Convicted sexually violent predator Michael Cheek’s long-awaited release continues to face roadblocks. Although Cheek has been cleared for release since 2019, state contractor Liberty Healthcare Corporation has been unable to secure housing him in Santa Cruz County. Cheek’s attorney says he is now appealing to the California Supreme Court for assistance.
Another hearing on the release of convicted sexually violent predator Michael Cheek on Monday was yet another kick of the can down the road. However, Cheek’s attorney is now asking the California Supreme Court to intervene and grant the long-overdue release of his client.
Cheek, in custody since 1981 for a pair of similar, brutal sexual assaults — the first of which involved kidnapping a 21-year-old Los Gatos woman from Seacliff State Beach — has been cleared for release since 2019, serving his sentence plus 26 years in a Fresno-based state hospital. Yet the local justice system has not been able to forge for Cheek a path back into society, so in Fresno he has remained.
As the entity responsible for Cheek’s sexually violent predator designation, Santa Cruz County — Cheek’s “domicile county” — must oversee his release, a complex set of arrangements that involve working with state contractor Liberty Healthcare Corporation to finding him a rental property (to be paid for by the state) and setting him up with on-site services such as therapy, medical checks, GPS tracking and security. Yet, over the past four years, Liberty has failed to successfully find and move Cheek into housing.
“We have just kept searching, following all court orders, but we currently still have no leads,” Liberty representative Isamar Mayol Calderon said during the hearing Monday.
Cheek’s attorney, Stephen Prekoski, told the court Monday that six counties were now on the table as possible release locations. He did not name the counties, but said the Cheek had family living in the locations.
Prekoski has pushed for Cheek to be released without a fixed address, but Superior Court Judge Syda Cogliati has denied that option. Prekoski appealed that denial to the court of appeals, but was also denied. On Monday, he told Cogliati that he filed another appeal, to the California Supreme Court.
State law requires Cheek’s release to prioritize his domicile county. Cheek was close to moving into a home in Bonny Doon last year, but the proposal drew fiery community pushback, with neighbors even establishing a home school nearby to effectively block the placement of the sexually violent predator. Other proposed locations in San Mateo and Butte counties have been met with similar pushback. On Monday, Prekoski asked for the court to seal the names of Cheek’s family members living in the six counties to protect them from harassment. Cogliati agreed.
Cheek, 71, will now remain in the state hospital until at least Jan. 22, when the sides are next scheduled to meet to discuss his release. Cogliati, in setting the next court date, appeared impatient with the lack of progress.
“I’d like to move this along a little more than we have today,” Cogliati said of the Jan. 22 court date.
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