The Butts County Sheriff’s office has posted “No Trick-or-Treat” signs on their homes. Now a group of sex offenders in Georgia is suing over it, arguing the signs are a violation of their rights to free speech and privacy.
As for the Sheriff? He argues he’s using the signs to keep kids safe.
It started last year, when Butts County Sheriff Gary Long instructed deputies to place “Warning! No Trick-or-Treat at this address!!” signs in the front yards of more than 200 sex offenders registered in the county from Oct. 24-Nov. 2.
That’s right – the county has that many sex offenders.
His office is planning on doing it again this year, which has triggered three registered sex offenders into filing suit.
Sheriff Gary Long took to Facebook to announce he’d put up the signs because of the cancellation of a local Halloween festival, “Halloween on the Square”. He said it lead to a huge increase in the number of door-to-door trick-or-treaters.
Long argues he’s simply following Georgia law and protecting the children by implementing the public warnings.
This lead attorney, Mark Yurachek, begs to differ.
“The law allows the sheriff to put a list of registered sex offenders at his office, at the courthouse, on the internet,” said Yurachek. “It does not allow him to go door-to-door telling people you have a sex offender living next door to you.”
He said it doesn’t actually protect kids.
“I’m just not sure that this kind of action makes your kids any safer,” Yurachek said of the initiative. “It just makes your constitutional rights less safe.”
He argues it’s trespassing.
“The trespass stuff is pretty clear. They’re coming onto their property and putting the signs on there,” Yurachek added.
According to Yurachek, because the Georgia State Sex Offender Registry does not require offenders to post these signs, the sex offenders shouldn’t be forced by local deputies to have them displayed outside.
“They are individuals who have been brave enough to not be afraid to let the public know that they are registered sex offenders, but are also not willing to tolerate this unlawful action by the sheriff,” said Yurachek.
He argues that the sex offenders have no obligation to inform the public of their status.
“I understand that there are a lot of people who think this is a great idea, who think ‘Yeah this protects my kids’, but what they should be thinking about is ‘Does this protect my rights?’ ” Yuracheck said.
A ruling is expected on Thursday. The sheriff said that regardless of how that goes, he would do everything within the law to protect the community’s children.
It’s not the first county in Georgia to use the “No Trick-or-Treat” signs.
The same has happened in Monroe and Lamar counties. In Monroe County, there’s an option for offenders. If they don’t want a sign in their yard, they have to wait in the lobby of the local sheriff’s office during trick-or-treat hours on Halloween.
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In the meantime, an interesting case has turned up in Connecticut.
Christopher Dionne, a former host of an HGTV home remodeling pilot, has been found guilty of molesting a 10-year-old girl in his home during a sleepover and is facing up to 25 years in prison as a result, according to a report.
In an interview with People Magazine, A New London Superior Court official stated that Dionne, 37, was convicted of risk of injury to a minor and fourth-degree sexual assault on Wednesday this past week stemming from the November 26th, 2017 assault. He was released on a $100,000 bond and is going to be sentenced December 11th.
A statement provided by HGTV said:
“The individual you reference appeared in a pilot that premiered on our network in 2015. The pilot was not picked up for series.”
This was in reference to the show “Family Flip” which indeed ran for only a single episode back in 2015 for the network.
Dionne’s victim, now aged 12, had testified during the trial that she was best friends with Dionne’s daughter at the time of the assault. It also came to light that Dionne’s daughter and the victim were on the same soccer team and had regular sleepovers at each other’s houses.
Even though the conviction was related to the November 2017 encounter, the victim had also reported to the Connecticut State Police that there was a similar interaction of disturbing proportions that occurred in Dionne’s home back in September of that same year.
According to state police, the September encounter at Dionne’s home turned nefarious when Dionne asked the young girl if she wanted to kiss his genitals. It’s unclear if the victim communicated this encounter with her parents prior to attending the November 2017 sleepover where the assault occurred that led to Dionne’s conviction.
According to the arrest warrant that was drafted after the Connecticut State Police took the report from Dionne’s victim, she had claimed that in November 2017, she was at a birthday party and sleepover at his home when he inappropriately touched her.
While Dionne’s 14-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter slept in the very same room, he woke the victim up in the early hours of the morning by placing his hand against her buttocks inside her pajamas. She said he also later reached his hand under her bra, cuffing and jiggling her chest, and took a photo of her on his phone while doing so.
The young victim said she was molested twice by Dionne, several hours apart that evening.
During one of the assaults detailed, Dionne asked the girl if she wanted to see his genitals, asking her:
“Are you a big girl or a little girl?”
He later followed up with:
“If you tell your mom, I’ll go to jail and (my daughter) won’t have a daddy.”
The young victim had turned down his advances and Dionne went back to his room, according to reports.
Despite his failed attempt at a pilot with HGTV, Dionne was still aiming to make it big as a TV host for a similar styled show to “Family Flip”; however, this particular endeavor, titled “House Rescue”, was being funded by A&E and was in production during the November 2017 assault.
In an interview with NBC Connecticut back in 2018, A&E stated that the network had suspended production on the new show they were working on with Dionne in light of the accusations and arrest. A&E further added to the statement provided years back this past Friday by saying:
“He was never a host on the channel and nothing he filmed was ever aired.”