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Crime The Courts The Internet Technology

Federal Appeals Court Says Sex Offender's Computer Ban Unfair 478

Posted by timothy
from the in-prison-or-out-should-be-the-rule dept.
crimeandpunishment writes "A federal appeals court says a 30-year computer restriction for a convicted sex offender was too stiff a punishment. The man, who was caught in an Internet sex sting, had been ordered not to own or even use a computer." The D.C. Circuit Court's opinion in the case against Mark Wayne Russell is available as a PDF; slightly longer coverage from the Courthouse News Service.
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Federal Appeals Court Says Sex Offender's Computer Ban Unfair

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  • Will hackers also be able to get computers back as well? as some of them have been banned as well.

    • Doubt it. A hacker's crime essentially requires the use of a computer. They couldn't commit it without one. A sex offender COULD potentially use a computer for nefarious ends, but his/her crime likely goes well beyond a computer. Big difference.
  • Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KingAlanI (1270538) on Friday April 02, 2010 @08:32PM (#31711554) Homepage Journal

    As much as I want to see guilty people get punished, things like this that are a de facto sort of life sentence (even after release from jail) don't make sense either.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sparx139 (1460489)
      Agreed. Do people who commit mail fraud get banned from using the postal service?
      As terrible as the crime is, this was WAY too overzealous.
      This needs a suddenoutbreakofcommonsense tag.
    • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by stonewallred (1465497) on Friday April 02, 2010 @08:40PM (#31711598)
      I have a friend who went to prison for armed robbery and a 2cd degree sex offense. He made the agent at an insurance company give him the cash, then had her go into the bathroom, disrobe and throw her clothes outside the bathroom door. He did not look, touch or molest her in anyway. They sentenced him to 14 years, which he did 6.5 years and got out. He has been on the sexual offenders list now for over 8 years, and has another 12 to go before he can even petition to be taken off. He is not allowed to pick or drop his son or daughter off at daycare, or school. Not allowed to attend school functions. Can't watch his son play t-ball. And can't get a decent job that does not involve backbreaking labor, when he has the educational credits to graduate and get a CPA if he went back to college for 2 semesters. Oops, can't go to college because all the ones around here have daycare centers on campus, which means he is not allowed on school grounds. Makes me glad I just robbed, stole and shot people, along with slinging drugs, guns and explosives. Because once I got off federal and state parole, I can go anywhere and do anything just about. And what I can not do is because of peoples' attitudes, not statutorily defined.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by maxume (22995)

        CPAs aren't so hard to find that I can't go out and find one with no felony conviction record.

    • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dbet (1607261) on Friday April 02, 2010 @09:27PM (#31711952)

      As much as I want to see guilty people get punished

      I agree and all, and I know I'll get flamed for this, but the guy was found guilty of trying to meet a 13 year old for consensual sex. I realize 13 is young, but he's not an inherent danger to society like say, someone who committed a few armed robberies. Seriously... if he succeeded with an actual 13 year old, it would hardly be some kind of shocking tragedy. And even though I agree with the law and that 13 is too young, the "punishment" for these kinds of crimes could be some counseling.

      The idea that we've got federal agents working to find these people and expose them is kind of pathetic. Who is safer? If your 13 year old is open to the possibility of sex, they will probably find a way to do it, and someone to do it with.

      Standard disclaimer: I agree that what the guy did was wrong, I just consider him as much of a danger to society as someone who litters.

      • by X0563511 (793323)

        YOU'RE NOT THINKING OF THE CHILDREN!

        Guards! Arrest this swine! Send him to "reeducation!"

      • by beckett (27524)

        If your 13 year old is open to the possibility of sex, they will probably find a way to do it, and someone to do it with.

        This isn't boy and girl meeting for milkshakes at the mall: An adult would clearly have influence and power over a 13 year old in this relationship. There's also a big difference between a 13 year old curious about sex, and a 13 year old being manipulated by an adult to have sex. By trying to meet for sex, he's long crossed the boundary of contemplation and into attempted molestation. I'm sure he claimed that it was his first time and boy did he learn his lesson.

        i'm not sure i can simply equate contact

      • by cdrguru (88047)

        Here is the problem - some pedophiles (or perhaps more nicely put "underage sex enthusiasts") have no problem with rather forcibly non-consensual sex often ending with murdering the "witness". Others have no interest in this and would be soely interested in apparently consensual sex. I say apparently because the people in question are considered incapable of consent.

        I don't have much information on the "crossover" between the two groups, but I am pretty sure that it happens. So how do you tell the differ

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ZekoMal (1404259)
          So...shouldn't we put rapists on the same sex offender list, then? All of them are non-consensual, many of them murder their witness. Rapists aren't put to death in prison, which means they could just as easily go back at it. How do you tell the difference between someone who just wants to fuck another adult and someone who wants to fuck then murder another adult?

