Judge says serial rapist to be released unless new evidence against him found

By Kim Curtis, Associated Press Writer
Friday November 30, 2001

SAN RAFAEL — A serial rapist who was the first man to successfully complete the state’s sexually violent predator treatment program will be released Saturday unless state officials can come up with new evidence to keep him locked up. 

“Barring some substantial additional development, I have no power to do anything,” Marin County Superior Court Judge John S. Graham said Thursday. 

Three independent mental health professionals evaluated Patrick Ghilotti, 45, and determined he was no longer dangerous. While Graham questioned the method of evaluation, he said under the law he has no choice but to allow Ghilotti to go free on Saturday, when his current two-year commitment ends at Atascadero State Hospital. 

The judge gave prosecutors until Friday to present new evidence to change his opinion. 

Prosecutor Alan Charmatz said he had no such additional evidence. Carl Elder, an attorney for the state Department of Mental Health, said he would talk to hospital officials to try to find such evidence in the next 24 hours. 

The district attorney’s office, under pressure from Gov. Gray Davis, had petitioned the court Wednesday in an effort to keep Ghilotti in treatment for another two years. 

Ghilotti, who has spent nearly half his life behind bars, has been convicted of raping four Marin County women and has admitted to raping at least six others. 

A 62-year-old Corte Madera woman Ghilotti raped in 1985 attended Thursday’s hearing and said she was terrified at the prospect of Ghilotti being back on the streets. 

“I’m totally disappointed with the system,” she said. “I’ll be scared to death. I’ll be looking over my shoulder. That guy’s not cured.” 

But Public Defender Frank Cox disagreed, saying that after four years of treatment Ghilotti no longer poses a threat. 

“He has learned a great deal. He has done everything required of him. He is the valedictorian of the sexually violent predator program at Atascadero,” Cox said, adding that three evaluators agreed he’s not likely to reoffend. 

Since 1997, when a controversial law went into effect, prosecutors have been able to seek to commit the state’s most dangerous rapists and child molesters after they serve their prison sentences. They are sent to Atascadero for treatment and can be recommitted every two years until clinicians agree they are no longer a threat to society. 

The judge seemed reluctant to let Ghilotti go free without any mandatory treatment. 

“It’s conceivable the release of Mr. Ghilotti right now ... might have very dire consequences for a lot of people,” Graham said. 

The judge was not swayed by letters from the director of the Department of Mental Health, from the Atascadero medical director and from one of Ghilotti’s clinicians that said he was still dangerous. 

Ghilotti could have been released with court-mandated restrictions last month, but he refused an outpatient treatment program — saying it was too restrictive. 

Ghilotti initially agreed to a host of stringent requirements, including taking Lupron, a testosterone-reducing drug, wearing a Global Positioning System device so authorities could track his movements and attending individual and group therapy sessions. 

But he turned down the program when authorities put restrictions on seeing his wife and using the Internet.