Wednesday, July 9, 2008
7/9/08 - Opinion - Jessica's Law
Funeral for Brooke Bennett, 12, of Vermont to Be Held Wednesday
Monday , July 07, 2008
A funeral will be held for 12-year-old Brooke Marie Bennett on Wednesday at the Randolph Union High School in Randolph, Vt.
The viewing will be Tuesday evening at the same location.
Brooke would have turned 13 on July 12.
Her body was found last Wednesday in a shallow grave in Randolph, a week after she was last seen on a convenience store video walking out of the store.
Brooke's uncle Michael Jacques has been charged with kidnapping. Police have not released a cause of death.
Click here for photos.
Pal in Case of Vermont Girl Regrets Involvement
An obituary for Brooke in Saturday's Barre-Montpelier Times Argus says she loved her cat Lily and her dog Scruffy and liked to eat bagels, popcorn and spaghetti.
At first, Brooke's disappearance appeared to be a story of an abduction by an Internet predator who befriended the Braintree girl through her MySpace page.
But now prosecutors charge her abduction was planned by an uncle with a history of sex crimes who used Brooke's MySpace page and a series of e-mails he sent using aliases to plan her abduction while deflecting attention from himself.
A 14-year-old girl, known in court papers as Juvenile 1, last saw Brooke alive when she was going upstairs with Jacques, 42, in his Randolph home on June 25, after Brooke was dropped off at a convenience store.
Juvenile 1 told police it was her understanding that Brooke was to be initiated into a "program for sex" that Juvenile 1 had been involved with since she was 9 years old.
A week later, Brooke's body was found buried about a mile from Jacques' house.
Police and prosecutors haven't released the cause of Brooke's death, they haven't said she was murdered nor have they offered a motive for the kidnapping. But the federal kidnapping charge against Jacques carries with it a possible death sentence.
The investigation continues, but officials said Thursday they knew of no other victims of what was once feared to be a sex ring.
"This is the type of investigation where we are following every single lead," Vermont U.S. Attorney Thomas Anderson said at a news conference in Burlington. "Wherever it takes us, wherever the facts take us, is where we will go."
Neither the Vermont State Police nor FBI released any information on the case Friday, the Independence Day holiday.
Another defendant in the case, Raymond Gagnon, 40, of San Antonio, Brooke's former stepfather, was charged on Wednesday with obstructing justice in the case. The FBI says he had his roommate in Texas throw out a computer believed to contain child pornography as well as images of Juvenile 1 having sex with her underage boyfriend.
A court affidavit by an FBI agent investigating the case said Jacques and Gagnon had several lengthy telephone conversations in the hours after Brooke was reported missing late on June 25 and early June 26.
Brooke's disappearance sent a chill through Vermont when police issued the state's first Amber Alert. A video from the convenience store showed Brooke and Jacques together and then going in separate directions after leaving the store.
At first, state police called it a MySpace case, believing that Brooke had met with someone she had befriended online and then lied to her family about her plans that day to meet a friend in Randolph and visit a hospitalized relative of that friend.
Now prosecutors say it was Jacques who provided police the story about the meeting and that he and Juvenile 1 picked Brooke up in Randolph and took her to Jacques' home. Jacques also found one of Brooke's shoes near a small lake in Brookfield and planted pieces of her clothing nearby that were later found by police, investigators said.
E-mails in the court documents released Thursday described how Juvenile 1 helped Jacques plant some of the false evidence, prosecutors said. Jacques coached Juvenile 1 on obtaining and preserving semen from her boyfriend to be placed on a pair of Brooke's underwear, to throw investigators off the trail.
Jacques has a history of sex crimes dating to 1985 when he was charged with sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl about 100 times. Prosecutors eventually dismissed that case.
In 1993, Jacques was convicted of aggravated sexual assault and kidnapping. An affidavit in the case said Jacques tied up the victim and threatened to kill her while he sexually assaulted her.
He was sentenced to six to 20-years in prison, but he was released early because of the Department of Corrections' "good time" policy in effect at the time.
Brooke's father Jim Bennett and her stepmother Janet said they knew of Jacques' history as a sex offender, but he never saw any signs of trouble when Brooke and her uncle were together at family gatherings.
"That's not something you tell a little girl," Janet Bennett told the Valley News of Lebanon, N.H. "She was just a beautiful little girl."
Jim Bennett said parents needed to keep a close eye on their children, even around family because, "It's not just strangers you've got to watch out for."
Click here to read the Gagnon affidavit (FindLaw PDF).
Click here for more on this story from MyFOXBoston.com.
Click here for more from FOX 44 in Burlington, Vt.
Nearly 1,000 people showed up at her funeral in Randolph, Vermont today.
O'Reilly (who is one of the strongest advocates for Jessica's Law) lists a few more on his website:
[In Rhode Island, 18-year-old Josh Maciorski was convicted of having sex with a 13-year-old girl, but sentenced to probation. Two years later he molested a 14-year-old girl and served just one year. Then, when he got out, Maciorski raped a 16-year-old girl. His sentence after this third strike - an unbelievable three years in prison.
