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January 28, 2015
Child Abuse And Neglect Laws Aren't Being Enforced, Report Finds
by Pam Fessler
Laws intended to protect children from abuse and neglect are not being properly enforced, and the federal government is to blame. That's according to a study by the Children's Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego School of Law, which says children are suffering as a result.
The numbers are grim. Almost 680,000 children in the United States were the victims of abuse and neglect in 2013. More than 1,500 of them died.
Federal officials say they're encouraged that the numbers are lower than they were in 2012. But children's advocates say that abuse is so often not reported that it's impossible to know if there's really been a decline.
"This is just something that's chronically underreported," says Elisa Weichel, a staff attorney with the Children's Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego School of Law, which published the report Tuesday.
She says abuse and neglect cases — especially those resulting in death — are often not disclosed as required by law. That lack of information has led to other problems in the system.
"It all boils down to having the right amount of data about what's working and what's not," Weichel says. "And when your data is flawed, every other part of your system is going to be flawed."
Her group has found plenty of flaws. The institute conducted a three-year study and found that not one state has met all of the minimum child welfare standards set by the federal government. Those standards include such things as timely investigation of reports of child abuse. The institute blames Congress and the courts for failing to get involved.
The Department of Health and Human Services, which reviews state programs, declined to comment on the report.
But there's broad agreement among those involved in child welfare that the system is in desperate need of repair, agencies are underfunded and caseworkers are often overwhelmed.
"Whether or not individual states can meet a reporting standard to us is not where the emphasis ought to be," says Ron Smith, director of legislative affairs for the American Public Human Services Association, which represents child welfare administrators.
"It needs to be on making sure that the kids who need assistance are getting assistance, and the families that need assistance are getting the assistance," he says.
Smith says state and local officials complain that they spend too much time filling out federal forms and trying to meet requirements that aren't necessarily best for kids.
Instead, he says, they want flexibility on how to spend federal funds so they can focus more on keeping families together, rather than on helping kids after they've been abused and removed from their homes.
Ron Zychowski of Eckerd, a nonprofit company that runs child welfare services in three of Florida's largest counties, agrees that change is needed. Eckerd has developed a new system to identify which of the 5,000 children under its care are at the highest risk of serious injury or death, so they can fix problems quickly.
"And I'm very pleased to report that in two years we have not had a child death from abuse or neglect in any of our cases," Zychowski says.
That program is getting lots of national attention, including from a new commission set up by Congress to help eliminate abuse and neglect deaths.
But Zychowski warns, in this field there's no silver bullet.
"Bad people will do bad things to children," he says. "We're not going to catch them all, and we're not going to stop them all."
There was a horrific reminder of that earlier this month. A Florida man was accused of killing his 5-year-old daughter by throwing her off a bridge. Zychowski says the family was not in the child welfare system.
Ex-Boy Scout describes mental scars left by abuse at trial
by GILLIAN FLACCUS
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — A California man suing the Boy Scouts of America over sexual abuse suffered at the hands of a volunteer Scout leader was so scarred by the incident that he once threw up outside a Taco Bell when he saw someone who looked like the man, he testified in the opening day of a civil trial.
The 20-year-old man, who was 13 when he was molested in 2007, told jurors Monday that shortly after the abuse he secretly taped the Scout leader making a partial confession because it was "a 13-year-old's word against a Scout leader, an adult."
Then, he dropped out of baseball — which had been his passion for seven years — stopped hanging out with friends and eventually enrolled in a home school program after the Scout leader began showing up in a parked car outside his high school.
"I felt scared. I felt like he was coming after me. I remember just hiding until his car went by (and) I felt kind of sick, he said. "One of the times I threw up just seeing his car."
The Scout volunteer, Al Stein, pleaded no contest to felony child endangerment in 2009 and is now a registered sex offender. He did not attend the trial Monday.
The victim, who is seeking punitive damages, was the first to take the stand in what is expected to be a monthlong civil trial that will center on whether the Boy Scouts were negligent in educating, warning and training parents, Scouts and volunteers about the dangers of sexual abuse.
The plaintiff's attorney, Tim Hale, won the right to draw from more than 30 years of "perversion" files as evidence as he tries to make the case that the Scouts knew the dangers of abuse within scouting were real and didn't do enough to prevent it.
The files that were allowed in by Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Donna Geck earlier this month include 16 years of documents — from 1991 to 2007 — that have not been made public previously. Hale told jurors they would receive a CD of 100,000 pages to review during deliberations and, in some cases, would be the first people in the United States to see the files outside the Scouts and attorneys on the case.
The Scouts maintain that the boy's abuse could not have been prevented in the first instance and that their youth protection program worked because he recognized the abuse, resisted and told his mother, thus preventing further abuse and more victims.
Hale told the jury in his opening remarks that when they deliberate they will receive a CD of 100,000 pages of files to review and will be the first people in the U.S. outside Scout leadership and attorneys to see the documents.
Hale said the Scouts recorded between 9,000 and 10,000 such files between 1920 and 2007. An attorney for the Scouts put the number at 7,500; the discrepancy wasn't explained.
"The Boy Scouts of America has a long and sordid history of child sexual abuse committed against young Scouts committed by Scout leaders and that timeline goes back, the files show, until at least the 1920s," he said.
"What has not been going on is notice to the public and notice to (the plaintiff) and his parents," the lawyer added.
The victim's name is being used in court, but The Associated Press does not generally name victims of sexual abuse.
An attorney for the Boy Scouts said in his opening statement that the "perversion" files were created to keep children safe by maintaining a master list of people ineligible to volunteer with the Scouts.
The organization acknowledges mistakes in the way sex abuse allegations were handled in the past but now has a robust child protection program, attorney Nicholas Heldt said.
From 2003 to 2007, a key period for the lawsuit, only 27 adult volunteers were kicked out annually for sexually abusing Scouts, although there were at least 1.5 million volunteers nationally, he said.
When the plaintiff was abused, the youth protection training worked because the boy recognized the abuse, resisted and told his mother, Heldt said. She, in turn, told local Scout leaders who informed law enforcement.
"This case is about training and whether training would have made a difference," he told jurors.
"I think this is a case in which the one instance of sexual abuse against (the plaintiff) could not have been prevented, and it wasn't prevented," he said. "But the training program may have helped prevent the second or the third instance of sexual abuse."
The current lawsuit alleges that Stein, now 37, pulled down the plaintiff's pants when he was 13 and fondled him while the two worked in the Christmas tree lot.
