SAN JOSE — A California registered sex offender convicted of molesting a relative was caught volunteering at a Catholic elementary school festival, but he was not arrested because he had a permission letter from a church official.
The pastor of the church later said he was unaware of the letter, and the Santa Clara County sheriff's office and the Diocese of San Jose are trying to determine its validity, the San Jose Mercury News reported (http://bit.ly/RDUP4m).
The sheriff's office said Mark Christopher Gurries, 51, was a volunteer at last month's St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Elementary School event In San Jose.
Someone recognized the sex offender and told a deputy who was working as security.
But Gurries wasn't arrested because he had a letter showing he had church permission to be there, the newspaper reported. However, the deputy escorted him off campus "out of an abundance of caution," sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Jose Cardoza said.
The pastor of the church, Rev. Lieu Vu, said he knew nothing about Gurries' conviction or the letter until the night of the festival.
"I did not write any letter," Vu told the Mercury News.
Gurries told the paper that he would "let the church decide whether they release the information," but would not comment further on the letter or his conviction.
Under state law, registered sex offenders can be allowed on school grounds if they have written permission from the school's chief administrative official, Cardoza said. Without such permission, a registered sex offender can be convicted of a misdemeanor.
Regardless, Gurries is on probation, and the conditions of his probation state that he can neither "work, be self-employed nor do volunteer work in an organization that involves supervision of children under 18 years."
Court records show Gurries reached a plea deal with Santa Clara County prosecutors in 2010 on charges related to the molestation of a child relative.
He received a sentence of one-year in the county jail, and was placed on three years of probation. He received the deal after the victim, who was 4 or 5 when the molestation occurred, refused to testify, the newspaper reported.
Parents who attended the festival were shocked to learn a volunteer was a sex offender, and wanted answers for how it was allowed to happen.
Information from: San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News, http://www.mercurynews.com