Wednesday, February 27, 2008

$105M Suit Alleges Sex Sting By NBC's "To Catch A Predator" Drove Man To Kill Himself, Robert Paisola Reports

(AP) A $105 million lawsuit brought by a woman who claims a sex sting by "Dateline NBC: To Catch A Predator" drove her brother to kill himself can go to trial, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

In a scathing ruling, U.S. District Judge Denny Chin said a jury might conclude the network "crossed the line from responsible journalism to irresponsible and reckless intrusion into law enforcement."

Louis William Conradt Jr., a suburban Dallas prosecutor, fatally shot himself after he was accused of engaging in a sexually explicit online chat with an adult posing as a 13-year-old boy, according to a lawsuit filed by his sister.

In the lawsuit, Patricia Conradt said NBC "steamrolled" police to arrest her brother after telling police he failed to show up at a sting operation 35 miles away.

NBC was working with the activist group Perverted Justice on the sting, in which officers impersonating underage girls establish online chats with men and try to lure them to a house, where they are met by TV cameras and police.

Chin said the lawsuit contained sufficient facts to make it plausible that the suicide was foreseeable, that police had a duty to protect Conradt from killing himself, and that the officers and NBC acted with deliberate indifference.

Amanda Leith, a lawyer for NBC Universal, had no comment on the ruling. The company previously called the lawsuit "completely without merit." A spokeswoman for the company did not immediately return a telephone message.

Bruce Baron, a lawyer for Patricia Conradt, said: "This decision shows no one is above the law, no matter how powerful."

Chin tossed out many of Patricia Conradt's claims but said her principal claims could proceed to trial.

In his ruling, Chin said the network "placed itself squarely in the middle of a police operation, pushing the police to engage in tactics that were unnecessary and unwise, solely to generate more dramatic footage for a television show."

Chin wrote that a reasonable jury could find there was no legitimate law enforcement need for a heavily armed SWAT team to extract a 56-year-old prosecutor from his home when he was not accused of any actual violence and was not believed to have a gun.

He said a jury might conclude it was done solely to sensationalize and enhance the entertainment value of the arrest.

"A reasonable jury could find that by doing so, NBC created a substantial risk of suicide or other harm, and that it engaged in conduct so outrageous and extreme that no civilized society should tolerate it," Chin said.

Before issuing his ruling, Chin said he reviewed a copy of the Feb. 20, 2007 episode. In her lawsuit, Patricia Conradt claims a police officer at the scene of the shooting told a "Dateline" producer: "That'll make good TV." ..more.. by CBS News
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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Live from CNN: FBI wants palm prints, eye scans, tattoo mapping , Posted by Robert Paisola

FBI wants palm prints, eye scans, tattoo mapping

The FBI is gearing up to create a massive computer database of people's physical characteristics, all part of an effort the bureau says to better identify criminals and terrorists.

But it's an issue that raises major privacy concerns -- what one civil liberties expert says should concern all Americans.

The bureau is expected to announce in coming days the awarding of a $1 billion, 10-year contract to help create the database that will compile an array of biometric information -- from palm prints to eye scans.

Kimberly Del Greco, the FBI's Biometric Services section chief, said adding to the database is "important to protect the borders to keep the terrorists out, protect our citizens, our neighbors, our children so they can have good jobs, and have a safe country to live in."

But it's unnerving to privacy experts.

"It's the beginning of the surveillance society where you can be tracked anywhere, any time and all your movements, and eventually all your activities will be tracked and noted and correlated," said Barry Steinhardt, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Technology and Liberty Project.

The FBI already has 55 million sets of fingerprints on file. In coming years, the bureau wants to compare palm prints, scars and tattoos, iris eye patterns, and facial shapes. The idea is to combine various pieces of biometric information to positively identify a potential suspect.

A lot will depend on how quickly technology is perfected, according to Thomas Bush, the FBI official in charge of the Clarksburg, West Virginia, facility where the FBI houses its current fingerprint database. Watch what the FBI hopes to gain »

"Fingerprints will still be the big player," Bush, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division, told CNN.

But he added, "Whatever the biometric that comes down the road, we need to be able to plug that in and play."

First up, he said, are palm prints. The FBI has already begun collecting images and hopes to soon use these as an additional means of making identifications. Countries that are already using such images find 20 percent of their positive matches come from latent palm prints left at crime scenes, the FBI's Bush said.

The FBI has also started collecting mug shots and pictures of scars and tattoos. These images are being stored for now as the technology is fine-tuned. All of the FBI's biometric data is stored on computers 30-feet underground in the Clarksburg facility.

In addition, the FBI could soon start comparing people's eyes -- specifically the iris, or the colored part of an eye -- as part of its new biometrics program called Next Generation Identification.

Nearby, at West Virginia University's Center for Identification Technology Research, researchers are already testing some of these technologies that will ultimately be used by the FBI.