Stein pleaded no contest to felony child endangerment in 2009 and was sentenced to probation. He served time in prison after authorities discovered photos of naked children on his cellphone.
Pedophile Rings in Thatcher's Britain—Myth or Fact?
The UK's establishment stands accused of rape and murder—but the tale sounds suspiciously familiar to those who recall America's "Satanic abuse" hoax.
by Philip Jenkins
Leon Brittan, who died last week, had a very distinguished career in British public life. Among other things, he served as Margaret Thatcher's Home Secretary and later became a member of the European Commission. It is startling, then, to find that among the standard eulogies for the great and the good, some news headlines reporting his death feature such unexpected words as “abuse ring,” “pedophile,” and “child murder.” Brittan had the misfortune to play a starring role in a long-simmering sex scandal currently fascinating that country's media.
For years now, rumors have been floating about a “Westminster Pedophile Ring” that supposedly operated in the 1970s and 1980s and which included senior politicians, civil servants, and military figures, mainly right-wing Conservatives. Recently allegations reached new heights when police said they were seriously considering claims that the group had murdered several young boys. As the Independent headlined, “Tory MP Killed Boy During Sex Attack.” In themselves, these horrific charges contain nothing flagrantly impossible. Yet we need to be very careful indeed about accepting a story that depends on thorny issues of evidence and credibility that will be deeply familiar to American observers of our own country's sexual politics.
The whole dreadful affair has now developed a complete mythology, with two pivotal hero figures. One was flamboyant Member of Parliament Geoffrey Dickens, who in 1984 compiled a massive dossier about pedophilia in British public life, with details on some 40 allegedly tainted politicians. He gave this to Home Secretary Leon Brittan, whose department promptly misplaced or buried it, supposedly as part of a general establishment cover-up. Only in recent years has the affair returned to life. The other key figure is the pseudonymous “Nick,” supposedly one of the abused boys from that earlier era. Finding his chilling account of witnessing murders “credible and true,” British police have now reopened the investigation, in the process generating sensational headlines.
Parts of the story are plausible. We know that in that era—roughly, the decade following 1975—several British public figures were indeed involved in outrageous and exploitative sexual misbehavior, including some cases of child abuse and child pornography. One horrific example was Liberal MP Cyril Smith, a 300-pound blimp with a penchant for spanking teenaged boys. Although such cases of sexual malfeasance were well-known to police and media, they were thoroughly hushed up, a process made vastly easier by draconian British libel laws.
The “pedophile ring” rhetoric is, though, misleading. If we look at the known sexual scandals from the politics of this era, they tended not to be “pedophile,” in the sense of involving someone sexually focused on children at or below the age of puberty. The word is thus chosen to maximize seriousness, implying young child victims, compulsive serial offending, and incorrigibility. In fact, the recorded cases commonly involved homosexual men interested in male teenagers or young adults, usually male prostitutes. That does not for a second excuse the behavior, but it does put it in a different category from molesters preying on infants.
That distinction is significant in light of the claims made about Geoffrey Dickens, who is today presented as a near-prophetic champion of decency and child protection confronting a perverted ruling class. Dickens was in fact an outrageous demagogue, who never found a sensational issue or moral panic that he failed to leap on. His special bugbear was homosexuality, a broad category that, for him, included pedophilia as one of its subsets. If we actually had a copy of the legendary dossier, we can be quite sure that it included very few actual pedophiles and a great many homosexuals. Almost certainly, too, the impressive-sounding term “dossier” dignifies a generalized rant.
Charges of rings and conspiracies should also be treated circumspectly. The “elite pedophilia” charges circulated very widely in tabloid media of the 1980s, usually in the context of lunatic theories of Satanism and supposed “ritual child abuse,” sometimes linked to anti-Masonic hysteria. Then as now, these fevered rumors Named Names, including Cabinet members and members of the royal family, as well as prominent Jews, like Brittan himself. It's not surprising, then, that law-enforcement officials at the time were profoundly (and rightly) skeptical of any new nuggets Dickens had to offer.
But let's move to the present day, and especially to “Nick,” the main (and seemingly only) source of the murder charges. I personally have no idea of Nick's identity, or of his veracity, and it is possible that every appalling word he is uttering is grounded in truth. But based on the extensive media reports of the affair, I do have concerns.
I read, for instance, the accounts of the homicidal orgies attributed to the elite ring, in which at least one boy was strangled. This gives me a mighty sense of déjà vu because I know identical stories of actual, confirmed incidents that happened in London at this exact time and which have been known in the public domain for decades. Those crimes, though, involved a quite genuine pedophile crime network that was as far from “elite” as it was possible to be, a group of underclass trash who hung around fairgrounds to find child victims. They indeed killed repeatedly, in exactly the ways now credited to our “elite” perverts, and the similarity between those stories and the current charges bothers me. If someone were inventing “pedophile ring” crimes, this is what they would come up with.
Recently, one of the leading detectives in the renewed investigation remarked that “I believe what Nick is saying to be credible and true.” Based on reports to date, police have never referred to any actual corroboration of the charges, any piece of evidence that Nick gave that he would not have known if he had not been present at these crimes. Rather, we hear repeatedly of his “credibility,” a word that is thoroughly subjective: “I believe.”
When I say that X is “credible,” what we mean is that I find what he has to say believable, and that fact depends as much on my willingness to accept his statement as on any quality in his character or demeanor. This is a familiar theme in contemporary American debates over sexual assault, as when Rolling Stone found a witness who recounted fraternity rape stories, declaring her “credible” because it fitted their ideological needs to do so. Editors and journalists simply wanted and needed to believe. Seeking corroboration was unnecessary, and the mere suggestion of doing so would have blamed and demeaned the victim.
In Britain, too, there are ample reasons why authorities would now find Nick “credible” in the way they would not have done a decade or so back. The main new factor is the appalling case of disc jockey Jimmy Savile, who used his celebrity status to carry out a career of rape and molestation lasting half a century. Since 2012, desperately anxious to avoid new attacks on their integrity and competence, law-enforcement agencies have sought out and prosecuted celebrity sexual crimes from bygone years, commonly relying on the uncorroborated testimony of reported victim and survivors.
Sometimes, this exhumation of past horrors has undoubtedly served the cause of justice, but questions remain. Should an individual really be tried and convicted on the unsupported, uncorroborated evidence of alleged victims who report crimes from 30 or 40 years ago? Surely, we can now point to enough cases where such testimony has proved to be wholly fictitious, and malicious, so that real injustice resulted. Witnesses fantasize, and witnesses lie.
