Sunday, July 29, 2018

Chantel Eldridge hires registered citizen to help win a judge's seat in Texas and is getting attacked for it

She deserves props for hiring a registered person for her campaign. She probably understands what registrants face because she's been the target of a dubious prosecution against her, which is currently ongoing. It seems any politician willing to give second chances to registered persons faces attacks like this one.

Contentious 331st District race pits longtime judge against attorney
POLITICS By Ryan Autullo and Tony Plohetski - American-Statesman Staff

Posted: 3:16 p.m. Sunday, February 18, 2018

Eldridge said she’ll probably hire a registered sex offender to be her judicial aide.

Crain disposed of the fewest criminal cases in 2017 among the eight criminal court district judges.

The only contested judicial race in Travis County’s criminal district courts has gotten contentious, with challenger Chantal Eldridge saying taxpayers have been underserved by the incumbent while Eldridge faces questions of her own about the registered sex offender she employs in her law firm and intends to bring on as a judicial aide if she wins.

Eldridge, a 53-year-old career defense lawyer who narrowly lost a judicial race in 2016, is running against state District Judge David Crain, who has presided over the felony 331st District Court since 2010 and has been a judge in Travis County for 32 years. He said his experience sets him apart in this race, suggesting “you wouldn’t want a novice to sit and try to conduct a jury trial for a murder case, child sexual assault, bank robbery or something like that.”

On the campaign trail, Eldridge has characterized Crain as inefficient, pointing to statistics from Dec. 8 that show defendants awaiting resolution of their cases in Crain’s court had averaged 129 days in jail — the most of the county’s eight felony courts.

Those numbers are misleading, Crain said, noting that the total days spent in jail fluctuate as cases are resolved and that he’s “always in the middle” among his peers for the number of pending cases in his court and jury trials. The average time a defendant sits in jail is not among the standards included in an analysis the county did last year to assess judicial efficiency. Neither are jury trials; Crain had eight in 2017, tied for fifth among the eight judges in felony courts.

The county does keep an eye on the number of cases a judge disposes. Crain ranked last in 2017.

“I don’t think he’s doing enough for Travis County,” Eldridge said.

Sex offender on staff

Eldridge faces questions related to the criminal history of a staff member.

Shortly after losing to now-state District Judge Brad Urrutia in 2016, Eldridge hired John Gerard Zamarripa, who had volunteered on her campaign, to be her legal assistant. Zamarripa, 53, pleaded guilty in 1990 to sexual assault of a child after an incident with a family member at a South Austin home. According to a March 1988 arrest affidavit, a 14-year-old girl said she was watching TV with Zamarripa when he began began to kiss her and had sex with her.

Zamarripa was 24 at the time. Under the terms of his plea deal, the conviction was dismissed from his record in 2000 after he successfully completed 10 years of probation. He was ordered to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Eldridge said Zamarripa will probably be her court coordinator if she’s elected, “unless there is some legal reason he shouldn’t, or new allegations come up.” He has been involved in the campaign, coordinating the placement of yard signs and handling media requests.

Refusing employment to a past felon would run counter to her faith in criminal justice rehabilitation, Eldridge said. She called Zamarripa a conscientious worker.

“I just don’t think a criminal history — after somebody has successfully completed their punishment — should bar someone from getting a job, or at least being considered,” she said.

Eldridge’s campaign website addresses Zamarripa’s past — “True to her belief in criminal justice reform, Chantal knows that if she were not willing to offer an ex-felon a second chance, an opportunity to show he was rehabilitated, then she would be a hypocrite.”

If Eldridge wins, Zamarripa’s role in her office could be complicated, as a criminal history might impede his access to certain court documents, according to court administrative director Debra Hale. However, nothing stands in the way of Eldridge hiring him, Hale said.

Zamarripa worked on Mike Martinez’s 2014 mayoral campaign, first as a volunteer and then as a paid staff member. Zamarripa disclosed his criminal history to the campaign before taking the paid position, Martinez said.

“We saw no reason to cut ties with him for something that had happened several decades ago that he disclosed to us,” Martinez said. “He continued to serve on the campaign until the campaign ended.”

