The Index-Journal from Greenwood, South Carolina on August 28, 2005 · Page 60
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The Index-Journal from Greenwood, South Carolina · Page 60

Greenwood, South Carolina
Issue Date:
Sunday, August 28, 2005
Page 60
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Page 60 article text (OCR)

I Sunday, August 28, 2005 20 - The Index-Journal, Greenwood, SC. Internet predators face new challengers: the attorney general and local police OX) w ffi C! 13 A HI u i g If Jf ii mmm Kis c - " H T - 10,. . " " ' it t YoungGal13: I'm lonely! ft H Coolguy: Me, tooj YOUn9Ga,13!' hate this town Co'9uy: know . what you mean Yon9Gal13. wish WlSh,Co'UEAVEr, L - 9UV: Where do Vu live? enforcement agencies have joined the State Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The ICAC task force partnerships with local law enforcement agencies provide that the Attorney General's Office will assist with federal Internet crimes, funding, training and resources. The local law enforcement agencies agree to conduct the undercover Internet predator sting operations. Also, the Attorney General's Office will prosecute the Internet predator cases with the local solicitor prosecuting other child exploitation crimes. "The resources available through the ICAC Task Force as a blessing for prosecuting complex Internet-driven cases," Seventh Circuit Solicitor Trey Gowdy said. "Thanks to the strong new Internet solicitation law in this state, authorities can protect children even better from online predators who want to harm them." THE STATE'S Internet crimes task force is part of a federal Department of Justice Internet Crimes Against Children network that assists state and local law enforcement agencies in combatting child cyber enticement and child exploitation. The Attorney General's Office operates the task force in partnership with the State Law Enforcement Division and the South Carolina Computer Crime Center. Internet safety NetSafeKids suggests: Maintain an open dialog with your child. Don't play the blame game, but instead encourage open, honest discussion about what a child has seen or done on the Web. Respect children's concerns or frustration over your involvement in their surfing activities. Balance your concerns about exposure to inappropriate or harmful things on the Internet against the benefits gained from exposure to positive things on the Internet. grew out of the National Academies report, "Youth, Pornography & the Internet." By VIC MacDONALD Index-Journal regional editor Law enforcement agencies and solicitor's offices across the state have spent the summer joining the S.C. Attorney General's effort to combat the newest type of sexual predator. Internet predators are targeted by a law that Attorney General Henry McMaster championed last year in the General Assembly. Authorizing the State Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force to tackle these hightech crimes, the law makes it a crime to stalk, lure or entice a child for abduction or sexual assault. Also, this month McMaster joined representatives of the state school resource officer's association to unveil the NetS-martz. Workshop, as an interactive, educational safety resource to teach kids and teens how to stay safe on the Internet. School resource officers are being trained on how to use NetSmartz 30 minute Internet safety presentations, created in partnership with the ICAC to address the problem of Internet predators. NETSMARTZ was created by the National center for Missing & Exploited Children and Boys & Girls Clubs of America. "Using the new Internet predator law, our undercover stings have been very successful in targeting these monsters before they can target our children." McMaster said. The potential for teens, and even younger children, to be lured into potentially dangerous situations was dramatized this month as a Newberry County teen was reported missing. Sheriff Lee Foster said Internet records were used to track the 15-year-old, who was gone from her Prosperity home Aug.3-10. "I understand that it must have seemed like a long wait for the family." Foster said, "but we were forced to wait on the Internet provider to furnish the information we had subpoenaed. Once that happened we were able to quickly understand what was going on and where she was." THE GIRL'S disappearance apparently stemmed from conversations in an Internet chat room. Computer software can assist ' "v,l " - - - J- ' - - The state's Internet crimes task force is part of a federal Depart- frequent Internet chat rooms where children and teenagers interment of Justice Internet Crimes Against Children network that act Sexual predators often use log-in names that mask their real assists state and local law enforcement agencies in combatting child identity and present themselves as a young person or as an older cyber enticement and child exploitation. Sexual predators often person who sympathizes with young people. a . r. Trautman, a founder of the Law Enforcement Television Network. CLOSER TO HOME, parents in Spartanburg, Aiken. York and