “relaxed family” atmosphere of the Miley Cyrus photo shoot?  I think one should always take people at face value, and the face Carter is offering is a belligerent one, defending his right to break the rules because of who he is, while slyly pushing the envelope even further.

Context matters, including ugly context (see here and here for more disturbing smirkiness on Miley Cyrus’ body by other aging VF writers).

You hardly need a rorschach to perceive Graydon Carter’s ethos of ethical exceptionalism for celebrities.  Here he is, in the current VF issue (not yet available online), writing about Roman Polanski’s rape of a drugged child.  After some creepy, predictable natter about Polanski being Jean Valjean to the Los Angeles Justice Department’s Inspector Javert, which if taken at face value undermines all that follows, Carter argues for leniency over holding Polanski responsible for his crimes, on the grounds that he is a talented film director and therefore should not be subject to the same laws that apply to the less aesthetically inclined.  You know, the Jack Henry Abbott defense:

Even during the trial in London, my affection for [Polanski] never flagged.  Perhaps many of his supporters are correct.  Perhaps he should be treated differently.  Perhaps, in this case, the punishment should fit the criminal rather than the crime.  Perhaps the act of penance that would do the greatest amount of lasting good would be for Polanski not to go to jail but instead to spend the next period of his life — perhaps the rest of his life — using his protean talents as a filmmaker to create an anti-rape feature, one that would show the brutality and consequences of this heinous act.

It’s sort of like jurisprudential carbon credits: rape a kid, make a movie about raping kids, clean the slate.  But important questions remain unanswered: what type of punishment is it, exactly, to green light a pedophile to shoot a movie about child rape?

And what happens if Polanski plans a sequel?  Does he get a second pass?

What Graydon Carter is suggesting here is grotesque.  It is a nauseating assault on the dignity of crime victims, a creepily shameless argument for unequal application of our laws.  All the bespoke tailoring in the world can’t turn such a piggish mindset into anything other than what it is: assertion of the right of certain elite people to rape less elite children, wedged on scented pages between ads for Dooney and Bourke purses and Louis Vuitton travel bags.

If I represented either of those companies, I’d be more than a little disgusted by the environs.  But that’s only the first article in the latest Vanity Fair that works hard to excuse the rape of a child.  Perhaps in a bow to the flagging economy, this month is a two for one.

Tomorrow: Child rapists are simply misunderstood aesthetes who feel too much, Part II.

The Guilty Project, Dennis Earl Bradford: A Jury Understood Why He Had To Slash That Woman’s Throat

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The Guilty Project documents flaws in the justice system that enable serial offenders to commit more crimes.

Failure to Prosecute, Wrongful Acquittal by Jury, Early Release by State, Family/Employer Cover-Up

Dennis Earl Bradford

Dennis Earl Bradford made the news recently when cold-case investigators in Houston linked his DNA to the brutal kidnapping, rape and throat-slashing of an eight-year old child in 1990.  The child survived and was able to give investigators an excellent picture of her assailant and his first name, Dennis, which he told her.  Unfortunately, Bradford was not identified at the time as a suspect in the crime.

He moved to Little Rock, where he was caught, six years later, after committing a similar crime: he kidnapped a woman, raped her at knife-point, and slit her throat, telling her he was going to kill her.  That victim survived as well and was able to provide Bradford’s tag number to authorities.

According to CNN, Bradford was originally charged with attempted first-degree murder, but prosecutors took the murder charges off the table for some reason.  Sometimes, saying you’re going to kill someone while kidnapping them, raping them, and slitting their throat just isn’t murderous enough, I suppose.

Then a Little Rock jury refused to convict Bradford for the rape.  He had bought his victim a beer and offered her a ride home.  Therefore, they reasoned, she was asking for the rape, and she must have been hankering for a throat-slitting as well.  They did find him guilty of kidnapping, thus putting the final touch on an incoherent, irresponsible verdict: according to this brain-trust, he moved the woman against her will, but she went right along with being cut up with a knife.  And women who drink beer can’t be raped, you know.

Bradford was sentenced to 12 years in 1997 but strolled out of prison a mere three years later.  He had a toddler and a baby at the time he committed the Little Rock rape.  His boss thinks he’s a fine, upstanding citizen despite that little attempted murder/rape/throat slashing thing, and now the revelation about the eight-year old victim:

Bradford worked as a welder for United Fence in North Little Rock. A company representative said Bradford had been working there for 10 years and was a “good guy” who had mended “his old ways” and “changed his life.” He wouldn’t go into specifics about what those “old ways” were.

His family is similarly convinced of his excellent nature.  Good thing he can’t get to his own young daughter anymore:

Members of Dennis Bradford’s family . . . say the Dennis Bradford they know would not do these things.  They say he is a man his grandchildren know as a loving and gentle man.

