OCDA FILES SEXUALLY VIOLENT PREDATOR PETITION TO HAVE VIOLENT, CONVICTED CHILD RAPIST LAWRENCE BROWN CIVILLY COMMITTED
SANTA ANA – The Orange County District Attorney's (OCDA) Office filed a petition today to have violent, convicted sex offender Lawrence Joseph Brown, 52, civilly committed as a Sexually Violent Predator (SVP). Brown was released on parole in Orange County on Nov. 17, 2010, after serving 25 years of a 49-year sentence for brutally sexually assaulting two young girls after kidnapping them in broad daylight. He was arrested less than an hour later for violating his parole and was transported back to Chino State Prison, where he is currently in custody on the parole violation. The SVP petition was filed today, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011, and Brown will be transported to the Orange County Jail for a hearing Friday, Jan. 21, 2011, at 9:00 a.m. in Department C-58, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
Brown's November 2010 prison release was vehemently opposed by Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, State Senator Lou Correa, Chief Scott Jordan of the Tustin Police Department (TPD), Chief Paul Walters of the Santa Ana Police Department (SAPD), and Chief Dave Maggard of the Irvine Police Department (IPD). At that time, these law enforcement partners publicly and sharply criticized the Department of Mental Health (DMH) for failing to take the proper steps to protect the community by submitting a Request to File a Petition with the OCDA, which is required by law in order for the OCDA to legally file an SVP petition.
Under the law, inmates are subject to DMH mental health reviews once they have completed their criminal sentence. The People may file a petition to have the defendant civilly committed if the mental health evaluators determine the inmate meets the criteria of an SVP. There are three criteria that must be met in order to designate a person as SVP. First, the defendant must have committed at least one sexually violent offense. Second, he/she must be diagnosed with a mental disorder. Finally, it must be found that he/she is likely to re-offend unless he/she is held in custody and treated.
Two evaluators must reach the same opinion that the inmate meets the SVP criteria in order for the OCDA to file an SVP petition. If the evaluators disagree, a second pair of evaluators will conduct mental health reviews of the inmate. If the evaluators determined the inmate meets the SVP criteria, a Request to File a Petition is submitted to the OCDA, who is then authorized to seek civil commitment. A jury is presented the evidence to decide if the inmate is a continued threat to the community, and if the criteria (above) are found true by the jury, the inmate is admitted into a mental care facility.
Despite exhaustive efforts by the OCDA, DMH failed to submit the necessary request and accompanying documentation for Brown prior to November 2010, making it legally impossible for the OCDA to file an SVP petition against him at that time. Extensive research, investigation, and efforts by the above-mentioned agencies led to the re-arrest of Brown and a change of opinion by a prior negative evaluator. As a result, the OCDA was legally able to file the SVP petition against Brown. His case will be heard before an Orange County jury at a time that is to be determined.
“Despite the horrible acts Lawrence Brown perpetrated in the past, the Department of Mental Health inconceivably felt he was safe to be released into our community. Brown, a real life boogie man, every parent's nightmare,” said District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. “Brown will now face a jury, members of our community, who will decide if he is a continued threat. And that is how it should be. But our anger and outrage cannot end here. If we don't change the conduct of the Department of Mental Health, we will have other “Lawrence Browns” released back into the community. I have been working with Senator Lou Correa and Mimi Walters on legislation to fix this broken system. It's time that the Department of Mental Health be accountable to the People they serve, and when the time comes, I will be calling on the public to support this law.”
“Lawrence Brown took away my innocence and left me badly bruised emotionally and physically. My family was not prepared to handle a situation like this and did not speak of it for almost 30 years,” said Nimol San, previously known as Jane Doe #2, who was victimized by Brown at age 7 in 1983. “As I became an adult, I had a choice to make. I could let what Lawrence Brown did to me define who I was, or I could defy him and become a better person. I do not want another person to suffer the kind of attack Lawrence Brown made on my life. It is crucial that he remain incarcerated, there are too many innocent children out there who may not survive a man like him. I am standing up for them today.”
Senior Deputy District Attorney Heather Brown of the Sexual Assault Unit will handle this case for the OCDA.
The following facts regarding Brown's case are presented in chronological order:
April 1983 – Crimes against Jane Doe #1
Early in the evening on April 19, 1983, Brown abducted 8-year-old Jane Doe #1 while she was playing hide-and-seek near her home with friends. The inmate was 24 years old, 5 feet 11 inches, and weighed 205 pounds. His victim weighed 57 pounds. Brown pulled her in to his red van as she kicked and screamed to get away. Brown was a stranger to his victim and told her that he would hurt her if she did not shut up. He drove her to an unknown location and parked the van. The inmate forced Jane Doe #1 to orally copulate him before removing her underwear and raping her. Brown ejaculated and left semen on the victim's clothing. After the rape, the inmate drove the victim to a parking lot and dropped her off, telling her to go home and warning that he would return and hurt her if she told anyone about the sexual assault.