Perhaps British politicians of the Thatcher era were indeed sexual monsters. But we should pause before accepting what, on its surface, looks like a deranged fantasy.
Philip Jenkins is the author of Images of Terror: What We Can and Can't Know About Terrorism. He is distinguished professor of history at Baylor University and serves as co-director for the Program on Historical Studies of Religion in the Institute for Studies of Religion.
Egypt court convicts doctor of female genital mutilation
by SARAH EL DEEB
CAIRO (AP) - An Egyptian appeals court on Monday convicted a doctor of manslaughter and performing female genital mutilation that led to the death of a 13-year-old girl, sentencing him to two years and three months in prison in the country's first case that came to trial over the widespread practice, defense lawyers said.
The doctor, Raslan Fadl, was initially acquitted of the 2013 death of Sohair el-Batea in a village in the Nile Delta province of Dakahliya. He was not present in court Monday and his whereabouts were unknown.
Monday's verdict was "a triumph for women," said lawyer Reda el-Danbouki, who represented the deceased. Egypt has one of the highest rates of female genital mutilation in the world and criminalized the practice in 2008, but it remains widespread.
"I am really happy," el-Danbouki told The Associated Press following the ruling. "Here is a judge that understands."
The lawyer said the court also fined Fadl $70 and ordered his clinic closed for a year, and handed el-Batea's father a three-month suspended sentence for complicity in subjecting his daughter to the procedure.
Rights advocates said the ruling could serve as a deterrent for doctors and families against the practice. The trial was the first in Egypt on charges of breaking the 2008 ban on the practice. The case came to trial only after significant pressure from rights groups.
The U.N. Children's Fund hailed the ruling as reflecting the willingness of Egyptian authorities to enforce legislation that criminalizes the harmful practice.
"The verdict is a precedent and sends out a strong signal that FGM, which still affects the lives of so many girls each year, is no longer to be tolerated," UNICEF representative in Egypt, Phillipe Duamelle, said in a text message to the AP.
More than 90 percent of women in Egypt are estimated to have undergone female genital mutilation. International women rights group Equality Now said in an email that almost one in four survivors of female genital mutilation in the world is from Egypt.
"It is fantastic news that Sohair has finally been given justice. This is a monumental victory for women and girls in Egypt," said Suad Abu-Dayyeh, the Middle East and North African consultant for Equality Now.
"The country has shown that it will implement its laws and we hope that this is the first step toward ending this extreme form of violence against women once and for all," Abu-Dayyeh added.
The practice generally involves the cutting off of all or part of the clitoris and sometimes the labia. It is performed on both Muslims and Christians and is believed to control a young woman's sexual appetite.
It is practiced in 29 countries, mostly in East and West Africa, but also in Iraq and Yemen. Rights groups see it as a way to control female sexuality that causes physical and psychological damage.
Despite the trial, Fadl had continued to work in his clinic. An employee who answered a call to his center Monday said she had no information on the ruling and declined to discuss Fadl's whereabouts. She spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to talk to media.
Westmoreland County adds 5 caseworker positions as child abuse cases increase
by Joe Napsha
Five caseworkers will be hired to help a staff of 50 handle the rising number of cases of abused and neglected children investigated by the Westmoreland County Children's Bureau, officials said Thursday.
“We've asked for five assessment caseworkers to handle 22 amendments to the state's Child Protective Services law. We've got an increase in referrals,” said Charles McCallen, assistant director of the Children's Bureau.
The number of cases from September to December 2014 rose to 931, up 14 percent from the 809 cases in the same period in 2013, McCallen said.
“We anticipate more (of an increase) in 2015,” he said.
Children's Bureau officials say the increase resulted from the state tightening regulations regarding the reporting of child abuse and neglect in response to the sex abuse scandal involving former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. The 70-year-old was convicted of child molestation charges in 2012 and sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison, effectively a life sentence.
Changes in the law require caseworkers to investigate reports of child abuse that previously were referred to law-enforcement agencies, McCallen said.
With the expectation of even more cases this year, the salary board approved the hirings.
As of Jan. 16, the Children's Bureau has had 29 percent more referrals of child abuse and neglect cases than in the entire month of January 2014, said Dirk Matson, the county's human resources director.
The hiring of five caseworkers will cost the county $198,705 a year, while abolishing four vacant positions in that office will save nearly $146,000 annually, according to the board.
McCallen attributed some of the increase to a heightened public awareness of the issue. But he's not certain that the accompanying increase in the amount of documentation benefits the children, he said.
“I don't like to see an increase in the amount of paperwork. That doesn't keep kids safe. Face-to-face contact by the caseworkers, seeing the family and seeing the kids” is what keeps children safe, McCallen said.
Tara Breitsprecher, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
The county will hire the caseworkers from eligible candidates who have taken a state Civil Service examination. Matson said he hopes to fill the positions by spring.
The decision to hire the caseworkers was part of the salary board's moves to abolish 12 vacant positions, while creating another 12. Among the positions created, a parks assistant's job involved only a title change and an interim park police corporal's job will be abolished once a full-time employee returns. One lieutenant sheriff will be paid an annual salary of $41,371, but that rate applies only to the current employee.
“There were no layoffs,” Matson said. “The positions were vacant by attrition.”
The county will incur about $8,200 in additional employee costs as a result of all of the employee moves, Matson said.
Bill would extend statute of limitations for child sex abuse claims
Victims of childhood sexual abuse would have additional time to seek damages from their abusers under legislation introduced in the Georgia House on Monday.
House bill 17, by Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, would extend the statute of limitations for civil suits from five years to 35 years for anyone who is sexual abused before the age of 18.
The bill, which has bipartisan support, also provides a two-year window for past victims to seek damages if they have not yet come forward.
The bill would apply to victims of rape, sodomy, child molestation, pandering, incest and sexual battery.
Finally, victims of childhood sexual abuse would have access to records of any investigation related to the case.
Part 1 of 3
Punishment lacking in child sex assault cases
by Ariel Cheung
Police identified three young victims who named Ronald Kupsky as their assailant, but Kupsky did not serve any time in prison for his first conviction.
Ronald Kupsky is a free man, despite having sexually assaulted a 9-year-old girl and facing pending charges of a second child assault and an investigation into a potential third victim.
