Child sex offenders in Aurora told they must move
Proximity of park cited to 19 Wayside ministries residents
For the second time this year, child sex offenders who live at Wayside Cross Ministries in Aurora were given letters stating they must find a new place to live within 30 days.
An Aurora police officer delivered letters to 19 residents who were scheduled to receive them around 7:30 a.m. Friday morning, police spokesman Paris Lewbel said. The letters said the men reside within 500 feet of McCarty Park and therefore by law must move.
The residents received similar notices in June but were allowed to remain at Wayside pending the result of a federal civil lawsuit filed against the city of Aurora. After the suit was voluntarily dismissed in late October, it was unclear whether the residents would be required to relocate until the new notification letters arrived Friday.
Wayside has operated for nine decades at its current downtown location and runs a variety of Christianbased rehabilitation programs, including those that help former inmates reenter society after leaving prison. Wayside houses 90 residents and 19 are registered child sex offenders.
With breakfast already behind them Friday morning, most of the men were either in a classroom or, like Marcus Sabo, already at their jobs when authorities arrived.
Sabo, a four-year resident of Wayside and an employee, was the first to be called into a conference room, where the men were brought one by one and presented with the papers.
Sabo acknowledged “we knew this time was coming,” and said he is committed to fighting in court any attempts to remove the men. “I thought this would happen at some point,” said Sabo, who has become the leader of the Wayside residents’ battle with the city. “But I was guessing it would be some time next year … although the timing does not matter too much.”
Wayside Executive Director James Lukose, though, said the timing is meaningful.
“I was surprised, or saddened, with the fact that during the Christmas season these men have to go through this uncertainty in their life,” Lukose said.
Attorneys Adele Nicholas and Mark Weinberg represented the 19 men in their lawsuit against the city. Five of the men are resident staff members.
Nicholas said the city is standing by its position that McCarty Park is a playground, and Wayside’s convicted child sex offenders live illegally within 500 feet of the park. Nicholas and Weinberg plan to meet with Wayside residents over the weekend to discuss a response.
“It’s, of course, disappointing,” Nicholas said. “This law is one of the most unjust laws in Illinois because people who are doing absolutely nothing wrong are suddenly told its a felony to remain where they are. There is no other law that works like that.”
Nicholas said it is very likely they will file a lawsuit in Kane County that will tackle the heart of the problem: Is McCarty Park considered a playground and what are the perimeters for measuring the distance to Wayside?
Weinberg said they are planning to ask for an injunction or stay of enforcement as part of the state lawsuit, which they hope will mean the men will not be required to move out Jan. 15. Whether those measures are put in place will ultimately be up to a judge, though.
The federal civil lawsuit could also be reinstated at some point, Nicholas said.
Attorneys have previously argued that the distance between a residence and a playground should be measured from the edge of the property line to the edge of the playground area within the park, not the edge of the broader park itself.
The edge of McCarty Park to the edge of the Wayside property is less than 500 feet, the city has said. But if the measurements are taken from the middle of the park, for example, the distance is more than 550 feet.
Police officers served the letters after meeting with officials at the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office Thursday who agreed with the police department that McCarty is a playground and the property is within 500 feet, Lewbel said.
The police department has maintained that they have no legal authority to register child sex offenders who want to live within 500 feet of any protected spaces, including playgrounds, Lewbel said.
Officials from the state’s attorney’s office said they cannot comment on ongoing investigations.
The men will have to leave Wayside by Jan. 15, according to the notices. “That is in the middle of the winter,” Nicholas said. “We are pushing people into homelessness and into the streets in January. I don’t see how that makes anyone’s neighborhoods safer or does anything good.”
If the men have not left by Jan. 15, the police department will notify the state’s attorney’s office which could authorize charges against the men.
Tensions between the city and Wayside have been high for much of the year, starting in the spring when the agency agreed to house Thomas Kokoraleis, a member of the infamous Ripper Crew, who was released from prison in March after serving a sentence for the 1982 murder of Lorraine Borowski. The current residency dispute would not affect Kokoraleis.
Recently, Wayside Cross’s youth division was set to miss out on a city grant for the first time since the grant program was revived in 2018, amid tension between Aurora and Wayside. Later, after news reports about the situation, Mayor Richard Irvin recommended the program and another nonprofit agency receive a different type of funding.
Irvin has previously said the notification letters have nothing to do with Kokoraleis or tension with Wayside. The city began using new mapping software that showed in the spring that the men are living too close to the park, officials said. Irvin has continued to say Aurora has no choice but to follow state law.
City spokesman Clayton Muhammad declined to comment Friday, referring questions to Aurora police.
Wayside Cross Ministries in Aurora has been in the spotlight concerning 19 child sex offenders who live at the mission.