Judge says sex offender law applies

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ATLANTA --- A federal judge Thursday refused to halt enforcement of a provision in state law that prohibits sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a day-care center.

Lawyers from the Southern Center for Human Rights were seeking to stop the state from evicting Columbia County's Wendy Whitaker from her Harlem home and to prevent enforcement of another provision that keeps registered offenders from volunteering at their churches.

U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper denied Ms. Whitaker's motion and said he will issue a ruling another day on the question of church activities.

Asked on the stand how it would make her feel to have to move, she said, "It would be very bad."

Attorneys from the Southern Center argued that the law's provision is unconstitutional because it imposes a second punishment of banishment after Ms. Whitaker had already served out her sentence of five years' probation. She was essentially banished, they say, because there is almost nowhere else she could live.

Map expert Peter Wagner testified that of the 51,000 land parcels in Columbia County, fewer than 600 contained housing that is more than 1,000 feet from a school, day care, church, park or bus stop.

But, he acknowledged that about 50 former sex offenders have found residences there.

Judge Cooper merely said he was unconvinced.

However, he didn't rule on arguments he heard Thursday on two other motions by the Southern Center. One is the constitutionality of a 2008 addition to the sex-offender law prohibiting volunteering at church, and the other is about granting class-action status that would treat all 15,000 people on the state's sex-offender registry as being harmed by the law.

Three former sex offenders testified that they wanted to continue helping out around their churches but, since the change took effect in July, their parole officers told them not to sing in the adult choir, deliver their testimony or even set-up chairs in church.

The state argued that the presence of youngsters in churches necessitates the volunteering prohibition since children are inclined to give more authority to an adult serving in any role of responsibility.

These people can still worship in church, said Joseph Drolet of the Georgia Attorney General's Office.

"What the plaintiffs have done is take core religious values ... and extend it to any activity in a church," he said.

Reach Walter Jones at (404) 589-8424.

BACKGROUND: Wendy Whitaker is on the sex-offender registry for engaging in consensual sex as a 17-year-old high school sophomore with another sophomore, then 15, more than a decade ago. She was also convicted of misdemeanor shoplifting about nine years ago.

TODAY: Now 29, Ms. Whitaker has 72 hours from Monday to move from her husband's home on Church Street in Harlem.

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Tujeez
0
Points
Tujeez 11/14/08 - 01:44 am
0
0
Children are the seed of the

Children are the seed of the world. God gives them to us to nuture and grow. Sex offenders prey on these Innocent seed. Best not to tempt the fallible with the innocent. And the victims live virtually destroyed lives. No need in propagating destruction.

demented dave
0
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demented dave 11/14/08 - 04:30 am
0
0
Uh, she was 17 and had

Uh, she was 17 and had consensual sex with a 15 year old? How in the world is this a criminal offense? It's not like she was in her thirties or something. Have we completely lost our minds?

bone
24
Points
bone 11/14/08 - 04:52 am
0
0
yes

yes

mutt
2
Points
mutt 11/14/08 - 05:12 am
0
0
This system is making normal

This system is making normal folks out to be some kind of monsters, and punishing them for life. This is just wrong, just plain wrong. I have no problem with actual child molesters and child rapist being controlled in this way, in fact I see the need clearly. The problem is that we are classing people as "sex offenders" who really are not and never were. Someone who has consensual sex is not molesting or raping. A guy who takes a wizz in the bushes is not a sex offender, and neither is some chick who has a little too much to drink and goes streaking. A guy who has sex with a 15 year old who looks 20 but lies and tells him that she is 18 is no child molester. A PERSON WHO ROUTINELY SEEKS OUT CHILDREN IS A CHILD MOLESTER, not a person that makes a stupid mistake once in their life. The problem as I see it, is not the law, but whom we have chosen to apply it to. The woman in the above article is no child molester and never was, and neither are others who have made a similar mistake. They don't deserve this, it's way over board.

Martinez
154
Points
Martinez 11/14/08 - 05:55 am
0
0
This story is absolutely

This story is absolutely rediculous. Two teens, in the same grade, albeit 2 years a part in age, made a consensual decision, albeit not a wise one. Now, one of the two will be made to suffer for the rest of her life for it. At 17, did this person accept a plea for which she could not have understood or even predicted the future laws and repricussions that would become applicable to her? In the meantime, we have a jail with a revolving door and prosecutors who fail to act timely or efficiently on the street level repeat offenders who prey on our children by selling drugs and glorifying gang and/or thug propaganda.

