Posts Tagged ‘ Florida ’
Attorney General Pam Bondi has asked the Fourteenth District Court to allow a medical examiner to exhume bodies from a grave site, near a notorious reform school in Florida’s panhandle.
Former inmates of The Dozier School for Boys, claim the bodies of boys neglected and abused at the facility, are buried at the site.
Calling themselves “The White House Boys,” the group began to push for an investigation of the institution in 2009. The “White House” was the name of the cell block where boys selected for punishment were reportedly brutalized. The men say some boys never returned from the tiny block structure where a metal-studded belt was used to beat them. Some former inmates described systematic sexual abuse. A class action law suit filed by the group was dropped in 2010.
Last year, a team from the University of South Florida located remains buried in shallow, unmarked graves. The group used ground-penetrating radar to locate multiple graves whose existence is not recorded. But the identity and cause of death of the individuals interred there, can not be determined until the bodies are removed and examined.
Noting that the families of the missing, young men deserved closure, Bondi’s petition asks for one year to conduct the examinations. The school was located about sixty miles North of Tallahassee, and operated from 1900 until 1952.
A Merritt Island man has appealed to the First Lady for help in his fight to keep foreign sex offenders out of the United States. Furious that the Feds are granting visas to foreign nationals who have been registered as sex offenders in their homelands, Neil Marsh is asking Michelle Obama to mobilize a potent national resource – the mothers of America.
“You have the ear of American mothers,” he writes, “Please let them know just how dangerous this situation is.” His letter, mailed to the White House September 24, cites Pete Townshend’s current U.S. tour as an example of how people placed on overseas sex registries have free reign to travel about this country.
Marsh says he is compelled to speak out because he regrets his silence after he was assaulted at the age of thirteen. His abuser was Mark Dean Schwab, who went on to rape a boy in Merritt Island and murder eleven year-old Junny Rios-Martinez of Cocoa.”I know what can happen when predators are allowed to shed their criminal history and move invisibly.”
Protect Our Children joined other child advocacy groups protesting Townshend’s 2010 performance at the SuperBowl in Miami. Townshend was placed on the British registry in 2003, for a period of five years, after accessing a Texas website that offered child pornography. Records showed the legendary leader of the WHO used his credit card to enter the “Landslide” site, which had been taken over by the FBI. Townshend is scheduled to perform at Orlando’s Amway Center, November 3rd.
In 2012, Protect Our Children objected to the planned visit of British punk rocker Jimmy Pursey, frontman for the group “Sham69″. He received a “Caution” in 2002, from police in Weybridge, U.K., for committing an Indecent Assault on a teenage girl. The terms of the caution call for enrollment on the British registry.
Pursey cancelled his U.S. tour three weeks prior to his first venue in Brooklyn N.Y., in May 2012. Months before, Protect Our Children publicized his sex offender background on their website and filed complaints with immigration officials. The Florida activists also notified law enforcement agencies in New York and Nevada - locations where he was due to perform. Pursey cited his father’s failing health as the reason for scrapping his US tour.
While U.S. Immigration laws address criminal convictions in screening visa applicants, they do not recognize sex offender registration as a reason to deny a visa. This creates a blind spot in cases where British citizens have received a “Caution”, a procedure in which the offender can be placed on the national list without being sentenced in a criminal court.
“We only know about these two people because they are celebrities and their deeds have been covered in the media…” says child advocate Shelly Coyne, “…You have to wonder how many people are among us who have sex offenses in their past and visas in their pockets.”
The problem is compounded by significant differences in the way the two countries treat the information. In the United Kingdom, the names of those listed are not made available to the public as they are in the United States. Typically, registration for Americans is for life, while registration in the U.K. is for a specific period of time.
Coyne is a volunteer with Protect Our Children’s Court Monitor Program. She says the Brevard County group asked U.S. legislators to provide information about foreign visitors who have been listed as sex offenders. Letters were sent to Representative Elton Gallegly and Senator Chuck Schumer in May 2012, but neither lawmaker has responded.
“Their lack of response speaks volumes.” says Coyne, “When it comes to visiting sex offenders, there is no tracking of their movements and no accounting of their numbers.”
Gallegly and Schumer chair the Immigration Subcommittees in the House and Senate.
Driven by memories of his own abuse, Neil Marsh is not about to be put off: “The day I heard Mark Dean Schwab’s name on the five o’clock news, my life took a turn. They were looking for this man, and a little boy was missing. Something terrible had happened and I felt my silence made me complicit…”
Released early from jail, Schwab was able to gain the trust of the Rios-Martinez family by posing as a reporter with a surfing magazine. He claimed to be organizing a world surfing tour and was considering their son Junny for the team. With no registration laws on the books at the time, the family was unaware of Schwab’s record. As a result, he was able to get the child alone and take his life. Schwab was put to death in 2008 – seventeen years after the murder.
