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GA: Sheriff defends Halloween sex-offender-warning signs

[bpnews.net – 10/24/19]

orgia sheriff was in federal district court Thursday (Oct. 24) defending his decision to post signs in front of sex offenders’ homes warning trick-or-treaters not to approach.

Three sex offenders have filed suit against Butts County, Ga., sheriff Gary Long because he posted signs in front of 200 registered sex offenders’ homes in 2018 warning trick-or-treaters not to approach the properties. The plaintiffs are trying to prevent Long from posting the signs again in 2019 and beyond.

“Stop. Warning. No Trick-Or-Treat At This Address!!” the signs read, with the qualifier, “A community safety message from Butts County Sheriff Gary Long.” Long specified his reasoning with a public notice on the sheriff’s office Facebook page informing readers of the lawsuit.

Long and others, in their answer to the complaint, claim they legally posted the signs.

“Plaintiffs’ relevant First Amendment rights in this context are diminished by the pervasive government regulation applicable to sexual offenders, and any burden on any plaintiff’s alleged First Amendment right(s) was … outweighed,” the court document reads, “by the compelling government interest in protecting vulnerable members of the public from sexual offenders…. (The state has a strong interest in preventing future sexual offenses and alerting local law enforcement and citizens to the whereabouts of those that could reoffend).”

Long also pledged on Facebook to protect children from sex offenders.

“Regardless of the Judge’s ruling this Thursday, I WILL do everything within the letter of the Law to protect the children of this Community,” said Long, who has held his post since 2013.

Join the discussion

  1. Bill

    “The compelled speech doctrine sets out the principle that the government cannot force an individual or group to support certain expression. Thus, the First Amendment not only limits the government from punishing a person for his speech, it also prevents the government from punishing a person for refusing to articulate, advocate, or adhere to the government’s approved messages.”

    https://www.mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/933/compelled-speech

    Again this Sheriff continues to LIE about following the letter of the LAW and violates our Constitution by picking on a minority group of people that he thinks he can step on and make a name for himself.

    Disgusting.

    I’m glad citizens are fighting back and showing these out of control individuals with little bits of power that they can’t do whatever they want by circumventing the law.

  2. Janice Bellucci

    Sheriff Gary Long’s statement suggests that he will defy a judge’s decision. This statement may or may not be anything more than grand standing. Or it could be a lot more serious. Like all elected officials, Sheriff Long took an oath to defend and protect the Constitution. If the Sheriff defies the judge’s decision, he will be breaking his oath of office. And if he breaks that oath, he should be removed from the office he now serves –Sheriff.

    • Facts should matter

      Or Worse. This whole signage placement gimmick will go nationwide next year and become normalized as an accepted procedure which will THEN serve as a camel nose for something far more intrusive and dehumanizing.

      • Will Allen

        I wish they would try it where I live. They couldn’t get the sign onto my property but I’d still make law enforcement pay dearly for it.

        If they could get the sign onto my property, I’d build a huge gallows and completely cover the sign. Then I’d hang some effigies of some of the criminals there. Would be a beautiful display. I suppose they’d try to cite me for some kind of code violation or something, who knows. Then I’d have to sue them for blocking my freedom of political expression. Could be exciting and fun.

        And then of course there is always the fact that I leave my house on Halloween. So I guess I’d go to a friend’s home and hand out candy. Is that more “dangerous” than driving around hundreds of children walking in the streets?

        • Facts should matter

          Seriously. though. This sign thing needs to be nipped in the bud. If the judge green-lights this sheriff’s idea, what’s to stop them from requiring us to keep the sign up year-round while charging us a maintenance fee?!

        • R M

          @Will: “Is that more “dangerous” than driving around hundreds of children walking in the streets?” I mentioned that to Michelle Smith, DCS coordinating chief of a few south Ga counties including mine. I asked her about forcing us under supervision to report to the sheriffs dept on Halloween and that means we all had to drive there, to and from, on that eve when children were out and about. Her response was that several counties in Ga have instituted these “lock ups” in recent years. I asked about the increase in traffic due to us having to travel to/from the detention place, and she said it means our officers won’t be on the roads and it’s a convenience to us.