Florence counties have resources available through the sheriff's and solicitor's offices there to deal with the Internet predator threat. These law public branding only makes it harder for sex offenders to reintegrate into society. "I don't see any evidence that it has any impact," Froehling says, "other than to make the gap-toothed rednecks of the world feel better about themselves." Carolyn Atwell-Davis, director of legislative affairs for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, says what happened in the Claxton case was "dangerously close" to vigilantism. "The fact of the matter is, they will live in our communities," she says. "There aren't enough spaces in prison. ... So we must look at the best approaches to dealing, with this instead of giving in to hysteria." Less than a week after Claxton's death, sheriff's officers fanned out across the county with fliers warning people of sex offenders in their neighborhoods so citizens wouldn't again take matters into their own hands. Tina Teegarden was shocked when Lt. Fred Chisholm showed up at her horse farm and told her the 36-year-old man who'd recently moved in next door was on probation for indecent assault on a minor. While lamenting Claxton's suicide. Teegarden approves of the leafleting. "I deal with animals all' the time," she says, "and we castrate them." Officials say whoever created the flier tampered with a state form, a first-degree misdemeanor. Dean has processed the unauthorized Claxton fliers for fingerprints and intends to prosecute. Chuck Claxton was initially eager to have someone held accountable for the fliers. But now he'd just as soon they let it go. "I forgive whoever did it," he says, choking back tears. "You meant well. I guess you meant well. You didn't know him " S resource Cyber Tipline, where parents can report suspicious andor illegal activity that they or their child encounters. The National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families operates to provide information for families to determine their own Internet filter needs. At, the says. "A little worse for wear, even slower than he was before." In recent months, things began looking up. After years of fruitless applications. Medicaid had finally authorized a motorized three-wheeled scooter for Claxton. Whereas before a trip to the mailbox left him exhausted, he could now ride around the neighborhood without asking his parents for help. "He was so happy." his father says. Until April 1 8. Claxton and his mother were returning from the grocery that afternoon when they noticed a bright yellow poster on a telephone pole near their home. On it were his mug shot, his description, address and arrest history. Claxton had long since come to grips with his offender status. His parents say he would often volunteer the information to new acquaintances. Following the high-profile killings of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford and 1 3-year-old Sarah Lunde, Sheriff Ed Dean instituted a program of monthly face-to-face visits with all registered offenders. Deputies had checked in on Claxton in late March; the visit went well. But seeing the poster made him livid. "Why are they doing this?" he asked his p;irents. "I don't bother anybody." They ripped it down. But the following day, Claxton saw another flier while riding his scooter down the road this one with the "CHILD RAPIST' warning. "That's not true. Mom," Jane Claxton recalls him shouting. Distraught, Claxton called the sheriff's office, concerned that his neighbors were "out to possibly harm him" and saying he "just wanted to end it all." Claxton was involuntarily committed, but was released after about 1 2 hours with a prescription i Con,. parents in monitoring their computer-savvy kids' Internet communications. USA Today Cyberspeak columnist Fdward C. Baig in a column "Keeping Internet predators at bay" reviews three filteringmonitoring software programs - Cyber-Patrol, Net nanny 5 and Predator Guard. Also, the column lists as a an affidavit. Claxton's lawyer remembers him as slow and unable to focus, though not legally incompetent. Convinced that he could get life if convicted. Claxton pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of first-degree child molestation and was sentenced to 27 months in prison. Following his release. Claxton had twice-monthly sessions with a therapi.