Wednesday, October 15, 2008

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Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott Calls for Sex Offender E-Mail Registry

DALLAS – A convicted sex offender who ran a Dallas-based “modeling and exotic dancer” Web site was arrested Thursday by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s Fugitive Unit. Since Nov. 27, 2006, Clarence Augustine, 34, of Dallas, has been wanted by authorities for failing to register as a sex offender. After the arrest, Attorney General Abbott pointed to Augustine’s case as one which indicates that tougher laws are needed to ensure law enforcement can properly monitor known sexual predators.

In 1999, Augustine was convicted of sexually assaulting a teenage female and sentenced to three years in prison. After his release, Augustine failed to comply with court-ordered sex offender registration requirements. As a result, the Dallas Police Department arranged for an arrest warrant naming Augustine to be issued on Nov. 27, 2006. Prior to Augustine’s apprehension Thursday, the convicted sex offender used the social networking site MySpace.com to run a sexually-oriented online business that he named Erotiq Entertainment.

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Clarence Augustine

Video of Clarence Augustine's
MySpace.com page

After reviewing the Augustine case, Attorney General Abbott called for new laws that will improve authorities’ ability to monitor convicted sex offenders. The attorney general recommended that registered sex offenders be required to supplement existing registration data by also registering their e-mail addresses, mobile telephone numbers, social networking aliases and other electronic identification information.

“With sexual predators increasingly using the Internet to prey upon children, Texas law needs to catch up with modern technology,” Attorney General Abbott said. “By requiring sex offenders to register their physical location with DPS, the Legislature already ensured that convicted predators’ locations are readily available to law enforcement. Today’s proposals take that good policy to the next level by ensuring that authorities have instant access to additional information that will help them protect young Texans from cyber predators.”

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View Video of News Conference

Attorney General Abbott’s proposal features four key recommendations:

• Sex offender e-mail registration. Texas law should require all registered sex offenders to record their online identities and account information with the Department of Public Safety (DPS). This new requirement would apply to sex offenders’ e-mail addresses, screen names, or other assumed identities used for web-based chats, instant messaging, social networking or other similar electronic communications platforms. Sex offenders who change their cyber account information, including Internet Service Providers, or obtain new online identities, must report the updated information to DPS, as well.
• Sex offender mobile telephone number registration. Dramatic growth within the mobile communications sector has increased children’s access to cellular telephones. As a result, young Texans now frequently send text messages, transfer photographs and chat online with their mobile telephones. To help prevent sexual predators from using mobile phones to prey upon children, registered sex offenders should be required to register their cell phone numbers with DPS.
• Law enforcement sharing of information. DPS should be authorized to release sex offenders’ online identities to the Office of the Attorney General, social networking sites and other specified Internet platforms. By sharing this information with authorized entities, sex offenders can be pre-screened and their online profiles can be removed by website operators. Additionally, the private sector can work cooperatively with law enforcement by notifying authorities and other government officials when offenders’ conduct threatens public safety or violates the law.
• Prohibit Internet use for certain convicted sex offenders. Both the courts and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles should be granted expanded authority to prohibit certain high-risk sex offenders, as a condition of parole or probation, from using the Internet to access pornographic material; accessing a commercial social networking site; promoting sexual relations with children younger than 18; or communicating with a person younger than 18 when the offender is older than 18.

High-risk sex offenders subject to the proposed Internet ban should include offenders who committed a sex offense against a minor; used the Internet to commit a crime, such as the online solicitation of a minor; or have been designated as Level 3 sex offenders.

“For more than five years, our Cyber Crimes and Fugitive Units have been locating, arresting and prosecuting sex offenders who prey upon children,” Attorney General Abbott added. “Today’s proposal includes tangible, practical solutions that will help keep young Texans safe online.”

Since taking office, Attorney General Abbott has earned a national reputation for aggressively arresting and prosecuting online child predators. The Fugitive Unit and the Cyber Crimes Unit, which protects children from online sexual exploitation, have combined to arrest more than 700 sex offenders since 2003. Cyber Crimes Unit investigators also have traveled to schools and communities statewide to offer educational cyber safety programs.

Attorney General Abbott has repeatedly urged MySpace.com and other social networking sites to implement definitive safety measures that would help prevent young users from receiving sexually explicit images and unwanted sexual advances. Since the push from Attorney General Abbott and other state attorneys general, MySpace.com began screening profiles for inappropriate content. It also took steps to make certain vulnerable users’ profiles unavailable to the general public.

To find out more about Attorney General Abbott’s efforts to crack down on sex predators, visit the Attorney General’s Web site at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov or call (800) 252-8011.