Kupsky is not on Wisconsin's sex offender registry and has no probation agent. He is required to follow certain rules as part of his bond — including no unsupervised contact with minors — but prosecutors say he violated the conditions before.
A Post-Crescent Media review found that Kupsky's case is not isolated. While prosecutors and defense attorneys debate the need to protect the public while ensuring a presumption of innocence for the people accused, the review showed that convictions on original charges are rare, and plea agreements allow some offenders to avoid prison or sex offender registration.
The newspaper found that in the 153 child sexual assault cases filed in Outagamie County between September 2009 and August 2014, more than half of the defendants were released from jail during court proceedings. Of those, 43 received signature bonds and 34 were granted reduced bonds upon request.
One in four defendants had multiple child sexual assault cases on record and 30 percent re-offended or jumped bail during the five-year period — although that doesn't necessarily constitute a new sex-related offense.
Post-Crescent Media also found that those facing serious child sexual assault charges in Outagamie County often avoided trial through deferred prosecution or plea agreements. In 32 cases, judges did not require offenders to register.
The first girl to accuse Kupsky of molesting her was a neighbor in his Kimberly apartment building. In September 2013, the girl told police Kupsky approached her when she was playing outside and touched her genital area.
"This guy touched me in the wrong place," she told police.
Kupsky, then 26, told police he might have "flicked" the girl's genitals while ashing his cigarette, but denied any intentional action and continues to maintain his innocence.
"It was a very weak case on the part of the state," said Steve Brown, Kupsky's attorney. "This alleged touch was accidental. It was momentary. It was just a brush, if you will."
Still, it troubled the girl. She told Kupsky, "Please stop. I don't like that," and he apologized. The child then ran back inside, the criminal complaint states.
In Wisconsin, sexual contact with a child under 13 years old is a felony that carries a maximum of 60 years in prison. It is in the same classification as manslaughter, kidnapping and armed robbery — one felony class below murder.
In late 2013, Outagamie County Judge Michael Gage reduced Kupsky's $50,000 bond to $10,000 — allowing Kupsky's Nov. 14, 2013 release so he could treat a respiratory ailment and return to active duty for the Wisconsin Army National Guard, according to court records.
But Post-Crescent Media learned Kupsky had already completed his enlistment before the bond hearing and was discharged Nov. 4, 2013.
Maj. Paul Rickert, spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs, said he couldn't discuss the nature of Kupsky's discharge. Rickert said soldiers aren't required to be present for their last drill to complete enlistment, meaning Kupsky could have been discharged while still behind bars.
Brown said he couldn't comment on whether Kupsky was aware his enlistment already had been completed at the time of the hearing because he was represented at the time by public defender Robert Welygan, who declined comment.
Outagamie County jail personnel said the facility is equipped to treat respiratory ailments. The exception is if an inmate has a contagious ailment such as tuberculosis, said Gail Craft, director of the jail's nursing service.
Kupsky was ordered to live with his mother in Green Bay and refrain from unsupervised contact with minors, a condition that was relaxed as part of the bond modification. When Kupsky was initially arrested, he was ordered to have no contact with children.
It's unclear why that condition was relaxed. Gage declined comment, saying it wouldn't be appropriate for a judge to discuss a specific case. Either way, Door County prosecutors say Kupsky didn't comply with the requirements.
Phone records provide key evidence
As an episode of "Teen Mom" flickered on a television in a Sturgeon Bay home in January 2014, Kupsky targeted another potential victim — two months after he was released from jail, authorities claim.
Kupsky was watching television with his girlfriend and her 12-year-old cousin when the girl said he reached for her hand under the blanket and placed it on his genitals. When the girlfriend left the room, the child told police, Kupsky rubbed her chest and genitals and took off her clothing, took photos with his cellphone and showed her pornography, according to a Door County criminal complaint.
The girl said she told him to stop, and he demanded she keep the incident a secret. When Kupsky's girlfriend returned, the girl said she tried to tell her what happened, but Kupsky would not let them talk alone.
After the girl told a social worker about the incident, police seized Kupsky's cellphone and said they found photos and videos of sex between Kupsky and a third girl they say is 13 or 14 years old. Police say they were able to identify the location as Kupsky's former apartment and believe he was committing the acts, the complaint stated.
The girl has yet to be identified, and charges have not been filed. The case is under investigation.
Sturgeon Bay police arrested Kupsky late last January, and he was charged with bail jumping for having unsupervised contact with the 12-year-old. After posting his $3,000 bail in Door County, Kupsky was released on Jan. 29.
On May 15, Door County prosecutors filed additional charges against Kupsky of first-degree child sexual assault, causing a child to view sexual activity and 14 counts of possessing child pornography. The pornography charges were dismissed Dec. 18.
Door County District Attorney Ray Pelrine declined to comment.
Kupsky claims innocence
Despite the additional charges, Kupsky remained free even after his Outagamie sentencing in June, when he pleaded no contest to fourth-degree sexual assault, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum nine-month jail sentence.
"This whole issue has been extremely traumatizing for me as well. I mean being on bail for over the past year, I've been trying to stay in shape and everything," Kupsky said at the hearing. "But I agreed to this so that I can move on with my life, and I don't believe sitting in jail is going to allow me to do that."
Gage spared Kupsky from registering as a sex offender and placed him on probation for two years. Kupsky would have been required to register if he had been convicted of a higher degree of sexual assault, but the decision is left to the judge for the misdemeanor conviction.
Shortly after the June sentencing hearing, Kupsky rejected probation, complaining he would not be allowed to continue online college courses because being on probation banned him from using computers.
Gage altered the sentence to nine months in jail, with work and school release privileges, and gave Kupsky credit for two months served in jail before he posted bond. Within a month, Kupsky had three major rule violations, and jail officials revoked his work release.
After serving five additional months, Kupsky was released Dec. 14.
He appealed the conviction and asked to withdraw his plea, claiming he was misinformed about the consequences. Kupsky said he would have insisted on a trial if he'd known the misdemeanor was punishable by up to two years of probation, rather than the one-year term his public defender said he'd likely receive, court records stated.
Although Kupsky has already completed his sentence in Outagamie County, his request is still pending, and he says he wants to take the case to trial to prove his innocence. If Gage grants the request, Kupsky could face the original first-degree child sexual assault charge.
"From the very beginning, he said, 'I did not do it.' This guy is so adamant he didn't do it, he's actually willing to risk a felony-level trial to proceed," said Brown, Kupsky's attorney. "I see a man very focused on asserting his innocence on the matter of principle."
