Raleigh, N.C. — After a federal judge struck down part of North Carolina's law restricting the activities of registered sex offenders, Sen. Buck Newton, R-Wilson, on Thursday rolled out a new version of the law he said would address the judge's concerns.
Newton said the "Jessica Lunsford Act Restoration" would be addressed in committee both Thursday and next week to give people time to comment on it and lawmakers a chance to refine it before heading to the Senate floor.
U.S. District Judge James Beaty in December ruled that part of a 2008 state law violated the rights of registered sex offenders because it was too vague. He ordered district attorneys statewide not to enforce the provision that prohibited sex offenders from "any place where minors gather for regularly scheduled educational, recreational, or social programs."
Newton, the Republican candidate for attorney general, twice criticized the efforts of Attorney General Roy Cooper, the Democratic candidate for governor, for his office's defense of the law.
"Our attorney general has dropped the ball on another issue," Newton said in a news conference. "Attorney General Cooper and his office was not doing a good job defending the case, and we had to do something to keep our children safe from these dangerous sex offenders."
The new legislation would provide examples of locations where sex offenders couldn't go, such as arcades, swimming pools and amusement parks, and put the restriction in place whenever minors are present. It also would bar sex offenders from going within 300 feet of areas in shopping centers and other public places that are "intended primarily for the use, care, or supervision of minors" if the offender's crime involved anyone under 18 and the person is considered a threat to minors.
"There's nothing more important than keeping our children safe and out of the reach of dangerous sex offenders and child molesters," Newton said.
Noelle Talley, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office, said attorneys in the office have appealed Beaty's ruling to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and "are continuing to fight to uphold tough laws against sex offenders."
Jessica Lunsford, who was born in Gaston County, was 9 when she was abducted, raped and killed by a sex offender who lived near her Florida home.