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L.A. County seeks to block release of convicted rapist

Los Angeles County prosecutors are seeking to stop a convicted serial rapist who has spent nearly two decades in state mental hospitals from being released in the county.

Assistant Dist. Atty. Joseph Esposito told the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that his office had flown a prosecutor to San Jose to file legal paperwork to block Christopher Evans Hubbart from being freed in Los Angeles County.

A Santa Clara County judge ruled in May that Hubbart, 62, could be conditionally released under strict monitoring conditions to Los Angeles County, where Hubbart was born and raised.

"We believe that Hubbart remains a serious risk to public safety," Esposito told county supervisors at their regular weekly meeting. "He presents a recurring danger to all California residents, not just those who reside in Los Angeles County."

Hubbart is among more than 500 offenders in California who have been confined under a law that allows authorities to commit sexually violent predators to state hospitals if they are deemed to have mental disorders that make them likely to reoffend, even if — like Hubbart — they have already served their entire prison sentences. He was one of the first to be committed when the law took effect in 1996.

County supervisors applauded the D.A.'s action, saying they were concerned about the threat that Hubbart could pose to local residents.

"Perhaps the judge should take him, if he wants him out so badly, and let him live in Santa Clara in his neighborhood," Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich said.

The district attorney's legal paperwork seeks to have Hubbart released in Santa Clara County instead of Los Angeles. A district attorney's spokeswoman said only the Santa Clara County district attorney's office has the legal authority to contest Hubbart's release.

A Santa Clara County prosecutor said Hubbart had completed all of his hospital treatment and authorities there believed he was ready for release under tight supervision. Hubbart's attorney could not be reached for comment.

In a statement, L.A. County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey said she had directed her staff to notify victims of Hubbart's earlier crimes about his possible release. She noted that offenders convicted of similar sex crimes would be sent to prison for life under current sentencing laws.

Hubbart was born in Pasadena and moved to Claremont as a young boy. His offenses date back to 1972, when, at the age of 21, he was arrested in a string of rapes in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. Hubbart was accused of entering the homes of strangers, tying the hands of women he found inside and then sexually assaulting them.

He admitted raping about 20 women in the area, and was committed to Atascadero State Hospital as a "mentally disordered sex offender," according to appeals court records. He was released in 1979 when state doctors determined he no longer posed a threat, a federal appeals court said.

Hubbart moved to Sunnyvale, Calif., and sexually assaulted more than 23 women in the Bay Area during the next two years, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. In 1982, he was sentenced to 16 years in prison for rape, false imprisonment and other crimes. He was released on parole in April 1990 and lived in Los Gatos, Calif.

Within two months, Hubbart assaulted two more victims in San Jose, according to Los Angeles County prosecutors. He was convicted of false imprisonment and sentenced to five years. He was released in 1993 and returned to Claremont. His parole was revoked soon afterward when he reported feeling that he was losing control of himself.

A day after a new commitment law went into effect in 1996, the Santa Clara County district attorney's office successfully sought to have Hubbart committed as a sexually violent predator. Two psychologists who evaluated Hubbart concluded that he had a mental disorder, which one described as involving "the recurrent, intense sexual urges, fantasies and behaviors involving forceful, unwanted sexual penetration of the victim," according to a 1996 California appeals court opinion denying Hubbart's attempt to find the law unconstitutional.

Since then, Hubbart has been treated in state hospitals. There, mental health providers focus on helping patients identify what led them to commit sexual violence and develop and practice steps to reduce the potential for reoffending, according to the California Department of State Hospitals.

Hubbart completed the in-hospital phases of the treatment program last year and asked a judge to release him, said Santa Clara County Deputy Dist. Atty. Vonda Tracey, who heads her office's unit that handles cases involving sexually violent predators.

Tracey said Coalinga State Hospital, where Hubbart is living, recommended his release, as did the private company that supervises offenders who are freed conditionally. She said most doctors on the Santa Clara County court panel would agree that sexually violent predators who successfully complete the in-hospital portion of their treatment are ready for conditional release.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Gilbert T. Brown ruled that the evidence showed that Hubbart "would not be a danger to others due to his diagnosed mental disorder while under the supervision and treatment in the community."

Tracey said Hubbart would be released under strict supervision, including a regular escort at first and continuing electronic monitoring. He would be subject to random searches, a curfew and restrictions on where he can go, and he would continue to undergo regular treatment, she said.

Before his release, authorities must find him appropriate housing, a process that generally takes six months to a year, she said.

"With the protections in place, they can keep him on a short leash," Tracey said.

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