Emilio and Amber Johnston were ready to begin a new chapter in their lives after he completed probation on a sex conviction, reports the Orlando Sentinel. Amber Johnston got pregnant, and Angel was born in March. But within two weeks of Angel’s birth, the body of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford was found in Homosassa, and a convicted sex offender was charged with sexually assaulting and killing her. Since then, the Johnstons say their home in Inverness has been vandalized, law officers have harassed them, and the local newspaper printed Emilio Johnston’s name and photo under the headline, “The stranger next door, sexual offenders and predators in your neighborhood.”
The Johnstons, who have two other children, were one of three families who spoke out Monday about how a crackdown on sex offenders has hurt them. Each complained that new laws lump all offenders into one category, treating a teen convicted of underage sex the same as a violent sexual predator. “I’m not able to change my child’s diapers without supervision,” said Emilio Johnston, who was convicted at 18 of having sex with his underage girlfriend. Someone needs to step up and speak for the families of sex offenders who are being harassed and ostracized, said George Crossley, president of the Central Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. “We’re treating these people like lepers because it’s easy to do,” Crossley said.