Child Advocacy-Podcast Edition

I am so thrilled to announce the launch of my new podcast “Best Case Worst Case.”  It is available now on iTunes or Wondery.com or your favorite listening app.  My co-host is Jim Clemente, retired FBI profiler and current writer/producer on CBS’ Criminal Minds tv show.  In this podcast, Jim and I interview our friends and colleagues in law enforcement about their best and worst cases.  Some are very high profile, all take you behind police lines through the revelations of the police and prosecutors who lived these cases.  In our newest episode, former FBI agent Bobby Chacon gives a chilling inside look at his experiences on 911, the worst case in US history.  In the very first episode, Jim interviews me about my best, and as it happens my very first, criminal case.  I interview Jim in our second episode about his worst case, and its one that was very high profile and extremely tragic on all sides.  Please subscribe on iTunes and consider giving us 5 stars so we can keep taking you behind police lines.  You can go here for the podcast:  Wondery media podcast  or to YouTube to see videos and get the trailer for the podcast:  YouTube

 

Advertisements

Child Protection and Schools

Since I left the Department of Justice in 2012, I have tried to focus on the prevention side of child protection.  I have trained law enforcement, child advocacy center personnel, and other professionals in understanding offender behavior and how to conduct child exploitation investigations and prosecutions.  But the most important effort, I think, has been with schools.  I have spoken to staff, students and faculty about grooming, digital literacy, offender behavior, and technology monitoring.

I went to Central America last fall to help a school investigate a claim of inappropriate behavior by a staff member toward children.  These interactions with schools give me hope that prevention is possible.  It is a great feeling to arm teachers, students and staff with knowledge about the dangers of child exploitation.  Specifically, though, I try to impart the kind of knowledge that will prevent a child from ever being exploited.  And that is the goal:  prevention.  So, when I see a school embroiled in a child pornography investigation, I am distressed.  So many schools to get to, so little time.

In the latest, tragic, example, a coach at a school in Indiana is being investigated for child pornography.  The investigators are part of the same team that brought down Subway spokesman Jared Fogle.  I know this team well, they are dedicated, talented professionals whose overriding goal is to bring child offenders to justice.  I have no doubt they had strong evidence before they began their investigation.  Tragically, the school’s headmaster committed suicide this weekend after being interviewed in the case.  I certainly won’t speculate as to why, but I can’t help but wonder if this could have been prevented had this school reached out to experts for child protection training.  http://dailym.ai/1SI4t7w

A school in Minnesota took a proactive approach last fall, and asked me to conduct a full two-day training for them.  I spent a full day training their students, faculty and staff, then another day with community members the school generously invited to attend.  I hope I reached them all, especially the children. Knowledge is power for adults and kids when it comes to protecting against those who want to exploit children.  I simply don’t understand schools that ignore the problem.  It is shocking to me that schools don’t provide in-depth training on grooming and offender behavior to educators.  Equally shocking is their complete lack of security policy on their technology to prevent, or at least detect, the trafficking in images of child pornography.

I realize that such training isn’t free, but what is prevention worth?  What is the price to children being sexually abused?  Aren’t they worth it?  Shattuck St Mary article on FDH training

Condoning the Rape of Little Boys?

It has taken me a couple of days to calm down enough even to write about the latest story of the sexual exploitation of children.  This time, it is my own government that is guilty.  I admit, I am one of those patriotic types.  I tend to tear up at the National Anthem and when I hear about the bravery of our troops who fight and die to protect me and mine.  But this, this latest story has me nearly speechless with rage.  Two brave Marines learned of an Afghan man holding young boys in sexual slavery ON A U.S. BASE in Afghanistan.  Reports say some personnel have routinely heard young boys screaming and crying at night while being sexually assaulted.  These two Marines, having had enough of these reports, found the man and delivered some well deserved frontier justice.  Enough, they apparently thought, of reporting these abuses up the chain of command and being ignored.  Enough, they thought, of reporting the rape of little boys to Afghan authorities and being ignored.  In one instance, they reported the rape of a 14 year old girl to Afghan authorities.  What happened?  The Afghan rapist was sentenced to one day in prison.  The innocent girl? She was sentenced to life imprisonment:  she was forced to marry her rapist!  What have we become?  When did we decide it was ok to ignore the rape and sexual slavery of children because it was expedient?  And those two hero Marines?  Cashiered out of the military for daring to take on this horrific policy of condoning rape and exacting some small measure of justice for the victims.

This is not the country I love and was proud to serve as a public prosecutor for 16 years.  Protecting children is never a hard choice.  At least, it shouldn’t be.  All the officials asked to comment since the story broke in the NY Times have either said “ask someone else,” or “there is no such official policy to ignore child rape,” as if looking the other way is acceptable.  Nelson Mandela said “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”  This country has lost its soul.  And I’m disgusted by it. I sincerely hope those responsible, including every person who stood silently by and let children be raped, are held to account for it.  I hope they never get another moment’s peace or rest.  Like the children they failed.

How Could A Bishop Hide A Child Abuser?

I simply don’t understand how this keeps happening.  My inbox is full, every day, of cases where schools, employers, youth organizations, and churches ignore all the evidence in front of their eyes and fail to act to protect children.  The most recent story is appalling.  In 2012, Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City was convicted – not just accused, but convicted – of failing to report child abuse.  He apparently found a priest in his diocese in possession of child pornography on his computer.  Did he report this to police?  No.  Did he call child services to aid the children depicted in the images of child sexual assault?  No.  He sent the priest to a therapist and told him to stay away from children.  I’m sure that is a comfort to all the children the priest abused by trafficking in the images of their sexual assault.

