Humboldt County Superior Court Judge John T. Feeney denied the request to move Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) Joshua Cooley to a home on Harvey Road at a hearing on Friday, Jan. 29. Cooley’s lack of support and ties to the community influenced Feeney’s decision, as well as the numerous letters in opposition submitted by Galt area community members. Cooley’s attorney, Meagan O’Connell, filed for a continuance before the start of the hearing, which was also denied.
Galt was the latest of many locations proposed for Cooley up and down the state over the last four years, since the Humboldt court ruled Cooley was eligible for conditional release in 2016.
Cooley was deemed an SVP after pleading guilty for multiple sexual offenses against minors beginning in 2002, with the last offense in 2007.
Feeney began the Friday morning proceedings by saying he had come to a tentative decision regarding the Galt placement.
“I have a tentative decision at this time as to this matter,” Feeney said. “As far as the tentative decision of the court at this time … it is clear to this court that Mr. Cooley has no prior relationship with the Galt community. Also, Mr. Cooley has no system of support located within Sacramento County.”
Feeney acknowledge he had read and had time to consider the “extensive opposition” to the proposed placement submitted by numerous individuals, including Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Brian Morgan, elected officials, law enforcement executives, hundreds of Galt area community members, and written comments from Dave Rosenthal of the law firm of Rosenthal and Krieger on behalf of their clients who reside near the property.
More than 15 representatives of the Galt area attended the Zoom courtroom proceedings, prepared to speak in opposition, including Galt Mayor Shawn Farmer, City Manager Lorenzo Hines, Galt Interim Police Chief Brian Kalinowski and Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli, as well as 10 Galt area residents. However, none of those waiting online were asked to speak.
After comments by Rosenthal, Morgan, O’Connell and the Humboldt County District Attorney, Feeney made his decision official.
“With respect to the proposed or possible placement in Galt, the court denies that placement this time, and grounds or basis for this really are that Mr. Cooley has no prior relationship with the Galt community. Mr. Cooley has no system of support located within the County of Sacramento,” Feeney ruled. “Further, Humboldt is Mr. Cooley’s county of domicile, and Mr. Cooley does enjoy significant family support here in the county of Humboldt. So, the tentative decision at this time will be the decision of the court.”
Feeney acknowledge the comments submitted by the residents of Galt.
“I do appreciate all the input and comments from everybody from Sacramento County,” Feeney said. “Your input and comments, believe me, have been considered by the court.”
After the hearing, Farmer told The Galt Herald that he was proud of how the area residents pulled together, working as a team for a common cause.
“For the community to rally in short notice at the levels they did, I am very proud,” Farmer said. “The success we had is due to the collaboration of a multitude of people. We came at this from different angles, citizens writing in opposition, residents signing the petition, people doing research and local electeds submitting comments. The judge mentioned all of these things. If one of those things were missing, we may have had a different outcome.”
Farmer said that this result had a greater meaning than just the verdict from the judge.
“This is a victory in a larger war and sets a precedent – do not underestimate Galt; that is now a clear message,” Farmer said.