A sheriff’s report shows Zamarripa has a pending Class C misdemeanor assault by physical contact charge stemming from multiple incidents last fall in Travis County.

Two female clients at the Travis County Correctional Complex at Del Valle made complaints against Zamarripa, with one saying he grabbed her breast while placing business cards into her pocket, the report says. The woman told deputies that Zamarripa also asked inappropriate questions about her sex life and discussed with her a tattoo on her breast that he saw while looking her up on Facebook.

The second woman said Zamarripa asked inappropriate questions about her sexual history and grabbed her hands, the report says. Eldridge said Zamarripa was checking for markings that would indicate whether she had been cutting herself — a past concern with the woman. That assessment was needed to get the woman approved for outpatient services, Eldridge said.

Zamarripa’s attorney, Charlie Baird, called the allegations frivolous.

“We intend to proceed with the case and have a jury trial if necessary, and we expect him to be fully vindicated,” Baird said.

Zamarripa pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for a pretrial hearing March 29 before a justice of the peace. The maximum punishment for a Class C misdemeanor is a $500 fine.

Zamarripa did not return a message for comment.

It came out in her previous campaign that Eldridge has a criminal past of her own, a 1995 charge for obstruction of process in Putnam County, Tenn. A grand jury indicted her on the misdemeanor charge, which is described in the state statute as intentionally obstructing a law enforcement officer from effecting a stop, frisk, halt, arrest or search by using force against the officer. Eldridge denied that there was any physical contact between herself and the officer, who she said made the arrest in retaliation after Eldridge filed a complaint against him for excessive force against her elderly mother, who was injured while being arrested for a loose dog.

The charge against Eldridge was dismissed in January 1996 — 10 months after the incident. Later that year, Eldridge filed a petition to have the charge expunged from her record.

She moved to Austin with her mother in 2003 and began a criminal defense practice.

Bar association favors Crain

Since mid-December, Crain has secured $45,280 in campaign donations to Eldridge’s $4,451. Of endorsements, Crain has 12 and Eldridge three. The local bar weighed in on the race, with 72 percent of participants siding with Crain.

Eldridge was the only woman in 2016 to lose to a man in a Travis County race, when she got 47 percent of the vote against fellow defense lawyer Urrutia.

Championing fresh ideas, she said she’d like to expand the misdemeanor Phoenix Court — which provides alternatives to jail for defendants charged with prostitution — by bringing it to her felony court. She’d also like to discontinue any conditions that require a person charged with a crime to have permanent housing to qualify for a personal bond.

She also wants to take over a docket that caters to defendants with mental health needs — something Crain developed years ago as a County Court-at-Law judge. The docket is currently handled by Magistrate Judge Leon Grizzard.

While Eldridge has questioned Crain’s record, he’s taken shots of his own, saying Eldridge is not known to take cases to trial.

“She will tell you she’s done some, but no judge I know of has ever heard of them or seen them,” he said.

Crain, 65, said he wants another four-year term and will then probably retire.

Early voting in the Democratic primary gets underway Tuesday. Election day is March 6.

This story has been updated with details of John Zamarippa’s most recent criminal charge, based on documents obtained by the Statesman on Feb. 22.

David Crain, 65, has presided over felony criminal cases as the judge of Texas’ 331st DistrictCourt since 2010. He previously was a County Court-at-Law judge for 19 years and a justice of peace for six years. He earned undergraduate law degrees from the University of Texas.
Civic participation: Has been a judge in Travis County for 32 years.

Chantal Eldridge, 53, has defended people charged with criminal offenses for most of her 29 years as a lawyer. She practiced law in California and Tennessee before moving to Austin in 2003. Much of her practice focuses on defendants with mental health needs.

Civic participation: Has volunteered at voter registration events and fundraisers for Democratic groups.

About the job

State district judges preside over felony criminal cases, such as murder, aggravated assault and burglary of a habitation. They serve four-year terms and make $158,000 a year.

Double whammy against the city of Coalinga CA as it failed to invalidate votes from civilly committed registrants

I meant to post this two months ago. Sorry.

May 9, 2018 ·22 Comments

Patients at Coalinga State Hospital scored two victories today — one in court and the other in the state legislature. As a result of the victories, the patients’ past votes as well as future votes in City of Coalinga elections are valid.

