Two defendants arrested during “Operation End Game,” a multi-agency effort targeting and arresting adult perpetrators in the Athens-area seeking sex with children, were sentenced to prison, said Charles “Charlie” Peeler, the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia.
On Thursday, October 22, U.S. District Judge C. Ashley Royal sentenced Michael Turner, 48, of Columbus, Mississippi, to 46 months in prison to be followed by ten years of supervised release after pleading guilty to one count of use of facilities in interstate and foreign commerce to transmit information about a minor. Morgan Kelby Andrews, 28, of Maxeys, Georgia, was sentenced to serve 20 months in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release after pleading guilty to one count of use of facilities in interstate and foreign commerce to transmit information about a minor. Following their prison terms, both defendants will have to register as a sex offender. There is no parole in the federal system.
“We will never cease working to protect the welfare of Georgia’s children, and we will continue to bring the full force of the law against sexual predators,” said U.S. Attorney Charlie Peeler. “Operation End Game is one of many investigations here in Georgia tracking down online predators and bringing them to justice. I want to thank our law enforcement partners both for their work in this operation and for their unyielding efforts to safeguard Georgia’s children.”
“Operation End Game” was a three-day proactive effort centered in Athens, Georgia in July 2019 to arrest adults communicating with children on-line and then traveling to meet them for the purpose of having sex. The cases were investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia, the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit (CEACC), the Athens-Clarke County Police Department (ACCPD), the FBI and the Athens-Clarke County District Attorney’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Lyndie Freeman is prosecuting the case for the Government.
A Mexican national who attempted to lure a young teen for sexual activity has been sentenced to more than six years in federal prison.
Alvaro Hernandez, 36, of Bristol, Ga., a citizen of Mexico illegally present in the United States, was sentenced to 76 months in federal prison by U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood after pleading guilty to Attempted Coercion and Enticement, said Bobby L. Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. Herndandez will be required to register as a sex offender and to serve 10 years of supervised release after completion of his prison sentence.
There is no parole in the federal system.
“Alvaro Hernandez was enjoying his illegal access to the American dream, living and working in rural Georgia, when he tried to pay for sex with someone he believed was a child,” said U.S. Attorney Christine. “Our law enforcement partners helped protect our community from this predator by intercepting him during the perverted attempt.”
According to court documents and testimony, in March 2019, investigators with the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and the Camden County Sheriff’s Office, along with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, conducted a joint operation targeting child predators operating near Submarine Base Kings Bay. Hernandez, who responded to an internet message purporting to be from a 14-year-old offering sex for money, was arrested after he drove from his residence in Pierce County, Ga., and arrived at what he believed was the teen’s residence in St. Mary’s, Ga.
“This sentencing should serve as a warning that sexual predators who target vulnerable children will be fully investigated and prosecuted,” said NCIS Southeast Field Office Special Agent in Charge Thomas Cannizzo. “NCIS is grateful to the Camden County Sheriff’s Office for its continued partnership in keeping communities where Navy and Marine Corps families live safe.”
The case was prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Katelyn Semales and Assistant U.S. Attorney and Organized Crime Drug Task Force Coordinator Marcela C. Mateo.
A bill proposed in the Georgia legislature would eliminate the statute of limitations established for prosecutions of rape and other sexual offenses.
House Bill 1069 was filed this week by State Representatives Scott Holcomb, Debbie Buckner, Rick Williams, Josh McLaurin, Miriam Paris, and Jasmine Clark and would address existing code sections that prohibit the prosecution of rape, aggravated sodomy, and aggravated sexual battery after a certain number of years. All three crimes are felonies.
Statutes of limitation were put in place in part to discourage convictions based on “unreliable witness testimony,” including memories of events that occurred years in the past.
Under current Georgia law, the statute of limitations for rape, aggravated sodomy, and aggravated sexual battery prosecutions is capped from the time the crime occurred, unless DNA evidence is available to establish the the identity of the accused. In the cases of established identity, there is no statute of limitations and cases can commence at any time. Without the DNA evidence, however, rape cases are capped at fifteen years while aggravated sexual battery and aggravated sodomy cases are capped at four years, unless the victim was under the age of 18 at the time of the crime, in which cases the statute of limitations is seven years.