Captain Obvious
0
Points
Captain Obvious 11/14/08 - 06:22 am
0
0
Mutt and Martinez-

Mutt and Martinez- EXACTLY.
The existing laws don't pass the 'common sense' test, and take a ridiculous amount of law enforcement/court time and money..

createyourfuture
86
Points
createyourfuture 11/14/08 - 06:37 am
0
0
But were put there to protect

But were put there to protect "the children." If she were a male, she would have received the mandatory 10 yeaar sentence for child molestation as Genarlow Wilson and Marcus Dixon, who were subsequently freed, but whose lives were ruined. I know many people who committed this "crime." by getting married.
Or just being teenagers.
In this time, common sense is not authorized.
How do you spell Supreme Court case?

Martinez
154
Points
Martinez 11/14/08 - 06:49 am
0
0
I agree this should be a

I agree this should be a Supreme Court case. People who accepted pleas or even those convicted of offenses that subject them to the "sex offender" label did so, in most cases, without clear understanding or ability to predict the future laws that would be made applicable to them. Would the original case Judge have levied the same verdict and sentence knowing the life long repricussions?

dale88fan
0
Points
dale88fan 11/14/08 - 06:55 am
0
0
This is bullcrap -= she

This is bullcrap -= she shouldnt even be on the list

pointstoponder
1010
Points
pointstoponder 11/14/08 - 06:56 am
0
0
I am Christian and

I am Christian and conservative. This total disregard for common sense is what cost the Republican party in the last two elections. It would be far better to live by example and show people your values than try to legislate "Christian" morality.

THINKABOUTIT
0
Points
THINKABOUTIT 11/14/08 - 07:00 am
0
0
This is absolutely

This is absolutely ridiculous!!! Cant someone with the right credentials do something for this woman pro-bono. I just find it hard to believe everyone in this community is just gonna sit around and allow this to happen!! This whole case is an embarassment to our judicial system and laws!

HYPOCRITES 08
7
Points
HYPOCRITES 08 11/14/08 - 07:11 am
0
0
I agree with you all but

I agree with you all but isn't it ironic that these are the say lawyers that are often criticized?

Riverman1
103274
Points
Riverman1 11/14/08 - 08:00 am
0
0
If the state says they have

If the state says they have paid for the crime, you have to let them try to live and turn their lives around. Prohibiting them from doing things in church or finding a place to live is unreasonable.

zambu_glenlivet
0
Points
zambu_glenlivet 11/14/08 - 08:06 am
0
0
It's truly sad our society

It's truly sad our society is so lost when it comes to common sense issues! There is no way this woman should be seperated from her family based on a consensual sex act from high school. If this is the case a lot more of us should and would be on that list. When did the legislators become so stupid???

countrygirl
0
Points
countrygirl 11/14/08 - 08:36 am
0
0
This woman was not a sex

This woman was not a sex offender but a normal teenager at the time this alleged crime was committed. If this is a sex offender then most adults (men or women) should be on this list including the men/women that wrote and enforce this law. The law should be changed to protect children not angry parents or vindictive lovers. This falls under the "he who has not sinned" rule if you know what I mean.

christian134
1
Points
christian134 11/14/08 - 08:39 am
0
0
There is a difference in the

There is a difference in the degrees of sexual misconduct and sexual molestation... This woman does not seem to follow the picture of a child pedophile...She seems to be a woman who as a teen made a mistake with another teen...She, in my opinion, should not be inflicted with further punishment...

RogueKnight
221
Points
RogueKnight 11/14/08 - 08:40 am
0
0
These laws are knee jerk,

These laws are knee jerk, IMO. YES, we need laws that protect our children from predators. The situation that got Ms. Whitaker in trouble with the law was not a predatory act. The laws need to be reexamined and rewritten to put the harshest penalties on predatory sex offenders. This sounds like a case of youthful sexual exploration. And she deserves to be driven from her home for it? HELL NO.

oneconservativetoanother
5
Points
oneconservativetoanother 11/14/08 - 08:44 am
0
0
Here we are in a society that

Here we are in a society that can't get this right. Equal rights isn't even close in this situation. Where are all the civil rights activists and lawyers that want change? Step up and take this case all the way. This law must be reviewed, revised or thrown out. To tell someone they can't sing in a church choir or set up chairs? Give me a break! When will it end? At their grave?

