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Judge to Sheriff: You Can't Put Signs in Sex Offenders' Yards

Gary Long wanted to keep trick-or-treaters away from certain homes on Halloween
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 30, 2019 9:15 AM CDT
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Rawpixel)

(Newser) – A wrench has been thrown in a Georgia official's plan to keep kids away from sex offenders on Halloween. CNN reports that US District Court Judge Marc Treadwell issued a preliminary injunction for three plaintiffs who objected to Butts County Sheriff Gary Long's decision to place signs in their yards that warn trick-or-treaters away, a move he did last Halloween. Although the names, addresses, and pictures of Christopher Reed, Reginald Holden, and Corey McClendon—who sued on behalf of all registered sex offenders in the county—are readily available online in a public directory, Treadwell decided the signage placement went a step too far with "dubious" authority, though his injunction applies just to the three plaintiffs, not to all registered sex offenders.

The men's complaint notes the signs humiliated them. The ruling says they've "paid their debts to society" and that it comes down to whether Long's move is constitutional. "The question the Court must answer is not whether ([Long's] plan is wise or moral, or whether it makes penological sense," the decision says. "Rather, the question is whether [the] plan runs afoul of the First Amendment. ... It does." Long posted online he "respectfully and strongly [disagrees]" with the ruling and that deputies "will keep a very strong presence in the neighborhoods where we know sex offenders are likely to be." CNN notes there are states with "no candy" laws that don't permit paroled or on-probation sex offenders to hand out treats on Halloween, and that mandate yard signage. (Last year, a Georgia mayor announced plans to round up all his town's sex offenders and babysit them on Halloween.)

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