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May 23, 2024
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Convicted Rapist Seeking Housing in Bonny Doon Back in Court

A man who was convicted of rape and looking to move into Bonny Doon had another hearing in Santa Cruz County Superior Court Monday.

Judge Syda Cogliati approved Michael Cheek’s placement at a home on Wild Iris Lane in November, but the District Attorney’s Office decided to question the approval.

“Someone want to tell me what is the status?” Cogliati asked, pointing to a Notice of Appeal on the file. “That surprised me.”

Cheek was convicted of multiple violent sexual assaults in the early-1980s, including of a woman he met at Seabright Beach in Santa Cruz. He’s already won the right to be released, and to live in Santa Cruz County. But Santa Cruz Mountains residents say poor telecommunications infrastructure and law enforcement response time—as well as families with children located nearby—make his planned home a bad idea.

Assistant District Attorney Lauren Apter said she would file a “writ” with the Court of Appeal, Sixth Appellate District, by the upcoming deadline, in an effort to overturn Cogliati’s decision.

Cheek was not present at the hearing in-person or by Zoom, as the judge looked at whether she should alter the stay she’d issued that’s currently in place, one way or another.

Stephen J. Prekoski, his lawyer, said his client has been facing a “due process violation that is constantly perpetuated on Mr. Cheek.”

He said Cheek remains locked up in a mental health facility nearly three years after the court said he could go free.

“We have opposed the stay from the beginning,” he said.

Prekoski said the homeowner who has agreed to allow Cheek to live in the Wild Iris home has been subjected “to pressure to walk away.”

As previously discussed, Cogliati brought up the idea of modifying language in her order about the rights children have to congregate in the area.

“If we’re stayed, we’re stayed,” Prekoski argued. “That’s why Mr. Cheek’s not here.”

Once a decision is final, it will take time to install the security features that were conditions of Cogliati original placement-approval order, he added.

Assistant District Attorney Alex Byers brought up the fact that the stay doesn’t expire until 30 days after the higher court makes a decision. Cogliati decided to leave the stay as-is.

Byers asked if Liberty Healthcare, the private contractor managing Cheek’s care, was still looking for a different home he could move into, as they’d been ordered to do.

Appearing via Zoom, a company representative said its search was ongoing, but with no luck so far.

In an interview with the Press Banner, Prekoski said his client should’ve been let out of the state hospital long ago.

“I feel bad for Mr. Cheek,” he said. “He’s worked very hard for his release.”

After the hearing, Byers explained the “writ” the DA’s office is planning to file is the technical vehicle for attempting to have the court’s placement decision canceled.

“The People also have a right to due process,” he said, but agreed there needs to be a sense of finality at some point. “There’s going to be a lot of effects—both on him and the community—once he’s placed up there.”

In contrast to Cheek’s previous appearances, only a couple of community members attended Monday’s hearing.

Drew Penner
Drew Penner
Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected].

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