10/30/2006

Ga. sheriffs reach agreement with groups challenging state sex offender law

By ERRIN HAINES
Associated Press Writer

ATLANTA- Georgia sheriffs have agreed to suspend their efforts to evict six elderly and disabled men from their homes under the state's new law on where sex offenders may live, their attorney said Monday.

Under a law that took effect July 1, convicted sex offenders are barred from living, working or loitering within 1,000 feet of just about anywhere children gather - schools, bus stops, churches, parks, swimming pools.

Earlier this month, the Southern Center for Human rights asked a federal judge to block the law's enforcement to protect nine men around the state who are living too close to a church. The men are in nursing homes, trailers or relatives' houses. One has been told he has six months to live; another has Alzheimer's disease.

An attorney for the center, Sara Geraghty, said agreements have been reached to protect six of the offenders, and she expects agreements in the three other cases.

The agreements will remain in place until a judge rules on the constitutionality of the law. No trial date has been set.

"It means that they can stay in their homes," Geraghty said. "They and their families will be left alone to deal with the end-of-life issues that they are facing without fear that they will be forced into jail or homelessness."

The men's names have not been disclosed.

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