“Anyone who has been on a registry in another country should be denied entry to the U.S.” says Marsh “We have the Jessica Lunsford Law in Florida. It’s named after a little girl who was murdered by a child molester who slipped out from under the registry. Now, the police are required to track them and inform local residents of their presence. It turns a passive list into an active program of protection. None of these state laws can be enforced when immigration authorities apply different rules to offenders from other lands… granting visas and waivers, and thwarting our efforts to protect our citizens.”
“Here in Brevard County…” says Coyne, “… a sex offender can’t live within 1,200 feet of a school. A person with a visa who has committed the same offense in the U.K. can coach soccer at that school!”
Lunsford was abducted and murdered in 2005, by John Couey, a man who had been listed on the state registry for an assault on a Kissimmee teen. Eventually, he absconded from the residence where he told police he was living, and drifted to the rural town of Homosassa. There, Couey was able to blend in with locals who were unaware of his background. Jessie Lunsford was nine years old when she was buried alive, only yards from her home.
Frustrated by the inaction of federal authorities, Neil Marsh is enlisting the support of American moms in his fight to close what he views as a loophole in U.S. immigration law. Marsh sums it up in his letter to Mrs Obama. “To me…” he writes, “…the current visa process is like having an unlocked door in the house where our children live.”
It has been one month since he mailed his letter. He still awaits a response.
BACKSTORY - TOWNSHEND
BACKSTORY - PURSEY
“Punker’s Planned Performance Prompts Protest” Guardian-Brevard, March 2012
By Kevin Gillick
Melissa was on the streets of Central Florida at age five. Raised by a crack-addicted mother, she suffered her first sexual abuse at age nine, and was jailed as a runaway by the time she was 12. At 15 she was a seasoned prostitute, used by her pimp not just to provide sexual service, but to recruit other children for his stable.
The small group assembled at the Brevard Family Partnership in Rockledge, leaned in to hear Sue Aboul-Hosn read Octavia’s letter. Aboul-Hosn is a specialist in missing children for the Department of Children and Families.
Seated beside her, Dr. Anthony Davis, fellow member of the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking, scanned the faces of the small contingent. This meeting, on January 20th, was attended by fewer people than the first meeting in November. Hopes of starting a Space Coast Chapter of the Rescue and Restore Coalition seemed to be fading, just a bit.
Florida is ranked third in the nation in human trafficking. Victims include both adults and children. Their ranks are comprised of foreign nationals as well as American citizens. They are children lured from, their homes and set to work as prostitutes; they are the immigrant poor, imported from other countries to perform slave labor on farms and in sweatshops. Many are forced to work in the “sex entertainment” industry.
In the United States, an average of 2,300 children go missing each day. Two thirds will end up in the sex trade.
Human trafficking is a modern form of slavery. Victims are subjected to force, fraud or coercion, for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor. The Rescue and Restore Coalition offers free training to first responders enabling them to spot the trafficking victim.
They work with the emergency room staffer who might recognize the injuries of a frightened teen as the punishment meted out by a pimp, rather than bruises resulting from a skateboard mishap. They can train the juvenile justice worker to discern the difference between an enslaved child and a rebellious adolescent. By asking a carefully structured set of questions, these first responders can become the lifeline for a child trapped and foundering in abuse.
Dr. Davis is not to be put off. Long before his bespectacled cohort had finished reading, he was pecking away at his I-Pod, texting community leaders in Brevard. He scowled at the empty seats before firing off another flurry of messages.
Melissa was rescued. She was pulled away from her pimp and gathered up by these dedicated people. In her letter, she wrote about her restoration to the life she leads today. Now a young woman, she works for a state agency helping others who have been abused. She lives in her own apartment in Orlando and while raising her infant daughter, she works to receive her college degree.
Sue Aboul-Hosn, a gatherer of humans, hugged the stack of handouts that were never handed out. She stood and moved crisply toward the door. Now, she and Davis will go south to Martin and St. Lucie Counties. In the car, they will discuss their plans for the Space Coast Rescue and Restore Coalition.
The U.S. Supreme Court is considering the constitutionality of confining some sex offenders after their criminal sentences have ended. A three-judge panel heard arguments January 12th in response to a challenge filed by federal inmates who say the law violates their rights.
Solicitor General Elena Kagan told the court that the federal government has a responsibility to detain individuals when “…that person has the kind of mental illness that is going to cause grave danger to the community”.
The controversial program is part of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which was signed into law in 2006. Twenty states, including Florida, have their own civil commitment laws aimed at addressing the pathology of sex offenders rather than the criminality of their acts.
The case before the Supreme Court does not affect the rights of states to pass and enforce their own laws imposing indefinite confinement upon sexual felons. Florida’s version, The Jimmy Ryce Act, became law in 1998. It is named for a nine year-old Miami boy who was murdered three years earlier by a convicted predator: Juan Carlos Chavez.
Justices for the Supreme Court are expected to hand down their decision in Summer 2010.