A wife-killer in Massachusetts who won the right to a taxpayer-funded sex change earlier this month is now eligible to have his legal fees - expected to top $500,000 - paid as well.
In a landmark decision, U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf ordered the state Department of Correction to provide sex-reassignment surgery to "Michelle" Kosilek, saying prison officials violated his Eighth Amendment right to protection against cruel and unusual punishment.
The judge ruled that surgery is the "only adequate treatment" for Kosilek's gender-identity disorder.
"Kosilek has prevailed on his claim that the defendant has violated his Eighth Amendment rights and is continuing to do so. Therefore, he is eligible to be awarded his reasonable attorney's fees and costs," Wolf explained in an order entered in court Sunday.
Though he was born as Robert Kosilek, the murderer has apparently been living as a woman in prison since being convicted of killing his wife Cheryl in 1990. He has been receiving hormone treatments, psychotherapy, and electrolysis for hair removal. The final sex-change operation could cost up to $20,000.
Understandably, Cheryl's family is outraged.
"He's a freak...wanting a sex change and expecting everybody to pay for it. We’ve paid enough. He doesn't deserve anything for what he did," Laura Brandel remarked.
Susan Ohannessian is similarly upset, particularly because Kosilek has written a book in which he claims he does not remember strangling his wife and leaving her body in a car at the mall.
"He is going to sue the state and say 'it wasn’t me,'" she predicted, mocking: "That was Robert Kosilek that did that...I'm a changed woman now."
CBS has more, including interviews with the family:
Kosilek's attorney said she has not yet done a final calculation or submitted a request for fees, but commented: "The judge has discretion to make an award on the basis of a fee application. This has been a hard litigated case, and the law firms ... have spent a lot of time on the case."
She also praised the judge's ruling, thanking him for listening to "medical experts" who insist that transsexuals are "born and not made."
DOC spokeswoman Diane Wiffin declined to comment, saying the department is still reviewing Wolf's ruling on the legal fees. The department has not yet made a decision on whether to appeal Wolf's ruling ordering the sex-reassignment surgery, but has until Oct. 9 to file a notice of appeal.
Republican Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.) has spoken out against the judge's decision.
"We have many big challenges facing us as a nation, but nowhere among those issues would I include providing sex change surgery to convicted murderers," Brown said. "I look forward to common sense prevailing and the ruling being overturned."
In opposing Kosilek's request, officials have repeatedly cited security concerns, saying that allowing him to have the surgery could make him a target for sexual assaults by other inmates in the all-male prison.
Wolf, however, found that the DOC's security concerns are "either pretextual or can be dealt with."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.