In Door County, Kupsky pleaded not guilty to the charges and said Dec. 18 he intends to see the case through to trial.
Child sexual assault in Outagamie County
Today: A detailed examination of charges involving Ronald Kupsky, whose two cases are part of a six-month Post-Crescent Media investigation into the county's child sexual assaults. Police identified three victims between 9 and 14 years old who were molested or raped and named Kupsky as their assailant. Reduced bonds and plea agreements allowed Kupsky opportunity to offend again.
Tomorrow: From frequent and drastic bond reductions to dismissed cases and dropped felony charges, an overview of Outagamie County child sexual assault cases over the past five years highlights an imperfect system.
Tuesday: Widespread misconceptions about sex offenders and a lack of viable defenses lead to serious consequences for some offenders who don't fit the stereotypical ideas of evil and untreatable rapists — from teen offenders jailed for high school relationships to others plagued by an unforgiving system.
Part 2 of 3
Reduced charges common for child sex assault
Experts say faulty sex offender registries and plea agreements can be problematic.
by Ariel Cheung
Dozens of defendants in Outagamie County charged with child sexual assault have gone largely unpunished during the past five years, a Post-Crescent Media review found.
Some cases were dismissed when traumatized victims decided not to testify. In other instances, defendants accepted plea agreements to reduced charges with lesser penalties.
A Post-Crescent Media review of child sexual assault cases filed from August 2009 to September 2014 also found:
Over half of defendants were released from jail during court proceedings.
One-fourth of defendants had multiple child sexual assault cases on record.
Nearly one-third re-offended or jumped bail during the five-year period.
Forty percent of those convicted were not required to register as sex offenders.
Experts say this makes for an offender registry that provides a false sense of security to the public, while prosecutors say frequent releases and short sentences are the result of outdated laws and a focus on victim protection over conviction rates.
Interactive graphic: A closer look at 24 child sexual assault cases
"As much as my focus is on holding offenders accountable, I'm never going to force it to the detriment of the victim," District Attorney Carrie Schneider said. "We make it very clear to victims that it's their choice (to testify), and I can't force them to."
Defense attorneys, meanwhile, argue that such cases are overcharged and yield overly harsh sentences with no viable defense for offenders who had no idea they were committing a crime.
Murder defendant unregistered
Plea agreements not uncommon
Plea agreements are pervasive in the Outagamie County criminal justice system. Nearly all of the 132 resolved child sexual assault cases involved a deal between attorneys to avoid time-consuming trials or prevent a dismissal.
In exchange for a defendant's plea of no contest or guilty, prosecutors sometimes agree to reduce charges or recommend a shorter jail sentence. In more than half of the 153 child sexual assault cases examined by Post-Crescent Media, deferred prosecution or plea agreements led to reduced charges.
"I think sometimes the benefit of negotiations that involve reduced charges reflect a defendant's willingness to accept responsibility," Assistant District Attorney Andrew Maier said. "There's a lot of connected things: a victim doesn't have to testify and we eliminate doubt about the jury and what it's going to find."
Such deals can significantly reduce an offender's consequences. Second-degree child sexual assault carries up to 25 years in prison. Third- and fourth-degree sexual assault convictions have maximum sentences of five years and nine months, respectively.
"So if you think your case is worth a double-digit sentence, you (don't want to make a deal). But you may have to," Maier said.
Chong L. Lee was involved in such a case. Originally charged with second-degree child sexual assault in 2012, Lee pleaded no contest to fourth-degree sexual assault. He was accused of impregnating a 15-year-old girl.
The victim did not want to testify, citing "concerns about how the defendant's family would treat her," prosecutor Chuck Stertz said in a July 2013 memo. Her worry was not unfounded; after Lee's first court appearance, prosecutors said family members followed the girl from the courthouse and harassed her, blocking her car from the exit.
If Lee, then 26, had been convicted of the original charge, he would have faced 25 years in prison and mandatory registration on the state's sex offender registry. Instead, he was not required to register and served three months in prison for a parole revocation stemming from the conviction.
Two months after Lee got out of prison, police said he gunned down Joshua Richards inside Luna Lounge, an Appleton nightclub. Lee's trial is set for March. His brother is accused of threatening witnesses at Lee's request.
The reduced convictions and shorter sentences can also take a toll on victims and their families. During a 2013 sentencing hearing for Justin Douglas, the victim's mother voiced her concern.
"My biggest concern is that he was on probation before and it didn't work out so well because he still found her," she said. "My daughter will never be the same, ever. I just hope that he doesn't get the chance to do this to anyone else."
Old law traumatized victims
Change allows judge to find probable cause without victim's testimony
Lee's victim was not alone in having difficulties with court proceedings. Prior to 2012, state law required victims to testify during preliminary hearings, an early step in the judicial process. Hearsay testimony — in which an officer could explain what a victim told police — wasn't allowed.
"A lot of times, we'd have a 14-year-old on the stand, and she barely makes it through the preliminary, and her parents afterward say she can't testify again," Maier said. "And then we're stuck with a situation maybe down the road where we're forced to do something we don't want to because we had her go through testifying before trial."
First-degree child sexual assault charges against Michael T. Stevens were dismissed in 2010 after two victims struggled to testify during the preliminary hearing. Police said Stevens drugged and raped two female relatives. One of the girls recalled 25 assaults in Grand Chute, De Pere and Illinois, and Stevens was charged in all three jurisdictions.
Transcripts from the June 28, 2010 preliminary hearing reveal the distress each girl experienced while on the stand.
As Maier asks the older girl to describe the assaults in detail — "Did something that you think was wrong happen? Where were his hands?" — she broke off the testimony.
"I can't do it anymore," she said. The court took a short break, and when the girl returned, she declined to speak further about the incident. The second girl also struggled to detail what Stevens allegedly asked her to do before asking for questioning to cease.
"He raped me. I don't know what you want," she said. "I just did what he told me to do."
Maier recommended dismissing the Outagamie County case due to a lack of probable cause. Brown County consolidated its charges with the pending case in DeKalb County, Illinois, where Stevens faced five felony sexual assault and abuse charges.
As part of a plea agreement in Illinois, Stevens was convicted of misdemeanor battery and the other charges were dropped. He was ordered to pay fines and given a two-year conditional discharge which, like Wisconsin's deferred prosecution agreements, can result in dismissed charges if successfully completed.
