Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sex Offender Says He Should Be Able To Attend Church

A convicted sex offender took his fight to attend church to the state Supreme Court on Wednesday.

A lower court told Jonathan Perfetto that he couldn't go to church because his suspended sentence prohibits him from being around children. Perfetto was convicted in 2002 of possessing 61 images of child pornography.

Barbara Keshen of the New Hampshire American Civil Liberties Union told the court that Perfetto, a Jehovah's Witness, has a fundamental right to go to the church of his choice and should be permitted to be around the children of the congregation as long as he has a chaperone.

But Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Cort argued that using a chaperone is unrealistic.

"It would be too dangerous and unrealistic to expect a single person to be able to keep an eye on him every minute of every meeting every week," Cort said.

The justices seemed concerned about setting a precedent of making specific exceptions to the conditions of release for convicts and challenged the notion that the condition of having no contact with children is overly restrictive.

"Maybe the least restrictive is you can study at home," said Chief Justice John Broderick. "You can have someone come to the house. You can deal with the elders of the church or go to services without children."

Keshen argued that the conditions should be tailored based on specific facts about Perfetto and the church. She said the lower court didn't hold a hearing on those issues before denying his request in August.

"The real facts are who is the person now?" Keshen said. "What is the likelihood that he will reoffend? What is the actual danger to any child, and what is this church like?"

The state Supreme Court typically hands down decisions within 90 days. Legal experts said that in this case, the court could order a lower court to hold a hearing to consider evidence from both sides.

No comments: