Placer judge denies SVP William Stephenson’s request for immediate release into Placer County; requests Department of State Hospitals to create a placement plan for the community to review
On Sept. 1, 2023, a Placer County Superior Court judge denied the request from sexually violent predator (“SVP”) William Stephenson for immediate release into Placer County.
During the hearing, the judge stated that he had read and considered the District Attorney’s opposition, which included over 250 letters submitted by members of the community. The judge immediately addressed the audience and thanked them for making their voice heard in the process. The judge emphasized the importance of community participation and understanding of the SVP process, and he also emphasized that the SVP law prioritizes public safety in the court’s decision-making process.
The judge affirmed that before he would authorize any release of Stephenson, he would need to have all necessary details regarding the release plan from the Department of State Hospitals and assurance that the public had full access to the process. Only after the judge has that necessary information can he evaluate if the conditions proposed for release are adequate to protect public safety.
Liberty Healthcare reported they are continuing to seek a permanent address, but to date, no suitable site has been found. Liberty noted they are also looking for a location to park an RV or trailer to house Mr. Stephenson. If such a site is identified, the landowner would have to receive a permit to park an RV on their property. There is also a 30-day notice requirement to the public before Mr. Stephenson could be released to any site.
During the hearing, the defense attorney requested Stephenson’s immediate release to a motel. The request was denied.
The District Attorney’s Office represented the People of Placer County in today’s hearing and requested the judge deny Stephenson’s release. The prosecutor also requested that the judge deny Stephenson’s release to a hotel or motel and the judge agreed. The prosecutor reiterated that case law supports not releasing an SVP until public safety can be assured. The prosecutor also requested that the judge oversee the housing committee meetings to ensure proper community access.
The Placer County Sheriff’s Office, Placer County Supervisors Bonnie Gore and Suzanne Jones, Placer County Counsel, and Crime Victims United addressed the court on behalf of residents and victims of crime.
Leading into the hearing over 250 people wrote letters of opposition, tens of thousands viewed the Department of State Hospitals housing meeting and over 3,500 residents signed a petition opposing the transient release of Mr. Stephenson. Assemblyman Joe Patterson, supported by 26 bipartisan colleagues, introduced legislation to ban transient release in response to the Stephenson ruling on July 17.
The next court date for Mr. Stephenson will be a status review hearing at 1 p.m. on Sept. 20 in Department 42 of the Placer County Superior Court. The court will not take any action at the next hearing but will be requesting a status update from all parties. The judge also asked the Department of State Hospitals to hold more community housing meetings. Those meeting dates have yet to be determined. Residents interested in staying up to date on this case can sign up for the case portal at www.placer.ca.gov/SVP.
“On behalf of the Placer County District Attorney’s Office, I would like to thank the community for their participation in this process,” said Placer County District Attorney Morgan Gire. “Their letters and their attendance at these proceedings has given our community a strong voice.”