Moore, in his first week in office, has turned in a bill that would overturn the crime of loitering and make it so registered sex offenders who aren’t otherwise barred from going to schools or places children gather could go to those places freely.
“I am OK with that,” Moore said Thursday, adding that he meant only those who were off parole and not barred from those places. “The reason I’m OK with that is the assumption is they have done their time. If they’re still a danger to society, they should not be free. … Am I saying it’s not creepy? It’s definitely creepy.”
Moore is the sole signer on House Bill 1033, which also prohibits law enforcement officers from forcing residents to identify themselves under any circumstances. Moore said that is a practice that violates Fifth Amendment rights to silence and was the original intent of the bill.
According to Moore, loitering is the only law on the books that requires people to give their name, and sex offender provisions hinge on loitering.
Cherokee Sheriff Roger Garrison called the bill “simply insane.”
“In my 34 years of law enforcement I have never heard of such an insane law having been introduced,” Garrison said Friday. “Sexual predators are one of this country’s most violent (type of) offenders. If there’s any equal it would be an out-and-out serial killer.”
The sheriff said the thought of allowing sexual predators to “once again lurk around our parks, around our schools, around our swimming pools” is horrifying.
Cherokee Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo also expressed concerns about the legislation.
“The School District is strongly opposed to any legislation that would allow predators the opportunity to endanger our students, which it appears this bill would do,” he said in an email Thursday.
But Moore said he isn’t hoping to put anyone in any danger and only wants to protect the Fifth Amendment.
If officers have any other grounds besides loitering to arrest a person, Moore said he has no problem with that and he has no problem with officers questioning people who are suspicious — he just doesn’t think people should be made to talk.
The sheriff said loitering laws can be valuable for law enforcement.
“It’s insane,” he said. “If you can’t check them, how are you going to know who they are? They could be wanted for murder down the street.”
Garrison gave the example of a woman who was murdered in a few years ago, after her killer had killed others before her. The man was found by police loitering near Lake Allatoona.
“We could not have checked him, because he was loitering,” he said. “He turned out to be serial killer. All the while he had killed people … (This) would have taken away our ability to stop asking who he was.”
Garrison also found fault with Moore’s argument that sex offenders off parole should be able to go anywhere, because a large majority of them aren’t on parole.
Former Cherokee GOP Chair Bob Rugg is another who is outraged over Moore’s proposal.
“I can’t imagine a bill like this even coming out of committee,” Rugg said Friday. “It just doesn’t make any sense to me to eliminate that shield of protection (for children). From the way I read his own comments about it, he (thinks he’s) protecting the Fifth Amendment right to silence. That’s silly.”
State Rep. Scot Turner (R-Holly Springs) read the bill Thursday and said he had no comment. State Rep. Mandi Ballinger, a longtime victim advocate, said she had no comment Thursday, other than that she looked forward to committee discussions.
Moore said he understands the bill will be controversial, but he argued that not all sex offenders are criminals in the classic sense.
“One issue is it’s extremely easy to get on the sex offender list,” he said. “To be a registered sex offender, all you have to do is go pee on a tree.”
Also to be a sex offender, Moore agreed that someone could be a child rapist, but he said “If those people are a danger then they should be locked up.”
Moore also repeatedly stressed the purpose of the bill was only to protect the Fifth Amendment in Georgia, not to give sex offenders a pass.
“My intent wasn’t to help out sex offenders and I didn’t back down because of the political ramifications,” he said. “If that means I don’t get re-elected that’s what it means.”
Moore is up for re-election in the May primary.
In the end, Garrison strongly and repeatedly said Moore’s arguments defending the bill don’t matter.
“At the end of the day, it’s all irrelevant, because the speaker of the House has a little corner for people like Mr. Moore: It’s called the ineffective corner. It’s just an embarrassment he happens to be from Cherokee County,” Garrison said.