By: Brad Broders
In a joint effort between state probation officers and local law enforcement, sex offenders on supervised probation were ordered to report to the Gaston County Courthouse during the peak trick or treating hours.
While some parents applauded the move, a sex offender we spoke with hoped to clear his name.
“Once you’re labeled like this, it’s real tough to survive,” said the 39-year-old Gastonia husband and father is unable to escape from his other identity that of a registered, convicted sex offender. “It’s a burden because people in your neighborhood, your community look at you all the time and be like, ‘what did he do wrong?’ And they prejudge you.”
The man says he had consensual sex with his then 15-year-old girlfriend, who told him she was 17. He was charged, convicted and sentenced for taking indecent liberties with a minor. The teenage girl, who the court ruled as being a victim then, is his wife now.
“Now she’s out trick or treating and I’m sitting here and my kids are like, ‘where’s daddy’,” said the man.
Halloween night, while children filled up candy bags, this person and 60 other registered sex offenders in Gaston County on supervised probation were required to show up and stay in the Gaston County Courthouse from 6 to 9 p.m. If they didn’t show, they’d be arrested.
“We know where 50, 60, 70 people are every year,” said Capt. Darrell Griffin, with the Gaston County Sheriff’s Office. “We know where they are and that way no one can say ‘they were doing this and they were doing that.'”
Although there are different sex offender categories, authorities said all who are convicted must register the same way, whether they are repeated child predators or convicted of a less serious offense.
“The judge determined they were a threat to society and it’s our job with the Department of Corrections to follow what the judge’s order are,” said Sandy Holland, with the N.C. Dept. of Corrections.
While these sex offenders hope the public views them beyond the stigmas attached to their registration, many Gaston County parents were satisfied these men and women weren’t outside while children roamed door to door in their costumes.
“I’m glad, very glad. We’re trying to get it done and over with while they’re there, and hopefully will be back in before they come back out,” said parent Rozonna Nash.
North Carolina law requires a 30 year sex offender registration period but offenders can request a judge take them off it after 10 years.
Gaston County is believed to be the only county in the state with the probationary sex offender appearance requirement. This is the sixth Halloween for the program.