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Another OC City Backs Off Sex Offender Ban

As lawsuits prompt OC cities to reconsider bans on sex offenders in parks, Westminster officials decided to drop charges against a sex offender who challenged the law.

Westminster became the latest Orange County city to distance itself from a law banning sex offenders from city or county parks.

A number of cities including Mission Viejo, Seal Beach, Fountain Valley, Los Alamitos and Laguna Niguel have similar bans, all of which could face challenges in court. An attorney who represents a sex offender in the Westminster case represents several offenders challenging similar bans around the county as an infringement on civil liberty. Many of the bans could depend on a pending appeals court decision about a Fountain Valley case.

The threat of a lawsuit prompted Lake Forest City Council to reverse its ban, and cities such as Seal Beach are reviewing their bans. And on Thursday Westminster city attorneys dismissed a misdemeanor case against a man accused of violating Westminster's ordinance prohibiting sex offenders from its parks, a law overturned by a panel of Orange County Superior Court judges and whose constitutionality is being considered by the Fourth District Court of Appeal.

Steven James Dietrich was accused of violating Westminster's ordinance on Oct. 11. His attorney, Scott Van Camp of the Orange County Public Defender's Office, filed a motion to throw out the case, but the Westminster City Attorney's Office dismissed the charges before that motion could be considered.

Van Camp represents multiple defendants presenting constitutional challenges to ordinances banning registered sex offenders from parks in more than a dozen Orange County cities as well as unincorporated areas.

All the ordinances will hinge on how the appellate court rules on the misdemeanor case against Hugo Godinez. Godinez's misdemeanor conviction for violating the county's ordinance was dismissed in November by a panel of Orange County Superior Court judges, who asked the higher court to consider the ruling in December.

It could take another six months for the appellate court to rule, Van Camp said. The appellate court's ruling would establish legal precedence.

The three-court panel of Orange County Superior Court judges overturned the Godinez conviction because they concluded that state law preempts the city ordinances. If the state has a law regarding a specific crime cities are not allowed to pass ordinances that expand on them or are variations on them unless the state law permits that.

State laws ban parolees for some serious sex offenses involving victims younger than 14 from entering parks, Van Camp said.

The judges who overruled Godinez's conviction noted sex offenders would have a difficult time navigating a ``patchwork'' of ordinances throughout Orange County.

Godinez is a registered sex offender with Costa Mesa because of his misdemeanor conviction for sexual battery on June 23, 2010, according to prosecutors. Godinez went to Mile Square Regional Park in Fountain Valley on May 5, 2011, during a Cinco de Mayo celebration. He was convicted of violating the county's ordinance on Nov. 14, 2011.

TELL US WHAT YOU THINK IN THE COMMENTS

Do you want your city to stand by the ban despite the threat of expensive legal battles? Why or Why not?

- City News Service

Gimli January 08, 2013 at 08:48 PM
I'll take that bet! And bet the farm! Disappointing that you do not know that Laguna Niguel, in their infinite bone-headedness, err, wisdom never adopted the ban... which means they will remain the richest.
JustUs January 09, 2013 at 07:36 PM
Gimli, apparently you didn't read the article above. Here is an excerpt: "A number of cities including Mission Viejo, Seal Beach, Fountain Valley, Los Alamitos and Laguna Niguel have similar bans, all of which could face challenges in court." Do you happen to see the City as named "LAGUNA NIGUEL"? Take it up with The Patch. I'll believe them before I believe you.
Maddy Farfan January 09, 2013 at 07:39 PM
Our most 'honorable' D.A. Tony Rackauckas and his equally-as-sharp lapdog Susan Kang-Schroeder now find themselves in a very uncomfortable position. They got busted in their LIES that the 'beach & park ban' was a "good thing", a "slam dunk", and best of all.. it was "Constitutional" (ha ha ha). The Emperor has no clothes! Well Tony and Susan.. what do you do for an encore I wonder? Your wind-up toys (OC city counsels) seem to be abandoning you one-by-one . Can't say that I blame them, as the alternative will ultimately be VERY expensive. Don't you have enough REAL CRIMES going on in OC that you don't need to INVENT fake ones to better serve your public ambitions? Laguna Niguel... I sorely despise you and your arrogant attitude that fouls the very air of your "quaint", stuck-up, self-satisfied community in the hills. Oh, if we could see even ONE defamed RSO clean your clocks good in civil court.. now that would really be something to watch. Stranger things than that have happened . .
JustUs January 09, 2013 at 07:41 PM
Maddy, please don't generalize. That's not nice. There were many OC citizens against these nazi-like park bans. But power settles all, Maddy. There is no 'consent of the governed' anywhere, dear, if you haven't noticed. DA Tony and his crony lemming city officials won't apologize for their very poor judgment here. The reason is that they think they are the Kings and Queens of society and they don't have to apologize. For they are our rulers. But don't generalize about all OC citizens. That's really stupid. Reminds me of Montgomery, Alabama - 1962.
Dan Avery March 26, 2013 at 05:28 PM
Toss Cathy Schlicht into that pile of wasted human flesh while you're at it. She was the driving force behind that nonsense here in Mission Viejo.

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