Facing what they see as long odds of success, Santa Barbara County prosecutors are headed back to court this week for what they hope will be the final push to keep a sexually violent predator from being released locally.
The hearing Wednesday before the state Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento presumably will decide where Tibor Karsai will be released.
“I am not optimistic,” District Attorney Joyce Dudley said Sunday night. “This is a Hail Mary if ever there was one.”
Dudley noted that appellate judges typically are not eager to reverse their own earlier rulings, but local prosecutors believe they must try.
The court will hear oral arguments Wednesday, and likely will render its decision in two to four weeks, according to Deputy District Attorney Michael Carrozzo, the lead prosecutor on the case.
Karsai, 59, was convicted in 1974 in Santa Barbara of forcible rape, and was paroled three years later to San Luis Obispo.
He was convicted six years later of forcible rape in Placer County, and sentenced to 26 years in state prison. He was then transferred to a state mental hospital, where he was designated as a sexually violent predator.
Karsai was to be released from the mental facility early last year, but that was delayed by a protracted legal fight between officials in Placer and Santa Barbara counties that went all the way to the state Supreme Court.
Last May, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye ordered the matter returned to the Court of Appeal, which previously had ruled against Santa Barbara County.
The legal dispute centers on where Karsai was living before being incarcerated.
Dudley and Carrozzo have argued that San Luis Obispo was Karsai’s proper domicile because it was where he resided before being sentenced.
Karsai was to be released from custody through a program run by Liberty Healthcare Group, which provides supervision for people released from prison and mental hospitals.
Local prosecutors objected to Karsai’s placement in a Santa Maria residence because it was within 2,000 feet of a school.
Ultimately, that house wasn’t available, so a Placer County Superior Court judge ruled that Karsai would be released in Santa Barbara County as a transient.
A motion to stay that decision was granted by the Court of Appeal, but that court eventually denied Dudley’s request. The Supreme Court subsequently reversed that decision, and ordered the appeals court to vacate its order.
The Supreme Court also directed that Placer County should be required to “show cause” why Santa Barbara County’s motion should not be granted.
“Although the odds may be against the Court of Appeal reversing itself on the release and transfer order,” Dudley and Carrozzo said in a statement that they hope to prevail in their effort “to keep Tibor Karsai from being released as a transient to this county.”
In the meantime, Karsai remains behind bars.