Lawsuit dismissed after sex offenders living at Aurora ministry find new homes
Sex offenders who sued to stay at the Wayside Cross Ministries halfway house in downtown Aurora after a judge ruled it is too close to a playground have dropped their litigation after all of them found alternative housing.
The lawsuit was voluntarily dismissed Friday, according to Kane County court records and their attorney, Adele Nicholas, who credited the Kane County state's attorney's office with giving the 18 men time to move instead of arresting and essentially evicting them.
In spring 2019, the city of Aurora notified Wayside that sex offenders in the halfway house at 215 E. New York St. were violating the state's sex offender laws, which prohibit them from living less than 500 feet from a playground -- in this case, McCarty Park and its signature splash pad.
Aurora police spokesman Paris Lewbel said the city had no choice but to report the violation.
"As the city maintained from the onset of the controversy that preceded this litigation, once it recognized that McCarty Park met the statutory definition of a playground, it had the duty to report the situation to the state's attorney so that the state's attorney could determine how to
proceed, including whether and when to bring a criminal prosecution," he said in a statement issued Monday night. "These were decisions that the state's attorney, and only the state's
attorney, could make."
Nicholas said there was no legal path forward after the state's Supreme Court declined to consider the issue.
"All of them have moved out," she said Monday. "From a practical standpoint, they (the Kane County state's attorney's office) weren't looking to bring the hammer down on anyone who didn't do anything wrong."
Nicholas had argued on behalf of the men, saying they weren't allowed near a park or playground anyway, and the Wayside halfway house had security and other protocols in place to ensure they weren't a danger.
"If our legislators weren't such cowards, they would pass laws that actually promote public safety," she added. "It's not the city (of Aurora's) fault they were given the terrible law by the state."
Wayside Cross Executive Director James Lukose said most of the men found new housing and jobs in the suburbs. One person had to move downstate. All were compliant with the state's sex offender laws and not homeless, he said.
Citing privacy reasons, Lukose declined to specify the towns the men moved to.
"It was a good ending in the sense that every one of them found housing and employment," he said, crediting Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon for giving them 90 days to make other arrangements instead of arresting, charging and evicting the men at the halfway house.
"Basically, we asked for three months time. (McMahon) was very generous," Lukose said Monday. "A law is the law unless the state is willing to do the hard work and change the law. Until then, this is the reality."
Lukose said the men in the halfway house made up a very small portion of Wayside's overall ministries, and their overall mission is not affected.
McMahon's office did not respond to a request for comment.