HB 1069 strikes the current statutes from the code altogether and ensures the three offenses can prosecuted at any time, regardless of the presence of DNA evidence.
The measure would only apply to those crimes which occur on or after July 1, 2020, when the act would take effect if approved by the legislature.
It is difficult to compare Georgia’s statute of limitations across states because states don’t always classify crimes in the same manner and some states may impose different statutes for degrees of offenses (i.e. – first degree, second degree, etc). A number of comparative tools and resources are available on the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, website.
According to RAINN, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming are the only states in the nation to have removed the statute of limitations for all felony sex crime offenses.
HB 1069 has been assigned to the House Judiciary Non-civil Committee. You can read it below.
Tyrique F. Williams, a former officer with Georgia’s Department of Community Supervision, has been charged with accepting bribe payments from a parolee in exchange for allowing the parolee to avoid wearing an ankle monitor, taking polygraph examinations, and attending treatment classes.
“Officers from Georgia’s Department of Community Supervision serve our citizens faithfully and honorably every day,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. “Williams, however, allegedly violated both his oath of office as a law enforcement officer and the law when he traded his integrity for money.”
“As citizens, we place our safety and trust in the hands of the law enforcement officers sworn to protect us. When officers betray that trust, they place the community and their fellow law enforcement officers in danger. The DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office is committed to working hand in hand with its partners to ensure those that betray their badge are identified and held accountable for their actions,” said DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston.
“The reputation of law enforcement officers is one of their most valuable tools. The alleged illegal actions committed by Mr. Williams are a disservice to our agency and its upstanding employees who take their oath of office to heart. DCS has zero tolerance for misconduct or illegal activity. Despite the situation being unfortunate and regrettable, DCS was happy to assist in the investigation and will continue to partner with investigative authorities to remove the likes of Williams from our noble profession,” said Racheal B. Peters, Director of Public Affairs for the Georgia Department of Community Supervision.
According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges, and other information presented in court: the Georgia’s Department of Community Supervision is responsible for the probation and parole supervision of over 200,000 adult felony offenders and certain juvenile offenders.
In the fall of 2014, Williams began working as a probation officer with the Department of Community Supervision. From 2016 to 2018, the Department of Community Supervision managed a parolee (“Parolee”), who had previously served 14 years in prison for a sexual offense. While on parole, the Parolee completed a number of courses and treatment classes and the Parolee never incurred a parole violation. Nevertheless, once Williams became responsible for the supervision of the Parolee, Williams told the Parolee that additional conditions and restrictions would be placed on the Parolee.
On April 19, 2018, Williams allegedly visited the Parolee’s residence and displayed a hand written note reading in substance: $3,000, no polygraph, no ankle bracelet, no supervision fee, yes or no? After reading the note, the Parolee told Williams that he would pay him the $3,000. The Parolee then contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) and reported Williams’ extortionate demand.
On April 27, 2018, in a meeting recorded by the FBI, the Parolee met with Williams at the Georgia Department of Community Supervision in Decatur, Georgia. During the meeting, Williams led the Parolee to a secluded area of the building, where the Parolee paid Williams $1,000 in cash. Williams told the Parolee that in exchange for a second $3,500 bribe payment, Williams would not require the Parolee to wear an ankle monitor or submit to a polygraph examination.
On May 4, 2018, in a meeting recorded by the FBI, the Parolee met with Williams at a fast food restaurant in Stone Mountain, Georgia. In the bathroom of the fast food restaurant, the Parolee paid Williams $3,500 in cash.
Notably, after the Parolee paid the two bribe payments, Williams did not make the Parolee take a polygraph examination, wear an ankle bracelet, or attend any additional treatment classes
Tyrique F. Williams, 28, of Atlanta, has been charged via criminal information with one count of Extortion under the Color of Official Right. Defendants who are charged by a criminal information, typically plead guilty shortly after being arraigned.
This case is being investigated by the FBI, DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office, and the Georgia’s Department of Community Supervision.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeffrey W. Davis, Chief of the Public Integrity and Special Matters Section, and Leanne M. Marek are prosecuting the case.
This is a press release from the US Department of Justice.
