AUSTIN, TX - A convicted sex offender was arrested for accessing a social networking Website in violation of his parole conditions. According to Fugitive Unit officers, Jesse Clay Scott, 33, of Seguin used both his home computer and his cell phone to access his MySpace.com account. Scott was paroled in 2008 after serving five-and-a-half years in prison for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old Bexar County female.
"Last week's arrest reflects the Fugitive Unit's ongoing effort to crack down on convicted sex offenders who illegally access social networking sites," Texas Attorney General Abbott said. "Despite his release conditions, the subject in this case repeatedly used his personal computer and cellular telephone to access a MySpace.com profile. This case demonstrates that parents and law enforcement must work cooperatively to educate young users about the potentially dangerous individuals hiding behind a seemingly benign online profile."
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles frequently prohibits paroled sex offenders from using the Internet.
Scott's arrest comes just weeks after a technology industry task force released a report downplaying the dangers facing children online. The report and task force stem from a "Joint Statement on Key Principles of Social Networking" agreement that 49 state attorneys general negotiated with social networking giant MySpace.com. Citing inadequate safeguards for children and concerns that the agreement would give parents a false sense of security, Attorney General Abbott declined to join the agreement.
"This report minimizes the dangers posed by online sexual predators," said Abbott. "The report's conclusions are not only erroneous, but worse, they give a false sense of relief to parents who should be increasingly concerned about their children's online activities."
To help law enforcement officials protect young Internet users and crack down on cyber predators, Abbott recently called for statutory changes that would update Texas' sex offender registration laws.
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 offender mobile telephone number registration. Dramatic growth within the mobile communications sector has increased children's access to cell phones. 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 must share 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.
- Prohibit use of Internet 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.