Recently in Sex offenses Category

Sharon Cohen has this article for AP on a renewed drive to test the DNA from old rape kits.

In resurrecting old crimes, investigators have detected an alarming pattern: Many rapists are repeat offenders.

In Cuyahoga County, home to Cleveland, about 30 percent of cases that have developed from testing so far are serial rape suspects. One of them, Robert Green, assaulted seven women over nearly a decade as evidence went unprocessed. He pleaded guilty last fall and was sentenced to up to 135 years in prison.

I'm not sure I would have said "alarming."  We have known that for a long time.  The DNA provides irrefutable confirmation, though.

Conviction does not always follow a DNA match, though.  The statute of limitations may have run.  A claim of consent may be hard to refute in a very cold case.

"It's great entertainment on television that in one hour's time, we have a crime, we take the sample, we get a `hit,' we arrest the suspect and then he's prosecuted and off to jail," says Doug McGowen, coordinator of Memphis' Sexual Assault Kit Task Force. "That's just not the case, clearly."
"Sentencing reform" is the deliberately gauzy name given the movement for shorter sentences and earlier release.  Its advocates say it will be focused on "low level, non-violent" offenders, but quietly, and less prominently, acknowledge that it's intended to apply to "all offenders."  

This is one reason I want to add explicit language to one of the main "reform" measures, the Justice Safety Valve Act, before it gets a vote.  I want the public to know exactly what "all offenders" means.

It's also the reason I want to highlight an item from today's News Scan.  The Scan is sometimes easy to pass by quickly, because it contains a number of stories. But this one deserves our immediate attention:

Sex Predator Gets Second Chance, Reoffends:  Michael Shepard, released after serving a 15 year sentence for committing sex offenses against children, faces 14 new charges of raping or assaulting at least seven children after being out of prison 18 months.  Claire McNeill of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Shepard initially lied to his neighbors about his crimes, claiming his sex offender status stemmed from a Romeo and Juliet affair with a preacher's daughter.  He was released from prison after two psychologists determined that he "did not qualify for commitment" to a treatment facility after his sentence.  Shepard claims that the children fabricated their stories.

Rape, PTSD, and Being Believed

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Abigail Hauslohner, WaPo Cairo bureau chief, has this poignant story of her long-ago victimization and its effects on her.  Along with her personal story, she has this comment on current controversies:

Today, what scares me the most about the debate raging over Rolling Stone's U-Va. rape story, and the magazine's apparent shortcomings in verifying it, is that the next woman who is raped at that school or any other might not come forward. Even if she does, people may be less likely to believe her, as her individual tragedy will probably be conflated with everyone else's opinion about this particular case.

So it pains me to think about how there are other women out there right now making the same "rational" decision that I did. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, 97 percent of rapists will never spend a day in jail. That is largely because most rape victims, myself included, don't report the crime to the police to begin with.
I think this backlash effect is a real problem, not only with loose standards of journalism but also with ill-advised policies on college campuses.  Rape is a horrific crime causing long-lasting psychological damage.  At this point, we are in real danger of hurting rape victims by misguided efforts intended to help them.  The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Rape, College, and Reporting Rates

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Are young women in college at greater risk of rape than women of the same age who don't go to school?  No, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey.  For the period 1995-2013, the rate of rape and sexual assault among women aged 18 to 24 was 6.1 per 1000 for students and 7.6 for nonstudents.  The Bureau of Justice Statistics released this report today, Rape and Sexual Assault Victimization Among College-Age Females, 1995-2013.

Numbers on sexual assault can vary widely depending on the definition of sexual assault used and whether the numbers reflect survey data or assaults reported to the police.  This report finds that reporting rates are much lower among students, 20% versus 32%.  The NCVS provides a valuable cross-check to reporting-based numbers such as the Uniform Crime Reports because it is a survey independent of police reporting.