TWright987
0
Points
TWright987 11/14/08 - 08:45 am
0
0
This poor woman has More than

This poor woman has More than paid for someone else's warped sense of justice!

whatever1
2
Points
whatever1 11/14/08 - 08:59 am
0
0
I agree with Countrygirl

I agree with Countrygirl almost everyone we would be guilty based upon what happened to this woman.Parents need to think about what they are doing when they get the police involved because they don't like their child's girlfriend or boyfriend. It can ruin lives forever. Most parents can be complete jerks and then they wonder why the kids don't have anthing to do with them or even worse.
Why did the article mention shoplifting years ago--alot of people have done that--it is wrong but it is a fact that has nothing to do with this situation.

rufus
2
Points
rufus 11/14/08 - 09:02 am
0
0
You get what you pay for. Her

You get what you pay for. Her lawyers were arguing the wrong issue. The judge could not overturn the residency requirements without having every sex offender line up for an exception. He could have overturned her status as a sex offender and she could live anywhere she wanted.

voluptuously_auburn1
0
Points
voluptuously_auburn1 11/14/08 - 09:03 am
0
0
I wonder if she has attempted

I wonder if she has attempted to have her conviction overturned (if that's possible at this late day) ??

Little Lamb
51752
Points
Little Lamb 11/14/08 - 09:25 am
0
0
It's one thing for the state

It's one thing for the state government to regulate where an ex-con can live. It's entirely another matter for state government to forbid an ex-con from volunteering at his or her church. That smacks right up against the US Constitution. The first amendment guarantees "free exercise" of religion. The Georgia General Assembly and Governor cannot take that right away. Volunteering at a church is free exercise or one's religion.

knows2much
0
Points
knows2much 11/14/08 - 09:33 am
0
0
She now has to be seperated

She now has to be seperated from her husband or both have to sell or rent out their home & move!!! That is crazy. This along with many others is an example of misjudged sentencing. I've heard of so many cases where a young girl says later on that a young man had sex with her against her on will- only so that she won't get in trouble by her parents, when she is just as much to blame. Now these young boy's lives are changed forever.

checkitout
13
Points
checkitout 11/14/08 - 09:36 am
0
0
you know this world is going

you know this world is going crazy. Some that are listed as sex offenders are no offenders. I know Wendy and she would never harm a child. the laws have gone crazy. Yes a real sex offender should pay for the rest there life but not all cases apply. Church is a house of GOD and sex offenders that like Wendy should be allowed to be part of the church. The church should make that choice as to what they would allow a sex offender to do. Come on look at what happen before the courts ruled. Look at the school system now and they would have to charge a lot of you teens as sex offenders.

TakeAstand
13
Points
TakeAstand 11/14/08 - 10:09 am
0
0
17 and 15.... what BS!!!!!!!

17 and 15.... what BS!!!!!!! My symapthy to Mrs. Whitaker and other teens caught up in this ridiculous part of this law, it needs to be straightened out. Its great for real predators, but teens 2 years apart in the same grade... come on!!! each case should be decided indvidually when you have a 15 and 17.. for petes sake!!! I wonder how she was even turned in..... [filtered word] ex boyfriend, overprotective parents who decided to ruin another childs life instead of punishing thier own child for consensual sex???? sounds like she had some real [filtered word] off bulldogs after her, maybe we aren't getting the rest of the story.

mutt
2
Points
mutt 11/14/08 - 10:18 am
0
0
Punishing such small

Punishing such small infractions as this, under the sex offender laws is not only cruel and unusual punishment, but it is diluting the real meaning of "sex offender" and "child molester". When most people hear these terms they think of child predators and rapist, not a couple of kids playing doctor, or teens experimenting. Who would think that going potty in the bushes is a "sex crime", or skinny dipping, or mooning, or some drunk chick flashing people at a party. The real problem here is that law enforcement and courts used their powers to "punish people to the FULLEST EXTENT OF THE LAW", and went way way way too far. These laws should only be used for real child predators, and real rapist. The net is way to big that the courts and law enforcement are using. Go to the sex offenders data base, and I bet you'll be shocked to see that the majority of people on that list are NOT "hard core rapist" or "child predators", but instead they are people like Wendy Whitaker. The only way to put a stop to this is for ALL OF US to contact our law makers and demand that this be addressed now, before another life is ruined by this abuse of power.

sueboo418
37
Points
sueboo418 11/14/08 - 10:19 am
0
0
This is completely

This is completely outrageous!! This poor woman has more than done her time for nothing really. How many of us can stand up and stay we didn't do the same thing when we were 16 or 17?? Not many, I'm sure. The judges are complete morons!!!!

patriciathomas
43
Points
patriciathomas 11/14/08 - 10:22 am
0
0
I feel sex offender

I feel sex offender restraints should exist and be enforced, but I also feel zero tolerance is stupid. I'm guessing these types of "enforcements" are designed to have the whole "sex offender enforcement" issue removed from the books. This issue doesn't have to be "all or nothing". Why is getting this issue taken care of so difficult? Is it that difficult for lawyers to get work? Do the laws have to be written in such an obscure manner as to confuse everyone? This case is an example of politicians not doing their job.

Farful
7
Points
Farful 11/14/08 - 10:49 am
0
0
this is absurd. how many of

this is absurd. how many of you would also qualify ?

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