State Supreme Court to make decision in sex predator case

By Kim Curtis The Associated Press
Wednesday December 12, 2001

SAN FRANCISCO — A serial rapist locked up at a state mental hospital nearly two weeks after a judge said he had no legal grounds to keep him in custody may be released Wednesday if the state Supreme Court refuses to hear the case. 

Patrick Ghilotti, 45, has been confined at Atascadero State Hospital for four years under a state law that allows sexually violent offenders to be committed for treatment after completing their prison sentences. 

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

Marin County Superior Court Judge John S. Graham ruled Nov. 30 that Ghilotti should be released the following day, when his latest two-year commitment expired. 

Instead, state Attorney General Bill Lockyer, at the urging of Gov. Gray Davis, filed an emergency petition with the high court asking it to block Ghilotti’s release, saying he remained a danger to the public. 

Chief Justice Ronald M. George said Tuesday the high court will “likely take action” Wednesday. 

Ghilotti had been slated to become California’s first sex predator released under a 1996 law under which hundreds of the state’s worst rapists and child molesters are sent to a mental hospital for treatment, a practice upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Two independent evaluators must certify the offender is mentally ill, a danger to society and likely to reoffend in order to commit him as a sexually violent predator. Once certified, the offender can be recommitted every two years. 

In Ghilotti’s case, three Mental Health Department psychologists have said the twice-convicted rapist no longer meets sexually violent predator criteria. 

His lawyer, Frank Cox, said there’s no legal reason to keep Ghilotti locked up. 

“I think the law is so black and white, so unequivocal, so clear,” Cox said Tuesday, adding his client is preparing to leave Atascadero. “This is a no-brainer.”