Admitted Pedophile Walks Fine Legal Line

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LOS ANGELES (AP) - Jack McClellan has made himself a marked man - a self-described pedophile whose behavior has creeped out parents and child advocates nationwide. But while he's talked openly about his attraction to little girls, or "LGs" as he calls them, and taken pictures of them in public places, neither is a crime.

As a result, his case has stirred debate, particularly since his arrest on Monday, over whether attempting to restrict unseemly behavior that isn't criminal violates a person's constitutional rights.

"There is no law against someone making you feel uncomfortable," said Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor and a Loyola Law School professor. "There's a line to cross and I don't think he has yet. He's tiptoeing around the law."

McClellan landed in jail this week after he was arrested for allegedly violating a temporary restraining order requiring him to stay at least 30 feet from any child in California.

After he was seen with a camera near the Infant Development Program at the University of California, Los Angeles, police let McClellan go with a citation and a warning not to return.

When he was back on campus hours later to grant a TV interview, McClellan was arrested for suspected trespassing. He pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor count of violating the temporary restraining order and remains in jail on $150,000 bail.

Some legal experts believe the order that Superior Court Judge Melvin Sandvig issued on Aug. 3 trampled on McClellan's First Amendment right to free expression and will eventually be overturned. Sandvig scheduled an Aug. 24 hearing to discuss the matter further.

"Without showing a person has committed a crime against a child, I don't see how this can stand," said UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh. "There's no way someone can organize their life without somehow being within 10 yards of a child."

Before he was jailed, McClellan said he thought there would be few if any children on a college campus. He said he spent a couple of hours at UCLA before his first arrest and that the camera had no batteries.

Anthony Zinnanti, one of the attorneys who sought the restraining order, believes it will eventually become permanent based on McClellan's recent actions.

"I think the judge issued the TRO well within his discretion and he was not being abusive," Zinnanti said. "Jack McClellan hung himself by the way of his actions. It's up to him if he wants to end up in jail."

Some child advocacy groups worry that it's only a matter of time before McClellan acts on his thoughts.

"Even the most outrageous thoughts are protected (by law) but it appears Mr. McClellan is doing more than expressing them," said Ernie Allen, president and CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. "It's a question if he crosses the line into illegal activity or encourages others to do so."

It's not a crime to be a pedophile - by definition an adult who fixates on children as sexual objects. It's only a crime for pedophiles to act on their desires and molest a child. And while California has tough penalties for stalking and harassment, McClellan's conduct apparently hasn't risen to a criminal level.

Several law enforcement agencies, both in California and his former home state of Washington, have monitored or investigated his activities but not charged him with a crime.

McClellan, who mostly has lived out of his car since arriving in California a few months ago, maintained a Web site for years where he posted pictures of children he had photographed in public places. It has since been taken down by the server.

He told The Associated Press earlier this month that running the site, where he also discussed how he likes to stake out parks, public libraries and other areas where little girls congregate, was therapeutic because it allowed him to share his thoughts.

"I thought it was the best therapeutic thing for my own head to kind of put this out there, what I'm thinking," he said before his arrest. "I'm determined not to do anything illegal. I haven't done anything illegal."