"Did not know" he raped her: Judge rescinds order in sex offender custody case

DETROIT — A Michigan judge on Tuesday rescinded his order that gave a convicted sex offender joint legal custody of a child born to a woman who said the man raped her when she was 12.

Sanilac County Judge Gregory Ross stressed that he was unaware of Christopher Mirasolo's two previous criminal sexual conduct convictions — including one concerning the boy's mother — when he issued the original ruling last month. The new order grants Mirasolo no parental rights.

"I did not know that the defendant had raped the plaintiff, which resulted in the child being conceived," Ross wrote in Tuesday's order. "The question that everyone is asking is, 'How could a judge do such a thing?' The answer is that this judge was not aware, did not have knowledge of the fact that the defendant raped the plaintiff, and the child was born as a result."

The case started when the 21-year-old mother sought state assistance for her 8-year-old son. As a condition of receiving such assistance, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services required the mother to cooperate with pursuing paternity and support for the child, according to prosecutors.

A DNA test confirmed Mirasolo, 27, was the boy's biological father. Although he never sought parental rights or custody, Mirasolo was granted joint legal custody and ordered to pay child support, while the mother was granted sole physical custody.

In Michigan, joint legal custody enables both parents to share decision-making authority about a child's welfare.

Mirasolo spent six and half months in jail after pleading guilty to attempted criminal sexual conduct in the woman's 2008 case, according to the woman's attorney. Mirasolo also spent time in prison for a 2010 criminal sexual conduct conviction, according to Michigan Department of Corrections records.

Ross issued his original ruling on Sept. 22. The mother's attorney, Rebecca Kiessling, challenged the ruling on Oct. 6, and Ross put his order on hold days later after learning about Mirasolo's criminal history. He then scheduled Tuesday's hearing.

In his new order, Ross said he believed the mother and Mirasolo consented to the joint legal custody arrangement and parenting time based on a judgment submitted to him by the county prosecutor's office.

"I do rely on what is presented to me by the Sanilac County prosecutor," Ross wrote. "If a mistake is made, whether it is mine or someone else's, I will correct it and make it right."

Despite the reversal, the boy's mother was not pleased. She said Ross seemed insincere.

"The judge and the prosecutor need to go," she said after the court hearing in Sandusky, a city about 80 miles (129 kilometers) north of Detroit.

The Associated Press isn't naming the woman because she was the victim of sexual assault.

Prosecutors issued a statement last week that said the case never should have been sent to them because the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services "was aware that this child was a product of a nonconsensual sexual assault and they were fully aware that the individual responsible was Mr. Christopher Mirasolo."

Department spokesman Bob Wheaton said local courts generally determine custody and visitation matters.

"We're responsible for eligibility in determining public assistance and following federal law requiring us to cooperate with paternity and establishing child support," Wheaton said.

The Sanilac County prosecutor's office said it would conduct an internal review to see how the case was handled.