Perverted Justice?

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

Steen listed 19 reasons to buttress her opinion that Felix was more likely than not to re-offend, and therefore should face a court hearing under the sexual predator law. She mentioned her own clinical judgment, but relied heavily on actuarial factors from the Hanson/Bussiere study: Felix's age at the time of his offense; his number of offenses; the fact that he wasn't married; and his diagnosis of anti-social personality disorder, not otherwise specified.

She added everything up and said Scott Emerson Felix qualified as a sexually violent predator who was likely to re-offend.

Felix refused to assent to a second interview -- this one with a psychologist named Melvin Macomber. (Felix has a right under the law to make such a refusal.) Macomber read Felix's file and gave a diagnosis that was almost a carbon copy of Steen's.

The State Department of Mental Health sent a notice to the San Francisco District Attorney's Office, stating that a convict who committed qualifying sex crimes had been deemed a predator with a likelihood to re-offend. Once that paper hit the DA's desk, a course was quickly set.

"If you have information that he's more likely than not to re-offend," says Assistant District Attorney Elliot Beckelman, the prosecutor trying the Felix case, "what do you do? You have to file."

There is one unassailable truth about Scott Felix, and it doesn't come from the DSM: He is oftentimes his own worst enemy. In the opening moments of his trial in February, when the jurors had barely warmed their seats, he committed perjury, claiming under oath that a 1977 rape he had committed was consensual. Felix claimed he was wrongly sentenced to juvenile detention. Actually, he said, the women's husband found out she had had sex with Felix, and she cried rape to cover up her infidelity.

Felix thought the records of that 2-decade-old case had been destroyed. But Beckelman found the records. He also found the victim. Felix had to admit to his lie on the stand.

But this drama was incidental to the focus of the proceedings. The meat of Felix's 10-day trial was a battle of interpretations. Incidents involving Felix were presented to the jury as either innocent and the product of misunderstanding (the defense), or sinister and predatory (the prosecution). The trial became a contest of who could contextualize behavior more successfully -- defense attorney Randy Knox, or prosecutor Elliot Beckelman and his two psychiatrists. Scott Felix's case was indeed fought close to the margins of the Sexually Violent Predator Act.

Here are the things Scott Felix wanted the jury to know: During the time he was on parole -- the better part of 28 months -- he exhibited a lot of positive change and growth. He got a union card as a welder. He worked at other jobs, and only lost them when he went to prison on parole violations related to non-sexual matters. He made friends, some of whom came to testify on his behalf. When he did blow his parole big-time for being drunk in public, he was arrested because he decided to walk rather than drive home drunk. And the next day he reported the incident to his parole officer, and made appointments immediately for substance-abuse counseling. He had two monogamous relationships with women. He participated in anger-management therapy. He went to Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. His most serious parole violation, a charge of assault, came when he was defending his girlfriend against the lewd advances of another man.

Most of all, Scott Felix wanted jurors to know this: He is not a sexual predator. He is a man who was damaged by a lousy childhood, who has taken responsibility for his "foul, foul acts," and who wants only the opportunity to prove himself.

The prosecution had other points to make. The first way of making them was the Patricia Davis story.

Davis was the supervisor of the Salinas parole office, to which Felix was initially assigned. Felix kept showing up after the parole office was closed -- but before his curfew -- asking for favors like food stamps. Davis perceived Felix as a threat, telling him repeatedly to restrict his visits to office hours. But Felix kept knocking on the parole office window after hours. Eventually, Davis came to feel she was being stalked. She filed a complaint, later downgrading it to harassment, and had Felix moved from her jurisdiction.

In court, prosecutors tried to make the Davis encounters appear predatory. Knox, meanwhile, employed a pain-in-the-ass defense. This wasn't predatory stalking, he said, it was just annoying behavior. He portrayed Felix as an irrepressible child, who sometimes had a hard time obeying orders when it meant that his needs weren't going to be met rapidly.

The next battle for context involved the alleged stalking of a woman named Adrian Griffin. As part of his rehabilitation, Felix needed a resume. He went to a Computer Learning Center and met Griffin, who helped him create a resume on one of the center's computers. She testified that Felix would stare at her and ask personal questions in a too-probing manner. He asked where she lived. He asked where she worked out. He said she reminded him of his mother. "It didn't feel like a friendly conversation," she said in court. "It felt invasive."

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