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British court blocks extradition of sex-abuse suspect, saying California law violates human rights

Alleged abuser captured

Roger Alan Giese was arrested in Britain and is awaiting extradition, federal officials said.

(FBI)

A British high court has refused to extradite a former Orange County choir director who fled the U.S. before he was to stand trial on sexual abuse charges, ruling that a California involuntary commitment law would violate his human rights.

Roger Alan Giese was arrested and charged with sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy but he disappeared in 2007, after he failed to show up to a pretrial hearing, according to the Orange County district attorney’s office.

In March, the FBI announced his arrest in Britain, and the Daily Mirror found him living under a fake name in the quaint hamlet of Broughton, in the southeastern countryside.

The capture took Giese, now 40, off the FBI’s most wanted list, but his return to the U.S. has stalled. In a ruling earlier this month, Britain’s High Court said that extraditing Giese to California carried the “real risk” that he could be committed involuntarily, and the two-judge panel concluded that such a punishment would violate the European Convention on Human Rights.

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The High Court upheld an April 21 ruling by a district judge that also barred Giese’s extradition.

Under a 1995 California law, those convicted of serious sexual offenses can be declared “sexually violent predators,” or SVPs, a status that allows the state to forcibly detain certain felons in psychiatric facilities.

Most of those deemed to be SVPs are admitted to Coalinga State Hospital -- a facility whose troubles have been documented by The Times -- and receive regular evaluations to ascertain whether they meet the legal criteria for confinement.

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Such civil commitment laws are on the books in 20 states, although they vary from state to state.

The British judges said they will grant the extradition only on the condition that the U.S. government guarantees it would not subject Giese to a civil commitment. The U.S. has until Oct. 30 to lodge a confirmation with the High Court asserting that he would avoid a civil commitment order, the BBC reported.

According to Orange County prosecutors, Giese was providing voice lessons to the All-American Boys Chorus when he met his alleged victim. The abuse began in 1998 and continued for four years, prosecutors said.

By claiming to belong to the Delta Force military unit, Giese lured the boy to his home and told the teen that he could gain a spot on the elite military unit by handing over his semen, urine, blood and stool samples, prosecutors alleged. 

In 2002, Giese was arrested and charged with 19 felony counts. He was released on bond and regularly attended his court proceedings, but he didn’t show up for a pretrial hearing on March 12, 2007, according to the FBI. Days later, he was charged with unlawfully fleeing prosecution.

Before Giese’s arrest, the FBI suspected he might have fled to several possible locations, including North Carolina, Norway, the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas.

For breaking news in California, follow @MattHjourno

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