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Sex offender seeks release from state hospital

Convicted child molester Lawrence Rudy Kirk is back in Sonoma County Superior Court, making his third bid for freedom in about a dozen years.

But this could be the last chance for Kirk, 65, who has been declared a sexually violent predator for repeatedly molesting pre-teenage girls and has been kept in custody beyond his prison sentence.

Kirk was committed to a state mental hospital and his right to a review every two years was struck down by California voters since his last appearance. He faces the possibility of a lifetime commitment in a state mental hospital if he fails to win release this time.

Kirk is among a handful of Sonoma County defendants to face tougher penalties in the wake of the 2006 initiative, Proposition 83, which makes more people eligible for the sexually violent predator designation.

The new law prohibits registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of parks and schools, requires lifetime GPS monitoring for the most dangerous offenders and reduces the number of prior victims to qualify the offender for the designation.

Among its most controversial provisions is the requirement that sexually violent predators be committed to a state mental hospital for an undetermined period of time rather than the automatic review ever two years. Now the burden is on the inmate, who is required to initiate and prove that he deserves a review.

Since 2006, eight Sonoma County offenders have received the commitments and seven, including Kirk, are pending, said Joan Risse, the chief deputy district attorney in charge of special prosecutions.

So far, only one person has been released to the public, she said.

Risse said under the new law, those who get committed will remain institutionalized unless they undergo treatment and can prove they are cured, Risse said.

“This is a small but extremely dangerous group of individuals who are going to act out,” Risse said. “I think the Legislature felt there should be no need to have additional victims to put them away.”

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