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ACSOLCaliforniaGeneral News

SIMI VALLEY ORDINANCE CHALLENGED IN FEDERAL COURT

An ordinance recently adopted by the city of Simi Valley that requires registrants to post signs on their front doors and prohibits them from decorating their homes on Halloween is being challenged in federal court. The lawsuit was filed on September 28 in U.S, District Court, Central District, Western Division. It asserts that the Simi Valley ordinance is unconstitutional and requests that the court block enforcement of that ordinance.

There are a total of 10 plaintiffs in the case, including five registrants, three spouses and two children. All are residents of Simi Valley.

“This is the first lawsuit filed inCaliforniathat challenges a ‘presence restriction’ adopted by a city or county,” stated Janice Bellucci, CA RSOL state organizer, and attorney for the plaintiffs. “lt won’t be the last. More than 20 such restrictions currently exist in the state of California.”

The stated purpose of the Simi Valley ordinance is to “protect children from the dangers posed by registered sex offenders convicted of offenses against minors” on Halloween. However, there are no reported cases of a child being assaulted while trick or treating by a registered sex offender on Halloween in the state of California.

A 2009 study, “How safe are trick-or-treaters” concluded that the findings of a 9-year review “suggest that Halloween policies may in fact be targeting a new urban myth similar to past myths warning of tainted treats.” The contents of the study, conducted by nationally recognized expert Jill Levenson and others, can be found online at http://sax.sagepub.com/content/21/3/363.abstract. According to the lawsuit, the Simi Valley ordinance violates both the 1st and 14th Amendments of  the U.S.constitution because of the sign requirement as well as the prohibition from decorating a registrant’s front yard and exterior of the residence with Halloween decorations.

“I have lived in Simi Valley for more than 50 years and have served the community as an officer of the Simi Valley Moose Lodge as well as the den mother of a boy scout troop,” stated Jane Doe, the wife of a registrant and one of the 10 plaintiffs. “I have also decorated the yard of my home in celebration of Halloween for 50 years and I am not going to stop doing that now.”

The ordinance prohibits “a discrete and socially outcast minority from expressing any publicly viewable celebration of Halloween on their own property on October 31 every year,” according to the lawsuit. The ordinance also “forces this group to impose a burden on their own safety and that of any person who resides with them by requiring them to turn off all exterior lighting at their residences on October 31 every year.” Further, the ordinance causes shame upon registrants “by mandating that they place a large content-specific sign on their door every year.”

California RSOL testified in opposition to the proposed ordinance at the Simi Valley City Council meetings on August 20 and September 10. In addition, the organization sent a letter to the Council dated August 20 which stated that the ordinance, if passed, would violate the U.S. Constitution. Despite the opposition of California RSOL and some local residents, the city council passed the ordinance on September 10 in a vote of 4 to 1. The sole dissenting vote was cast by Mayor Pro Tem Barbara Williamson.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 28, 2012

Press Release (pdf)

 

Join the discussion

  1. Txmom3

    It is about time that registrants start suing cities for these “feel good” ordinances that do nothing to protect the public. Not one child has ever been sexually assaulted by a trick-o-treater. Too many of those registered on the sex offender registry are not even dangerous, or have never raped a child. A large percentage of those on the registry were children themselves you have been labeled “sex offenders” for experimenting with sex or who are classified as romeo and juliet love. Others have pee’d in public (usually from drinking too much), others made one mistake in their life and there is no forgiveness when it somes to anything labeled sexual. Some do not even have a victim at all (downloading porn or engaging in online sex talk with someone they never met in public nor knew the age of the person they were chatting with. The registration is overblown, these ordinances are not for the dangerous as they had originally intended. No wonder there is a huge movement that is not going to take it anymore. Cities will start being sued more and more, so you better build up your treasury, cause your gonna need it.

  2. Alice Benson

    It is amazing that certain communities defy the US Constitution in order to make themselves look immportant. They are wasting the time and effort of local law enforcement along with stigmatizing the names of some of their residents.

