Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City Sexual Predator Law in for a Test? Two Men Have Been Arrested under the New Ordinance; an Advocate Calls Measure Unconstitutional

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City Sexual Predator Law in for a Test? Two Men Have Been Arrested under the New Ordinance; an Advocate Calls Measure Unconstitutional

Article excerpt

Byline: BRIDGET MURPHY

Donald Jenkins and Samuel Plant knew police would be coming for them.

But on the advice of a Jacksonville prisoner advocate, the convicted sexual predators recently moved to a Springfield boarding home and registered their new addresses with the state.

The knock at the door came Thursday when police arrested both Jenkins, 44, and Plant, 36, on a misdemeanor charge of violating a new city ordinance.

The ordinance, which the City Council unanimously passed in May, makes it a crime for a sexual predator to move within 2,500 feet of a school, day-care center, playground, library or anywhere else children regularly gather.

But Jenna Lopes, a law school graduate who runs a program for Jacksonville Area Legal Aid Inc. that helps ex-convicts reintegrate into society, says that ordinance is unconstitutional.

Lopes, who helped place Jenkins and Plant in the boarding home, said Friday a group of local lawyers plans to challenge the constitutionality of the new ordinance. She said it unfairly banishes all sexual predators from the city because there are no addresses in Jacksonville that don't fall within the zone the ordinance describes.

Lopes, who isn't yet sworn into The Florida Bar, wouldn't name other attorneys who are involved.

Legal Aid's executive director, Michael Figgins, said Friday his organization is not mounting a legal challenge. He said his organization did talk to Sheriff John Rutherford and City Councilman Daniel Davis about amending the ordinance to make it less sweeping.

Lopes said she believes the ordinance can be amended to make sure children are protected but non-pedophiles who don't pose a danger to minors and those who comply with probation terms aren't penalized.

Rutherford, who supported the ordinance, couldn't be reached Friday.

Davis, who sponsored the ordinance, told the Times-Union on Friday he has no intention of sponsoring an amendment. He said predators are allowed to stay where they lived prior to the law's enactment.

"We built some grandfathering aspects where if they don't move or if they don't re-offend, they can stay," he said. …

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