OC District Attorney Called "Foolish" to Take Pervs-in-Parks Ban Case to Supreme Court

Categories: Court, Crime-iny

See the update at the end of this post where the leader of a group seeking the reform of California sex offender laws calls the DA's decision to take the Child Safety Zone ordinance case to the state Supreme Court "foolish."

ORIGINAL POST, JAN. 14, 6:34 A.M.: A state appeals court that ruled Friday the County of Orange's Child Safety Zone ordinance that bans registered sex offenders from regional parks is unconstitutional followed up Monday by striking down the city of Irvine's similar law.

But the Orange County district attorney's office (OCDA) also revealed Monday it will take the case to the California Supreme Court.

Both Sides Ready to Debate Orange County's Pervs-in-Parks Ban Before Appeals Court

District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and county Supervisor Shawn Nelson drafted the original ordinance that the Orange County Board of Supervisors adopted in April 2011. It requires registered sex offenders to receive permission from the sheriff's department before entering a county park or recreational area lest they face a misdemeanor, fine and possible jail time.

Rackauckas, Nelson, Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and OCDA Chief of Staff Susan Kang Schroeder then went about lobbying individual cities to impose their own ordinances. A dozen or so Orange County cities bought in, although Irvine's ban only applies to sex offenders who have been convicted of preying on children.

The challenge of these laws is based on the case of Hugo Godinez, who has been forced to register as a sex offender with the Costa Mesa Police Department since his sentencing for a 2010 misdemeanor sexual-battery conviction.

The Santa Ana resident was sentenced to 100 days in jail and five years of probation for violating the county ordinance when he attended what he claimed to be a "mandatory" company party May 5, 2011, at Mile Square Regional Park in Fountain Valley.

The 4th District Court of Appeal overturned the Godinez Child Safety Zone conviction on grounds the county law is unconstitutional because the state already has laws on the books dealing with registered sex offenders. A panel of justices from the same court overturned Irvine's ordinance on the same grounds on Monday.

But Schroeder on Monday disclosed the OCDA's office plans to seek a hearing with the California Supreme Court, noting her office had expected legal challenges when the original law was adopted, reports The Orange County Register.

"Protecting children from dangerous sex offenders is an ongoing war, and we believe that it's one of the most important jobs we have at the DA's [office]," Schroeder reportedly said, adding, "Some of the best minds of the district attorney's office helped draft this law, and we still believe we're right on the law."

Before the OCDA's announcement, Nelson, who is now chairman of the Board of Supervisors, indicated to City News Service he does not like the rulings but accepts them.

"It's disappointing, but, hey, they're a branch of government, too, and they have a responsibility, and they've ruled, and that's it," Nelson said.

"The state Supreme Court might want to hear it, but I don't want to spend any more money on it," Nelson said. "We did our best to protect our kids in the community, but I respect the Court of Appeal. . . . I think we have to accept it and move on."

UPDATE. JAN. 14, 6:17 P.M.: Janice Bellucci, president of California Reform Sex Offender Laws (RSOL), says it is "foolish" for the Orange County District Attorney's office to take its Child Safety Zone ordinance case to the state Supreme Court.

"It is foolish for the office of the Orange County District Attorney to request further review of the county ordinance,"Bellucci says in a statement from her Los Angeles office. "After losing two court battles, this is a waste of taxpayer funding which could be better spent on addressing methods that increase public safety rather than provide the public with a false sense of security."

Bellucci also cheered a 4th District Court of Appeals panel of justices finding the Orange County law unconstitutional.

"This decision is important to more than 100,000 families in California who have been denied access to the county's parks, beaches, harbors and other recreational areas for more than two years," Bellucci says. "The families may now visit those sites without fear of a family member being arrested, jailed and/or fined."

She claimed ordinances like Orange County's provide a false sense of security to parents because they focus upon registered sex offenders, who re-offend at a rate of only 1.9 percent, according to a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation report issued in October 2012.

Bellucci also believes the ordinance misses its mark because most registered sex offenders were convicted of offenses that did not involve a sexual assault upon a child. Most who commit sexual assaults on children are family members, teachers, coaches and clergy, she said, citing a California Sex Offender Management report issued in August 2011.

And those assaults generally do not occur in public places like parks but private places such as homes, schools and churches, Bellucci added.

Email: mcoker@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!



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