Georgia lawmakers push bad bill in response to Halloween sign lawsuit

By Fred . . . Last October, in a lawsuit that was initiated and financed by NARSOL, Federal Judge Marc T. Treadwell ruled against Sheriff Long and other officials of Butts County, Georgia, by granting a preliminary injunction to stop the placement of warning signs each Halloween on the property of those required to be on the sex offender registry. Sheriffs and county officials “. . . should be aware that the authority for their blanket sign posting is dubious at best and even more dubious if posted over the objection of registrants“, Judge Treadwell wrote in his order after agreeing that the practice violated the constitutional rights of registrants.

As he promised to do, Sheriff Long has appealed the decision to the 11th Circuit Court. NARSOL along with ACSOL submitted an amicus brief in support of the appellate challenge being led by Georgia attorneys Mark Yurachek and Mark Begnaud.  Last month, NARSOL’s executive director, Brenda Jones, said that NARSOL is confident Judge Treadwell’s decision will be affirmed by the Eleventh Circuit.

The grounds for initiating the lawsuit were in part based on the fact that there is nothing in the state or local law that requires signs to be placed in the yards of registrants. To remedy this lack of legislation, a bill sponsored by State Representatives Steven Sainz(R), Chuck Efstration(R), Barry Fleming(R), James Burchett(R), Martin MomTahan(R) and Marcus Wiedower(R) was introduced to the General Assembly with the aim of making the sign placement and other stipulations part of Georgia’s law. On Thursday HB 720 passed in the House with a vote of 98-63 and is now on its way to the Senate where it has a good chance of passing. The high number of votes in opposition were due, at least in part, to the hard work by NARSOL’s Georgia advocates and other groups in their tireless letter writing campaign.

According to our advocate in Georgia:

Concerned citizens are encouraged to contact Department of Community Supervision Commissioner Michael Nail urging him to publicly oppose HB 720 as it would create a burden on his agency and make our communities less safe.  The Senate Judiciary Committee will be responsible for what happens next.  Many advocacy groups came together in letter writing campaigns, which was instrumental in creating the the significant opposition.  This campaign will only grow stronger as the bill moves through the Senate.

NARSOL fully expected and anticipated this legislative action by the Georgia General Assembly in response to the pending lawsuit, and we understand the concerns that will arise from those affected. However, to sit back and do nothing in the face of a blatant violation to the rights of those on the registry is simply not an option. If one sheriff is allowed to overstep the boundaries of his authority, it would be only a matter of time before every sheriff in Georgia adopted the same policy and expanded its use past just Halloween. NARSOL is determined to not to let that happen for the well-being of all Georgia registrants and their families.

The lawsuit will continue on constitutional grounds, regardless of whether or not HB 720 becomes law. We are confident that we will prevail in court and that any unconstitutional laws passed in retaliation to our legal action will be challenged if they are not struck by the 11th Circuit Court’s decision in this case.

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Fred

Fred began volunteering with NARSOL as a gatekeeper and correspondent. Later he became involved with the tech committee to help with the development and maintenance of our many website projects. He devotes much of his time to helping the team ensure that NARSOL's operations are running as smoothly as possible so that we can continue to grow and reach more people.

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    • #69515 Reply
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      bennieintexas

      The legislators voting for this are the same type of people that put Jews, and others, in Ghettos in 1930’s Germany and the same type of people that denied the right to vote for women and minorities, voted against the Civil Rights Amendment, committed genocide of native americans, and used the bible to promote slavery (not all christians or religious folks did, so give me a break.). Also, Covid-19 could be our friend in this area.

    • #69514 Reply
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      Kathy

      Placing signs in a registrants yard is nothing short of targeting a human being AND his family for violent action towards them ! It’s Wrong on every level. If a person has spent time in prison they deserve a second chance to prove themselves! Please don’t target anyone.

    • #69524 Reply
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      d

      How can they make a bill to legalize compelled speech this should not be possible.

