RACINE — A new home has been found for the sex offender who was nearly placed doors down from his victim.
In Racine County Circuit Court Thursday, Judge Eugene Gasiorkiewicz approved the placement of Michael Fink at 1605 S. Memorial Drive. His release date is set to occur on or before March 7, but the court did not give a set date.
Fink’s attorney, Robert Peterson, said Fink could be ready for placement within 24 hours. But Gasiorkiewicz said while he is “99 percent certain” a similar placement mistake will not occur, he supported giving enough time for a public information meeting.
The Racine Police Department is planning a community notification meeting to be held in the next three weeks, but Sgt. Jessie Metoyer of the Racine Police Department said the meeting has not yet been scheduled.
“A three-week period is not onerous,” Gasiorkiewicz said.
Fink, a convicted sex offender who appeared in court via speakerphone, was scheduled for release on or before Jan. 18. The state’s Department of Health Services had designated 918 Lathrop Ave. as his future Racine residence.
That was near his victim, who had been living there for the last 8½ years and had not been notified of Fink’s release. But after his former victim became aware of the placement, state officials began looking for a new location.
The error reportedly came from the oversight of a single individual and it does not appear that a similar situation has ever occurred, but state leaders said it shows there’s room to improve the system as a whole.
In court, Gasiorkiewicz defended the state’s current sex offender placement system saying, “I want to make no mistake the judiciary in this state take their task very seriously.”
His comments came one day after Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, a Democrat who represents Kenosha and a portion of southern Racine County, requested a state audit of the state’s sex offender placement program.
Citing media coverage of Barca’s audit request, Gasiorkiewicz said he is confident the past oversight has been corrected and criticized Barca, saying the state has a good system of dealing with sex offenders. But he invited Barca to sit down with him.
Gasiorkiewicz also spoke about Racine Alderman Molly Hall’s recent proposal to create an ordinance limiting where sex offenders can live in the city. Similar to his invitation to Barca, Gasiorkiewicz invited Hall, who was in court, to sit down with him.
After the court hearing, Hall said she will be sitting down with him but still wants to implement an ordinance.
Wisconsin has a specific sex offender treatment program, he said.
“What do we do with those who have been rehabilitated,” Gasiorkiewicz said. “Do we say we are going to lock you up and throw away the key? … We as a people cannot and should not do that.”
He went on to say, “I’m not saying we should roll out the welcome wagon. But we need to accept them.”
One of Fink’s victims, who almost lived down the block from her offender and was in court Thursday, said the new placement on South Memorial Drive was better since it was farther from where she lived. But she said, “He gets out of prison. I have to serve a life sentence because of what he did to me.”
When Fink is released he will be on GPS monitoring and he will not be able to leave his house for at least a year without state supervision.