FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: David Zuniga
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SAFFRAN WINS CASE UPHOLDING SEX OFFENDER RESIDENCY RESTRICTIONS; CALLS ON NEW YORK CITY TO PASS A SIMILAR LAW,CITING PRESENCE OF 5 RELEASED OFFENDERS NEAR SCHOOLS & PLAYGROUNDS IN NORTHEAST QUEENS COUNCIL DISTRICT
City Council Candidate Dennis Saffran (R-C-Reform, 19th District), today announced that, in a decision handed down earlier this month, he had won an appellate court victory on behalf of Nassau County that allows over 100 municipalities throughout New York State to continue to bar registered sex offenders from living near schools, playgrounds, or their own victims. Noting the presence of five such predators near schools and playgrounds in his Northeast Queens Council district, Saffran called on the New York City Council to enact similar restrictions, and announced plans to introduce such legislation in the Council.
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Saffran spoke at a press conference at Willets Point Playground, located on 166th St between 16th Rd and 16th Ave in Whitestone, right next to PS 9/209 and the North Side School, and only a block away from the residence of Arthur Fisher, a level 2 sexual offender who was convicted of sexually abusing a girl less than 11 years old. He released a map and chart showing that 22 registered sex offenders reside in the 19th Council district in Northeast Queens, including at least five living near parks, day care centers or schools. Among these are John Shea, who raped a 9 year old girl, and was classified as a Level 3 sexual offender — meaning he is highly likely to repeat his offense — living only two blocks from McNeil Park in College Point; John Prunty, a violent sex offender convicted of 1st degree sexual abuse of a child, who resides a block away from St Luke’s School; and Peter Legoff, who purposefully established a relationship with a 5-year-old in order to commit first degree sexual abuse, and resides a block away from Powell’s Cove Park.
Saffran praised the appeals court ruling, saying: “This decision is a victory for parents across the state, allowing communities to pass laws that place the safety of children above the rights of dangerous predators.”olent sex offender convicted of 1st degree sexual abuse of a child, who resides a block away from St Luke’s School; and Peter Legoff, who purposefully established a relationship with a 5-year-old in order to commit first degree sexual abuse, and resides a block away from Powell’s Cove Park.
However, he continued: “It is unacceptable that New York City has not passed such legislation providing our children with the same protection as the children in Nassau County and over 100 other localities around the State. And it is unacceptable that parents in Northeast Queens have to send their children to schools and playgrounds within walking distance of convicted child rapists and sexual predators.”
He pledged that “one of my first actions as Councilman will be to introduce a bill like the one the court just upheld.”
In the case which Saffran won, People v. Diack (attached), a three-judge Appellate Term panel unanimously reversed a lower court decision which had struck down Nassau’s sex offender residency restriction law. That law, which is similar to other local laws throughout the State, prohibits sex offenders required to register under New York’s “Megan’s Law” from residing within one thousand feet of a school, five hundred feet of a park, or two thousand feet of their victims. The case involved Michael Diack, a designated sex offender under Megan’s Law who had served 22 months in prison on a child pornography conviction and was then charged with violating the Nassau law by living only 500 feet away from two Pre-K through 12 schools, including one for children with special needs.
The lower court had thrown out the charges against Diack, holding that the Nassau law and others like it around the State were “preempted” by State law. The appeals court ruling reinstates the charges against Diack – and green lights the other local sex offender residency laws across the state.
Saffran’s comments about the ruling echoed the statements of Parents for Megan’s Law head Laura Ahearn, with whom he worked as director of the Center for the Community Interest, a national non-profit focused on quality-of-life and anti-crime reforms, and with whom he consulted in defending the Nassau law. Ahearn called the decision “a tremendous victory for the community. The message is loud and clear — the protection of children is a top priority.”