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Lake Forest Repeals Ban on Sex Offenders in Parks

Amid heated debate, officials say the law would cost too much to defend in court, and tentatively vote to strike it down.

Citing the high cost of defending the measure in court, the Lake Forest City Council voted Tuesday to end its ban on sex offenders in city parks.

Keeping the law would cost at least $200,000 in legal fees to defend, said City Attorney Scott C. Smith. And that's only if the city won, a prospect that seems increasingly questionable. Losing in court could bring penalties, including paying the legal costs of the sex offenders who challenge the ban.

As one of more than a dozen OC cities to enact the sex offender bans spearheaded by District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, Lake Forest's move is being watched by city leaders throughout Orange County.

The city knew it had a legal battle on its hands when the law passed unanimously last December, said Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff for the Orange County district attorney's office.

"When we were here last year, we told them we would be sued," she said.

Mayor Kathryn McCullough asked the D.A. to promise to pay the city's legal costs if opponents sued. 

The question set off an argument between her and Rackauckas. Read a transcript of that argument here.

Rackauckas said neither he nor the county could be expected to pay the city's fees.

One activist lawyer said she had two clients ready to sue the city if the repeal did not go forward.

"If that ordinance is not repealed, that lawsuit will be filed," said Janice Bellucci, state organizer with California Reform Sex Offender Laws.

Bellucci said only 1.9 percent of California's sex offenders are arrested again for sex crimes. "They are people who have already been in prison, already paid their debt to society," she said.

But Lake Forest resident Mary Axelrod said the ban was needed to protect the city's children from molestation.

"This is a sickness, and the only way to stop this is for them to stay away and avoid the temptation, which is going into a group of children," she said. "I would think the safety of the children would outweigh lawsuits because the people come first in all occasions."

Robert Curtis, a Lake Forest hairdresser convicted 12 years ago of a misdemeanor sex crime, said the ban keeps him from watching over his son in city parks.

Rackauckas said he was unsure if the city's repeal would be repeated around the county, saying "it's pretty hard to call." Currently about half of Orange County's cities have enacted similar laws.

A county law along the same lines is no longer being enforced following the overturned conviction of Hugo Godinez.

Keeping the law on the books but not enforcing it would still leave Lake Forest with "some vulnerability" to lawsuits, Smith said.

The council tentatively reversed the measure on a 4-0 vote with one abstention. The reversal will return later for final approval.

TELL US WHAT YOU THINK IN THE COMMENTS

Should the city defend the ban despite the risk of court challenges?

Valerie Parkhurst July 15, 2013 at 03:04 PM
ahh Virginia still waiting for your demon seed to get released from prison? Dont ever tell me where to Land Virginia, It will haunt you as you obviously will notice in the next couple of days..
Robert Curtis July 18, 2013 at 08:51 PM
The Sex offender registry is a form of LIVING DEATH and because of that fact it's existence is a slap in the face of God. No Patriot, Christian and Constitutionalist can be for the sex offender registry in any form. That is if they really looked close at what it is and represents. Proverbs 16:25 states, "There is a way to a man that seems Right but the end thereof is the ways of death." The sex offender registry is such a form of death (a Living Death). It by it's very nature is punitive with no ending added measures against a person that otherwise has paid their debt to society. It offers no redemption. It is evil and it is wrong! I would debate any preacher or politician on it's violation of spiritual law (the gospel) and Constitutional law. The debate would be quite non-challenging for me because of truth. That is why most preachers and politicians reframe from such a debate.
Valerie Parkhurst July 21, 2013 at 06:41 AM
Ah hell Robert you almost brought a tear to my eye, almost but not quite..notice not once do you ever mention "vicitms" its always your precious sex offenders.. a living death uh? Too bad its not a literal one
Valerie Parkhurst August 16, 2013 at 02:44 AM
Oh and Robert you have a facebook page which is in violation of Facebook's rules and or some other social media sites. You cant follow the most mundane rules concerning sex offenders, which lends me to believe your probably not complying with much of anything else either.
Valerie Parkhurst August 17, 2013 at 05:16 AM
Gotta love Freaks like Robert Curtis and their contributions to their communities. On Mr. Curtis's restricted facebook page he actually invites a convicted medically disagnosed pedophile out of Vermont to come to California and become a member of RSOL CA. Curtis advertises the support and services RSOL will be able to offer him. and I quote: I heard the guy is headed for California. We in California have a very strong support system that will give him help. Just have the gentleman contact the RSOL CA (Google). The staff there will give him guidance for therapy, work, training and possibly housing. I'm a registered sex offender that's very much involved in doing community service. These professionals are a God sent. Together we can make a difference. Link to information obout the offender: http://www.sfgate.com/news/crime/article/Vt-town-concerned-about-sex-offender-4734212.php I am curious if "making a difference" would be supplying Mr. Szad with "blonde hair, blue eyed" disabled little boys??

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