    • #69532 Reply
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      Sylvester Jackson

      There are no need for such an act because all it does is continue cause a threat to those on the registry. And further deny individuals to live in peace.

    • #69550 Reply
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      BM – @D

      D – I’m with you… This may pass, but it is nothing more than compelled speech. Could also be trespassing, destruction (defacing) of private property? Not sure you can go to anyones home and put up whatever you want on their lawn. Huge 1st Amendment violation IMO.

    • #69566 Reply
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      Saddles

      Fred I have to give credit were credit is due as this article came up at the right time about these signs. One person talks about the Covid-19 epidemic which is alarming most. D talks about compelled speech which we all learned all about in high school but it might be changed from my graduation in 73 for all I know but tresspassing is trespassing.

      Even hiking on a mountain or side trail is an offense with any sign posted as that is a person’s individual right. Protection is protection. Government is a bit tacky on that one or who’s status is more important if one wants to pin a sign of caution or warning . Note in the article: State representatives all republicans if that is any bearing on the issue.

      One could even go as far as the writings of Thomas Jefferson in this ordeal of the registry and the constutitional or is much of this registry a controversial issue. Dad was a corporate accountant/bookeeper and he had to know about much of business law also after the banks closed down in the depression days since the opportunity of going to work for a utility company. It just might surprise one .

      This Covid-19 thing just may open a lot of understanding with its effect either good or bad. I can assure one government is not going to lose any money or sleep over this and thats just a personal opinion.

      One more point to note Compelled Speech can be the same as compelled intimidation as in plea deals as in a lot of case’s. Glad you brought that up D. One can call it an act of grace or mercy but the truth comes out in the long run. So were does that lead to or does it really take two to tango or who is compromising one’s conscious or playing on it with this deceitful evil factor. Food for thought.

    • #69591 Reply
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      WC_TN

      Do you think the politicians give a care? They want what will get them the popular vote at election time. What negatively impacts us does not and has never and never will figure into how they legislate.

    • #69590 Reply
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      WC_TN

      I support the lawsuit NARSOL filed in GA over the sheriff posting signs in registrants’ yards when they lacked statutory authority to do so. However, this lawsuit also gave them the idea. Here’s how it goes: OK, you’re suing my Sheriffs over acting outside statutory authority. That’s an easy fix! We’ll just amend our laws to GIVE THEM ALL THE AUTHORITY THEY NEED TO POST SIGNS. Problem solved. (from the state’s point of view).

      Again I ask my pessimistic question: Why have courts when politicians can simply legislate their way around an unfavorable ruling? The politicians will send this bill to the governor’s desk and it will get signed into law. It will have a presumption of constitutionality and the whole litigation process will have to start all over again from scratch.

      Did I miss anything? Am I wrong?

    • #69617 Reply
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      NoSoyNadie

      So when do we need to apply there Scarlet letter to our clothes, our vehicles, or anything else we own. At what point is it enough. May God Almighty have mercy on their souls and ours.

    • #69616 Reply
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      Saddles

      @TN that’s about the size of it and you summed it up pretty good and NARSOL is going in the right direction. Theirs pros and cons in everything but when justice goes above the status than its up to people like NARSOL and others to say .. Wait a minute.

    • #69623 Reply
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      Irony

      According to the DHS Memo on “How to prevent online harassment”:

      “What is doxxing?
      Doxxing refers to gathering an individual’s personally identifiable information (PII) and disclosing or posting it publicly, usually for malicious purposes such as public humiliation, stalking, identity theft, or targeting and individual for harassment.”

      More hypocrisy.

    • #69646 Reply
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      Tim in WI

      Welcome to community policing. I wonder if flipping the script would be appropriate? Simply post a sign in the Sheriff’s yard.

      Sheriff X IS
      !Constitutionally Deficient!
      (case docket #)

      I’m sure you’d be charged for it.

    • #69663 Reply
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      TS

      @d

      Legislatures and Congress can pass any law they want but it must pass Constitutional muster when challenged in court, or pass the ideology of those in robes on the bench at least even if questionable in Constitutionality.

