Perverted Justice?

Or is a new law that puts sexual predators in long-term psychiatric lock-up really -- and finally -- justice for perverts?

Thirty minutes later, Felix came up behind Darlene Tom who was walking down Taraval Street and, using his hand to simulate having a gun in his pocket, said, "Don't scream." He grabbed her by the mouth and throat and attempted to drag her into his El Camino. A passing motorist began honking repeatedly. Felix let Tom go and fled. Two days later, after several of Felix's victims identified him in police photo spreads, he was arrested at his home.

While he awaited sentencing for his rape conviction, Felix acknowledged something was very wrong with him, unloading his fears to Probation Officer William Lloyd, who was preparing a recommendation on Felix's sentence.

"I have had problems in this area before," he told Lloyd. "I did not know all the way what caused me to hurt other people, or put myself in a place that hurt myself. I feel maybe it's because I don't feel good about myself, or it's because I get some sick thrill out of doing it, which I need to deal with. I think I have had a lot of hatred for women because of my father's leaving me at an early age, and being around my mother and other women. I have grown to think that women are out to get me. They want me, but it's only after I get drunk or hurt them. Other than that, I'm OK with women and people. I need help, and wish it for myself."

Felix's public defender ordered psychiatric tests after learning of his "bizarre" adolescence. Dr. Fred Rosenthal, a diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, visited Felix in the county jail. Felix was close to tears during the interview. He was frightened by his own behavior. Rosenthal diagnosed Felix as having intermittent explosive disorder, a condition defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)-- the psychiatric profession's bible of mental aberration -- as a failure to resist violent impulses where "the degree of aggressiveness expressed during an episode is grossly out of proportion to any provocation or precipitating psychosocial stressor."

Rosenthal described the root of Felix's criminal behavior this way: "The attacks on others represented in part his struggle to re-establish a sense of mastery, as well as being a mechanism for releasing some of his intense underlying anger. This anger was developed during his early life, when facing the tumultuous and violent episodes at home. He never felt in control of all the forces around him, and this resulted in feelings of rage, helplessness, and also guilt about having such strong destructive emotions. ... He also showed sincere regret and sadness over his emotional turmoil and its tragic consequences, which he cannot understand or control."

The psychiatrist recommended psychotherapy, predicting that Felix, because he was willing to accept counseling, would greatly benefit. More psychiatric tests also predicted Felix would do well in therapy. Even Lloyd, the probation officer, saw the wisdom in Felix participating in some kind of treatment, saying he should definitely get therapy in prison.

But Felix never got the therapy. Felix pled guilty to rape, forced oral copulation, and attempted rape, and it was off to prison for the 19-year, four-month sentence.

His prison experience was, truly, amazing.
For the first few years, he took drugs and drank excessively while running with the white supremacist Aryan Brotherhood. But in 1987, he gave up that life after falling in love with a female prison guard. He became a prison conspiracy theorist and frequent complaint filer, alleging all manner of subversive acts against his person, most of them overblown.

But after he learned a bit about the law, he also became the first California inmate in roughly 15 years to successfully sue the Corrections Department for brutality -- winning, with the help of the downtown law firm McCutchen Doyle Brown & Encino, a $2,500 judgment.

One thing you learn with Scott Felix: It is never all good or all bad. It's always a mixed bag.

These are the images that chill Vicki Baldocchi's blood: a carny hand leading a 3-year-old girl down to a riverbank, where the stranger rapes her and her little friend.

A pedophile building a massive collection of kiddie porn in a storage locker, and inviting little girls to the library "where they have all those nooks and crannies."

Another pedophile sitting at the bottom of a slide, catching little boys and fondling them. A sick Catcher in the Rye.

And the one thing she will never forget: Althor Cain's Charlie Manson eyes.
Baldocchi is one of the many sex crimes unit prosecutors who are fielding sexually violent predator cases in the San Francisco District Attorney's Office. She's the daughter of a prosecutor. And she's serious about her work. The above images are very real, too; they are all sexual predator cases her unit has tried in court.

I visited Baldocchi because I was disturbed by the civil liberties implications of the sexually violent predator law, curious about the ambiguities of the Felix case. I was looking for an explanation as to why the law might make sense. Were there people who really needed to be kept locked up, even after their sentences were done? Baldocchi then told me about Althor Cain, the son of a bottle collector from Lyndonville, N.Y.

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