Battle to bar sex offenders from county argued in front of Kansas Supreme Court
Topeka Attorneys argued Tuesday that housing sex predator Leroy Hendricks in Leavenworth County hinges on the question of whether the 71-year-old pedophile remains a danger.
Greg Lee, an attorney for Richard Whitson who wants to keep Hendricks in a group home, said Hendricks would unlikely offend again if he lives in the controlled environment of the group home in rural Leavenworth County. Whitson, director of Community Provisional Living Inc., is seeking to overturn a district court order that prevented Hendricks being placed in the home in southwest Leavenworth County.
"His flight risk is minimal," Lee said.
But attorney David Van Parys, representing Leavenworth County commissioners, said Hendricks' designation as a sex predator meant he could not be placed in a group home.
Referring to witnesses in earlier hearings, Van Parys said, "Every one of them testified that Mr. Hendricks was a danger to other persons."
The Kansas Supreme Court took the case under consideration and isn't expected to issue a decision earlier than April 28.
Hendricks is the first offender in a special sex predator treatment program in Kansas to have reached a point where officials say he should be released into a monitored residence.
But attempts last year to settle Hendricks in Lawrence and then rural Leavenworth County have been rebuffed. Hendricks currently is living at Osawatomie State Hospital.
Whitson has a provisional license from the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services to operate a group home for up to three sex offenders, according to court records. If placed in the home, Hendricks would be monitored round-the-clock and get a polygraph test every three months, Lee said.
But a resolution by the Leavenworth County commissioners said Whitson's license violated the county's zoning regulations. Group homes for persons with mental illnesses and disabilities are allowed, but only if the person is not a danger to others, the commissioners argue. Hendricks, the commissioners claim, remains a danger.
Lee told justices on Tuesday that because of Hendricks' age and physical problems from a stroke and diabetes and his 11 years of treatment, he was no longer a danger.
SRS has filed a brief siding with Whitson, saying the agency must be able to place offenders outside state hospitals once they are deemed ready.
Hendricks is one of more than 150 men who have been committed to the sex predator treatment program at Larned State Hospital. The program is for offenders who already completed their prison sentence but were determined to be a continuing danger and placed in the program under a civil commitment process.
SRS argues that for the sex predator commitment program to be constitutional, it must allow for the eventual release of some of these individuals who have been treated.
Hendricks has a long history of sex offenses involving children, dating to the 1950s, according to court documents.
Some justices on Tuesday said the inability to fit Hendricks within the group home law may be something the Legislature must address.
Much of Tuesday's arguments centered on the opinion of Dr. Austin DesLauriers, a psychologist and clinical program director at Larned Hospital who has treated Hendricks for 10 years.
DesLauriers has said that Hendricks would not be a danger if monitored.