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Legal Battle Ends; Sexual Predator to Be Released Locally

Tibor Karsai
Tibor Karsai

A year-long legal battle by Santa Barbara County authorities to prevent a sexually violent predator from being released in Santa Barbara County has ended with a negative ruling by the California Supreme Court.

As a result of the court’s March 20 decision, Tibor Karsai will be out of custody in about two weeks, said District Attorney Joyce E. Dudley, and will be released to Santa Barbara County as a transient.

“The District Attorney’s Office has now done everything it could to prevent Karsai’s release as a transient,” Dudley said Tuesday. “Our goal all along has been to protect the community and prevent Karsai from re-offending.”

Karsai, 59, was convicted in 1974 in Santa Barbara of forcibly raping a 19_year-old woman, 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 twice 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 centered on where Karsai was living before being incarcerated.

Local prosecutors 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.

Dudley’s office filed a new petition with the Supreme Court, asking for Karsai’s release to be stayed pending a decision from the high court, a request that was turned down last week.

Although Karsai will be released as a transient, Liberty Healthcare will still be responsible for his living arrangements and monitoring, Dudley said.

Anticipating her appeal might be turned down by the Supreme Court, Dudley has been working with Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo, to change the law regarding release of sexually violent predators.

“Once again Assemblyman Achadjian has agreed to work with our office on our collective goal of increasing public safety,” Dudley said.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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