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January 17, 2005

Recent Iowa cases involving child porn

January 17, 2005 [Register News Services]

Here are a few examples of child pornography cases in Iowa last year, culled from incidents reported in The Des Moines Register:

• Lauralei Lutgen, 27, of Dubuque was arrested last month over allegations that she violated restrictions placed on her after she had been charged with child sex abuse. She had been ordered to disconnect her home Internet service, but authorities said they found both an Internet connection and a pornographic Web site on a computer in her home. Lutgen originally was charged with having sex with a 15-year-old boy, and allowing an 11-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy to view pornography and encouraging them to have sex with each other.

• Ronald Dean Meyer, 35, owner of Strang Tire Co. in Oelwein, last month was sentenced to almost three years in federal prison after admitting that he knowingly possessed videotapes showing children younger than 18 engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

• Jerry Orman Whicker, 22, of Albia last fall was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for making child pornography. Whicker pleaded guilty to accusations that he videotaped young girls engaged in sexually explicit conduct and sold the images, which were stored on his home computer.

• Gerald Leroy Vick II, 42, of Stanwood, a former counselor for juvenile sexual offenders, was sentenced in October to 33 months in federal prison for possession of child pornography stored on more than 10 computer disks.

• Also in October, Scott Sweet, 44, of Spirit Lake was sentenced to 14 years in prison for coercing a girl younger than 16 into sexually explicit conduct. Federal authorities said that from November 2001 to early 2002, Sweet posed as a teenage boy on the Internet and persuaded the girl to send him sexually explicit pictures of herself. Sweet also admitted that in December 2001 he secretly filmed another minor girl as she took a shower in his bathroom.

• Dieter C. Gensch, 48, of West Des Moines in October was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison for possession of child pornography. Gensch admitted he was a member of an online group that exchanged child pornography.

• Leslie Ulric Beal, 52, a former custodian at a Marshall County elementary school, last fall was sentenced to almost two years in prison for possessing mail-order videotapes of child pornography while he worked for the Green Mountain-Garwin school district. He was arrested after he was seen destroying documents and photographs.

• Brian Bassett, 22, of Marion last summer was sentenced to 71/2 years in prison for possession of child pornography and interstate transportation of child pornography.

• Vicente Rosal Abad Jr., 25, of Hialeah, Fla., pleaded guilty in February of sexual exploitation of a child. Authorities said he traveled to Milford, Ia., the summer before to have sex with a girl younger than 16. He filmed the girl as she engaged in sexually explicit conduct with him, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

• Last January, the Rev. Richard Poster, the former director of liturgy for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Davenport, was sentenced to a year in prison for downloading child pornography on the computer he used to publish a church newspaper.

Posted by Nancy at 08:56 PM | Comments (0)

Forde appeals to Beattie for abuse victims

January 17, 2005 By Rosemary Odgers

FORMER Queensland governor Leneen Forde has pleaded for an extra $2 million from the State Government to ensure her foundation can help child abuse victims.

Ms Forde said victims of abuse in former state and church-run institutions were being forgotten despite the current focus on Queensland's child protection system.

Her funding plea came after Premier Peter Beattie announced the government would give $900,000 to the Forde Foundation this financial year.

The funding boost will take total government donations to the trust to nearly $3 million, but Ms Forde yesterday said more was needed to help the former residents.

Posted by Nancy at 08:53 PM | Comments (0)

Woman made her child sick for attention

January 17, 2005 [Associated Press]

OSHKOSH, Wis. - A woman who admitted she deliberately made her 1-year-old son sick so everyone would care about her and the boy pleaded no contest to one count of felony child abuse.

Jessica L. Cuevas, 22, faces up to 15 years in prison after a Winnebago County Circuit judge accepted her plea last week.

According to a criminal complaint, Oshkosh police officers responded to Aurora Medical Center in August on suspicion of abuse after Cuevas brought her son in for treatment.

Cuevas told police she first brought her son to another hospital that month and received prescription medication for the boy, who was red and feverish, the complaint said. She allegedly said she mixed the medication with cough medicine prescribed to someone else so the child would get sick.