Why can’t people like this just keep quiet, out of some simulacrum of human decency?

~~~

Lessons Learned, or Not Learned:

Dennis Bradford’s 1996 acquittal for a violent sex crime looks very much like the several free rides Sarasota (Florida) jurors and judges handed Joseph P. Smith before he kidnapped, raped and murdered Carlie Brucia.

Joseph P. Smith

Prior to having the shockingly bad luck of being caught on video abducting the 11-year old, Smith had been caught three other times attempting to abduct other victims.  But after each attack, judges or jurors judged the victims instead of Smith and let him go.

In 1993, Smith jumped a woman who was walking home from a club, breaking her nose and bones in her face.  A police officer interrupted the attack before Smith could make away with the stunned woman, but Sarasota Circuit Judge Lee Haworth decided to go easy on Smith, allowing him to plea to a lesser offense, granting him a mere sixty days in jail, and then reducing that sentence to weekend incarcerations.

For breaking a woman’s face, trying to drag her away, rape and likely kill her.  But she’d probably had a beer or two, after all.

In 1997, Smith, armed with a knife, pepper spray, and confidence that he would not face judicial consequences, attempted to abduct a woman at a gas station by claiming he needed a jump start.  She wouldn’t let him into her car but agreed to follow him back to his vehicle: luckily, someone who witnessed the odd exchange called the police, and they interrupted him again and found the weapons concealed in his shorts.  The officer who stopped him wrote that Smith “intended to do great harm” to the victim.

But another judge let him off easy, letting him plead to a concealed weapons charge in exchange for probation, rather than attempted abduction.

The third attack was witnessed by a carload of retirees, who grabbed their golf clubs and chased Smith away from a screaming woman he’d jumped by the side of a road and was dragging into the woods.  The retirees testified at Smith’s trial, but the jury acquitted him nonetheless: the woman had drunk a few beers, after all.  Jurors bought Smith’s risible story that he thought the woman looked suicidal and he was trying to help her into the woods, to safety.  They shook his hand and called him a good guy, a victim of persecution.

Then Smith raped and murdered an 11-year old.

Joseph Smith and Dennis Bradford both targeted children, targeted adults, and got let off easy for acts of extreme violence against females on the grounds that the women were asking for it.  Judges and jurors simply excused their violent assaults because some of their targets were women in bars.  Such prejudiced acquittals aren’t supposed to happen anymore, but any prosecutor will tell you they’re common, even with the levels of violence displayed.  In some jury boxes, drinking a beer can apparently still spell “deserving rape, or death.”

And in Bradford’s case, the details of his 1996 assault suggest an experienced rapist with the forethought to do away with evidence, good character kudos from his boss at the fencing company notwithstanding:

According to a 1996 police report, the victim told investigators Bradford drove her around for 20 or 30 minutes listening to a cassette tape. He took her to a secluded area and once the car stopped, immediately he began choking her and beating her in the face.

She told investigators Bradford held a knife to her eye and threatened to cut her jugular vein several times while she was raped.

Afterwards Bradford took her to a nearby creek and demanded she wash off all of the blood and evidence.

The victim told police her attacker then drove back into town and dropped her off in front of Oaklawn racetrack. He told her he planned to kill her, but got scared at the last minute.

How many more victims will surface?  You don’t start out kidnapping victims from their bedrooms and slitting their throats, nor do you simply take five years off between violent, thought-out attacks.  What you do is concentrate on victimizing the types of women nobody will believe, women who drink beer, for example, who will be dismissed by jurors who look at their broken faces and slashed throats and say: “she sure was asking for it.”

Anti-incarceration activists often complain that putting men in prison “turns them into hardened criminals.”  In the case of Joseph Smith and Dennis Bradford, judges and jurors letting them off easy for their crimes appear to have done the same.

DNA Could Have Stopped Delmer Smith Before He Killed, But Nobody Cared Enough To Update the Federal Database

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This is Delmer Smith, who is responsible for a recent reign of terror on Florida’s Gulf Coast that left women from Venice to Bradenton terrified of violent home invasions, murder and rape:

Delmer Smith gave a DNA sample to the Feds 15 years ago, when he was incarcerated in Michigan on federal bank robbery charges.  And then what did the Feds do?  Well, in fairness, they were super busy not watching Phillip Garrido as he repeatedly raped and impregnated the child he was holding captive in his backyard.

So the feds apparently did nothing with Delmer Smith’s DNA.  Now a slew of women have been raped, and at least one murdered, crimes that could have been easily prevented if the feds had done what they were supposed to do and entered Smith’s DNA into the appropriate database.

But they couldn’t be bothered, just like the states so often can’t be bothered, just like Florida couldn’t be bothered fifteen years ago when they let my rapist walk out of prison to commit more rapes of frail, elderly women because they didn’t bother to link him to other crimes using DNA from kits they were supposed to test, but didn’t.

In precisely the same neighborhoods Delmer just tore through: Sarasota, Venice, North Port.

This time, to be clear, it wasn’t the Florida courts that screwed up: it was federal authorities.  Funny how they all screw up in precisely the same way, though: serial neglect of serial criminals who rape and kill again.  How much do they screw up?  Well, I’m understandably tuned in to this little piece of Florida’s West Coast, but it takes about fifteen minutes on Lexis-Nexus to find similar “mistakes” in every state.  We are letting extremely violent criminals slip through the cracks, and nobody seems outraged about it: nobody seems to be trying to plug the many holes in the system, or even to try to figure out what those holes are.

~~~

What to do?  Although police are usually the ones singled out when a serial offender is on the loose, their actions are rarely the reason recidivists are free.  Blame the courts — from lax prosecutors to lenient judges, to the hash the defense bar has made of our criminal justice system.  Also blame parole boards, and legislators and governors who refuse to fund prosecutions and prisons at realistic levels.

Finally, blame the activists who will do anything to get certain offenders out from behind bars, all the while banging the drum that “America is a prison state: we incarcerate too many people for too long. . .” Any cursory review of crime reports, arrests and convictions shows that precisely the opposite is true: we incarcerate too few people, and we let them go too soon.

People still routinely get a few months in jail for molesting a child, or probation for shooting someone.  But how do we make this visible, when prosecutors and judges want to hide their actions, and reporters won’t report on it?

It’s Time for a “Guilty Project”

Failure to Update DNA Database

Delmer Smith: suspected in a dozen home invasions, several rapes, one  or more murders, all thanks to the failure of federal authorities to enter his DNA profile in the CODIS database.  Too bad the F.B.I. sent a profiler down to Florida tell the cops that the killer was probably a male with anger issues, instead of making sure CODIS (which is the FBI’s responsibility) was up to date.  How many other violent offenders have slipped through the cracks in CODIS?  Does anybody know?

Serial Judicial Leniency, Failures to Prosecute, Failures to Enforce Parole, Failure to Correct DNA Deception, Failure to Update DNA Database

Walter E. Ellis, arrested at least a dozen times, including two (or three) attempted murders; convicted of several serious crimes, including attempted murder; repeatedly released early, despite multiple parole violations; received merely three years for nearly killing a woman with a hammer; charges apparently dropped for attacking another women with a screwdriver . . . and Wisconsin authorities didn’t bother to get a DNA sample from Ellis at the time they discovered that the sample supposed to be his had been “donated” by another inmate, a child rapist.  12,000 other convict samples are currently missing from Wisconsin’s list.

Serial Judicial Leniency, Failure to Update DNA Database, Reliance on Inaccurate Profiling(?)

