A convicted sex offender has been found not guilty of defying court orders to stay away from children.
John Ernest Jacobs speaks with his lawyer Tammy Drover before the verdict in his case was delivered today at provincial court in St. John's. — Photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram
John Ernest Jacobs was acquitted this morning at provincial court in St. John's.
He has been in jail since he was arrested on June 24 of last year, after he was spotted by police officers in the area of a daycare in Torbay.
The 44-year-old had been charged with breaching probation and vagrancy. The charge of vagrancy was withdrawn by the Crown.
Jacobs had been convicted and sentenced to six months in jail last year for breaching those same orders of staying away from anyone under the age of 14 in December 2012. At that time, he was seen several times peering into the windows of a house where a five-year-old girl lived. He was also seen watching children toboggan at a hill on Empire Avenue, near the Elks Club.
When Jacobs was released from jail, police had surveillance on him.
•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••In June last year, officers saw him walking back and forth in front of a daycare and school in Torbay. They said his eyes were focused on the children in the playground and he was seen rubbing his groin area a few times as he watched them.
However, Judge Jim Walsh said because Jacobs was across the street and not on the daycare or school property, it doesn't constitute the charge of "attending at" a daycare or playground.
"You were 50 feet from being found guilty," Walsh said to Jacobs.
The judge also pointed out that there had been no complaints from anyone at the daycare and that no one had reported seeing him except officers.
However, Jacobs was convicted of making harassing phone calls.
In April last year, he randomly called a number from the phone book and reached a residence in Conception Bay South. A young boy answered and Jacobs asked to speak with his five-year-old sister. Jacobs had heard a male voice calling the girl's name in the background and then asked the boy who she was.
Walsh sentenced Jacobs to six months in jail. But it's considered time served, since Jacobs has been in jail for almost seven months.
He will now serve two years' probation, with conditions that he have no contact with the family he called.
Jacobs has an extensive criminal record.
It includes a conviction for invitation to sexual touching involving a child in March 2009. He was sentenced to 18 months in jail for that offence, along with breaching court orders.
His record also includes convictions for such crimes as assault, performing indecent acts, 15 counts of making harassing phone calls and 21 convictions for breaching court orders.
He had just been released from Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick in March 2011.
Police said that when Jacobs was arrested, officers notified daycare administrators, who in turn, issued letters to parents.
Police said it caused concern among parents of children in the community.
Walsh told Jacobs that even though he acquitted him of the first charge, "you clearly have issues that need to be addressed."
Jacobs agreed to seek treatment and to work with his probation officer to participate in counselling programs.