Specifically, a Fresno Superior Court judge ruled today against the City of Coalinga which had attempted to invalidate the patients’ votes in November 2017 which contributed to the defeat of a one cent sales tax. In its decision, the Court noted that the patients’ votes were valid because the patients both live in the City as well as registered to vote there.

Also in its decision, the Court disagreed with the City’s argument that patients could not register to vote there because they had been involuntarily committed to the state hospital. Further, the Court disagreed with the City’s argument that patients, if released, will move to a different location. The Court noted that the “Elections Code does not require, as far as residency for voting purposes goes, that the residence be the place from which the voter will never move. Residence can and does change.”

In the state legislature today, the Assembly Committee on Elections and Redistricting, stopped Assembly Bill 2839 (AB 2839) which would have required patients to vote at their last known address before commitment.

Committee Chair Marc Berman criticized the bill as attacking a fundamental right, that is, voting. He said voters shouldn’t be forced to vote where they no longer live.

Vice Chair Matthew Harper noted that the City of Coalinga has benefited from its annexation of the state hospital for more than 10 years and questioned the motives of the City’s decision to challenge election results after the City failed at its attempt to increase the City’s sales tax.
Committee member Ian Calderon, whose district includes a large state hospital, noted that the Coalinga patients would be”directly affected” by a sales tax increase because they purchase food, clothing and electronics at the state hospital.

Committee member Dr.Shirley Weber stated that people should have the right to vote where they choose to vote. She criticized the City for its attempt to gerrymander votes due to the outcome of one election.

In addition to the committee members, a total of 12 people spoke in opposition to the bill. This total includes registrants, family members and representatives of the ACLU, CA Public Defenders Association, Disability Rights California and the Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws.

“Today’s victory is due, in large part, to the efforts of registrants and family members who wrote letters and testified in opposition to a bill that would have disenfranchised hundreds of California voters,” stated Bellucci. “We thank them for their significant contributions.”

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Jim DeFede of CBS Miami's "Facing South Florida" completely DESTROYS Ron Book on the air

Want to watch 20 minutes of Ron Book get completely OWNED on TV and struggle to keep up with his lies? Well, today's your lucky day. Jim DeFede takes Ron Book to task over Ron's claims of the efficacy of residency restriction laws, Ron Book's bogus claims of "plenty of housing in Miami," and even Ron Book's denial of referring to everyone on the list as predators and monsters.

To top it off, Ron Book's intent is becoming crystal clear.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Registered citizen Kicked Out of Meeting Sues Stafford County VA School Board

Sue the bastards!

Sex Offender Kicked Out of Meeting Sues Stafford County School Board
By Julie Carey
Published at 6:45 PM EDT on May 10, 2018

A registered sex offender has filed a lawsuit against the school board and a deputy in Stafford, County, Virginia, claiming his First Amendment rights were violated when he was kicked out of a meeting.

Melvin Allen was convicted in 2004 of attempting to take indecent liberties with children in an online chat room. He served 30 days in jail. As a registered sex offender, Allen is prohibited from being on a school campus.

In 2016, a school in Stafford County asked Allen to pick up his sick grandson from school. A deputy issued a no trespass order soon after and reminded Allen he was barred from school property.

A short time after that incident, Allen attended a school board meeting. Allen, a member of the local NAACP chapter, wanted to speak out at the meeting about a student disciplinary issue. A deputy at the meeting confronted Allen and kicked him out of the meeting.

Allen was criminally charged with trespassing and violating the statute that bars sex offender from school grounds.

"That's an incorrect reading of the statute. The statute prohibits him from being on a school campus," said Maxwelle Sokol, Allen's attorney.

The charges were later dropped.

Allen's lawsuit argues his civil rights were violated.

"You have a registered sex offender who has totally changed his life around... for him to have his freedom of speech chilled that's a big deal," Sokol said.

Allen and his attorneys underscored his NAACP membership, but the organization's leaders in Stafford stressed that they are not involved in the case.

Allen has since been allowed to attend school board meetings.

A spokesperson for the school system said they could not comment on legal matters.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

After 11 years of this, the courts need to drop the hammer on Lauren's law.