Truth and Journalism

Bill noted yesterday how a hoax was printed as fact to bolster a position on the campus rape debate.  Before commenting on the story, let me make very clear that CJLF has a long history of supporting the rights of victims of rape.  It is a terrible crime, and the victims deserve justice.  We have further supported shield laws to protect victims from being revictimized.  Our commitment to victims' rights remains undiminished.  That said, however, the current movement regarding campus sexual assault is going to extremes that will do little to help actual victims, threatens grave consequences against people who have done nothing wrong, and may well end up hurting real victims as a backlash creates renewed skepticism of those who come forward.

Now, Rolling Stone never has been an exemplar of objective journalism, but reporting inflammatory allegations without the most elementary fact-checking is well below the standard we should expect of any national magazine.  An editorial in the Wall Street Journal today pinpoints the underlying problem here:

The larger problem, however, is that Ms. Erderly was, by her own admission, looking for a story to fit a pre-existing narrative--in this case, the supposed epidemic of sexual assault at elite universities, along with the presumed indifference of those schools to the problem. As the Washington Post noted in an admiring profile of Ms. Erdely, she interviewed students at several elite universities before alighting on UVA, "a public school, Southern and genteel."
In other words, Ms. Erdely did not construct a story based on facts, but went looking for facts to fit her theory. She appears to have been looking for a story to fit the current popular liberal belief that sexual assault is pervasive and pervasively covered-up.

FedSoc Convention Videos

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Bill previously posted a link to the Criminal Law Practice Group's panel at the National Lawyer's Convention of the Federalist Society.  Another panel relevant to the topic of this blog was the Civil Rights Practice Group's panel on sexual assault on campus.  The speakers and video links for both panels follow the break.

The full schedule with links to all the videos is here.

Today the Ninth Circuit decided Doe v. Harris, No. 13-15263.  The opinion by Judge Bybee begins:

California law has long required registered sex offenders to report identifying information, such as their address and current photograph, to law enforcement. Cal. Penal Code §§ 290.012, 290.015. The Californians Against Sexual Exploitation ("CASE") Act sought to supplement and modernize these reporting obligations by requiring sex offenders to provide "[a] list of any and all Internet identifiers established or used by the person" and "[a] list of any and all Internet service providers used by the person." Id. § 290.015(a)(4)-(5). The Act also requires registered sex offenders to send written notice to law enforcement within 24 hours of adding or changing an Internet identifier or an account with an Internet service provider ("ISP"). Id. § 290.014(b). Appellees Doe, Roe, and the nonprofit organization California Reform Sex Offender Laws filed a complaint alleging that the CASE Act infringes their freedom of speech in violation of the First Amendment. Appellees filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, which the district court granted. Kamala Harris, the Attorney General of California, and Intervenors, the proponents of the CASE Act, appeal. We hold that the district court did not abuse its discretion by enjoining the CASE Act. Accordingly, we affirm.

On the Success of Community Monitoring...

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This article speaks for itself.  It begins:

A New York man who cut off his ankle monitor before killing a woman and raping her 10-year-old daughter was sentenced Wednesday to 30 years in federal prison for possessing more than 11,000 images and 1,100 videos of child pornography.

U.S. Attorney Richard Hartunian said 30-year-old David Renz will begin the 30-year sentence after completion of whatever sentence he receives for his guilty plea in state court for the murder and rape. U.S. District Judge Norman Mordue went beyond the 19 to 24 years recommended by federal sentencing guidelines.

Good grief.  The only encouraging part is the next paragraph:

Sentencing on the state charges is scheduled for May, but it has been postponed several times while the U.S. Department of Justice decides whether to charge Renz on a federal carjacking statute that could carry the death penalty if he is convicted.

Campbell Brown, founder of the Parents' Transparency Project, has this op-ed in the WSJ (subscription):

When a Michigan middle-school teacher was denied $10,000 in severance pay last month, the local teachers union filed a grievance against the school board on his behalf. Given the union's mission to defend the rights of educators, this would appear to be routine. Not so fast: The teacher is a convicted sex offender.

Neal Erickson was sentenced in July to a 15- to 30-year jail term after acknowledging that he had sexual relations with a male student beginning when the boy was 14 years old. The school board denied him severance once he was charged. But the local chapter of the National Education Association thinks this criminal deserves his severance, which says a lot about the mindset of teachers unions, which are also trying to weaken a bipartisan bill in Washington that would help keep sexual predators out of schools.

