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Investigators crackdown on sex offenders inside Disney

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Updated: 4/27/2013 8:18 pm
ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. --  A six-month-long investigation has uncovered sweeping background checks at Disney parks in central Florida -- checks targeting registered sex offenders.

Investigative reporter Christopher Heath dug through hundreds of pages of Orange County Sheriff’s Office trespass reports, and they show a consistent pattern of documented sex offenders getting kicked off of Disney properties.

During the last few weeks, Heath spoke to many of the sex offenders trespassed from Disney, including a man named Mike, who is married with two adult children.

Mike, who agreed to talk on the condition that he not be fully identified, said Disney officials clearly told him, “We don’t want you at our park.”

"I didn't realize anything was happening until they wanted to talk to me in private," he said.

Mike's narrative of what happened is the same as those of more than 20 other convicted sex offenders Heath interviewed. All of them were recently trespassed from Disney properties.

Mike and his wife had season passes. They went to retrieve their passes, and she swiped her ID and got her pass. He swiped his and was told there was a problem.

"Then, they pull us off,” Mike explained, adding that he was then told, “OK, you're not allowed to be here."

Mike was officially issued a "trespass warning” from the Orange County Sheriff's Office. The warning serves notice that he is never allowed on any Disney property again.

But he’s not alone. At least 75 other warnings were issued since August, all to registered sex offenders.

"They just said, ‘Look, you can't come here,’" Mike said.

Some of the trespass reports Heath reviewed plainly indicate the individual kicked out is a “registered sex offender” or “on the sexual offender list.”

Others cite the individuals for “conduct not welcome” at Disney or “behaviors not meeting Walt Disney’s standards.”

But all 76 of those trespassed were registered in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement sex offender database or in registries outside the state.

Legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said the resort is well within its right to run guest names against the sex offender registries and to remove guests with convictions.

"Legally, private businesses have the right and the obligation to take every legal step to protect their patrons," Sheaffer said.

Of the records obtained most of the warnings were issued to people convicted of crimes involving children.

Some, like Jason Dennis Adams and Jesse Alan Kennedy, are classified by the state as predators.

Adams was removed from Epcot on Dec. 24. Kennedy was removed from Disney’s Hollywood Studios on March 7.

"Who are the main patrons? Families with children," said one Disney guest Heath interviewed about the sex offenders being trespassed. "As a parent, I wouldn't want a sex offender near my kids. No way.”

Noel Hernandez planned to spend 10 days at the parks with his wife and daughter. He said he doesn't mind if a few people are turned away.

"I think it's a good idea, yeah,” said another Disney guest.  “It's a children's park. Kids go there. Yeah, it's a good thing. You want to be at a safe place, you want to feel safe."

And if that means people like Mike can never return, he said he understands.

"I do understand that they have a public to take care of," said Mike.

Disney officials declined an interview but issued a statement that said, "While we do not share specific details of our security procedures, we are constantly strengthening our efforts so we can promote a safe environment for all our guests."

Heath reached out to the other major theme parks in central Florida about their policies regarding known sex offenders. He has not yet heard back from those parks.

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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Action News Jacksonville

Rudy101 - 4/28/2013 10:52 AM
0 Votes
It is a legislature who has complete control over this list. The list can be used in unlimited ways to discriminate. There are no legal avenues available to be removed from the list that are reasonable. A person doesn't have to pose any danger to society to be listed. The registry and/or registry laws are passed and applied ex-post facto. That registry list was supposed to be for informational purposes only. But it has become a list to be used in unlimited ways to harass, threaten, banish, isolate and put fear into offenders. In other words, while DISNEY (and other organizations (both public and private) are using this list to discriminate AND there is no requirement to pose ANY danger to society to be listed, that list, as a matter of law becomes ILLEGAL. That means the list can be fled from in any way possible. I refuse to register! I refuse to register specifically because the registry will isolate me from the community AND will cause me harm AND because there are no recources AND because it is passed and applied ex-post facto. Until there is some DUE PROCESS to that list, I can go to Disney. UNDERSTAND? When regulating outside of a sentence passed by a court of law, that regulation(s) REQUIRE due process! Your registry has NONE. Therefore it will NOT be followed! And finally, the studies have been done. The sex offender registry is RAPING kids! It does NOTHING but makes desperate outcasts who have nothing to lose. Your laws are not valid! I am sorry.

Realist - 4/28/2013 9:42 AM
0 Votes
Most RSOs are not looking for potential victims. They made a big mistake in their life, served their time, and are trying to have a normal life again. RSOs have the lowest recidivism rate, around 2-5%. If they aren't doing anything suspicious, don't kick them out for something they did many years ago.

whosaysnocan - 4/28/2013 7:41 AM
0 Votes
Back when we took our child to Disney, I wondered about the possibility of "undesirables" among us. It is defiantly a place that predators would like to be. I have not doubt that Disney is as safe of a place as any.
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