Sex offenders are not allowed near schools unless they have the written permission of the chief administrator of the school. Marianne Favro reports.
Santa Clara County Sheriff's deputies on Thursday said they were investigating the authenticity of a letter provided by a registered sex offender who was volunteering at a San Jose Catholic elementary school.
Under state law, sex offenders are not allowed near schools unless they have the written permission of the chief administrator of the school.
In this case, Mark Christopher Gurries, 51, presented a typewritten letter on church stationary, which was signed by an unnamed church official, that it was OK that he volunteer. But Sgt. Jose Cardoza said on Thursday that detectives now must figure out if that letter was real.
If it is authentic, Cardoza told NBC Bay Area that deputies cannot arrest Gurries. If it is forged, then Gurries could be in violation of his probation.
Gurries was convicted in February 201o of one count of a lewd and lascivious act on a child younger than 14.
"We don't agree with the law," Cardoza said. "But we have to abide by it."
The letter in question centers around Gurries, who was volunteering on Oct. 6 at the St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Elementary School and parish festival on Woodward Road.
According to the newspaper, the letter made it clear that the official who signed it knew Gurries was a registered sex offender, but allowed him to be on school campus and participate in school functions as long as he was supervised near children.
Gurries was convicted in February 201o on one count of a lewd and lascivious act on a child younger than 14. Court records obtained by the Mercury News show that the District Attorney's Office reached a deal with Gurries after he was originally charged with six counts of child molestation, from acts that allegedly occurred a decade ago. The victim wouldn't testify and Gurries was only convicted of one count, and was sentenced to one year in county jail.
The pastor of the church told the Mercury News he knew nothing of the letter. On Thursday, a reporter and photographer from NBC Bay Area were told to leave church property and no one would return phone calls seeking comment. Gurries also didn't return calls seeking comment.
Also on Thursday, the San Jose Diocese issued a statement to state that Gurries was no longer a volunteer of the parish. Spokeswoman Bernie Luongo Hoye told NBC Bay Area that having a registered sex offender volunteer at church events goes against the Diocese's policy. She said Diocese has launched its own investigation to see who, if anyone, signed that original letter.