John Floyd Thomas, first convicted of rape in 1957, arrested multiple times, convicted of rape again, released early again, now suspected of killing as many as 30 elderly women, avoided giving a DNA sample when he was required to do so, apparently without any consequences.  True Crime Report is attributing his ability to elude capture to inaccurate profiling indicating a white killer, but I’m not sure about that because there were surviving victims thought to be linked to the serial murders.

~~~

Where is the Outrage?

Prior to these belated DNA matches, the only one of these three men who served any substantial time in prison was Smith, and that was for robbing a bank, not assaulting a woman.  Authorities in Milwaukee can’t even figure out what happened to one of Walter Ellis’ previous attempted murder charges for an attack on a woman.

Just trying to kill women still doesn’t count for much, it appears.

The flagrant acts of these men, and of thousands of others — the lack of consequences they experience that enables them to attack multiple female victims — all beg the question: why aren’t serial crimes targeting women counted as hate crimes against women?

Why aren’t the resources of the hate crimes movement — the public outrage, the state and federal money, the well-funded private opposition research, the media attention, the academic and activist imperatives — brought to bear on cases where the people being targeted are women?

The answer is shameful.  Hate crimes leaders and opposition researchers don’t want their movement “distracted” by the the fact that women are far and away the most common category of victims targeted because of their identities.  These activists want to keep the focus on the picture they are painting of America, on race and ethnicity and sexual orientation, so they don’t want their statistics “overwhelmed” by a whole bunch of woman victims.

Consequently, activists who otherwise fight to get certain crimes counted as hate crimes fight even harder to keep any serial crime against women from being counted as hate — as the media laps at their heels, quiescent as a warm gulf tide.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has been a central player in this ugly little deception for more than a decade now, so don’t expect changes anytime soon, especially with journalists’ self-enforced code of silence.

However, to give Holder credit where credit is due, he does advocate expanding the federal DNA database, an unpopular position to take in the current administration.

~~~

There is a personal silver lining in the Delmer Smith case. The man who had the temerity and insight to finally put my rapist away for life is the same man who had the temerity and insight to catch Smith before he killed more women.  It was a cognitive leap and real police work, apparently done by linking Smith to the sexual assaults after he got caught in an unrelated crime, a violent bar brawl.  And then locking him up on federal parole violations until a DNA sample could be tracked down.

Thank you, Venice Police Captain Tom McNulty, for taking yet another bastard off the streets.  That’s policing.

More on the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s “Homeless Sex Offenders” Hysteria

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How easy is it to predict the many ways the media has substituted thinly-disguised advocacy and sheer make-believe for reporting on the alleged “homeless sex offender” crisis?  Painfully easy. 

Before I even read the latest installment of the homeless sex offender soap opera, the one that appeared in the AJC last week, I made up a list of rules for such stories:

Template for Homeless Sex Offender Stories

1.  Open story with bathetic description of the campsite.

2.  Assert that sex offender living restriction laws are the sole cause of homelessness, and that they are “forced” to be homeless.

3.  Do not mention the fact that there are hundreds (or thousands) of other registered sexual offenders living in the same area and abiding by living restriction rules who are not homeless.

4.  Do not question offenders about other behavior that led to their homelessness, such as getting evicted, not paying bills, refusing to work, drug/alcohol addiction, domestic violence, non-sexual criminal acts and criminal history.  Also do not ask if they were homeless before they were forced to register as sex offenders.

5.  Seek out the most seemingly-sympathetic offender to profile; studiously avoid the “hard cases.”

6.  Allow offenders to describe their own crimes: do not check the records for accuracy.  Actually, try to avoid mentioning their crimes at all.

7.  Quote activist groups opposing living restriction laws, but do not seek statements from people who support living restrictions for sex offenders.  Do not cite data on efficacy of post-conviction monitoring of sex offenders.  What, tell both sides of the story?  There aren’t two sides of this story, are there?

Let’s see how I did with the AJC story:

1.  Open story with bathetic description of campsite:

A path leads from a nearby parking lot next to a sign that says: “State Property. No Trespassing. No Dumping.”  Up the hill, camping tents, some with tarps, dot the woods. There are bicycles, a gas barbecue grill and empty bottles. A solar water bag that heats water for a shower is pegged to a tree, and a little mirror is nailed below it.

“Little mirror nailed to tree.”  “No dumping” (except unwanted humans, get it?).  Bathos: check, check.  But nothing matches the way this story ends: with a little Chiuahua named Trista helping her owner Cindy phone for help for her homeless sex offender friend.  What tripe.  Note that the reporter does not bother to mention the victims, nor the offenders’ records or sentences.

But we get to meet Trista the perky Chiuahua.

not Trista

I don’t know whether to shudder or gag.  Who lets reporters get away with stuff like this?  Oh yeah, their editors.

2. Assert that sex offender living restriction laws are the sole cause of homelessness, and that they are “forced” to be homeless:

A group of homeless sex offenders is living in a camp in the woods behind an office park in Marietta — one place that does not violate the many living restrictions that Georgia’s tough sex offender law imposes. . . “This is ridiculous that we have to live like this,” said Marque Miechurski, 30, who has lived in a tent in the woods for about a month and a half.

The reporter insinuates that housing that does not violate the statute is extremely rare — “one place that does not violate” — which is simply untrue, and she lets Miechurski’s claim that he “has to” live there go unchallenged, but, in fairness, she doesn’t come out and say that they have no place else to go.

They’re just whining that they have no place else to go.

These offenders, a mere 12 in Cobb County, a mere 70 in a place as large as Miami, are people who have burned through every other resource — family, friends, employers.  Unsurprisingly, most of them are child molesters, which can put a chill on your relatives’ willingness to help.  Even so, their homelessness sounds transient, unless they are homeless for other reasons as well, such as substance abuse.

The reporter utterly fails to investigate other reasons for their homelessness.

3.  Do not mention the fact that there are hundreds (or thousands) of other registered sexual offenders living in the same area and abiding by living restriction rules who are not homeless:

“We have about 375 sex offenders in Cobb County,” said sheriff’s spokeswoman Nancy Bodiford. “We check on most two to three times per year.” Of those, 13 are listed as homeless, Bodiford said.

This gets buried, but at least it’s in the article somewhere.  It also disproves the point of the exercise and the paper’s editorializing on the subject, since 97% of registered sex offenders in Cobb County are not actually homeless after all, but, whatever.  Maybe the AJC should read . . . itself.

Unfortunately, a sampling of the 300+ reprints of this story in national and international media suggests that this paragraph gets left out when the story is run overseas (yes, there is outraged international coverage of these 12 temporarily homeless men: Georgia is now an international baddie for being mean to these 12 sex offenders).

