When it comes to the rights of a parent over the rights of a child, a panel of Fourth District Court of Appeal justices in Santa Ana has essentially ruled that protecting the safety of a 3-week-old boy trumps the visitation rights of his father, a convicted sex offender and child predator.
Geraldo Mendoza had appealed a parole violation barring him from contact with minors, which in this instance was his newborn son. Police officers who'd been called to Mendoza's home for a domestic violence complaint in September of last year arrested him for being in the presence of his child, who was there with his mother, Mendoza's girlfriend.
Mendoza's parole conditions were the result of a previous conviction for having sex with two female relatives, one who was 17 and the other who was 10.
His defense argued the law prohibiting him from being around minors was "vague and overbroad," but the justices noted that law includes this condition: "You shall not have contact with your biological or adopted children."
Orange County Superior Court Judge Sheila Hanson had found Mendoza violated the terms of his parole despite his challenged over whether "contact" included just being in the presence of a child.
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Presiding appellate Justice William W. Bedsworth and associate justices Eileen C. Moore and Richard M. Aronson agreed with Judge Hanson.
"This is factually an unusual case, but its legal issues have been rather conclusively decided against Mr. Mendoza," the justices say in the ruling. "While the law certainly recognizes the importance of familiar relationships, it also recognizes the right of an infant child to be protected against sexual predators--including his own father."
The justices also noted that the challenge was to one of three parole violations by Mendoza, including one for possession of pornography. If the defendant could convince a trial judge that he would behave better, the conditions of his parole might be relaxed, including the possibility of contact with his child.