Hundreds of East Palo Alto residents gathered in protest Wednesday night in front of the home of a sexually violent predator recently relocated to the community, protest organizer and East Palo Alto Mayor Ruben Abrica said.
Abrica estimated a couple hundred people gathered in front of the home at 903 Beech St. where Donald Robinson, 57, who was convicted of multiple felony sexual assaults in Santa Clara County between 1970 and 1984, moved in last week.
Robinson was eligible for parole in 1997, according to the Santa Clara County district attorney's office. However, he remained at a state mental hospital to receive treatment under a state program designed to decrease the likelihood of repeat offenses among sexually violent predators.
A judge ordered Robinson to be placed in the Beech Street home and to continue his treatment under heavy surveillance and intense restrictions. Robinson's arrival on Thursday prompted a small protest that night.
Abrica said Robinson is one of only 17 people in the state in this type of community treatment situation.
The mayor said he led a peaceful protest Wednesday evening, asking the judge who ordered Robinson's relocation to move him outside of the city, to a less populated area.
"It was a very family-oriented, peaceful demonstration," Abrica said. "We're asking the judge to reconsider and take him out of the community."
Capt. Carl Estelle said about 10 officers monitored the protest and created a safety zone to make sure no demonstrators went onto the property.
"It was very peaceful and done correctly," Estelle said of the protest.
Abrica has said City Council members, county officials, police and community members are all "on the same page" on the issue.
The city distributed notices last week alerting residents of Robinson's impending arrival, and held a public meeting to provide details. Dozens of people turned out with questions, and residents said a small crowd gathered the following evening outside the home where Robinson remains under 24-hour surveillance.
Abrica said Santa Clara County Judge Alfonso Fernandez made a "grave error" in relocating Robinson to East Palo Alto. According to Abrica, Robinson's court-selected residence is within walking distance of a day care center, two churches, an elementary school and a high school. City and county officials lodged their formal objection in court last month, before the decision was made, he said.
Fernandez is "ethically prohibited" from commenting on the matter, according to Santa Clara County Superior Court spokesman Carl Schulhof.
"He indicated to me that his order is his order and it's in effect and he couldn't say anything about it," he said.
Fernandez has ordered transcripts from the last three court hearings on Robinson's case to be added to the case file, Schulhof said. This makes it easier for interested parties to review the process leading up to the decision to place Robinson in East Palo Alto, he said.
"If anyone wants to take a look at them and get an idea of the process that occurred in coming to this decision, they're there and they're available," Schulhof said.
The court, along with representatives from the state Department of Mental Health, examined 1,100 potential homes for Robinson before selecting the East Palo Alto residence, according to the Santa Clara County district attorney's office.
State law requires that Robinson receive his community-based treatment in San Mateo County, since he lived there at the time of his last conviction. Robinson lived in East Palo Alto at the time and has family there, according to the district attorney's office.