The True Internet Predators Are in the Mug-Shot Extortion Industry

Fortunately, the private sector is proactive where the law fails

A note from Gus:

Being on the sex offender registry isn’t fun. It affects where you can live, ability to get a job, raising a family, and moving past the worst thing you ever did. If being a sex offender isn’t bad enough, most states publicly post the pictures and vital information on sex offenders to their public.

Making matters worse, predatory, spineless vultures have dreamed up a scheme to make money on people’s shame. Websites that publish mugshots and sex offender profiles charge people for their removal, even if that individual was found not guilty, charges were dropped for that crime, or if he/she was removed from sex offender registries.

Sometimes profiles are not removed, even if payment of hundreds of dollars is made. It’s textbook extortion, made legal because this information is public domain via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and protected by the First Amendment.

This makes it nearly impossible for ex-offenders to move past their crime. Lawmakers tow a fine line between charging for extortion and violating First Amendment rights when it comes to public information. However, these predatory sites will punish anybody who questions their motives by sometimes even listing facebook accounts and family information (including addresses) on their front page to invite harassment and even violence.

This article from Forbes, entitled “Payment Providers and Google Will Kill the Mug-Shot Extortion Industry Faster than Lawmakers Can,” details a new move bent on taking this practice off the internets. The article talks of an investigation by New York Times reporter David Segal on the matter (his investigation article is here). Segal spotlighted a few mugshot cases to demonstrate the absurd consequences these mugshot sites have on citizens who deal with them. The ramifications sound very familiar to what registered sex offenders go through, but these people aren’t convicted of crimes and are more palatable to the reader than sex offenders.

Anyway, Segal contacted Google and a bunch of payment processing companies to ask why they supported this type of extortion by providing services to these websites. They’re response was unanimous and against such schemes. All of them have now stopped taking payments for these sites, and Google has implemented an algorithm to tank their web-search SEO. Seems it’s easier to get the private sector to act and cut these sites off at the knees by shutting off funding and burying their queries in the barren wastelands that are past page 1 of Google’s search returns.

Kudos to all involved.

Meet Our Writers: Introducing Gus

FACTS / NU wants to do a better job of engaging the readers of this blog and our other materials. To that end, we have assembled a number of registrants or registrants’ family members who will contribute under pen names. Over the next few days, we will introduce a couple of our new post-writers. Here’s the first:
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From “Gus”:
My name is Gus. Well, not really, but I’m a huge fan of Los Pollos Hermano’s founder so, for the purposes of this blog, I’ll be Gus. This is a blog about issues affecting registered sex offenders in Nebraska. Since I happen to BE a registered sex offender in Nebraska, I’ll be keeping my identity concealed.
While it would be nice to write all my blog posts out in the open, being a sex offender (especially one who speaks openly against the registry) makes me a target for vandalism, harassment, or worse. To avoid more of this unpleasantness, you won’t know who I am.
That said, a little about me: I’m a dad. Yep, I live with and raise kids. Shudder at the thought? Don’t. There are a lot of us in Nebraska who quietly try to move past their offense and raise good ol’ corn-fed, free-range kids.
I work for myself. I could probably get a job if I looked long and hard enough. However, constantly explaining to new people that I’m not a crazy dangerous pedophile-rapist, just a normal guy who made a very stupid decision, gets old. So I don’t do it. I like coming up with ideas, partnering with friends, launching, and moving on. I guess you could say I’m a serial entrepreneur.
Finally, I’m a bona fide expert on the Nebraska Sex Offender Registration Act. I’ve read every word of the law multiple times. I encourage all registrants to dive into the law and read it for themselves, but for those who don’t, I’ll be a resource for tips and tricks to navigating the registry.
Topics I’ll be writing about: parenting tips, travel as a registrants, legal issues affecting registrants, and dealing with law enforcement. If I feel a story is important, I’ll write on that, too, even if it doesn’t fit nicely into one of those categories. Talk to you soon.

Should the Sheriff Abide by the Law?

(Reprinted from Ninety-Five%, the Nebraskans Unafraid donor newsletter)
Should county law enforcement abide by state law?
The answer, of course, is “yes.”
Dunning with an American flag
Except in Nebraska, where the correct answer might be something like, “Well, it depends on who you ask.”
In Douglas and Lancaster counties, sheriffs do not allow registrants to sign verification forms when they fulfill their reporting requirements under LB285 (2009). Instead, the entire process is electronic and the registrant does not sign anything. This effectively forces registrants to be in a state of noncompliance with the law which specifically states:
“The verification form shall be signed by the person required to register under the act and state whether the address last reported to the division is still correct” (NE.Rev.Stat §29-4006 (7)).
Bruning with an American flag
Registrants are justifiably worried because they have no way to document that they have reported as the law requires. Douglas County says that it has video of everything that happens. But for everyone’s protection, it would be good for registrants to keep their own copies of documentation. It’s too easy for just one copy of a record to be lost.
Nebraskans Unafraid (NU) and FACTS followed up on registrant concerns by contacting the Nebraska State Patrol. The Patrol agreed that the law requires a signature on a form, and said it expects sheriff’s offices to implement systems allowing signatures on forms.
Wagner with an American flag
Douglas County Sheriff Tim Dunning disagrees and says the signature problem is all the state’s fault.
“They created the website that we use, and the fact that they forgot to put in some sort of receipt, is a fault of their agency, not ours,” Dunning wrote in response to our inquiry. “There is nothing in state statute that says the sheriff s offices are required to do a signature page. We would certainly do one for you or any of your members, if we had the ability to do so from the NE State Patrol website”
Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner responded by saying simply that his office operates in accord with state law. While we were very happy to learn that, we sent a second latter asking Wagner to specify whether registrants use ink pens to sign paper copies of their verification forms.
We also forwarded all of the correspondence to the state attorney general’s office, asking if he thinks that the sheriffs ought to abide by state law. That was months ago. We haven’t heard back.