  3. Coleen Daugherty

    Thank you for all you do with regards to this issue. Even though I do not live in this area, left unchecked, this could spread like wildfire throughout the state. This is truly frightening. To think that it has been sixteen years since my husband’s offense (stat-rape), he has been off of probation for 10 years and a family court has found that he is not a threat to minor children, we could be outed by a law that doesn’t protect anyone and would be detrimental to us and our children. Hopefully, the courts will rule this ordinance as unconstitutional based upon fact and not ‘feel good’ hysteria.

    • Ann

      You are right, Coleen. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances were – these are BAD BAD people who shouldn’t have any rights anyway (this is the way the public and law enforcement think). I hope the don’t retroactively make you husband go back on the registry again.

  4. Mad Mom

    It is the responsibility of the parents to keep their children safe on Halloween as they go door to door begging for candy and contributing to the obesity problem in our country. It is NOT the responsibility of ignorant council members wearing blinders and earplugs to assure that our children are safe during this and any other holiday that involves juvenile activities. What’s next? RSO’s can’t hand out gifts at Christmas, hide eggs at Easter, dance like leprechauns on St. Patrick’s Day, or wave our American flag on the sidelines of an Independence Day parade???? Face it, council members, you just want votes by way of a feel good ordinance. Get a grip and go home to study YOUR constitution!

  5. Bruce

    Thank You Janice For helping Us as a Whole Community……..As Americans, under assault! From Draconian Townships that have No Constitutional standing.

  6. G4Change

    BRAVO, Janice!!! I commend you for your legal help in helping the oppressed and disenfranchised. God speed!!!!

  7. Edie Billings

    Kudos and more power to you Janice!!! I’m hoping your actions and the actions of other RSOL members will help stem the tide of these insane and unconstitional laws.

    I’m with you all the way.

    Let’s roll!!

  8. fireking

    I’m posting this link (below) out of KEYT Santa Barbara’s coverage of the story because the Santa Barbara District Attorney makes a very good point that has been missed by all of the misguided community leaders who have passed similar ordinances… the attempt to make kids safer may actually put them at greater risk of harm from those far more likely to commit a sexual offense… those who are not registered or have never been arrested and convicted.

    http://www.keyt.com/news/local/New-Sex-Offender-Ordinance-Under-Fire-172203831.html

    • Ann

      An excellent point. But that’s logical thinking….usually not allowed where registered sex offenders are concerned.

  9. Jeff

    Just a thought but if the injunction doesn’t work maybe all the people that have to register at their homes should just go register as homeless 3 days before Halloween. That would reflect the situation in a more realistic light as many people who have to register just register as homeless anyways regardless of where they really live. I mean having a sign on your door that states you are not handing out candy just puts a huge target on your house for any body that wants to harass some one. Plus it would really put the city council in a bind because of there stupid law, they would have homeless sex offenders roaming the streets and have no idea where they are at, out on Halloween in their city. Hope you win the injunction I really feel that the children and grand children of people who have to register are being punished for something they have no control over. Not to mention the spouses and the parents of the person who has to register.

  10. steve

    “I really feel that the children and grand children of people who have to register are being punished for something they have no control over. Not to mention the spouses and the parents of the person who has to register.”

    Jeff you hit the nail on the head!

  11. USA

    I just read the link posted by fireking and I think Santa Barbara’s District Attorney really said it all. In summary, Santa Barabara’s District Attorney says it like it is. This law provides a false sense of security and I would believe children are more prone to be assaulted by those individuals not currently on the registry! I would imagine by now the City of Simi Valley is re-thinking this law. Its meaningless, does more harm then good and it prevents those individuals who have made poor decisions in their life to get on with their lives and leave a normal and descent law abiding life! American, “WAKE UP”

