Mom wants sex offender boyfriend to spend time with kids

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An unusual court battle is playing out in Macomb County.

A woman is fighting to allow her boyfriend to see her children but the issue is that the mom's boyfriend is a register sex offender. Now the woman wants the judge to reverse the agreement she made to bar him from having contact with the children.

"He just want to protect his kids," said attorney Vincenzo Manzella.

"I think there's a great deal of bitterness," said attorney  "Maybe it's justifiable but it doesn't translate to a safety concern for the kids. It doesn't."

Anthony and Rachel Lonnie were raising a family and then Rachel met Tom Ireland. In her divorce she agreed that the kids would never go near them. But the relationship that wasn't going to last is headed towards matrimony and Rachel wants Tom Ireland to be a part of the children's lives.

But Ireland is on the sex offender list.

"He was 18 years old, four weeks into his 18th birthday," said the attorney.  "Still a senior in high school, met a girl who was 14, they had sexual contact in the hallway of the school."

"He didn't really like the guy," Manzella said.  "He had concerns about his 4-year-old daughter and his 8-year-old son being around a registered sex offender for their safety. And also because other kids would most likely shun them."

Manzella and Julie Gatti are battling in Macomb County Circuit Court whether to change the custody agreement.

"It's in the children's best interest," Manzella said. "And when they sign the judgment, they agree it is in the children's best interest."

"Do you really judge a person forever based on their worst day," Gatti said. "I would hope not."

Tom Ireland has kept his nose clean and built a successful business career. But his long ago conviction for criminal sexual assault threatens his ability to build a future together with Rachel and her children.

Manzella said that the boyfriend maintained that this was a consensual act and when the case got in court his story changed after Manzella uncovered that 20-year-old police report.

Manzella says Rachel Lanni can do better than Tom Ireland.

"She fell out of love with my client," he said. "She should fall out of love with this guy. There is plenty of fish in the sea."

Gatti says the case is more about a grudge than whether Tom Ireland poses a threat to the safety of Lanni's children.

"He's never shown to be any danger to any child," Gatti said. "He's got godchildren and he hangs out with all of his friends' kids."

Both sides agreed that so far everyone has kept to the original agreement  and Tom Ireland has never met Lanni's children.

Whether he ever gets the privilege will be up to a judge as the case goes back to court next week.