Sex offender must move after judge alters probation


Published: Friday, July 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, June 30, 2005 at 11:33 p.m.
A convicted sex offender, allowed to live near a Gainesville elementary school by one judge, has been told to move by another.
Circuit Judge Peter Sieg rescinded a condition of probation for Michael Greathouse, 35, that said he could remain at his home less than 1,000 feet from J.J. Finley Elementary School, 1912 NW 5th Ave. Sieg gave Greathouse until Aug. 31 to find a new place to live.
Last year, Greathouse had entered a no contest plea to lewd and lascivious molestation on a child between the ages of 12 and 16. The plea deal allowed Greathouse to stay at the home in spite of a law that says someone under supervision for this kind of sex crime can't live so close to a school. The deal had been reviewed by both Greathouse's attorney and a prosecutor before it was approved by then-Circuit Judge Larry Turner.
Sieg, however, wanted to review the case. Citing an appellate case from another district, Sieg wrote that imposing the condition is mandatory. Some legal observers have said a judge may have discretion on this issue.
Greathouse's attorney, Craig DeThomasis, said Greathouse had already decided not to contest the issue. When sentenced, Greathouse had wanted to remain in the home where he had been living for "some time" before.
If any part of his sentence changed, such as the condition involving his living arrangements, both DeThomasis and the prosecution said Greathouse could have withdrawn the plea. That could have put the State Attorney's Office in a difficult position because the victim's family did not want to have the case reopened or the girl testify, according to the prosecution.
DeThomasis said Greathouse isn't considering dropping his plea. "The gist of it is to move on and not reopen the case and relitigate issues we thought were resolved," DeThomasis said referring to Greathouse's decision.
Greathouse had been accused in 2003 of inappropriately touching a 14-year-old student at St. Patrick Interparish School, where he had taught, and sending sexually explicit e-mails. After his conviction, he was sentenced to two years of community control or house arrest followed by six years of sex offender probation.
Finding a new place to stay hasn't gone smoothly for Greathouse.
DeThomasis said Greathouse had found a place to live at a local apartment complex and signed a lease. Then, he was told he wasn't welcome there, the attorney said. Now Greathouse is looking for another home.
Chris Sessums, a neighbor with a teenage daughter and younger son living near Greathouse, had mixed feelings about the judge's decision.
"Really, he does keep to himself," Sessums said about Greathouse. "But nevertheless, one never knows what's possible. I am always concerned about my children's safety."
And, Sessums said, Greathouse's case has him hoping that more will be done in the county to notify residents about the movements of convicted sexual offenders and predators.
Lise Fisher can be reached at (352) 374-5092 or fisherl@gvillesun.com.

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