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California judge hears public worry on impending release of serial rapist

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This undated file image provided by the Department of Justice shows convicted serial rapist Christopher Hubbart. A Santa Clara County judge is exploring whether to release Hubbart to a Southern California residence over the objections of the Los Angeles County district attorney and others. Authorities announced Friday, April 4, 2014, that a landlord in a sparsely populated area east of Palmdale has agreed to rent a home to Hubbart when he is released from the mental hospital he has be confined to since 1996. Hubbart admitted to raping 38 women between 1971 and 1982. (AP/Department of Justice, File)

After a sniper's bullet killed her husband in Afghanistan earlier this year, Misty Vivirito moved herself and four daughters from a San Diego Marine Corps base to a home in Southern California's Antelope Valley with room enough for horses and other farm animals.

Last month, she discovered that a serial rapist was to be released from a mental hospital and allowed to rent a ramshackle house three miles from her home in rural Los Angeles County near the city of Palmdale.

On Wednesday, Vivirito tearfully urged Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Gilbert Brown to change his mind and rescind his order directing the release of Christopher Evans Hubbart, 63, to the desert community of Lake Los Angeles.

Hubbart has acknowledged raping and assaulting about 40 women between 1971 and 1982. Authorities place the number of victims closer to 100. When Hubbart's prison term ended in 1996, he was deemed a sexually violent predator and confined to a state mental hospital.

Doctors at the hospital recently concluded he was fit for release. But to where? California laws bar sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools and other places where children congregate, eliminating nearly all urban areas in the state.

Hubbart's most recent crimes occurred in Santa Clara County, but the Northern California judge ordered him released to Los Angeles County, where Hubbart was born and raised.

The judge delayed Hubbart's release to the area after an initial landlord succumbed to public pressure and withdrew his offer to rent to Hubbart. Brown authorized his release last year to another house a few miles away and has been lobbied by residents, local politicians and law enforcement officials to change his mind.

On Wednesday, Brown said little during the daylong hearing. He offered no insight into what his decision would be.

Vivirito and several other Lake Los Angeles residents drove 350 miles through the night Tuesday to attend the court hearing in San Jose on Wednesday to oppose Hubbart's release to their community.

"My husband died for our safety, but we don't feel safe," Vivirito told the judge. "This feels like a slap in our faces."

Vivirito, her 16-year-old daughter and four other residents who attended the hearing are returning home to an isolated community they say has become a "dumping ground" for sexually violent predators who have served their prison sentences and have been cleared by doctors at a state mental hospital for release.

Assemblyman Steve Fox, a Democrat who represents the region, said 1,000 of the 10,000 sexual predators released to Los Angeles County live in the Antelope Valley area, which has a population of less than 3 percent of the county's population. Fox introduced a bill to revise the state's Sexually Violent Predator Act so that potential areas for release must be given notice and an opportunity to be heard in court before selection. It would also then transfer the case to the local county's court for supervision.

Fox, the Los Angeles County district attorney and the county's sheriff also each urged the judge to rescind his decision.

William McSweeney, the sheriff department's chief of detectives, attended the hearing Wednesday as part of the Los Angeles County Safety Task Force, which includes members of the Los Angeles district attorney's office and the company contracted to help settle Hubbart and set up his monitoring system.

McSweeney said outside court that many Antelope Valley residents have posted angry messages to social media sites about Hubbart. "There is a great concern that citizens will take the law into their own hands," McSweeney told reporters outside court.

Because Hubbart is no longer on parole, McSweeney said that the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department will be responsible for monitoring Hubbart. Release terms would require him to wear a GPS ankle bracelet, continue treatment, obey a curfew and be subject to random searches and seizures, drug testing and polygraphs.

"We're a dumping ground," Palmdale Mayor James Ledford said. "It's very frustrating. He didn't offend here. He offended 40 times we know of elsewhere. So why us? Again. There's just no accountability in the system."

Though the house in Lake Los Angeles where Hubbart would live would likely fetch about $500 a month in rent, the state will pay about $2,400 a month, Ledford said.

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