Two years later, Wisconsin passed a law that allows a judge to find probable cause without the victim's testimony. Now, a police officer will often testify about the circumstances that led to an arrest.
Assistant District Attorney Melinda Tempelis was instrumental in getting the law passed, Schneider said. In addition, having a Child Advocacy Center where victims can make video-taped statements about the assaults has helped drive convictions.
"In the first seven or eight years the center opened, we only had one case go to trial where we had videotaped interviews," Schneider said. "Even with (the defense) knowing they could still have the kid come and be subject to cross examination, the video is so strong."
Bonds often reduced, defendants go free
Defendant can request lower bonds if he or she believes it's excessive
Before a preliminary hearing, bond is set during a defendant's initial appearance in court. The bond is meant to protect the public and ensure a defendant will appear for hearings, but is not an indication of guilt or the severity of the crime.
Of the examined cases, two-thirds received a cash bond averaging about $60,000 and ranging from $300 to $500,000. One-third of defendants received a signature bond, which does not require cash to be posted for a defendant's release.
Court commissioners are supposed to impose a signature bond unless they think a defendant is unlikely to appear in court without cash on the line. If a cash bond is necessary, state law says it should be reasonable and "only in the amount necessary to assure the appearance of the defendant."
If a defendant thinks the bond amount is excessive, he or she can request that it be lowered.
"The argument by the defense is fairly consistent: bond is too high to post, so (the defendant) should be released," Maier said. "But a decision that agrees with that doesn't necessarily take into consideration the interest of public safety, the feedback of a victim and concerns we may have about the defendant reoffending."
In fact, it's not supposed to, defense attorney Steve Brown said.
"The Legislature makes it clear: You may not consider the severity of the crime or the protection of the public when setting the amount of cash," Brown said. "It has to be solely predicated on the likelihood he's going to be showing up to court, but my experience has been they just ignore what the bond statute says."
Of the 104 defendants who received a cash bond during the five-year period, 46 requested bond modification, and 74 percent of requests were granted. On average, the bonds were lowered to about 30 percent of the original amount.
Neenah's David Morrison was granted two bond reductions in 2011, bringing his original $50,000 bond to $1,000, which he posted seven months after his arrest. Prosecutors said Morrison, then 39, drank 26 beers in a day, then sexually touched a girl he was babysitting.
Morrison denied the allegations, and when the victim's family moved to Georgia, prosecutors lost touch with them and ultimately dismissed the case.
"If (a family) is in a place where they're never going to have contact with that person because it was a neighbor, they're not going to put their child through coming back," said Schneider, the county's top prosecutor. "And if (the defendant) is not going to take a plea, we may have to dismiss it."
Overall, 79 defendants were released from jail during court proceedings. Of those, 75 percent were eventually convicted or received deferred prosecution agreements, meaning the court acknowledged their guilt but dismissed charges after a period of good behavior.
"From the victim's side, it's comforting knowing the person who did something bad to you is not going to be out (of jail). You don't have to worry about seeing them when you come home from school or seeing them at the grocery store," Maier said. "And then hearing that person was let out 'just because'? I don't think we take that into account often enough."
Outagamie County is not alone in releasing defendants during court proceedings. At least 21 local cases involved defendants charged with sexual assault in other counties since 1988.
Jose A. Ferrer, now 25, was charged with child sexual assault in Milwaukee and Outagamie counties in 2010. Ferrer told police he was 16 when he and a 12-year-old relative began having a sexual relationship in 2006. He was also accused of fondling the girl in 2009.
He was released on a signature bond in both cases and ordered to have no contact with minors.
Less than two months after his release in Milwaukee, Ferrer, then 20, began dating a 15-year-old girl, picking her up from a Waukesha high school when she was supposed to be in class. The girl later told police Ferrer had sex with her repeatedly after she turned 16.
By the time charges were filed in Waukesha County in June 2011, Milwaukee officials had deferred prosecution, and Ferrer was sentenced to one year of probation in Outagamie County.
For the Waukesha County charges, Ferrer was sentenced to three years in prison in November 2011. He was released in June and is living in southern Wisconsin, according to Department of Correction records. He is a lifelong registered sex offender.
Prosecutors make changes to avoid missteps
Missteps, lost contact with witnesses, credibility of victims can lead to dismissed charges
Occasionally, missteps by the prosecution resulted in bungled or dismissed cases. At times, lost contact with witnesses or issues with a victim's credibility pushed the state to dismiss charges.
In one instance, prosecutors appeared to simply lose track of the case.
Christopher J. Howard, 31, was accused of raping a young male relative in 2008 and charged with first-degree child sexual assault.
Prosecutors dismissed the case eight months later because it required additional investigation, court records state. At the time, Howard was also facing cocaine delivery charges in Brown County, and prosecutors hoped a conviction in that case would resolve both matters.
The Outagamie County case was never refiled, and Howard served no additional jail time in the Brown County case.
Local prosecutors were attempting to work with officials in another county where the boy made a more specific statement about the abuse, Maier said. Since the case is still within statutory time limitations for prosecution (charges can be refiled until the victim turns 26 years old), Maier declined further comment.
In one case, police said 55-year-old Gary Mayberry molested two young relatives in 2008 and 2009.
In one instance, Mayberry had the girls strip and helped paint them and asked them to paint him, court records state. Mayberry was also accused of taking pornographic photos of the children.
Three days before Mayberry's 2010 jury trial, prosecutors told the judge they'd failed to subpoena a witness who was on a family vacation and unavailable to testify.
Prosecutors dismissed the charges and re-filed them a week later. In January 2012, a jury found Mayberry guilty of two counts of child enticement.
Judge Dee Dyer later overturned the verdict, deciding police mishandled evidence and failed to present a photo found on Mayberry's computer showing him in jean shorts, which conflicted with the girls' testimony that he was naked.
While prosecutors contended just because Mayberry wore jean shorts at one point didn't mean he hadn't taken them off, they dismissed the case instead of proceeding with a second jury trial.
"It always concerns me when someone has manipulated that position of trust or authority, I worry they're going to do that again and think the child will hide it," Schneider said. "I worry on my felony OWI cases if they ask me to reduce bond — what if they go and kill someone in another OWI? That's always on the back of our minds, but we have to trust our judgment."
When Mayberry's first case was dismissed due to the unavailable witness, prosecutors changed the technical process of reviewing and serving subpoenas to prevent the mistake from reoccurring, Maier said.
