By Hannah Sparling
NEWARK - _____ is a registered sex offender.
He’ll admit to that, no problem.
He is not, however, a pedophile. He is not a child molester, and he has no interest messing with anyone’s kids, he said.
“A lot of people don’t know the story,” said _____, 44, from his West Main Street home. “They figure, because someone’s a sex offender, ‘Oh, he likes little kids.’ But that’s not always the case.”
“Before you go judge someone, do your homework.”
_____ is one of three sex offenders who were registered as living within 1,000 feet of Par Excellence Academy, a local elementary school. By law, registered adult sex offenders in Ohio are not allowed to live within 1,000 feet of a school, preschool or day care facility, but that restriction applies only to people convicted after July 1, 2003.
_____ says his offense was in late 2002 and his conviction in early 2003. Newark Law Director Doug Sassen said officials are still working to determine _____’s exact conviction date — it was out of state, which makes tracking down records more difficult — but if _____’s story holds up, he can stay put.
Par Excellence officials said they want _____ and the other two offenders to move, but _____ doesn't think he should have to. Moving is expensive, he’s happy where he is now, and he’s not causing any trouble, he said.
This past week, _____ sat down with The Advocate to share his side of the story.
Trying to move onIt started back in 2002. _____ was 31 at the time, living in New York, and he met a girl from Connecticut online. The girl told him she was 18, and one day, _____ and a friend picked her up to hang out, he said.
_____ said he spent one day with the girl. He kissed her, but they never had sex, he said. He put her on a train to go home, and that was that, he said.
Then _____ found out the girl was only 17. The girl’s grandmother pushed the issue, and authorities responded and arrested _____, he said.
Ultimately, _____ was charged with sexual abuse in the third degree, a class B misdemeanor in New York. He spent 45 days in jail, and he pleaded guilty to that charge only to avoid a legal battle that might have taken more time and cost him his job, he said.
_____ accepts some blame — “It was my fault because I should have checked the ID,” he said — but at the same time, he doesn't feel his offense is one that should haunt him for life. The girl willingly went with him to New York, he was under the impression the entire time she was an adult, and the two only kissed, he said.
“I’m still shocked why I gotta report for life (as a sex offender) when I only did 45 days (in jail),” he said. “It’s a misdemeanor.”
_____ is considering going back to New York to try to get his conviction overturned, but for now, he’s happily living on West Main Street with his soon-to-be wife, _____.
_____ was skeptical of _____ when they first met — she told him she was fact-checking everything he told her — but his story checked out, and now she trusts him and is sticking by him no matter what, she said.
Facing difficultyThe sex offense makes life difficult sometimes — it’s hard for _____ to find work, for example, and anytime the couple moves, everyone in the new neighborhood gets notified about _____’s sex-offender status — but _____ knows what kind of man _____ truly is, she said.
For _____’s part, he tries not to let his status get to him.
“It doesn't really bother me because I know what happened that day,” he said. “I’m not bothered by it. I’m still going to continue to live my life.”
_____ moved into his house about two years ago, and he checked with officials at the time to make sure the location was OK, he said. He thinks he’s within his rights, but if people still try to make him move, he’ll do his best to fight, he said. The way he sees it, he pleaded guilty, he did his time and now he should get to start fresh.
“I’m not moving. I’m fighting,” he said. “I already know I got the charge. Just leave me alone already. Let me live my life.”
“Everyone makes mistakes. I did my time for it. I’m not gonna keep doing time.”