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Supreme Court refuses to review ban on sex offenders in parks

City News Service | 4/25/2014, midnight
The state Supreme Court refused Thursday to review an appellate court's ruling, striking down a ban on registered sex offenders ...

The state Supreme Court refused Thursday to review an appellate court's ruling, striking down a ban on registered sex offenders in parks in 15 Orange County cities and similar prohibitions in 30 cities statewide.

"We're obviously disappointed by the Supreme Court denying our petition for review,'' said Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff for the Orange County District Attorney's Office, which promoted the bans. "We put our heart and soul in every brief and every argument to protect the children of Orange County from dangerous sex offenders.

"We still believe it was the right thing to do. We don't regret the effort, and we're going to continue to do all we can to protect children from sex offenders."

The only way to revive the bans would be to effect a change in state law to authorize local governments to enact their own bans.

In January, a panel of Fourth District Court of Appeal justices struck down the county's ordinance and one in Irvine. Since the Irvine ruling was published, it acts as a precedent and makes all of the bans unconstitutional.

The appellate panel ruled that the local ordinances conflicted with state law, which takes precedence.

In the Irvine case, JeanPierre Cuong Nguyen's success in getting his misdemeanor conviction dismissed by a lower court was affirmed. Nguyen was charged with violating Irvine's ordinance, because he went to one of the city's parks in September 2012 without the written permission of Irvine's police chief.

The county's ordinance also made it a misdemeanor for a registered sex offender to enter a county park without the county sheriff's written permission.

The appellate justices' ruling in that case stemmed from a visit by Hugo Godinez, a registered sex offender with Costa Mesa police, to Mile Square Regional Park in Fountain Valley on May 5, 2011, during a Cinco de Mayo celebration.

Godinez was found guilty, but a panel of Orange County Superior Court judges who handle appeals in misdemeanor cases overturned his conviction last April and sent the case to the Fourth District Court of Appeal for review.

Most of the Orange County ordinances banned registered sex offenders, except in Irvine and Fountain Valley, where bans targeted those convicted of crimes against children.

Lake Forest, Lancaster, Palmdale, Costa Mesa and El Dorado County repealed bans after legal challenges were raised.