A federal judge has temporarily blocked a sheriff in Georgia from placing signs at three registered sex offenders’ homes that warn trick-or-treaters on Halloween, saying that the action violated their constitutional rights.
Judge Marc T. Treadwell of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia filed a temporary injunction Tuesday in favor of the offenders who sued Sheriff Gary Long of Butts County and his office for placing signs that said “Warning! No Trick-or-Treat at this address!!”
“The question the court must answer is not whether Sheriff Long’s plan is wise or moral, or whether it makes penological sense. Rather, the question is whether Sheriff Long’s plan runs afoul of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution,” Treadwell wrote in his opinion. “It does.”
A lawyer for the three men in the lawsuit filed last month, Mark Yurachek, said in a statement he was “thankful for the court’s thoughtful and measured decision.”
“There is a long way to go in this action,” Yurachek said, “and, although we decline further comment specifically addressing the litigation, we are hopeful that this decision indicates that, as with this preliminary issue, we will prevail in the permanent injunction action and the lawsuit in general.”
Long said he “respectfully and strongly” disagreed with the judge’s opinion.
“I must abide by the ruling,” Long said in a statement posted to Facebook.
But, he added, “I will continue to fight for and protect our children by any legal means necessary.”
The three men — Christopher Reed, Reginald Holden and Corey McClendon — sued the sheriff last month after deputies placed signs in their yards shortly before Halloween in 2018.
According to court documents, Holden returned from work one day to find the sign with the warning in his yard and was told by a deputy sheriff that he would be arrested if he removed it. McClendon testified that deputies said he would face “criminal action” if he took it down.
The three men argued, among other things, that the signs violated their First Amendment rights against compelled speech and constituted trespassing on private property.