Family and friends of a 9-year-old girl whose picture police say was taken by a registered sex offender rallied Saturday in the hopes of changing sex offender laws.
The group of about 10 people gathered by the Davie Publix where the girl's mother, Maria Leon, said the incident took place. Leon and several others held signs with statements like: "Honk if you're against sex offenders."
Leon said that while her daughter was shopping at the Publix at 5997 Stirling Road Monday with her grandfather, 64-year-old Joseph Fezza took photos of the girl on his cell phone.
The girl's family contacted police and filed an incident report. Police confirmed Thursday they did find the photos on Fezza's phone, but said his actions were not criminal.
"There has to be some lewd intent he would have with that photo," said Davie Police Captain Dale Engle.
Fezza, who is a registered sex offender in the state of New York, did not wish to appear on camera when a Team 6 reporter tried to reach him at his house, but he spoke from behind his door, saying he didn't do anything wrong.
When asked if he thought taking photos of young children was right, Fezza responded by saying, "No, it's wrong." After being pressed to elaborate, Fezza declined to give further comment.
Leon said she wants to change the law so sex offenders like Fezza can't get away with taking photos of children.
"It's not illegal to take pictures of people that are out in public," Leon said. "It should be illegal for these registered sex offenders, especially if their background is child pornography."
Fezza was charged in federal court in New York in 2005 with knowingly and intentionally distributing child pornography by means of a computer.
Vice Mayor Jay Schwartz of Pembroke Pines, where Fezza is a resident, said he agrees with Leon.
"The state of Florida in this past session went a little bit further to strengthen state laws regarding individuals like this, but it doesn't go far enough," Schwartz said.
While Fezza has not been charged with a crime, Pembroke Pines Police detectives served Fezza with an eviction notice Thursday, saying he violated a city ordinance by living less than 2,500 feet from a school and park.
Meanwhile, Leon said she won't back down until she sees change in sex offender laws and is urging parents to contact their elected officials to push for tougher legislation.