A state appeals court has overturned a San Diego County Superior Court order that granted the release of a serial rapist from a mental hospital.
In an opinion released Monday, the 4th District Court of Appeals expressed concern that the judge who presided over the case in Superior Court applied an incorrect legal standard in deciding to grant Alvin Quarles’ petition for conditional release at the end of hearings held in 2018 and last year.
Judge David Gill stated in court that he found Quarles, 57, posed a substantial risk of reoffending but that the state’s conditional release program could address the risk.
According to a three-judge panel of the appeals court, the standard — outlined by defense lawyers — prompted Gill to focus on finding the “least restrictive setting” for Quarles to receive treatment — either a mental hospital or supervised housing in San Diego County.
The appeals court said there appears to be no case law that requires a court to find the “least restrictive setting” for a person classified as a “sexually violent predator” — a point previously raised by an associate justice during oral arguments in the case.
California law allows people classified as sexually violent predators, or SVPs, to be committed at a state hospital after they have completed their prison terms. To be designated an SVP, an individual has to have been convicted of a violent sex crime committed against at least one victim and been diagnosed with a mental disorder that makes that person likely to reoffend.
At the hospital, SVPs have the option of participating in a treatment program aimed at curbing their illegal urges. Eventually, they can petition the court for conditional release from the hospital to continue treatment in the community.
“We are concerned that the court evaluated the evidence through an improper lens — one that mandated that the court find the least restrictive setting in which Quarles could receive treatment, without sufficient consideration for public safety,” the appeals court wrote in the 43-page opinion. “Such a consideration is especially important considering Quarles’s violent past.”
Known as the “Bolder Than Most” rapist, Quarles sexually assaulted, robbed or burglarized 21 residents in San Diego and rural eastern communities in the 1980s.
Facing 68 criminal charges, Quarles pleaded guilty to four counts of rape at knifepoint, six counts of burglary and two counts of robbery. He served 25 years in state prison.
Monday’s opinion was celebrated by County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, a fierce critic of releasing sexual predators in communities such as rural East County.
“The court decision is a victory for the region and public safety, but we can’t let down our guard,” Jacob said in a statement. “We must continue to fight the placement of sexually violent predators into our communities.”
Hernandez writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.