And so the echo-chamber of anti-Americanism nibbles on.

4.  Do not question offenders about other behavior that led to their homelessness, such as getting evicted, not paying bills, refusing to work, drug/alcohol addiction, domestic violence, non-sexual criminal acts and criminal history.  Also do not ask if they were homeless before they were forced to register as sex offenders:

The Southern Center for Human Rights represents Levertice Johnson, 52, who moved to the wooded camp after he couldn’t find a job and couldn’t afford the $60-a-week rent at a shelter in Fulton County. . .

So Levertice Johnson is not homeless because he is a sex offender.  Lervertice Johnson is homeless because he did not pay the paltry $60 a week that was asked of him at the last place he lived.  The reporter does note this, but it does not seem to leave any impression with her or her editors.  The story, after all, is not about Levertice Johnson not paying his rent.

For that matter, if the folks at the Southern Center for Human Rights are so concerned about finding Mr. Johnson a place to live, why don’t they take him home?

Maybe this is why: Levertice Johnson has a very nasty record, including two convictions for child molestation and two convictions for cruelty to children.

Maybe Levertice Johnson is homeless because nobody in his family wants to have anything to do with him, and he is too lazy to get a job.  He got convicted for cruelty to children, which is a hard thing to get busted for unless you’ve actually killed a child or sent them to a hospital.

Somehow, this is not stopping the Southern Center for Human Rights, and the AJC‘s editorial staff, from painting him as a victim of the rest of us — of our what, unwillingness to pay his rent for him?  Unwillingness to support him as a man of leisure?  The unwillingness of employers to hire somebody who molests and beats children?  What about the human rights of the children themselves, or Mr. Johnson’s responsibi. . . Wait, look over there: it’s Trista!

not Trista

5.  Seek out the most seemingly-sympathetic offender to profile; studiously avoid the “hard cases.”

Now we get to brass tacks.  I mean, child molesters.  Out of the 12 offenders-living-in-the-woods, seven were convicted of child molestation, one with enticing a child for indecent purposes, one with sexual battery, one with aggravated assault with intent to rape, and one with the distressing crime of “rape and aggravated sodomy-reduced to aggravated assault.”

Lovely bunch.  The reporter chooses one Marque Miechurski to profile, apparently on the grounds that he is willing to publicly wallow in self-pity even after being convicted of molesting a child.  And this is the best she can do.

6.  Allow offenders to describe their own crimes: do not check the records for accuracy.  Actually, try to avoid mentioning their crimes at all.

And here is Mr. Miechurski’s version:

Miechurski says his troubles all started when he “had an itch” and scratched it when he was out smoking in front of his apartment on Franklin Road in Marietta last year. He says a child said that his pants were down, but he denies that.  “I get hit with the worst charge a person could ever be hit with,” said Miechurski.

Even though Marque Miechurski claims to have been merely scratching an itch, and not exposing himself, and not molesting a child, he was convicted of child molestation and indecent exposure.  That’s not an opinion: it is a fact.  That’s not an allegation: it is a conviction.  Two convictions.

Shouldn’t the Atlanta Journal Constitution stick to reporting facts?

Miechurski was found guilty.  He can sit in the woods in a tent and whimper about scratching his crotch all day long, and his creepy pal can sit around whining about the injustice of it all to some daft reporter who doesn’t even bother to go to the courthouse and check the actual criminal conviction but sits around playing with a dog named Trista instead, but none of this changes the fact that Marque Miechurski was not convicted of scratching himself.

He was convicted of exposing himself and molesting a child.  So the reporter should have offered a corrective to this claim, instead of just publishing it.

That’s what reporters are supposed to do.  Not “tell one side,” as if the conviction doesn’t exist.  She  should have gone down to the courthouse and checked the criminal case records and reported what the courts found.  If she was going to give Miechurski and his friend and their dog all those column inches to claim that the child wasn’t really attacked, then why didn’t she interview the prosecutor and the victim’s parents?

not guilty

Why didn’t the reporter do these things?  Because this type of story isn’t about facts: it is about reporters feeling morally superior to the public.

7.  Quote activist groups opposing living restriction laws, but do not seek statements from people who support living restrictions for sex offenders.  Do not cite data on efficacy of post-conviction monitoring of sex offenders.  What, tell both sides of the story?  There aren’t two sides of this story, are there?

Yes Virginia, there are two sides of this story, though you won’t find them in a trumped-up fairy tale about woods-dwelling sex offenders.  In this bias the AJC does not disappoint: they quote the Southern Center for Human Rights and nobody else.  They also quote them without acknowledging that the entire “homeless sex offender” controversy has been manufactured by activist groups like the S.C.H.R., so it’s a little like reading off cue cards.

It is clearly a bygone conclusion to the editors at the AJC that there is only one side to this issue, the side they are on, which is that living restrictions and sex offender registration serve no good purpose at all.

This is called advocacy, not reporting.

Admittedly, it is hard to find data analyzing living restriction and sex offender registration outcomes: how do you measure sex offenses that have been prevented, particularly when such a small percentage of sex offenses and even smaller percentage of child molestations are brought to the attention of authorities?  Sex offender statistics are notoriously inaccurate, not only because of lack of reporting, but also because of the way the justice system telescopes multiple offenses into one charge, or allows offenders to plead to non-sexual crimes, or captures known sex offenders on something like burglary or possession because they’re easier to prove.

But none of this justifies ignoring the arguments of advocates for these laws, particularly when the “reporting” here consists of little more than selectively edited anecdotes in the first place.

Look at those 12 men and their records.  Not so many years ago, they would be able to act with impunity: now they know they are being watched, and because they are child molesters, this is especially crucial.

Look at their records.  And ask yourself this: what is it about mainstream journalism that sends journalists flying to the sides of men like this, irrationally, even hatefully?  There is nothing reasoned about this reporting: it is romanticized, and it is very, very angry.  Not at sex offenders, but at the rest of us for daring to hold sex offenders accountable for their own behavior, for anything.  It is the journalistic equivalent of a finger in the eye, with no recourse to facts.

