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Avowed pedophile is again released

The order he allegedly violated was flawed, an official says. A lawyer who sought it disagrees.

August 22, 2007|Richard Winton | Times Staff Writer

Self-proclaimed pedophile Jack McClellan was released from custody Tuesday after the Los Angeles city attorney's office determined that the restraining order he was arrested for allegedly violating was defective and dismissed its criminal case against him.

The decision represents a major blow to parents groups that for months have tried to get police to keep McClellan away from children even though law enforcement officers say he is not breaking the law.

McClellan, 45, was arrested earlier this month by UCLA police near a campus child care facility. The arrest came about a week after two Santa Clarita attorneys went to court to keep McClellan away from children in their community using a temporary restraining order.

On Aug. 3, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Melvin Sandvig issued a sweeping restraining order against McClellan, barring him from coming within 10 yards of any child in the state. Prosecutors charged McClellan with violating that order.

Nick Velasquez, spokesman for the city attorney, said prosecutors determined that although McClellan violated the order, the injunction itself was not lawful because it was issued for three years without a required additional hearing.

Under California law, a temporary restraining order is in effect for 22 days. An additional hearing must be held within that period, however, to determine whether the order should be extended, made permanent or dropped.

Velasquez said McClellan was given no notice of the more extensive nature of the judge's order.

"He violated the order, but the court was procedurally defective, so we had to dismiss the case," Velasquez said.

But Anthony Zinnanti, one of two attorneys who sought the restraining order on behalf of their daughters and other minors, said the city attorney deliberately misinterpreted the judge's order to avoid a legal battle with McClellan.

"I am completely outraged," he said. "They dropped the ball."

Zinnanti said his understanding was that the judge's temporary restraining order was not in effect for three years and that further hearings would be scheduled to extend it.

Zinnanti said a court hearing was set for this Friday to determine whether the injunction against McClellan could be made permanent.

"They were scared to lose the case," he said. "I will do everything I can to keep Jack McClellan away from children, because the city attorney can't."

Specifically, the judge's order stated: "The expiration of this date is three years from the date of issuance. But we will set a further court date for your preliminary injunction and also a permanent order."

Legal experts had warned that the judge's order would not stand up to a constitutional challenge under the 1st Amendment. They said that although McClellan talked openly about his predilection for young girls, he had never been convicted of child molestation.

Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson said in a recent interview that a person cannot be locked up just because authorities believe he is likely to commit a crime in the future.

"He is obviously not a good person," Levenson said of McClellan. "Preventive detention, however, is not part of the law."

Local authorities first became aware of McClellan through his website several months ago. On the website, which has been taken down, he spoke of how much he enjoyed watching little girls and listed some of his favorite places to do so.

Before he came to California, law enforcement agencies in Washington state had monitored McClellan's actions.

Detectives with the Snohomish County Sheriff's Department had been aware of McClellan and his website for two years, officials said.

But they never found any evidence to make an arrest or pursue criminal charges.

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richard.winton@latimes.com

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