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North Carolina May Ban Public Toplessness

 North Carolina May Ban Public Toplessness

Women may no longer be able to let it all hang out on top in North Carolina without fear of legal repercussions if a bill currently in the North Carolina house passes.  The Republican-led North Carolina House of Representatives is debating a bill that would make most public toplessness a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail.

If the public nudity was “for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire,” it becomes a felony charge.  North Carolina has not had a statewide law prohibiting public toplessness by women since a 1970 Court of Appeals ruling.  According to the courts, “private parts” as cited in the state's indecent exposure law was not specific enough to include breasts or nipples.

According to state lawmakers, the new law would be fairly easy to get around, allowing women to go topless even if they only covered their nipples in tape.  Several legislators have asked whether the law is really necessary as a legislative priority in the state, which has faced difficult economic times since the recession of 2008.

Lawmakers proposed the new bill because of complaints received about topless rallies being held in the western North Carolina city of Asheville.  Asheville, which is known for being a liberal haven in otherwise conservative western North Carolina, has attracted negative attention from conservative lawmakers for the feminist rallies.

Previously, law enforcement officials had considered arresting women at the topless rallies because they were exposing their breasts in front of children—an offense specifically prohibited when done for a sexual purpose.  However, the women at the rallies maintained that their toplessness was a key element of their political speech, rather than done for sexual gratification.

Most municipalities in the state of North Carolina already have laws on the books prohibiting the exposure of breasts or nipples in public.  Asheville is one of the few cities without such a law on the books.

Several other American cities—among them San Francisco and New York City—do not prohibit women from going topless in public.  In New York City, a court case made it possible for women to go topless after a judge ruled that the existing indecent exposure laws were discriminatory.  It remains to be seen whether women's groups might fight back with such a lawsuit if the bill passes the North Carolina House and is signed into law by the governor.

Source: nc.gov, time.com

Contraceptive Sabotage Happening to Many Women

Contraceptive Sabotage Happening to Many Women

According to new research by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, millions of American women may have been victimized by domestic partners sabotaging their contraception.  Typical forms of contraceptive sabotage by men include switching out birth control pills for inactive pills, hiding hormonal contraceptives, or even poking holes in condoms.

While contraceptive sabotage, which is regarded as a form of reproductive coercion, can happen to any age group, the National Institutes of Health say that some groups of girls and women are particularly vulnerable.  One study found that teenagers who were using government assistance (welfare) to survive and who were bring abused by a partner were being subjected to reproductive coercion nearly 70 percent of the time.

The most common forms of contraceptive sabotage reported by these young women and girls included men poking holes in condoms or discarding condoms in the middle of intercourse, without the knowledge or consent of their partner.

In order to help women fight reproductive coercion, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists now recommends that all gynecologists ask about reproductive coercion during the course of routine exams.  Many gynecologists already screen for several forms of abuse during patient visits, and incorporating questions about reproductive coercion and contraception sabotage can help educate patients about these issues.

Reproductive coercion has become an even more important issue in recent years, as new restrictions on abortion providers have made it substantially more difficult for women who are reproductively coerced to obtain a safe and legal abortion.  This makes it even more essential for healthcare providers to discuss reproductive coercion with patients before they become pregnant or have an opportunity for their birth control to be sabotaged.

Healthcare providers have developed several innovative ways to help women who are being subjected to reproductive coercion but who are unable or unwilling to leave an abusive partner.  For example, if a woman wants to control her fertility and her boyfriend or husband is hostile to the idea of birth control, a gynecologist may be willing to insert an IUD (intrauterine device) with the strings cut short enough that they cannot be felt.

According to the NIH and ACOG, obstetricians and gynecologists should help patients understand that reproductive coercion is a form of abuse, as well as giving them information about the forms reproductive coercion and contraceptive sabotage can take.  This information can be given during visits for Pap smears and other routine preventative care.  Because of provisions in the new healthcare laws passed by President Obama, most preventative care, including birth control, is free from co-pays on most insurance plans.

Source: nih.gov

Lawmakers: CA Rape Law “Loophole” Should Be Closed

Lawmakers: CA Rape Law “Loophole” Should Be Closed

California lawmakers may change a controversial law from the 19th century after a case made headlines and raised eyebrows nationwide.