If anything became clear this week, with the Polanski case, it is that a certain segment of Americans automatically take the side of child molesters over their victims.  Even the anal rape of a drugged child is not too terrible for them.

~~~

And then, something even more troubling surfaces, when you actually look at the criminal histories of these 12 men.  Probation for molesting a child; six months for molesting a child; one year in jail for rape and aggravated sodomy “reduced to aggravated assault.”  Five years for two counts of child molestation and two counts of cruelty to children?  One year for rape?  Six months for molesting a child?

No, these men should not be living in the woods: they should still be in prison.  What is happening in the courts?  And why is the AJC so blandly, utterly incurious about that?

Homeless Sex Offenders are Not Gentle Woodland Creatures, Nor Innocent Sprites, Nor Toy-Making Elves

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Now the Atlanta Journal Constitution has joined other news outlets spinning fairy tales about the plight of homeless sex offenders forced to live in the woods/under bridges/by the wee blarney rock, where the moss grows.

The stories go like this: completely harmless, harshly punished sex offenders are being forced to live in tents for no other reason but that we invented “draconian” laws that limit where they can obtain housing.  If only we didn’t insist on these cruel living restrictions, why, they’d all be happily ensconced in little cottages with gingham curtains.  But instead, they have to live in the big, bad woods.

That’s a really sad story.  Good thing it isn’t true.

The Miami Herald started this trumped-up morality tale hash with a story about 70 sex offenders living under a bridge.  Yes, their parole officers had directed them there; yes, they had failed to find other housing in that area of Miami.  So why didn’t they move someplace else?  I’d love to live in downtown Miami too, but I can’t afford it.  Neither could they — so they could have simply moved outside the city’s downtown, which, incidentally, was already brimming with sex offenders who were not homeless, many hundreds of them (a fact that apparently eluded all the reporters who descended on Miami to record the plight of the small number of homeless ones).

But somehow, “Homeless Sex Offenders Forced to Get Jobs, Live Within Their Means” just doesn’t have that awards ceremony ring to it.

One of the reasons Miami has such a large population of both sex offenders and homeless sex offenders is because they move there from other states, as do thousands of other homeless people who descend on that city, and other cities in Florida (like St. Petersburg) where it’s possible to live outside year-around.  You know, Midnight Cowboy?  Homeless people, chronic drunks, drug addicts come to escape the cold and stay on in a place notorious for both its drug trade and incredibly corrupt social services, where it’s almost impossible not to get free money from Medicaid scams (mainly, though, it’s the weather).

When homeless sex offenders have to register and announce where they are living, suddenly they are a visible problem, even if they were already homeless for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with sex offender living restriction laws.  How many of those men bathetically living under the bridge would have ended up just as homeless without living restrictions?  How many are drunks and drug addicts who simply refuse to look for work, the real cause of most homelessness?

When I actually started looking up the criminal records of the offenders listed as residents under that infamous Miami Bridge (which, apparently, nobody in any newsroom did), I was surprised to see how many of them had not served their time in Florida for prison-level offenses.  Could the fact that the city had become a magnet for sex offenders — rather than the innate draconianness of the law-abiding — explain city leaders’ desire to make Miami a less desirable destination for rapists from chilly climes?

Nobody in the media was interested in asking questions like that, of course.  They were busy tramping around the “encampment” in fake safari gear, shooting photos of tragic extension cords in the sand and such, and credulously tape-recording tall tales of woe peddled to them by child rapists.

This went on for some time.  Then the authorities moved in and moved the sex offenders — you guessed it — to available housing.  The real issue was money, and once hysterical reporters guilted the government into shoveling a whole bunch more money at a group of miscreants who had long-ago burned through the ordinary goodwill offered by families and employers, suddenly housing was available that could take them, for a price (paid, of course, by us).

This is a racket other homeless people should look into.  But unless they set out to commit sex crimes in order to find a nice government-subsidized pad, I don’t know what type of honey-pot they’re going to find to lure NPR reporters into their stinky lairs.  Regular homeless people are just so 1985.

~~~

Of course, living restrictions — 1,000 or 2,500 foot rules — have depleted the quantity of housing stock available to registered sex criminals, especially in some urban areas.  But I suspect that it is the laws requiring sex offenders to register their addresses, not restrictions on where offenders may live, that has depleted the housing stock more dramatically.  The primary deterrent keeping people from renting to sex offenders is probably the requirement to announce the presence of a sex offender at a certain address, something even the slummiest slumlords are loath to do.  Nobody in the media explored this possibility.

That would have, of course, involved more work than just showing up, sweaty A.C.L.U. press release in hand, to fuming about the outrageous fate visited upon these accidental trolls.  It would involve numbers, research: finding landlords who used to rent to sex offenders but stopped when neighbors found their tenants on websites, and landlords who still do rent to offenders but won’t take broke, drunk, or violent ones.  All in all, harder work than spending five minutes emoting righteously on a beach while the camera-girl keeps her backside firmly against the lean-to wall.

Could the media’s disinterest in registration as a cause of homelessness also arise from the fact that the public supports and understand the value of registering sex offenders, far more than they support restricting where sex offenders may live?

Registration makes sex offenses visible: it makes visible all the sex crimes committed by that guy who comes to rent your mother’s house or apply for that job at the Kentucky Fried Chicken.  My own rapist had a nasty habit, between rapes, of stalking female employees and customers at the fast food place where he was employed.  Pre-registry, he got away with it, and the restaurant declined to prosecute him when he got caught peering under stalls in the women’s room, probably because that one offense didn’t seem like a big enough deal to act upon, absent knowledge of the rest of his colorful past.

A shame, because he went on to commit some really horrific additional offenses.  Like many sex offenders, peeping was only his day job.  Nowadays, his criminal history would have been available to potential employers or landlords, and, believe me, they would not be letting him close down shop at 11 p.m. with that nice teenage girl they’d just hired to run the cash register.

And it’s not just sex crimes that pop up on background checks now.  Even a cursory search of the criminal records of the homeless-men-living-under-the-bridge revealed scores of non-sex crime-related good reasons to refuse to hire or rent to them — armed robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, check-kiting.  The availability of this information doubtlessly contributes to homelessness among all ex-cons, not just the ones who are sex offenders.

Yet somehow, other homeless ex-cons just don’t inspire the type of romanticized advocacy showered by the media on sex criminals.

