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Judge to decide legality of N.C. sex offender restrictions

Posted November 12, 2009

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— A Superior Court judge said Thursday that he needs some time to decide whether to strike down a portion of the state's sex offender laws.

James Nichols, a registered sex offender, challenged the constitutionality of the laws following his March arrest at Moncure Baptist Church. The church has a nursery and regularly scheduled programs for children, and state lawmakers expanded restrictions on sex offenders last year by banning them from being within 300 feet of any place intended for the use, care or supervision of children.

Following a two-hour hearing on Oct. 29 and another hearing Thursday afternoon, Judge Allen Baddour said he would take the issue under advisement and issue a ruling later.

"(The law) is overbroad, and it can't be interpreted in a rational way," said Glenn Gerding, Nichols' attorney.

Gerding and Ken Richardson, an attorney for Frank DeMaio, another sex offender challenging the state law, said the restrictions prevent them from going to church.

"What church does not have young people attending?" Richardson asked.

Thirty-six states establish zones where sex offenders cannot live or visit. Some states provide exceptions for churches, but many do not.

Assistant Chatham County District Attorney Kayley Tabor said sex offenders could attend a church that doesn't have a Sunday school, nursery or youth programs. They also could get private counseling from ministers, she said.

"These two defendants are who the legislature, I believe, had in mind when they wrote that statute," Tabor said.

Nichols was convicted twice of indecent liberties with a teen girl and most recently of attempted second-degree rape in 2003. DeMaio was convicted twice of taking indecent liberties with children.

Lt. Steve Maynor of the Chatham County Sheriff's Office said he warned both men that they might be breaking the law by going to church and that he arrested them only after someone in the church complained about their presence.

If Baddour declares the law unconstitutional, the case could be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

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  • Nina1 Nov 16, 2009

    Apparently attending church wasn't on the top of their priority list while they were raping and fondeling children. They shouldn've been attending church long before now and maybe these children wouldn't have suffered at their hands. I say let the law stand...they don't deserve to have the samae privilages as law abiding citizens!

  • colliedave Nov 13, 2009

    Assistant Chatham County District Attorney Kayley Tabor said sex offenders could attend a church that doesn't have a Sunday school, nursery or youth programs.

    And how many churches fall into this category? The law needs to be rewritten to probit direct contact with children

  • phpatriot77 Nov 13, 2009

    ATTENTION Judges....They have chapels in prisons also.....WHY isn't this guy attending one of them? He has no business being outside!

  • pyrosinthesky Nov 13, 2009

    If he is that dangerous, he should be in prison. If not, he should be allowed to go to church.

  • Myra Nov 13, 2009

    If a Judge doesn't understand the LAW and has to take time to study the law -- how do you expect the sex offender to understand it. The problem here is the LAW is as clear as mud. I wrote AG Roy Cooper for a copy of the Do's and Don'ts rules and they are vague and unclear. I'm NOT support the sex offenders -- I am bashing the people who get paid a lot of money to protect children and you do not do that by writing rules / laws for sex offenders that even JUDGES have to study.

  • lizard Nov 13, 2009

    Let him stay home and watch church on TV. Millions of old people get spiritually fed that way. Why can't he?

  • Faceman Nov 13, 2009

    hmmm..convicted twice..and he is fighting to be allowed in churches with kids?? I dont think so..let the law stand..keep them away from churches too..only place for those types of people to worship..is in a prison.

  • jbyrd Nov 13, 2009

    "Nichols was convicted twice of indecent liberties with a teen girl and most recently of attempted second-degree rape in 2003. DeMaio was convicted twice of taking indecent liberties with children."

    Why the heck isn't he in prison right now!!!? And I am sure they have a chapel in there if he is serious about it.