      The other thing is this: legislatures know these are going to be challenged in court most likely anyway, so they can make the road to getting the law/action knocked down as difficult as possible and with the most possible cred they can get for being electable. It really is the bully in the schoolyard pushing around others.

    • #69673 Reply
      Avatar
      Tim

      Response to WC_TN

      Your thoughts are 100% on-target

      Can any be so naïve to believe, let alone state there is a “chance” of HB 720 becoming law? Of course it shall become law; few politicians wish to be seen as being soft on the dreaded Sex Offender. To suggest otherwise is insulting.

      Common sense dictates state legislatures shall fabricate law to sidestep favorable court rulings for sex offenders. … and again, to state otherwise is naïve or foolish or both. While the practice of placing signs is reprehensible, in truth, few GA registrants were saddled with this burden. Numerous GA sheriffs stated they would not place signs unless state law mandated doing so… state law shall mandate signs soon.

      After discharging my prison sentence a decade ago, I have graduated college with bachelors and am working towards a graduate level degree, live a quiet life, reside in a neighborhood where no children trick-or-treat, and have a good rapport with my neighbors and the local sheriff. I have a relationship with a good woman, who, like many reading this page, is a registrant; she is “not happy” about the hornet’s nest being poked. She too has a quiet life with a good relationship in her neighborhood and the sheriff of the county of her residence. But now, our hard work and peace are in jeopardy for the “greater good.”

      Why poke sticks at the hornet’s nest when so few were being stung by the hornets? Now, we are at the mercy of NARSOL making good on their bold suppositions after they have stirred the hornet’s nest of legislators. I wonder, will those who poked the hornet’s nest share the humiliation and likely harassment the signs shall impose?

      Instead of poking the hornet’s nest, why not concentrate resources and efforts upon the registry itself? Is not the registry, in and of itself, a far greater evil? I ask, if it were not for the registry, would Halloween signs be an issue?

      Once again, WC_TN is spot-on with his thoughts.

    • #69682 Reply
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      WC_TN

      How can compelled speech be legal?

      Example: You contract Corona virus. You are placed on in-home quarantine until you get well and are no longer deemed contagious. A sign is placed in your front yard that says, “Do not cross this boundary. This house is under quarantine.”

      That is forced speech and it is perfectly legal.

      It would be perfectly constitutional if legislators would NARROWLY TAILOR a Halloween sign for registrants that stipulates IT ONLY APPLIES TO THOSE WHO HAVE ACCOSTED A CHILD WHO CAME KNOCKING ON THEIR DOOR DURING TRICK-OR-TREAT DURING THE HALLOWEEN SEASON AND THAT THE SIGNAGE WOULD ONLY BE DISPLAYED FOR THE HOURS OF TRICK-OR-TREATS AND THEN IMMEDIATELY BE REMOVED. That is a narrowly tailored law that targets only relevant registrants (WHICH I KNOW SUCH A REGISTRANT DOES NOT EXIST). The problem with these Halloween sign laws is it’s one size fits all.

      Our legislators are NOT inclined to sit down and put the effort into narrowly tailoring such laws and maybe they too know that to PROPERLY NARROWLY TAILOR A LAW WOULD MEAN IT WOULD HARDLY EVER BE USED.

    • #69685 Reply
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      WC_TN

      @Tim, if NARSOL had waited until almost all of the Sheriffs had implemented what the GA Sheriff’s association had recommended (after all, they’re the ones that printed those signs….) then even without statutory authority, the courts would have viewed it as “common practice” and as Larry explained on “Registry Matters”, the judges would have asked, “Where were you with this challenge when this practice first appeared? Why did you wait until now?” and would very likely have resulted in GA registrants being handed a defeat. This lawsuit was designed to “NIP THIS IN THE BUD BEFORE IT COULD BECOME SO WIDE-SPREAD THAT THE COURTS WOULD RECOGNIZE IT AS COMMON PRACTICE.

