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Northern California judge to hear public comment on serial rapist's release

FILE - This undated file image provided by the Department of Justice shows convicted serial rapist Christopher Hubbart. A Santa Clara County judge is exploring whether to release Hubbart to a Southern California residence over the objections of the Los Angeles County district attorney and others. Authorities announced Friday, April 4, 2014, that a landlord in a sparsely populated area east of Palmdale has agreed to rent a home to Hubbart when he is released from the mental hospital he has be confined to since 1996. Hubbart admitted to raping 38 women between 1971 and 1982. (AP Photo/Department of Justice, File)

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FILE - This undated file image provided by the Department of Justice shows convicted serial rapist Christopher Hubbart. A Santa Clara County judge is exploring whether to release Hubbart to a Southern California residence over the objections of the Los Angeles County district attorney and others. Authorities announced Friday, April 4, 2014, that a landlord in a sparsely populated area east of Palmdale has agreed to rent a home to Hubbart when he is released from the mental hospital he has be confined to since 1996. Hubbart admitted to raping 38 women between 1971 and 1982. (AP Photo/Department of Justice, File)

LOS ANGELES, Calif. - After months of writing letters and signing petitions, community members of a sparsely populated portion of Los Angeles County will finally have a chance to be heard by a judge who they feel has unfairly decided to dump a serial rapist into their midst. The only catch: They must travel 560 kilometres north to Santa Clara County Superior Court to do so.

The decision by a Northern California judge to release 63-year-old Christopher Evans Hubbart to a desert community in the Antelope Valley has been met by vociferous opposition from the Los Angeles County district attorney and others. Hubbart has acknowledged raping and assaulting about 40 women between 1971 and 1982.

Authorities announced in April that an Antelope Valley landlord had agreed to rent a home to Hubbart, after another landlord last year succumbed to public pressure and pulled the offer.

"We're a dumping ground," said Palmdale Mayor James Ledford. "It's very frustrating. He didn't offend here. He offended 40 times we know of elsewhere. So why us? Again. There's just no accountability in the system."

Hubbart was ordered released by Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Gilbert Brown to Los Angeles County last year because he was born and raised there; his more recent crimes were committed in Santa Clara County. When his prison term ended in 1996, he was deemed a sexually violent predator and confined to a state mental hospital.

Release terms would require him to wear a GPS ankle bracelet, continue treatment, obey a curfew and be subject to random searches and seizures, drug testing and polygraphs.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office has collected more than 4,000 letters, emails and cards opposing Hubbart's release in Los Angeles County and will submit those to the court at Wednesday's hearing, said spokeswoman Jane Robison. The local community in the Antelope Valley has also generated about 8,000 letters, Ledford said.

At a rally Tuesday, more than a hundred people including Ledford held up signs and wore T-shirts opposing Hubbart's release. About eight Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies stood watch nearby a "shack" that would become Hubbart's home, Ledford said. Though it would likely fetch about $500 a month in rent, the state will pay about $2,400 a month, Ledford said.

Ledford said the judge, who isn't elected by local voters, declined to allow video or telephone conferencing for people who couldn't make the roughly six-hour drive midweek, Ledford said.

Democratic Assemblyman Steve Fox of Palmdale plans to speak against Hubbart's release at the hearing, said spokeswoman Sandra Kramer. Fox has authored a bill to revise the state's Sexually Violent Predator Act so that potential areas for release must be given notice and an opportunity to be heard in court prior to selection. It would also then transfer the case to the local county's court for supervision.

Cheryl Holbrook, who is one of the Ladies of Lake LA, a community group created to fight Hubbart's release to their community, left town Tuesday evening with three other women to travel north. Speakers must sign in by 10 a.m. in order to comment.

Holbrook, who lives about 5 miles away from Hubbart's proposed home, said she's been flashing back to when she was raped as a 14-year-old by two men at knifepoint and impregnated.

"We're not going to tolerate this," Holbrook said. "We don't want him here. He's going to be out in the middle of the desert, out in the middle of nowhere, where if he attacks someone they're going to scream for their life and no one's going to hear."

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