The $49,000 question

Fantasy island: OK, nobody wants the most violent of sex offenders to pull up next-door in a U-Haul. Faced with such a prospect, Bites surely would make every attempt to play the not-in-my-backyard card.

But before state Senator Jeff Denham, R-Merced, proposed packing up all of California’s serious sex-related felons and shipping them off to a bungalow somewhere desolate and barren, he could have done a little more homework.

Denham has introduced a bill aiming to send serious sex offenders—the guys deemed by mental-health officials most likely to re-offend—out to Timbuktu after they complete their prison terms. He cites “The Devil’s Garden” in Modoc County, where former Governor Pete Wilson once sent serial rapist Melvin Carter.

The recent where-will-I-live-now cases of Brian DeVries, Cary Verse and Patrick Ghilotti apparently sparked Denham’s interest in sex and violence.

Denham says proudly that he has “reviewed” a “unique” Washington-state program that confines sex offenders to an island after they’ve done their time.

By “reviewed,” he apparently means “heard something about.”

Because “unique” means illegal.

Way back in 1994, then-U.S. District Court Judge William Dwyer called Washington’s sex-offender rehab facility on McNeil Island unconstitutional. And he started to fine the state $50 per day per confined sex offender.

The fines reached $11 million, until finally, last year, Washington began a plan to integrate its modern-day lepers back into the communities from whence they came, planning and building halfway houses in the middle of residential neighborhoods, including one south of downtown Seattle.

Denham wants to appropriate $49,000 toward answering his question: How can California squirrel away its highest-risk sex offenders?

It can’t. So, please make that check out to Bites.

Don’t be cruel: Lobbyist Scott Lay, who was profiled in these pages a few weeks ago (see “Digitizing Sacramento,” SN&R News, January 13), created a lively discussion forum with his free Web site Around the Capitol (, giving political junkies a chance to chat about all the glories of state politics and government.

But things got a little out of hand with “the idiots,” as Lay calls the overzealous users who went far enough with their anonymous posts that feelings were hurt and a lawyer was contacted. So, he pulled the plug on the discussion boards.

Lay said the skirmish started with a couple of factions of Republican legislative aides battling it out on the boards, trading some “fairly cruel postings” about other staffers.

Then someone’s post suggested that a Republican lobbyist wasn’t paying child support, Lay said. The lobbyist, a former aide to ex-GOP Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian, called Lay, who says he pulled the post within an hour and then e-mailed an update to the offended party on February 22.

Not good enough, apparently. Days later, Lay got a terse letter from Costa Mesa attorney Stephan Andranian, a buddy of the offended party who also is a former Kaloogian aide. Andranian called the post “defamatory” and “libelous” and demanded any info that might point to the post’s author.

Lay wrote back to say he wouldn’t cough up any user info, which he told Bites the site doesn’t retain anyway. He may hear back.

“We’re still considering legal action,” Andranian said. “My client has still been defamed.” He said “at least one other party” has contacted him about postings on the site.

Lay has taken the boards down, depriving Capitol gossipmongers and other hangers-on (like Bites) a favorite source of news and amusement.

Lay said they’ll probably be back soon, but not in the same freewheeling way. Instead, registration likely will be required, which means either that the anonymity Lay likes so much will be less so—or political blabbermouths will need to create a lot of free e-mail addresses if they want to keep talking.

“There is this huge value to anonymous political speech,” Lay said. “And it’s unfortunate that people abused it.”