Cuevas said she purposely made the child sick so everyone, including the child's father, would care about her and her son, the complaint said.

It said she told police she had previously let her child's health diminish to the point of hospitalization twice before.

The child is now in protective custody.

A sentencing hearing was scheduled for March 17.

Posted by Nancy at 08:50 PM | Comments (0)

T or C Man Charged with Child Abuse

January 16, 2005

A Truth or Consequences man is being held in jail on child abuse charges, following the death of his daughter.

The child bears signs of severe physical abuse, injuries which "proved to be fatal," New Mexico State Police Spokesman Jimmy Glascock said.

In custody is Ruben Garcia, who is 24. State police officers obtained an arrest warrant for Garcia and arrested him Saturday morning at the Western Inn Hotel in Las Cruces.

Garcia's girlfriend, Sammi Luna, the child's mother, returned to their apartment in Truth or Consequences and found 3-week-old child unresponsive. Luna took the girl to Sierra Vista hospital, but the baby died prior to their arrival.

Posted by Nancy at 08:47 PM | Comments (0)

Huge child porn bust shocks Ottawa police

January 17, 2005

Ottawa police say they've uncovered some of the worst acts of child sexual abuse they've ever seen.

In the biggest child pornography bust in the history of the Ottawa police service, eight Ottawa men are facing charges of accessing and distributing images over the Internet of very young children engaged in sexual acts.

Sgt. Sandra McLaren said those acts include newborns to children only a few years old.

CTV's Ottawa affiliate, CJOH, reports that even seasoned officers were shaken by the images.

"It's one of shock, really. People think of pornography and nobody gets very excited about [it] anymore," Insp. Phil Lockett told CJOH.

"But this is more than pornography, this is child abuse. And to have young kids involved in some of these sexual acts on film is kind of hard to take."

The police service's high tech crimes unit began investigating the case after being tipped off by the RCMP National Child Exploitation Centre.

Search warrants netted computers, CDs and DVDs containing tens of thousands of child pornography images and movies from eight homes in Ottawa.

Police say this is a global problem, but the search is on to find whether any of the young victims are from Ottawa.

Sgt. McLaren told CJOH: "We've just started the forensic analysis on the media that we've seized, and certainly we will be looking at those images to try and determine if any of them have been created locally or involve children who are being abused are in our community here in Ottawa."

Authorities add that it was not a child pornography ring, noting there is no connection among those charged. But the investigation is ongoing and more charges may be on the way

Posted by Nancy at 08:43 PM | Comments (0)

School district knew about teacher abuse complaints, newspaper says

January 17, 2005 [Associated Press]

SALEM — Salem-Keizer School District officials were told years ago about a band teacher suspected of inappropriate behavior with female students, according to the Statesman Journal.

The Salem newspaper obtained documents that showed parents had concerns at least four years before Houck Middle School teacher Joe Billera was arrested last October and charged with sex abuse.

Billera, 30, recently pleaded guilty to sexually abusing four former students, beginning a few months after he was hired in 1997. He also admitted having sex with at least one of the girls. Sentencing is set for Wednesday. He resigned from his job Jan. 6.

The school district, however, never placed Billera on leave, never hired an independent investigator and never reported the complaints to the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission — all standard procedure when a teacher is accused of serious misconduct, according to the newspaper.

Billera was disciplined after one flurry of complaints in fall 2001. District officials said that teacher privacy rules prevent them from disclosing the discipline, but it did not involve any time away from the classroom.

Some parents told the Statesman Journal their concerns were ignored or mishandled and they fault the district for failing to piece together what now appears to be a pattern of inappropriate behavior.

"They were overlooking it because he was such a good teacher,'' parent Tim Haburn said. "This has been going on for years.''

The Statesman Journal filed an appeal of a school district decision not to disclose details of complaints against Billera.

Citing Oregon public records law, Marion County District Attorney Walt Beglau ordered the district to make some of the documents public.

A review of the documents, along with interviews, showed that a number of parents complained about an incident in late 2000, when a 13-year-old student was sitting on Billera's lap, with a blanket wrapped around the pair, at a school sporting event.