The following article is an opinion piece and reflects the views of only the author and not necessarily those of AllOnGeorgia.
The City of Ringgold in northwest Georgia has enacted an emergency ordinance to address sex offenders living under a bridge in the community.
The council adopted an “urban camping” ordinance Monday night which, according toThe Times Free Press, bans “tents, “other temporary structures,” clothes, sleeping bags, cookware or luggage from public property.” The ordinance deals with homelessness generally, but is directed at those with criminal pasts.
Councilman Larry Black brought the idea forward after he learned that five men living under a bridge were sex offenders recently released from prison.”We have no way of knowing what that person is doing, as far as our safety concerns of our children, at 3, 4 o’clock in the morning, when we’re very vulnerable,” he’s quoted saying in the paper. A citizen was quoted voicing concerns over fishing safety near the bridge with the homeless using the restroom in such close proximity.
The new ordinance comes with a written warning to vacate within 24 hours and is then followed by tickets with $1,000 fines, 60 days in jail, and orders for community service.
Before we go any further, let’s first be clear that 99.9% of people who are homeless cannot afford to pay a $1,000 fine and many homeless people would prefer to spend a night in jail, especially as the winter months approach.
Now, to the merits of the ordinance….
The emergency ordinance was put in place to allow the council time to properly advertise and pass a more permanent ordinance. As an advocate for transparency and accountability in government, I can’t say that I’m a fan of this practice. Usually, emergency ordinances are reserved for natural disasters or extenuating circumstances of a manmade disaster. Five men under a bridge is neither an emergency nor a disaster, and it isn’t something that can’t wait 30 days to be done correctly. But there is more substance to discuss than the ‘how.’
Why are these men living under a bridge?
Arguably, it is because laws on the books restrict where sex offenders can live and a criminal background that can often be a hurdle for employment.
This is a conversation that partially reared its ugly head when reports of cities and counties requiring sex offenders to report to a secure location on Halloween came to light. “What to do” with sex offenders is understandably an emotional topic, and while there are a number of people who would love to see those who commit sexual offenses be locked away forever, our current system doesn’t allow for that. So as long as these offenders are being released into society, we have to discuss what to do with them.
Since 2008, state law has prohibited convicted sex offenders from working or living within 1,000 feet of a church, school, park, or other place where children gather. It doesn’t seem outrageous until you consider places like Catoosa County where only two apartment complexes meet the standard. In metro areas, more housing is available, but if you concentrate so many offenders to metro areas, you’ll eventually run into the same problem — not enough housing.
Whether you are talking about a metro area or a rural area, not enough housing will always lead to homelessness. Find me a community where there isn’t homelessness, while we’re on the topic.
So, back to the ordinance.
Do we want these convicts living under a bridge or do we want them gainfully employed somewhere and contributing to society? Do we want them focused on rebuilding and re-entering regular life or do we want them bored, living outdoors, and willing to do whatever it takes to survive? Is the end goal to eradicate sex offenders from a city, or county, or state as a whole? Does anyone think that’s financially or practically possible, short of literally rounding them up and taking them elsewhere?
When we are talking about issues as serious as this, we can’t talk in wide platitudes of what should happen in a perfect world or if you were ruling on the bench. We have to talk about practicality of what makes sense and what can actually be enforced. Does this ordinance meet that threshold?
And just like every other law, this one has unintended consequences.
The city is criminalizing homelessness. The wide net will capture those who aren’t sex offenders, or even convicts at all, and put them in a position to have a criminal background when they otherwise would not. With regard to the homeless who don’t have a criminal past — is the goal to tell them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get back on their feet as long as they do it somewhere else?
By criminalizing homelessness, those who are out on parole or probation will be reincarcerated if they are arrested. If that is the end goal, the City of Ringgold should just acknowledge that the method is simply to make an offender ‘someone else’s problem.’
Another thing to consider is whether or not something like this can hold up in court. The same ordinance passed in Grants Pass, Oregon as is working its way through the courts right now under constitutional right violations – specifically the 8th and 14th Amendments. In September, a federal court of appeals ruled that the Constitution forbids cities from prosecuting homeless persons for sleeping in public places when they have no alternative.