          I dare to say that one of us doesn’t drive over one of these trick or treaters that eve.

        • Will Allen

          R M:

          It is idiotic that they are forcing you from your home on Halloween. But I don’t think the driving part of that is much of an issue. It won’t add any significant extra traffic.

          I was trying to say something facetious that wasn’t very clear. That was, if I went to a friend’s house and was helping his family hand out candy and people “found out”, they would lose their tiny minds. But an alternative to that, and what I almost always do instead, is go out and drive around many neighborhoods for a couple of hours among the trick-or-treaters. Of course, that is a hell of a lot more dangerous.

          I’m going to Butts County this year. Probably will be there 2 or 3 days.

      • http404

        Whoever challenges these unlawful ordinances across the country need to be very concise with their legal grounds. Thankfully we were successful in California in pointing out that this “forced speech” had the chilling effect of putting not just registrants’ lives in danger, but also non offenders who are cohabitants in a household.

        Making the wrong legal argument could result in these ordinances being upheld, and could later put our California victories in jeopardy as the issue makes its way to higher courts.

    • Bill

      Thank you Janice! Bring the point home!

  3. Facts should matter

    This sheriff is not placing those signs to promote safety and protect the “vulnerable,” he’s doing it to draw attention to the registry and to promote it! He wants people to see those signs, get curious and visit the online hit list so Boss Hog can gain a false sense of relevance and the sheep gain a false sense of empowerment and pseudo safety.

    Make no mistake. These signs are not for “advisory” purposes! They’re basically veiled re-election signs at the expense of throwing everyone at the home they’re placed under the bus.

  4. USA

    Disturbing article! I don’t recall ever hearing about any past offender committing a crime during Halloween? Yet, these city officials create hysteria by posting signs and for the laymen, this creates hysteria, anger, hatred and the belief if signs are being posted, the offenders post a threat? In summary, it’s truly sad that society doesn’t do things differently and look for ways to assist those in need!

  5. Sunny

    The Butts County Sheriff Facebook page is here:
    https://www.facebook.com/ButtsCountySheriff/

    The most recent post regarding the signs is here (updated 10/24). There are currently over 800 comments:
    https://www.facebook.com/ButtsCountySheriff/posts/2467265239994334

    “Our office is being inundated with phone calls about the status of the hearing that took place this morning. Per the Staff and Sheriff’s Attorney, we have been advised to make no statements until the Judge has made a ruling. The Judge has made no ruling at this time.”

  6. Bill

    Coming from the state that has had the second highest recorded lynchings in US history, Georgia has a history of oppressing and going after minorities.

    It would be a great day for citizens and a crushing blow to hate & fear mongers when the lawsuit goes through and sets a precedence for other states in the future.

  7. New Person

    From the article:
    ****
    “Plaintiffs’ relevant First Amendment rights in this context are diminished by the pervasive government regulation applicable to sexual offenders, and any burden on any plaintiff’s alleged First Amendment right(s) was … outweighed,” the court document reads, “by the compelling government interest in protecting vulnerable members of the public from sexual offenders…. (The state has a strong interest in preventing future sexual offenses and alerting local law enforcement and citizens to the whereabouts of those that could reoffend).”
    ****

    “preventing future () offenses” classifies as deterrence. Deterrence is a form of punishment.

    • Facts should matter

      Yes. The entire registry is reactionary, pre-emptive and anticipatory. However, they’ve managed to sell it as “proactive and preventative” to get around the punitive aspect of the schema which is a load of BS voodoo science.

  8. Janice Bellucci

    The Sheriff lost in court today! Please read related story on this website: Federal Judge Stops Halloween Signs in Georgia. This is a significant victory!!

    • HopingforHope

      If the judge had decided differently imagine where this might have led:

      “No birthday parties with children at this address” signs?
      “Children playing in the neighborhood: STOP, and stay away from this address” signs?
      “Children walking home from school: STOP, and walk around this address” signs?
      “Children selling items for fundraising: STOP, and skip this house” signs?
      “No Easter egg hunts at this address” signs

      Really sad how the community largely supported him. It only takes someone with an IQ larger than bean dip to understand that this is simply wrong.

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