Experts Can’t Agree on Hubbart : Psychology: One says the serial rapist is contrite and trying to control his urges. The other says he’s dangerous and will attack again.
Consider two takes on Christopher Hubbart, serial rapist.
State psychologist No. 1: He is a bright, shy 43-year-old man who is trying to control his sexual urges, and is truly sorry for his 34 victims.
State psychologist No. 2: He is dangerous, unable to control his sexual urges and can be counted on to rape again.
Although they agreed on little else, both psychologists, along with a state psychiatrist, cleared Hubbart for parole to his parents’ house in Claremont, according to confidential prison evaluations obtained by The Times.
But on March 16, the morning of his scheduled parole, Hubbart failed a different mental health exam given by yet another evaluator--and was returned to prison for a year of psychiatric care.
This is the story of a high-profile rapist and the psychologists and psychiatrists who could not agree on what made him tick. Five state evaluators looked at Hubbart; each came up with a different diagnosis. Ultimately, Hubbart’s parole was revoked based on the decision of his last evaluator, state psychiatrist Barry Bass.
“It’s scary that just one person can make that decision,” said Peggie Reyna, a program coordinator for the Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women.
“If this one (evaluator) decides that this man goes free, and he moves to a neighborhood, and the next day, rapes a 16-year-old girl or an 85-year-old woman, is that psychiatrist held responsible? Of course, not. . . . I don’t think one person should have all that power and all that responsibility on their shoulders.”
The last-minute exam is one way to circumvent the state’s 1977 determinate sentencing law. Under the law, rapists and most other felons are freed on a set date; they no longer have to go before a parole board. The only way corrections officials can keep dangerous felons off the street is to administer the exam--and hope they fail.
Hubbart has been in and out of prison since 1973 for a series of rapes in California, including one on the first day of his release after six years in a state mental hospital. He has been linked to 24 rapes in Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties, 10 rapes in Northern California and several burglaries. In some of the attacks he bound and gagged his victims and forced them to endure enemas.
Hubbart was released on parole in March after serving half of a five-year sentence for his most recent offense: grabbing the breasts of a female jogger.
His basic background is undisputed.
Hubbart, a native of Pasadena, is smart and educated; his IQ of 122 puts him in the top 8% of the population. He has a bachelor’s degree in sociology.
The tall, thin man is close to his two sisters. His parents divorced when he was 5 years old. His mother is a Los Angeles County social worker, his father is a retired journalist and now a jazz musician. His stepfather does custom furniture work.
But his mental health evaluations have agreed on little else.
For instance, in Hubbart’s last five evaluations, two evaluators diagnosed him with a mental disorder, and three others said he had none. One psychologist said Hubbart was a sexual sadist; others disagreed. One evaluator said Hubbart suffers from a personality disorder, while another said he did not.
In a January report, clinical psychologist Evelyn Sprick concluded that Hubbart “fits the profile of the classical ‘gentleman’ rapist,” because he tried to “facilitate consensual sex as he understood it.”
Two months later, on the day of Hubbart’s parole, state psychiatrist Bass reached a different conclusion--the one that put Hubbart back in prison.
“The subject’s perception of reality is seriously impaired as demonstrated by his inability to recognize the severe terror, pain and trauma that his sexual assaults inflict upon his victims, and his belief that his assaults are willingly accepted by his victims,” Bass’ evaluation said.
Sprick and Bass also clashed on the subject of Hubbart’s prognosis.
Sprick: “Based on present degree of self-understanding, increasing maturation and current motivation, one would expect that this individual would be able to control his behavior.”
Bass: “Fear of re-conviction has not deterred him. The prognosis for recovery within the next several years is virtually nil.”
None of the psychologists or psychiatrists who evaluated Hubbart would comment on the case or the confidential evaluations. Corrections Department officials also said they could not comment.
