Judge gives Racine County 120 days to submit new residency plan for 2 sex offenders

NOW: Judge gives Racine County 120 days to submit new residency plan for 2 sex offenders

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RACINE, Wis. (CBS 58) – A Racine County Circuit Court judge ordered county officials to submit a new plan to find a residence for two sex offenders.

Daniel Williams and Hung Tran were convicted of sexual assault of children decades ago, but now qualify for supervised release. The state initially was set to place and release them in the village of Caledonia in April, but the village and county fought that decision. That was because the residence originally selected was next to Jellystone Park, a popular campground for families with children.

In a hearing Wednesday, May 12, Judge Wynne P. Laufenberg said the county had to come up with a new plan.

“The county […] will need to identify and provide another residential option,” Judge Laufenberg said.

Laufenberg is requiring the county to submit additional documents and materials that are not ordinarily required in such cases, but is doing so here in order to ensure a solution is reached.

“I am seeking to avoid what I would describe as disappointing and expensive litigation that presents itself in my courtroom today,” Laufenberg said.

The county will have 120 days to submit the new plan.

“The judge’s ruling today really amplifies, as you can see through the court hearing, a problem with the chapter 980 finding appropriate residences in the state,” Robert Peterson, an assistant state public defender representing Tran, told CBS 58 after the hearing.

Peterson said he understands the judge’s ruling but hopes a new residency plan can be approved soon.

“We look forward to working with the county, working with the local shareholders to try to find housing for these individuals who have worked so hard to have regained their freedom,” Peterson said.

A spokesperson for Racine County sent CBS 58 a statement on the ruling that said in part:

“With numerous restrictions outlined in state statute, this is an extremely challenging process and Judge Laufenberg ruled that the County acted in ‘good faith’ in performing its work under this law. Keeping our neighborhoods safe is of utmost importance. We support Judge Laufenberg’s ruling and will continue to work with all involved to ensure we protect our communities.”

The case is also sparking state Senator Van Wanggaard (R – Racine) to craft new legislation to clarify the law and avoid dragged out processes like this one.

“There’s really a disconnect with what our statutes do with the 980 placement,” Wanggaard told CBS 58. “There’s so much complexity to this, with a person’s individual rights, and you have to balance that with the rights of the people that live in the neighborhoods.”

Chapter 980 refers to the Sexually Violent Person law originally created in 1994 that deals with residence placement of violent persons.

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