A man with a history as a "sexually violent predator" will be released from prison to a residence in East Palo Alto over the objections from the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office.
On Dec. 2, Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Finigan approved the release of Lamar Johnson, 60, who was arrested in 1984 and again in 1992 for multiple sexual assaults both within and outside of San Mateo County. A jury unanimously determined him to be a sexually violent predator.
Johnson has served 27 years of a 36-year sentence. The California Department of State Hospitals has deemed him no longer a threat to the public and recommended that he live in East Palo Alto, said Deputy District Attorney Alpana Samant, who presented the DA's office's opposition to Finigan during a hearing on Dec. 1.
Assistant District Attorney Shin-Mee Chang said she doesn't know the reasoning behind placing Johnson in San Mateo County. He isn't from the East Palo Alto community and his association with the county is due to being the location of his last conviction.
"This is a target-rich environment for this particular offender," Chang said, noting that East Palo Alto is densely populated, and perhaps even more so than many of its neighboring cities. Typically, sexually violent predators would be placed in more rural communities where they are less likely to encounter potential victims.
At least six schools and childrens/teens support programs are approximately within a 2,000-foot radius of the home on Beech Street where Johnson is set to be placed. They include East Palo Alto Academy, The Primary School, Oxford Day Academy, Family Connections and the Girls to Women program and Laevngamalid Christian Academy. Five additional locations serving students are located approximately 100 feet beyond the 2,000-foot circumference.
Acting Police Chief Jeff Liu also expressed his opposition in a letter to the community in late October.
"We are deeply concerned that our community could potentially have their safety at risk should this individual live near schools or rental properties," Liu wrote. "We believe the decision to allow this individual to live in such close proximity to schools and rental properties could create potentially dangerous situations for those who deserve to feel safe where they live, visit and work."
As part of his release, Johnson will be wearing a GPS tracker so authorities will know if he violates his release by entering 200 feet into a forbidden area.