LOS ANGELES, CA — A serial child molester will soon be released back to Los Angeles, and prosecutors fear he will go right back to preying upon little boys. But a judge ruled Tuesday that the risk to the community can’t outweigh the Constitutional rights of the 44-year-old sex offender, who spent almost half his life locked up.
George Vasquez, of South LA, was held in a mental institution for 17 years awaiting trial to see if he should be held for a two-year treatment for violent sex offenders. That 17-year hospitalization violated the child molester’s Constitutional rights, the court ruled. Prosecutors worry the ruling could open the doors to free others who may meet the state’s definition of a sexually violent predator.
George Vasquez was hospitalized by the state just days before his prison term was up for luring young boys to an alley with candy and molesting them, the Los Angeles Times reported. The boys he molested while in his early 20s were between 6 and 8. If prosecutors could show that he met state’s definition of a sexually violent predator at trial, he would have to spend two years at the mental institution. But 17 years of trial delays left him locked up, until now.
In his written ruling, Superior Court Judge James Bianco acknowledged the potential risk to public safety but said the delays in Vasquez’s case were “oppressive to the maximum degree.” He noted that requests for postponements came from both prosecutors and defense attorneys. But, he said, that changed in 2014, when prosecutors began pressing for a trial. From then on, Bianco said, the delays were caused “almost entirely from defense counsel’s need to prepare the case for trial.”
“There was a systemic breakdown of the public defender system,” Bianco ruled, noting that five deputy public defenders had handled the case at different times.
In the years since Vasquez was sent to a state hospital, one of the state’s two psychologists who examined him has concluded he no longer qualifies as a sexually violent predator, Bianco wrote.
Deputy District Attorney Richard Ceballos said the ruling is frustrating for prosecutors, who can’t legally force the defense to trial, The Times reported. While much of the blame rests with the public defender’s office, Ceballos said, it was “disingenuous” for the judge not to shoulder some of the blame since Bianco “and other judges” didn’t replace the public defender’s office sooner.
“The end result is a convicted child molester is going to be released,” Ceballos said. “I’m really afraid he will molest again.”
City News Service contributed to this report. Photo: Shutterstock