A year later, in notes of a telephone conversation with a concerned parent, then-employee relations director George Gray wrote, "I told (the parent) that the matter had been investigated; that it is not appropriate for student to sit on teacher's lap.''

However, the district has no other record of the complaints or of any investigation, said Joe Weiss, the district's human resources director.

The district disciplined Billera in late 2001 after several students said he had threatened them for gossiping about his close relationship with the same 13-year-old girl.

In a written complaint to former Houck Middle School Principal Pat Mack, Robert Ogan, the parent of one of the threatened students, said he thought that the gossip was based on fact.

The documents show that Ogan also discussed his concerns with Gray, Superintendent Kay Baker, and Mark Davalos, who then was assistant director of secondary education.

Davalos and Gray no longer work for the district. Mack, who retired in 2003, could not be reached for comment.

Baker wrote a letter to Ogan saying that she had referred his concerns to Weiss.

But Weiss said that no one at the district had knowledge police were investigating Billera until after he was arrested.

Billera was director of the award-winning Houck band program for seven years, developing one of the largest and best middle school band programs in the state. He also was assistant director of the North High band program, and assisted with McNary's band program.

Billera won the Crystal Apple Award for teaching excellence in 2001 and was chosen as the 2002 Music Educator of the Year by the Oregon Symphony Association of Salem.

He worked for the University of Oregon School of Music band camp for grades eight through 12, serving as recreation and housing director.

Billera has been married for five years, with a young son and another child on the way.

Billera has been in jail since his arrest Oct. 29. He initially was on suicide watch, and at his request currently is in protective custody, meaning that he is isolated from other inmates.

In late December, under a plea agreement, Billera admitted to 10 of the 15 charges in exchange for a sentence of six to 12 years. The maximum sentence is 53 years.

Deputy District Attorney Darin Tweedt said he will try to persuade the judge to impose a longer sentence. If the judge agrees, Billera could choose to change his plea and request a trial.

Posted by Nancy at 12:42 AM | Comments (0)

Trial of priest at center of clergy sex abuse scandal set to begin

January 17, 2005 [Associated Press] By Denise Lavoie

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) -- He's 73 now, and unrecognizable as the hip "street priest" known more than 30 years ago for wearing long hair and blue jeans, and reaching out to Boston's troubled youth.

Paul Shanley is a senior citizen now, frail-looking with thinning white hair and deep lines in his face. His has become perhaps the most recognizable face of the clergy sexual abuse crisis that has shaken the Roman Catholic Church for the past three years.

This week, Shanley goes on trial on child rape charges in one of a handful of criminal cases in which prosecutors have been able to bring against priests accused of sexually abusing children decades ago.

Most of the priests accused in civil lawsuits have avoided criminal prosecution because the alleged crimes were committed so long ago that charges were barred by the statute of limitations. But because Shanley moved out of Massachusetts, the clock stopped, allowing prosecutors to arrest Shanley in May 2002 for sexual abuse that allegedly took place between 1979 and 1989.

Shanley became one of the most notorious figures in the clergy sex scandal after internal church documents were released showing church officials knew about abuse complaints against him as early as 1967 and knew that he advocated sex between men and boys, yet they continued to transfer him from parish to parish.

Prosecutors started out with four alleged victims in the criminal case. All four men said they were sexually abused by Shanley at St. Jean's parish in Newton when they were children. They told similar stories of being taken out of religious education classes and raped by Shanley, in the church rectory, confessional and restroom.

But prosecutors dropped two of the alleged victims from the case and plan to drop a third before trial, leaving only one accuser in the case.

Shanley's lawyer, Frank Mondano, has made it clear he will argue that the man made up his story of abuse to win a monetary award in a civil lawsuit.

The man, along with the other three victims originally in the criminal case, settled civil lawsuits with the Boston Archdiocese in April 2004. The exact monetary terms were not disclosed, but an attorney for the men has said each received more than $300,000. That was the maximum settlement received by 550 other alleged abuse victims received in an $85 million settlement reached with the archdiocese in September 2003.