Legal Services Moves to Block Miami-Dade's Tent City Ordinance
Legal Services of Greater Miami (LSGM) is seeking to enjoin Miami-Dade from enforcing an ordinance, scheduled to go into effect Thursday, that would force the homeless sex offenders out of their dwellings. The recently enacted ordinance prohibits overnight camping on county property.
By Michael Booth | May 08, 2018 at 05:38 PM

A lawsuit against Miami-Dade County seeks to block officials from closing what paroled sex offenders claim is one of the few places where they are allowed to live.

Legal Services of Greater Miami (LSGM) is seeking to enjoin Miami-Dade from enforcing an ordinance, scheduled to go into effect Thursday, that would force the homeless sex offenders out of their dwellings. The recently enacted ordinance prohibits overnight camping on county property.

The encampment, comprising about 200 individuals, is located in the northeast section of the county, near Hialeah, in an industrial zone.

Miami-Dade officials had intended to close down the encampment last Sunday, but agreed to the temporary delay after LSGM and the American Civil Liberties Union announced their intention to file a lawsuit blocking the move.

“The county wants to banish them to the edge of the Everglades,” said LSGM Senior Staff Attorney Jeffrey Hearne in the complaint. “Plaintiffs live in the encampment because they have not been able to find anywhere else to live and are involuntarily homeless.”

If the restrictions go into effect, the residents of the tent city could face trespassing charges and then be charged with violating the terms of their parole.

Miami-Dade has one of the most restrictive laws in the country limiting where paroled sex offenders may live, the suit claims. Paroled sex offenders are barred from living within 2,500 feet of any school, park or bus stop, or any location where children may gather. They are also barred from seeking housing in any county-run homeless shelter.

For years, until 2010, most of those sex offenders lived in an encampment underneath the Julia Tuttle Causeway, which connects Interstate 95 with Miami Beach. Miami-Dade closed that settlement down, and most of  the residents moved to the Hialeah area.

Advocates for the current tent-city dwellers say law governing sex offenders effectively bars them from living almost everywhere in Miami-Dade.

“This encampment is obviously not an acceptable housing situation for anyone, but to further violate our client’s constitutional rights to solve a problem that the county created in the first place is cruel,” said Hearne in a statement.

“Since the housing ban lasts for life, many of these people are elderly, infirm, or incapacitated,” said Valerie Jonas, counsel with the ACLU of Florida. “If the hundreds of individuals are banished to the border of the Everglades, they will be forced to live out their lives on the literal margins of society without any cover from the elements. The county created this problem by restricting areas in which our clients can and cannot live, and the county can solve this problem now by repealing the residence restriction.”

Miami-Dade Assistant County Attorney Michael Valdez said the government would not comment on pending litigation.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Colorado House Judiciary Committee advances HB 18-1427 to prevent SOMB from profiteering from polygraphs

This bill needs to pass completely, but it is off to a good start.

Bill bans conflicts of interest on sex offender management board after Contact7 investigation
Tony Kovaleski, Brittany Freeman
5:02 PM, May 1, 2018
7:55 PM, May 1, 2018

DENVER -- The Colorado House Judiciary Committee voted Tuesday to move forward with legislation that would ban members of the state’s sex offender management board from profiting from the treatment requirements they set.

The sex offender management board, also known as the SOMB, sets the standards and procedures for supervision and treatment of convicted sex offenders in the state.

Last year, Contact7 Investigates explored allegations of a conflict of interest within the board when it comes to polygraph testing mandated for offenders.

Public records show the polygraph company owned by board member Jeff Jenks consistently receives the largest share of public money spent on the testing. Jenks denies having a conflict of interest, saying his seat on the SOMB actually costs him business because of the time the volunteer position demands.

House Bill 18-1427 would prevent members of the board from entering into contracts with the state for sex offender management and treatment. Jenks’ company, Amich and Jenks, is one of two private polygraph companies which currently hold contracts with the Colorado Department of Corrections.

The sex offender management board is designed by statute to be made up of stakeholders who are involved in sex offender treatment, prosecution, defense, and supervision, as well as victim advocates.