The Santa Ana Police Department began a massive search for the unknown predator and investigated over 100 red vans as possible leads. The investigation was ongoing in October 1983, when Brown committed another violent sexual assault against a second child.
Oct. 1983 – Crimes against Jane Doe #2
At approximately 7:45 a.m. on Oct. 5, 1983, Brown kidnapped 7-year-old Nimol San, previously known as Jane Doe #2, as she was walking to school in Santa Ana. The victim has asked for her name to be used. She was a 34-pound immigrant from Cambodia and did not know Brown, then 25 years old. He approached her on the street, picked her up, and covered the screaming victim's mouth and nose with his hands as he put her in his red van.
Brown drove the victim to a cemetery and opened the door wide enough to show her where they were. He told San that if she didn't do as he said, she would be killed and buried in the cemetery with the other children who had not listened to him. Brown continued to drive for awhile before parking and dragging the victim into the back of the van. He put a knife to her chest and told her he would kill her if she told her parents or the police about him. He also threatened to find her at school the next day and cut her body into little pieces, as he had done with another child. The inmate showed the victim a box containing what appeared to be blood-stained clothing and put a second, larger knife near the box. Brown then slapped San and told her to shut up when she began to cry.
Brown placed the victim on a bed in the back of the van and ordered her to undress as he exposed his penis and rubbed her chest and vagina. The inmate began to rape the victim, but became angry that her small size made the rape difficult. He then forcibly sodomized her as she cried. After sodomizing the victim, he forced his penis in her mouth and ejaculated, causing her to vomit. Brown again threatened to kill the victim if she told anyone about the sexual assault and then pushed her out of the van, telling her to walk home. The lost, terrified, crying victim wandered to a nearby market, where an adult found her and called the police.
Feb. 1984 – On Feb. 17, 1984, Brown was arrested after officers observed him driving in a red van matching the description provided by San. Subsequent investigation revealed that the inmate was responsible for the sex crimes against both Jane Doe #1 and San.
Feb. 1985 – Conviction and Release from State Prison
On Feb. 15, 1985, Brown was found guilty by a jury of two felony counts of kidnapping and five felony counts of forcible sex crimes against a child. The jury also found true the sentencing enhancements that Brown kidnapped both children for the purpose of molesting them, and that he used a deadly weapon and inflicted great bodily injury on San.
March 2009- In March 2009, Brown filed a Project Innocence request with the OCDA claiming that he was not the predator who had committed the vicious crimes against the two little girls. He signed a waiver with his request acknowledging that any evidence obtained as a result of re-testing would be used against him. The OCDA agreed to re-examine Brown's case using DNA technology that did not exist in 1983. While many of the evidentiary items were degraded and could not be forensically examined, Brown's DNA was positively identified from the sperm that was recovered from San's underwear.
April 2010 – As a result of his conviction, Brown was sentenced to 49 years in state prison on April 1, 1985. He was to receive credit and serve 50 percent of his sentence. Had Brown been convicted today of the same crimes, he would have received a sentence of over 300 years to life in state prison.
2009/2010 – The OCDA made consistent and repeated inquiries regarding Brown's release date in the interest of public safety due to the level of violence and perversion exhibited by Brown with the intention of providing relevant SVP assessment materials to DMH. The OCDA was informed that Brown would be eligible for parole in April 2011. In August 2010, the OCDA learned that Brown's release had been advanced to October 2010.
April 2010 – Despite the October 2010 date and without notification to either of his victims or the police department where he would be required to register as a sex offender, Brown was released in Orange County on parole from state prison on April 27, 2010. He was paroled to the home of friend Ruby Huggler in a residential area on Red Hill Avenue in the City of Tustin, approximately 350 yards from Spirit Academy, a school for children ages 5 to 18 years old. During this time, Brown went to SAPD to register as a transient sex offender. When interviewed by a detective during the registration process, Brown misrepresented the facts of the criminal cases and evidence against him and failed to accept responsibility for his actions by maintaining his innocence.
Brown quickly violated his parole by becoming transient and masking his GPS by failing to charge the battery to avoid being monitored. On May, 6, 2010, only 10 days after being released from prison, he was violated on his parole and sent back to state prison.
Aug. 2010 – Efforts by the OCDA to Have Brown Civilly Committed as an SVP
Following numerous calls to determine Brown's parole date and learning of the pending October 2010 release, the OCDA sent a letter on Aug. 5, 2010, to DMH containing the inmate's Project Innocence materials. The letter details that despite the conclusive DNA finding, in addition to the strong eye-witness testimony, defendant statements, and forensic evidence presented during the 1983 jury trial, Brown continues to deny his guilt. The inmate has demonstrated no remorse or acceptance of responsibility for his crimes.