Prosecutors have asked Judge Stephen Neel to bar Shanley's defense from introducing evidence of the civil settlement. The judge has not yet ruled on the request.

Shanley's defense also plans to challenge the man's claims of repressed memories. The man said he did not remember the abuse until after the clergy scandal erupted in Boston three years ago.

Mondano plans to call Elizabeth Loftus, a well-known psychologist who has challenged the reliability of recovered memory, to testify at the trial.

J.W. Carney Jr., a former prosecutor who is now a Boston defense attorney, said it will be difficult for prosecutors to overcome a general skepticism about repressed memories.

"The whole theory of repressed memory is quite dubious," he said. "It lacks fundamental scientific support. It also is counterintuitive to what jurors' own experiences have been. Even though we might forget details of traumatic things we've been through, we do not completely forget the traumatic experience itself."

The notoriety of the clergy scandal and Shanley's own notoriety may make picking a jury difficult. Neel has set aside four days for jury selection, beginning Tuesday.

"This is one of those cases where it will be next to impossible to find a jury that hasn't heard about it," said David Yas, editor of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.

"It will be a very delicate situation in choosing jurors because they will be colored by the reports they've seen in the past. These potential jurors, most of them, have seen Paul Shanley's face on the news ... and it's hard to think that many potential jurors won't presume him guilty."

The defense has asked the judge to instruct the jury that there have been no other judicial rulings against Shanley. But Assistant District Attorney Lynn Rooney has objected, citing the money the Boston Archdiocese paid to settle civil lawsuits in which Shanley was accused of sexual abuse. She also note that he was defrocked by the Vatican in February 2004.

Neel said he was inclined to give the jury a general direction not to speculate about whether there are other cases against Shanley.

The trial is expected to last about two weeks

Posted by Nancy at 12:32 AM | Comments (0)

Advocate for children in the court system

Jan 17, 2005 [Daily Oakland Press] By Natalie Lombardo

Julie Bush is not only a confidant to abused children, she is their voice. Bush is an advocate for children in the court system because their parents can't or won't protect them or provide them with basic needs.

Her responsibilities are to investigate abuse cases, identify resources and services for the children, monitor whether court orders are being carried out and speak for the youngsters while attending all hearings.

"It's grueling. Many of the children's situations are very tragic. But I deal with it by helping them," said Bush of Beverly Hills. "I know what goes on, and I couldn't sit back with my arms crossed and do nothing."

Bush does this on her own time, as a volunteer court-appointed special advocate for the Child Abuse and Neglect Council of Oakland County.

The council is seeking more courageous people, like Bush, to work with children in its programs.

On Jan. 25, the council will host a Volunteer Call for Action Day from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. at CARE House, 44765 Woodward Ave., Pontiac. The day will involve informational sessions, evaluations and training.

At CARE House, the council works closely with area law enforcement, judicial and social services agencies to ease children though the unfamiliar process that may follow allegations of abuse or neglect.

"Our volunteers play a vital role in every aspect of what we do here - from greeting the children when they enter our doors, and working with our staff in our nurturing programs, to supporting children through the court system," said Laurie Walters, director of volunteers for the council.

Walters said about 40 volunteers are needed, primarily child advocates and child assistants.

Bush is also a child assistant. When the children come to CARE House for forensic interviews, Bush comforts and plays with them while their parents must leave the room to be questioned.

"We try to cheer them up and keep their mind off of the trauma," Bush said. "It's very fulfilling because I can help, even if it's in a small way."

Bush has been a volunteer at CARE House for a year and a half and also helps Meals on Wheels.

The council has seven programs that aid families in physical and emotional recovery and provide support to children who need to go through the court system.

"The bottom line is about wanting to help kids," Walters said. "The volunteers' assistance, giving and commitment go a long way in building up the trust that the children and their families may have lost and allows them to feel safe again."

If you go to help, come to the Volunteer Call for Action Day from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Jan. 25 at CARE House, 44765 Woodward Ave., Pontiac. For information, call (248) 332-7173

Posted by Nancy at 12:15 AM | Comments (0)

Future of N.H. church abuse settlement heads to court

January 16, 2005
By J.M. Hirsch Associated Press Writer

CONCORD, N.H.— Discord over evaluating the child protection policies of the state's Roman Catholic diocese has grown so acrimonious the agreement calling for the evaluation could be voided.

