by Photo courtesy of the San Diego Sheriffs Department

A judge today approved the conditional release of a man classified as a sexually violent predator to a home in Borrego Springs.

The order means Michael Martinez, 69, will be relocated from Coalinga State Hospital to a home located at 3406 Running M Road, where he will be monitored via GPS and receive treatment. The placement is expected to occur within the next 45 days.

Martinez is classified as a sexually violent predator, a designation for those convicted of sexually violent offenses and diagnosed with a mental disorder that makes them likely to re-offend. After serving their prison sentences, SVPs may undergo treatment at state hospitals, but may also petition courts to continue treatment in supervised outpatient locations.

According to the San Diego County District Attorney's Office, Martinez was convicted in four separate cases between 1979 and 2004 for offenses that occurred in San Diego and Los Angeles counties and has been diagnosed with pedophilia and personality disorders. The crimes for which he was convicted include child molestation, annoying/molesting a child, lewd or lascivious acts upon a child under 14 and annoying a child under 18, according to the DA's office.

San Diego Superior Court Judge David M. Gill, who heard fervent opposition from elected officials and Borrego Springs residents at a prior hearing, said he visited the property and neighborhood on Thursday. Gill also heard testimony from clinicians and others earlier this year, and approved Martinez's return to the community at the conclusion of that hearing.

Gill said at Friday's hearing that Martinez's conditional release was "supported by all the information I have'' and said he was "impressed'' with the work of Liberty Healthcare, the agency contracted to operate the conditional release program for SVPs.

Alan Stillman, executive director for Liberty Healthcare, said 55 SVPs have been released over the past two decades, none of whom have re-offended.

Gill noted that Martinez was previously placed on conditional release, but was sent back to the hospital.

Stillman did not get into the specifics of Martinez's return to the state hospital, but said it did not involve a re-offense or attempted re-offense on Martinez's part.

Stillman said Martinez violated conditions "related to information he was supposed to share and issues relating to some thinking distortions'' and elaborated, "There was concern that this behavior might lead to some more behaviorally-oriented violations, and our job is to catch it before that happens. We expect our clients who come into our communities to live up to what they say they will do and he was not at that time.''

In addition to GPS monitoring, Stillman said the SVPs are monitored with daily contacts with Liberty staff, contacts with treatment personnel for two to three hours per week, and regularly scheduled polygraph testing.

Though Liberty staff members are currently located about an hour away from the Running M Road property if needed to respond to any issues, Stillman said Liberty was looking to house staff at a hotel or motel at a closer location. He said law enforcement could also respond within 10 to 15 minutes, if need be.

Borrego Springs resident Jon Stillman, who lives across the street from the proposed property, called Gill's decision "horribly disappointing'' and said it "feels like a violation of our community fabric.''

When asked about the judge's comments that he would not "tolerate any 'self-help' or vigilante action by people out there,'' Stillman said Gill's statements were “a little insulting and offensive.''

Stillman said residents would continue to fight the release. He reiterated an issue brought up in court by Deputy District Attorney Martin Doyle regarding a homeschooling program operating a few doors down from the
Running M Road property. Stillman said that to his understanding, an SVP cannot be placed within one-quarter of a mile of a public or private school.

Regarding the quality of Martinez's supervision, Stillman said he doesn't believe Liberty Healthcare did their due diligence regarding the property's suitability and said that “the judge puts a lot of faith in Liberty Healthcare than we don't put in Liberty Healthcare.''

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