Jeffrey Mitchell of Miramar Beach, Fla., is letting his neighbors know that he is a registered sex offender in a unique way: with a large sign in his yard.
Mitchell was convicted last month of promoting the sexual performance of a child, a class 2 felony, after investigators caught him watching child pornography on his computer. In Florida, a class 2 felony is a serious crime that's punishable by up to 15 years in prison. After fighting the charge for almost two years, Mitchell eventually pleaded no contest -- avoiding potential jail time but gaining the status of "sex offender" for the rest of his life.
The sign (pictured above) reads "Sex offender residence till the day I die." And underneath that it says "Apartment for rent." But why the big sign? "It's not so much what i wanted people to know. It's a dialogue that should be started," Mitchell told local TV station WJHG. He also wrote a letter to his neighbors explaining his charge. Mitchell claims that he's innocent, and that the state couldn't prove how the child pornography made its way to his computer, reports Orlando station WDBO. But after spending $100,000 in legal fees, he says that he couldn't continue to fight the charges.
He has at least one neighbor convinced. "I thought it was written from the heart, very well-written. It was one of those things that, it was on his computer and he didn't know it," neighbor Bill Jenkins told WDBO.
Mitchell says that he is still struggling with being classified as a sex offender, but vows to continue to live his life. "It's still hard to accept that designation, especially since it lasts the rest of your life," said Mitchell.
"Everyone wants to be on the right side of protecting children including myself," he added, "and that's partly the reason for the sign and partly the reason that I talk to my neighbors personally."
Mitchell also explained that his notice of an apartment for rent was on the same sign because he would have to tell prospective renters that he is sex offender anyway.