I must admit, all the lessons, speeches, training, documents, studies etc over the last few years have apparently aided children very little.  When a Bishop, after all the church scandals of the past couple decades, all the coaching scandals, the teacher scandals, still fails to call the authorities when he catches a priest abusing children by trafficking in the horror of their abuse, well, we have all failed.  We are failing these children.  As I have said in this space before, I have had to view the images of children being abused.  It is indescribably awful.  There is absolutely no excuse for this failure by the Bishop.  None.  And the fact that the Church waited nearly three years to act on the Bishop’s contribution to the abuse of children, and even now has allowed the Bishop to resign, is disgusting.  The news account I link to at the end of this post doesn’t say, but I sincerely hope the Bishop went to jail.  Sadly, I doubt it.  The conviction was probably a misdemeanor.  What is the violation of the public trust worth?  What is the violation of human decency worth?  What are the children Bishop Finn disregarded in their most urgent time of need worth?  Apparently nothing.  At least, nothing to Bishop Finn and the Catholic Church.  http://nbcnews.to/1HrU8Wm

The Worst of the Worst: Predators Targeting Babies

I made another appearance on TheLip.TV’s show Crime Time here in Los Angeles this afternoon.  If you don’t subscribe to their YouTube Channel, you should!  The show features the juxtaposition of the law and current events.  The host of the show is Allison Hope Weiner.  On today’s show, we discussed some of the most disturbing kinds of child sexual abuse cases:  those where the offender has a deviant sexual interest in infants.  I know, it doesn’t seem real but it is.  The very worst images I ever had to view during my time as a federal prosecutor were those that featured toddlers and infants.  I will never forget them.  I wish I could.  How could anyone think it is ok for these people to live outside prison walls?  For the full interview, please go to  http://bit.ly/1FqXFAT

Movie with a Heart

I recently had the opportunity to see a movie called “Nowhere Safe.” It is a great film with an important message. It tackles cyberbullying in a refreshing way. In the film, a teen is victimized by a harsh online campaign, which causes her and her mother to move to a new town to escape the backlash. But, moving only delays the inevitable, and the teen is once again harassed in her new school. The movie has great acting and good role models in the teen’s mom and a concerned teacher. I highly recommend it! It will be on cable this Sunday. You can find more information about it here: http://www.uptv.com/nowheresafe

Justice Denied For Victims of Child Pornography

Yesterday the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a ruling in a case called Paroline v. United States.  In this case, Paroline was convicted in federal court of child pornography offenses involving a child named Amy (not her real name), who was sexually assaulted by a relative in 1999.  (This relative captured the images of Amy’s sexual assault and sent them to others via the Internet.  He was convicted.)  Paroline was found with some of the images of Amy’s sexual abuse, which began surfacing on the Internet some years after the original offender was convicted.  In the law describing the offense and the available punishment for those who traffick in the images of the sexual abuse of children is a provision allowing the victims depicted in these images to receive restitution from the offenders.  Restitution, which is ordered in many kinds of criminal cases, is designed to provide reimbursement for things like past or future psychological counseling and lost wages that resulted from the victim’s suffering from this crime.

The issue of restitution in child pornography cases is complicated by a statute written by Congress that many judges, including some on the Supreme Court, find confusing and difficult to comply with.  This is compounded by the circumstances that arise almost uniquely in child pornography cases:  hundreds or even thousands of offenders unrelated and unknown to each other, and even separated by years between their individual offenses, and who commit crimes in every State in the country, all commit a similar crime against the same victim.  In order to receive restitution in any of these cases, victims must appear in the court where the offender is being prosecuted and provide proof of these losses.  For six years, Amy and a few other victims have been doing exactly that.  Amy has provided information on her need for psychological counseling and other harms in literally hundreds of cases across the US.  Her images, however, have been seen in more than 3,200 federal and state cases since 2006.  

It is simply impossible for Amy or anyone else to appear in every case where every offender has victimized her.  But that, essentially, is what the Supreme Court held yesterday. (When they denied the lower court’s order that Paroline pay Amy the full amount of her claims.)  They decided that no single offender should have to pay Amy for her total losses.  Rather, Amy must pursue, and prove, her restitution claim in every case her images appear in order to fairly apportion, or divide, her losses among the total pool of offenders.  This means that the burden is upon Amy, the victim, to appear in hundreds or even thousands of cases from now until, presumably, the end of time in order to gain compensation for the harm done to her.  I’d like to know how on earth any Judge will decide what is a fair apportionment for any given defendant, considering there might be hundreds or thousands of defendants in similar situations in the future.  Is this justice for Amy?  Not even remotely.

I hope Congress acts quickly to correct this monstrous injustice to victims of child pornography.  They are victimized when they are sexually assaulted and again every single time some nasty offender collects, trades, or distributes the images of that sexual abuse.  Now, it seems, they will continue to be victimized by being forced into multiple courts, facing multiple offenders, and likely for many years, before they are able to recover for their losses.  Every single offender owes Amy full restitution. (And, the law is clear, once she receives the full amount, she is entitled to no more.)  The Court, however, has essentially said that each offender will benefit from the deviant marketplace they themselves have helped create and will only owe Amy and others like her some small, and certainly incomplete, portion of her losses.  She will be forced to repeatedly pursue her claims.  Once again, pedophile offenders escape responsibility and victims are denied justice.  Why is justice only swift and sure for those hurting kids?  http://bit.ly/1mJjy8Z