Lastmonth, Ohio became the first state to make that wholeinnocent-till-proven-guilty thing optional in its crackdown againstperverts.
The new measure is modeled after Megan's Law, whichrequires convicted sex offenders to register their addresses soneighbors know about the sick bastard down the street.
But this being the Ohio Legislature (motto: Where no idea is too weird)people can now directly lobby judges to place anyone on thesex-offender list -- regardless of whether they've ever been convicted.Proponents say it brilliantly streamlines the justice system byremoving all those pesky rules about demonstrating guilt, etc., whichhave been henceforth decreed "a pain in the ass."
Punch tried to get a better read on the legislature's thinking, butwhen we called committee members who framed the rules, no oneremembered the meeting. (Yes, these are the people charting ourfuture.)
But state Senator Marc Dann has a word for the law: "sham." It wasproposed by Catholic bishops, who needed a way to quiet victims ofclergy abuse andkeep scumbag priests out of prison. That's What Jesus Would Want. Butit comes with an added bonus: If that weird neighbor has been givingyou trouble, simply tell a judge he molested you.
"I would hope people have more respect for the judicial system thanthat," says Dann, who may be committing a felony by using "respect" and"judicial system" in the same sentence. Though he favors lifting thestatute of limitations for sex crimes, the bill may be much ado aboutnothing. "Frankly, I think what's going to happen is that people arejust going to ignore this."
That may already be the case in Columbus. Attorney General Jim Petro did not return calls seeking comment.
Uncle Tomâ€™s red hands
Speaking of weirdness: Say what you want about Secretary of State Uncle Tom Blackwell, but the guy gets an A for effort.
Astate elections law passed in January allows poll workers to demandthat voters not born in the United States prove their citizenship --even if they've been living in America most of their lives.
So a group of foreign-born U.S. citizens, including former First LadyDagmar Celeste, sued Blackwell, claiming the rule violated theirconstitutional rights. But Uncle Tom's reaction was a bit surprising.
Of course it violated the Constitution, he admitted. He even agreedthat the law should be overturned. Unfortunately, Uncle Tom'sabout-face was more like a last-second ass-save. Though he knew the lawwas unconstitutional, his office had already prepared forms for pollworkers to challenge voters' citizenship come November.
"If he thought the law was unenforceable from a constitutionalstandpoint, I don't know why he drafted forms to implement the law,"says elections attorney Jennifer Brunner, who's running to replaceBlackwell as secretary of state. "It's just plain un-American."
While most would agree that only Americans should vote in Americanelections, the law would screw mostly older immigrants, who arrivedhere as children and no longer have their naturalization documents. Asit stands, they will have to prove their citizenship within 10 days ofan election for their votes to count. And since ethnic people tend tovote Democrat, Republican legislators figured it was a nice way tonegate perhaps a few hundred thousand votes.
Among the banished would be a good chunk of aging Clevelanders, not tomention Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis' sisters. The women, whowere born in Greece, arrived here in the 1950s with their parents."They've been here for 50 years, and have raised their families here,and have multiple college degrees," says Rokakis. "They would be turneddown 'cause they can't put their hands on papers that are probably 40years old now.
"In a business that is admittedly filled with people that areduplicitous and known for flip-flopping," he adds, "[Blackwell] reallysets a new standard."
Unless your architectural taste runs toward Shattered Window orBoarded-Up Factory, Cleveland isn't the most scenic city. So when theCensus Bureau recently estimated that some 50,400 people have fledCleveland since 2000, some civic leaders began to rethink ourghetto-fabulous appearance.
Takegraffiti, for example. Councilman Michael Polensek says the gangscrawlings that plague his Collinwood neighborhood make the area looklike "downtown Baghdad." He recently wrote a letter to the mayor'soffice requesting that the city restart a graffiti cleanup program thatdied with Jane Campbell's budget cuts.
Already frustrated by the city's slow response to graffiti -- why act now, when there's so much left to deteriorate?-- Polensek threatened to take matters into his own hands. He wasparticularly upset about graffiti that encourages people to performintimate acts with police.
"Since I cannot get this kind of crap removed," he wrote, "I guess Ineed to go buy a can of spray paint myself and spray 'F-- the East 156Street Gang' signed, 'the Councilman.'"
Now that's what we call Believing in Cleveland.
Perv in the house
In 2004, the University of Akron placed drug informant Richard DaleHarris in Charles Plinton's dorm room. Never mind that Harris was 35,with a lengthy history of theft, domestic violence, and childendangerment. The cops promised him $50 a pop to rat each person whotried to sell him drugs.
Harris,being an enterprising criminal, decided it was way easier to simply lieto police than catch dealers. So he claimed that Plinton sold himdrugs. Though Plinton was found not guilty, he was still kicked out ofschool. He committed suicide in December 2005.
Maybe it's just Punch, but you'd think the school would have learned its lesson.
Unfortunately, its latest misadventure comes in the form of one StanleySmith, hired as a residential assistant for the fall semester. It mightbe safe to say he's unsuited for the role, since he was recentlyindicted for raping and kidnapping a fellow student. His trial beginsSeptember 14.
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