          Just playing devil's advocate. As an aside, most teenagers start having sex at 14, 15, 16 years of age with other teenagers. Chances are all of

  • by Gothmolly (148874) on Friday April 02, 2010 @08:32PM (#31711556)

    Are computers now so ubiquitous, and potentially so broadly defined, that they're a necessity? Is an Android phone a computer? What about your Tivo? Is banning someone from a computer restraint of trade these days?

    • by mark-t (151149) <markt@@@lynx...bc...ca> on Friday April 02, 2010 @08:36PM (#31711576) Journal
      Personally, I would think that the answer to all of those questions is yes. I have no qualms with him being punished, but I think that this sort of ban is stupid... they might as well just throw him in jail.
      • The idea that you'd rather be in jail than live without a computer may only be insightful outside the slashdot crowd.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by AK Marc (707885)
          The idea that you'd rather be in jail than live without a computer may only be insightful outside the slashdot crowd.

          "Computer" under a strict definition, would result in a life similar to jail. I couldn't operate my thermostat to control the temperature in my home, use any form of entertainment other than a book (no CDs, DVDs, TVs, etc.), and driving a new car would be banned as well. Though a carbureted car without a clock or radio might be ok. When you take the definition of "computer" to be any gen
    • by Tim C (15259)

      Is an Android phone a computer?

      You can run arbitrary apps on it, so yes it is.

      What about your Tivo?

      Hard drive/permanent storage device, interprets input data (TV signals, EPG, etc) - I'd say yes, it's a single-purpose computer.

      Is banning someone from a computer restraint of trade these days?

      I wouldn't say it's a restraint of trade - though depending on how you define computer ("an electronic machine which is used for storing, organizing and finding words, numbers and pictures, for doing calculations and for

      • by GiMP (10923) on Friday April 02, 2010 @08:56PM (#31711722)

        What is scary for those convicted of such crimes is that computing devices are so ubiquitous that they're being integrated into common devices such as phones and televisions. An increasing number of televisions and content provider set-top boxes allow apps for access to twitter, facebook, instant messengers, etc.

        Furthermore, essential services which used to be "offline" are now, effectively, online. Landlines and television are now provided to millions over IP. For those banned from computers and internet, I imagine the growth of technology will make it impossible for them to comply with their restrictions, either forcing a change of law and/or sentencing, or shoving these people back into jail due to inescapable consequences of the moving technology landscape.

  • by Myji Humoz (1535565) on Friday April 02, 2010 @08:35PM (#31711572)
    Pedophiles who contact their victims over phone aren't banned from ever using a phone, yet apparently some judge thought it would be a good idea to prevent a system engineer of 10 years (from the article) from using a computer. A three judge panel concluded that "it is often necessary to use a computer to apply for a job, including at McDonald's and PETCO."

    Why the heck do we have judges who are so out of touch with reality making these sorts of mistakes? If the guy can't use a computer and really wanted to meet kids online, what's to stop him from getting an iPhone or a Blackberry? Justice isn't about revenge, it's about upholding the law and meting out punishment and forcing rehabilitation onto perpetrators. Along the way it became about taking someone off the streets for a time while teaching them the best way to commit crimes and not get called. (It's called jail). And now, we've moved onto some judges literally telling criminals that even when they're not in jail, they can't be a part of modern society at all? [sarcasm] That'll work really well to keep pedos from kids [/sarcasm]
  • I'm pretty sure that there was some ruling in a lesser court that basically said that the internet is a right, not a privilege. At least, that's what the language was alluding too, and even talking in the media that way. But of course when you commit a crime you loose all your rights, right? Nope, you serve time and then get them back either fully or under some form of monitoring, such as having to check in with a parole officer or participating in group sessions. we always seem to want to especially crucif
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by icebraining (1313345)

      I'm pretty sure that there was some ruling in a lesser court that basically said that the internet is a right, not a privilege.

      Walking free is also a right, yet many people get life sentences. That's not really an argument, unless you're from a country like mine, where there a no life sentences.

  • Simple. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cosm (1072588) <thecosm3@@@gmail...com> on Friday April 02, 2010 @08:47PM (#31711652)
    Unlike receiving a DUI conviction and losing your license, while you are at the helm of your computer you do not risk careening into the other lane and killing a bus full of people. The computer is just a utility, not the vector.

    The computer doesn't do the molesting, molester's do the molesting. The computer is one utility of many. If we start piecemeal restricting people from the things that could be used to aid in causing harm, what will we have left? Typical America, treating the symptoms, not the problems.

    Props to the appeals court for finally realizing this stupidity.
    • by X0563511 (793323)

      I especially love the pattern of:
      crime + computer = DOUBLE PLUS UN-GOOD CRIME

      I mean, come on. Use the laws, precedents, and sentencing guidelines we already have. I just don't get why (aside from financial crimes) computers make judges and lawyers froth at the mouth.

