The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office reiterated its support Thursday for legislation aimed at keeping court hearings regarding the potential supervised releases of sexually violent predators open to the public.
The DA’s Office statement came ahead of a Friday hearing regarding a petition for the supervised release of Douglas Badger, 78, who was convicted of sexually assaulting male hitchhikers dating back to 1974, according to the DA’s Office.
Sexually Violent Predators — or SVPs — are offenders convicted of sexually violent offenses and diagnosed with a mental disorder that makes them likely to re-offend.
SVPs who have been civilly committed to state hospitals to undergo treatment may petition for placement into the Conditional Release Program for outpatient treatment. If approved by a judge, they may be released to a residence under the supervision of Liberty Healthcare, which contracts with the state to administer supervision and treatment.
Hearings on the merits of those petitions and proposed placement locations have been held behind closed doors with increasing frequency, prosecutors say, including a series of hearings held earlier this year for Alvin Ray Quarles, otherwise known as the “Bolder-Than-Most” rapist, and most recently, 52-year-old Steven Dejarlais, who prosecutors say was convicted of rapes in the 1990s and had a closed-door court hearing on Dec. 1.
SB 1023, introduced earlier this year by Sen. Patricia Bates, R-Laguna Niguel and sponsored by the local DA’s Office, would prohibit those proceedings from being closed to the public “unless compelling and extraordinary circumstances justify” closing the courtroom.
“As district attorney, I hear the pain from victims who’ve been terrorized by a sexual predator but are left in the dark and not able to learn pertinent information guaranteed to them by our open courts system,” said San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan. “That’s why we will once again sponsor important legislation that supports the principles of democracy and transparency in our justice system by making sure court hearings for sexually violent predators are open to the public.”
The bill did not have a committee hearing in the legislature due to a shortened legislative session brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The DA’s Office will be working with Bates’ Office to re-introduce a version of the bill during the upcoming legislative session.
According to the DA’s Office, defense attorneys have filed a motion to keep Badger’s Friday hearing private. An evidentiary hearing on Dejarlais’ release petition is slated for Dec. 16, and will be closed to the public.