Is being the neighbor of a sex offender a crime?

Judge rules five-year-old son can't visit dad in apartment across hall from sex offender.

By Katharine Mieszkowski
Published February 2, 2007 8:20PM (EST)

At this point, we thought we'd heard of every measure to deter registered sex offenders from striking again: chemical castration, exile, GPS monitoring and the modern-day equivalent of the scarlet letter. But a story from the Associated Press today puts a whole new twist on the matter: If you can't get rid of the sex offenders, why not just remove the children?

In upstate New York a judge has ruled that a 5-year-old boy can no longer visit his father at home because the dad lives in an apartment across the hall from a registered sex offender. "I'm being punished for someone else's crime," the father, Randy King, told a local TV station. "I have the right for my son to be with me where I live, not to have to take my son like a gypsy and go somewhere else." King, a Vietnam vet who has shared custody of his 5-year-old son with the boy's mother, won't be able to see his son at home until either King or the sex offender who lives across the hall moves out. The neighbor, Frederick LaFlair, was convicted in 1999 of sodomizing a 13-year-old boy.

Nicole Jackson, King's ex-girlfriend and the boy's mother, said: "My main concern as a parent is the safety and well-being of my son and the fact that, at this point in time, this registered sex offender could get to my son and hurt him." King says he never leaves the boy alone, and takes other precautions to ensure that he's safe. The father has lived across the hall from LaFlair since October without any incidents, and told another TV station that he doesn't have the money to move. Yet, a judge ruled in the mother's favor.

According to the AP, LaFlair's lease recently expired and won't be renewed. That means King likely won't miss out on too much time at home with his son. Still, it seems there's an implicit assumption in the judge's ruling that Randy King can't be trusted to take care of his kid, simply based on who his neighbors are. That should strike fear in the heart of any parent.

Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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