Perverted Justice?

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

Later, when she found out about his past, she grew fearful.
After Griffin helped Felix with his resume, a year went by without any contact. Then, one day when she was riding her bike through Palo Alto, Felix drove up next to her in his car and said hello. She waved him off and kept riding. She said Felix followed her until she turned down a one-way street.

Felix said he thought her wave was one of greeting and explained that he was circling the block, on which he lived, looking for parking.

A year later, in August 1995, Griffin was on her bike again, and Felix followed her into a bank parking lot. "When I first saw him," she said on the witness stand, "he looked me dead in the eyes, locked eyes with me, and rode real slow ... made sure I saw him. He wasn't waving. He wasn't smiling. He wasn't saying hi."

She described the look in court as "predatory."
After Felix followed her into the bank parking lot and got out of his car, Griffin, for the first time, told Felix she didn't want anything to do with him and for him to leave her alone.

Steen and Macomber relied on both incidents as evidence that Felix was likely to re-offend, that he had predatory traits and could not perceive the true nature of relationships. But Felix and his attorney stressed that the encounters were a year apart and entirely coincidental.

The prosecution seized on one more incident, which is detailed in San Jose police records.

In 1995, six months after his release from prison, Felix was at a pay phone on Market Street in San Jose when an attractive woman walked by. He said hi. He asked her name and she gave him a phony one.

"You have a nice body, and you smell good," Felix said. He asked her, "How much do you weigh?" She replied, "About 105 pounds." Felix asked her to turn sideways. She declined. Felix said, "You have a small body -- can I give you a hug?" She said sure.

He invited her back to his place, but a cop stopped the two a block away because the officer thought, incorrectly, he was witnessing Felix solicit a prostitute.

Steen testified that the incident showed Felix was prone to put himself in situations where he could relapse as a sex offender. Felix says he was just flirting, and doing well for himself. "Hey, if I can get a hug that quickly, I'm doing pretty good," he said in an interview.

Felix says his actions are being misinterpreted because of his past crimes. If he hadn't committed the rapes, he says, his behavior would seem perfectly normal.

Beckelman asked him if the mental conditions that predicated his rapes still existed. Felix said, "No, they do not."

Why not? the prosecutor asked.
"After 16 years of growing up, learning how to write, learning how to read, getting a welding license, going to AA meetings, going to NA meetings, going to therapy, having relationships with ladies, understanding about compassion, understanding about life itself, and growing up, losing people in my life." He described himself as the Felix of 1982 and the Felix of 1998 this way: the difference between a cocoon and a butterfly.

During deliberations, the jury sent notes to the judge asking whether Felix could receive mental treatment in the community. Despite his perjury, despite his history and the prosecutors' and psychologists' portrayal of his psyche, the jury deadlocked: eight for Atascadero, four for acquittal.

Linda Moore, an assistant district attorney in the sex crimes unit who was involved in the initial review of the Felix case, understands the jury's quandary. She says those in the unit felt the same uncertainty. "We all struggled with Felix," she says. "We all thought real hard about whether we should file it."

Ethical gyroscopes seem to go a little haywire when they encounter the Sexually Violent Predator Act. Those arguing against the law don't necessarily disagree with the notion that many sex offenders need to be confined for extremely long periods of time. They just think the confinement should come through criminal prosecution, rather than indefinite mental commitment.

Or, as Ira Barg, a defense attorney who has handled many sexual predator cases puts it: "You lock him up for the rest of his life. You enact an appropriate sentence from the first. Not this bullshit."

And it is what he calls "this bullshit" that has led Barg to take unusual legal postures.

Take, for example, former Barg client Kelvin George, a real hateful thug, and a violent and brutal rapist. At George's commitment trial, Barg looked the jurors dead in the eye and attempted to keep his client out of Atascadero with this general argument: "This is the most dangerous person you will ever meet. He will definitely commit new and violent crimes. He will probably kill someone. But the crimes will not be of a sexual nature."

Even Scott Felix has unexpected views on the Sexually Violent Predator Act.
I ask him: So what would you do, for example, with the neighbor who molested you as a child?

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