A federal judge has ruled in favor of a group of sex offenders who sued their local sheriff’s department for posting “No Trick-or-Treat” signs at their Georgia homes.
Butts County Sheriff Gary Long decided to post signs that read “No Trick or Treat” at every registered sex offender’s home in the county last Halloween, according to a press release from earlier this month.
Three of the sex offenders affected took the matter to court, stating that the signs violate their privacy and rights. Christopher Reed, Reginald Holden, and Corey McClendon filed a lawsuit this month, asking for both a block of the signs and for damages, WGXA in Macon reported.
A federal judge ruled last week that the sheriff can no longer post signs in their yards, WXIA-TV in Georgia reports. While no damages were granted, the judge ruled that the signs violated the sex offenders’ First Amendment rights. While the judge ruled that the sheriff can act on any specific risk to public safety, he cannot post signs about anyone and everyone who is on the sex offender registry.
“The judge in this matter has ruled that I can NOT put signs on the right-of-way of the three offenders that filed the lawsuit,” Long wrote on Facebook on Tuesday. “While I respectfully and strongly disagree with the judge’s ruling, I must abide by the ruling.”
He said that while he cannot post signs, his department will keep “a very strong presence in the neighborhoods where we know sex offenders are likely to be.” Long also encourages parents to view the sex offender registry map. Additionally, he said he discourages anyone from taking “matters into your own hands this Halloween” regarding frustration towards the judge’s ruling.
Meanwhile, the attorney representing the sex offenders in this case, Mark Yurachek, has expressed gratitude for the ruling, which he calls a "thoughtful and measured decision."
"We hope for and wish that every child in Butts County and in every community in the country enjoys a joyful and safe Halloween and note, as the Court’s opinion did, that the lack of signs in front of registrants’ homes will not affect either their joy or their safety this year or any other year,” he told WXIA-TV.
Long said on his most recent Facebook post that he "will continue to fight for and protect our children by any legal means necessary."
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