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In Rare Move, Reincarcerated Man Is Freed

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a rare legal action, a Buena Park man was ordered released from prison Monday after a judge ruled that he was improperly incarcerated for an alleged parole violation.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Anthony Rackauckas Jr. ordered that Timothy William Adams be released on his own recognizance from his cell at the California Men’s Colony.

The 35-year-old Adams was expected to leave the San Luis Obispo facility Monday for a four-hour bus trip to his Buena Park home.

“He’s going to start the new year a free man, which is better than spending the next . . . year in prison,” said Daniel Conforti, a Yorba Linda attorney who had argued for Adams’ release.

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A lawyer with the state attorney general’s office declined to comment on the judge’s ruling, but her office filed an immediate appeal.

Rackauckas’ decision to grant Adams’ petition for a writ of habeas corpus is a rare one. Judges routinely deny such petitions by prisoners seeking to be freed from detention.

The judge’s ruling overturned a decision by state prison officials who revoked Adams’ parole and ordered him to spend an additional year behind bars after he was arrested for alleged indecent exposure in April.

At the time of his arrest, Adams was on parole from state prison, where he had served 20 months of a four-year sentence he received for a 1987 armed robbery.

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Until he was arrested, Adams had turned his life around, according to court documents. He had given up his drug habit, ran a successful plumbing business and was an active member of the Orange Church of the Nazarene, where he volunteered to work in youth programs.

But Adams’ new life abruptly changed on April 26, when a 5-year-old boy who lives next to the Orange church told police that Adams had exposed his genitals to the boy, according to the court file.

Adams vigorously denied the allegation, and the Orange County district attorney’s office, citing insufficient evidence, declined to press charges.

To prove he was elsewhere at the time of the alleged incident, Adams produced a receipt and a canceled check indicating that he was at a Santa Ana hardware store when the reported indecent exposure took place.

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Several witnesses, including Orange Church of the Nazarene Pastor Perry R. Hipple, supported Adams’ contention that he was elsewhere at the time the boy said the alleged lewd conduct occurred.

In court documents, Hipple and others described Adams as a model parolee. The pastor also testified on Adams’ behalf at a parole revocation hearing in June.

Prison officials nonetheless revoked Adams’ parole, basing their decision on the police report identifying Adams as the flasher, even though prosecutors had considered the same report in deciding not to file charges. Two witnesses who supported allegations of lewd conduct against Adams failed to show up for the parole hearing.

After Adams’ parole was revoked and he was sentenced to a year in prison, Rich Pfeiffer, a law clerk with the Orange County public defender’s office, decided to take up his case.

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Pfeiffer argued in court papers that Adams’ parole was wrongfully terminated because he had not committed any crimes, had not violated any conditions of his parole and had been deprived of his constitutional right to confront witnesses against him.

Rackauckas agreed. After hearing arguments on Adams’ petition, the judge ordered prison officials to release him and to hold a new revocation hearing.

The judge also denied a request by Deputy Atty. Gen. Elizabeth Angres, who argued the case for the state, to keep Adams in prison pending the state’s appeal.

Pfeiffer said the judge’s ruling was “the best decision we could possibly get. Adams gets a new hearing, but more important, he gets to stay a free man until he gets a fair hearing.”

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Monday night Desire Adams, eagerly awaited her husband’s return. She said the family was planning to celebrate a delayed Christmas dinner with her husband. She set the dining table with turkey, potato salad and green beans, nervously waiting for Adams’ knock on the door. His Christmas presents remained under the tree.

“I’m glad justice was done,” Desire Adams said. “We’ve waited eight months for this. This is the start of putting this sad episode behind us.”


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