By Brandi Makuski
A Portage Co. judge has ruled state officials can seek to place a violent sex offender outside of Portage County.
Charles Anderson, 74, was convicted of second-degree sexual assault of a child in 1997. He appeared via video in Portage Co. Circuit Court on Jan. 17 from Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center in Mauston, his home since being released from prison more than a decade ago, when he was involuntarily committed as a sexually violent person, also known as a Chapter 980 offender.
His release into the community has been pending for about 17 months as state officials attempt to find a suitable home for his supervised placement.
Dr. Stephen Kopetskie, court assessment and community programs director at Sand Ridge, told Judge Thomas Flugaur that the Dept. of Health Services has over the past year-and-a-half identified 179 residences inside Portage Co. as potential matches for placing Anderson. Almost all of them, he said, were eliminated due to either landlords who were “unwilling to work with the Department of Health Services,” or due the state’s rigid requirements.
DHS did identify a home on State Hwy. 49 in the Town of Alban, but Flugaur ruled that property was not acceptable because of it’s close proximity to the Central Wisconsin Electric Cooperative, which is used as the town’s community center.
He also previously ruled the DHS needed to continue searching for a suitable residence inside the county, but Anderson’s lawyer argued the extended wait violated his rights.
Melissa Fitzsimmons, Anderson’s sixth lawyer since 2005, filed two motions with the court, one arguing good cause existed for Flugaur to order a statewide search; the other arguing Anderson’s constitutional rights had been violated with his continued confinement at Sand Ridge after his release had been approved.
“Mr. Anderson should not have to wait indefinitely for placement with no end in sight,” Fitzsimmons said. “The search for a suitable placement has gone on for 17 months; I think good cause exists for the statewide search.”
Kevin Green, a special prosecutor from Green Bay who represents the state in 22 counties by exclusively working to place 980 offenders appropriately, argued his interpretation of the law didn’t allow for a Portage Co. judge to place Anderson in another county.
“It sets a bad precedent,” Green said, also noting the reaction from a recent placement of Peter Yogerst, another 980 offender, in Alban following a Washington Co. judge’s ruling. “I’m as frustrated as anyone else that this placement has taken so long.”
According to Portage Co. District Attorney Louis Molepske, one county judge doesn’t have to agree with another judge’s ruling under the 980 law. That’s why Yogerst was placed in the Alban home, while Flugaur denied the same home for Anderson.
“I understand that some other circuit court judge in another county apparently allowed somebody to be placed there,” Fluguar said on Tuesday, “but I doubt very much that court had the information that this court had when I made my decision.”
Flugaur on Tuesday approved Fitzsimmons’ request that a statewide search begin for a suitable place for Anderson.
“The record speaks for itself; the preferred county under [Chapter 980] is the county of the person’s residence, which is Portage Co., prior to him being sentenced many years ago by Judge Fleischer, who is now retired,” Flugaur said. “The court is going to find that 17 months of looking for a placement really speaks for itself, and good cause has been shown. These are very difficult placements, but I am going to authorize the [Dept. of Health Services] to search statewide for a residence and report to this court if and when they find it.”
Anderson’s supervised release from Sand Ridge was approved in July of 2015. He was declared a sexually violent person in 2005, when the DA’s office petitioned a Portage Co. judge to have him committed to a state facility for Wisconsin’s worst sex offenders. Anderson had been sentenced to five years in prison and 10 years of probation after admitting to molesting an 11-year-old Portage Co. boy.
Before coming to Wisconsin, Anderson was convicted of molesting at least three children in Arizona and California between 1979 and 1981. Following his move to Wisconsin, Anderson worked as a licensed teacher at several Central Wisconsin schools, to include St. Adalbert Catholic School near Rosholt.
Upon being placed, Anderson will for at least one year be under strict supervision, which includes ongoing treatment, restricted movements and GPS monitoring. He also won’t be allowed to leave the home without a state-approved chaperone.
Anderson returns to court on April 17 for a status conference.