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Court reverses sex offender's conviction

Man entered Mile Square Park, which was on the list of locations banned by the county and cities.

December 03, 2012|By Alicia Lopez

A registered sex offender and his lawyer recently convinced the Superior Court of Orange County appellate division to reverse his conviction for unlawfully entering a county park where children regularly gather.

The three-judge panel made clear its Nov. 15 unanimous decision applies only to the case filed by Hugo Godinez and not to other pending or future prosecutions, according to the Orange County District Attorney's office.

The court's decision has been referred to the Court of Appeal for possible review. That court can settle whether local jurisdictions are preempted by state law from passing the type of sex offender ordinances at issue in the Godinez case.

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District Attorney Tony Rackauckas emphasized that his office will not back off sex offender cases.

"I believe that protecting children from sex offenders is one of the highest priorities in law enforcement," he said in the statement. "We will continue to review cases involving sex offenders in parks as they are presented on a case-by-case basis."

A registered sex offender, Godinez was convicted in November 2011 after he admitted entering Mile Square Regional Park in Fountain Valley during a Cinco de Mayo celebration and stayed for several hours. He said in court documents that he was there for a company picnic for his employer.

He initially was incarcerated for violating probation and released two months later. Because he apparently failed to re-register as a sex offender within five days of being released, he was again taken into custody by the county.

He was later convicted of a misdemeanor count of entering the park along with one misdemeanor count of failing to register and show proof of residency upon release. He was sentenced to 100 days in the Orange County jail and five years of formal probation.

Godinez's original offense was one misdemeanor count of sexual battery on June 23, 2010.

Godinez's Orange County Superior Court case is a result of relatively new county and city legislation that prohibits registered sex offenders from entering a variety of public places where children are often present. The offense is considered a misdemeanor, punishable by six months in jail and/or a $500 fine.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors passed the sex offender law, developed and proposed by Rackauckas and Supervisor Shawn Nelson, in April 2011.

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