Mom in rape custody case: State benefits cut
The woman who became tangled in a child custody case involving her rapist says the state has informed her she will lose food stamps and health care for her 8-year-old son, in part because of a GoFundMe account that has raised more than $100,000 on her behalf.
The woman, who has asked to be identified by her first name, Tiffany, said Wednesday she received a call from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services notifying her of the benefit cutoff.
According to her, the state agency cited the GoFundMe account, as well as a now-suspended custody order that gave convicted sex offender Christopher Mirasolo parental rights to the boy.
Tiffany said her caseworker told her she would lose benefits she has received for about three years, consisting of less than $300 a month in food stamps and health insurance for her son.
“She said I would be receiving something in the mail but wanted to call me first and let me know,” Tiffany said. “She said it was because of pending matters involving child support from the father and because of my GoFundMe account.”
The woman was 12 years old when she was sexually assaulted in September 2008 by Christopher Mirasolo, now 27, of Brown City. He later pleaded guilty to a lesser offense and served less than seven months in the county jail.
Sanilac County Probate Judge Gregory Ross granted Mirasolo joint legal custody of the boy in September, sparking widespread outrage. Last month, Ross set aside his ruling, saying he was never informed of the circumstances of the birth or Mirasolo’s conviction.
The controversy led to the firing of an assistant Sanilac County prosecutor who handled the case and policy reviews by that office and DHHS.
Rebecca Kiessling, Tiffany’s attorney, said Wednesday it was “reprehensible that the state of Michigan seeks to benefit off the generosity of others.”
“There is no agreement or order for child support at this time,” Kiessling said. “(Mirasolo) has never paid a dime to her or for child support in nine years. Now his attorney claims he has no income, so I guess that means she cannot not expect any future help as well.
“It’s like she is getting raped again.”
Robert Wheaton, a spokesman for DHHS, which administers and supervises financial aid for children, would neither confirm nor deny the action took place as described by Tiffany.
“By law, whether someone receives public assistance is confidential, so I can’t respond,” Wheaton said Wednesday.
Asked if he was aware of the agency ever cutting benefits because a recipient received child support or donations, Wheaton replied: “Under federal and state statute, eligibility for food assistance and health care assistance depends on factors that include household income and assets. So a change in income or assets could affect eligibility.”
Kiessling and Mirasolo’s attorney, Barbara Yockey, participated in a settlement conference before Ross on Wednesday aimed at reaching a permanent custody arrangement.
Yockey said the session was productive, and Kiessling is expected to draw up a settlement in the next few weeks, subject to approval from Yockey and the Sanilac County Prosecutor’s Office.
“There are no custody issues – my client isn’t seeking custody or parenting or visitation rights,” Yockey said. “He was paying child support before he lost his job due to publicity in this case.”
Kiessling said Mirasolo is expected to eventually be required to pay child support from the date of the initial paternity complaint in July until Oct. 10, his last day of employment.
“His attorney requested a gag order in the case and wanted Mirasolo’s address to be kept secret,” she said. “Considering he is on the state’s sexual offender registry, that’s not going to happen.”
In an earlier interview with The Detroit News, Tiffany said she needed to move because she feared Mirasolo might harm her or try to take her son.
“We were hoping to use the GoFundMe account to buy a house but looks like now that isn’t going to happen,” said Tiffany, insisting she hasn’t tapped the account yet for expenses. “We are going to have to live on the money and rent.”
Yockey said she made a demand to Kiessling that she rescind public statements that Mirasolo forcibly raped Tiffany or held her captive, as the victim claimed. Kiessling did not respond, she said.
“There are police reports in which she said they had a relationship for three months and she had agreed to have sex,” Yockey said.
Tiffany said she has been unable to obtain the police reports Yockey has referenced and denies having a relationship with Mirasolo. Even if true, a minor cannot legally consent to sex.
Yockey declined to make the police reports available to The News but referenced them in a court filing on Mirasolo’s behalf.