Four registered sex offenders were arrested this month for attending the 2022 North Carolina Mountain State Fair near Asheville.
Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office Major John Ledford said that state law specifically bars registered sex offenders from the annual fair, held this year from September 9-18, WLOS reported.
“It was during the course of the fair, and it was early on in the fair, because once the word kind of gets out that we’re checking for that, we hope that’s a deterrent for others,” Ledford said. “There’s no indication initially they were there for nefarious purposes, but we don’t know their intent on coming. Just the fact they’re merely on site is enough to violate the statute.”
Claude William Thomason, 31; Dustin Scott Bullman, 41; Charles Andrew Graves, 45; and Jason Wilson Rowland, 53, were all charged with violating North Carolina General Statute 14-208.18 – concerning sex offenders unlawfully on premises.
According the registry, Thomason was convicted of taking indecent liberties with an 11-year-old when he was 21; Bullman was convicted of taking indecent liberties with a 12-year-old when he was 19; Graves was convicted of taking photographs through or under garments in 2021; and Rowland was convicted on an undefined sex offense when he was 25.
Ledford said the four men were identified as they entered the fair gates, according to WLOS.
“We have specific personnel who are assigned as part of our special investigation unit who handle the sex offender registry, so they know a lot of these people on site,” Ledford said. “They’re responsible for verifying addresses. They interact with them quite regularly.”
Ledford said that multiple law enforcement agencies were Western North Carolina Agricultural Center grounds for the duration of the fair patrolling for various criminal activities.
“Our detective units [were] on scene, our drug units [were] on scene, our sex offender unit [was] on scene,” Ledford said. “They’re operating behind the scenes to make sure that everybody is kept safe while they enjoy the fair.”
All four of the busted sex offenders have since bonded out of jail. According to the registry, going to the fair was their first violation of the statue.
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[Featured image: Charles Thomason, Charles Graves, Dustin Bullman, and Jason Rowland/North Carolina State Sex Offender Registry]