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Bill would bar sex offenders from fairs

Rep. Mike Smiddy sponsor of bill

Published: Monday, March 24, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, March 24, 2014 9:46 a.m. CDT
Sheriff Kelly Wilhelmi
State's Attorney Trish Joyce
State Rep. Mike Smiddy

STERLING – Three Whiteside County officials are headed to Springfield today to testify for a bill that could prevent registered sex offenders from attending county fairs.

Whiteside County Sheriff Kelly Wilhelmi described the bill as the brainchild of one of his deputies, Seth Janssen.

Janssen, the department's juvenile relations officer, investigates crimes against children in Whiteside County.

Today, he, Wilhelmi, and State's Attorney Trish Joyce will explain to legislators what brought about the bill and how important it is.

Joyce said that registered sex offenders now "can’t knowingly operate, manage, be associated with or be employed by the county fair when persons under 18 are present."

According to a draft of the bill forwarded to Sauk Valley Media by Joyce, the legislation would rewrite the law to prohibit a convicted child sex offender from "knowingly being present at a county fair, or within 500 feet of a county fair."

The bill comes about in response to an occasion last summer when Janssen was working a booth at the fair and recognized a sex offender – working a separate booth – who was then awaiting sentencing for violating the sex offender registration act.

"When Seth saw him interacting with a young girl, he said it just turned his stomach and he had to come and get me," Joyce said.

State Rep. Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale, is the bill's sponsor.

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