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CDCR says Gardner never violated sex offender residence restrictions

April 5, 2010 - 11:20 am

Note: This blog has been updated since it was initially published to clarify some points.

The media continues to report that John Gardner, the man accused of murdering 17-year-old Chelsea King, violated parole multiple times—and that parole officials declined to send him back to prison. But at a public hearing last Wednesday in Poway, officials with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) said that Gardner never committed a serious parole violation.

What’s been getting the most attention is the fact that Gardner lived near a daycare center at Miramar College and an elementary school. Corrections officials said that a parole supervisor allowed Gardner stay in the apartment unit until his lease ran out. “Because it [the parole term] was descretionary in nature and the offender lived 2,100 feet from a school”—the requirement was 2,400 feet—”the agent allowed him to stay. It’s not like he was across the street” from the school, Deputy Director of Parole, Margarita Perez, told Assemblymembers Nathan Fletcher and Albert Torrico—who convened last week’s public hearing.

“The fact of the matter is, Gardner was never in violation of residency restrictions,” said Scott Kernan, undersecretary of operations for CDCR. Gardner remained in the apartment and got a new parole agent in 2007, who referred him to the Board of Prison Terms for a possible violation under Jessica’s Law, which prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park. Gardner, however, was paroled before Jessica’s Law was enacted and therefore not subject to it. “The board continued him on parole because… there was no law prohibiting him from living where he lived at the time,” Kernan said.

Gardner was also found to be in possession of marijuana on Nov. 19, 2008, near the end of his parole. But, because he had less than an ounce, it was considered an infraction, Kernan said, and not referable to the Board of Prison Terms. If he’d been in possession of more than an ounce, that would have been a referable offense, Kernan said, and the BPT would have discretion to send Gardner back to prison for up to a year. At the Wednesday hearing, victims-rights advocate Nina Salarno-Ashford said that marijuana possession, no matter how small, should be a red flag to parole agents. “Marijuana in the hands of a sexual offender is a predicate to their crimes,” she said.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 5, 2010 - 12:44 pm 12:44 pm

    Kelly, the implication of your post is that he did NOT have multiple parole violations and that “the media” is mistaken for saying he did.

    The discussion last week regarding this incident was whether the residency issue was a violation of law OTHER THAN a parole violation. The department has not disputed, and does not dispute, that the living arrangement was a violation of his parole conditions.

    The question last week was, did he violate provisions of law regarding sex offender residency. The department now takes the position that his agent was mistaken in saying it WAS a violation of law. Therefore, the BPH hearing was not mandatory.

    But that doesn’t mean there was no parole violation, only that there was no new crime committed.

    As you know, the department can at its discretion revoke for parole violations but chose not to in Gardner’s case.

  2. April 5, 2010 - 1:14 pm 1:14 pm

    Ricky,

    I say that CDCR “made it clear that Gardner never committed a serious parole violation,” not that he never committed a parole violation.

    At the meeting, the discussion was about whether Gardner violated the terms of his parole in regards to where he was living, not whether he had committed a new offense. According to CDCR, there was confusion over which residence restrictions he was subject to.

    Violating residence restrictions doesn’t constitute committing a new crime. It’s a parole violation, even under Jessica’s Law.

    As far as your last point, they’re generally not going to refer a person to BPT over a low GPS battery or a missed meeting unless there’s evidence that the person’s absconded in the past by letting his GPS battery wear down. If parolees were violated for every minor thing, the system would break down.

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