"You don't just blithely walk away from court and go on to the next one," Maier said. "You learn something from it."
Sex offender registry no guarantee
Conviction does not always result in being added to registry
The state's sex offender registry is one tool judges have to discourage repeat crimes.
Depending on the severity of their crime, registered offenders must report to parole agents on a regular basis and abide by other restrictions. Police will also inform the public when the worst sex offenders are released from prison.
But the system is not perfect; those initially charged with serious offenses are not guaranteed to end up on the registry. For example, a search of the Wisconsin Sex Offender Registry will yield no results for Joseph G. Skenandore, despite the 32-year-old man admitting to assaulting two children.
"Just because you know about the convicted sex offenders doesn't mean you can let your guard down and relax," said Kenneth Lanning, a former FBI special agent and expert on child crimes. "It gives a false sense of security."
In 2010, Skenandore kidnapped and molested a 3 1/2-year-old boy just days after Skenandore was moved into a nearby home for developmentally disabled adults. Police found Skenandore and the boy within an hour in Kiwanis Park, where he later told police he planned to escalate the sexual assault and probably would have killed the boy.
The child's family and neighbors were outraged to learn Skenandore was criminally charged six times in the past, including for a child sexual assault in 2003. Each time, he was found mentally incompetent to stand trial, and the charges were dismissed.
In 2003, Skenandore was accused of having sex with a teenage boy in the Town of Oneida. The court approved Skenandore's placement at a group home and appointed an aunt as a temporary guardian. Since he was institutionalized and never convicted, however, Skenandore was not placed on the registry.
After Skenandore was discharged in the 2010 case, Judge Nancy Krueger placed him in state custody, and officials said public safety would be a priority in determining his next home. While Skenandore remains unregistered, he was placed in a "much more intensive, secure setting," Schneider said.
Experts say the national model for the sex offender registry is flawed. Many offenders do not have a history of sexual abuse, making assessment scales inaccurate. In addition, while many types of sexual offenders have low rates of re-offending, identifying those with a high risk is difficult with current assessment tools.
"If you can identify this (offender) as the caricature of the sex offender we all have in our minds, this predatory guy going after little boys and girls, I have no problem with (registration)," said defense attorney Brown. "But there are good people, too. Sometimes they're young at heart and ... they figure or just assume this individual is part of their circle."
Lanning said there are different types of sex offenders, some of which might not need the rigorous monitoring because their offense was committed under a unique circumstance.
"Some sex offenders will have molested one child and will never do it again. Other offenders, as best we know, victimized 100 kids," Lanning said. "Some sex offenders can be treated, and some can't. The greatest problem and challenge is figuring out which is which."
Part 3 of 3
Flaws surface in sexual assault justice system
Sex offenders are a varied group, but misconceptions about the crime can have serious consequences. Experts call for more accurate assessments when determining the level of supervision needed.
by Ariel Cheung
There are few viable defenses in child sexual assault cases.
"It's a strict liability crime. You don't have to have the purpose in mind to do something criminal," said defense attorney Rod Streicher. "And those crimes rarely rise to the felony level. Like a speeding ticket, you could not know you're speeding, but it doesn't matter."
The belief that every sex offender is a dark, evil predator can have serious consequences, said Kenneth Lanning, a former FBI special agent who spent 20 years analyzing crimes against children and sexual victimization.
"I see it as problematic," Lanning said. "Some sex offenders will molest one child and will never do it again. Other offenders, as best we know, victimized 100 kids. The greatest problem and challenge is figuring out which is which."
People charged with child sexual assault aren't as uniform a group as they are often perceived. Some are high school students who said they were engaging in consensual acts with a slightly younger girlfriend. Others face decades in prison for contact they say was momentary and unintentional.
The state needs a better way of differentiating child sexual offenders and must strengthen rehabilitation efforts, experts say. They cite the life-ruining effects of landing on the state's sex offender registry or serving lengthy prison sentences.
Older victims blur lines
Streicher and Steve Brown, both of Brown Legal Group in Appleton, represent Ronald Kupsky and Steven Pillow — two defendants among 153 Outagamie County child sexual assault cases filed from September 2009 to August 2014. Post-Crescent Media's analysis of the cases showed that some offenders charged with the worst assaults received less severe punishments than other offenders.
Pillow was charged in 2013 with repeated child sexual assault and child enticement involving his 15-year-old babysitter when he was 28. The girl told police she and Pillow started dating and having sex a couple months after meeting, and she would stay overnight with Pillow and his children.
Pillow denied the contact to police. Brown said the teen was a willing participant and initially told both Pillow and police she was 19.
"Steven Pillow is kind of what I see to be a quintessential problem with our law," Brown said. "When you have somebody using affirmative representations about their age to deceive someone else, for me, none of us feel it's morally incorrect if the man is operating under reasonable assumption about the other person's age."
But that information doesn't come into play during trial, and mentioning it to a jury could result in a mistrial, the attorneys said.
"You have no choice but to raise it at your sentencing hearing and hope the judge cares," Streicher said. "And at that point, the judge has no idea what (the victim) looks like, and they're thinking, 'Well of course you're going to say that.'"
Lanning, who continued consulting with law enforcement and other agencies following his FBI career, said the public still grapples with cases that don't fit black-and-white scenarios of sex offenders and victims.
"Society prefers (to believe) all the children are good and sweet and innocent and the adults are evil, but there are so many cases where that doesn't fit," Lanning said. "The reason we protect children isn't because they're innocent angels; it's because they're developmentally immature and they don't understand the consequences of their behavior."
In several Outagamie County cases, offenders said sex with an underage victim was consensual, although Wisconsin law states that juveniles under 18 are incapable of giving consent. Whether a sexual act was forced, the result of grooming or a willing exchange is irrelevant.
Post-Crescent Media found that those convicted of child sexual assault involving victims between 13 and 16 years old received significantly shorter sentences than those charged with first-degree or repeated child sexual assault, which typically involved pre-teen victims.
"I think sometimes we, as a community, are a little harder on teenage girls than we ought to be," said prosecutor Andrew Maier. "We have to remember that these are seventh- and eighth-graders. We say well, this girl knew what she was doing when she walked into that room. But I think that's a little bit unfair."
Half of the 66 defendants with resolved second-degree cases did not end up on the sex offender registry, including 26 who received a deferred prosecution agreement or were convicted of a misdemeanor as part of a plea agreement.
