Judge: sex offender house might not be legal

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The future of a home purchased for sex offenders in Marinette County is jeopardized after a judge decides a violent sex offender would not be placed there based on a state law.

Action 2 News has reported Town of Pound's outcry as the Department Of Health Services tries to put sex offenders in a home less than 700 feet away from children.

Wednesday in court, 54-year-old Jeffrey Butler from Upper Michigan was denied placement at the home. He's convicted of raping a child in Marinette County and is considered a violent sex offender by the state.

But judge's placement denial had little to do with the actual sex offender and was based more on a technicality in Wisconsin law.

The state's first attempt to place a violent sex offender at the house in pound failed because an Oconto County Judge said the home was too close to kids— some living less than 700 feet away— 18 total children living on the road.

Wednesday, Marinette County Judge James Morrison says he has his own reservations about the house arrest, which is monitored by an ankle bracelet.

"I'm not terribly impressed by the fact they wear GPS bracelets because I see people in the criminal context who take off their GPS bracelets all the time,” said Judge Morrison. “It's pretty darn common."

The judge was also concerned about the lack of employment opportunities for sex offenders placed in Pound, and the fact a sex offender like Jeffrey Butler would need to be driven to and from therapy in Green Bay, Appleton or Neenah every week.

But what really doomed the placement was a statute put into place January 1st, 2006 —stating that a court-ordered sex offender facility needs to have already existed prior to the law's passage.

"That's not the same as a dwelling. If that were the case, this statute would be meaningless. It's clear that the legislature responded to that by saying, "What you had on January 1st, 2006 —that you get to keep,” Judge Morrison explained.

“As long as that house has been there, it's been a dwelling for a family,” said Pound Supervisor Dave Pellman. “And now they're trying to turn it into a facility."

Parents in pound hope this technicality in the law stops other sex offenders from being placed in the home. Until it's banned from being a halfway house, they'll continue fighting against the state's placements.

"To all the people who say, 'What difference does it make? It's not going to do anything.' This is proof that it does,” said Pound mom and grandma Paula Seewald.

Just recently, an Outagamie County Judge placed 51-year-old Aristole Farmer in the home in Pound. Farmer was convicted of raping a woman with developmental disabilities in a Salvation Army bathroom in Appleton. Court documents state he is a high risk repeat offender.