Opponents of the bill testified they believe if it passes it could make it difficult for the board to find qualified experts to serve in those seats. They also speculated the legislation is targeted specifically at the polygraph examiner seat on the board.

“The conversation around financial gain does seem to be focused around the polygraph examiner position and I fear this is an attempt to remove the polygraph stakeholder from the SOMB,” testified Allison Boyd, who serves as a victim’s representative on the SOMB. “I will tell you that offender accountability is so important for victims, for them to feel like this isn’t going to happen to someone else… that’s what we really gain from the polygraph.”

Reached for comment after the hearing, Jenks said his company did business with the state long before he sat on the board and it has not increased his business.

"It’s unfortunate the therapists on the board as well myself and and anyone else who might be affected by this bill are not going to be part of the sex offender management board to lend our knowledge on matters of dealing with what can be a very high risk population of offenders. None of us on this board are there to obtain contracts or business," Jenks said. "We have recently voted on new standards that has cut the number required polygraphs and have increased the length of time between polygraphs for many of these individuals. A bill likes this screams that we are somehow unethical by being on the board and we are not."

Judiciary committee members said they have asked the board numerous times over the years to address the conflict of interest questions without seeing any changes.

“As this bill moved forward we found that there are multiple providers who receive various contracts from the state in the millions of dollars and they have a direct financial conflict of interest in keeping the standards the same,” bill sponsor Rep. Leslie Herod said. “That’s a problem, members.”

The committee voted 11-0 to move the legislation forward to the House floor.

Friday, April 27, 2018

NJ OpEd declares Dead Kids Make Bad Laws, and I agree with that notion

Judi Franco is apparently a pseudonym, but the OpEd is a damned good one.

Hey, NJ — 'Dead Kids Make Bad Laws'
New Jersey 101.5 FM Radio


"Dead kids make bad laws"

The above quote isn’t mine, and I would give attribution except that I don’t know who originally said it, but it is so true. Dead kids usually make for emotional, broad brush laws that do more harm than good. I know that in NJ we feel proud of ourselves that we are the state that pioneered the sex-offender registry called Megan’s Law, the law that arose from tragedy in 1994, when 7-year-old Megan Kanka of Hamilton Township was raped and killed by Jesse Timmendeques, a neighbor. But anytime tragedy befalls a child, we have to think very carefully before we come up with some law that might potentially save “just one child” but also might potentially ruin many, many lives (as has happened in the case of the Megan’s law registry).

So why do you hear so many bad laws named after children who have passed away? Because these laws are generally an emotional knee-jerk reaction when people are distraught and desperate. Many times they are rushed through the legislature and have not been thought through. This is why the New Jersey Supreme Court seems to be backpedaling a little bit by allowing some people who committed sex offenses as youths to be removed from the list.

So some people convicted of sex crimes as youths will thankfully no longer be on the offender list for life. The state Supreme Court has ruled that people convicted of aggravated sexual assault and related crimes before their 18th birthday can now petition a court to be removed from the state's registry of about 16,000 sex offenders. About 4,300 people convicted of the most serious sex crimes are in the public Megan's Law database.

We are now realizing that the likelihood of sex offenders to commit new sex crimes is pretty low. Turns out that people convicted as youths have very little chance of re-offending, especially after undergoing therapy.

This stupid system incites unnecessary violence and vigilante justice and often just punishes innocent people due to a past mistake. The recidivism rate for sex offenders is 5.3%, the lowest among any type of criminal. "Sex offenders" include, but are not limited to streaking, statutory rape, sexting, hiring a prostitute, prostitution, bestiality, incest, date rape, rape, and child molestation.

Is a man who has a relationship with his 16 yr old girlfriend, at age 23, a rapist? This law also doesn't take into account lies girls tell to get boys 18, or 19 to sleep with them, claiming to be 17 when they are in fact 15. Nor does it distinguish a person guilty of sleeping with their underage by a day girlfriend in a consensual sexual relationship. Yes, he’s on the same list as a serial rapist. Yeah, different tier, but are YOU gonna really check the tier??

While I understand the zeal to protect children from true sex crimes, Megan’s Law unfortunately doesn’t do it most of the time. It does, however ruin lives, most of the time.