News

Judge rules sexually violent convict can be housed in East Palo Alto

Decision comes amid opposition from District Attorney's Office, police

Lamar Johnson, 60, who has served 27 years in prison for multiple sexual assaults, will be released to an East Palo Alto neighborhood, a judge ordered on Dec. 2, 2021. Courtesy Getty Images.

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.

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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.

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Sue Dremann
 
Sue Dremann is a veteran journalist who joined the Palo Alto Weekly in 2001. She is a breaking news and general assignment reporter who also covers the regional environmental, health and crime beats. Read more >>

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Judge rules sexually violent convict can be housed in East Palo Alto

Decision comes amid opposition from District Attorney's Office, police

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Mon, Dec 6, 2021, 9:38 am

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.

Comments

jrameyers
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Dec 6, 2021 at 12:30 pm
jrameyers, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2021 at 12:30 pm

If this man were released into Atherton, rather than East Palo Alto, there would be no end to the outcry... . I do hope that he in fact is no longer a danger to the community.


S. Underwood
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Dec 6, 2021 at 8:56 pm
S. Underwood, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2021 at 8:56 pm

There are formal, legal systems who are responsible (for better or worse) for making these determinations. If/when you feel something is rotten in a process of that nature, I would strongly encourage you to advocate / work / understand and improve those functions. Taking a single case and trying it in the court of public opinion may be good for raising awareness, but problems in systems of government need to be fixed where the problem is!


PA Community Advocate
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2021 at 6:49 am
PA Community Advocate, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Dec 8, 2021 at 6:49 am

Would Judge Jeffrey Finigan let this sexually violent convict live in their neighborhood? Shocked this judge can sleep well at night. How about this convict moves to their neighborhood?


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