Despite a specific request by the OCDA, DMH failed to acknowledge receipt of the letter from Aug. 5, 2010. There was no indication that DMH provided the letter to any SVP evaluator for review or consideration. Again on Aug. 31, 2010, the OCDA sent DMH a letter detailing Brown's brutal crimes. The letter was sent with a lengthy 484-page packet that included police reports, evidence documents, and the Project Innocence information. The OCDA implored DMH to review these materials when conducting an SVP evaluation of Brown and continued to place numerous calls and requests, offering assistance.
Sept. 2010 – Finally, on Sept. 28, 2010, only four days before Brown was set to be released, and after repeated advocacy by the OCDA, DMH placed a 45-day hold on Brown for an SVP evaluation. No information was made available to the OCDA as to what evidence, if any, was considered in the evaluation. The OCDA was legally bound from filing SVP petition without a request from DMH and the inmate was scheduled to be released from state prison Nov. 17, 2010, prison with no immediate available legal recourse to the OCDA. It was later learned, on the day of Brown's release, that two pairs of evaluators had split in their opinions on whether Brown met the SVP criteria. The OCDA would need two concurring opinions in favor of SVP commitment in order to file a petition.
Nov. 16, 2010 – On the morning of Nov. 16, 2010, the OCDA, TPD, SAPD, and Senator Lou Correa held a press conference to warn the public that Brown was expected to be released the following day and DMH was blocking the OCDA from taking the necessary action to prevent it. The case received extensive television, radio, print, and Internet media coverage and local law enforcement received dozens of e-mails and phone calls from terrified and angry citizens wanting to assist the OCDA and police in stopping Brown's release.
TPD prepared a community notification flyer and began a door-to-door campaign to alert residents, and the OCDA invited the public to contact the Governor and DMH and provided a sample letter on its website, which was accessed by more than 5,300 citizens in two days.
Nov. 17, 2010 – Early on the morning of Nov. 17, 2010, the OCDA Public Affairs Unit was contacted by an Orange County woman who had seen the press conference media coverage of Brown's pending release. The woman stated that she had been a victim of Brown as a child in the late 1970s. The OCDA and TPD immediately began an investigation and developed evidence to support the victim's claim. While criminal charges could not be filed for this victim based on the expired statute of limitations, the OCDA forwarded the information on her case that afternoon to DMH.
One of the evaluators, who had previously opined that Brown did not meet SVP criteria, considered the emergence of the new victim and a memo from the SAPD detective who interviewed Brown during his brief April 2010 parole detailing the inmate's inability to take responsibility for his crimes. The OCDA was able to convince the evaluator to formally change her opinion in favor of an SVP classification for the inmate. This resulted in the requisite three of four evaluator opinions to allow the OCDA to file an SVP petition.
The OCDA immediately began preparing the necessary petition documents and a Superior Court Judge and his court clerks made themselves available to review the petition upon its completion. In order to file an SVP petition, the law required that the inmate be in the custody on the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). CDCR represented to the OCDA that Brown would be held in Chino State Prison until 11:59 p.m.
At approximately 5:00 p.m., as the OCDA was preparing to file the SVP petition against Brown, it was revealed that Deputy Warden Richard Alvarado from Chino State Prison had overruled the 11:59 p.m. hold and released the inmate sometime between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m. As a result of Brown's 7-hour early release, the petition was no longer valid and could not be filed.
The OCDA, TPD, and CDCR parole agents had prepared a plan to follow Brown, should he be released, and monitor him 24 hours a day until he checked in with his parole agents. This team was waiting outside the gates of the prison and followed Brown immediately upon his release. As a term of the inmate's parole, he was explicitly prohibited from riding in any car with any female. Brown signed and initialed that he understood the terms of his parole release. In clear view of the surveilling officers and Investigators, Brown immediately violated this parole term by getting into a vehicle outside of the prison with Huggler, the Tustin woman with whom he previously stayed during his brief parole in April 2010.
At approximately 5:30 p.m., less than an hour after being released from prison, OCDA Investigators and Tustin police officers performed a traffic stop of the inmate's vehicle and took him into custody for violating his parole. He was immediately transported back to Chino State Prison for the parole violation.
Dec. 2010 – On Dec. 22, 2010, CDCR and Secretary Matthew Cate revoked Brown's parole as a result of his Nov. 17, 2010, parole-violation arrest. Brown was sentenced to 90 days in state prison for the parole violation, giving the OCDA the ability to file a petition to have Brown declared an SVP.