Outagamie County victims between 13 and 16 years old saw their offenders imprisoned for, on average, less than four years, Post-Crescent Media found. Of the 46 convicted offenders, half served no prison time.
Teens punished for sex with peers
At least 25 Outagamie cases involved teenagers willingly engaging in sex that resulted in criminal charges. In 31 of the 81 second-degree cases, the offender and victim were fewer than five years apart in age.
Unlike first-degree and repeated child sexual assault, which involve offenders in their 30s on average, second-degree cases were against defendants with an average age of 24. Many were under 21.
Tyler Hutchison was 16 years old when he began having sex with his 14-year-old girlfriend, court records state. The girl's mother discovered the teen was pregnant and reported it to the high school's liaison officer.
When the officer interviewed Hutchison in January 2012, he admitted to the crime and was arrested for second-degree child sexual assault. The case was resolved later that year, when Hutchison pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of fourth-degree sexual assault. He was sentenced to two years of probation, with a chance to have the case expunged from his record upon completion.
"Law enforcement does a really good job of sorting out the cases that should even come to us," said Outagamie County District Attorney Carrie Schneider. "Usually ones that do (get charged) have some underlying issue, like violence reported by the victim or some teen pregnancies. It's somewhat fact-driven or dependent on the difference in age."
There's somewhat of a Catch-22 when it comes to considering a teenager as a victim or a perpetrator of a crime, Lanning said. If a 15-year-old has sex with an adult, they're a victim in the eyes of the law because they cannot consent to the act.
But when it comes to violent crimes, a 15-year-old can be tried as an adult.
"A lawyer's answer is that humans become competent to make different decisions at different ages," Lanning said. "At age 10, you're competent to know you shouldn't murder somebody, but not competent to choose a sexual partner until you're 17 or 18."
Those numbers vary across the country. Wisconsin is one of 12 states where the age of consent is 18. In 30 states, including Indiana, Minnesota, Michigan and Ohio, the line is drawn at 16. Illinois' age of consent is 17.
With limited resources, the district attorney's office also has to consider what evidence is available when deciding which cases to prosecute. For defendants whose victims are less than two years younger, for example, there is an exemption from the sex offender registry.
"If the parents have made sure these kids are not going to see each other again, we don't intervene," Maier said. "We have to be somewhat understanding that there's hormones raging, and we will have put a lot of resources into a very harmful outcome to someone who probably doesn't deserve it."
Often these cases are resolved by deferred prosecution agreements, in which a defendant acknowledges his guilt but ultimately has charges dismissed after a period of good behavior.
Deferral is usually offered to teenage defendants who were dating a single victim and had non-forced sexual contact, Maier said.
At least 15 Outagamie County cases were resolved through deferred prosecution agreements, and all but one involved teenage defendants. Victims in four cases said they did not want the sexual contact, but the majority considered themselves to be dating the offender and consenting to the acts.
Adan Trinidad was arrested at 17 after having sex with a 14-year-old girl who became pregnant in July 2011. Eight months later, Trinidad agreed to a two-year deferred prosecution, and the charges were dismissed in March 2014.
"I wasn't a victim. I knew what I was doing, and I was never, ever forced," the girl wrote in a victim impact statement. "I don't want him in jail because of my fault. He is a nice guy and doesn't deserve this."
Cases aren't always clear cut
Post-Crescent Media's analysis found the most common offenders were those who target family members or acquaintances.
"When I began studying in the early '70s, there was a focus on stranger danger, the idea that child molesters are dirty, old men in wrinkled rain coats," Lanning said. "Gradually, what began to change was an increased awareness of child abuse perpetrated by parents, guardians and caretakers of children."
Of the reviewed cases, nine in 10 involved offenders who were known to the victim, like a family member, babysitter or neighbor. In cases of repeated assaults — involving at least three incidents — the assailant was most often a family member, while cases involving teenage victims more frequently involved acquaintances or a dating relationship.
The cases aren't always as clear cut as some might assume, Lanning said. If a case doesn't fit a stereotype of a young, helpless victim forced to perform an act, it can be seen in a more forgiving light.
In such situations, the public's perception of rape can have grave consequences for cases that don't fit the stereotypical bill.
"These children are being victimized in ways the law says is a crime, but these cases don't get prosecuted because it doesn't fit our preconceived notions of what it should be," Lanning said.
"You have to make it fit the simplistic scenario where all the children are good and sweet and innocent and adults are evil, but there are so many cases where that doesn't fit."
Allowing affirmative defenses for child sexual assault cases — similar to self defense or insanity pleas in other crimes — would create a more balanced system. It would be a chance for a defendant to explain factors like teen relationships or a victim misrepresenting his or her age, Streicher said.
"Otherwise it allows the state to get convictions without any proof of a criminal mental state whatsoever," he said. "For those facts to not come into play legally, it's a big-time fault of the system."
Lanning said the national model for sex offender registries needs an overhaul and should base registration and community notification on an evaluation of the offender, as opposed to the convicted crime.
"I'd feel a little better about it if it was more offender-based and less offense-based," Lanning said. "If on this registry in the same category is a guy who abducts and violently rapes a 6-year-old girl and a guy who had consenting sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend, and the registry doesn't distinguish between them, you've got a piece of garbage."
Schneider agreed, yet said repeat offenders deserve harsher punishments.
"To say (an offender) successfully completed probation last time doesn't mean he should be given that opportunity again," she said. "If one resolution didn't work, you shouldn't be able to get the same resolution. Maybe some other message needs to be sent."
But punishments can be taken too far, she said. Requiring registration for all sexual assault convictions, for example, would create a different set of problems.
"I think you would flood the Department of Corrections, and services would come to a screeching halt," Schneider said. "If they added different tiers (of registration) instead of lifetime supervision, that might be appropriate."
Officials said while risk measurement tools can be accurate for crimes like theft or OWI, they are less effective for sexual assault and domestic violence cases.
"For a lot of the people we see with sexual assaults, especially child sexual assaults, they don't have prior records. It's a family member or a family friend, people who typically will have a job, a stable residence," Maier said. "They have all the things we look at when you measure the risk factors. The nature of the charge is such that it kind of skews things."
But changes that could be unpopular in the public eye are hard to push through legislation.
"The system isn't run by doing a scientific study of 5,000 cases over the last 50 years," Lanning said. "The way it's done is by finding some mother of a child murdered by the sex offender released on bond and pass a law and name it after her daughter. They don't deal with evidence and research, but with emotion and politics."