Back in March 2008, Alex Brant-Zawadzki, a colleague whose name I forever misspelled, gazed navally at Sid Landau, who was convicted in 1982 and 1988 of molesting two boys under age 14 and became one of the first sex offenders targeted in California under Megan's Law. After Landau did his time and tried to blend back into Orange County society, he was hounded back into lock up for violating parole by pushing a cameraman, failing to keep a date with his parole officer and possessing a photo of his grand-nephews and teddy bears with yarmulkes. On the eve of his release in 2000, he was sent to a state mental hospital as a violent sexual predator. Now the 70-year-old wants out.
Public defender Sara Ross, telling the Associated Press Landau's advancing age and health make him eligible for for release into the community:
“Ultimately, when it comes down to it, Mr. Landau served all of his time. He served each and every minute that the government asked of him and paid his dues and he's no longer a danger to society. He hasn't done anything in 20 or 30 years and he really wants to go home.”
Last arrested in 1999, Landau served the maximum time for his parole violation, but was transferred to Atascadero State Mental Hospital rather than released when the Orange County District Attorney's office petitioned to qualify Landau as “an SVP”–sexually violent predator.
After serving seven years of his initial 15-year sentence, Landau was released. That's when he became the Meghan's Law Poster Boy. The Placentia Police Department released his name and address, and he was then hounded from residence to residence. He sued in federal court, claiming Placentia cops violated his right to privacy. He lost.
The parole violations sparked a trial to send Landau back inside. The first jury deadlocked 11-1 in favor of his release. And second knotted 8-4, again in Landau's favor. That prompted a third trial in March 2008 and this from the Orange County Register's gung-ho columnist Gordon Dillow:
It's a cycle that could be repeated for years and years. And yet, as D.A. spokeswoman Susan Schroeder puts it, “What alternative do we have? We can't just let a dangerous child molester get out. We can't take that chance.”
So yes, maybe in some situations it wouldn't be fair to keep a guy locked up after he has served his time.But when it comes to sexually violent predators, it wouldn't be fair to their potential victims to do anything else.
On the philosophical flip side came this from the Times Orange County's Dana Parsons:
When a person pays his debt to society, it's supposed to mean something. And as long as juries keep deadlocking–even 11 to 1 to release him–Landau could remain in the hospital forever. Ideally, I'd settle for something like this: If one or two or three juries can't decide unanimously on a person's fate in cases like this, an “expert” panel would then be brought in.
Ain't gonna happen, so we live with what we've got.
The third jury was the charm for OC prosecutors.
Landau in 2009 was committed to the Coalinga State Hospital for an indefinite period as a SVP.
In 2010, a state psychologist concluded Landau could be safely released under supervision because of his age and Landau petitioned for his release. Coalinga's director disagreed with the doctor's assessment, and the judge rejected Landau's request as frivolous.
Last year, Landau appealed, and the state appellate court found that the judge erred and remanded the case. Orange County Superior Court Judge W. Michael Hayes indicated Landau had done as much as he could to show probable cause to deserve a hearing, scheduling it for October.
He'll once again face spirited opposition, Orange County Deputy District Attorney Dan Wagner confirms to the AP:
“Through the years he's even by his own admission molested at least 10 children and we think the number is quite higher than that. The amount of damage this man has done is just staggering.”