BOSTON - The criminal and civil court saga for John King of Ayer has concluded. Middlesex County DA Gerry Leone confirmed that criminal charges against King have been dropped, and in federal court the balance of King's civil claims against the town of Ayer have been dismissed.
Ayer Police arrested King, a Level 3 sex offender, on May 15, for living at his new wife, Ashley King's, house at 6 Whitcomb Avenue. The police alleged that King violated state law which requires sex offenders to notify departments in communities where they intend to live or work.
But on Wednesday, Middlesex County District Attorney Gerry Leone confirmed that the criminal charges against King have been dropped. Leone referenced the Dec. 20 order issued in King's civil suit filed against the town of Ayer in September.
Following a three day civil trial in late November, U.S. District Court Judge William Young issued a partial order on Dec. 20, allowing King to immediately live at the 6 Whitcomb Avenue home. Young ruled that King had properly notified the Ayer Police a month prior to his arrest - April 19, 2012 - of his intent to live at the house.
By finding King had complied with state law, Young dismissed as moot King's separate civil rights claims regarding a new Ayer bylaw restricting where Level 2 and 3 sex offenders may live in town.
Passed by Ayer Town Meeting in Oct. 2011, the bylaw was not yet on the books when King visited the police on April 19. King sued, stating Ayer Police Chief William Murray attempted to stall King from registering his intended 6 Whitcomb Avenue residence in an effort to buy time to get the town bylaw enacted.
Following a visit by Murray to Town Clerk John Canney, the bylaw was enacted on April 24 - two months after the Attorney General's Office advised the town that the bylaw needed to be posted in five public places to be activated.
By dismissing King's constitutional charges, the town bylaw remains on the books. The Ayer bylaw bars Level 2 or 3 sex offenders from establishing residence within 1,000 feet of public parks and senior housing projects. King's wife's home at 6 Whitcomb Avenue home is located within 1,000 feet of both Pirone Park and the Pond Street elder housing complex.
"A recent U.S. District Court Order found that John King was 'effectively registered as a resident' prior to the enactment of the Ayer bylaw that restricted where level 2 and 3 sex offenders could live," said Leone. "After reviewing this federal order, consulting with the Ayer Police Department and Town Counsel, and analyzing the applicable facts and law under the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, we filed a Nolle Prosequi in this matter."
The other shoe fell in the civil matter on Jan. 4 when Young dismissed the balance of King's claims. John King and his wife claimed that Murray violated the couple's federal and state constitutional rights of intrastate travel and free association. The Kings also claimed a loss of consortium (marital relations) and sought municipal liability against Murray as the "final policy maker for the Town of Ayer with respect to its police department."
The selectmen issued a Dec. 21 statement in response to Young's order that King be allowed to reside in the house. "We are pleased that the Town of Ayer's Sex Offender Residency Bylaw remains in place and will continue to provide protection to our most vulnerable citizens of Ayer."
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