      The only challenge needed to this new measure when it gets signed into law is to remove that part of the original complaint which stated sheriffs were acting outside statutory authority. The preliminary injunction still has so much damning verbiage regarding compelled speech of this nature that it’s a virtual roadmap to victory. This law just adds another step to the finish line.

      A preliminary injunction against a law like this is NOT easy to get by any stretch and on those rare occasions when a preliminary injunction is granted, IT IS PRETTY MUCH A JUDGE-ISSUED ROADMAP TO FINAL VICTORY. All the court’s reasoning for granting injunctive relief is right there and those will be the very reasons the prevailing party will continue to be the prevailing authority when all is said and done. The judge’s reasoning for granting the injunction will be the reasoning behind the state’s defeat at every level of appeal.

    • #69699 Reply
      Avatar
      Tim

      @WC_TN

      Hey there… great response.
      I grasp the legal arguments you presented my friend, truly do and they are sound. Yet, my point is the collateral fallout upon those who committed no crime and yet must suffer the shame and humiliation of having a sign placed in their yard. Individuals like my mother, age 83 and in poor health…. signs in the yard of a house she has owned for 35-years.

      There are many others in a similar place, not unlike the original case heard in Macon .. “I get it” … yet, how can we comfort the elderly who suffer the consequences from collateral fallout with “the greater good” logic? Please, anyone have the answer for that?

      Be well my friend,

      Tim

    • #69702 Reply
      Avatar
      Tim

      Reply @WC_TN #3

      Hey there…. forgot to mention a couple things.

      Yup, I am well aware of the GA Sheriff’s Association stance on the signs and do not argue that point. Yet, not all Sheriffs agreed with the association. I have yet to be associated with a union where all members are in concert with one another … frequently, only a slim margin separates the majority from the minority in such matters.

      Yes, I am well aware of the “road map” laid forth my Judge Marc Treadwell in late October of last year. I have read it multiple times and downloaded it mere minutes after the Middle District Court in Macon published it; I intended to sit in on the ruling that day, but fell ill and could not attend.

      You mentioned “Registry Matters.” Again, I am aware of the podcast and have listened in a time or two. While it gives sound insight most of the time, but for other reasons, it is not my “cup of tea.”

      Still though, the collateral fallout upon the heads of innocents is my primary concern(s). Until others can show me where innocents, like my mother, will not suffer harm, even if for only an instant, then personal views remain adamant.

      Be well my friend,
      tim

    • #69703 Reply
      Avatar
      Will Allen

      I live in Georgia and I am listed on their hit list. I don’t think HB 720 will affect me but even if it did, it is absolutely correct for every single American to fight against these signs, used anywhere, against anyone. I am really tired of people who keep saying that we should not be fighting things because it will negatively affect them personally. I have heard plenty of people arguing about the upcoming tiered Registry in CA or the fights in MI say things like “of course we need Registries, as long as I’M NOT LISTED on it”. That is beyond outrageous. The people who I want to be affected by these laws are the people who will not fight for other people.

      And let’s just keep the main fact straight here as well – the sheriffs that have already tried to post the signs are certified morons. Anyone who thinks these signs are needed is an idiot. And the signs send the exact WRONG message, which is that parents or whomever can just watch out for some signs and big government has got you protected in any useful way. Exact wrong message. If these idiot sheriffs or the criminal legislators cared about protecting children, as they incessantly lie, they would pass a law that would require that adults supervise all trick-or-treating children. But nope, that would require too much accountability and actually caring about reality. So much easier just to pull their stunts.

      These moron sheriffs have no business living in a free country either, let alone dreaming they could play any role in “protecting” anyone. They are a danger to all good Americans. They are harassers who have sub-average I.Q.s who simply cannot stop harassing People Forced to Register, their spouses, and their children. So they, their spouses, and their children deserve the same. They are not humans that good Americans need have any concern for.

