Sandusky — Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed legal motions late Thursday to intervene in a controversial joint custody case in which a twice-convicted rapist was granted parental rights to a child born from a 2008 sexual assault.
The case, which has drawn criticism and international attention, is set for a special hearing Tuesday before Sanilac County Probate Judge Gregory Ross. On Wednesday, Ross stayed his ruling giving partial custody to Christopher Mirasolo until he has heard objections from the victim’s attorney, Rebecca Kiessling.
In a copy reviewed by The Detroit News, Schuette’s office asks that Ross’ ruling granting parental rights and joint custody be dismissed.
“The people of this State have a compelling interest in seeing that survivors of sexual assault who conceive a child as a result of that assault may raise that child without the fear of having to share custody with the person who assaulted them; without the dread of disclosing personal details of their and their child’s life with the person who victimized them; and without having to relive the assault again and again,” said the motion, filed by Laura Moody, an assistant attorney general.
The filing details how the victim, now 21, was 12 when she was assaulted by Mirasolo, then 18, of Brown City. She later gave birth to a boy, now 8, who has lived with her and never had any contact with Mirasolo. Mirasolo pleaded guilty to a lesser sexual offense and served 61/2 months in the county jail.
Mirasolo, 27, who has declined to be interviewed by The News, never sought parental rights but was determined to be the biological father of the child this summer after the boy’s mother signed a paternity complaint, fearing her financial assistance of food stamps would be taken away.
Following news reports of Ross’ action, the judge has been the target of criticism, including petitions seeking to overturn his decision and recall him from office. A support rally for the victim is planned for noon Tuesday on the courthouse lawn before the special hearing.
More than 100 people have indicated on a rally website they will attend the event, which will feature speakers including the woman and another victim who was 14 when she was sexually assaulted by Mirasolo at an apartment in nearby Deckerville in 2010.
Sanilac County Prosecutor James V. Young and Eric G. Scott, the assistant prosecutor who handled the joint custody matter, have not returned telephone calls to The News. Ross has also been unavailable for comment since last week.
On Tuesday, Young issued a press release detailing how the paternity action was initiated by the Michigan Department of Human Services in July after surveying the mother.
Young said because of the case, his office’s policies and procedures will be reviewed and changed if deemed necessary.
John Nevin, a spokesman for the state Court Administrator’s Office, which oversees courts across Michigan, said Ross was never informed of Mirasolo’s sexual assault convictions before signing the joint custody order. Nevin said the Prosecutor’s Office had a duty to disclose the information.
“There might have not been concerns because she (victim) had consented to a paternity questionnaire and named him as the father,” Nevin said Wednesday. “If no one is questioning who the parents are, then there may not have been concerns that anything was in dispute.
“But they (Prosecutor’s Office) absolutely had an obligation to provide the judge with information about the father’s convictions, no question,” said Nevin, who has talked with Ross.
Kiessling does not dispute that Ross may have been “blindsided” in the matter but said he should never have signed a consent judgment that did not contain her client’s signature.
State law restricts people who have committed nonconsensual sexual acts from having parental rights. And the Prosecutor’s Office doesn’t decide parenting and custody issues, Kiessling said.
The custody case has upset and angered many, not just because a convicted rapist was being given joint custody but because many feel Mirasolo never received proper punishment for his crimes, both of which were settled without trial in plea agreements.
Because of the young age of his victim, Mirasolo could have faced any term of years up to life in prison with a minimum 25-year sentence.
But in January 2009, he pleaded guilty to attempted third-degree criminal sexual conduct and received a one-year sentence in the county jail. Mirasolo was released so he could care for his sick mother.
In March 2010, while still on probation, Mirasolo committed another sexual assault on a 14-year-old Deckerville girl who said he armed himself with brass knuckles and threatened to kill her. He pleaded no contest to a lesser offense of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct and served four years of a five-year minimum sentence.
Sentencings in both cases were handled by Sanilac County Circuit Judge Donald A. Teeple.