Prosecutor says rapist should not have gotten custody
The Sanilac County Prosecutor’s Office said Friday a twice-convicted rapist should never have been granted custody of a child born as a result of a sexual assault he committed nine years ago.
In a news release the office said, in part: “Our review indicates that this case should never have been sent to the Prosecutor’s Office because the (Michigan) Department of Health and Human Services was aware that this child was a product of a nonconsensual sexual act and they were fully aware the person responsible was Mr. Christopher Mirasolo.
“In fact the DHHS had granted a good cause exception allowing the mother and child to receive benefits without a paternity hearing. ... we regret the breakdown in communications ... and the handling of this sensitive case.”
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services declined Friday to respond specifically to the statement from the prosecutor’s office.
In a statement, department spokesman Bob Wheaton said decisions on parental rights are made by local, not state, officials.
“The local court determines custody and visitation matters,” he said. “The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has no role in those decisions.”
Wheaton said that in cases where a child was conceived by rape or incest, MDHHS policy considers that “a good cause exception to the requirement of establishing paternity and securing child support.”
“If an applicant for public assistance requests such an exception in the applicable child support documents or by contacting the applicant’s caseworker and that exception is granted, MDHHS would not send the case to the prosecutor’s office as a paternity/child support case,” he said.
Friday’s statement from the prosecutor’s office came a day after Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette asked that Judge Gregory Ross’ ruling granting parental rights and joint custody be dismissed.
Rebecca Kiessling, the attorney for the boy’s mother, said she is relieved Schuette’s office has become involved and that the prosecutor’s office now seems to agree that custody for Mirasolo should never have been considered.
But she added, the blaming and finger-pointing in the case overlook the fact that the prosecutor’s office didn’t need to be reminded of Mirasolo’s past — its attorneys had put him behind bars for two rapes of teenage girls.
“So (the prosecutor’s office) is saying, ‘(MDHHS) didn’t tell us what we already knew about him,’ ” she said. “And they were actively involved in deciding parenting time and custody — matters that they are not supposed to be involved in. Those are issues of law, which you would hope someone would have known. That’s their job.”
Kiessling said the prosecutor’s office isn’t the only place where her client’s case was mishandled.
“And at the very end of all of this there was the ‘consent judgment’ in which my client was never consulted and something she never signed,” she said. “But everyone overlooked that: the prosecutor, the Friend of the Court, the judge.
“My client’s signature was not anywhere on that document, and you would think at least one of them would have stopped it right there.”
Neither Ross nor the prosecutor’s office have returned calls from The News.
The case is set for a special hearing Tuesday before Ross. On Wednesday, Ross stayed his ruling giving partial custody to Mirasolo until he has heard objections from Kiessling.
Schuette’s 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 who has lived with her and never had any contact with Mirasolo. Mirasolo pleaded guilty to a lesser sexual offense and served 6 1/2 months in the county jail.
In its release Friday, the office of county Prosecutor James V. Young said it supported Schuette’s filing and has filed a response supporting the victim’s request that Mirasolo be denied custody and visitation rights.
“The Michigan Attorney General agrees with the Sanilac County Prosecutor’s Office that the relief being requested the matter should be granted,” the release said.
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.
Young issued a press release Tuesday saying 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 earlier this week that 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.
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.
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.