Borrego Sun - Since 1949

SVP Hearing, July 8 Downtown San Diego

 

Last updated 7/5/2022 at 1:07pm



Numerous residents of Borrego Springs provided their opposition to the proposed placement of Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) Michael Martinez in Borrego Springs to the Sheriff’s SAFE Task Force. Many also provided comments and complaints to County offices and State elected representatives. Along with Borrego Springs residents, Ranchita and Mount Helix residents also voiced their concerns and complaints about the poor effectiveness of the California Conditional Release (CONREP) program, and the need for greater opposition to any additional SVP releases in the County. There are currently 11 SVPs placed in San Diego County, representing more than half of all SVPs in California CONREP.

Emails and letters were sent to the SAFE Task Force and will be sent to Judge Gill and copies with redacted names and addresses will be given to Liberty Healthcare. That was Phase 1 of the actions we could take.

What happens next? On July 8th, the hearing about the proposed placement will be held in the San Diego Superior Court by Judge Gill.

In preparation, there are actions we can take for Phase 2. Several residents are working with San Diego County representatives and their staff to ask for help. Senator Brain Jones, Assemblyman Randy Voepel and County Supervisor Jim Desmond have each been vocal and active about improving public safety, and are actively opposing this proposed placement. Senator Jones and

Assemblyman Voepel have written letters directly to the court, opposing the placement. Their continued support of Borrego Springs, and all outlying areas, is greatly appreciated.

Assistance has also been requested from Supervisor Desmond’s staff to request that Jim Desmond speak during the court review on July 8th and to seek assistance from the San Diego County CAO, Helen Robbins-Meyer, the County’s senior executive. The CAO is tasked by the County Board of Supervisors to manage and improve all aspects of the SVP placement process in the county. An easy process improvement suggestion would be for the County to do a better job announcing proposed placements to the public.

Why does the timing of announcements matter? The court announcement for the Martinez proposed placement came at 2 p.m. on a Friday afternoon of a long weekend. This is really a poor way to make a public announcement – with 14 days to respond, burying the news in a holiday dilutes the chances of timely response. Another process improvement would be that the County insist the California Department of State Hospitals follow legal requirements to notify the County 90 days prior to a proposed review. We asked county officials if the 90 day notification requirement was met and were told no.

The proposed placement hearing on Friday July 8, is scheduled for 10 a.m. in the San Diego Superior Court in downtown San Diego, at 1100 Union Street. The hearing will be held with Judge David Gill in Department 2204. We have asked who from the District Attorney’s office is assigned, but do not yet know. The assigned Assistant DA should help Borregans request permission from the court to speak during the hearing.

We’ve also asked for information about a 9 a.m. hearing Judge Gill will preside over regarding SVP Merle Wakefield. This is the SVP that the State of California and Liberty Healthcare attempted to place in Borrego Springs last year. We have received nothing as yet. This is another process improvement for SVP proposed placements that is needed by the county.

While it is unknown whether public comments or public attendance will be allowed, we do know that Judge Gill allows the SVP, California state and Liberty Health representatives to connect electronically to the hearing. He allows them to use phones and computers during the hearing. Judge Gill does not give the public the same courtesy, nor does he allow the County District Attorney staff to do so. Borrego Springs residents who wish to attend the hearing must do so in person.

Judge Gill has a history of not allowing comments from those most impacted by his decisions. He also has a history of not allowing public attendance, not taking into consideration the impact on survivors, not giving any consideration into the impact on children in the immediate vicinity, or any other aspect of public safety.

Should Judge Gill allow comments by the public, it would likely be only a few people allowed to speak, and comments would likely be for only a few minutes per speaker. Those who are most impacted by the proposed placement would be the best representatives of Borrego Springs at the hearing. Although it is likely only a few Borrego Springs residents would be allowed to speak, attendance at the hearing provides a strong show of community opposition to this placement.

Potential transportation methods to help ensure good attendance at the hearing on July 8 are in the works. It will be important for the judge to see the participation, and also for the press. KUSI has provided continuing coverage of this proposed placement, as they did for similar proposals last year for both Borrego Springs and Ranchita, highlighting the problems with the placements.

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