Wednesday, April 1, 2009

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Attorney General Abbott Launches Cyber Safety Education Public Service Announcements Statewide

Houston - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today joined with the Texas Cable Association to launch a statewide education campaign that will protect Texas children from Internet predators. For the next three months, cable service providers will broadcast cyber safety public service announcements in every metropolitan area in Texas.

The public awareness campaign comes on the heels of a series of sex offender arrests by the Attorney General’s Fugitive Unit. The arrests involved convicted sex offenders who used the Internet in violation of their parole. Some suspects established profiles with online social networking Web sites, like MySpace.com.

Media links

Cyber Safety Public Service Announcement
Gary Gause
Gary Gause

Video of Gary Gause's arrest
Brian Yoas
Brian Yoas

Video of Brian Yoas' arrest
Michael Harris
Michael Harris

“Sophisticated, dangerous child predators are using the Internet to prey upon young children,” Attorney General Abbott said. “The public service announcements launched today help educate parents and children about the dangers posed by Internet predators. Thanks to the Texas Cable Association, a critically important safety message will reach families all across the state.”

One of the PSAs addresses the anonymity that the Internet affords online predators - and explains how predators use anonymity to disguise their identity, pose as children, and lure young users into predatory online discussions. The second PSA highlights how cyber predators use Internet chat rooms and social networking Web sites to arrange meetings with children.

The Texas Cable Association is a coalition of cable television companies that provide service to Texans across the state.

Robert V. Moel, chairman of Texas Cable Association and regional vice president of operations for Time Warner Cable’s North Texas division, said: “We’re pleased to be able to devote air time on our cable systems throughout Texas, at no charge, to this important campaign to warn parents and children about the dangers of online predators. As the Internet has expanded to include social media sites like MySpace and YouTube, so have the number of child predators who continually find creative ways to target innocent children.”

Ray Purser, vice chairman of Texas Cable Association and vice president of government and public relations for Comcast, said: “The cable industry has a long-standing commitment to help parents manage the media coming into their home using innovative parental controls - whether it’s over the television or on the Internet. And our partnership with the Attorney General’s office is another tool to help accomplish our goal of keeping families safe.”

Kevin Allen, director of government affairs for Charter Communications, said: “As a father of two small children, I want what all parents want for their kids - the opportunity for children to enjoy a fulfilling and safe experience online. By airing the public service announcements on our cable systems, our aim is to raise awareness of how to protect kids from cyber stalkers.”

Media links

View Video of News Conference

During a series of news conferences announcing the public service announcements, Attorney General Abbott discussed the suspects recently arrested by the Fugitive Unit. Gary Dee Gause, 54, of Fort Worth was arrested after he maintained a MySpace.com account in violation of his parole. He was paroled after serving 25 years in prison for sexually assaulting two women in 1982 - one in Harris County and the other in Tarrant County. The Fugitive Unit also arrested Michael Jermain Harris, 26, of Houston for violating his parole. After Harris’ 2004 conviction for attempted sexual assault a 14-year-old girl, he was paroled and prohibited from using the Internet. Despite that prohibition, Harris logged onto the Internet and maintained a MySpace.com account and a Facebook.com account. A third suspect, Brian William Yoas, 27, of Austin, was arrested by the Fugitive Unit for violating his parole by logging onto the Internet and maintaining a MySpace.com account. In 2005, Yoas was convicted in Williamson County of possessing and intending to distribute child pornography.

Since taking office, Attorney General Abbott has earned a national reputation for aggressively arresting and prosecuting online child predators. Since 2003, the Fugitive Unit and the Cyber Crimes Unit, which protects children from online sexual exploitation, have arrested 33 men for accessing the Internet and maintaining online social networking accounts in violation of their parole.