What really happened in Miami is this: a bunch of criminals who probably would have been homeless anyway ended up in an encampment because they refused to relocate to areas where they could legally live but were undesirable to them for other reasons (no water view?  long commute to good panhandling?  miss the nights spent swapping stories over the sex-offender fire?).  They attracted the attention of the A.C.L.U., which is hell-bent not only on overturning living restriction laws but also sex offender registration laws, and even blocking employer access to non-sex crime criminal histories (an idea being kited by “re-entry” activists in the Justice Department, too).

The A.C.L.U. saw, in the homeless encampment, an irresistible public relations coup.  And they knew that the media, which romanticizes sex offenders even more than they romanticize other criminals, would not look too closely.  Boy, were they right: you can accuse civil libertarian lawyers of a lot of sins, but dullness ain’t one of them.

~~~

Fast-forward a few months and a few thousand AP reprints later.  Somehow, the 70 sex offenders living under the bridge got some 7.5 million tax dollars to move, and move they did.  I suppose the feds are building them a magical forest and golf-course community in Hialeah, with that pot of gold.  This inspired other intrepid reporters in other cities to go searching for their own lucky Pulitzer-bearing leprechauns in the woods, and, amazingly, they found them.

Reporters found drunken, drug-addicted, violent, lazy, perverted ex-cons who have trouble finding people who will let them live in their houses!

Who says journalism is dead?

~~~

Speaking of journalists, I realize, as I’m writing this, that I owe that editor at Gawker a huge apology for taking him to task yesterday for using a mean term to describe those who feel that Roman Polanski should indeed go to jail for anally raping a child.  Gawker, you see, was the only major news outlet in the country that called one of those homeless-sex offenders-under-the-bridge-type stories for what it is:

“so unrelentingly hackneyed that William Shatner ought to read it aloud to bongos.”

Now, the story they were mocking was not exactly a homeless-sex-offender-under-the-bridge story: there was no bridge in it, for one thing, and Times columnist Dan Barry completely didn’t notice that the grizzled homeless guy he was swooning over turned out to be a serial child rapist and former most-wanted criminal who was in violation of his own requirement to register with the state when he offered to share his woods-wisdom with the reporter.  That little fact only came out after Barry’s column had been published, when an entirely different person decided to spend all of ten seconds typing Grizzly Adams’ name into the state criminal database.

You know, to see if any of the things the Times had just published about the guy’s plight were even true.

Which they weren’t, a fact that eluded the — what — 1,500, 2,000 employee Times newsroom?

To summarize,

This:                                                                             Is not this:

Will Ferrell, playing a mythical, toy-making elf              John Frietas, registry-absconding child-rapist

Once you get done asking yourself why none of the 1,500 – 2,000 reporters and editors and fact-checkers employed by the Times did even the most rudimentary background check on a self-professed criminal who was the subject of a scolding column about how we don’t care about the homeless as much as Dan Barry does, you really have to ask yourself this:

Why would a most-wanted registry-absconding serial child sex offender allow himself be interviewed at length by a famous, nationally-syndicated reporter from the biggest-circulation newspaper in the world?

I can’t think of any reason, except maybe this John Frietas subscribes to the New York Times, and so he felt safe pitching his story there.

Sorry, Gawker.  I was wrong to question your integrity.

How Many Women do You Need to Slaughter Before it Becomes a Hate Crime?

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Let’s see. According the the silence of the “experts” in the face of Walter E. Ellis’ crimes, apparently it’s some number higher than seven.  And counting.

So what constitutes a hate crime against women?  Nothing, in practice.  Not selecting and slaughtering woman after woman after woman.  Not scrawling hate words across a murdered woman’s body.  Not ritualistically destroying a woman’s breasts or sex organs.  Not spreading fear among other women through your attacks.  Not inflicting “excessive” violence, “overkill,” whatever that means.

All those things are indicators of hate when they’re done to other types of victims, the experts tell us.  But they’re not indicators of hate when they’re just directed at women.

Here is the Anti-Defamation League weighing in on Walter Ellis’ systematic targeting, stalking, and murder of women . . . silence.

Here is the Southern Poverty Law Center . . . silence.

Here are esteemed “hate crime experts” James Allen Fox and Jack Levin, who shamefully worked overtime to insinuate that the crimes of the Pennsylvania gym murderer, George Sodini, were something other than hate crimes — after Sodini posted hate-filled screeds against women on-line, then opened fire on a random group of women, killing three and wounding others . . . silence.

Here is the National Organization for Women weighing in on Ellis’ stalking and killing of women.  Whoops, sorry, they haven’t uttered a peep about Ellis, even though investigators are sifting through evidence of the murders of 20 more female victims in addition to the 9 already tied to Ellis.

The N.O.W. is too busy for such things.  For example, they are currently busy making the case that teen vitamins are sexist:

According to the One-A-Day website, among the the “top health concerns of moms and teens” are the fact that teenage girls need to have healthy (read: aesthetically pleasing) skin, while teenage boys should have healthy muscle function. In case potential consumers aren’t picking up the difference, the vitamins come in color-coordinated boxes, the pills themselves have been dyed pink or blue, and “for Her” and “for Him” appear on the boxes in fonts that were clearly chosen to convey feminine or masculine vibes.

In reality, most of the actual ingredients of the two products are the same, working toward the same ends: supporting a healthy immune system, bone strength and energy. The issue here is not the contents of the pills, but rather the way in which these differences are marketed. The message sent to girls is that looks are paramount, and by contrast, their own strength is unnecessary or irrelevant. Likewise, boys are encouraged to be active and adventurous — there’s even a Major League Baseball logo on the boys’ box, while the girls’ box features a breast cancer awareness ribbon. But, why shouldn’t girls be concerend [sic] with having healthy muscles? And surely boys would like healthy skin, too, right?

While having sex-based differences in nutrition is understandable — women typically need more iron, for example — the method of packaging and advertising that Bayer employs is insulting. Not to mention, promoting these sex stereotypes to girls and boys during their teenage years lays a foundation for a lifetime of buying into rigid gender roles.

Pay no attention to the 29+ murdered women in Milwaukee, ladies.  Nothing to see here, move along, move along.

Some Preliminary Observations About Walter Ellis, the Milwaukee Serial Killer

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The Walter Ellis case is still unfolding, but there are already lessons to be learned.

