In an effort to stop sexually violent predator (SVP) Joshua Cooley’s placement in a home just outside of Galt’s borders, local officials have petitioned Humboldt County Superior Court Judge John T. Feeney with reasons why Galt is not a good fit for the convict.
Feeney is slated to hear testimony from representatives from Liberty Healthcare and California Department of State Hospitals (DSH) this Friday asking that Cooley be allowed to be placed in the Harvey Road home. Sacramento County Deputy DA Brian Morgan will represent the county at the proceedings to try to stop the placement.
Morgan and the DA office solicited comments from community members to use at the hearing.
Most letters from officials make reference to the home’s close proximity to Vernon Greer Elementary School and Walker Community Park, as well as taking issue with Cooley’s lack of ties to the Galt community, citing that Cooley would not have any friends or family to offer support.
Galt City Council called a special meeting late last week in order to approve a letter to be sent on behalf of the city, asking for the court to deny the placement of Cooley in the Galt area.
“The City Council has grave concerns regarding the State’s proposal to place a sexual predator, known to prey on underage females, within walking distance of multiple school sites,” the Council letter read. “The City Council must consider the impacts of such a placement on the city, a city with limited resources to address the risks we understand exist with placing an adjudicated sexually violent predator, convicted of crimes involving minors, in very close proximity to both an elementary school and high school. Placing a sexually violent predator in a rural area with easy access to parks and schools undoubtedly threatens the safety and security of this community.”
The Council letter concludes, “The City Council cannot in good conscience accept placement of Mr. Cooley in such close proximity to our city, particularly in the absence of any demonstrated ties to our community, the proximity of schools and children to his proposed residence, and limited law enforcement response times to serve this address.”
According to Interim Galt Police Chief Brian Kalinowski’s letter to the court, Liberty Healthcare’s analysis of Galt as a viable option for Cooley is flawed.
“I believe the assessment contains substantial errors that has been prepared to justify a housing location with a cooperative landowner,” Kalinowski’s letter read. “Preparing and submitting an analysis regarding placement, when the analysis is at best misleading, should be the basis for denial.”
Kalinowski corrected distance information between Greer Elementary and the proposed residence, cutting Liberty Healthcare’s distance report by half. Where Liberty Healthcare reported a near two-mile distance, Kalinowski said the actual distance was “just under a mile.”
Correcting another Liberty Healthcare declaration, Kalinowski reported in his letter that, despite Liberty’s claim that there was a bus stop within one mile of the proposed residence, there were in fact no bus stops near the residence.
“There are no transit options in the area, other than by foot,” Kalinowski said, noting that Cooley would need to travel past the elementary school to reach any amenities within the city.
“The proposed location is also unsuitable, given the lack of amenities and ability of Mr. Cooley to travel to such locations without a vehicle,” Kalinowski said. “Again, there are no public transportation stops near the proposed location, and the Walmart cited by Liberty Healthcare as an example is 5.1 miles away, which will take approximately 1 hour 42 minutes to walk one way.”
Kalinowski also took issue with comments made by a state housing coordinator.
“Mr. Cooley has been resistant to involving himself in any treatment or programming efforts while at CSH (Coalinga State Hospital),” Housing Coordinator Terry Pavelchik reportedly wrote.
“This statement is alarming,” Kalinowski wrote. “We have a known violent sexual predator being placed into a rural part of Sacramento County, with no direct access to service, who refuses to seek or participate in treatment. This is a recipe for disaster.”
That disaster, according to Kalinowski, includes the various opportunities Cooley would have to hide from authorities, should he remove his monitoring anklet.
“The property and surrounding areas are rural in nature with many outbuildings, barns, storage facilities, creeks, drainage areas, and other locations that Mr. Cooley could use to hide from law enforcement should he decide to remove his ankle monitor,” Kalinowski wrote.
Assemblyman Jim Cooper also submitted his opinion to the deputy DA.
In addition to the proximity to the elementary school and referencing his experience serving for three decades in law enforcement, Cooper concluded that Galt is not the right place for Cooley.
“On behalf of Galt area families, I ask that you find placement for Joshua Cooley within his county of last legal residence,” Cooper wrote. “I want him to reintegrate into society and believe his chances of reoffending are exacerbated if he is placed at this location.”
State Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman, both the Galt high school and elementary school districts and the Galt District Chamber of Commerce all submitted comments to the DA; however, their statements were not available as of press time.
Cooley has been deemed an SVP by the judicial system for several sexual offenses to which he pled guilty. The crimes began in 2001, when Cooley was 20, with a second offense in 2002 to which he pled guilty of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14. The original charges for the 2002 incident were for kidnapping and rape. After serving four years and eight months, Cooley was arrested again in 2007 for violating his parole when he was caught with underage females at his home. He was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, due to the alcohol present at the scene. This sent Cooley back into the court system, where a jury ruled that he was indeed an SVP.
Since that conviction, Cooley was mandated to the DSH system where he was to receive treatment for his predilections. In 2015, Cooley petitioned the court to review his case and progress in the SVP treatment program.
Feeney was the presiding judge and ruled that Cooley had met the necessary qualifications to be conditionally released. DSH and Liberty Healthcare have been trying to find a home for Cooley ever since.
Feeney himself has rejected most proposed locations in Humboldt County. DSH and Liberty Healthcare tried to place Cooley in Tehama and San Diego counties with no success.
SVP Joshua Cooley’s housing fate is slated to be discussed at a hearing set for this Friday, Jan. 29 by Humboldt County Superior Court Judge John T. Feeney.
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