The Bonny Doon home Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Syda Cogliati ruled could be used as a rehabilitation site for a man who raped multiple people in the early 1980s is now the subject of a lawsuit by neighbors.
With a ruling from the appeals court on that decision pending, area residents have sued Kassandra Hinton Ross, owner of the 310 Wild Iris Lane property, to stop Michael Cheek from taking up residence there.
“We were considering suing her back in September,” says Joe Brennan, who is leading the group of 22 plaintiffs. “When Judge Cogliati approved the placement, we decided to move forward.”
Liberty Healthcare Corporation says Cheek, a diagnosed “sexually violent predator” cleared for conditional release by the Department of State Hospitals, is “highly treated.”
In the lawsuit, filed Dec. 30, the plaintiffs claim the site violates the terms of release Cheek agreed to due to its remote location, poor internet connectivity and proximity to children.
They say the presence of a nearby homeschool site is one of the reasons Cheek should be prevented from moving in.
In approving the placement in November, Cogliati said the school appeared to have been established as a ploy to block Liberty Healthcare’s efforts to find a spot for the patient to live.
She also noted that Cheek’s rights are currently being violated since he already won release from state custody in a prior court process.
The defendant hired Santa Cruz-based Dibenedetto, Lapcevic & DRAA, LLP, on March 9, to beat back the new effort from neighbors.
And in a March 10 motion, lawyer William Lapcevic asked for more time to respond, noting he couldn’t even access documents from the ongoing appeal, due to confidentiality rules.
The neighbors are basing their lawsuit on “arguments which have already been rejected,” Lapcevic said in the suit.
A hearing in the case has been set for May 24.