Authorities on Friday filed sexual assault, robbery and kidnapping charges against a three-strike convict and escape artist they say is Santa Monica’s long-sought Southside Rapist who terrified the city five years ago.
The suspect, Israel Hardin, 28, appeared in Santa Monica Superior Court on Friday, where he was already awaiting sentencing on an unrelated conviction for carjacking and robbery. Hardin, who wore tattered jail scrubs and shackles, burst into obscenities and shouted at Judge Bernard J. Kamins after being sentenced to 163 years to life in prison for the carjacking.
According to Santa Monica Police Chief James T. Butts Jr., Hardin was connected to the gunpoint assaults in south Santa Monica while investigators prepared for his carjacking trial. At a news conference Friday, Butts said DNA evidence clearly linked Hardin to one of the earlier sexual assaults.
Prosecutors contend that Hardin’s attacks occurred in close succession:
On Oct. 1, 1995, Hardin allegedly kidnapped a man who was walking home with groceries and forced to remove money from an automated teller machine. Afterward, the victim was forced to commit sex acts at gunpoint.
On Oct. 4, 1995, Hardin allegedly broke into a woman’s car as she attempted to park and drove her to another location where he held her captive for more than five hours and sexually assaulted her. Four days later, Hardin reportedly kidnapped a woman in front of a Pico Boulevard doughnut shop and sexually assaulted her in a nearby alley.
In another case, prosecutors charge that Hardin kidnapped an elderly couple Jan. 13, 1996, forced the husband into the trunk of their car and raped the woman.
News of the arrest rekindled emotions evoked by the assaults. Police had come under harsh criticism for their handling of the cases.
Among other things, police failed to notify residents of the first rapes, critics said. And in an unusual twist, one of the initial investigators in the case has since been sentenced to 11 years in prison for shooting and wounding another Santa Monica police officer with whom she was romantically involved.
Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti, who attended a news conference on the arrest Friday, said none of the past complications would hurt the new case against Hardin. “We’re confidant of our case,” Garcetti said.
Hardin’s arraignment on the sexual assault charges was postponed so his court-appointed lawyer could review the case. While the timing of the arraignment was discussed, Hardin again shouted at the judge.
“Your Honor, I’d like your business card,” Hardin, a stocky man with a shaved head and irritable demeanor, yelled at Kamins. “This crime that I’m accused of, I have an alibi.”
The judge at one point called Hardin “the poster person for the three-strikes law and the epitome of the reason why the Legislature passed it.” Under that law, a criminal convicted of three violent or serious felonies must be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Authorities said that Hardin has escaped from custody four times, including one episode in which the shackled defendant slipped out of a courtroom and climbed up an adjacent building.
Friday, one of the women who was sexually assaulted said she hoped the police arrested the right man.
“If this is really the guy, I’ll be the first to praise the police,” the woman, a former Santa Monica resident who was held captive by her attacker, said in a telephone interview.
Santa Monica City Councilman Richard Bloom said residents feared the Southside Rapist was targeting the city. “Everybody I’ve talked to today is thrilled that an arrest was made,” he said.
In court, shortly before Hardin’s sentencing, the defendant’s parents spoke briefly with reporters. Clyde and Mary Hardin of Long Beach said their son frequently visited his grandmother in Santa Monica before her death a year ago. They said they were surprised to learn of the rape charges Friday.
“Israel, he’s mischievous, but he doesn’t intend to hurt anybody,” said Mary Hardin.