Butts County, GA – A group of disgruntled sex offenders has filed a lawsuit against the Butts County Sheriff’s Office, after the department posted signs on their front doors telling people not to trick-or-treat at those residences.
The convicted sex offenders alleged that the signs violate their privacy and free speech rights, KTTV reported.
The three sex offenders who filed the lawsuit have been identified as Corey McClendon, Reginald Holden, and Christopher Reed, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
According to the Georgia Sex Offender Registry, McClendon was convicted of statutory rape in 2001.
In 2002, Holden was convicted of lewd, lascivious battery sex with victim 12 to 15 years of age.
Reed was convicted of aggravated sexual battery and criminal sexual assault of a minor in 2007.
The sex offenders have also asked the court to grant them compensation for the humiliation, fear, and stress they claimed the signs caused them, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Butts County Sheriff Gary Long addressed the issue in a public notice on Monday.
“Last Halloween, the Chamber of Commerce cancelled ‘Halloween on the Square.’ In doing so, our neighborhoods had a large increase in children going door-to-door,” Sheriff Long explained.
“My office took precautions and placed signs indicating ‘No Trick or Treat’ at each registered sex offender’s residence in the County,” the sheriff noted. “This was done to ensure the safety of our children.”
The signs, which were posted on approximately 200 homes, did not specifically note that the individuals who lived there were sex offenders, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Sheriff Long said that the group’s federal lawsuit seeks to ban the Butts County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) from being able to post the notices again in 2019.
“This Thursday, we will argue to the Federal Court that we are protecting our children and following Georgia Law by placing these signs,” he wrote. “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.”
The sex offenders’ lead attorney, Mark Yurachek, argued that the signs do nothing to protect children, KTTV reported.
“It just makes your constitutional rights less safe,” Yurachek alleged.
Since the Georgia State Sex Offender Registry does not mandate offenders to post such notices, the BCSO shouldn’t be allowed to do so, he said.
Yurachek alleged that the BCSO trespassed on his “brave” clients’ property when they placed the notices outside their homes.
“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 declared to KTTV. “The law allows the sheriff to put a list of registered sex offenders at his office, at the courthouse, on the internet…It does not allow him to go door-to-door telling people you have a sex offender living next door to you.”
Yurachek said that it is “easy to pick on” sex offenders, because no one wants to help them, WXIA reported.
“If this goes by without a legal challenge and push-back, it’s going to get worse,” he said, adding that the sheriff could potentially start posting signs on the vehicles of people who have been convicted of drunk-driving offenses.
Sheriff Long said his office has acted within the law, and that his main goal is to make sure predators do not have access to children.
“We just want to eliminate any possibility that any of these children in our county becoming prey to a sexual predator,” he told KTTV.
“There’s some sex offenders that’s not happy,” he acknowledged to WXIA. “But I’m not really in the business of making them happy. I’m in the business of keeping safe communities and making sure our children is protected.”
The federal hearing will take place in Macon beginning at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.