Mimesis Law
29 March 2017

Christopher Evans Hubbart & Rage Without Understanding

Jan. 13, 2016 (Mimesis Law) — Years ago, Christopher Evans Hubbart committed some awful crimes. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Hubbart, 64, is one of the state’s most notorious sex offenders. Nicknamed the “pillowcase rapist” for his pattern of covering victims’ heads, Hubbart has admitted to at least 44 sexual assaults in Southern and Northern California.

Where I practice, he’d still be in prison, but not in California. He actually completed the prison term for his last crime in the 90s, though he remained in custody after that because prosecutors had him civilly committed. It seems the awfulness of his crimes in part led to the laws that let them do that:

Two decades ago, politicians portrayed him as a poster child for why California needed to lock up the most dangerous sex offenders even if they had finished serving their prison terms. Hubbart was the first person held under a law that allowed the state to confine sexually violent predators in hospitals if they have a mental disorder that makes them likely to reoffend.

Sexually violent predator, or “SVP,” laws are a curious thing. Their mere existence was astonishing to me when I first learned of them, as the idea that someone can be held after completing a criminal sentence, in some cases for the rest of their life, through a separate civil proceeding strikes me as blatantly unconstitutional. The Supreme Court of the United States disagrees, though, finding due process satisfied where the law in question requires proof of dangerousness as well as a mental disorder and dismissing double jeopardy and ex post-facto arguments in large part due to the fact the confinement is not punitive.

I doubt the confined subjects of SVP proceedings find solace in the fact their confinement is not punitive, of course, and there’s also some irony in the fact that civil commitment is acceptable because it is intended to prevent crimes that have yet to occur, but would almost certainly be struck down as unconstitutional if the commitment was in response to something someone actually did. Regardless, SVP laws are here to stay.

California’s SVP law is pretty typical. It defines a sexually violent predator as a person who has not only been convicted of a sexually violent offense, but who also has a diagnosed mental disorder that makes the person a danger and likely to engage in sexually violent criminal behavior. That Hubbart’s numerous priors constitute sexually violent offenses is no surprise. Doctors also found he has a mental disorder:

In a civil commitment trial created by the new law, two state doctors testified that Hubbart had severe paraphilia — deviant sexual behavior. A jury decided he fit the criteria of a sexually violent predator.

On top of that, the jury would have necessarily had to find that he was likely to reoffend. Again, given his history, that seems fairly obvious. Taking into account that Hubbart’s prior convictions aren’t just going to go away and neither is his paraphilia, for his commitment to end, he would have to be deemed unlikely to engage in sexually violent criminal behavior. That must have been the case when he was released not too long ago:

A judge approved his release and in the summer of 2014, after a state contractor conducted a lengthy search for someone willing to rent to Hubbart, he moved into his place on Avenue R, a road lined with torn mattresses and rusting car parts, outside Palmdale.

It’s not hard to see why a judge might find Hubbart isn’t such a big risk anymore:

At Coalinga State Hospital, Hubbart joined several group treatment sessions, including the “Meaning of Life and Happiness,” “Sexual Compulsivity Recovery” and “Exploring Beliefs About Women Using Art Therapy,” according to treatment documents. He worked as a janitor, coordinated volunteers to decorate his unit during the holidays and co-taught a watercolor painting course.

He was praised, according to treatment documents, for offering insightful feedback to his peers and challenging them when they displayed “distorted thought processes.”

The treatment program for sexual offenders is not designed as a path toward a cure, but rather a way to teach skills to lower the risk of reoffending. In 2012, a team of doctors and nurses decided Hubbart was ready to leave the hospital for the final stage of his treatment.

A psychologist makes another important point:

Psychologist Amy Phenix, whose evaluation of Hubbart in the mid-’90s helped lead to his confinement, said he was dedicated to the treatment.

“Risk changes,” Phenix said, adding that rapists rarely reoffend after the age of 50. “He’s not that same person.”

Plus, it’s not like they just let him loose on society. He wears a GPS ankle bracelet. He’s constantly tracked. He takes regular lie detector and drug tests, can’t watch stimulating TV or movies, and participates in psychotherapy and intensive group therapy. He has security around the clock too, but it isn’t just to protect the public from him. It’s also to protect him from the public:

In Hubbart’s home off a dirt road in Lake Los Angeles, state-funded security guards keep constant watch over him, partly to protect the public from Hubbart and partly to protect him from protesters who regularly gather outside. Demonstrators have successfully pressured a water company to stop delivering to the home and local law enforcement has investigated anonymous death threats against Hubbart.

Hubbart is an easy man to hate. He did horrific things to women, after all. However, he completed a sentence a judge felt was appropriate for what he did. Then, he remained in custody for a decade or so more due to his mental illness and likelihood of reoffending, undergoing all sorts of treatment and apparently benefitting from it, all while being about as productive as a person can be while in custody. Even someone who helped put him away thought he was dedicated to treatment, and he’s probably past the age where he’s going to be a threat. Finally, a judge who no doubt has a better command of the facts surrounding Hubbart’s situation than a bunch of random people freaked out about a sex offender approved his release, presumably determining in so doing that Hubbart is not likely to reoffend.

That’s not enough to satisfy the demonstrators:

At the foot of a fence around a small house in the desert, a protester cleared her throat. She wanted to scream loud enough for the man inside to hear.

“Raaaaaapist!” she shouted. “Go away, rapist!”

“No one in this world loves you,” her friend yelled. “You are a sexually violent predator!”

They are surprisingly organized:

Immediately after Hubbart moved in, protesters began to show up at his home. They made “Christopher Hubbart MUST GO!!!!” fliers and held a protest 100 days after his arrival, in a lot near his home, where they served hot dogs and held a raffle.

On a night last summer, a group of demonstrators huddled around a fire pit facing Hubbart’s home. They wore teal shirts that read, “Antelope Valley Communities Against Sexually Violent Predators,” and exchanged stories about a year of living with their unwelcome neighbor.

One of the local protesters, James Roberts, 49, who lives three miles from Hubbart’s home, said that sometimes, around 3 a.m., when he can’t sleep, he drives by Hubbart’s home and honks his horn once or twice – to remind him that he’s being watched.

And their creativity knows no bounds, it seems:

On Halloween in 2014, a protester dug a grave across from Hubbart’s home and put up a tombstone that read “Serial Rapist Hubbart,” said Hubbart’s attorney, Christopher Yuen. Outside of court on the day of a recent hearing, the attorney said, a protester screamed at Hubbart, whose mother had recently died.

“Do you put a pillowcase on your mother’s grave stone?” the person shouted.

That’s really just the tip of the iceberg, but it gives you an idea about the intense hatred these people feel toward Hubbart. Death threats are bad enough, but it’s a different level of loathing altogether going to the trouble of getting a water company to stop delivering, printing up hate-themed T-shirts and having a hate raffle, and digging a grave and screaming vitriolic comments to a guy about his dead mother.

It’s really the angry mob, not Hubbart, that’s newsworthy. Hubbart is just a mentally ill man who did bad things, went to prison, and then went through intensive treatment for years before an impartial judge with all the relevant facts finally decided he was no longer a risk to the community. The mob, on the other hand, is something worthy of our fear.

For them, it is not enough that Hubbart did his time and then some. It isn’t enough that real experts with all the facts decided he wasn’t a threat. They’re angry, they’re likely ignorant, and they’re almost certainly making things worse:

A healthcare company overseeing Hubbart’s treatment expressed concern in court documents that the ongoing demonstrations were “wearing the client down.”

Basically, they’re a perfect, miniature example of how the public in general tends to deal with criminal justice issues.

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