Courts & Crime

North Carolina sex offender arrested for attending church

RALEIGH — James Nichols said he was flabbergasted when a Chatham County sheriff's deputy arrested him in March for a simple weekly activity — going to church.

Nichols, 31, had served six years in prison for indecent liberties with a teenage girl and attempted second-degree rape. He was released last September and started attending Moncure Baptist Church. He met with the pastor, disclosed his crimes and often sat in the front row for worship.

But after the Chatham Sheriff's Office investigated an alleged sexual assault by another person in the church parking lot in March, Nichols was arrested because he was attending the church, which has a child-care facility on its premises.

"Anyone in this world has a right to practice their religion, and whether they've made any mistake in their life, they should have the right," Nichols said.

But a state law that took effect in December forbids registered sex offenders from being within 300 feet of a school, playground, day care or children's museum.

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