      (financial crimes - yea - you can effect a VERY LARGE amount of people. but still, even in these cases... a bit extreme)

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by LanMan04 (790429)

      Typical America, treating the symptoms, not the problems.

      There's a lot more money to be made suppressing symptoms than there is to be made solving problems. Go go capitalism! /barf

  • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Friday April 02, 2010 @08:49PM (#31711674) Journal
    OK, no computers? So, No iphone? No Crackberry? No emergency transpoder in his car? No calculator? No video camera? No Digital Audio Converter? WTF?
    • by dwillden (521345)
      Forget the emergency transponder, just plain no Car(it has computers in it). Or using an ATM, or an automatic ticket kiosk (for say mass transit system). Computers are everywhere. His credit cards may even violate that restriction. A very good ruling IMO.
      • Forget the emergency transponder, just plain no Car(it has computers in it). Or using an ATM, or an automatic ticket kiosk (for say mass transit system). Computers are everywhere. His credit cards may even violate that restriction.

        Facilities department where I used to work would keep track of the systems we used. They could count PCs and VT240 terminals (because the 240 had a separate base unit) but for them a VT220 was a "monitor" and not counted. They ignored VAX and Alpha servers and such like.

        Even if this guy gets caught out using an iPhone, he could probably get away with buying an ARM development kit under the heading of "electronics".

        My wife calls her LCD monitor an "computer" and gets confused about why autocad won't run on i

  • It should be possible to redirect all this the anger and popular hatred from pedophiles to sociopaths, and eventually ban them from positions of power as a far greater danger to other people than pedophiles. I don't care how "oppressive" or "undemocratic" the government will have to become to achieve this -- it will be still far superior to the current condition when positions of control, be it in government, business religious organizations, media or organized crime, inevitably end up being occupied by th

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)

      It should be possible to redirect all this the anger and popular hatred from pedophiles to sociopaths

      Sociopaths perform important functions in modern organisations. I don't like it anymore than you do but if the ship is going down somebody has to decide who gets a seat on a lifeboat.

  • The verdict seems like one step towards common sense. Releasing artificially "impaired" individuals into society fails to promote the general welfare. If he can't use a computer, that causes more problems than it solves for the rest of us.

    A bigger step towards common sense would be not releasing, true, hardcore sex offendors back into the general population. "Life in prison" should mean LIFE IN PRISON, for say, a violent rapist.

    The final step towards common sense would be decriminilizing the mere posessi

  • by Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) on Friday April 02, 2010 @09:13PM (#31711864)

    If you beat someone up with a bat, wouldnt it be silly if a court ordered you to stay away from baseball games, sporting good stores, and ban you from every owning a bat again?

  • First off, there is the pretty much proven idea that people that find children as acceptable sex partners (willingly or unwillingly) aren't going to change. Period. Nothing that we know of today will change this.

    The current thinking seems to be that if a child is an acceptable sex partner and they are incapable of providing informed consent that there is no difference between someone that "seduces" a child and one that conks the child over the head, drags them into the bushes and rapes them. Probably kil

  • Car Computer (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jklovanc (1603149) on Friday April 02, 2010 @10:17PM (#31712296)

    One of the main reasons that a vehicle restriction is allowed is that there are alternatives; taxi, bus, bicycle, walk etc. What are the alternatives to computers? With a computer ban there is no possibility of any white collar job. Find one where you do not have to at lest read email.

    Even finding a job at all would be a problem. The first thing an employment agency does is point one toward a computer and say "Do a job search". How many initial interviews include computer based testing? Many blue collar jobs require one to use a computer for time sheet entry.

    By restricting a someone's employment opportunity severely there is only one means of survival; crime. Se we take a paedophile and push him towards a life of further crime. That is not rehabilitation.

  • TFA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Miseph (979059) on Friday April 02, 2010 @11:08PM (#31712576) Journal

    If you're going to RTFA, read the actual opinion. It's in Jurisprech (a dialect of legalese), but if you can wade through it it's actually quite enlightening as to not only how sentencing works in this country (it is both more and less arbitrary and subjective than most people believe), but also to the work judges do in balancing competing needs. It's actually a pretty good read, and at 22 pages (with lots of whitespace and a rigid formatting convention that most C programmers would envy, opinions are not typographically dense) not even all that long... especially given that there are 2 concurring opinions and a thorough introduction.

    Oddly enough, the judiciary, who are without a doubt the most lawyerish branch of government, also tend to write the most readable laws (and yes, their opinions ARE law... that's neither un-Constitutional nor new).

  • by mykos (1627575) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @01:12AM (#31713284)
    I am of the opinion that if you restrict someone to a life of poverty--punishing them in a way that guarantees that they can't get virtually any straight job--you will create a lifetime criminal. We need to have a solid system of re-entry after someone has paid their debt to society, and do as much as we can to help them become productive people.

    Think about who is paying the cost of making sure someone a criminal for life...that's gotta hurt the tax wallet.

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