One of those lessons is that police agencies around the country are on the verge of connecting serial rapists and killers to many unsolved crimes, thanks to DNA and re-opening cold cases.  The picture that is emerging of these men will change what we know about serial offenders.

It will also, hopefully, change some assumptions about what goes on in our justice system.  Many people believe that we are too harsh on offenders, that people deserve one or two or five “second chances,” that rehabilitation works, and that minimum mandatory sentencing and “three-strikes” laws are too harsh.

The Walter Ellises of the world pretty much drive a stake into such preconceptions:

AP — MILWAUKEE — Walter Ellis was anything but unknown in his north side neighborhood in Milwaukee — a mix of condemned and run-down houses with some nicer, newer homes.  Even as the bodies of suspected prostitutes began turning up in garbage bins and abandoned buildings near his home, the stocky Ellis had regular — sometimes violent, often friendly — interaction with neighbors and family, and more than a dozen run-ins with police.

If those run-ins were scrutinized, what would they tell us?  How many times did some judge let him walk?  How many times did a prosecutor decided it wasn’t worth sending him away for a few months?

Ellis was not a stranger to law enforcement, with 15 arrests since 1978.

How many times did he get first-offender status?  Time served?  Community counseling?  Simply no prosecution at all?  Would minimum mandatory laws or three-strikes laws have kept him off the streets?

He’s received probation or fines for burglary . . .

Probation for burglary.  Nice.  The DNA database “hit” lists are littered with rapists whose only prior convictions were for burglary, or drugs.  Sometimes rapists were allowed to plead down to burglary when there was a rape but prosecutors didn’t feel the victim would be believed.  Sometimes these men were caught entering or hiding in a house before they committed a planned sexual assault.  For many decades, burglary was a commonly-known get-out-of-jail-fairly-free card for rapists.

So when a judge gives a burglar probation because “burglary isn’t a serious crime,” he or she may very well be letting a sex offender walk free.  All residential burglars should be required to provide DNA samples.  Too bad that didn’t happen before Walter Ellis murdered this woman, in 2007.  Her murder, and others, could have easily been prevented:

Ouithreaun Stokes

[Ellis has] received probation or fines for . . . delivery of a controlled substance and retail theft. He also has faced charges of soliciting prostitutes, battery, robbery and recklessly endangering safety, all of which were later dismissed. He received a 3-year prison sentence for drug possession in 1981.

When you see a drug possession conviction, think about this: often offenders will agree to plead to drug offenses if other charges are dropped.  Often, the drug charge is the one most easily proved, even though the offender is known to be responsible for other crimes.  So when people claim that we live in a prison state because “X% of offenders are in prison for non-violent drug charges,” realize that a substantial percentage of these people committed other crimes.  They just weren’t prosecuted for them.

It was in 1988 that [Walter Ellis] pleaded no contest to second-degree reckless injury. According to the criminal complaint, he hit his ex-girlfriend in the head several times with a claw hammer, causing her to get 30 staples and more than 22 stitches. The complaint said the woman woke and found him standing over her, smelling of alcohol and accusing her of cheating. She got out of bed, they struggled, and he hit her with the hammer, it said.

It looks like the AP got it wrong: it was 1998, not 1988.  Attempted murder with severe physical injury.  Good thing it was just a domestic, or else he might have gotten life in prison, you know?  Ah, the magic of plea bargaining: attempted murder – domestic violence = second degree reckless injury = five years.

Police have said Ellis’ DNA matches that found on nine women ages 16 to 41 who were killed in a three-square-mile area from 1986 to 2007.

Wow.  Too bad nobody in the courts took that claw-hammer-to-the-brain-thing very seriously.

Here is an excellent blog-post tracing Ellis’ crimes and incarcerations.  The blogger, Kathee Baird, gets the offense dates right, unlike the AP.  She observes:

Online court records show Ellis has been busted at least twelve times for crimes against people as well as property crimes and that he once lived near the area where many of the homicides occurred.  It appears that every time that Ellis was incarcerated the strangulation killings on the north side subsided. Between 1987 and 1994 there were no homicides that fit the North Side Stranglers m.o. . . .

Back to the AP:

Ellis, sentenced to prison, was supposed to have DNA taken before he was released in 2001 under a state law that mandated taking samples from people convicted of a felony.  The state Department of Corrections said it did take the sample, but the state Justice Department said it has no records showing they ever got it. On Wednesday, legislators demanded to know why the DNA sample never made it to crime analysts. If it had, police say, the case might have been solved before the last of the slayings occurred in 2007.

Our justice system is criminally lenient.  We have a pathological contempt for rape victims: we still utterly lack the public will to put rapists away.  What, you say?  This must be an isolated case?

50,000 Felons Released Without Submitting DNA

CHICAGO – About 50,000 felons have been released from Illinois prisons and county probation systems without submitting DNA samples.  Under Illinois law, every felon sentenced on or after Aug. 22, 2002, must provide DNA. The samples are stored in databases that can be used to link suspects to other cases.  A spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Corrections says nearly 10,000 felons were released from state prisons without providing DNA. And Attorney General Lisa Madigan‘s office estimates county probation departments didn’t get samples from 40,000 additional felons due to delays in implementing the law.  DuPage County State’s Attorney Joseph Birkett helped push for collecting DNA from felons. And he says the failure to get samples from all felons means “serial murderers and rapists have probably remained on the loose.”

Back to Milwaukee:

In 2006, Ellis pleaded guilty in a hit-and-run involving Carolyn S. Prophet, 57, of Milwaukee. Prophet, who is disabled and has problems walking, said Ellis hit her car repeatedly and then swore and threatened her.  “The man is a psycho,” she said. “He kept ramming me.”  Bystanders stepped in when he got out of the car, she said. Ellis told them he was going to call police at a pay phone but never returned. She said the police who investigated the crash told her they knew Ellis from prior run-ins.

And then what happened?  Did anything happen?  Didn’t his other violent crimes lead to a long prison sentence?  Didn’t his 12 crimes against persons matter?  Doesn’t ramming a disabled, elderly person with a car count for anything?