In Missouri, 19-year old Darrell Jackson pleaded guilty to repeatedly sexually abusing a little girl, beginning when she was just eight. But when Jackson came up for sentencing, a soft judge gave him four months in prison and five years probation.
In Minnesota, Joseph Duncan stood in front of a judge, accused of molesting a young boy. Despite the fact that Duncan had previously served 16 years for raping another young boy at gunpoint, the judge released him on just $15,000 bail. Duncan promptly skipped bail and headed for Idaho, where he allegedly kidnapped, raped, and killed a 9-year old boy, molested his sister, and killed their family. ]
O'Reilly sites these cases in his push to get Jessica's Law passed in all 50 states by encouraging his wide audience to become activists for it in their home states.
Who is Jessica?
Jessica Marie Lunsford (October 6, 1995 – February 27, 2005) was a nine-year-old girl who was abducted from her home in Homosassa, Florida in the early morning of February 24, 2005. Believed held captive over the weekend, she was raped and later murdered by 47-year-old John Couey who was living nearby.
After approximately three weeks of intense searching for Lunsford around the area of her home, John Couey, age 47, was arrested in Savannah, Georgia for an outstanding warrant of cannabis possession, but he was released after questioning because it was only a local warrant. He was later arrested in Augusta, Georgia.
Couey's confession alleged the following:
Couey entered Lunsford's house through an unlocked door at about three o'clock in the morning, awakened Lunsford, told her "Don't yell or nothing," and told her to follow him out of the house.
Couey occupied a trailer along with two women, 100 yards (91 m) away, at the time of Lunsford's abduction. He admitted in a videotaped and recorded deposition to raping Lunsford in his bedroom. Lunsford was kept in Couey's bed that evening, where he raped her again in the morning. Couey put her in his closet and ordered her to remain there, which she did as he reported for work at "Billy's Truck Lot".
Three days after he abducted her, Couey tricked Jessica into getting into two garbage bags by saying he was going to 'take her home'. He instead buried her alive as he decided he could do nothing else with the girl. He said he 'Didn't want people seeing him and Lunsford across the street.'
On March 19, 2005, police found Lunsford's body at a residence located on West Sparrow Court, buried in a hole approximately 2 1/2' deep and 2' circular, covered with leaves. The body was removed from the ground and transported to the coroner's office. Her body had undergone "moderate" to "severe" decomposition and according to the publicly released autopsy reports was skeletonized on 2 fingers that Lunsford had poked through the bags before suffocating to death. The coroner ruled that death would have happened even in best circumstances within 2-3 minutes from lack of oxygen.
A jury recommended that Couey receive the death penalty, and on August 24, 2007, Couey was sentenced to death.
What is Jessica's Law?
Jessica's Law is the informal name given to a 2005 Florida law, as well as laws in several other states, designed to punish sex offenders and reduce their ability to re-offend. A version of Jessica's Law has been introduced on the federal level, known as the Jessica Lunsford Act.
The name is also used by the media to designate all legislation and potential legislation in other states modeled after the Florida law. Forty-two states have introduced such legislation since Florida's law was passed.
Among the key provisions of the law are a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison and lifetime electronic monitoring of adults convicted of lewd or lascivious acts against a victim less than 12 years old.
The bill, if passed, would reduce federal grant money under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (42 U.S.C. § 14071) and Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. § 3765) to any U.S. State that doesn't conform its sex offender registration laws to the following:
Require sex offenders to wear Global Positioning System devices on their ankles for five years following their release from prison, or for life for those deemed sexual predators, to better enable law enforcement personnel to track their whereabouts. Costs of tracking and monitoring offenders must be absorbed by each State.
States must mail sex offender registration forms at least twice per year, at random times, to verify registrants' addresses. Any registrants who do not respond within 10 days must be considered non-compliant.
Despite the positive intentions of making children and families safer from pedophiles, the Jessica Lunsford Act and other Jessica's Law proposals have some potential negative unintended consequences, which will need to be address either before or after the acts become law.
Much controversy exists regarding how persons become labeled a sex offender. For instance, an 18-year-old person and a 17-year-old person engaged in a consensual relationship, could see, under the provisions of said legislation, the 18-year-old with a lifetime conviction, a GPS tracking device, and an inescapable label as a perpetrator of child sex crimes.
My opinion, I want the Law! But they do need to fine-tune it a little so that the targets of the Bill are not so far reaching. The excess would not help anyone. Maybe restrict it's harsher provisions to those who have actually have or attempted to rape a minor, instead of those who are deemed as 'intending' to without actually attempting it, because of the vaugeness of the term 'intending'. If someone is reporting as 'intending', then the accused individual should be ordered to see a state-appointed and federally-approved Psychologist, those involved should be interviewed, and the accused should have to report weekly to Psychologist to document the case for a determined durration along with a restraining order, but be done in the most privite and non-embarrasing way possible (including the documantation, which should not be made public unless the individual is determined to be a threat by the state and and reviewed and cleared by the Department of Justice (DOJ)). However, If determined a threat, then the Bill's provisions are fair game.
That is my Opinion.
Posted by Spyridon at 6:25 PM