Federal Lawsuit Challenges Sex Offender Bans in Parks of Four Orange County Cities
Just days after District Attorney Tony Rackauckas honored Fountain Valley for approving on first reading a ban on registered sex offenders in city parks--based on a county law he co-wrote--word came that a registered sex offender has sued two cities bordering Fountain Valley and two other Orange County cities that have all adopted similar ordinances. The unnamed plaintiff, who is represented by a San Francisco law firm, has targeted Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Seal Beach and Lake Forest with his complaint filed in federal court.
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To be clear, the lawsuit does not target Rackauckas, the Orange County District Attorney's office or the County of Orange, which in April 2011 became the first to adopt the ordinance written by the DA and Supervisor Shawn Nelson banning known perverts in county parks and recreational areas unless they first get permission from the sheriff's department, which has rarely granted such clearance.
Rackauckas, other members of his staff and Sheriff Sandra Hutchens have since lobbied other cities to enact their own bans, and many have complied, with Fountain Valley becoming the latest last week. Ironically, though T-Rack is off the hook, Hutchens is not, as she's named in the suit filed Sept. 28 in U.S. District Court because her agency patrols Lake Forest. The police chiefs of Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach and Seal Beach are also defendants.
The unnamed plaintiff claims he was convicted more than 15 years ago, served his sentence, received treatment and is now employed and married with children. The pervs-in-parks ban violates his 1st, 5th and 14th Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution, his suit maintains.
By being prevented from entering the city parks--which is public land--he is being denied the rights to peaceably assemble, speak freely and petition the government, the suit further clarifies, while saying the way the laws are written he is denied fair hearings and judicial access. Violators of the city bans face fines and possible jail time.
His suit also states that since he long ago served his sentence, the bans subject him to additional punishment for the same crime, another constitutional violation.
At the time the county adopted its law, and while seeking the expansions into Orange County cities, the DA's office has maintained
the ordinances are bulletproof constitutionally. it is confident the ordinances are constitutionally sound. (*phrase has been clarified.)
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