      Further, if there is a bigger group of criminal idiots in all of Georgia than the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association, I’d like to see who they are. What a pathetic bunch they are. They are an enemy to all citizens and we should ALL work to reduce the power of all government in Georgia and their law enforcement criminals. All citizens should work to keep them dysfunctional and ineffective. We need to vote these big government idiots out. Certainly always vote to keep money and other resources from them. We see how they waste it.

      The criminal regime can put a huge sign in my yard if they like. I don’t give the first f*ck what people think. Got over that after just a few years of being on the hit list. So they can put their sign there. I promise I will make them pay 10x any problems, effort, or anything else it causes me. I promise their sign will be 100% ineffective. But it won’t just be worthless, I promise I will make sure it is a lot worse than that. That is the proper, moral, American response to such idiotic, anti-American signs.

      People who are against Registries need to stop hiding or feeling shame. “People” who think these signs are acceptable need to be told exactly where they can shove them.

    • #69776 Reply
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      WC_TN

      When you drive down the highway in your town and you see a cop speeding for no reason other than to get to lunch or talking away on his or her cell phone, call them in, find out their names, look them up, and put a sign in their yards that identifies THEIR illegal behaviors and see how they like it or better yet, start getting your hands on use of force reports and start singling out officers who submit excessive reports or get brutality accusations that are backed up with video proof. If you see town politicians partaking of the drink too much, post signage identifying them as a town drunk. They wouldn’t think it’s so danged funny and cool then! They’d be the FIRST ONES crying foul!

    • #69825 Reply
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      Guy_GA

      This is truly an unnecessary law. I do pray that our voices and those that support us reach out to strike down this attempt to circumvent the progress NARSOL has made in this matter. We must be diligent, focused, prepared and use our wits about us, and certainly maintain our Constitutional rights as citizens and human beings.

    • #69962 Reply
      Avatar
      w

      They make the laws because they found out they have the power to do so. Armed with “public safety” and a L&O/CSI programmed public they have carte blanche to utilize and manipulate any and every scenario to justify their agenda.

    • #69967 Reply
      Avatar
      Tim in WI

      Tim,
      More often than not it is states DOJ that actually drafts the bill to be adopted.
      The AG always had some say in implementing the law hence their input ( admin branch) is in play from the onset. Packingham v NC proves ” constitutional concerns” as normally preemptive ( Smith V Alaska03), has been compromised by the input of administrations of the competitive bicameral disdain for sex deviants supported by the need for corporate rent seeking of market share via campaign donations. In my state cerca92-95 most of the federal domestic policy outlay from OMNIBUS 94 were already being hand fed by state AGs to state congresses some months before the fed legislation was signed. Many AGs were already laying groundwater by eliminating criminal privacy protections in statutes. Many chapters of WI law were altered during the period James E. Doyle (D) held office first as AG under the Tommy Thompson administration then as Governor himself.

    • #70706 Reply
      Avatar
      Alexander C. Miles

      If that is what most constituents want, it is what they will get. Basic rules of a democracy.

    • #70799 Reply
      Avatar
      Will Allen

      @Alexander C. Miles:

      That is only true to an extent. I expect you’ve heard of “tyranny of the majority” before, yes? Even if 80% of the U.S. population wants to do X to People Forced to Register (PFR), X can’t be done if it crosses certain lines, like the constitution. I’m not a “punishment” expert so I don’t know all those lines, but I expect there are a lot.

      The real problem is that “most constituents” are scumbags. They are stupid, self-righteous, self-entitled, arrogant, ignorant, spoiled, etc., etc., etc. you name it. The U.S. is full of stupid, hateful residents. Probably always has been. I never forget that it’s been well within my lifetime that these same residents were just so, so outraged that “coloreds” had the audacity to think they could share the same water fountains as the “good” people. Remember how “coloreds” needed the Green Book just to be able to travel and live? That isn’t PC any longer. But harassing PFRs is.

