Former Lawmaker Sues to Allow Sex Offenders in His Home
September 23, 2008A former state lawmaker who took three sex offenders into his home went to court to challenge zoning officials' decision to bar them.
Tom Armstrong, a former tough-on-crime politician who has become interested in prisoners' rights, filed his appeal Sept. 11.
He asked a Lancaster County judge to overturn an August zoning board ruling that said he violated a local ordinance by taking the three offenders, who all served prison time, into his Marietta home. Citing his Christian belief in forgiveness, he has said he wants to shelter the three men until he can open a halfway house for sex offenders.
He argued the zoning officer didn't properly investigate who was living in his home before issuing a cease-and-desist order June 18. He also said the zoning law, which limits the number of unrelated people who can live together, fails to differentiate between temporary and permanent residents.
"He didn't come to my house. He didn't call me," Armstrong said Tuesday.
Marietta borough attorney Shawn Long had no comment on the appeal.
The sex offenders' probation terms prohibit them from living under the same roof with minors. Armstrong has a 16-year-old daughter, but she moved out along with his wife to care for a sick relative and has not returned, he said.
Armstrong served 12 years in the Legislature before he was defeated in the 2002 Republican primary.
The three men he took in are a rapist, a man who fondled a 15-year-old neighbor girl and a man caught with child porn on his computer at work. Armstrong said defense attorneys and prison counselors had contacted him for help and assured him they were no threat to anyone.
When the men's new addresses were included on the state's sex offender registry Web site, residents of Marietta packed community meetings and circulated fliers with the men's photos.
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