In a surprising move, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge on Friday granted a sweeping temporary restraining order barring self-proclaimed pedophile Jack McClellan from coming within 10 yards of any child in California.
Judge Melvin Sandvig's order specifically prohibits McClellan from following, stalking, hitting or loitering around any minor. He also cannot contact or photograph a child or post on the Internet pictures or video of a minor without parental consent.
"Victory!" exclaimed Anthony Zinnanti, one of the two Santa Clarita attorneys who filed the petition requesting the restraining order on behalf of their daughters and other minors in the city of Santa Clarita. "Jack, stay away from the kids or you're going to jail," Zinnanti said at a news conference outside the Chatsworth courthouse.
Neither McClellan nor a lawyer representing him was present and McClellan was unavailable for comment. The temporary restraining order will take effect when McClellan is served with it.
"I have to go out and look for Jack to get him served," the lawyer vowed after the hearing.
Zinnanti did just that, running through the American Airlines terminal at Los Angeles International Airport -- after being hurried through security and escorted by police officers -- and onto a jetway of an afternoon flight bound for Chicago that McClellan had boarded. A flight attendant talked to McClellan and he came to the plane's doorway, according to Zinnanti. "He takes the papers and ruffles through them and says, 'Oh, yeah, this has to do with the injunction.' " He then returned to his seat, Zinnanti said.
The lawyers were elated after the morning ruling.
"Barry Bonds' home run is going to make history but it's going to pale [compared] to the effect this ruling has today in the state of California," said Richard Patterson, the other attorney who brought the case. "People have been given hope again that our system works."
However, the breadth of the order raised some questions for 1st Amendment expert Eugene Volokh, who called it "more or less house arrest." Volokh, a UCLA law professor, said that restricting McClellan to 10 yards away from any child in California means "you can't go to the store, you can't walk down the street .... He can't go to court to challenge this. How can you be sure you can stay away from anyone 17 and younger?"
McClellan has no criminal record but he has spoken publicly about enjoying watching little girls. On his website -- which is down -- he had posted photographs he had taken of children and had rated venues for spotting little girls.
"They have an understandable worry this guy is going to do something bad," said Volokh. "But that's not enough. You need at least probable cause to believe some crime has been committed."
Zinnanti responded, "This is a civil harassment restraining order; it's not a criminal behavior matter. There is a compelling case that this guy is involved in annoying, stalking, loitering."
Being a pedophile -- an adult having sexual thoughts about children -- is not a crime. It is illegal to touch a child for sexual gratification.
The two attorneys brought the petition for injunction hoping simply to get the judge to prevent McClellan from following children in the Santa Clarita Valley area, where he had already been seen. McClellan had said he would return to the area.
"Mr. McClellan presents a clear and present danger," Zinnanti argued in court. He brought with him a large map of the Santa Clarita Valley dotted with areas catering to children such as schools and child-care facilities.
"What we are seeking to restrain is not speech, it is conduct."
But the judge expanded the area to include the entire state, leaving child advocates and parents in the courtroom hugging each other afterward.
"I'm shocked, I'm thrilled," said Stacy Miller of the Child Care Resource Center -- which serves the Santa Clarita, San Fernando and Antelope valleys -- who compiled the map the attorneys used.
The granting of the temporary restraining order is just the first step in the process of getting a permanent injunction against McClellan. Lawyers are scheduled to return to Sandvig's court Aug. 24 to argue for a preliminary injunction for the state of California.