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Englewood to appeal ruling on sex offender residency restrictions

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Less than a week after its sex offender residency restrictions were ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge, the City of Englewood says it will appeal the decision.

And that's not all. According to a press release issued by the city Tuesday morning, Englewood officials are planning to contact state lawmakers to propose legislation that would give local governments the right to pass ordinances that "reasonably protect their citizens."

At the heart of the appeal is a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on the behalf of Brett Ryals, a registered sex offender who served a two-year prison sentence for a felony conviction that ended in 2003. The conviction was a result of what was defined by court documents as a "consensual sexual relationship" with a juvenile soccer player on a team Ryals coached.

In 2012, Ryals was two years away from the end of a 10-year period in which he is required to register as a sex offender. After buying a home in Englewood, Ryals attempted to register as a sex offender with the city, at which point he was told by a local police detective that he "could not live in Englewood," according to court records.

Federal Judge R. Brooke Jackson, who ruled in Ryals' favor in the lawsuit last week, seemed to agree with the detective's statement, saying Englewood's extensive residency restrictions left "essentially no place for offenders to live.”

In its own press release, the City of Englewood said its residency restrictions were first put in place in 2006, when city officials were notified that a sexually violent predator was going to be placed in an Engelwood motel "in close proximity of a child day care center."

At that time, the release continued, "Englewood City Council passed an emergency ordinance prohibiting sexually violent predators and other severe types of sexual offenders from living next to schools, parks, pools and day care centers."

Specifically, the Englewood ordinance prevented sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of any school, park or playground; within 1,000 feet of any licensed day care center, recreation center or swimming pool; or from living at any property located next to a bus stop, walk-to-school route, or recreational trail.

To put that area in perspective, Jackson called it "approximately 99 percent of the city."

Jackson not only ruled that these expansive restrictions violated the state of Colorado's constitution, but that they set a dangerous precedent.

"When town after town enacts similar restrictions, it poses the risk that sex offenders are driven underground and disconnected from treatment and supervision," Jackson said. "This provides a false sense of security."

Jackson said his ruling was based off data collected by the Sex Offender Management Board, which has suggested that blanket residency restrictions cause offenders to drop out of the statewide registration system, thus preventing them from reintegrating into society.

In its own press release issued Tuesday, the City of Englewood did not address those specific concerns raised by Jackson. Instead, officials appeared to be laying ground for a defense of the constitutionality of its residency restriction ordinance.

"State law currently does not address where a sexual offender may live -- only that he or she must register," the release stated. "If under the law the state may place a sexually violent predator adjacent to a day care center, then it is not providing adequate protection of our most vulnerable citizens."

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