It was a nightmare come to life: Jane Doe, a California resident, went home after a night of drinking and woke up to discover a man having sex with her who wasn't her boyfriend.  As soon as she realized what was happening, she pushed him away and tried to get away from her attacker.  She subsequently reported the assault to police.

After her rapist was arrested and convicted, he began serving a three year sentence.  However, a California appeals court overturned the conviction, stating that according to the “rape by deception” statute Jane Doe's rapist was prosecuted under, rape by deception can occur only when a man is impersonating a woman's husband.  A boyfriend, even a co-habiting one, wouldn't qualify—in other words, while a married woman could have obtained a conviction in this case, Jane Doe's unmarried status made it possible for her rapist to walk away free.

California lawmakers, especially women in the legislature, have expressed dismay over the court's ruling.  The appeals court judges stated that while they agreed that the law should apply to boyfriends as well as husbands, their hands were tied by the letter of the law itself.

California rape by deception statutes date to approximately 150 years ago, when cohabiting was forbidden except between spouses.  This means that the law was simply never updated to reflect changing societal norms.  As of 2012, married couples now represent a minority of households in the United States, making the current California law seem even more out of step with the way that Americans live today.

In response to the case, legislators in California have begun working on revisions to the state's rape laws.  In the revised version of the rape by deception law proposed by three California lawmakers, boyfriends and girlfriends could also be impersonated illegally by a rapist.

California's Attorney General, Kamala Harris, says that the case clearly “involved a non-consensual sexual assault that fits within the general understanding of what constitutes rape.”  State officials intend to work together to see how they can best avoid similar situations in the future.  The Office of the Attorney General is also considering the possibility of re-trying the case under a different section of California's rape laws.  However, constitutional prohibitions on double jeopardy may make it impossible to re-try the case regardless of the new charge.

Source: womenscaucus.legislature.ca.gov

Maryland Man Convicted of Trafficking Young Girls

Maryland Man Convicted of Trafficking Young Girls

A Maryland man was convicted of sex trafficking after involving multiple minor girls he had met over the internet in prostitution.  Dennis Smith, a pimp who also went by the street name of “Domo,” began grooming a sixteen year old girl for sex and prostitution by beginning to message with her on social media websites.

After they had spoken for a few months, the girl agreed to meet with Smith at her home.  He picked her up and drove her and two women to a house where they were prostituted.  This first incident occurred in October of 2011, and the next day, the young girl returned to her home.

However, the girl's involvement with Smith was not over yet.  Smith continued to talk to her online and groom her for continued underage prostitution.  By February of 2012, Smith had convinced the 16 year old girl to bring along a 15 year old friend from her high school in order to engage in prostitution.

Smith's plea agreement paints a terrible picture: a pimp who not only forced young and vulnerable girls into prostitution, but also forced them to have tattoos of his pimp name, Domo, which he inked himself using tattoo equipment he was not licensed to use.  He also photographed the girls, including in sexual acts, and used these photographs to advertise available sexual services from the girls online.

Maryland police became aware of a child being prostituted in a hotel room, and sent an undercover officer to investigate under the guise of looking for sex with underage girls.  Upon finding a 15 and 17 year old girl engaged in prostitution at the hotel room, Maryland police arrested Smith and seized the property used in the commission of the crimes, including his photographic equipment and his tattooing machine.

The girls prostituted by Smith had their sexual services advertised on the controversial website Backpage, which has been known for offering a wide range of prostitution services with little regard for whether the escorts being advertised are of legal age or have been the victims of trafficking or sex slavery.

Smith's 12 year sentence is just two years longer than the mandatory 10 year minimum sentence for sex trafficking of minors.  After being released in 2025, Smith will also be required to serve a full ten years of court-ordered supervision in order to ensure that he does not continue to victimize children upon his release.

Source: justice.gov

Former Church Employee Guilty of Online Child Enticement

Former Church Employee Guilty of Online Child Enticement

On November 28, 2012, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that Jeffrey Darlin from Swarthmore, Pennsylvania pleaded guilty to trying to coerce and entice a minor over the internet.  The investigation was led by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).  

Darlin pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court of Delaware on federal crimes.  

Court documents show that Darlin was the former facilities manager of Swarthmore Presbyterian Church.  Darlin began an online relationship with a person in a Yahoo chat room he believed was a 14-year-old girl on January 21, 2012, but the “girl” was an undercover HSI agent.  