"The best increase in accuracy will come from fusing different biometrics together," said Bojan Cukic, the co-director of the center.

But while law enforcement officials are excited about the possibilities of these new technologies, privacy advocates are upset the FBI will be collecting so much personal information.

The Sex Offender News Blog, By Robert Paisola

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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Live from CNN: Get the Hell Out! Posted by Robert Paisola

MIAMI, Florida (AP) -- The state of Florida is trying to dissolve a community of sex offenders living under a bridge that includes a gym, kitchen, living room and two dogs.

Sex offender Juan Carlos Martin hangs out at the makeshift camp under the Julia Tuttle Causeway.

1 of 3 The men have lived under the Julia Tuttle Causeway for a year. They say limited money and strict local ordinances make it nearly impossible for them to live anywhere else.

But state officials are telling them to leave.

"We're urging them to find a residence. We want them to be able to reintegrate into society," said Gretl Plessinger, a spokeswoman for the Florida Corrections Department.

"We are hopeful that if we push them, they will be able to find a residence that's better."

The state first advised the 19 registered Tuttle dwellers last week that they must move. Since then, five of the men have found homes. A sixth has gone missing, a reflection of the angst over the order.

Plessinger said probation officers have given the men lists of possible locations to look for housing. The offenders were initially given 72 hours to find housing, but Plessinger said it was simply to motivate the men to get started. There is no firm deadline.

All told, corrections officials count fewer than 50 homeless sex offenders statewide. About nine lived under the Oakland Park Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale until authorities abruptly evicted them last month, an incident Plessinger said prompted the wider demand for relocation.

"We're trying to be proactive, give the offenders time to find a place," she said.

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Three of those evicted from beneath the Oakland Park bridge are now camping out in the Everglades, Plessinger said.

Carlene Sawyer, president of the Greater Miami chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, called the under-bridge housing "cruel and unusual punishment" that gives the community a "false sense of security."

The situation is garnering the attention of state lawmakers. Democratic State Rep. Jack Seiler said that while restrictions to keep sex offenders away from children are good, communities are trying to "one-up" each other with tougher and tougher restrictions.

He said the state may have to adopt uniform standards.

"There has to be some place in a greater metropolitan area where these individuals can reside and we can monitor them," Seiler said. "If we push them all underground or out of areas where they can be monitored, that is not in the best interest of public safety."

The offenders' community is like no other.

Just beneath where motorists pass, in the angled area where the bridge meets a concrete slope, there are domed tents, a cream-colored sofa beside a large generator-powered television and XBox, and stacks of canned food and drinks.

The air is tinged with sea salt, and the sound of cars passing overhead is relentless. Yet perfect Atlantic waters make it strangely serene.

At the bottom of the slope, there is a makeshift kitchen with a table, grill and jugs of water that residents fill more than a mile away. The community has a canoe for fishing, a weight bench, and a spot favored by a pit bull named Tigger and a German shepherd named Blackie.

On pillars supporting the bridge, and on the slope, residents have spray-painted their thoughts: "We 'R' Not Monsters." "They Treat Animals Better!!!" "Why?"

Juan Carlos Martin, a 29-year-old on the sex offender list for lewd or lascivious exhibition to a victim under the age of 16 -- a crime he says he didn't commit -- said it's been impossible for him to leave the bridge. He has been rejected from 15 jobs because of his record and can't find a place he can afford that's in compliance with the law.

Martin sits on his couch and sucks on a cigarette as a tiny white kitten peaks out from behind a stereo that no longer works. A gold crucifix hangs from his neck. He is off probation now, but he says he feels no freedom.

"What the law's doing to us is totally wrong," said Martin, who has lived here about six months. "Society will see that we aren't animals

Monday, February 4, 2008

Lynyrd Skynyrd Released from Jail as Sex Offender, Posted By Robert Paisola

ST. AUGUSTINE, FL -- The original drummer of Lynyrd Skynyrd has been arrested for failure to register as a sex offender.

Thomas Delmer Pyle, who performed under the name Artimus Pyle, is in jail in St. Johns County.

The investigation began when Pyle renewed his driver's license last month and listed an address in St. Johns County as his address.

Authorities learned Pyle hadn't lived there for many years and that he actually moved to Asheville, North Carolina.

Pyle returned to St. Johns County to speak with detectives. He was arrested. He walked out of jail Tuesday afternoon after posting bond.

"I'm devastated because I have not been trying to deceive anybody," said Pyle, in an interview with First Coast News reporter Jessica Clark.

He survived the plane crash that killed three members of the southern rock band in 1977.

Pyle pled guilty in 1993, in Duval County, on charges of attempted capital sexual battery by an adult on a victim under the age of 12, and principal to lewd and lascivious upon a child under 16 years old.

He was sentenced to eight years probation and designated as a sex offender