Child sex offenders at Aurora shelter sue city over demand they move
Child sex offenders who live at Wayside Cross Ministries in Aurora are suing the city, saying its recent order for them to move out because they're too close to McCarty Park is illegal.
The suit was filed in federal court Thursday by 19 men who live at the shelter in Wayside at 215 E. New York St.
In late June, the city said it had remeasured the distance from Wayside Cross to McCarty Park, 350 E. Galena Blvd., and that it was less than 500 feet. State law requires child sex offenders to live more than 500 feet away from a playground.
The lawsuit contends the city is applying the law incorrectly. McCarty Park does not have a playground, it says. The city added two rocking horses for children sometime in the past two months, on the east side of a fountain that is in the center of the park, the lawsuit states.
The westernmost boundary of the whole park is within 500 feet of the property line of Wayside Cross, but the rocking horses are more than 700 feet away.
The lawsuit says state law defines a playground as government-owned or -controlled land "for use solely or primarily for children's recreation."
Eighteen of the plaintiffs were told they have to move out by July 26; one was given until August.
Fifteen of the men say they do not have enough money to live on their own, nor family or friends that can take them in. All participate in a Christian-faith-based program at Wayside Cross.
The suit also argues their religious rights are being violated. "By imposing the threat of criminal prosecution if Plaintiffs do not remove themselves from their faith community, Defendant has substantially burdened Plaintiffs' exercise of religion," it reads.
They want the judge to order the city to let the plaintiffs stay at the shelter while the matter is determined.
Wayside Cross has been at the site for 90 years.
The city did not respond for a request to comment. Mayor Richard Irvin criticized Wayside Mission in April, when it became known that convicted "Ripper Crew" murderer Thomas Kokoraleis was going to live there. Although Kokoraleis is required to register as a sex offender, he is not a child sex offender, so he does not have to move out of the shelter.
When the city announced it was ordering the sex offenders to leave, Irvin said it was not because the shelter took in Kokoraleis. He said the notices from the police department came out of a city effort in February to assign addresses to all of its parks, to help police and firefighters. He said the city asked Wayside Cross in February not to take in any new sex offenders.
"State law exists for a reason, and that's protection of children. Let's recognize that these individuals we're speaking of are convicted child molesters," Irvin said at a July 2 news conference. "Wherever they go, they cannot be within 500 feet of where children play."