A judge has ruled that a 75-year-old sexually violent predator can be released to a house in Jacumba Hot Springs on or before Dec. 1 under strict conditions.
The written ruling by San Diego Superior Court Judge Howard Shore was released Tuesday for Joseph Bocklett following an Oct. 26 hearing on Zoom in which two residents asked him not to grant the release.
Shore wrote that Bocklett “would not be a danger to the health and safety of others in that it is not likely he would engage in sexually violent criminal behavor” because he will be supervised.
“This court has carefully considered community objections to the proposed address and is sensitive to the claim that the town is a ‘dumping ground’ for such offenders,” wrote Shore.
“As was pointed out at the hearing, there is a tendency in all California counties for Liberty Healthcare to look for housing in more sparsely populated areas, where there are less schools and family facilities…” wrote Shore.
“As was stressed at the hearing, this Court is aware that any proposed residence in any community will be objected to, for obvious and understandable reasons,” the judge wrote.
“However, this Court, as a judicial officer, is bound to following existing law, which provides for the conditional release of offenders such as Mr. Bocklett,” stated Shore.
“Only the legislature can change existing law,” wrote Shore, who told people at the hearing they should contact state legislators if they want the law changed.
Liberty Healthcare, which manages the state’s conditional release program, “has been effective in fulfilling its statutory obligation to keep offenders from committing new crimes,” wrote Shore. The agency hires security guards to be with offenders most of the time.
The Oct. 26 hearing took place virtually on the computer program Zoom with three speakers and attorneys from remote locations.
Shore said he had personally visited a house on Old Highway 80 where Bocklett could live. Bocklett currently is housed at Coalinga State Hospital.
On Aug. 4, Shore vetoed an earlier location in Pauma Valley where the Department of State Hospitals had recommended Bocklett be released because the address was close to a plant nursery where people with children visit.
Most of the courts are still closed as a result of the coronavirus outbreak so everyone spoke via the Zoom computer program including County Supervisor Dianne Jacobs who opposed the placement as did two others.
“Jacumba is not the proper placement,” said Alice Keyser, who also lives in Jacumba.
Keyser said the power outages by San Diego Gas & Electric due to high winds complicate the matter because SVPs wear an electronic bracelet at all times.
Keyser told Shore that if the power goes out–in order to prevent wildfires–the offender’s bracelet would go out also.
“How would they secure the offender?” asked Keyser. “Those bracelets are really not safe.”
“Isolation is not good for the perverts. They fantasize daily,” said Keyser, adding that she feared an offender might go to observe a private nudist group that is in the backcountry.
Mary Taylor said the backcountry is “saturated with SVPs” and the law should be modified.
Deputy District Attorney Meghan Buckner said a release with conditions is better than just allowing him to be a transient with no fixed location.
Shore cited that an appeals court wrote that “a sex offender who has been granted conditional release cannot have his liberty deprived indefinitely while the authorities are searching for a suitable residence.”
Bocklett was convicted of molesting three girls over a 19-year period, according to the DA’s office. He finished serving his last prison term in 2017.