Convicted sex offender Michael Fink will become a resident of Racine once again, Racine County Circuit Court Judge Eugene Gasiorkiewicz ruled Thursday.
The court hearing was to determine that an acceptable residence has been found and that the parties agree on a release date. Fink will live in a single-family home at 1605 S. Memorial Drive on or before March 7.
Fink has been incarcerated since 1994, when he was convicted of sexually assaulting two, 12-year-old girls who were babysitting his stepchildren. After his prison sentence was up, the state successfully petitioned for him to be committed to the Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center in Mauston as a sexually violent offender under the state's 980 civil commitment procedure.
Fink was to have been released last month , but after the court was notified by DHS that one of Fink's victims lived only a few doors away , the court stayed its own order until another residence could be found .
Gasiorkiewicz had a few things to say about efforts by state Rep. Peter Barca to have the state review sex offender placement protocol and City Alderperson Molly Hall, who wants the city to adopt an ordinance that would limit where felons can live within city limits. A public meeting on that proposal is set for Feb. 21 at Zion Lutheran Church, 3805 Kinzie Ave.
"I want to say on the record that this court just came from a national seminar on sex offender management, and it should be known that Wisconsin is at the forefront when it comes to treatment and the protection of the public," he said.
Gasiorkiewicz invited state and local legislators to sit down with judges to learn more about sex offender placement."Legislators have to be informed about these policies," he said. "I would invite them to sit down with me and other members of the judiciary to ask questions."
Fink to be closely monitored
The judge held up several pages stapled together and said Fink's release was contigent upon the Attorney General's office and defense attorney Robert Peterson and Fink agreeing to the 48 rules outlined in those pages. Included in those restrictions are the requirements that Fink wear both a proximity bracelet and a GPS tracking bracelet. One allows law enforcement to know if he steps outside the residence as well as where he goes when he is outside.
But Peterson made it clear after the hearing that Fink is not allowed to venture outside the home for any reason unchaperoned.
"This is the highest level of supervision available," he said. "People convicted of murder don't get this."
Fink was ordered immediately released into the custody of the Department of Human Services and physically to be released to live at Memorial Drive address no later than March 7. That date, Gasiorkiewicz said, was requested by the Racine Police Department so that a public meeting for the neighborhood could be organized.
Peterson appeared in person while Fink participated by telephone from Sand Ridge. Peterson asked the judge make the change-of-custody order to circumvent any possible changes Hall's proposed ordinance may trigger.
"I hate to sound paranoid, but the city attorney has presented an ordinance to create buffer zones around residents," he said. "I'd request you to order a transfer of custody to DHS to not stop Mr. Fink's placement."
And though Peterson asked that Fink be moved into his new home within 24 hours and Assistant Attorney General Michael Schaefer didn't object, Gasiorkiewicz said he had an obligation to his fellow citizens to allow the Police Department to organize a meeting.
"It's not onerous to Mr. Fink that he be released on or before March 7," he added.
Victim says she will warn others
After the hearing, one of Fink's victims was emotional.
"I'm just glad that it wasn't 24 hours. That would have been just terrible," she said as she wiped away her tears.
The woman is the victim near whom Fink would have lived had his move to Lathrop Avenue gone through unchallenged.
Once she found out Fink would live at 16th Street and Memorial Drive, the woman got busy distributing fliers to residents in that neighborhood. She said the people she talked to were very surprised to learn that Fink would be a neighbor.
"They were so surprised and not at all happy that talking to me was the first time they heard anything about a sex offender moving in," she added.
While the neighborhood certainly has a number of residential dwellings, the area also borders more commercial and industrial sites that areas further north and west.
"There are a lot of industrical businesses around there with the residences so that's better than other neighborhoods DHS could have chosen," the woman continued.
But what really concerns her is the lack of any law that makes it mandatory for local police departments to hold meetings for neighbors alerting them to a sex offender being placed in their neighborhood.
"I'm really worried about there not being a community meeting because people who live around there need to understand what it means for (Fink) to move in there," she said.
"The city should be involved in this process...That's why I'm fighting. Someone has to be responsible for getting the information out there," she added.