LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted down a motion calling for the Sheriff's Department and district attorney to formally notify the board when sexually violent predators are set to be released and treated in the community.
Supervisors Hilda Solis, Holly Mitchell and Sheila Kuehl voted no prior to any discussion or public comment, causing the proposal to immediately fail for a lack of a majority from the five-member board. It was a rare outcome for this board, which typically at least entertains discussion and holds a vote on items facing opposition.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger authored the motion calling for the board notification and proposing that the specific location of any placement be revealed to the board member representing that district.
Barger issued a statement after the vote expressing her dismay and vowing to aggressively push for advanced notification to her constituents.
"It is essential that placements of sexually violent predators into local communities are made with the collaboration of all those impacted to ensure that appropriate services are provided and public safety is ensured," she said. "I am disappointed that my colleagues have chosen to turn their backs on what should be a fair and equitable process to provide a voice for everyone involved."
Barger had previewed her plan to call for more transparency around such releases on June 11, after Superior Court Judge James Bianco blocked a plan for a man designated as a sexually violent predator to live in La Crescenta.
Barger praised Bianco's ruling in a statement issued shortly after the hearing, saying she was "truly relieved."
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva was among those who joined area residents in objecting to Calvin Grassmier's release in La Crescenta.
"Releasing violent sexual predators, such as Calvin Grassmier, into our communities makes us all less safe, as well as places an unnecessary burden on public safety resources," Villanueva said in a statement urging the judge to reject the plan.
State hospitals planning to release someone designated as a sexually violent predator are already required to notify local law enforcement authorities, typically the sheriff or district attorney. The sheriff in turn has the legal authority to notify "any person designated by the sheriff or chief of police as an appropriate recipient of the notice" under Welfare and Institutions Code 6609.1.
Whether or not Villanueva officially notified Barger of the plan to release Grassmier, community members rallied in opposition, according to Barger.
"This potential placement was a grave concern for me, the impacted residents and the community at large who mobilized and expressed their strong concerns," Barger said in her June 11 statement.
The three supervisors who voted against notification did not comment on their reasoning, as the matter was considered as part of the board's consent calendar. However, the board has adopted a "care first, jails last" philosophy that focuses on rehabilitation rather than punishment and has championed various efforts to provide community support for inmates who are granted release.
Grassmier was convicted of a number of sex-related crimes -- the latest of which occurred in 1988 -- and none of which involved minors, according to the judge. He was sentenced in 1989 to a 15-year state prison term.
He was subsequently committed to the Department of State Hospitals as a "sexually violent predator" in 1999 and held in a secure hospital for treatment, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
Grassmier was ordered last November to be released on the condition that he receive community treatment, according to his attorney Tony Corti.
"Mr. Grassmier is not the same person that he was in 1988 ... He's a changed man," the defense attorney told the judge.
Corti said his client is "ready to begin his new life" and "intends on complying with everything," noting that he will be under "constant supervision."
Bianco cited five factors in rejecting the bid to allow Grassmier to be released to live at 5632 Freeman Ave., including a significant number of people living in close proximity to the proposed location and inconsistent cell phone reception that he said is critical to GPS monitoring.
The judge said he believed the challenge posed by those factors was "too great" and that he "didn't agree with this particular location," but said he had "great confidence" that an appropriate placement will be made for the 66-year-old man.
"And Mr. Grassmier, I want to tell you that you will be placed in the community," the judge said and added that he hoped better coordination with local law enforcement would help to address potential concerns as early as possible.
Another hearing is set for Grassmier this Friday.
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