Still no housing option for convicted sex offender Michael Cheek following state committee meeting | #childpredator | #kidsaftey | #childsaftey

A state-mandated committee tasked with consulting on where convicted sex offender Michael Cheek should live in Santa Cruz County did not identify any viable housing options at its meeting on Thursday, prolonging a process that has already gone on for about four years.

Cheek, 71, is a twice-convicted rapist who has been in custody since 1981, and at a Fresno County state hospital for the past 26 years. He was convicted of kidnapping a 21-year-old woman from Seacliff State Beach and raping her at gunpoint. He did the same thing to a 15-year-old girl in Lake County a year later after escaping custody.

Cheek was cleared by the state for conditional release in 2019. But his path to reintegrating into society has been a struggle. Liberty Healthcare Corporation, the state contractor tasked with trying to find Cheek a home and provide follow-up services, has so far been unsuccessful in doing so. Every proposed location, such as Butte and San Mateo counties, has been promptly shut down by pushback from community and law enforcement.

Cheek has accused authorities of violating his civil rights by keeping him in a state hospital for years after he was ordered released. “I’ve been [in custody] for [nearly] 45 years. I don’t know why my due process or liberty interest rights are not being considered here,” Cheek told a court hearing last month.

Cheek attorney Stephen Prekoski had requested a court approve a “transient release,” which would have allowed Cheek to be placed in the community without a permanent place to live, including potentially in a recreational vehicle purchased by the state and placed on land owned by the county.

At a Santa Cruz County Superior Court hearing last month, Judge Syda Cogliati temporarily denied Cheek’s request for transient release but called for the housing committee — made up of attorneys, Liberty, county officials, law enforcement agencies and members of the public — to convene to discuss options and report back to the court at a Sept. 12 hearing.

On Thursday, the housing committee didn’t discuss a transient-release plan for Cheek or any housing options during open session, which lasted only about 10 minutes. Assistant District Attorney Alex Byers said that although he expects the process to continue for as long as it takes to find a suitable living place for Cheek, he did say that Cheek’s complaint that his due process rights are being ignored has some merit.

“It’s a legit issue,” said Byers. “But we’re in that balance between due process rights and public safety.”

Becky Steinbruner, the one community member who attended Thursday’s housing committee meeting, said she was “somewhat relieved” that the committee has not yet found a location for Cheek to live.

“I appreciate that the state is doing a diligent job looking for a suitable and fitting place to restore his health while protecting the public,” she said, requesting that the committee keep Santa Cruz County informed of where Cheek is eventually placed.

Cheek’s next court date is Tuesday. Liberty is expected to return to court with more options for Cheek’s release.

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