A hearing to decide whether to lock up "Pillowcase Rapist" Christopher Hubbart in a state mental hospital was held Wednesday in a Santa Clara County courtroom, amidst a handful of protesters who came out to say they wish he would be put behind bars again.
"We're very hopeful and excited, hoping he gets sent back to Coalinga where he belongs under lock and key, where someone is watching him," said Norma Valenti of Palmdale, one of five women who drove from Southern California to San Jose for the hearing. "We'd feel safer again. Our kids could come out and play."
Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Richard Loftus was set to listen to several hours of testimony after the Los Angeles District Attorney requested to consider revoking 64-year-old Hubbart's conditional release. A ruling is not expected to be issued on Wednesday.
At issue: Whether Hubbart violated the terms of his release by not charging his GPS ankle bracelet on two occasions and whether he took out the trash without the supervision of security guards.
Hubbart testified for about an hour, acknowledging under cross examination that he never fully charged the unit after his second violation letter was sent to him, because he wasn't aware that plugging it in for longer would result in a full charge. He said it was a simple mistake. And his Santa Clara County public defender argued that the public was never in any danger since there are plenty of other safeguards in place.
Hubbart admitted to raping 38 women in California between 1971 and 1982, about two dozen of which occurred in Los Angeles County. He was released to the Bay Area in 1979, where he raped 15 more women. He became known as the "Pillowcase Rapist" because he muffled victim's screams with pillowcases. His last-known victims were in Santa Clara County.
When Hubbart's prison term ended in 1996, he was deemed a sexually violent predator and confined to a state mental hospital. Doctors at the hospital recently concluded he was fit for release.
In July 2014, Santa Clara County Judge Gilbert Brown granted Hubbart's motion for conditional release from a state hospital and allowed him to live in Lake Los Angeles, where Hubbart was born and raised. Brown has since retired.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney's office declined on Wednesday to discuss its reason for seeking Hubbart's revocation, saying the paperwork was sealed and there was a gag order placed on the case. Hubbart's public defender didn't respond to email and phone requests for comment.
“Yeah, this is an unusual hearing,” said Steven Clark, a legal analyst and former Santa Clara County deputy district attorney.
He said the prosecutors would have to convince a judge based on two things: That they have new evidence, such as a mental health expert, who would say that Hubbart is not fit for release anymore, or that he violated a term of his release.
And that second matter, Clark said, would likely be very easy to show. “The Mr. Hubbarts of the world are under a microscope. It’s very easy to violate your terms, even if you’re trying. And there is a tremendous outcry over this case, with people saying, ‘Tthis man is just not safe because he’s not locked.’ ”
The move on Wednesday is a change for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. When she announced the hearing would be taking place earlier this month, DA Jackie Lacey said it was a positive step.
"We believe this violent predator continues to pose a serious danger to our community," Lacey said. "My office is committed to protecting the public."
Hubbart was said to be being monitored around-the-clock, and attending twice weekly therapy sessions. He is also required to wear a monitoring device around his ankle, undergo polygraph exams and submit to random searches of his house. He also lives with an around-the-clock security guard.
There has been strong resistance in Lake Los Angeles to Hubbart's release to the area. Community protests, and local elected officials have called for a revocation of his freedom. Local law enforcement officials say they are concerned with public safety. Many neighbors of Hubbart's post angry social media comments about his residency, and protesters turn up nearly every day outside Hubbart's property.
Several of Hubbart's neighbors from Acton, Palmdale, Lake Los Angeles, Little Rock and Rosamond drove the 350 miles to attend the hearing in San Jose.
"I'm not willing to risk anybody else's life or their well-being in order to say, 'Well, the guy served his time, let him go,' " said Beth Bagley of Acton. "That's not acceptable."
NBC Los Angeles' Michael Larkin and the Associated Press contributed to this report.