A Macomb County judge said Monday he will issue an opinion this week on a woman’s attempt to allow her boyfriend to have contact with her children even though he is a sex offender.
Judge Matthew Switalski promised the opinion from the bench after listening to attorneys for the ex-husband and ex-wife argue the motion in Macomb County Circuit Court.
Rachael Lanni of Warren wants to be able to eventually marry Thomas P. Ireland who is on the Sex Offender Registry for a 1994 one-time sexual incident when he was an 18-year-old high school senior and the girl was 14.
The request is necessary because Rachael Lanni agreed last may in her divorce decree with Anthony Lannie of Sterling Heights; Mr Ireland could not be present with the children, both under age 10.
Mrs. Lanni’s attorney, Julie Gatti, said since the incident Ireland has had no contact with the law other than traffic tickets.
“This was 22 years ago,” Gatti, told the judge. “He (Ireland) is an upstanding citizen of Macomb County and the state of Michigan. Has he done anything since then that would show he is a danger? The answer is resoundingly no.
“There is no longer a need for this restriction in the judgment.”
She said when her client agreed to the one-sentence restriction, she was not represented by an attorney and her relationship with Ireland was “brand new.”
“She didn’t understand this would have such long-lasting impact,” Gatti said.
But Anthony Lanni’s attorney, Vince Manzella, said Rachael Lanni is “putting her needs above her children’s.” He said the children would suffer if Ireland resides with them.
He cited a 2009 study that by two university professors that indicate the “psychosocial consequences” on a child who has a parent on the sex offender registry. Fifty-eight percent of respondents said the child was treated differently at school, 78 percent said the child’s friendships were impacted, and 71 percent said the child had become “stigmatized.”
Other effects include anger, 80 percent; harassment by others, 47 percent; ridicule by others, 59 percent, depression 77 percent and suicidal tendencies, 13 percent.
But Gatti criticized the study’s format, noting the authors admit respondents were “self selected” and “recruited via several internet sites, list-servs, and blogs identified as advocacy and support resources for RSO’s (registered sex offenders) and their families.”
“The sample may be more likely to reflect opinions of those who are experiencing distress rather than those who are not,” the study said. That “creates a potential for biased results.”
Despite the study’s faults, Manzella insisted: “It (allowing contact) would have a more negative effect on the children.”
Ireland was convicted of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and was sentenced in 1995 to one year in the county jail.
He also performed 400 hours of community service that consisted of painting public structures in St. Clair Shores.
Ireland now operates a painting business.
Ireland must remain on the registry for 25 years, meaning he could be removed in four years.
Manzella conceded that in four years Rachael Lanni will have a stronger argument for removal of the restriction but said, “I don’t think the language becomes moot.”
The motion was initially heard earlier this month in front of Friend of Court Referee David Elias.
By Jameson Cook, The Macomb Daily POSTED: 03/21/16, 1:52 PM EDT