That has both sides eager to persuade a judge the deal can be saved.

If they fail, the state could find itself litigating an onerous case with little guarantee of success, while the diocese could earn the distinction of being the first in the nation to face criminal charges stemming from the child sex abuse scandal.

Annual audits for five years are required by a 2002 agreement between the church and state that ended a criminal investigation of whether diocesan officials knew members of the clergy were abusing children but failed to protect them.

At issue now is the scope of the audit and who will pay for it. The church wants the state to cover the bill and the evaluation to be limited mostly to paperwork. The state says the church should pay and wants a wide-ranging evaluation.

The dispute began just months after the church and state reached the then unprecedented deal in which prosecutors agreed not to seek criminal indictments against the church.

In exchange, the diocese agreed to enact strict new child protection policies, admit its actions had harmed children, open itself to audits and admit it probably would have been convicted had the case gone to trial.

The agreement did not specify who would pay for the audits, however, and the parties have wildly different takes on what sort of audit would satisfy the terms of the agreement.

In September, the dispute landed before Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Carol Conboy, who said the interpretations were so divergent she questioned whether there was any agreement at all.

She ordered both sides to explain why she shouldn't void the agreement. A hearing on the definition of a contract and whether the agreement constitutes one is scheduled for Thursday.

The church abuse scandal erupted in Boston in early 2002. It quickly spread to the rest of the nation, including New Hampshire, where John McCormack - a former top aide to Boston Cardinal Bernard Law - was bishop.

During the next few years, the New Hampshire diocese paid millions of dollars in settlements as hundreds of people came forward accusing clergymen of sexual abuse.

The state's investigation was prompted by allegations that the church knew about some of the abuse and covered it up. Most of the allegations are from the 1960s and 1970s, long before McCormack's tenure.

Since the agreement, McCormack - who also was the subject of criticism from his time in Boston - has admitted making mistakes, and has instituted tough new policies in New Hampshire, where he was named bishop in 1998.

In briefs filed last week, both sides had harsh words for the other's interpretation of how the agreement should be carried out.

Associate Attorney General Ann Larney called the diocese's version indefensible and preposterous. The church sees the audit mostly as a review of policies and documents; the state seeks broad access to interview diocesan personnel.

"The diocese now seeks to continue the environment of secrecy and avoidance by claiming that the audit provision is narrow and superficial, with the state only allowed to measure compliance by looking at written policies and procedures but no opportunity to look into whether they work or are effective," Larney wrote.

The agreement says the audit "may include, without limitation, the inspection of records and the interview of diocesan personnel."

The diocese believes the scope of the state's proposed audit goes well beyond what it agreed to and would be so intrusive it would be unconstitutional, diocesan lawyer David Vicinanzo said.

"The diocese, mindful of these limits and presuming state compliance with the law, agreed to an audit to assess its compliance with its obligations under the agreement. The diocese did not, and the state could not, agree to an audit of the scope" proposed, he wrote.

In comparison, money seems less of a sticking point. Though initial church estimates said the audits would cost around $1 million, in an interview last week Larney said negotiations with the auditing firm have cut that to about $445,000. That includes scaling back the audit from five years to four.

While the state originally said the church, as the target of a criminal investigation, should pay the bill, Larney said the state would consider splitting it. The diocese has argued the state must pay.

Thursday's hearing will include a group of Catholics who have been critical of the church's handling of the abuse crisis.

The group, led by Anne Coughlin, asked the judge to make them interveners in the case, arguing that as members and victims of the church they have an interest in the outcome. Though Conboy has not ruled, she plans to let them speak during the hearing.

Coughlin says the group hasn't decided what it will say in court, but felt it was vital to have the opportunity.

"When it seemed to become a question of whether they are going to do this, that was worrying. This agreement means a lot to people," she said. "To know there is some danger of losing the whole thing is a matter of grave concern."

Posted by Nancy at 12:15 AM | Comments (0)