Sex offenders sue after North Carolina county requires Halloween registry check-in

A group of registered sex offenders in Western North Carolina say the sheriff forced them to check in with local law enforcement or face arrest on Halloween night in 2019.

Now they’re suing.

At least 11 men and the nonprofit group North Carolinians for Rational Sex Offender Laws accused Cherokee County and Sheriff Derrick Palmer of violating their constitutional rights in a lawsuit moved to federal court Wednesday. The case was originally filed in state court in early October but defense attorneys opted to change venues, citing issues related to federal case law.

Attorneys for the offenders, defense attorneys and a representative for Cherokee County and the sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment Thursday.

The lawsuit seeks $5 million in damages and a jury trial, according to court filings.

According to the website of the North Carolinians for Rational Sex Offender Laws, the group was created in 2016 as an affiliate of a national chapter and advocates for “legal reforms that will protect and restore (sex offenders’) fundamental rights to life and liberty.”

Many of the 11 named plaintiffs in the lawsuit have been charged with taking indecent liberties with a minor, according to the N.C. Sex Offender registry. Other charges include felonious restraint against a minor, sexual arousal with a child, sexual battery and lewd acts with a child.

One of the offenders is labeled a “recidivist,” or repeat offender.

According to the lawsuit, deputies with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office hand-delivered notices to all of the registered sex offenders in their jurisdiction on Oct. 9, 2019.

Cherokee County is in the far left corner of the state on the Tennessee border and had 84 registered sex offenders as of November 2020.

“The said notice commanded each registered sex offender to appear at the National Guard Armory on October 31, 2019, by no later than 5:30 p.m. for verification of identification and update of registry photograph,” court filings state.