  12. Ann

    I am SO happy to see someone taking on these unconstitutional laws. If someone is still a danger, keep them in prison. If they have served their time, etc., do not make these registries open to the public. If needed, make them available to law enforcement personnel only. The laws keep getting worse and are applied retroactively which is definitely unconstitutional. Also, the public does not know the circumstances, and I can assure you that, once someone is on the registry, no one cares how that person came to be on that list – they are just BAD BAD people. Here in NC misdemeanor offences cause requirement to be on the registry. A significant number of people on these registries have been hunted down and murdered by strangers acting only on the knowledge that the person is registered. I am always told, when facing yet another cross to bear, so to speak, is that these registries are public knowledge. The issue to me is that THEY SHOULDN’T BE PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE. There are some really bad people out there, but there are also a lot of people whose actions do not warrant a public registry. I like the comparison someone commented that it is akin to making Jews wear the Star of David. It isn’t that bad yet, but it’s getting there. My husband avoids children like the plague. He will never give out candy on Halloween, for his own protection – all someone has to do is SAY he did something and he will again be classified as guilty automatically. However, he should have the right to celebrate Halloween as others do if he so chooses. He is not allowed in church (the law enforcement rule, not the church) even if a church member who is a policeman will sit next to him the entire time and never lets him out of his sight. I would like him to be able to go to church with me. But I also think it protects him. Others, although they dont’ know it, have nothing to fear from him. He, however, has a lot to fear from others; i.e. as stated above if someone points a finger (totally false) he will automaticaly be put in prison. I wish someone would take this to the Supreme Court, as was done with Roe v Wade on the basis of invasion of privacy and unconstitutionality. Oh, the last thing we discovered (several mopnths ago) is that he is not allowed on any military base under any conditons. He served in both the Army and Navy.

  13. Ann

    Let me state again that this is the FIRST incident/place where I have seen someone stand up for the rights of Registered Sex Offenders. It makes me happy and I hope this spreads.

  14. Jeff

    Do these laws that they are passing all over the state affect people that have convictions before 1996? I read somewhere that they cannot add new punishments to your sentence. And I also read somewhere that anyone convicted before 1996 is not affected by these laws is this true?

    • Janice Bellucci

      Unfortunately, Jeff, the “sex offender” laws being passed apply to everyone on the registry regardless of when they were convicted and/or made a plea. The problem stems from the U.S. Supreme Court decision of Doe v. White in 2003 which determined that registration is not punishment. That means, according to this decision, that laws passed and applied retroactively are not ex post facto laws (which are prohibited by both the state and federal constitutions). There is a case pending before the state supreme court, Doe v. Harris, that might have an impact on those who entered plea bargains. Nothing to report about that case at this time and the court has no deadline by which to make its decision.

  15. Ann

    I am SO glad to see someone sticking up for the Constitutional rights of registered sex offenders. The laws get worse and worse and are applied retroactively, which is definitely unconstitutional. It doesn’t matter how or why someone is on these registries – if they are on it they are BAD BAD people. Vigilantes have killled a significant number of registered sex offenders with motive being simply that the person is on the registry. In NC, misdemeanor convictions require registration, although it wasn’t so when we moved to NC. Another law being used retroactively. I like the comment that this is akin to making Jews wear the Star of David. It isn’t that bad YET. My husband, even though he served in both the Navy and the Army is not allowed on any military base. He cannot attend church (law enforcement’s rule, not the church’s). This is true even if a member of the church who is a policeman volenteers to stay by him and never let him out of his sight. I would really like to attend church with him, but it is probably best for HIS protection. Although they don’t realize it, no one is in danger from my husband, but he is in constant danger when he is out, as all someone has to do is point a finger, regardless of truth, and he will automatically be considered guilty and go to prison. We have one vigilante type at our church who has made a big mess for us with other church members even though my husband NEVER attends church or any church activities. I can easily see this man wanting to put my husband away and making someting up. He would feel justified as he would believe he would be getting someone dangerous off the street.
    Whenever I encounter another “cross to bear”, like the man at church getting other church members all riled up, I always hear that it is “public knowledge”. My point is that it shouldn’t be. It should be available to law enforcement only. If someone is really dangerous, keep them in prison.
    My wish is that someone would take this all the way to the Supreme Court, like they did with Roe v Wade, and get these laws revoked as they are unconstitutional and cruel and unusual punishment IMO.
    Again, I am blown away by finding a site/people who do not think all registered sex offenders are scum who shouldn’t have any rights.

  16. MRS

    When I became an older kid, and lost interest in Halloween, my parents did too. Not wanting to be bothered with kids knocking on their door that night they did 3 things:
    They did not decorate.
    They turned out the lights and
    They put a sign on the door that said “No Trick or Treat”.

