Dolores Barr, Editor and Publisher , OC180NEWS.com
Published 03/12/2010 - 7:00 a.m. Pacific Time
The scheduled release of yet another sexually violent predator raises the question of why this keeps happening. The Orange County District Attorney held a press conference to warn the community about a pending release, only to be interrupted to announce that the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida was going to issue an arrest warrant which would prevent the release. But, if it was not for pending charges from an out of state jurisdiction, another convicted serial child molester would be released from prison today.
Earlier this week, an Orange County jury recommended Rodney James Alcala receive the death penalty for kidnapping and murdering a 12-year-old Orange County girl, Robin Samsoe, and raping and murdering four Los Angeles County women in the 1970s. Now, The Orange County District Attorney's Office and Huntington Beach Police Department are seeking the public's help in identifying dozens of women and children featured in over 100 photographs found in Alcala’s Seattle storage locker.
Also this week, Huntington Beach police arrested David Bryan, a registered sex offender for attempting to meet a 13-year-old girl for sex. Fortunately, this was a police sting and nobody was harmed.
Chelsea King, 17, of San Diego County, was not so lucky. John Albert Gardner III, 30, a registered sex offender, was arrested on suspicion of rape and murder. In 2000, Gardner was convicted of a forcible lewd act on a child and false imprisonment. A psychiatrist who interviewed him said he would be a “continued danger to underage girls” because of the lack of remorse for his actions. He was sentenced to six years in prison as part of a plea agreement and served five years before he was released in 2005. He completed probation in 2008.
Yesterday, the Orange County District Attorney held a press conference to warn the community that a convicted serial child molester was scheduled to be released from prison today, after only serving just over three years in state prison. George Joseph England, 65, who spent 29 years as a fugitive after being found guilty of sexually assaulting three female children, also for 11 years molested Jackie Zudis, whom he purchased from her mother in Vietnam in the 1970s and claimed was his adopted daughter. He was not sentenced for those crimes because the victim did not report them to law enforcement until the statute of limitations had expired.
The Orange County District Attorney, OCDA, has a policy not to identify any victims of sexual assault. In this case, Jackie Zudis has asked that she be identified and her name and image be used to publicize the crimes committed against her by England and the danger he poses to society.
"This man spent a lifetime using young girls for his own perverse sexual gratification and never showing any remorse for the emotional and psychological baggage he left his victims to carry. I am sickened that my Office has been denied legal recourse to keep this child molester locked up away from children," stated District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. "Had he been convicted under the law today, England would be spending the rest of his life in prison. That's where he belongs, not on our streets and in our neighborhoods.”
After 29 years as a fugitive and an additional year in federal custody on passport fraud charges, England was returned to Orange County for sentencing in the 1977 conviction. On Sept. 1, 2006, England was sentenced to three years to life in state prison. But, under the sentencing laws of 1977, the maximum sentence he could serve in state prison was six years. Based on his prison credit for good time and work time, England was scheduled to be released today after serving just over three years.
"Beware: He's not changed, nor will he change," said Zudis as a warning to the community in a March 8, 2010, interview. "Your little girls are in trouble and you need to protect them, and you need to listen to them, and if you see them changing you need to question it and don't shield it. It's not some dirty little secret.”
In September 2009, the California Board of Parole Hearings found that England was not "suitable for parole" because he continues to "pose a current risk of danger if released into society." Nevertheless, he was scheduled for release today.
Even though England would have completed his prison term, the District Attorney has one last chance to keep such a person off the streets. This would be to have England committed to a state mental hospital under the Sexually Violent Predator, SVP, laws. The OCDA had planned to file a petition under this law to keep England in a mental institution upon completing his sentence. But, it was not to be.
In order to file a petition under the law, two independent evaluators from the Department of Mental Health must first determine whether the inmate meets the criteria of an SVP. If both evaluators opine that he meets the criteria, the case is forwarded to the OCDA for review and filing of a petition. If there is a difference of opinion, as there was in this case, two more evaluators are assigned the case and must agree that the inmate meets the criteria before forwarding the case to the OCDA to file an SVP petition. If one or both of the second group of evaluators does not conclude the person meets the SVP criteria, the person is released. End of story.
According to Nancy Kincaid, spokesperson for the California Department of Mental Health, “When an individual is referred by the Board of Prison Hearings for an evaluation by the Department of Mental Health, the Department of Mental Health, by law, cannot release the information to anyone, including the DA. It’s a privacy protected psychological evaluation.”
The Department of Mental Health informs the Board of Prison Hearings whether or not the person is an SVP, but no other information is provided. If the Department of Mental Health determines the person is not an SVP, as was the case with England, there is no further recourse for the DA and the person is released.
For a person to remain in state custody after they have served out their prison term, there must be mental illness involved. Kincaid told www.OC180NEWS.com “Many people would think that anyone who does something like this must have a mental illness, but that is just not necessarily the case.”
Is this case unusual? Kincaid said “No, not at all. There are tens of thousands of sex offenders who have gotten out of prison this way.”
The two people who make these irrevocable and unchallengeable conclusions are independent clinical psychologists, licensed by the State of California and specially trained for this kind of evaluation. But, they are not employees of the Department of Mental Health, their identities are not released, they are not subject to any public scrutiny, , and their conclusions are not challengeable by the Department of Mental Health, the DA, or anyone else.
The department supervises the process and the application of procedures by the evaluators, but “you can’t force a clinician to change their opinion”, said Kincaid. And, their opinions are absolutely binding if they decide a person is not an SPV.
The process of committing a person to a state mental institution applies after that person has served out their criminal sentence. Under new laws, namely the 2006 “Jessica’s Law”, the mandatory prison terms are much longer than those in effect when George England, Rodney Alcala, and John Gardner committed their crimes. Thus, Kincaid said “They would probably not be evaluated for SVP status because they would not get out of prison.”