I won’t claim to know the proximity of this bridge in Ringgold to children and I won’t even claim to have all the answers. But I can assert that this typeof ordinance is NOT the answer. One of the men under the bridge has reportedly lived there for decades, without incident. Pretending to be ‘tough on crime,’ pro-children, and anti-sex offender when you’re really just ‘pro-cycle of poverty’ is disingenuous, especially when courts have already ruled on the matter.
The City of Ringgold doesn’t know what the answer is, either. As evidenced by those voicing concerns over the ability to track homeless sex offenders, the cleanliness of fishing sources, the dangers of cooking under a bridge, and any of the other reasons mustered to try to tip the scales of public opinion to fear, it appears that council members and the community in Ringgold may not even know the question.
Georgia’s most controversial Constitutional Amendment proposed on the ballot this November is Marsy’s Law – Amendment 4 – which deals with victims of crime and what rights they have.
The measure is part of a national effort to add additional rights and privileges for victims of crime. It’s named after California college student Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas, who was stalked and killed in 1983 by an ex-boyfriend. It is already codified in state statute. In Georgia, millions have been spent on emotionally-charged television ads in an attempt to sway voters to vote in favor of the Amendment.
One of the greatest criticisms of Amendment 4 is that it’s already a state statute, meaning a formal written enactment of a legislative authority that governs a state. Typically, statutes command or prohibit something, or declare policy. Proponents of Amendment 4 have denied that the provisions in Marsy’s Law are already in Georgia code.
The General Assembly hereby finds and declares it to be the policy of this state that victims of crimes should be accorded certain basic rights just as the accused are accorded certain basic rights.
The code section then goes on to outline various rights, all of which can be seen here, but include the right to ‘reasonable, accurate, and timely notice’ of court proceedings, notice of arrest/release/escape, the right to be heard in court (including plea and sentencing), the right to file an objection, the right to file a written objection, the right to confer with prosecutors, the right to restitution, the right to an unreasonable delay in proceedings, and the right to be treated fairly and with dignity.
That sounds immensely similar to the proposed Constitutional Amendment which allows, upon request, crime victims to have specific rights, including the right to be treated with “fairness, dignity, and respect;” the right to notice of all proceedings involving the alleged criminal; the right to be heard at any proceedings involving that release, plea, or sentencing of the accused; and the right to be informed of their rights. The amendment also explicitly stated that the legislature was able to further define, expand, and provide for the enforcement of the rights.
In fact, the Crime Victim’s Bill of Rights actually seems more expansive than the Constitutional Amendment, providing for restitution and an unreasonable delay in proceedings. Of note is that one of the criticisms from law enforcement, prosecutors, and defense attorneys is that a Constitutional Amendment would actually slow down the proceeding process by ensuring the Constitutional rights provided by victims would be guaranteed, as the process of protecting Constitutional rights is more elaborate and time consuming due to the fact that there is legal and financial recourse for people who have their rights violated.
To take it a step further, per the Georgia code, the section already applies to:
If that’s not enough, OCGA 17-17-5 requires, by use of the words “All victims, wherever practicable, shall be entitled to notification…” of all of the things Marsy’s Law seeks to implement. The only caveat is that the victim must maintain an updated phone number and mailing address with the courts. If someone is so concerned, I don’t feel that’s too much to ask.
In addition to what I’ve already outline, Chapter 17 of Title 17 of the Georgia code outlines a concise list of steps the state is requiredto take to keep victims informed.
And finally, these rights apply to victims, and in the event of the death of the victim, their spouse and/or family members. The Criminal Justice Coordinating Council has even put together a full declaration of victim’s right which details how extensive the Bill of Right’s policy already is, which I’ve included at the bottom of this article.
This Constitutional Amendment would actually provide more rights for victims than it would for anyone else under the law, including the accused which is only exacerbated by the fact that it will be in the Constitution.
This is more about recourse for victims than anything. The state law, which is already in place, that requires notification doesn’t have a pathway for victims to actually gain anything if they are not notified or something happens. This would allow for claims of a violation of their constitutional rights should the court system fail to notify them. It sounds nice, but I still feel strongly that this isn’t the intended purpose of our Constitution.
I’ve written extensively explaining seven other reasons I’m against the Amendment. You can read that below.