The Real War Against Women

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"War Against Women" is a political catchphrase used by Democrats to attack Republicans for the latter's generally more conservative views on the availability of abortion, pay "equity", government financial assistance to families, and several other questions.

There was a time when the word "war" was thought to connote violence.  None of those issues involves that; they're about other things, from religion and religiously-influenced social values to views about the size and role of the welfare state.

There is one issue, however, that very much involves violence against women  --  rape.  As to that, there really is a war being waged against women, but it's not being waged by Republicans.  It's being waged by liberal judges who seem to view rape as no big deal.

That's the only explanation I can think of for the state judge who imposed a sentence of rehabilitation and counseling  --  and not a day in jail  --  for a defendant who raped the victim three times.  The story is here.  But I should probably add that it's a little misleading for me to characterize it as a "war against women." A "war against girls" is more like it:  The victim was 14 at the time of the first attack, and 18 at the time of the last two.

Can we look forward to Chairman Leahy's demanding strong, mandatory minimum sentencing laws to prevent such mind-bending travesties in federal jurisdiction? Uh, guess not.

Federalism and Sex Offenses

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The US Supreme Court today decided a case on the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), a law passed by Congress in 2006.  The majority upholds SORNA as applied to the particular offender in a rather peculiar and fact-specific opinion.  The case is United States v. Kebodeaux, No. 12-418.

Psychotherapy for Sex Offenders

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R. Karl Hanson, one of the preeminent scholars in the field of the treatment of sex offenders, has a short review article in the April issue of Evidence-Based Mental Health, which abstracts the latest Cochrane review of the literature.   What does the Cochrane review say?  Here's the conclusion:

Currently RCT evidence does not support that psychological interventions reduce the risk of sexual offending.  High-quality RCTs with minimal bias and long-term follow-up in the community are required to identify interventions that can reduce sexual reoffending rates.

And Dr. Hanson's commentary:

The current review is likely to have little impact on practice.  Although their search was thorough and their analysis competent, there was not enough evidence to make strong conclusions.  Furthermore, the majority of the available RCTs did not examine sexual recidivism, but only intermediate outcomes (such as social anxiety), which may or may not be valid risk indicators.

So the data isn't all that great and we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater.  That's fine, but what the Cochrane review said was that current evidence does not support the notion that psychological interventions reduce sexual reoffending.   We can believe in our heart of hearts that it should - and maybe it does and those studies just haven't been done yet - but as scientists we need to accurately report what the data shows.  Dr. Hanson was accurate in his commentary but all too often what scientists want to be true clouds what the data actually shows. 
Don Thompson reports for AP:

The number of paroled sex offenders who are fugitives in California is 15 percent higher today than before Gov. Jerry Brown's sweeping law enforcement realignment law took effect 17 months ago, according to figures released Wednesday by the state corrections department.

The increase amounts to 360 more sex offenders whose whereabouts were unknown and who were not reporting to their parole officers last year.

An Associated Press analysis of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation data shows that 2,706 paroled sex offenders dropped out of sight in the 15 months since the new law took effect in October 2011, compared to 2,346 in the 15 months before realignment. The numbers were obtained by the AP before their public release.

That's an average of 180 sex offender fugitives each month, up from 156 before realignment.
The current issue of Engage has this exchange on SORNA between John Malcolm (pro) and Andrew Harris and Jill Levenson (con).

Rape by False Pretenses

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Wednesday's decision by the California Court of Appeal in People v. Morales, B233796, has gotten a lot of attention.  Bob Egelko has this story in the SF Chronicle.  Under Penal Code §261(a), the crime of rape is committed when consent to intercourse is negated in a number of different ways, the most common being force.

The Morales case arises from an incident where the victim's boyfriend left the room, she fell asleep, Morales entered, he began having sex with her, possibly while she was still asleep, she continued consensually believing he was her boyfriend, and he knew that.  She says, and he denies, that he continued by force after she realized who he was and pushed him away.  The problem arises from some nineteenth century language still in the statute.

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