Archive for Thursday, March 16, 2006

High court expected to rule in April

March 16, 2006

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 west of Linwood, said it's unlikely Hendricks would re-offend if he lives in the home's controlled environment.

"His flight risk is minimal," Lee said.

But Leavenworth County counselor David Van Parys said Hendricks' designation as a sex predator means he cannot 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 will issue a decision -- probably no 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 were rebuffed. Hendricks currently lives at Osawatomie State Hospital.

Whitson, director of Community Provisional Living Inc., is seeking to overturn a district court order that prevented Hendricks from being placed in the Leavenworth County home.

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 people 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.

But 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 legal 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 people 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 Austin DesLauriers , a psychologist and clinical program director at Larned State Hospital who has treated Hendricks for 10 years.

DesLauriers has said Hendricks would not be a danger, if monitored.

In a 2004 annual review of Hendricks' case, DesLauriers wrote that Hendricks asserts that since his stroke "that part of my body is kaput."

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