       

    • #74189 Reply
      Avatar
      Anon

      The way I read the bill, it specifically says that signs “may”, not “shall” be placed on October 30th-31st only for people that have committed a second felony offense that is of a certain nature See below: Also it appears this only applies to people convicted ON OR AFTER July 1st 2020. So as I read it people whose convictions are prior to this bill this does not apply to and it does not look like it applies to the bulk of people on the registry only those that are habitual and have been convicted at least 2 times of sex offenses. Am I reading/ interpreting this wrong? You have to look at the wording they say AND not OR meaning that all the conditions must be met not some. The all caps below are mine to emphasize the wording. I am not at all saying I agree with this , but, for the majority that are already on the registry and are living an upstanding life I do not believe this applies. This is the only class of crime you truly never get to complete your sentence, because, even if you get off the registry in Georgia anywhere else you move will make you register with them. Which ,legally does not make sense to me . If you committed your crime against a state and it is not federal I don’t know how another state that you have committed no crime against can require you to do anything. An arrest is using legal authority to deprive a person of his or her freedom of movement. So when you get right down to it when you are required by law to register and there are places you can and cannot go due to being registered that is a form of arrest as you are depriving one of their freedom of movement, so essentially another state that you committed no crime against is issuing a form of arrest on you. The other one that kills me is the law obama signed that says sex offenders must have sex offender on their US passport. And don’t even get me started of losing your right to vote and 2nd amendment, they are basically telling you your life is not worth defending , so much for inalienable rights. But please discuss as to if I am not reading HB 720 correctly.

      (B)(i) For convictions that are felonies AND that are for a SECOND or subsequent
      65 conviction for a sexual offense arising out of events that are DIFFERENT FROM EVENTS OF
      66 A PREVIOUS CONVICTION, such probation shall be for life; AND
      67 (ii) As used in this subparagraph, the term ‘sexual offense’ means the following
      68 offenses that are felonies:
      69 (I) Aggravated assault with the intent to rape in violation of Code Section 16-5-21;
      70 (II) Kidnapping in violation of Code Section 16-5-40 which involves a victim who
      71 is less than 14 years of age, except by a parent;
      72 (III) Trafficking an individual for sexual servitude in violation of Code
      73 Section 16-5-46;
      74 (IV) Rape in violation of Code Section 16-6-1;
      75 (V) Aggravated sodomy in violation of Code Section 16-6-2;
      76 (VI) Statutory rape in violation of Code Section 16-6-3, if the individual convicted
      77 of the offense is 21 years of age or older;
      78 (VII) Child molestation in violation of Code Section 16-6-4;
      79 (VIII) Aggravated child molestation in violation of Code Section 16-6-4, unless the
      80 person was convicted of a misdemeanor offense;
      81 (IX) Enticing a child for indecent purposes in violation of Code Section 16-6-5;
      82 (X) Improper sexual contact by employee or agent in the first degree in violation
      83 of Code Section 16-6-5.1, unless the punishment imposed was not subject to Code
      84 Section 17-10-6.2;
      85 (XI) Incest in violation of Code Section 16-6-22;
      86 (XII) A second or subsequent conviction for sexual battery in violation of Code
      87 Section 16-6-22.1;
      88 (XIII) Aggravated sexual battery in violation of Code Section 16-6-22.2;
      89 (XIV) Sexual exploitation of children in violation of Code Section 16-12-100; or
      90 (XV) Computer pornography and child exploitation in violation of Code
      91 Section 16-12-100.2.
      92 (C) All such probation shall be subject to the requirements of paragraph (14) of
      93 subsection (a) of Code Section 42-8-35; AND
      94 (D) Any law enforcement agency of competent jurisdiction MAY, on October 30 and 31
      95 of each year, post a sign upon the front of the residence of any person on such
      96 probation, stating the following: ‘No candy or treats at this residence.’ Such signs shall
      97 further be in the form as provided for by the department 30th-31st only for people that have committed a second felony offense that is of a certain nature See below.

      PART VI
      588 SECTION 6-1.
      589 THIS ACT SHALL APPLY TO OFFENSES THAT OCCUR ON OR AFTER July 1, 2020.

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