Friday, August 20, 2021

Humboldt Judge Rescinds Release of Convicted Sex Offender

Posted By on Fri, Aug 20, 2021 at 3:18 PM

A Humboldt County Superior Court judge issued a ruling last week striking his December of 2016 order for the conditional release of a local man who's been designated as a Sexually Violent Predator.

According to a Humboldt District Attorney's Office news release, Judge John Feeney's Aug. 13 ruling was based not only on the inability to find a placement for Joshua Cooley but "also on his recent behavior at the state hospital, which included refusal to participate in treatment programs."

Cooley is currently housed at Coalinga State Hospital,  a locked psychiatric facility for sexual offenders, where he will remain "unless a judge concludes that he could be safely returned to public life," the release states.

Feeney previously blocked Cooley’s release to Garberville and Eureka in 2019 as well as a rural Freshwater neighborhood in 2018, finding those areas were not a suitable placement.

There was also opposition from the DA's Office, local law enforcement and community members in each of those cases.

“Achieving the right outcome in this case depended on citizens making the effort to get involved, along with exceptional effort by Assistant District Attorney Stacey Eads to clearly and comprehensively present the People’s position in many written communications," District Attorney Maggie Fleming said in the release.  "I appreciate the efforts of everyone who provided Judge Feeney with the information he needed to fairly evaluate Cooley’s current condition and potential for release, and to make the appropriate decision.”

Cooley was committed to the hospital on his Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) designation in 2010 after serving prison time for sexually assaulting a minor. After an appeal, his petition for release was granted in December of 2016, with the search for a suitable placement taking place in the ensuing years.

According to the DA's Office, the state has made more than seven specific proposals for Cooley's placement and considered more than 7,000 potential sites.

Read more about the SVP designation process in the Journal’s Aug. 20, 2015, story “Free and Afraid.”


Read the DA's Office release below:
On August 13th, Judge John Feeney issued a ruling striking his December 2016 order for conditional release of Joshua Cooley from the State Hospital in Coalinga, a locked psychiatric facility for sexual offenders. Cooley has been housed at Coalinga since 2010, after a Humboldt County jury found him to be a “Sexually Violent Predator”.

Feeney’s December-2016 order for Cooley’s release and the proposal of several specific placement sites that followed – including several in Humboldt County – received substantial opposition. District Attorney (DA) Maggie Fleming opposed the original order because the majority of psychological experts who had evaluated Cooley did not conclude that he could be safely returned to public life. As the State proposed specific placement sites, the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office, along with other District Attorneys, individual citizens, community service providers, and law enforcement, presented reasons why Cooley’s release at those locations would not be reasonable.

In the effort to place Cooley, the State made over 7 specific proposals for placement and considered more than 7,000 potential sites. Judge Feeney’s recent ruling relied not only on the inability to place Cooley, but also on his recent behavior at the State Hospital, which included refusal to participate in treatment programs. The ruling means that Cooley will remain confined at Coalinga unless a judge concludes that he could be safely returned to public life.

Cooley’s potential for release will continue to receive annual evaluation.

DA Fleming stated: “Achieving the right outcome in this case depended on citizens making the effort to get involved, along with exceptional effort by Assistant District Attorney Stacey Eads to clearly and comprehensively present the People’s position in many written communications. I appreciate the efforts of everyone who provided Judge Feeney with the information he needed to fairly evaluate Cooley’s current condition and potential for release, and to make the appropriate decision.”
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Kimberly Wear

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Kimberly Wear is the assistant editor of the North Coast Journal.

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