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Judge overturns part of state sex offender law

Posted December 17, 2009
Updated December 18, 2009

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— A judge in Chatham County ruled Thursday that part of the state law restricting the activities of registered sex offenders is to too vague to be enforced, and he declared it unconstitutional.

Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour also dismissed criminal charges against two men who had been indicted under the law because they were around children while attending church.

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 and from "any place where minors gather for regularly scheduled educational, recreational or social programs."

James Nichols and Frank DeMaio were indicted in May on charges of violating the law by attending Moncure Baptist Church, which has a nursery and regular programs for children.

Both men are registered sex offenders. 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.

They challenged the state law, saying it was too broad and denied them their right to attend the church of their choice.

Chatham County authorities maintained that the men could get private counseling from ministers or attend a church that doesn't have a Sunday school, nursery or youth programs.

Baddour ruled that lawmakers could have used less drastic means to keep sex offenders away from children, noting they carved out exceptions to allow sex offenders to go on school property to vote or to pick up their own children from school.

"The state has not closely drawn the statute to avoid unnecessary abridgment of associational freedoms in achieving its objectives," he wrote in his 16-page ruling. "Additionally, there are a host of protected religious activities abridged by this statute which do not serve the compelling governmental interest."

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

Baddour let stand the portion of the law that prohibits sex offenders from "the premises of any place intended primarily for the use, care, or supervision of minors," such as schools, children's museums, day care centers and playgrounds.

The Chatham County District Attorney's Office is appealing the ruling.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • smalldogsrule Dec 18, 2009

    "Given the right prosecutor a registered sex offender can now include a 16-year-old who emails a topless picture of his girl friend to other kids." citizen782

    What N.C. general statute is that a violation of? There is a list of violations are required to be registered, the one you mentioned is not even a crime.

    The online list you speak of has not been recently updated, but the law that citizen782 refers to is the child pornography law. That would be considered distribution of child pornography, a felon requiring registration.

  • smalldogsrule Dec 18, 2009

    Who wants to go to church with known sex offenders in the mist?

    I DO, because that is where they will get closer to GOD and recieve their salvation.

    We do background checks on the people that work with our kids. But we do NOT discourage ANYONE from attending services, which is all these guys wanted to do.

    People can change, especially if the sincerely allow Jesus into their lives. Get a grip all you so called Christians who are complaining about this. YOUR JUDGEMENT is waiting at the end, just like everyone elses.

  • thepeopleschamp Dec 18, 2009

    "Given the right prosecutor a registered sex offender can now include a 16-year-old who emails a topless picture of his girl friend to other kids." citizen782

    What N.C. general statute is that a violation of? There is a list of violations are required to be registered, the one you mentioned is not even a crime.

  • minort2 Dec 18, 2009

    It makes me sick to see these things going on, my child was on the recieving end years ago from a sex offender, lucky for her he didn't rape her, he is now in prison for 60 years for rape of a child under 13, I thank GOD everyday it wasn't my child he raped..and yet the twisted judges allow them near children..makes me wonder who they are protecting??? If anyone is interested you can register on the nc sex offender site and they will email you everytime a sex offender moves into or out of your area, at least then you know who lives within 5 miles of you and where....may God help the judge that allowed this b/c he is gonna need all the help he can get when one of these pervs does something to another child..it will then be on his head!!

  • barbhancock Dec 17, 2009

    Oh well, I guess it is constitutional to molested or abused. Lets give everyone but the victim their rights.

  • pgonz62 Dec 17, 2009

    All I can say is our Government is in league with the Devil. I will pray for the fools that believe these criminals should be released to to again rape and murder. Just remember when you are watching your child or grandchild laughing with the innocence of their youth, these perverts are waiting for their chance with the child. And they will take it without a doubt. Just look in the bright twinkling eyes of a happy healthy child, then take a long hard look in the dull, lost, and hurt eyes of a child that has been raped, or look in the eyes of someone close to you that is dieing. It's the same look, that far away sad and lost look.
    I have had to look in to to many, while I was working

  • itsmyownopinion Dec 17, 2009

    I dare say the sex offenders your children are most likely to come in contact with are those UNKNOWN sex offenders within your own family/extended family and your circle of friends, as well as some hiding out in professions or volunteer organizations who work with children. Known sex offenders occupying a pew at church are not your biggest threat. They should not be in a leadership, teaching or nursery service capacity.

  • jas1022 Dec 17, 2009

    What's unconstitutional is that murderers, rapists, and pedophiles are not put to death in this country.

  • moth Dec 17, 2009

    I see all this blah blah garbage from people that think the Constitution is a meaningless piece of paper compared to their bible.It was made to keep the kind of people commenting here from establishing psycho laws. I hope they tear up ALL the recent laws made on sex offenders and throw in all the "drug war" laws for good measure.

  • colliedave Dec 17, 2009

    There is a difference between being in the vicinty of children/youth and having direct contact with them; a sex offender must not be an approved volunteer but otherwise should ve able to partivipate in the live of the church.