Newsletter - Fall 2008


Stop Child Predators
Board of Directors

Cary Katz
Chairman
Founder and Chief Executive
Officer of College Loan Corporation

Viet Dinh
President
Georgetown University Professor of Law and former Assistant Attorney General for Legal Policy at U.S. Department of Justice

John Falb
Director
Chief Financial Officer of College Loan Corporation

Joanna Acocella
Vice President of Federal Relations at Apollo Group, Inc.

Stop Child Predators
Advisory Board

Mark Lunsford
Chairman

Joanna Acocella
Former Executive Vice President of Federal Relations at Apollo Group, Inc.

Meryl Chertoff
Legislative relations professional, attorney and community volunteer

Brian Jones
General Counsel of College Loan Corporation and Chairman of the CLC Charitable Foundation

Roderick R. Paige, Ed.D.
Former U.S. Secretary of Education (2001-2005)

Executive Team

Cary Katz
Chairman
Founder and Chief Executive Officer of College Loan Corporation

Viet Dinh
President and Board of Director
Georgetown University Professor of Law and former Assistant Attorney General for Legal Policy at U.S. Department of Justice

Stacie D. Rumenap
Executive Director
Former Deputy Director for the American Conservative Union

Lizette Benedi
Counsel
Former Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Office of Justice Programs at U.S. Department of Justice

John Falb
Treasurer and Board of Director
Chief Financial Officer of College Loan Corporation

ORGANIZATION ACTIVITIES

Message from the Executive Director

As our readers are aware, Stop Child Predators leads campaigns in every state to advocate for legislation that combats the sexual exploitation of children and protects the rights of all victims.

In particular, Stop Child Predators advocates for state-by-state adoption of our model legislation, the Sexual Offenses Against Children Act. The legislation is based on Florida's "Jessica's Law," named for nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford, who was abducted, raped, and murdered in Florida in 2005 by a twice-convicted sex offender. The law requires mandatory minimum sentences and electronic monitoring for convicted sex offenders. Thanks in large part to Jessica's father, Mark Lunsford , who serves as chairman to our advisory board, 35 states have enacted their own versions of Jessica's Law.

Despite the successful implementation in many states of mandatory sentencing, electronic monitoring, and other measures like registration requirements, notification programs, and Amber Alert broadcasts, challenges to managing sex offenders remain. One in five girls and one in ten boys are sexually exploited before they reach adulthood, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The number of registered sex offenders in the United States is more than 600,000. Every 40 seconds a child is reported missing or abducted, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. That translates to over 2,000 children per day, and over 800,000 per year.

Lawmakers, our partnering organizations, and parents have increasingly asked us how better to protect children online, especially as new technologies are constantly being developed. Over the past year, we have amplified our efforts to register electronic addresses and support tough penalties for enticement crimes and the possession and distribution of child pornography. As recently as this summer, we assisted in drafting model legislation that included provisions for online safety curricula to be used in school districts, increased post-conviction controls on convicted sex offenders, and monitoring tools parents can use to control their children's access to the internet.

The constant development of new technologies, however, requires child safety advocates to respond quickly with comprehensive approaches to protecting kids from novel online threats. It's with this knowledge that we joined in launching a coalition of national, state, and local advocacy organizations to form Stop Internet Predators, a new initiative designed to increase awareness of the child safety implications of emerging internet technologies.

Armed with the knowledge that child predators are savvy in their attempts to lure children using popular websites like MySpace.com and even Match.com, Stop Internet Predators chose to highlight Google's new "Street View" technology in its first online safety awareness campaign.

We closely followed the news coverage about this web-based program, which included a debate over the general privacy concerns Street View creates. But what seemed to be missing from the media coverage and the public discussion was an awareness how the technology could be specifically misused to target children. Street View effectively allows anyone with an Internet connection to digitally "cruise" your neighborhood and view 360-degree, panoramic street-level photographs of your home, parks, schools, and in some cases even your children, simply by typing in a local address.

Street View could make it simple, for example, for a predator to map the most likely route your child walks to school, calculate the distance between your front door and the school bus stop, view images of the different entrances to community parks, and even pinpoint your family members' bedroom windows.

