Did Sex Offender Listing Lead To Murder?

Megan's Law

The Skinny is Keach Hagey's take on the top news of the day and the best of the Internet.

Megan's Law, which allows the names and addresses of convicted sex offenders to be listed on the Internet, is often criticized for its theoretical ability to facilitate vigilante violence.

The Los Angeles Times reports on a killing in Lake County, Calif., in which prosecutors are investigating the possibility that this very fear may have come true for the first time in the state.

Convicted rapist Michael Dodele had been free just 35 days when sheriff's deputies found him dead from stab wounds last month in his mobile home. They quickly arrested his neighbor, 29-year-old construction worker Ivan Garcia Oliver, who made "incriminating comments, essentially admitting to his attacking Dodele," police said.

Oliver pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder, burglary and elder abuse on Nov. 30.

A neighbor of Oliver's said that two days before the killing, he "told every house" in the trailer park that he found Dodele's name listed on the Web site of convicted sexual offenders, and was uncomfortable living near him.

In a jailhouse interview with the Los Angeles Times, Oliver said he had a son who was molested in the past and he took action to protect the child.

"Society may see the action I took as unacceptable in the eyes of 'normal' people," Oliver said. "I felt that by not taking evasive action as a father in the right direction, I might as well have taken my child to some swamp filled with alligators and had them tear him to pieces. It's no different."

As it turned out, Dodele was not actually a child molester. His records show he sexually assaulted adult women. But a listing on the Megan's Law Web site could have left Oliver with the impression that he had abused children because of the way that it was written.

A spokesman for the state attorney general said the site described the man's offenses as "rape by force" and "oral copulation with a person under 14 or by force."

Charlene Steen, a psychologist who examined Dodele on behalf of the defense in two 2007 trials about whether he should be recommitted to a state hospital, blamed the messenger. "I think [Oliver and Dodele] are both victims of the Internet," she said.

N.Y. Philharmonic To Play In North Korea

Perhaps Bach will be able to do what Bush could not.

The New York Times reports that the New York Philharmonic has accepted an invitation to play in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang in February. The Times says the trip will be the "first significant cultural visit by Americans to that country."

The timing of the announcement - to be made formally today at Avery Fisher Hall - is auspicious, coming amid a series of breakthroughs in the decade-long effort to have North Korea halt its nuclear program.

Just last week, President Bush, who had once consigned North Korea to the "axis of evil," sent a letter to Kim Jong-Il, the country's leader, suggesting ties between their countries could improve if North Korea fully disclosed all nuclear programs and got rid of nuclear weapons.

Although State Department officials have authenticated the invitation and been involved in the planning since it arrived, they appeared to have nothing to do with it originally.

The invitation arrived by fax in August, in the form of a typed letter form the North Korean culture ministry, in English, accompanied by a cover letter from a private individual in California who said he was acting as an intermediary.

Ambassador Christopher Hill, the Bush administration's main diplomat for negotiations with North Korea, said he didn't know how the invitation came about.

Some have questioned the wisdom of visiting a country run by one of the world's most repressive governments, the Times notes. North Korea's politics have been blamed in part for the famine-related starvation of perhaps two million people and it confines hundreds of thousands of people in labor camps.

Hill acknowledged that any kind of opening lends legitimacy to the North Korean government, "but not opening up has not had any positive in bringing North Korea out of its shell."

Workplaces Giving Fewest Holiday Parties, Bonuses Since 9/11

This holiday season, the workplace Grinch's grip on the purse strings is the tightest it's been since the post-9/11 economic slump.

USA Today reports that about 85 percent of companies will host a holiday party this year, according to a survey by Battalia Winston, an international search firm in New York. That's down from 94 percent in 2006 and the lowest percentage since the Sept. 11 attacks.

As for year-end bonuses, don't hold your breath. Only 35 percent of employers have a December holiday or gift program. Ten percent of those that formerly had one have ended it.

The drop in year-end parties comes amid major losses in financial services and other sectors, says dale Winston, CEO of Battalia Winston. It's hard to justify the expense of a party amid such a cost-conscious climate.

The decline in year-end bonuses is based in large part on employers' efforts to tie pay to performance, avoiding the concept of a holiday-bonus entitlement, the paper reports.

Which, if you think about it, is really getting back to the true spirit of Christmas, at least as American children learn it. For what is Santa Claus's list of the naughty and nice but an attempt to tie pay to performance?

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