Group representing sex offenders files for restraining order

By  | 

Registered sex offenders have only hours to figure out where to go.

A civil rights group filed for a restraining order against the Richmond, Columbia, and Burke County sheriff's offices after District Attorney Danny Craig asked local deputies to make sure offenders get notice they have to move.

Craig has filed a response to the request, and Judge Clarence Cooper will have a hearing on it Thursday, July 27 at 2:30.

The Southern Center for Human Rights is seeking a temporary restraining order, asking that deputies not be allowed to tell sex offenders they have to move right now.

Richmond, Columbia, and Burke counties are District Attorney Craig's jurisdiction.

Craig spoke exclusively to News 12's Laurie Ott Tuesday after a judge ruled the law could be enforced.

"Those on the registry will have to move, so they no longer reside or linger within 1,000 feet of bus stops," Craig said.

But the Center disagrees, saying Mr. Craig is giving local sheriffs "Erroneous legal advice, because school districts must designate their list of school bus stops."

Last night, the Columbia County School Board did vote to officially designate the stops in the county.

The problem? Not everyone agrees about what defines an official bus stop.

But our three local counties are still putting sex offenders on notice.

Each county is interpreting this a little differently...and one man with three kids at home says he's out of options.

Deputies in Richmond, Burke, and Columbia counties are putting sex offenders on notice: Move away from bus stops or go to jail.

But it's a little more complicated than that.

"I have three children, so no matter where I move, I have a bus stop in front of my home," says registered sex offender Daniel Shaffer. He says moving away from bus stops means moving away from his family.

And the options are limited because of his tracking device.

"There's nowhere to go other than motels, and they're telling me I can't go to the one place there is left."

Like many sex offenders, Shaffer has 72 hours to find a new place.

But where?

The Columbia County School Board voted Tuesday on an official list of bus stops.

"We have some morning stops we don't make in the afternoon, and some afternoon stops we don't make in the morning," says transportation director Dewayne Porter. He says the total is about 12,000 stops

Richmond County Investigator Ron Sylvester says anyone living too close goes to jail.

"We have a list from the Richmond County BOE they provided us several months ago they said was their list of bus stops."

But school bus stops can change as families move in and out.

"If a family moves somewhere where there was once none, we have to create a new [stop] to meet the need," Porter says.

That leaves offenders like Daniel Shaffer few places to go.

"72 hours is not much time when you have a family," he says. "From what the law is saying, I have a choice of either being separated from my family or going to jail."

Just a few days left...and many sex offenders are still not sure where they are allowed to live.

The Columbia County School Board voted Tuesday on an official list of designated bus stops. Burke County tells us they turned theirs in two weeks ago. Richmond County turned theirs in at the end of May.

All three sheriff's offices tell News 12 they are enforcing the new law.

The district attorney clarified in an affidavit which counties should be enforcing the new law.

Danny Craig says sheriff's offices will only be allowed to take legal action if the school board has an updated list of designated school bus stops. So far, the only local school system to do that is Columbia County.

Judge Clarence Cooper will hear this case tomorrow at 2:30 in Atlanta. News 12 will be there to let you know what happens.

To read the Southern Center for Human Rights' Temporary Restraining Order filing, click here.

To read DA Danny Craig's affidavit made in response, click here.