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Offender says he is innocent

• But he pleaded guilty to child abuse in 1998.

Posted: April 23, 2008 2:30 a.m.
Updated: June 24, 2008 5:02 a.m.
 
John Joseph Gambill's life is falling apart, he says. With a wavering voice, the 48-year-old registered sex offender began to tell The Signal his side of the story but stopped to remove his glasses and wipe his eyes.

"My life is in ruins," he said as he unloaded groceries from his car outside his Saugus mobile home Tuesday. "I'm going through a lot of s--t right now. My mother just died. I'm scarred for life because of this."

By "this," Gambill was referring to his 1998 conviction for continuous sexually abuse of a child - something he says he never did.

"I didn't touch (the victim). I didn't do it. The public defender said ‘you have a snowball's chance in Hell' and she told me to plead guilty," he said. "I had never been in prison before; she told me it was either six years or 16 years."

When Gambill was asked whether or not the lawyer informed him about the lasting ramifications of being named a registered sex offender for life, he said: "She may have."

Gambill - now gray with a bushy, gray drooping mustache, dressed casually in T-shirt and jeans - spent six years in prison for his crime and completed his three-year probation in 2006.

With his dog barking loudly from inside his mobile home and his girlfriend talking loudly to him on his cell phone about money concerns, Gambill struggled to continue his conversation with The Signal.

He pulled the last of his grocery bags out of the car and let a pillow-sized bag of dog food drop on the ground. Then letting his arms - tattooed with a faded blue design - go limp at his side, he leaned against the trunk of his car, obviously tired.

"No one's going to side with me," he said, shaking his head.

Mothers who also live at Parklane Mobile Home Estates on Soledad Canyon Road have told The Signal that they want Gambill out of their community.

They were alerted to Gambill's presence after one mother visited the Megan's Law Web site set up by the state Attorney General.

They argue he lives too close to Rio Vista Elementary School. Gambill lives two blocks from Rio Vista off of Honby Avenue, about 500 feet from door-to-door.

At least one angry woman stood in front of his home and shouted at him, calling him names, Gambill said.

Since he was convicted before 2006, Jessica's Law, which prohibits sex offenders living with 2,000 feet of a school, does not apply.

Under Megan's Law, parolees convicted of a specified sex offense against a child are barred from residing within one-quarter of a mile of a school.

Gambill served his time, paid his debt to society and has completed his court-ordered probation without incident.

He said he plans on staying in his late mother's mobile home for the time being.

"I pleaded guilty to a charge I didn't do," he said. "It was my fiancé's daughter. I spent six years in jail for something I didn't do. It was six years instead of 16.

"My lawyer said it was her word against mine. I didn't know what to do. I didn't have any money. I don't know anything about the law," he added. "I'm trying to get past it.

"If I would have known it was going to be like this, I would never have pleaded guilty."

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