Crime & Justice

Orange County officials warn about release of convicted child rapist

Lawrence Brown, 2010 booking photo.
Lawrence Brown, 2010 booking photo.
Courtesy Orange County District Attorney's Office

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Orange County officials are warning about Wednesday's scheduled release of a man convicted of kidnap and rape in the mid-1980s. They’re say the state Department of Mental Health should keep Lawrence Brown locked up in a mental institution under California’s violent sexual predator law.

A jury convicted Lawrence Brown 25 years ago for the kidnap and rape of a 7-year-old and an 8-year-old girl.

He was sentenced to 49 years in prison – but was released earlier this year after serving only half of his sentence.

Authorities are angry they weren’t notified about his initial parole. They say the system to release violent sexual predators is not open and transparent.

They say this spring, Brown registered as a sex offender in Santa Ana, but moved in with his girlfriend in Tustin, 350 yards from a school.

They arrested him 10 days after his release for violating his parole by letting the batteries die on his GPS monitor.

Brown is due out again – and Tustin Police Chief Scott Jordan says officers are fanning out in the neighborhood around Brown’s girlfriend’s house.

"And we’re going to put out flyers with his picture, letting the neighborhood know that Brown may be in that area, whether he registers with us or not," Jordan said during a press conference. "We’re going to meet with the Tustin Unified School District and share flyers with them, so they can notify all their schools."

Jordan says they’re meeting with private schools in the area, too.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas says the 52-year-old ex-con should not be released at all. He’s upset that the state Department of Mental Health didn’t find Brown met the criteria to be committed to a mental institution as a violent sexual predator.

Rackauckas says the state Mental Health Department’s evaluation process needs to change.

"The Department of Mental Health conduct their sessions in secret," he says. "We have no right to review or appeal their nonsensical decisions, no ability to present relevant evidence or relevant information, no indication that they bothered to review the information that we did carefully provide to them. You would expect that these types of secretive practices might exist someplace like, for example, North Korea, not here."

The state Department of Mental Health said in a written statement that it fulfilled all of its legal obligations in this case.

"The Department of Mental Health utilizes independent evaluators who are specifically trained and licensed as psychologists or psychiatrists to conduct evaluations of individuals to see if they meet the legal criteria of a sexually violent predator," the statement says. "The Department continues to fulfill the screening, evaluation, and notification expectations as outlined in law."

Rackauckas says he's working with state Senator Lou Correa to create legislation to change the parole process for sexual predators, so everyone can have a say.

Correa says he's concerned that this sort of early release of convicts may start to happen more often.

"I suspect – just my gut instinct based on everything I know, what the state is going through, the budgetary challenges – that you’re going to begin to see a push more for these early releases," Correa says. "And we’ve got to say 'Wait a minute. Let’s make sure this is logical and that we’re not releasing individuals like Mr. Brown out on the streets to commit another crime.' These are very heinous crimes."

Correa says he would also like to include in his legislation some sort of appeals process for parole cases like this one.

Correa says he hopes to introduce the legislation when the state Senate reconvenes in Sacramento in early December.

In the meantime, Tustin and Santa Ana police say they plan to closely watch Brown, if he settles in their neighborhoods. They want parents to show their kids his picture so they can avoid him, as well.