-.!. "He has repeatedly emphasized the importance of avoiding contact with children," psychologist Sally Wing wrote to corrections officials in 1994. "His offense appeared to be opportunistic, rather than one involving a cyclical pattern of offending." In late 2001, the family moved-to Florida. They bought a spacious stucco and stone ranch house just outside Ocala and created an apartment for their son. connected to the main house by a door through the kitchen. There he could play his Alabama and Shania Twain CDs. watch his favorite baseball player. Ken Griffey Jr., and indulge his love of wolves. He had wolf blankets, wolf throw pillows, wolf paintings, even a miniature wolf fountain. Despite constant struggles with alcohol and drugs. Chuck Claxton says his son was a "good kid" with a kind heart. Claxton didn't make many friends in the neighborhood, but he met people through Internet chat rooms. Starved for attention, he was often Uiken advantage of. "He'd buy them dinner. He'd buy them beer. He'd buy them anything they wanted," his father says. "Anything to fit in." But even that wasn't enough. In January, he overdosed on alcohol, pills and cocaine. He was in a coma for a week. "We thought he was brain dead, but he came out of it," his father National Center for Missing & Fxploited Children has featured sections for teens, "Don't Believe the Type" and for parents, "Help Delete Online Predators." And the site has information for a relevant book, "Protecting Your Kids from Internet Predators - 81 Ways to Keep Them Safe," by Neal E. for anxiety medication. In the meantime, more fliers had begun showing up in neighborhood newspaper boxes. That evening, a friend came over to comfort Claxton. What the Claxtons didn't know was that the friend had taken their son to buy a half-gallon bottle of scotch and that after he fell asleep, she had left. On April 21, around 6:30 a.m.. Chuck Claxton went to make sure his son was getting ready; he had an appointment to be fitted with new braces for his painfully twisted ankles. He found his son lying on his right side, fully clothed. "He was cold." On the day Claxton called the sheriff's office, County Commissioner Randy Harris introduced a proposal to put up metal signs in neighborhoods where sexual offenders and predators live. In their anger and frustration, the Claxtons lashed out at Harris, accusing him of whipping up a kind of sexual "McCarthyism" that contributed to their son's death. Harris a three-term Republican with a Christian flag on his desk, the Ten Commandments on his office wall and a "Choose Life" license plate on his pickup says Claxton's death was tragic. But his compassion extends only so far. "If anyone construes him a victim, he's a victim of his own circumstance," he says, citing Claxton's long-ago crimes in Tacoma. "I believe that Mr. Claxton had prior emotional and psychological issues that had far more to do with his death than these signs." But attorney Antoni Froehling, who represented Claxton in his criminal case, finds it all t(x foreseeable. Froehling has a problem with a system that outs sex offenders but not burglars, drug dealers or murderers, and he believes this Ifind of QxNET connection Victims assistance contacts These organizations in Greenwood and the Lakelands, state and nation provide victims ' and offenders with assistance: The Sexual Trauma and Counseling CenterThe Child's Place, Greenwood. (864) 227-1623 MEG's House Shelter for Abused Women and Children, Greenwood. (864) 227-1890 or 1-800-447-7992 The Greenwood County Sheriff's Office Victim Assistance, Greenwood. (864) 942-8628 The Greenwood County Sheriff's Office, Greenwood. (864) 942-8600 . B.The Greenwood Police Department Victim Assistance, Greenwood. (864) 942-8628 The Greenwood Police Department, Greenwood. (864) 942-8405 The South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assualt, Columbia., 1-800-260-9293 or (803) 256-2900 The South Carolina Victim Assistance Network, Columbia. (803) 750-1200 or 1-888-852-1900 The Association for the Treatment of Sex Abusers, Oregon., (503) 643-1023 Megan Nicole Kanka Foundation, New Jersey at (609) 890-2201 The National Domestic Violence Hotline. NOTIFICATION Continued from page 2 And Gov. Jeb Bush signed legislation allowing lifelong electronic monitoring of certain sexual predators. In ail this flurry, Claxton's suicide has cast a gray shadow over what to many is a black-and-white issue. It has raised the question of how far people should be allowed to go to protect their children from sex offenders and whether a sex offender can ever fully pay his . debt to society. Marion County is nestled in north-central Florida, halfway between Orlando and Gainesville. It is perhaps best known as the home of some of the nation's top thoroughbred horse farms. It is also home to 550 of the state's nearly 30.000 registered sex offenders. One of them was Clovis Ivan Claxton III. The middle of three boys, Claxton was bom in Miami. His father was serving with the Army in Vietnam, so his grandfather gave him the name he had given his second son. The father went by Chuck. The boy preferred Chuck-ie. A flu vaccination at age 10 led to a viral infection that put the avid Cub Scout into a coma. He awoke to a world of wheelchairs and leg braces, of seizures and epilepsy and no bladder control a world. Jane and Chuck Claxton say, in which mentally he would be forever a boy. In 1991 , prosecutors in Tacoma. Wash., charged the then-24-year-old Claxton with two counts of first-degree child rape. Police say Claxton took his caretaker's 6-year-old daughter up to the attic on several occasions, had oral sex with her and forced her to perform oral sex on him. "He told her it was a secret and not to tell," prosecutors wrote in

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