Since the launch of this initiative about a month ago, the response from lawmakers and parents has been remarkably positive. They understand that while Street View has beneficial uses for ordinary people, it also allows malevolent users to gather an unprecedented amount of visual and geographic information about you and your family without your permission, using street-level photographs of hundreds of thousands of homes, schools, parks and playgrounds from around the country.

We urge you to contact your local leaders and ask them to ban Street View in your neighborhood until the technology is safeguarded so that our children are not easily accessible to those who may want to cause them harm.

Read more about the Stop Internet Predators campaign, and other successes of Stop Child Predators, in the pages to follow. As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions at srumenap@stopchildpredators.org.



FEDERAL & REGULATORY ACTIVITIES

Supreme Court not Supreme when Ruling on Child Rape

In a 5-4 decision in late June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law that authorized capital punishment for an adult convicted of raping a child under the age of 12 (Kennedy v. Louisiana). The Court held that the Louisiana law violates the "Cruel and Unusual Punishment" clause of the Eighth Amendment, and also voiced a reluctance to impose the death penalty for non-homicide offenses-irrespective of their moral reprehensibility. In the case of Patrick Kennedy, the victim was an eight-year-old girl who was raped by her step-father at their home and whose injuries were severe enough to require emergency surgery.

Justice Kennedy's majority opinion pointed out that even in capital murder cases where the death penalty is authorized, the Court has "spent more than 32 years articulating limiting factors" on the imposition of this ultimate penalty, in order to allow juries to exercise their "discretion to avoid the death penalty's arbitrary imposition[.]" Kennedy stated: "The Court would not now begin the same process for crimes for which no one has been executed in more than 40 years," since it would "require experimentation in an area where a failed experiment would result in the execution of individuals undeserving of the death penalty. Evolving standards of decency are difficult to reconcile with a regime that seeks to expand the death penalty to an area where standards to confine its use are indefinite and obscure."

In the opinion, Justice Kennedy determined that the Eighth Amendment's Cruel and Unusual Punishment clause prohibits a state from imposing the death penalty for the offense of child rape when the victim survives the ordeal. He also held that there is a 'national consensus'-as evidenced by legislative and judicial acts-against imposing the death penalty for the crime of child rape.

But the facts are contrary to this second point—in fact, there is strong evidence of a national consensus in favor of putting child rapists to death. In 2006, Congress enacted the National Defense Authorization Act, which amended the Uniform Code of Military Justice to authorize the death penalty for criminals convicted of the rape of a child under military law.

Neither party to the case noted in its brief the existence of this 2006 change, or of the corresponding Executive Order that added the death penalty provision for child rape to the Manual for Courts-Martial. In an extraordinary brief supporting Louisiana 's Petition for Rehearing, the Solicitor General's office admitted its error in not advising the Court of these relevant and recent Congressional and executive acts, and joined Louisiana in asking the Court to rehear the case.

"Because the Court did not have a complete description of the relevant legal landscape, the Court's decision rests on an erroneous and materially incomplete assessment of the 'national consensus' concerning capital punishment for child rape. That error undermines the foundation for the Court's decision," wrote Acting Solicitor General Gregory G. Garre in the government's petition.

On September 8, the Court requested supplemental briefs from Patrick Kennedy, the State of Louisiana, and the Solicitor General, addressing whether the Petition for Rehearing should be granted as well as the merits of Louisiana's arguments in favor of such rehearing. The Court is scheduled to consider this issue of rehearing at its September 29 conference.

INTERNET SAFETY

Stop Internet Predators: New Technologies Require New Approaches to Online Safety

This summer, Stop Child Predators joined a coalition of national, state, and local advocacy organizations in launching Stop Internet Predators, a new initiative designed to increase awareness of the child safety implications of emerging Internet technologies. To date, over a dozen national and state groups have joined this effort.

Coalition members and child safety advocates know all too well that predators are savvy in their attempt to lure children, and are known to misuse popular websites like MySpace.com and even Match.com as part of their efforts. Stop Internet Predators chose Google's "Street View" technology as the target of its first online safety awareness campaign. Street View gives anyone with an Internet connection the ability to view street-level photographs of any address whose image has been captured by Google's cameras for inclusion in its database.

In all its coverage of this new technology, the media failed to discuss the legitimate concerns about how Street View could be misused to target children. This new Google program effectively allows any computer user to digitally "cruise" your neighborhood and view 360-degree panoramic, street-level photographs of your home, parks, schools, and in some cases even your children. Google does not yet have a mechanism for ensuring the privacy of individuals whose images may be captured in Street View's photographic database.

