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November 1, 2007

An arrest is worth a thousand words of legislative testimony

In case anyone wonders how and why state legislators get extra concerned about sex offenders, check out this notable story from my backyard:

What began as testimony on a bill requiring jail sentences for those who solicit sex from minors over the Internet ended in a Statehouse sting for Lt. Jeff Braley of the Warren County Cybercrimes Task Force. 

Though Braley came to Columbus yesterday as a star witness supporting Senate Bill 183, he portrayed himself as a 14-year-old girl on a field trip to the Statehouse in e-mails to Barry Mentser, a local lawyer who police said was trying to have sexual relations with the "girl" he met online. Braley went by the online name "ohiosoccergirl14."  And after Braley testified yesterday, he quickly went to assist Columbus officers in Mentser's arrest....

Braley said he had alerted Columbus police that Mentser likely would be there. Braley said that Mentser had sent him several pictures over the past year -- dressed and undressed -- so State Patrol troopers in the building were able to identify him soon after he entered the building....

Braley said the Statehouse, a busy public building with a host of security cameras and plenty of State Highway Patrol troopers patrolling the halls, is the most public place he's ever made a bust.  "If this guy is going to go to this level, come to the Statehouse where police and everyone are, why would you want him right back out on the street?" he said. "We have to have mandatory jail time for these kind of individuals."  Sen. Tim Schaffer, R-Lancaster, the sponsor of Senate Bill 183, agreed.  "I hope this demonstrates the importance of this issue," he said.

November 1, 2007 at 11:28 AM | Permalink


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This reeks of propaganda. What will the defense be? How likely is it someone will have sex with 14-year-old girl on a field trip in the Statehouse?

Why did it take a year before the meet?

They might have him on a porn charge depending on what "without clothes" means. Does it mean naked? We'll see what the facts are but it appears the defense might have a lot to work with.

Yes, there is a problem but grandstanding propaganda isn't necessarily the answer.

Posted by: George | Nov 1, 2007 5:20:06 PM

No one else seems to care because of the crime, but CRAWFORD V. WASHINGTON (pdf) might care.

Michael D. Cicchini

& Vincent Rust

"When the state offers hearsay into evidence against a criminal defendant, the
defendant’s constitutional right to confrontation is implicated. Under the test
expressed in Ohio v. Roberts, that right to confrontation could be overcome by a
judicial determination that the state’s proffered hearsay was reliable. Recognizing
that the Roberts standard was vague and manipulable, the Court in Crawford v.
aimed to remove judicial discretion in lower court rulings by
implementing a new framework for determining whether hearsay could be
admitted against a defendant. It held that if the proffered statement is
“testimonial” then it must be subject to cross-examination. Unfortunately, the
Court declined to define testimonial, and in doing so has perpetuated the need
for judicial discretion in determining the admissibility of hearsay. The Authors
suggest that the Court should define testimonial to include all accusatory
hearsay. Only a broad definition, they argue, will satisfy the text, purpose, and
history of the Confrontation Clause as well as Crawford’s goal of constraining
judicial discretion."

Rather that a jury verdict, Lt. Braley gets a legislative verdict with hearsay that may or may not be admissible at trial. Who cares? Why use hearsay against one defendant when it is much better used with a shotgun approach against hundreds or thousands in the form of mandatory minimums?

Posted by: George | Nov 2, 2007 12:37:15 AM

This is even worse that it at first appeared. The age of consent in Ohio is 16. If the "girl" was almost 15 when they first started chatting and it took a year before the meet, there is a strong possibility the lawyer thought she as 16 or very soon would be and there is another possibility there was no sex talk until very recently. There is also a strong possibility that he planned to wait until she was 16 and only wanted to meet her at the Statehouse. That would make the crime adultery and nothing more (no pornography charges).

As the above Cicchini and Rush article makes clear, cops lie. The lawyer wisely refused to comment, which means the damage could be done before we discover the truth.

This may turn out to be a good test case to get a ruling against law enforcement trying cases in the media. There is plenty of case law that could support that argument.

Posted by: George | Nov 2, 2007 3:23:22 PM

Thank you so much for posting this amazing article. We are spending a lot of money and resources to ensure that the public knows that the Sex Offender Registries are full of multiple holes and errors. We do push cases to the media, and in the State of Utah, we have multiple trial transcripts of defendants who have been wrongly accused, computer systems that do not inter connect etc.

Again, Thank You

Robert Paisola
The Sex Offender Chronicles, An Advocacy and Media Service

Posted by: Robert Paisola | Nov 6, 2007 9:51:19 AM

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