L.A. Now

Withdrawal of housing offer may delay rapist's release

A proposal to release a serial rapist to a home in the Antelope Valley has been thrown into doubt after the landlord withdrew his support for the move, authorities said Friday.

The landlord's decision will likely delay but not stop the release of Christopher Hubbart, who was convicted of raping dozens of women before he was committed to a state mental facility nearly two decades ago as a "sexually violent predator," a prosecutor said.

Santa Clara County Deputy Dist. Atty. Vonda Tracey said a state contractor would start the search for a different location in Los Angeles County after the landlord withdrew consideration for the home in Lake Los Angeles, an unincorporated county area east of Palmdale.

Tracey said it is not unusual for landlords to change their mind about renting to sexually violent predators who have been ordered released. If a permanent home cannot be found, Hubbart will be released anyway, a possibility that Tracey said would make it tougher for authorities to monitor Hubbart, who could be constantly on the move.

"It's much harder to guarantee public safety," she said. "Just because housing falls through doesn't change the fact that he's getting released."

News of the landlord's decision comes a week after the Lake Los Angeles address was identified as a possible home for Hubbart, sparking opposition from local government officials and residents.

More than 420 people wrote emails or letters to the L.A. County district attorney's office, which set up a website last week to collect comments for the Santa Clara County judge overseeing Hubbart's case. All but one of the comments opposed Hubbart moving to the location, said district attorney's spokeswoman Jean Guccione. She declined to make the correspondence public, noting that it has yet to be filed with the court.

Hubbart admitted sexually assaulting more than three dozen women throughout California between 1971 and 1982, according to the L.A. County district attorney's office.

Earlier this year, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Gilbert Brown ordered Hubbart's conditional release from a state mental hospital to Los Angeles County, where Hubbart was born and raised and lived briefly the last time he was released from prison, in 1993. The L.A. County district attorney's office unsuccessfully argued that Hubbart should instead be released in Santa Clara County, where he committed his most recent crimes.

Supervisor Mike Antonovich, whose district includes the northern areas of the county, credited local residents for helping scuttle the plan to move Hubbart to Lake Los Angeles, but warned that another Antelope Valley area may be selected in the future.

"This is a significant victory — however, the fight is not over," Antonovich said in a statement.

A longtime resident of the street where the proposed site is located said he would have feared for his wife's safety if Hubbart had become a neighbor but was delighted to hear the landlord had withdrawn his support.

"It's great," said Jeffery Briggs, a local school teacher. "I'm very thankful."

Hubbart's attorney, Santa Clara County Deputy Public Defender Jeff Dunn, has said his client embraced intensive treatment for years while locked up in a state mental hospital and is not a public safety risk. He said Hubbart's request for release was supported by his treating psychologist at Coalinga State Hospital and the hospital's medical director.

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.

Hubbart was first arrested in 1972 on suspicion of a string of rapes in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties and admitted raping about 20 women in the area, according to court records.

He was released from a state hospital in 1979, when state doctors determined that he no longer posed a threat, a federal appeals court said. After moving to the Bay Area, Hubbart committed more sexual assaults during the next two years, according to Los Angeles County prosecutors.

In 1996, at the request of the Santa Clara County district attorney's office, Hubbart was declared a "sexually violent predator" and committed to a state hospital for treatment. Rather than attempting a "cure," the treatment focuses on helping patients identify what led them to commit sexual violence and develop and practice responses to reduce the chance of reoffending, according to the California Department of State Hospitals.

Once Hubbart is conditionally freed, he will have to wear an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet, report his movements and regularly submit to a polygraph and other tests.

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