Sexual predator Sid Landau tried for years through the courts to be freed from a state mental institution on grounds he had not committed a crime against children in three decades, but at every turn the Orange County District Attorney's office thwarted the 71-year-old. Now, a three-justice panel at the California Court of Appeals in Santa Ana has rejected Landau's latest bid for freedom.
Landau won a three-year prison sentence after being convicted in 1982 of molesting a 10-year-old Anaheim boy. In 1988, he pleaded guilty to molesting a 9-year-old boy and was sentenced to 17 years in the joint. He served eight years before being paroled in 1996, but he was back in and out of lockup through 1999 for parole violations. Prosecutors in 2000 got Landau declared a sexually violent predator (SVP), which sent him to Atascadero State Mental Hospital.
By that time, Landau had long served as Orange County's poster boy for Megan's Law, the name for laws around the country that provide details about sex offenders in the wake of the 1994 rape and murder of seven-year-old Megan Kanka in New Jersey. While Landau was out of custody, the Placentia Police Department released his name and address, and he was then hounded from residence to residence.
Landau sued in federal court, claiming Placentia cops violated his right to privacy. He lost. At two parole violation trials, juries deadlocked in favor of his release, voting 11-1 and 8-4 respectively. That prompted a third trial in March 2008 previewed by former Weekly contributor Alex Brant-Zawadzki:
Landau was committed the following year to the Coalinga State Hospital for an indefinite period as a SVP. In 2010, a state psychologist concluded Landau could be safely returned to society under supervision because of his age and Landau petitioned for his release. Coalinga's director disagreed with the doctor's assessment, and a judge rejected Landau's request as frivolous.
Landau appealed in 2011, and the state appellate court found that the judge erred and remanded the case. Last year, Orange County Superior Court Judge W. Michael Hayes ruled Landau deserved a new hearing.
Landau petitioned the appeals court again because of delays in a new trial court hearing, but in a ruling dated Feb. 7, the panel of justices in part blamed his own attorneys, who'd repeatedly rescheduled proceedings.
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Part of the panel's basis for finding reason for Landau's SVP status is something he sent in December 2003 to the brother and sister-in-law he wants to live with in New York if released: a box of belongings containing pornography. Then there are the 18 boxes he mailed to a relative from 2003-2006 that included pictures of a boy on a bed in underwear and actor Russell Crowe kissing a boy on the forehead, articles about a boy who exposed himself online and children getting lost at water parks and pamphlets on daycare centers, babysitting businesses, Walt Disney World and wholesale toy stores. The justices believe Landau mistakenly included these, wanting to keep them as currency to trade with fellow patients.
But the justices also found Landau has claimed his sex drive ground to a stop because of health issues, which include heart problems and Asperger's syndrome, and that he has vowed to always remain under adult supervision to keep him away from children. His defense has also noted Landau's sister-in-law has pledged a "zero tolerance policy" that would have her immediately contacting authorities should he stray. She and Landau's brother also say they will not allow him to have a dog, as he in the past used pets to lure children, according to the justices.
Another Superior Court hearing on Landau's SVP status is scheduled next Friday, Feb. 22. Meanwhile, the state Supreme Court has been asked to overturn a separate appellate court ruling clearing the way for prosecutors to have a psychological expert interview Landau yet again.