At The Times’ request, two independent psychologists and a psychiatrist read Hubbart’s mental health evaluations. Each had a different opinion on the reports. One agreed with Bass’ assessment that Hubbart suffers from a mental illness and should not be on the streets. Another said he was dismayed at the quality of all the evaluations but that he tended to agree with Bass.
A third, USC psychology professor Adrian Raine, disagreed with Bass’ diagnosis that kept Hubbart in custody. Bass concluded that Hubbart suffers from a paraphilia, or sexual deviation. But rape is not considered a paraphilia, according to the manual used by mental health professionals to diagnose, Raine said.
“If this (man) was being released into my neighborhood, on my street, I’d be out there protesting, no question about it,” said Raine, who has extensive experience evaluating prisoners. “But . . . given what the law of the land is, it doesn’t seem appropriate that he’s being held in prison.”
State Sen. Robert Presley (D-Riverside), a former Riverside homicide detective, said laws need to change. Psychologists and psychiatrists should have input on the fate of parolees, but courts should make the final decision, he said.
“It’s so important because if they make the wrong decision--and from psychiatrist to psychiatrist, they can differ--and a person is released, and rapes and kills again, there’s no more serious consequence than that,” Presley said.
In March, 1995, Hubbart is scheduled to go back on parole, unless he again qualifies for the “psychiatric return.” But in January, 1996, Hubbart’s three-year parole is up, and he must be released without supervision, regardless of his mental state.
Meanwhile, one of Hubbart’s rape victims, who lives in the Claremont area, struggles to understand the process. In fine detail, the 46-year-old remembers the morning that Hubbart raped her 22 years ago in her Pomona home, with her baby daughter sleeping in the next room and her husband away at work.
Hubbart used one of her husband’s neckties to tie a pillowcase around her head, she said. When he left, he said he’d be back.
“It’s very frightening that (Hubbart) can say something is consensual when (he) can break into your home when you’re asleep . . . and tell you: ‘Do you know what a man needs when he’s been locked up for so long?’ ” she said.
Excerpts from state mental health evaluations of serial rapist Christopher Hubbart show how opinions differed widely on some major issues.
ON HUBBART’S VIEW OF HIS VICTIMS:
“The subject’s perception of reality is seriously impaired, as demonstrated by his inability to recognize the severe terror, pain and trauma that his sexual assaults inflict upon his victims, and his belief that his assaults are willingly accepted by his victims.”
--Psychiatrist Barry Bass, Region IV Parole and Community Services Division, March 16, 1994
“This individual has been able to develop empathy for his victims. When one speaks with him and addresses this subject of remorse and empathy, he will articulate that he feels sorry for the victims and that he has been able to imagine what they must have gone through.”
--Clinical psychologist Evelyn Sprick, California Medical Facility, Vacaville, Jan. 4, 1994
ON HUBBART’S PROGNOSIS:
“Fear of re-conviction has not deterred him. The prognosis for recovery within the next several years is virtually nil.”
“At the present time, Mr. Hubbard (sic) is aware of the fact that he developed an abnormal way of relating sexually to females. He has also developed a degree of insight into his sexual acting out which currently suggests that he is beginning to both understand and control his deviant sexual behavior.”
ON HOW HUBBART WOULD FARE IF FREED:
“I strongly recommend that this individual be given a fair opportunity to prove himself, given his present level of motivation. I hope that his prior experience of having his parole revoked based only on the perception of danger does not repeat itself.”
“Without a strong, well-functioning support system, he represents a danger to the community. This examiner feels that he does not have that at the present time.”
--Staff psychologist Bruce J. Sutkus, California Institution for Men, Chino, April 2, 1993.
ON HUBBART’S MOTIVES:
Mr. Hubbard (sic) refers to recurrent panic attacks as serving as the precursors or triggers for his sexual escapades.”
“He is a needy, dependent individual who somehow has experienced these sexual assaults as gratifying these needs.”
“He is predominantly a personality-disordered person with a compulsion to rape.”
--Clinical psychologist Nancy Faulkender, California Medical Facility, Vacaville
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