    With the way things are these days, I wonder if they lived in a city that had that ordinance, would they have to live in fear that some nut job would throw a rock through their window, or worse, because he assumed a sex offender lived there instead of just an older couple, or any person, who did not want to be bothered on Halloween?

    To carry that out, are people now going to HAVE to decorate and pass out candy just so they wont be assumed to be RSOs?

  17. Mandy

    I agree with all of the above comments and greatly praise Janice for her work. In addition, I am wondering about challenging the constitutionality of the entire registry as unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause after the Supreme Court clarified some vague lines in the Obama Care case and as unconstitutional under the 13th Amendment as Involuntary Servitude. The Supreme Court has ruled twice that the registry is NOT punishment so that makes the 13 Amendment seem pretty cleary violated since the registry is involuntary and is providing a service to law enforcement. Either the registry is double jeopardy (if punishment) or it’s involuntary servitude.

    Does anyone have any information about any current court challenges?

  18. Dave R.

    @ Ann,

    I know exactly what you mean;

    Before I found out about this web site, I was reluctant to speak about my case, not because I was ashamed, but because I was embarrassed. Not many people want to hear about a RSO’s story.

    Allow me to explain my case (1986), the Santa Barbara County DA’s office used an “expert witness” in my trial, this “expert witness” vouched for the credibility of the alleged victim.

    In 1996, in a front page article, the Santa Barbara News Press confirmed that the “expert witness” that the SBDA used in their “sexual assault” cases was a fake and a fraud; he couched the alleged victims, convincing them they were victims of sexual abuse and based his “findings” on junk science, he presented slide after slide to juries, convincing them there was evidence of “abuse”. In this same article, former SBDA Sneddon stated that his office “reviewed” all cases in which this “expert witness” testified, but found no “errors”. This “expert witness” was also used in San Luis Obispo County.

    In 2009, I received a hand written letter from the Superior Court Judge that heard/tried my case, in said letter, he states that he felt I was/am innocent, and confirmed the “expert witness” was indeed a fraud.

    In January 2012, I requested a meeting with the SBDA to discuss my case, and present factual evidence proving my innocence, I was granted a meeting. In said meeting, I asked that I be given some kind of proof that my case and the others in which the “expert witness” testified was actually “reviewed”, I was not given any, but I was told that we each had an opportunity to appeal our convictions, which would also have prejudiced any appeals, in that the appellate courts were not aware that the “expert witness” was discredited. I was also told that a Senior Deputy DA would be “reviewing” my case. This has been going on since January 2012.

    Here’s some important facts in my case:

    1) The Deputy DA that prosecuted my case later became the SBDA. Therefore, there would be no “reviews” in that her chances of becoming SBDA would have been slim if the public knew she prosecuted frivolous cases.
    2) The evidence presented was either too old or too new; new evidence was discovered after I had absolutely no contact with the alleged victim.
    3) I had verbally motioned the court to relieve the Public Defender’s office as my counsel and that I be allowed to hire my own counsel/representation, my motion was denied.
    4) The jury foreman in my case admitted knowing the prosecuting attorney, but was left on the jury.
    5) A motion was made that an independent expert witness question the alleged victim, motion was denied.
    6) The alleged victim’s mother has a history of accusing x-boyfriends of sexually abusing her daughter after a breakup.
    7) In 1996, a Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge rules that the expert witness is a fraud.
    8) I received a letter from the hearing court judge (now retired) stating I am innocent, and that I should contact the SBDA’s office to have my conviction reversed.

    Now imagine how many RSO’s are on the registry because of this bogus expert witness? How many other cases did the SBDA use a bogus expert witness? He testified in hundreds of cases in SB and SLO county. There’s more to my case, if you’re interested, please post a comment, I will answer all questions truthfully.

  19. Fred Davis

    Plea bargains are a covenant or agreement. If registries are not punishment when the plea is corrupted then one can be partly pregnant.

  20. MM

    There are four more signatures needed in the petition in this website .. If you haven’t already signed, please do! It will be delivered to the O.C. DA once it reaches 500!!

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