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Sex offender's request denied by judge

LAWRENCEVILLE - A registered sex offender's request to be exempt for six months from sweeping residency restrictions of a new state law was denied Friday by a Gwinnett judge.

Superior Court Judge Ronnie K. Batchelor told lawyers for registered sex offender Bryan Sumrak that a federal district judge's decision to halt enforcement of the law pertaining to school bus stops made Sumrak's case a "moot point."

The new state law that takes effect today prohibits sex offenders in Georgia from living, working or loitering within 1,000 feet of anywhere children gather - including schools, churches, parks, gyms, swimming pools and school bus stops. However, U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper on Thursday issued a temporary restraining order halting enforcement of the school bus stop provision while he ponders a class-action lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law.

Attorneys for the Southern Center for Human Rights, a nonprofit, public-interest law firm based in Atlanta, argue the law would force thousands of sex offenders from their homes. All 292 registered sex offenders in Gwinnett live within 1,000 feet of a bus stop. They would have to move if the law remains in place or face a penalty of 10 years in prison, according to the Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department.

Sumrak's attorney, C.J. "Jack" Spence of Lawrenceville, filed a lawsuit Thursday in Gwinnett County Superior Court asking a judge for a six-month reprieve to give his client time to sell his house and make other living arrangements. Spence said he may still pursue the lawsuit because he believes the sex offender law violates the Georgia Constitution as well as the U.S. Constitution.

"What (state legislators) really want to do is tell these folks: 'Go hang yourself, we don't want you,'" Spence said. "But we didn't give them the death penalty. We didn't give them a life sentence. This isn't fair."

Supporters of the law say it is designed to protect children from sexual predators who could reoffend.