A sexually violent predator is a step closer to being released into Santa Barbara County as a transient following a ruling by a state appeals court.
The Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento on Thursday denied a petition seeking to prevent Tibor Karsai from being released locally, according to Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley.
“There is nothing in the (law) that precludes a court from ordering the conditional release of a person committed as a sexually violent predator, even though no fixed residence has been located for the person before his release,” the court wrote in its 21-page ruling.
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 Santa Barbara and Placer 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.
Local prosecutors 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.
Having lost in the latest round at the appeals court, Dudley said her office will file a new petition with the Supreme Court, and also ask for Karsai’s release to be stayed pending a decision from the high court.