Should Convicted Sexual Offenders Be Banned From Public Parks?

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JOHN KASICH, GUEST HOST: In the Children at Risk (search) segment tonight, parents beware. A federal appeals court in Chicago has ruled that a convicted sex offender cannot be banned from public parks, even though he goes to them and has sexual thoughts about children.

The mayor of Lafayette, Indiana, banned the molester known only as John Doe after learning that he liked to hang around the park and fantasize about the kids. The molester sued and lost, but the appeals court reversed the decision on appeal.

Joining us now from Lafayette, Indiana is that town's mayor, David Heath. And from San Francisco, attorney Carlos Watson. Mayor, what were you trying to do with your action? And how do you feel after this ruling?

DAVE HEATH, LAFAYETTE, INDIANA MAYOR: Well, what we were trying to do is very simple, and that's protect children. And the ruling -- we're very disappointed in the ruling. We feel that we have an obligation to protect the children in our parks. And we felt that the trial court recognized that. So we're very disappointed in the appeal court ruling.

KASICH: Well, mayor, you seem pretty calm about this. I mean, were you just absolutely flabbergasted when you saw this ruling? And how could these judges have made this kind of a decision?

HEATH: Well, I really was flabbergasted. We thought this was pretty much a no-brainer. We have a person who admitted -- admits to going to a park for a specific reason, and that is to look at children and fantasize about having sex with them.

So that's something that we can't tolerate in our parks. And the reason I am not -- I'm calm about it is that it is not over yet. I mean we're going to continue to do everything that we can to protect children in our parks. And we feel we have that obligation and right. And we will continue with this case.

KASICH: Carlos, now how could you possibly applaud this decision?

CARLOS WATSON, ATTORNEY: John, it's less about applauding the decision and more about recognizing that our Constitution implied certain guarantees that we can't lose.

And let's be clear. This is deplorable. It's ugly. No one's happy to see kids at risk. But the approach that Mayor Heath and the council took was the wrong one. The court said several things.

First, there said there's a was a First amendment guarantee, the freedom of speech and freedom of thought. Thought being different than action. This guy, while he has been convicted in the past, he wasn't doing anything in particular at the park that made them worry. Secondly what the court said here is that even if you were worried, you got to produce a narrowly tailored band. And that didn't happen here.

Be clear that in Lafayette, Indiana, this guy is banned not only from this park, but all of the parks, from the zoos, from the stadiums. Why just this one...

WATSON: What's wrong with that? Time-out, John. Here's one of the things I would think you would be worried about. This guy was convicted three times of sexual molestation. Once at a convenience store, once outside of someone's home, and once outside of a school. This ban, you know, is ineffective. This ban wouldn't have done anything to help in any of those three cases. So even if you happen to like this ban as taking one small step, recognize it was probably the wrong step and was ineffective.

KASICH: All right, Carlos. Okay, you've had your say now.

Carlos, do you have children?

WATSON: Don't have children. Certainly...

KASICH: Okay, let me tell you about my situation. I've got two kids.


KASICH: Okay? They like to go to the park because in the park they get the slides and swings and everything else. You know the greatest fear of every parent is there's somebody there that's going to do them harm. This guy committed, as you said, three cases of sexual activity, some on children. Mayor, how in goodness gracious name can the state look the other way when this guy's admitting that he's thinking about sex with kids when he's in the park?

WATSON: Well, John, with all due respect...

KASICH: Hold on, Carlos. It's the mayor's turn. Mayor?

HEATH: Well, I think that is the very point there. He's not only going to the park for that reason. He has told us he's going to the park for that reason. So we have no choice but to ban him from the parks.

KASICH: Carlos, what we have here is lack of common sense. You wouldn't put your children...

WATSON: John, look. A lack of common sense would be to say, we know this guy has shown up at the park and don't do anything. And that's explicitly what I'm not saying. I'm saying go back and visit this guy, and have the police visit him and say, we've got you under watch and you shouldn't be doing it. I'm sure make sure that everyone knows about the online sexual offender registry there in Indiana, which the Supreme Court has upheld.

KASICH: Yes, Carlos...

WATSON: I'm saying make sure...

KASICH: Let me tell you.

WATSON: Not now, John. One last one.

KASICH: No, wait.

WATSON: One last one.

KASICH: No, I'm going to ask you this question. Now out in Kansas, they had a guy who was a sexual predator. And they were warning in the community, the state was warning, watch this guy. If he gets out of prison, he's going to do it again, it's just a matter of time.

All the lawyers got around and said oh, no, no, he has a right to privacy and everything else. He went out and committed another crime. Now why would you let this guy be anywhere where he could possibly do this again? Just kick him out of the parks. How can you defend that?

WATSON: John, first of all, you're not defending that guy be in the parks. Let's no have a red herring issue here. What I'm saying....

KASICH: You want him in the parks, Carlos? Do you want them banned from the parks and the police to watch him?

WATSON: I'm saying if he commits any substantial step, as Judge Williams said, towards doing anything, anything close, then definitely ban him. But you can't ban him, just like you can't ban any murderer from walking down street once he's served his or her time.

KASICH: Mayor, let me...

WATSON: Let's be smart about this, John.

KASICH: ...Mayor, isn't it true now that we are beginning to find that when people are likely to commit crimes again, that the -- you know, you've got to do something to protect the public. What's your philosophy on that?

HEATH: Well, that's exactly right. And this subject has always been convicted three times for child molesting. And he's already -- and that doesn't include a myriad of other heinous things that he's -- been accused of with children.

People -- parks are for children and parks are for families. Families should able to send their children to our parks, knowing that they are not on -- being window shopped by a sexual predator.

KASICH: All right, mayor, I want to thank you for coming on. Carlos, I want to thank you for coming on. I'm going to bet when you have children, your opinion will change on this. Thank you guys.

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