Child sex of­fend­ers in Aurora told they must move

Prox­im­ity of park cited to 19 Way­side min­istries res­i­dents

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - CHICAGOLAN­D - By Me­gan Jones, Sarah Freish­tat and Denise Crosby mejones@chicagotri­bune. com

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.

STEVE LORD/BEA­CON-NEWS

Way­side Cross Min­istries in Aurora has been in the spot­light con­cern­ing 19 child sex of­fend­ers who live at the mis­sion.

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