So while this new online application offers of the convenience of letting you find your own home on a map, it also allows other Internet users to view anonymously an unprecedented amount of information about you and your family-without your permission.

Street View is currently available in about 60 U.S. cities, and in parts of Europe and Australia. Although images are not broadcast live on the web, a child's photograph could be cached and memorialized in association with a physical address, without parental consent.

Members and supporters of the Stop Internet Predators coalition have spoken out in strong support of the new initiative to raise awareness of the potential dangers of Street View.

"We commend Stop Internet Predators for their work in the area of online child safety, and for their efforts to inform the public on possible safety issues with Google's 'Street View.' We look forward to joining forces with Stop Internet Predators as we continue to provide our digital fingerprint/photograph Child ID Kits to families nationwide," said Neil Arfmann, President of McGruff Safe Kids Total Identification System, the leading child safety education and identification program in the United States. "Applications like 'Street View' make it too easy for anyone to track how to get to our children before they even walk out their front door," said Derek VanLuchene. "We must be proactive and ensure that all possible safeguards are implemented on these alarming online applications." VanLuchene, who lost his brother to a violent sexual predator, is the founder of Ryan United, a non-profit organization dedicated to keeping children safe from sexual predators.

Stop Internet Predators will contribute to a growing awareness among parents of the need to assert influence over technologies that can threaten their children. At a minimum, parents should monitor Street View on a regular basis to see if photos of their children are featured. If so, they can request that Google remove those photos from the program's database. In addition, parents should encourage municipal leaders to ban Street View in their area until the technology has established proper safeguards and assured parents of its responsiveness to their needs.

Google is willing and able to restrict access to some Street View images. The program doesn't provide photographic images, for instance, of domestic violence shelters, conceding the possible risk associated with posting the image of someone coming in or out of such a shelter. Why then should any parent be subjected without their consent to a technology that could likewise jeopardize the safety of their families?

Google has shown some responsiveness to parental concern about Street View, but thus far these measures do not go far enough to provide adequate privacy protections. The company has agreed to blur the faces of any people captured by the program's cameras-but only upon specific request to do so. And even so, such minimal image alteration methods are not nearly enough. Child predators do not need to look at the face of an individual to know that it is a child, and therefore they can still gather information about which houses are those where children live, or specific locations where children play. (Interestingly, when Street View photographers were captured on film setting up roof-mounted cameras onto Google photo cars to map a city in the UK, they threatened legal action if their faces were shown.)

While banning Street View might not safeguard our children 100% from child predators, eliminating kids' photos from online databases is a good start to helping keep them safe.

To see if your child is captured in a Street View image, go to Google Maps and type in your address. Click the "Search Maps" button and the "Street View" link to view your house. By clicking the "More Photos" option, you can also view photographs of your entire street, neighborhood, schools, bus stops, alleys, etc. For instructions on how to request the removal of these pictures, please visit the "Resources" page found on www.stopinternetpredators.org.

This campaign has garnered national, state and local media attention. For more information, please visit www.stopinternetpredators.org.

IN THE STATES

Jessica's Law gets Nod from Massachusetts Lawmakers, with Support from National and State Advocates

This June, Stop Child Predators joined Mark Lunsford and local activists in Boston to push for Massachusetts lawmakers to pass Jessica's Law. On July 24th, Governor Deval Patrick signed the bill into law, thanks to the work of Community VOICES and a strong coalition of local supporters.

Led by Laurie Myers, and with the help of Debbie Savoia, Community VOICES encouraged its members to send letters and emails, and place calls to Massachusetts lawmakers asking them to support Jessica's Law. Stop Child Predators joined Community VOICES at a press conference they organized, along with State Senators Steven Baddour and Bruce Tarr, and Representative Karyn Polito, who were instrumental in getting Jessica's Law through the legislature. Local activists also joined the effort, including John and Magi Bish, whose 16-year old daughter Molly was abducted from her lifeguard stand in Warren, Massachusetts in 2000 and whose remains were found in 2003, and Peter and Annette Presti, whose daughter and two grandchildren were killed by a convicted sex offender in Woburn in 2004.

