Lawmakers look to solve sex offender loophole
Sex offenders can be placed in different counties after prison under current sex offender laws, something local representatives are hoping to change.
"Is it really beneficial? I don't know. I don't believe transferring a sex offender to another county is," Beloit Police Chief David Zibolski said.
In August of last year, Zibolski was informed by the Department of Health Services that there would be a sex offender being placed in his city. On November 9, Steven Schuelke became the newest face on Euclid Avenue.
Schuelke, 41, is a serious violent sex offender that has been convicted of crimes involving 12, 14, and 15 year old girls. Schuelke would be classified as a child sex offender but struck a plea deal with the District Attorney's Office in Lacrosse County. The deal with Schuelke dismissed the 2nd degree sexual assault of a child charge involving the case where he assaulted a 12-year-old girl. In order to be a violent sex offender, a violent assault with a child 13 years or younger needs to be committed. Schuelke's deal got him the classification of just a serious sex offender, not a child sex offender.
Since he isn't classified as a child sex offender, Schuelke can live next door to children. He is currently neighboring a teenage girl in his new Beloit placement.
"For reasons really unknown to us Beloit was chosen by a Lacrosse County judge," Zibolski said.
He brought these loopholes to his local representatives and since November, he has been working with them on bills to fill these gaps.
Rep. Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit) is one of the representatives working with Zibolski. He helped draft a bill that would force counties to house sex offenders unless there is extreme cause. In that case, a local committee would be formed to help place the sex offender in the best location. The bill passed through it's final committee at the State Capitol and is set to be voted on Tuesday, January 16.
"It would be much more local control and community responsibility for the community where that offender is from to find the best placement for that person," Rep. Spreitzer said.
He also is currently working on a draft to solve the prosecution loophole with plea deals similar to Schuelke's. Spreitzer says that bill will take more research and time to draw up. He hopes to see it pass by 2019.
"That's one of the unintended consequences, and I think that is a gap that needs to be fixed," Zibolski said.