The undercover agent told Darlin that she was a high-school cheerleader and gymnast.  During the first couple of talks, he informed the “girl” how to delete evidence of their online communications from the computer.  Darlin also talked about teaching the “minor” how to engage in certain sex acts.  

Darlin used his computer in the church office to talk with the “girl.”  He also sent pictures of himself engaging in sexual acts and told the “girl” he would engage in the same acts if they met.  Darlin eventually arranged to meet the “girl” at Bellevue State Park and travel to a hotel on Route 202.  

HSI agents arrested Darlin at Bellevue State Park on February 10, 2012.  The Swarthmore Presbyterian Church immediately terminated Darlin and cooperated throughout the entire investigation.  

John P. Kelleghan with HSI Philadelphia stated: “Homeland Security Investigations is committed to stopping predators in their tracks. As shown here today, this defendant will no longer be a threat to our children.  This case is yet another example of the extraordinary collaborative efforts among law enforcement in Delaware, to protect the most vulnerable among us.”  

The investigation and arrest were part of Operation Predator under HSI.  

Source: Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Jerry Sandusky Sentenced at Least 30 Years

Jerry Sandusky Sentenced at Least 30 Years


On October 9, 2012, Jerry Sandusky was sentenced to at least 30 years in prison and no more than 60 years in prison.  He was found guilty of 45 of 48 counts that ranged from involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a minor and indecent assault to unlawful contact with minors.  
Jerry Sandusky was the once revered defensive coordinator the Penn State University football team, but his arrest on December 7, 2012 sent shockwaves throughout the Happy Valley community and Penn State football program.  The scandal led to the demise of Graham Spanier and Joe Paterno, and the student body and football team were left with scars that will continue on for many years.  
Many of the victims were part of Jerry Sandusky’s charity called Second Mile.  It was found he took advantage of at-risk kids and used his status to conceal his true motives.  The sentencing of Jerry Sandusky will never be able to put an end to the suffering the victims will have to endure for their rest of their lives.  
The Order for Sandusky’s sentencing was released by the Court of Common Pleas of Centre County on October 9, 2012.  The minimum sentence will ensure Jerry Sandusky stays in prison for the rest of his life.  
Apart from the prison time, Jerry Sandusky must pay for all costs of the prosecution.  He is also ordered to pay restitution to the Pennsylvania Victim’s Compensation Assistance Program, and damages will be awarded to the victims.  
Sandusky will remain at the Centre County Correctional Facility for 10 more days until he is transported to the Department of Corrections, Diagnostic, and Classification Center in Camp Hill for more processing.  During his time in Camp Hill, Sandusky is ordered to submit a DNA sample, photograph, and fingerprints as required by the DNA Detection of Sexual and violent Predators Act.  
Source: Centre County Government, Pennsylvania

Operation Predator Tackles another Sexual Predator

Operation Predator Tackles another Sexual Predator


On October 9, 2012, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that Blayne T. Hulbert was sentenced to 100 months in prison after distributing child pornography.  The investigation was led by the ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Seattle Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force.
According to the court documents and the ICE, special agents under HSI in Los Angeles started following Hulbert after an investigation into the distribution of child pornography of an image hosting website based in Russia.  A person with the screen name “kiddgrimm” received videos of child sexual abuse, and HSI was then able to link the account to Hulbert.  
HSI Seattle and the ICAC Task Force proceeded to search the part-time residences of Hulbert in Monroe and Bellevue in November of 2011.  Authorities recovered a laptop and a digital storage device, and a forensic investigation later found thousands of images of child exploitation.  Some of videos contained violent sexual abuse.  
When Hulbert was arrested by HSI, he admitted that he was already part of a child molestation investigation led by local authorities.  Apart from the federal charges, he was also charged by Washington State authorities for child molestation and was sentenced to 67 months in state prison.  
Hulbert is ordered to serve his federal sentence after the end of his state sentence.  The judge approved the joint sentencing along with a lifetime of supervised release.  Hulbert must also register as a sex offender.  
Operation Predator investigated the case, which is an HSI initiative spanning across the United States to protect children from sexual predators.  If you suspect a person is a child predator or seems involved in suspicious activity, you can call the hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE.  You can also complete a tip form online, and both the phone number and online form are received by investigators during any time of the day.  
Source: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

