(TMU) — A group of sex offenders in the U.S. state of Georgia are suing a sheriff’s department after local authorities placed “No Trick-Or-Treat At This Address!!” signs on the front lawns of their homes.
While Butts County Sheriff Gary Long claims that the move is meant to keep children safe on Halloween, the pedophiles claim that the move was unjust and violates their rights to privacy and free speech.
On September 24, attorney Mark Yurachek filed a complaint on behalf of plaintiffs Christopher Reed, Reginald Holden, and Corey McClendon, all of whom served prison time for sexual offenses against children. The court filing accuses the sheriff’s office of putting up warning signs on the front lawns of over 200 registered sex offenders in the county last October.
Attorney Yurachek told Fox 5 Atlanta:
“I’m just not sure that this kind of action makes your kids any safer.
It just makes your constitutional rights less safe.”
According to the lawsuit, the signs resulted in “anxiety, embarrassment and humiliation” for the offenders while, in effect, forcing them to endorse speech in the form of a warning they disagreed with—similar to a political or religious organization trespassing on someone’s property to post objectionable material without the consent of the property owner.
“The trespass stuff is pretty clear. They’re coming onto their property and putting the signs on there.”
Georgia’s sex offender registry statute also doesn’t require that warning signs be placed at the homes of offenders, as is the case in other states, Yurachek said. He added:
“They are individuals who have been brave enough to not be afraid to let the public know that they are registered sex offenders, but are also not willing to tolerate this unlawful action by the sheriff.”
The attorney also said that in addition to the offenders having paid their debts to society for their crimes, they are also not on probation and have complied with all legal requirements.
HAPPENING NOW: Butts County Sheriff Gary Long has arrived in Federal Court. Long is being sued by sex offenders over ‘No Trick or Treat’ Halloween signs placed in their yards @WGXAnews pic.twitter.com/deRm0sIrWC
— Camille Gayle (@Camille_WGXA) October 24, 2019
More importantly, the lawyer warned that the sheriff’s actions could be a slippery slope that may lead to the violation of non-offenders’ rights in the future. Yurachek told 11Alive:
“It’s easy to pick on these guys, because nobody really wants to see anything done for a sex offender.
But I promise you if this goes by without a legal challenge and push-back, it’s going to get worse… The Sheriff’s going to say the next time, when it’s the DUI registry, and he wants to identify people who drink and drive, that that’s okay, as well.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on Thursday that a judge would decide whether or not the cops would be allowed to put the signs up again this year. However, Sheriff Long insists that the signs will stay up no matter what the court says.
In a Facebook post on Monday that has since been deleted—along with the entire page of the Butts County Sheriff’s Office, seemingly—Long defended the practice, saying:
“This Thursday, we will argue to the Federal Court that we are protecting our children and following Georgia Law by placing these signs.
Regardless of the Judge’s ruling this Thursday, I WILL do everything within the letter of the Law to protect the children of this Community.
… I ask for your prayers this Thursday into the matter.”
Yurachek, however, feels that this is about much more than protecting children—and instead is about the constitutional restraints in place preventing police from abusing their powers, even in creative ways that appear to serve the public good. The lawyer said:
“I understand that there are a lot of people who think this is a great idea, who think ‘Yeah this protects my kids, but what they should be thinking about is ‘Does this protect my rights?'”