A judge’s decision to postpone the move-in of a man designated as a “sexually violent predator” is a denial of the man’s rights, according to his lawyer.
Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Syda Cogliati extended a temporary stay of her decision to allow convicted rapist Michael Cheek to move into a Wild Iris Lane address, while the District Attorney’s office appeals.
“We are disappointed that the judge extended the stay,” said Stephen Prekoski, Cheek’s public defender. “It compounds Mr. Cheek’s legal issues, which largely hinge on the delay in his release that has already occurred.”
At a Nov. 15 hearing, Cogliati ruled that Cheek could move into the Wild Iris Lane home, provided Liberty Healthcare, a state mental health contractor, put in security features like an automatic generator, floodlights and a GPS signal booster to improve monitoring of the patient.
She also noted current case law directs judges to ensure timely placement after a patient has been cleared for release, as is the case with Cheek.
It was a theme echoed by Prekoski in a statement provided to the Press Banner, in which he said he doesn’t believe the DA has much of a chance of prevailing on appeal.
“We also believe that any delay continues to constitute a significant due process violation and denial of Mr. Cheek’s fundamental rights,” he said.
It’s unclear when the Court of Appeal, Sixth Appellate District, might take up the case.
Mike Geluardi, the Bonny Doon Union Elementary School District board president, was in the courtroom on Nov. 29, when Cogliati extended the stay, alongside about 10 other community members.
“The tone felt quite different than the last bunch of hearings, in that the judge did not want to hear from Liberty,” he said. “She said they don’t have standing in this question.”
Geluardi says he’s pleased Cheek’s move-in is no longer imminent. But he’s also realistic about the bigger picture.
“I’m very happy about it, but my enthusiasm is greatly tempered by the reality that the placement has been approved,” he said. “Unless the appeals court reverses that, then Michael Cheek will move in here—and that is extremely upsetting.”
Assistant District Attorney Alex Byers told the Press Banner that Cheek’s planned move to Bonny Doon doesn’t make sense.
“We continue to believe that the placement compromises public safety and is unsuitable as it is too remote and too close to at-risk children,” he said. “We continue to believe that it is inappropriate to place Michael Cheek in Bonny Doon and are confident that the Court of Appeal will vindicate our position.”
Further, Byers says, the proposed placement is too close to a school in violation of the law.
Prosecutors say they will ask the appeals court to issue its own stay.
The next Santa Cruz County court date is scheduled for Jan. 10.