Stop Child Predators also thanks the many legislators and their staffs who made Jessica's Law a reality in Massachusetts. Special recognition goes to Attorney General Martha Coakley, Senate President Therese Murray, Senators Steven Baddour, Scott Brown and Bruce Tarr, Representatives Tom Golden and Karyn Polito, Jeevan Ramapriya of Senator Baddour's office, former Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, and Wendy Murphy, an ex-prosecutor who specialized in child abuse and sex crimes cases.

Before the bill received the Governor's signature, it faced fierce opposition from some lawmakers. Most notable was Representative James Fagan, a Democrat trained as a criminal defense attorney, who said during floor debate that he would "rip apart" child rape victims on the witness stand and "make sure the rest of their life is ruined."

In a fiery soliloquy on the House floor that received extensive national press coverage, Fagan said that if he as a defense attorney faced a young victim on the stand, he would aggressively interrogate him or her, in an effort to protect the accused from the mandatory minimum sentences imposed by Jessica's Law. Fagan stated outright that it would be his duty to grill witnesses in such a way that "when they're 8 years old they throw up; when they're 12 years old, they won't sleep; when they're 19 years old, they'll have nightmares and they'll never have a relationship with anybody."

Representative Karyn Polito, a Shrewsbury Republican who supports Jessica's Law, responded to Fagan's comments: "The words speak for themselves. I think there's a large part of the (House) membership that doesn't agree with that." Fortunately, the Law's passage in Massachusetts is proof positive that a majority of lawmakers and citizens didn't agree with Fagan either.

North Carolina Governor Signs Jessica's Law; Legislature Overwhelmingly Supports Measure

Governor Mike Easley of North Carolina signed "Jessica's Law" on July 28, 2008, culminating a three-year effort by a coalition of state- and national-level groups concerned with the protection of young victims of sexual abuse.

This new law implements many of the types of measures that Stop Child Predators has long advocated, including mandatory sentences and GPS monitoring for child predators. As passed in North Carolina, Jessica's Law authorizes a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years to life for adult offenders who commit certain sex crimes against children under the age of 13-including rape.

Once released, offenders will be monitored for life by a Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite. Under the new law, such offenders will also be restricted from entering certain areas where children congregate, including children's museums, playgrounds, and child care centers. Convicted sex offenders will be barred from entering school grounds without written permission from a superintendent.

The law goes further to create new criminal offenses, making it unlawful to rape or commit other sexual crimes against children younger than 13. It also increases the penalties for promoting prostitution of a minor and sexual exploitation of a minor. Senators David Hoyle and Tony Rand, and Representatives Debbie Clary, Julia Howard and Tim Moore sponsored the bi-partisan legislation. Thanks to their leadership, Jessica's Law survived and prevailed in a long battle in the North Carolina Legislature.

Special recognition goes to Janet Morrison, President of the Child Protection Coalition of North Carolina, Mark Palmer, founder and Director of Jessica's Law Now North Carolina, and the North Carolina Federation of Republican Women, who led the charge to see this law passed.

Jessica's Law faced an uncertain future in North Carolina for nearly three years, as some legislators seemed determined to prevent its passage. But supporters inundated lawmakers with telephone calls, emails and petitions demanding action. Mark Palmer personally dedicated his days to walking the halls of Raleigh, and his evenings to coordinating the efforts of Mark Lunsford (Jessica's father), Stop Child Predators, country singer Charlie Daniels, local organizations, and other volunteers and activists that supported the measure. The North Carolina Federation of Republican Women pushed for Jessica's Law during their annual lobby day last June and energized their base to support the measure. They too worked with Mark Lunsford and brought him to the state Legislature last year to lobby personally for the bill's passage.

These amazing efforts were ultimately successful. "One of the proudest moments in my life was being able to call Mark Lunsford to tell him that North Carolina's legislators had passed Jessica's Law," Mr. Palmer wrote on his group's website. Just before North Carolina lawmakers adjourned for the year, the Senate voted 46-0 and the House 109-1 to send the measure to the governor, who signed the bill into law on July 28, 2008. Mark Lunsford was present at the bill signing ceremony.

Jessica's Law is named for 9-year old Jessica Lunsford, a former resident of Gaston County, North Carolina who was kidnapped, raped, and buried alive by a repeat sex offender in Florida in 2005.

