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Appeals court strikes lifetime GPS monitoring for sex offender

gps monitoring A Graham man serving 18 years for molesting a child won’t be subject to lifetime monitoring as a sex offender when he’s released from prison, the N.C. Court of Appeals ruled this week.

Jonathan Donald Thompson, 24, formerly of Graham, was convicted in April of last year of first-degree sex offense with a child and taking indecent liberties with a child. The offenses occurred in September 2011.

The appellate court found that Superior Court Judge James E. Hardin Jr. of Durham County, the judge in the trial, shouldn’t have sentenced Thompson to lifetime satellite-based monitoring. Only a conviction of aggravated offenses allows a judge to impose lifetime monitoring. Neither first-degree sex offense with a child nor taking indecent liberties with a child are aggravated offenses under state sentencing laws.

Thompson will still have to register as a sex offender.

Otherwise, the appellate court found no error in Thompson’s trial. The unpublished opinion was written by Judge Linda McGee and was filed Tuesday. Judges Sam J. Ervin IV and Sanford L. Steelman Jr. concurred.

THOMPSON WAS appealing his conviction based on claims that Hardin should have excluded testimony by a pediatrician at CrossRoads Sexual Assault Response and Resource Center, and should have intervened in statements by Alamance County Assistant District Attorney Paul Soderberg during closing arguments.

The trial included the testimony of a girl who was 4 years old when she said that Thompson touched her inappropriately during the night of Sept. 7, 2011. Thompson and one of his friends had been staying at the girl’s home and were helping the family do work on their home.

The friend testified he saw Thompson near the girl while she was sleeping. The girl told her mother about the incidents the next morning, after saying it hurt to urinate.

The CrossRoads pediatrician said irritation on the girl’s private parts was consistent with inappropriate touching.

In the opinion, McGee said there wasn’t evidence that excluding the pediatrician’s statement would have produced a different outcome at trial.

The pediatrician testified as an expert witness, saying that in all the cases in which she’s testified as an expert witness, her opinion has been that an examination showed evidence consistent with some form of sexual abuse. She also testified that the state had never prosecuted a sex offense case in which she’d formed an opinion that there wasn’t sexual abuse.

In closing arguments, Soderberg referenced the pediatrician’s statements and said, “If she did not think the crime occurred, the State would not have prosecuted.” Soderberg also referenced a DVD recording of a police interview with Thompson that defense attorney Jeff Connolly referenced in his opening statement. Soderberg said the attorney “didn’t keep his promise on that” when it didn’t show the interview to jurors.

SODERBERG SAID also that Connolly never asked to have DNA analysis performed in the case.

The State Bureau of Investigation declined to analyze a swab taken as evidence for contact DNA. The State Crime Laboratory didn’t have the technology to glean the trace amounts of DNA that might have been on the swab, SBI agent Jody West testified in the trial.

Connolly argued against West’s testimony in the trial, specifically citing prejudice toward Thompson and the lateness of the disclosure of the SBI’s failure to test for DNA, the appeals court found. But the attorney never argued for the trial record that DNA testing be performed, or recommended that prosecutors test the sample.

“Defendant fails to show that any of the State’s closing arguments were so grossly improper that the trial court erred by failing to intervene …,” the opinion states. “This argument is without merit.

Author:  By Times-News


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Sex offender who cut off GPS-tracking device raises concerns about Victoria’s prison monitoring system

electronic monitoring

Andrew Darling cut off his electronic monitoring bracelet.

Police have raised concerns that the system used to monitor Victorian prisoners is not working, as the search continues for a sex offender who cut off his GPS-tracking bracelet and walked out of a correctional facility.

Andrew Darling, 42, has not been seen since the early hours of Sunday morning when he walked out of the Corella Place correctional facility at Ararat in the state’s west.

Another sex offender, Sean Carmody-Coyle, 28, managed to escape twice – in June 2013 and also in February this year.

The secretary of the Police Association of Victoria Ron Iddles said the current monitoring system being used at Corella Place is not working.

We have issues in relation to black spots or at times it’s dropping the signal, and it needs to be totally improved.

Ron Iddles, Police Association of Victoria


“Over the past few months there’s been some problems with these monitoring systems whereby the signal has actually been dropping out, which is of grave concern,” Mr Iddles told 774 ABC Melbourne.

“We have issues in relation to black spots or at times it’s dropping the signal, and it needs to be totally improved.

“The intention is good, but if the signal doesn’t send a signal at all times or it’s not monitored for some reason then there’s a problem with it.”

Victorian Government frontbencher Matthew Guy said there would be an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the escape.

“Clearly it’s not good enough and clearly there needs to be an investigation into how this occurred,” Mr Guy said.

“I simply say though, that this Government is committed to having more people behind bars who deserve to be behind bars. Our opponents put people back into home detention and people back out on the streets who shouldn’t be there.”

Commissioner happy with system

But Victoria’s Corrections Commissioner Jan Shuard defended the quality of the GPS tracking bracelets for sex offenders, telling Fairfax Radio she had no concerns about the system.

“Electronic monitoring is one of a number of supervision tools or dynamic security tools that we use to gather information and monitor the whereabouts of offenders,” Ms Shuard said.

“It is not a single tool on its own. It rests alongside our staff supervision, our case management of offenders, our normal processes for accounting for people.

“It is one of many things put in place.”

She said the bracelets were locked on, but can be cut off “with some effort”.

“We went through an exhaustive process in terms of our procurement of this device, but there’s nothing available that can be put on that simply cannot come off,” she said.

“They have to be able to come off for medical reasons and other reasons, so if the offenders tamper with those we get an alert that let’s us know they’re doing that and allows us to activate a response.

“This electronic bracelet, on early Sunday morning, did exactly what we would expect it to do.”

Ms Shuard said the bracelets were the highest level of restriction able to be placed on offenders like Darling.

“Given they are community members, it is a civil scheme, they’ve completed their sentence and they are subject to these restrictions for periods of up to 15 years.”

Corella Place is a residential facility next door to the Ararat prison, the Hopkins Correctional Centre.

It is about two kilometres from the town centre.

Residents are housed in one-, two- and three-bedroom houses and have a strict curfew, but are taken on escorted trips to nearby towns and to Melbourne.

‘Community safety at risk’: Police Association

Mr Iddles was not sure how Darling cut off the bracelet and said he believed public safety was at stake.

“Obviously there will be some investigation by Corrections and maybe Victoria Police … but we will need to find that (out) so it doesn’t happen again,” he said.

“I think the community would expect that if you’re out and about with a monitoring system you’d want it to work 100 per cent of the time.

“At times the signal doesn’t go to the monitoring centre, and therefore the person isn’t monitored for a short time.

“The alarms are raised when the signal drops out, but the reality is when they go and check the prisoner’s there.

“So on this occasion when it’s cut off the alarm is raised and they go and have a look but he’s actually gone, and now there has to be a reasonable amount of resources to find him.”

Mr Iddles said Darling was not serving jail time, but is required wear a monitor because he is a serious sex offender.

“My understanding with this particular person is he’s finished his sentence and he’s living in a facility near the jail, and not required to be undergoing a sentence,” he said.

Search continues for Darling

Police are still searching for Darling, who they said had bush survival skills and was known to frequent pubs and bars.

They have told people in the Ararat area to remain vigilant around sheds and outhouses on their properties and to report anything suspicious to police.

The also said anyone who notices stolen food or clothing should contact them.

He is 176cm tall and of medium build, with both ears pierced and tattoos on his back, arms and right lower leg.

Police have warned the public not to approach him, but to call triple-0 immediately if they see him.

Author:  Jan Shuard


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