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Child molester unlikely to re-offend, expert says

Heather Muller,, October 16, 2007

The people rested their case Tuesday in a hearing held to determine whether a man twice convicted of molesting young children should be declared a Sexually Violent Predator under California law.

J[...] F[...] G[...], 61, could face involuntary civil commitment -- an open-ended sentence at a locked psychiatric facility -- if the jury finds three elements in the case: that G[...] committed qualifying prior offenses, that he suffers from a diagnosed mental disorder and that his mental disorder is such that he would likely re-offend if released.

But an expert testified Tuesday that he did not believe the criteria had been met.

Dr. James J. Park, a clinical psychologist testifying on behalf of G[...], said the man's release would pose "a very low risk" to the community.

"He is very unlikely to re-offend," Park said, adding that in his professional opinion G[...] "does not have a diagnosed mental illness that presupposes him to sexually criminal acts."

Park interviewed G[...] twice --  in 2005 and 2006 --  and diagnosed him with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder and a personality disorder with antisocial and narcissistic features.

Park also diagnosed G[...] with pedophilia and alcohol dependence, but said both conditions were in remission.

"If it is not actively going on at this particular time, then it is in remission," Park said.

G[...] declined to be interviewed by experts who argued for his commitment, and also refused to participate in the Sexual Offender Commitment Program at Atascadero State Hospital, where he was previously sent for treatment.

But on cross-examination, Park volunteered that 80 percent of ASH patients do not participate in the SOCP.

"I don't fault him at all for not doing that," 

Park said, adding that patients who do participate can spend between six and 10 years working through just one phase of the five-step program. Park argued that the program itself was fundamentally flawed, focusing too much on details of past offenses in an attempt to prevent relapses.

Preventing relapses should be the goal of sex-offender treatment plans, Park agreed, but said the SOCP approach had been criticized for instilling a sense of shame in participants. 

"Shame," he said, "is looking at yourself as scum." It's a negative emotion that, in Park's opinion, actually increases the risk of re-offense.

A contentious cross-examination by Humboldt County Deputy District Attorney Allan Dollison followed, with Dollison grilling Park on numerous details of his testimony.

The psychologist conceded that he had performed only 30 SVP evaluations in his career, and in each case that proceeded to court had always argued against civil commitment.

Dollison questioned whether Park had taken into account in this case a report from one examiner that stated G[...] had admitted molesting children as many as 10 times, although he had been charged in only two cases.

Park answered that G[...] told him that, on the advice of a doctor, he had fabricated the additional offenses in order to qualify for a treatment program -- even though, as Dollison quickly noted, G[...] was refusing to participate in the program currently available to him.

Dollison asked at one point if Park believed G[...]' pedophilia had been cured.

"There is no cure," Park said, "so I would not even use that terminology."


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