Court of Appeal:
Contention Rejected That Man Is No Longer a ‘Sexually Violent Predator’ Based on Having Grown Old
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district yesterday rejected the contention of a man that he should be released from a psychiatric hospital where he is confined based on being a “sexually violent predator” because, at age 74, he’s no longer a danger.
Justice Kenneth Yegan authored the opinion for Div. Six. It affirms a March 10, 2020 order by Ventura Superior Court Judge Anthony Sabo that convicted child molester Earl Lavern Hoffman is to stay put in Coalinga State Hospital.
That facility, in Fresno County, houses repeat sexual offenders, such as Hoffman, who have completed their prison sentences and have been adjudged too dangerous to release.
A “sexually violent predator” (“SVP”) is described by Welfare & Institutions Code §6600(a)(1) as “a person who has been convicted of a sexually violent offense against one or more victims and who has a diagnosed mental disorder that makes the person a danger to the health and safety of others in that it is likely that he or she will engage in sexually violent criminal behavior.”
Yegan, who is 73, wrote:
“Old age! As John Steinbeck would say, ‘bastard Time’ is always ticking….And for some people, as it ticks, the person may mature, learn, and grow, and perhaps grow out of sexual deviancy. But there are others who may not mature, learn, and grow, and grow out of sexual deviancy. Here, for example, appellant is a 74-year-old self-admitted child molester, who, in a moment of candor, said that he could not guarantee that he would not molest another child upon release.”
Yegan quoted Hoffman—who had suffered 19 arrests, mostly based on sexual conduct toward children—as saying that “nobody can predict what I can do in the future,” adding: “Not even I can.”
The jurist remarked: “We take appellant at his word….”
He said that Sabo “believed appellant to the extent that he might molest another child upon release,” and declared:
“This credibility determination, coupled with expert testimony, leads to but one rational conclusion on appeal.”
The expert testimony came from five psychologists, two of whom said Hoffman should not be confined as an SVP in light of his age, with the other three disagreeing.
Hoffman argued on appeal that at his age, there’s no “serious and well-founded risk” that he will engage in deviant conduct if released. Yegan countered:
“While a person may ‘slow down’ with age, it does not necessarily follow that interest in sexual deviancy slows down. And we cannot so hold as a matter of law. We hold that ‘old age,’ standing alone, does not relieve a person from SVP commitment. It is a factor to be considered by mental health professionals and the trier of fact in coming to an SVP determination.
“If we were to credit appellant’s claim, at age 74, all SVP’s would be released.”
Yegan also commented:
“Appellant has an extensive history of sexual deviancy, including numerous convictions for sexual offenses against children. But he has not reoffended for 30 years. Why not? He has been imprisoned and/or deprived of his freedom by civil commitment for 30 years.”
The case is People v. Hoffman, 2021 S.O.S. 1080.
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