The following comments by Ellis’ neighbor are chilling.  The woman says that Ellis is a good guy and yet that he is unpredictably violent and dangerous.  She doesn’t blame him for any of this, or even for threatening her repeatedly: she blames other people for “not helping him.”  This is what happens when people convince themselves that prior criminal acts should be overlooked, and the courts reflect that belief:

[Ellis’] neighbor[] said that as a child she tried to avoid walking past Ellis’ house — “He would come and just hit you out of nowhere,” she said.  But Jordan said Ellis seemed to have changed when she saw him about a year ago at a birthday party. She described him as pleasant and intelligent. She said she was shocked to hear of his arrest, but wishes someone would have helped Ellis early in his life.  “When I look back at it, all the indicators were there,” she said. “That behavior, the violent nature in him was already embedded.”

Maybe something will be learned this time.  Maybe nothing at all.

The Police Arrest ‘Em and the Prosecutors and Judges Let Them Go

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Really Shocking Story.  See it here, at the blog Dekalb Officers, which includes all the background.

Pleading down, failure to build a murder case (need more prosecutors?), recidivism, and just not putting the b******s away, all in one case.

If this isn’t proof that somebody needs to find out what the hell is going on in the Fulton County D.A.’s Office and the Fulton Superior Court, be careful not to trip over all those bodies on your way out the door.

(Thanks, again, Paul K.)

Strategies to Disappear Crimes: Rape in New Orleans

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Hat tip to Lou: an article that examines the New Orleans Police Department’s strategy for cutting the official number of rapes they report to the FBI: they do not investigate 60% of reported rapes:

More than half the time New Orleans police receive reports of rape or other sexual assaults against women, officers classify the matter as a noncriminal “complaint.”

Police, who have been touting a decline in rapes, say the share of noncriminal complaints reflects the difficulty officers face in coaxing rape victims to push forward with their complaints.

But former Orleans Parish sex crime prosecutor Cate Bartholomew says the frequent use of the alternative category — referred to as a “Signal 21” in NOPD parlance — is a problem, arguing that some of the cases she saw should have been categorized as sex crimes. . .

In 2008, police say, there were 146 cases marked up by the sex crimes unit as a Signal 21, compared with 97 rapes and sexual batteries ultimately listed as criminal offenses by the Police Department. That means police classified 60 percent of rape calls as a Signal 21.

The usual debate revolves around arguments over whether women lie about rape.  And there are people (male and female) who lie about being victims.  But if you read this article carefully, it becomes clear that something else is going on in New Orleans.  Even the officers reclassifying or “unfounding” rape cases say that getting victims to cooperate, to trust the system, is a big problem.  They know that some people who won’t cooperate with them are victims of real rapes who don’t want to take their chances with an official investigation.  What is the role of the police, then?  If they create a dozen scenarios in which the outcome is “Signal 21,” or refusal to investigate, victims will eventually stop calling.  That is good for the Chamber of Commerce, as some say, good for the Police Chief, and bad for everyone else.

In New Orleans, the number of rapes and attempted rapes reported to the FBI dropped from 114 to 72 between 2007 and 2008, but the number of victims seeking rape examinations at Interim L.S.U. Hospital rose from 149 in 2007 to 168 in 2008.

When victims must find a way to get past a checklist of questions that might end in a reported sex crime being labeled “Signal 21,” how likely are they going to be to come forward?

And if even one rape victim gets dismissed this way, it is a horrible injustice.  Unfortunately, it’s not the type of injustice that gets treated as such by activist lawyers and eager law students searching for a cause.  Victims, unlike offenders, are on their own.  How bad does it get?  Victim advocates do gut checks with their clients all the time: “Are you sure you can handle this?” “It’s OK to walk away from the investigation” — not because they don’t want to see justice done, but because they have seen what gets done to victims, and they know the real odds of an offender getting any prison time at all.

Mix in New Orleans’ “No Snitching” culture, a sleazy political system that extends to the (barely functioning) courts, a routinely corrupt police administration, and a community besotted with fantasies of wrongly accused men, and there seems to be little reason for anyone to come forward after they have been raped.

The Chief of Police in New Orleans could help clear up the mystery of the “Signal 21’s,” but he refuses to release the records:

To examine in more detail how the NOPD handled cases given something other than a criminal designation, The Times-Picayune asked to review the reports of the Signal 21 and “unfounded” sexual assaults for the past three years — as well as documents, called “morfs,” prepared when the sex crimes unit receives a call but no formal investigation is undertaken.

The information hasn’t been delivered, as city officials maintain that assembling such documents would be time-consuming and costly. A letter sent to The Times-Picayune last week from City Attorney Penya Moses-Fields, for example, said the Police Department believes an officer would need 30 minutes to review and redact the “name, address and identity,” as mandated by state law, in just one crime report at a cost of at least $20 an hour.

Gee, that would be all of $1460 to get all the 2008 “Signal 21” reports.  That’s got to be less than Mayor Nagin spends on lunch.  Who are they kidding?

And so, accountability remains elusive.  Meanwhile, others are also saying the city’s rape statistics are too low to be believable:

Tulane University criminologist Peter Scharf said the number of rapes doesn’t make sense when considered alongside New Orleans’ high rate of homicides. In comparison, Jackson, Miss., at a population of about 170,000 people, reported to the FBI last year 63 murders and 136 rapes. New Orleans, where the 2008 population estimates have topped 311,000, last year reported 179 murders and 65 rapes to the FBI. Police later changed the number of rapes that fit FBI guidelines to 72 in response to a newspaper request for statistics. [emphasis added]

A mere newspaper request resulted in the “officially reported” number of rapes rising by 10%.  So what happens when nobody’s looking?

I would like to see what is in those Signal 21 reports: are the dismissed victims young?  Do they know their alleged attackers?  Are they related to them?  Are they afraid of repercussions?  Is alcohol involved?  Homelessness, mental illness, prostitution?  Who does the reporting, if the victim isn’t cooperating?  What types of vulnerabilities keep them from trusting the police?  What types of characteristics keep the police from believing them?

A police chief who gave a damn would want to get to the bottom of this.

How many of the reports that get lodged in police’s minds, and the public mind, as false, are real rapes, disbelieved?  Joanne Archambault, a retired sergeant and longtime sex crime investigator, has written a compelling study on the actual prevalence of false rape reports, titled “So How Many Rape Reports Are False?”  It is a quick and eye-opening read.  You can find the pdf here: www.ncdsv.org/images/HowManyRapeReportsareFalse.pdf