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Auburn rapist set to be released

SoCal city trying to prevent Karsai’s return
By: Brian Bullock Staff Writer/Santa Maria Times
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Editor’s note: This story on convicted rapist Tibor Karsai is reprinted with permission from the Santa Maria Times. Karsai is scheduled to appear in Placer County court Dec. 5. By Brian Bullock Staff Writer/Santa Maria Times SANTA MARIA — Santa Maria officials planned to take steps Tuesday night to prevent the release of a sexually violent predator here, City Attorney Gil Trujillo said Monday. Trujillo, Police Chief Danny Macagni and Sgt. Terry Flaa held a press conference Monday to inform city residents about what they are doing to prevent the release in Santa Maria of Tibor Karsai, 58, a sexually violent predator who has been in state prison and the state mental hospital system since 1980. Karsai was working as a truck driver when he was convicted of the kidnapping and rape of a 16-year-old girl in an Auburn bowling alley on Feb. 18, 1980. He was sentenced to 26 years in prison, and in 1998 the Placer County District Attorney’s Office had him committed to the state mental hospital system. The Placer County District Attorney’s office petitioned every two years since that commitment to keep Karsai in custody. The last petition was filed in 2006. According to the Placer County District Attorney, Karsai’s most recent hearing ended in a hung jury, so instead of conducting another hearing, prosecutors there agreed to a conditional release of Karsai. Trujillo said the city is working on two fronts to keep Karsai out of Santa Maria. The City Council will pass an urgency resolution at its regular Tuesday night meeting that will take effect immediately and clearly define the distance a sexually violent predator can live from a school or park. Jessica’s Law — California Penal Code 3003.5 — prohibits registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park. Trujillo also said Assistant City Attorney Phil Sinco and Senior Deputy District Attorney John MacKinnon will attend a Dec. 5 hearing in Placer County Superior Court to argue that Karsai’s residence at the time of his offense was not Santa Barbara County. A story in the Auburn Journal following his arrest listed San Luis Obispo County has home for Karsai. State law requires parolees be released to the county of their last permanent residence. Karsai’s last registered address was in Morro Bay in San Luis Obispo County before his conviction in Placer County, according to Santa Barbara court records. Chief Deputy District Attorney Stephen Foley said Karsai was paroled to Morro Bay following his release from prison for a 1974 rape conviction that occurred in Santa Barbara County. Flaa, an investigator working on the case, said Karsai’s only apparent connection to Santa Maria is that his mother moved here in the years following her son’s conviction. He said police would only release the exact location of Karsai’s residence if and when he begins living here to protect his family. “They didn’t commit the crimes, he did,” Flaa said. “When he is here and home, that’s when we’ll do the public dissemination of the information.” Both Liberty Elementary School, at 1300 W. Sonya Lane, and Westgate Park are within 2,000 feet of the residence being considered for Karsai’s release. Liberty Elementary is a kindergarten through sixth-grade school with an enrollment of 719 students. “We have kids on that campus from 7 in the morning until 6 at night because it’s part of our ASES (After School Education and Safety) program,” said Maggie White, spokesperson for the Santa Maria-Bonita School District. “We have it at all of our schools and that includes Liberty.” Trujillo said Garbolini interpreted the distances spelled out in Jessica’s Law to mean 2,000 feet of traveling distance. He said the city’s urgency resolution will define that distance as “straight-line” distance, or property line to property line. “We believe the ordinance will make the court reconsider its decision,” Trujillo said. “The judge’s ruling is based on his interpretation of Jessica’s Law. “We believe Jessica’s Law was to create a predator-free zone.” Sexually violent predators are required to check in with law enforcement every 90 days, according to Flaa, who said Liberty Health Care will be monitoring Karsai’s supervised living program. The Forensic Conditional Release Program (CONREP) is the California Department of Mental Health’s statewide system that provides support services to mental health patients. Flaa said the police would be working closely with the health care company to keep tabs on Karsai if he is released to live in the city. “Once an actual decision on where he will be released is made, we will send out a dissemination flier to alert the neighborhood,” Flaa said. If the release is confirmed by the Placer County Superior Court, Karsai will be the only sexually violent predator registered in Santa Maria. The city has 146 registered sex offenders, according to the Megan’s Law website, which has information on more than 63,000 registered sex offenders in the state. Santa Barbara County has 391 registered offenders on the website. “We’re going to be right on top of this issue. We’re not pleased with it,” Macagni said. “We’ll do what he have to do to protect our citizens.”