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.
Today, I unveil what I believe was the #1 story in our city in 2007 because it affected our most prized commodity: our children. In fact, this story has an impact for every child in the state of Wisconsin. Yes, it’s that important.
The story: Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge John Franke ruled against the city of Franklin's lawsuit against sex offender Steve Hanke who, for now, will be allowed to live in his Franklin home 600 feet from a middle school. Franke ruled against current law, innocent families and children, and sided with a convicted sex offender.
Here’s the background. Hanke, now 54 years old, bought a Franklin home in the 8200 block of S. 77th Street five months after Franklin adopted a milestone ordinance restricting certain sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools, day-care centers and other places where children might congregate. Hanke bought a residence in June in the 8200 block of South 77th Street that is just a few hundred feet from Forest Park Middle School, a clear violation of Franklin’s ordinance. Hanke refused to leave and Franklin took the necessary legal action to force him out. The city of Franklin filed a lawsuit to evict Hanke, a registered sex offender. Hanke was sentenced to nine years in prison in 1996 for second-degree sexual assault.
Hanke's attorney, Andrew Arena, made the incredibly insulting comment that Franklin residents were overreacting. "The sky is falling in Franklin," he said. "It's just ridiculous."
At an informational meeting, concerned residents were told that if the city lost its lawsuit against Hanke, that would practically nullify the city’s tough restrictive ordinance that communities all across the state are using as a model to pass their own similar laws. Should Franklin lose this lawsuit, the teeth would be taken right out of its ordinance and the fear that a facility to house numerous sexually violent persons could be built in Franklin would start all over again. The city of Franklin is to be credited with aggressively going after Steven Hanke in court. Last fall, a court hearing on the matter was held 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.
As I mentioned on WISN filling in for Mark Belling, according to an article in the 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.”
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.
Despite a strong showing of support by Franklin residents at the hearing, Judge Franke ruled in favor of Hanke.
1) Clearly Franke could have and should have ruled in favor of Franklin. I submit that no appeal would have overturned his ruling. Hanke is in clear violation of a constitutional ordinance.
2) Once again, the rights of a convicted criminal are paramount to those of law-abiding citizens.
3) Hanke ignored the mountain of evidence and studies that show offenders like Hanke are likely to re-offend. One of my sources at the Courthouse wrote me the following, summing up what Franke said in court on this part of the ruling:
The judge spoke at length on the issue of assessing risk – what is the risk of injury if the injunction is not granted? While there is a “chance” of child assault, it is too difficult to apply recidivism statistics to one individual without expert witness. The risk over a short period of time is very small. Hanke committed his crime against someone with whom he had a very long-term and close relationship, thus lowering the chances that he would assault a child at random.
That is an absolutely outrageous assertion for this judge to make, essentially minimizing and trivializing the potential danger that is real.
4) Franklin lost in a big way. As this case drags on, and it will for some time, possibly until August of next year, it allows Hanke to remain in his Franklin home, 600 feet away from a Franklin middle school.
5) Franke sent a loud message to other sex offenders that it’s ok to challenge and defy laws established to restrict where these perverts live.
6) This is another example of why people lose faith and trust in their government and legal system.
7) Franke has now in three major cases involving dangerous sex offenders. Every time he has ruled in favor of the criminal.
God forbid that Hanke assault another child, but if he does, it's on Judge Franke's hands.
THE TOP 10 FRANKLIN STORIES OF 2007
1) JUDGE FRANKE RULES IN FAVOR OF HANKE
2) FRANKLIN VOTERS SOUNDLY REJECT REFERENDA
3) SCHOOL BOARD ADOPTS A 5.9% (NOT REALLY) TAX LEVY INCREASE
4) "ASSEMBLY" AT FRANKLIN HIGH BEFORE ELECTION
5) FRANKLIN ADOPTS A MODEL SEX OFFENDER ORDINANCE
6) THE GRAND OPENING OF SENDIK’S
7) THE EMERGENCE OF THE FRANKLIN BLOGGERS
8) FRANKLIN CITY TAX LEVY GOES UP 5.7%
9) SUPERINTENDENT SZAKACS FORCED OUT
10) THE LACK OF PROGRESS AT FOUNTAINS OF FRANKLIN