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Sex Offenders “Good to go” in Church Youth Groups

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New Jersey Appellate Division Judges Marie Lihotz, William Nugent, and Carol Higbee ruled that sex offenders subject to Megan’s Law community-notification requirements were not barred from volunteering with church-related programs, specifically those designated for the Youth.Sex_Offender.jpg

The trio affirmed the trial court’s determination to dismiss a criminal charge against “S.B.,” a convicted Somerset County sex offender, who was a volunteer with his church’s Youth group. In the March 22 published opinion, the panel determined that the legislative intent of the statute was to specifically exclude church groups (N.J.S.A. 2C:7-1 to -23), of which prohibits sex offenders from participating in Youth serving organizations. (See New Jersey State Police’s listing of the NJ Sex Offender statute and mandatory registration here:

Charged with violation of the criminal statute, a grand jury indicted S.B., originally convicted of sexual assault on a victim under the age of majority (18) – a crime punishable by a three to five-year prison sentence.

S.B., a Youth leader, chaperone, counselor, and mentor for children ages 12 to 17 volunteers at Somerset County’s Eternal Life Christian Center. Responsible for the minors, he oversees their activities at movie-nights, various events, meetings, and day-long camps. Superior Court Judge Marino dismissed the indictment last June, determining that the Youth ministry did not constitute a “Youth serving organization,” causing the Prosecutor’s Office to appeal.

On appeal, the Division affirmed Marino’s standpoint, finding that ‘Youth serving org’ was necessarily limited to a sports team, league, or athletic association, excluding public schools, of which provides educational, recreational, social, charitable, or cultural activities to those under 18 years old.

List your thoughts, feelings, and comments below. Do you feel the Appellate Division’s decision was justified, or does it unnecessarily endanger those under the supervision of the convicted offender?

Contact a NJ Criminal Lawyer today, free consultation 800-709-1131.

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