Stop Child Predators Joins Florida Governor, Lawmakers at Bill Signing

Thanks in large part to the efforts of House Safety and Security Council Chairman Representative Dick Kravitz and Senator Paula Dockery, Chair of the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, Jessica's Law was strengthened this year in Florida. Stop Child Predators joined Governor Charlie Crist in July for the signing of House Bill (HB) 85, the "Lewd and Lascivious Molestation" bill that amends Florida's existing Jessica's Law to impose harsher penalties on convicted child predators. The new law imposes a life sentence on persons convicted of a second or subsequent violation for the offense of lewd or lascivious molestation where the victim is under the age of 12 and the offender is 18 or older. The new sentencing requirements will be imposed for such crimes committed on or after July 1, 2008.

At a May press conference following final passage of the bill in the Florida legislature, Chairman Kravitz spoke of his commitment to ensuring the safety and security of children. "This piece of legislation, which passed unanimously in both chambers, is an important step to securing the safety of the most vulnerable among us - our children. This bill sends the right message to all Floridians that we are focused on protecting our children and making Florida a better place to live, work and raise a family."

"The molestation of a child is a heinous crime that has a devastating effect on the young victim and their family," Senator Dockery added. "We must hold repeat offenders accountable and keep them locked up and out of our communities so they cannot harm even one more child."

Stop Child Predators' Stacie Rumenap testified before several Florida House and Senate committees in support of the bill. She also attended the July bill signing ceremony.

Stop Child Predators Supports Mandatory Sentences; Vermont Prosecutors Disagree

Stop Child Predators told a Vermont Senate panel in August that mandatory sentences for convicted offenders are the most effective tool in protecting children from sexual predators.

Executive Director Stacie Rumenap delivered this message to the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of a two-day program of panels and testimony regarding Vermont's sex offender laws. The hearings were launched in the wake of the July murder of local 12-year-old Brooke Bennett. Her body was found one week after she disappeared. Bennett's uncle, a convicted sex offender, has been charged in the case.

Several state prosecutors took a view directly opposite SCP's; they expressed to the Committee their belief that there are more effective changes to be made in state law to deal with sex offenders than instituting long mandatory minimum jail terms.

Vermont's prosecutors warned that imposing mandatory minimum sentences could actually reduce the number of offenders sent to prison by encouraging a higher number of prosecutions on shaky evidence and by making juries more reluctant to convict offenders. Such claims are not new; they have long been made by opponents of mandatory sentencing in the past and in other settings.

But Rumenap countered with statistics showing that sex offenders are four times more likely than other criminals to be rearrested for a sex crime. Both because the number of registered sex offenders in the United States is so enormous, and because of the high rate of recidivism among these criminals, long mandatory sentences for convicted offenders are a necessary measure for keeping children safe.

Moreover, Rumenap stated, "Every 40 seconds a child is reported missing or abducted, according to the Department of Justice. That translates to over 2,000 children per day, and over 800,000 per year."

She went on to point out to the Committee that keeping sex offenders away from the general population prevents them from becoming repeat sex offenders. Of the released sex offenders who went on to commit repeat offenses, 40 percent perpetrated the new offense within a year of their discharge from prison; and the majority of the children they molested after leaving prison were age 13 or younger, according to a 2003 Justice Department study. Other surveys by the Bureau of Justice Statistics show, Rumenap said, that in almost half of child-victim cases, the child was the perpetrator's own son or daughter or other relative. Other studies show that number to be 80 percent or higher.

Despite their divergence on the issue of mandatory minimum sentences, Rumenap and the Vermont prosecutors agreed on one point: that the state's special sex crime investigation units should be fully staffed and that the state should agree to eliminate the right of defense lawyers in Vermont to automatically depose victims, so that victims can avoid having to repeatedly describe what happened to them. Additional hearings around the state will be held by the committee who will review the testimony and craft legislation next month that could go before the Legislature in a special session or when it reconvenes in January.

Many Vermonters, including Gov. James Douglas and Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, have called for Jessica's Law, which has as its centerpiece a 25-year-to-life mandatory minimum sentence.

Stop Child Predators extends special thanks to Lt. Gov. Dubie and Rep. Margaret Florey for their efforts to include Ms. Rumenap in the Vermont hearings. Lt. Gov. Dubie is a strong proponent of 25-year mandatory minimum sentences for convicted child sex offenders and has been calling since 2006 for Jessica's Law to be implemented in his state.