By Hayley Fowler . . . 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.
“My clients allege that the sheriff exceeded his authority and violated their constitutional rights and North Carolina law when he used the threat of incarceration to force 78 people to go to the National Guard armoury, after business hours, and without appropriate reasonable suspicion,” Jeff Dobson of Dobson Law Firm PLLC, who is representing the offenders, told McClatchy News in a statement.
“Whether this case is heard in state or federal court, we believe justice is blind and will be rendered appropriately,” he added.
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.”