A registered sex offender discovered playing Santa Claus in a Baytown McDonald's was never ordered to stay away from children by officials in Ohio, where he was convicted.
Acting on a tip December 15, Baytown police found out that the employee, Norman Charles Burbank, had been sentenced to 12 years in an Ohio prison for raping an 11-year-old in 1992. But while the state's Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections advised that Burbank be classified a high-risk offender, a judge rejected that and only ordered Burbank to "report his residency" for ten years after his release in 2004.
Burbank, 54, first registered his residency in Baytown in July 2013, according to the Texas Sex Offender Registry. It appears that, in Texas, Burbank has to register once a year for the rest of his life. Outside of that, there are no laws prohibiting him from being near children.
Bayton Police Lt. Eric Freed told KPRC that "Him putting on a Santa Claus costume and having children in his lap, however unsettling that is for parents to hear, it was not a violation of Texas law." (We've tried following up with Freed and will update if we hear back).
It's unclear how Burbank was chosen to play Santa, but McDonald's told HLN,"This employee no longer works for our organization. We are reviewing processes to ensure we remain focused on the safety of customers and employees."
We reached out to Burbank via Facebook, but he declined to comment. Court records show that he was married twice in Ohio and divorced his second wife in 2012. That woman also declined our request for comment.
Ohio adopted sex offender registry classifications (sometimes called "Megan's Law") in 1996, which allowed prosecutors in Burbank's case to argue that he should be deemed a "sexual predator," the strictest classification under the law. That would have required lifetime registration.
But according to Logan County Judge Mark S. O'Connor's 1997 judgment, "the state advised the court that, after a thorough investigation, it could not provide clear and convincing evidence...that the defendant should be labeled a sexual predator."
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According to Ohio law at that time, the factors used to determine whether an offender was a sexual predator include: the age of both offender and victim; prior offenses; whether the crime involved multiple victims; whether the offender plied the victim with drugs or alcohol "to prevent the victim from resisting"; whether the crime was part of a pattern of abuse; and -- incredibly -- whether the offender "displayed cruelty or made one or more threats of cruelty."
Ultimately, Burbank was deemed a "sexually oriented offender" and only ordered to register for 10 years after his release.
However, when the state again reclassified its sex offender system in 2008, Burbank was automatically designated as a "Tier III" offender and required to verify his address every 90 days for life, and was also subject to community notification requirements. However, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that offenders convicted before the new tier system -- like Burbank -- could not be retroactively classified. So Burbank's Tier III requirements were dismissed.
Beginning with Burbank, there are a lot of people involved in this who are deserving of anger. We don't even know what else to say.