Man cited for harassing sexual predator
ELKHORN Delavan Police Capt. Jim Hansen said he's trying to keep "a classic neighborhood dispute" involving a convicted child sex offender from escalating into something larger.
The sex offender, Herman C. Funk, lives near a school bus stop in the 100 block of South Fifth Street.
Joseph Lers lives two doors down and said he's concerned when he sees Funk step onto his front porch and glare at children when they get off the school bus and walk in front of Funk's house.
Funk claims Lers is targeting him unnecessarily, and he filed a complaint with Delavan police.
Hansen says he's trying to keep the peace over what started with a veterinarian's $50 bill for euthanizing a cat.
That's about the only thing most parties agree on.
"Herman took the cat to the vet and had the bill sent to my neighbors," Lers said. "I told him that was a rotten thing to do. That's why he's saying I harassed him, and that's why he filed a complaint."
Funk declined to comment to The Gazette. His mother, Berneice Davis, said she would have plenty to say "after this is good and done."
Funk began complaining to Delavan police about Lers in February 2012. Funk claimed Lers continually harassed him by walking his dog in front of Funk's house and staring at him. Funk told police Lers made comments when Funk walked by Lers' apartment on his way to work.
After several complaints and contacts with police, officers May 2 cited Lers for harassment.
The tension increased when Lers followed Funk to work, confronted him about the cat and, according to Funk, shook his keys at him.
"I told Mr. Lers he had to stop confronting Funk in that manner," Hansen said.
Funk was convicted in 2005 of first-degree sexual assault of a child. His 15-year prison sentence was stayed, and a one-year jail sentence imposed. He has been on probation since.
Lers contacted the state Department of Corrections to inquire about rules for child sex offenders. The department contacted Delavan authorities and Funk's probation officer, who told Funk to stop walking in front of Lers' apartment.
"That's when Mr. Funk filed the complaint, and we issued the citation," Hansen said. "Again, we were trying to diffuse this situation, but we believe Mr. Lers was continuing to harass Herman after we told Lers to stop."
Hansen said Lers went to court and was told if he stopped harassing Funk he could come back to court in two months and the citation would be dismissed.
Lers said he understood differently.
"I thought they said I just had to cool it for two months," Lers said. "I didn't think I had to go back to court."
When Lers failed to appear in court Dec. 5, he was found in contempt of court.
"Now, I'm looking at a $681 fine, and if I don't pay it by March 20, they'll put me in jail for 13 days," Lers said. "I can't come up with that much money, and if I go to jail, I'll lose my apartment and be homeless."
Lers said he survives on a Social Security check and money he receives from trapping raccoons.
"I figure I'd have to trap 49 coons to pay that fine, and that's just not possible," Lers said.
Hansen said police have received no complaints about Funk's behavior since he got out of jail.
Lers is not satisfied.
"Look, all I did was inquire about what a sex offender can and cannot do that close to a school bus stop," Lers said. "I think that's a legitimate question."
Hansen said he's hopeful things will quiet down after Lers' court hearing March 20.
"I am continuing to encourage Mr. Lers to consider apologizing and asking the court to help him work something out regarding the contempt citation," Hansen said. "Like I said, this started out as a classic neighborhood dispute issue.
"I'd like to keep it from turning into something else."