Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely baby daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.
In June, convicted, but now released sex offender Steven Hanke purchased a home in the 8200 block of South 77th Street in Franklin. Hanke was sentenced to nine years in prison in 1996 for second-degree sexual assault.
Problem: Hanke moved into his Franklin several months after the city had passed a milestone ordinance severely restricting where sex offenders can live. Hanke lives not far from Forest Park Middle School in complete defiance of the Franklin ordinance, and now refuses to move.
The city of Franklin has filed a lawsuit against Hanke in an effort to force him out. A hearing is scheduled this Monday before Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge John Franke in Room 502 of the Courthouse at 1:30.
At stake is not only Franklin’s ordinance, but numerous other laws just like it that were patterned after Franklin’s and are now either in place or being considered in numerous communities around the state.
A large crowd is needed before Judge Franke next Monday to show support for these ordinances.
If Franke rules in favor of Hanke, his decision will literally take the teeth out of restrictive laws and be a huge victory for sex offenders.
To truly understand the magnitude of this issue, some background is in order.
From an earlier blog of mine on Franklin’s top issues:
Franklin has been Wisconsin’s leader in the fight against sex offenders. It has had to be.
Not too long ago, busloads of Franklin residents stormed a public hearing at State Fair Park to protest a special state committee’s thought of building a facility in Franklin to house numerous sexually violent persons. Franklin was considered an ideal location, having the most open space in Milwaukee County.
The loud and strong stand by Franklin residents couldn’t be ignored. The special panel wrapped up its business without recommending any site in Milwaukee County for a sex predator house.
A flurry of activity ensued at the state Capitol. A key piece of legislation was approved and signed into law that killed funding for the facility for sexually violent persons and also disbanded the special committee assigned to find a location for the facility. Another bill signed into law makes first degree sexual assault of a child punishable by life in prison. Both bills were authored by Senator Mary Lazich.
After sailing through the state Senate, a bill requiring that the worst sex offenders in the state be monitored by Global Positioning System or GPS was finally approved after much wrangling in the Assembly and signed into law.
Still, Franklin officials worried that released sex offenders would be dumped in Franklin. Sparking that fear was the state allowing notorious offender Billy Lee Morford to travel back and forth between his northwest side Milwaukee home and Franklin for 18 months without properly notifying Franklin.
After several public hearings and a thorough legal review, the Franklin Common Council late last year approved an ordinance with tight restrictions on where sex offenders could go and live within the city limits of Franklin.
Other communities quickly took notice, with several surrounding municipalities and some out-state either approving or considering Franklin-like ordinances of their own.
The Franklin Police Department has already used the new city ordinance on restrictions to force offenders out of areas they’re not welcome. Several local web sites now feature links to the sex offender registry and the family Watchdog offender map.
So far, no one has challenged the constitutionality of Franklin’s ordinance, or any other Franklin-like ordinance around the state. If they do, they’re in for a battle.
Jim McCarthy, a member of the City Council in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania wrote the following in a letter to the editor in American City and County Magazine. McCarthy was responding to an article that predator protection laws around the country are coming under fire. McCarthy writes:
“As one who has been trying for eight months to pass a law restricting where convicted sexual predators may reside or work in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., my research shows the majority of such laws have already passed court muster. Currently, 30 plus states, and hundreds of local communities, have passed such laws, most of them based on the “original” proposal passed by Iowa, which was upheld by the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court (see Doe vs. Miller), and Ohio's “Distance Marker” legislation, which was similarly upheld as constitutional by federal courts.
In challenges to the Iowa and Ohio laws, the courts have ruled that these laws do not infringe upon a person's rights in that they are a form of civil regulation and not a form of punishment, they are intended to protect children and are rationally related to that end, and they represent a rational argument that prohibiting sex offenders from places children congregate will advance a community's interest in protecting children. Two federal courts have upheld city actions to ban individual sex offenders from parks and recreation areas where children congregate.
There have been some isolated cases where a poorly written law was struck down by courts, but that was because the authors failed to do the research required to make their law iron-clad. It is up to us, the legislators, to make sure “they” do not have access to our little children, whose rights far outweigh the rights of someone who preys on the weakest of our society.”
From my blog on August 16, 2007.
The city of Franklin is to be credited with aggressively going after Steven Hanke in court. Monday’s court hearing is before Judge Franke. Franke is a very liberal judge with a history.
In June of 2003, Franke released one of Wisconsin’s most notorious predators, four-time-convicted child molester Billy Lee Morford, to a home reportedly less than a mile from two schools and a park. Morford was the first sexual predator given supervised release in the city of Milwaukee.
In 1997, Franke granted predator Shawn Schulpius supervised release, contingent on the creation of a plan for housing and monitoring him in Milwaukee. But for more than two years, officials could not find supervised housing for Schulpius in the city. In 2000, Franke reversed himself, saying Schulpius didn't deserve release after all.
This is why a strong showing of support from not just Franklin residents, but citizens from all parts of Wisconsin concerned about the safety and welfare of families and their innocent children is critical at Monday’s hearing.
As I mentioned on WISN last Thursday when I filled in for Mark Belling, according to an article in last week’s Green Bay Press Gazette, “At least 11 Wisconsin municipalities have passed some restrictions on sex offenders, whether residency limitations or restrictive zones where certain types of offenders are not allowed. Twenty-five more are considering similar restrictions, said Tom Smith, a registration specialist with the Department of Corrections.”
All of these ordinances protecting innocent children could be all but rendered meaningless by Judge Franke’s ruling. A caller to my show on WISN said the decision could always be reversed on appeal. Appeals take time, are not guaranteed, and in the meantime, sex offenders could ignore ordinances and move into areas around schools, day care centers, etc.
Will you take a stand for children and against sex offenders?
Will you take a stand for common sense laws designed to protect our most precious citizens?
NOVEMBER 5, 2007
MILWAUKEE COUNTY COURTHOUSE
JUDGE JOHN FRANKE
The safety of every child in Wisconsin is on the line.
Yes, it’s that important.