A Douglas County judge has ordered a 54-year-old man who has served his time for molesting a Lawrence girl in the 1990s to be released instead of kept in state custody for sex-offender treatment.
District Judge Michael Malone made the ruling Wednesday morning in a bench trial of Christopher J. Saemisch. Prosecutors were asking the judge to find Saemisch as a “sexually violent predator” because he was likely to commit another offense if released.
But Malone ruled that prosecutors did not meet the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Saemisch was likely to re-offend. Malone cited testimony from a psychologist who said that under a test given to Saemisch that there was a 20 percent to 30 percent likelihood that he would re-offend.
“I don’t think that he met the criteria,” defense attorney Elbridge Griffy said after the ruling. “I don’t think the evidence proved what the state had to prove. It takes a great deal of courage for a district court judge to find that. These are not popular cases.”
District Attorney Charles Branson argued that psychologists diagnosed Saemisch with pedophilia and exhibitionism, and a doctor testified that Saemisch passed a sex-offender treatment class without understanding the material, making him likely to re-offend.
“I believe it is important anytime we have a case where we have an offender that is deemed by doctors to be likely to re-offend that a judge or a jury makes a determination whether this person should be allowed on our streets or in our neighborhood,” Branson said. “In this case, the judge determined that there was insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Saemisch would re-offend. We have to accept his decision.”
Saemisch was convicted in 1999 on one count of aggravated indecent liberties with a child, a 5-year-old girl, who was also a subject in dozens of pornographic videotapes he possessed. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison and also spent time in federal prison.
Griffy, who hugged Saemisch in court after the ruling, said his client had worked to overcome his issues while in custody and had made progress at controlling himself.
Griffy said after Malone’s ruling that Saemisch had served his time for the crimes and also sought treatment while in custody.
“I hope that Christopher’s behavior substantiates the court’s decision,” Griffy said.
Malone heard evidence over two days in the trial earlier this month.