(Editor's note: There are details in this article that are graphic and may be difficult for some to read).
A Porterville man who was released from Coalinga State Prison three years ago and received a $4.5 million settlement for essentially having his due process violated has been charged with crimes against children.
Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward announced the filing of criminal charges against Jorge Vasquez, 46, for crimes against multiple children. Vasquez is charged with eight counts of child molestation and one count of failure to register as a sex offender.
The crimes are alleged to have occurred between June 5, 2018, and June 5, 2021, against two minor victims ages 6 to 10 in Tulare County, with one count alleged to have occurred in San Luis Obispo County. Special allegations include multiple victims, habitual sexual offense, substantial sexual conduct, and that Vasquez possesses prior convictions.
Vasquez was scheduled to be arraigned on Tuesday afternoon when a future court date would be be set. If convicted of all charges, he faces life in prison.
Despite pleas from Los Angeles County prosecutors, Vasquez was released from Coalinga State Hospital in 2018. While in his early 20s, Vasquez was accused of luring young boys who lived in his South Los Angeles neighborhood, promising him candy. He was convicted of molesting several children ages 6-8.
At the request of prosecutors Vasquez was confined to a state hospital to receive mental health treatment while he awaiting trial on a petition from prosecutors that he was a sexually violent predator. Originally he was supposed to be held for two years.
But Vasquez was held for 17 years and in early 2018, Superior Court Judge James Bianco ruled in being held for that long, Vasquez's Constitutional rights were violated by the repeated delays. At the time, it was also feared Bianco's decision could lead to the release of other sex offenders in a state hospital who have been waiting years for a trial.
Bianco wrote in his ruling delays in Vasquez's case were “oppressive to the maximum degree.” Bianco stated requests for postponements in the case came many times without reason and came from both prosectors and defense attorneys.
In 2014, prosecutors pressed for a trial, but the continued delays were caused almost entirely by defense attorneys.
“There was a systematic breakdown of the public defender system,” Bianco ruled. He also noted Vasquez had five public defenders at different times.
One of two state psychologists who examined him concluded Vasquez no longer qualified as a sexually violent predator.
The Los Angeles Times quoted Deputy District Attorney Richard Ceballos at the time: “The end result is a convicted child molester is going to be released. I'm really afraid he will molest again.”
Vasquez filed a lawsuit against the public defenders office, claiming his civil rights were violated. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a $4.5 million settlement to Vasquez last summer.
Vasquez pleaded no contest in 1995 to four counts of lewd or lascivious acts on a child under 14 and was sentenced to 12 years in state prison.
After Vasquez had served his time, in September 2000, the District Attorney’s Office filed a petition seeking to have Vasquez committed to a state hospital as a sexually violent predator, arguing he was too dangerous to be released.
“It may well be there was strong evidence in the People’s favor, but it was the government’s burden to prove Vasquez was an SVP (sexually violent predator) and Vasquez had a right to present evidence showing he did not pose a risk to the public. He was denied this right for 17 years,” the appellate court ruled.
In its ruling, the appellate court did note Bianco had conceded the “potential risk to public safety that attends Mr. Vasquez’s release from custody.”
In its ruling the appellate court also noted if the prosecution had prevailed from the outset, Vasquez would have been committed for just two years.
While the one psychologist concluded Vasquez no longer qualified as a sexually violent predator, in its appeal, the DA noted there was a long history of evaluations recommending Vasquez being committed as a sexually violent predator. In one evaluation, a doctor stated support for the DA's petition, saying over a seven-week period, Vasquez offered candy to at least five boys if they showed him their private parts. After the boys complied, Vasquez allegedly forced them to orally copulate him, according to court documents.
County attorneys, citing risks and uncertainties of litigation, recommended the $4.5 million settlement.