3 Illinois Men Indicted for Child Pornography

3 Illinois Men Indicted for Child Pornography


On October 5, 2012, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that three men were indicted for child pornography offenses.  The investigation was led by the ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the East Central Illinois Cyber Crimes Working Group, and local police departments from Champaign, Urbana, and Decatur.  
Erik Barthelemy of Champaign, Danny L. Smith of Georgetown, and Dustin R. Underwood of Clinton were charged for distributing and possessing child pornography in different cases.  
The ICE reports that Barthelemy was arrested on September 10, 2012 and detained by the U.S. Marshals Service.  He was charged with two counts of distributing child pornography in October of 2011, and he was also charged with one count of possessing child pornography.  
Smith was arrested on September 11 and detained by U.S. Marshals.  He is charged with three counts of distributing child pornography between May and July of 2012, and he is also charged with one count of possession of  child pornography.  
Underwood was arrested on August 28 and charged with three counts of distributing child pornography between February and March of 2012.  He was also charged with one count of possession of child pornography.  His trial is set for November 26, 2012.  
Each count of distributing child pornography has a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison and a max penalty of 20 years in prison and a lifetime of supervised release.  If the defendant was convicted of child sex abuse or child pornography in the past, their mandatory minimum sentence is 15 years in prison and they face a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison.  Possessing child pornography carries a sentence of 10 years in prison.  
The investigation was part of Operation Predator which targets sexual predators across the nation.  The HSI initiative targets people who travel overseas for sex with minors, criminal alien sex offenders, sex traffickers, and those distribute and download child pornography.  
Source: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

CBP Officer Sentenced for Sexual Assault of Women

CBP Officer Sentenced for Sexual Assault of Women

On October 4, 2012, the Department of Justice released a press release that stated Paulo Morales of Miami was sentenced to 33 months in prison and one year of supervised release.  U.S. District Judge Robin S. Rosenbaum sentenced Morales. 

Morales, who is a former Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer, pleaded guilty in July of 2012 to three misdemeanor counts for depriving rights to several women on different occasions.  During his guilty plea, Morales admitted to his charges of sexual assault that occurred on several dates in January of 2011.  While he was working as a CBP officer at the Miami International Airport, Morales groped the breasts of at three different women while in custody of the CBP.  The women never consented and Morales violated their rights.  
Thomas E. Perez, the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, stated, “This officer abandoned his commitment to legitimate law enforcement and used his power to abuse women in his custody.  The Justice Department is committed to holding officers who engage in such conduct accountable.” 
Wifredo A. Ferrar, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, showed a similar tone of disgust for the officer’s actions: “My office and the Department of Justice are fully committed to protecting the civil rights of our citizens from all types of abuses.  In this case, the harm to the victims and the general public cut deep because it came at the very hands of someone who was sworn to serve and protect the public, and instead breached that trust.” 
The case was investigated by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Office of Professional Responsibility, and the CBP Internal Affairs.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney William White and Trial Attorney Henry Leventis of the Civil Rights Division.  
Source: Department of Justice

Man Uses Sword during Arrest for Child Pornography

Man Uses Sword during Arrest for Child Pornography

On October 4, 2012, the US Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida announced that Kamil Mezalka of Palm Coast pleaded guilty for receiving child pornography over the internet.  He now faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years in prisons and a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and lifetime supervised release.  

According to the FBI, the agent in Philadelphia started an undercover investigation to find people who were using file sharing programs to find child pornography.  During the investigation, the agent found a flagged IP address was for an account user in Palm Coast, Florida.  
The federal search warrant is where the sword comes into play.  FBI agents served the federal search warrant on May 8, 2012 and entered Mezalka’s residence.  When the federal agents entered the home, Mezalka quickly came out of the bedroom and quickly went back inside and locked the door.  FBI agents repeatedly demanded that exit from the bedroom, but Mezalka kept the door locked and used a samurai sword on his desktop computer and compact discs.  
In despite of the unexpected sword rampage, federal agents were still able to collect evidence.  The hard drives were damaged, but forensic investigation showed that the one hard drive was storing more than 12,000 images and over 3,000 videos.  At least 500 of these images and 100 videos were of child pornography.  
During questioning by authorities, Mezalka eventually admitted that he used the file sharing program to down pornography—some of which was child pornography.  
The Federal Bureau of Investigation in Philadelphia and Jackson investigated this case with the help of the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney D. Rodney Brown.  
This investigation was part of Project Safe Childhood.  
Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation