Community meeting to discuss sex offender

August 25, 2009 10:49:44 PM PDT
Police and elected officials in East Palo Alto are holding a community meeting Wednesday to give residents more details about a state-designated sexually violent predator who is being released into full-time surveillance in a local residence before the end of the month.

MOST POPULAR: Video, stories and more
SIGN-UP: Get breaking news sent to you from ABC7 News

Donald Robinson was sent to prison more than 20 years ago for committing multiple sexual assaults against women, not children, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office. His case is so old that the details surrounding his charges are not readily accessible in the county's database system.

On Aug. 20, the court ordered him to be moved out of a state mental hospital and continue his treatment while confined to a home in East Palo Alto.

Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson, East Palo Alto Mayor Ruben Abrica and Chief of Police Ronald Davis are hosting a community meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday to give residents the details surrounding Robinson's arrival and confinement within a residence at 903 Beech St. The meeting will be held in the City Hall chambers at 2415 University Ave.

In a statement, Jacobs Gibson said the meeting was called "to inform our residents of the facts and circumstances surrounding this placement and preclude any unsubstantiated rumors."

Details on Robinson's case, his ongoing monitoring, and the safety precautions surrounding his arrival will be available at the meeting, she said. Residents will also have a chance to ask questions.

Robinson will register as a sex offender with the Police Department, according to the city, but is not part of the city's parole reentry program.

His relocation from Coalinga State Hospital to the community was decreed by Santa Clara County Superior Court and accompanied by a hefty set of court-ordered restrictions. The move is part of a state program designed to manage the risks posed by sex offenders with diagnosed mental disorders.

Santa Clara County supervising Deputy District Attorney Dana Overstreet said Robinson was eligible for parole in 1997, but was instead kept in custody an extra 12 years under California's sexually violent predator program, which was signed into law Jan. 1 that same year.

A handful of sexually violent predators who meet certain conditions are eligible to remain in state custody beyond their parole date to receive treatment, according to Overstreet.

"Had he not done that, he would have been released on parole in '97," she said.

Overstreet personally oversaw the petition to place Robinson in this new program 12 years ago. While he had no choice in whether he would remain in custody, Robinson could choose whether to participate in clinical treatment, she said.

"Once he got there, he was really the model patient," she said. "I personally could have told you we knew that he would be one of the first guys in this county to get out the right way."

Robinson is the first inmate from Santa Clara County to be released into community-based supervision, she said.

The state Department of Mental Health oversees the program. Once doctors determine an offender can be safely treated outside of a state prison hospital, a court hearing determines whether that person will be released for community-based monitoring.

Robinson committed his offenses in Santa Clara County, meaning the local district attorney's office oversees his transition into the community. However, state law says sexually violent predators must return to the county where they lived before their conviction.

As a result, Santa Clara County district attorney staff has been working with Department of Mental Health subcontractor Liberty Healthcare to relocate Robinson into San Mateo County, Overstreet said.

The court considered 1,100 locations around the county before selecting the Beech Street residence as secure for both Robinson and the community, she said.

"He has family in the area and that's where he was from," she said of the choice of East Palo Alto.

"Nobody wants Mr. Robinson or any other convicted sex offender in their backyard, but he has a constitutional right to be in his community," Overstreet said.

After his release, Robinson will be under prohibitive court-mandated restrictions, including 24-hour surveillance by Liberty Healthcare employees, who have the same authority as parole officers, Overstreet said. He may not leave the house and must always wear a GPS tracking device and an alcohol monitor.

Robinson's restrictions will eventually taper off, assuming his behavior record remains spotless. However, he will not be driving a car, taking public transit or fully interacting with the community for years, if not decades, Overstreet said. The psychological treatment, she said, will probably never stop.

Even a jaywalking violation could trigger a court re-evaluation of whether Robinson is fit to remain outside of a hospital.

"We want to be able to give him the opportunity to try and succeed, because if he doesn't, he'll go back and he'll never get out," she said.

       Today's latest headlines | ABC7 News on your phone
Follow us on Twitter | Fan us on Facebook | Get our free widget


Load Comments