For 11 years, Cory E. Roberts was housed at the state’s center for sexually violent predators and for 11 years he stalled efforts to have him committed there.
Last month he won the argument and on Monday was released into Tacoma after two experts decided he did not meet the criteria for being committed at the Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island.
“What stunned me about this particular defendant’s release was not only his horrific history, but his unwillingness to pursue treatment while at McNeil Island,” Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said.
The 37-year-old’s convictions include sexually and physically assaulting a 3-year-old girl in 1990 when he was 13 and living in Benton County. Roberts had responded to a babysitting ad and was supposed to be caring for the toddler.
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The child suffered permanent brain damage and paralysis as well as blindness in one eye and loss of sight in the other, her mother, Kelly McGinnis, told KIRO-TV.
“He’s a monster,” McGinnis said.
Her daughter regularly asks if Roberts is in jail, said McGinnis, who told KIRO she’ll keep telling her he is. The brain injury from the attack left her daughter with the mental ability of a 10-year-old, and learning about the release would be too much for her, McGinnis said.
Roberts is registered as a level three sex offender, those considered most likely to reoffend. He told authorities he is living in the 7200 block of South Fawcett Street in Tacoma.
His attorney did not return a News Tribune request for comment.
The history of sex offenses that landed Roberts at the SCC began in 1990 with the attack on the 3-year-old.
He was convicted of first-degree child rape for the attack, and four years later was convicted of third-degree rape for sexually assaulting two roommates while serving time at a juvenile facility for the 1990 crime.
He finished his prison sentence in 2001 and moved to King County, where he placed on supervision. Three months later, court records show, a King County woman reported Roberts might have abused her 3-year-old son.
Based of the allegation, King County authorities had Roberts arrested and detained for investigation of whether he was a sexually violent predator.
He does not appear to have been charged in connection with the alleged abuse, but was found guilty of contact with the minor, among other parole violations, according to the records.
After serving time for those violations, he was sent to the SCC in June 2003 under provisions of the Sexually Violent Predator Civil Commitment statute. He remained there for 11 years while authorities tried to have him committed and treated at the facility.
During that time, Roberts “constantly litigated and delayed the trial,” King County prosecutor Dan Satterberg said in a statement this week.
Authorities eventually had to give up their fight to commit Roberts.
“As we neared the trial date,” Satterberg said, “experts retained by the state concluded that Roberts did not have the kind of ‘mental abnormality’ that we must prove to a jury in order to obtain an order of involuntary civil commitment.”
After reviewing many documents and interviewing Roberts for six hours, psychologist Brian Judd wrote that Roberts’ risk for sexual recidivism did not meet the standard to commit him.
A sex offender risk assessment suggested fewer than 15 percent of people with a score like Roberts’ reoffended within five years, Judd noted.
However, he wrote, “his risk for non-sexual violence will remain elevated based upon his assessed level of psychopathy and residual personality disorder.”
One assessment, Judd added, suggested that within 15 years, 82 percent of inmates with similar scores to Roberts’ committed additional violent offenses, including sex offenses.
Psychologist Amy Phenix wrote that she agreed with Judd’s opinion and noted he would be under supervision if released.
“Should he place himself in high-risk situations, it is likely he will be returned to custody where he will be subject to re-evaluation for his risk when released,” she wrote.
Court records show Roberts had poor treatment compliance during the first years in prison, starting in 1991, and dropped out of sexual deviancy treatment while at the SCC.
Now that he’s been released, he will begin 21 months of supervision for his 1994 conviction. Supervision had been put on hold while Roberts was at the SCC.
The supervision requires him to report to a community corrections officer, have no prolonged contact with minor children and not spend time in areas where minors gather,
He also must take part in mental health and sex offender treatment and not possess pornography, among other restrictions. In addition, the Corrections Department is imposing GPS monitoring.
Roberts has been in compliance with the conditions of his supervision since his release, said Norah West, a spokeswoman for the Corrections Department.
As neighbors learned Roberts had moved to Tacoma, some expressed worry.
“There’s kids all over the place,” neighbor Sean Murray told KIRO-TV. “I feel concerned a little bit.”
But if Roberts doesn’t cause problems, Murray said he had no issue with him living next door.
“As long as he stays quiet, doesn’t do anything, doesn’t cause any trouble, I really don’t care, as long as he keeps his distance,” Murray told KIRO.
Neighbor Kim Wilson said she’s a grandmother of 2-year-old twins and a 6-year-old.
“It’s not good,” Wilson told KIRO-TV, when asked about Roberts living nearby.
That Roberts is living in Pierce County, when his convictions were elsewhere, is part of a broader issue, Lindquist said.
“Pierce County has long had a problem with offenders, particularly sex offenders convicted in other counties, being released on our streets,” he said.
Services such as halfway houses and treatment providers in the county draw offenders to the area, he said, adding his office has been working with the Corrections Department to get a better balance of such facilities throughout the state.
A recent change in state law that requires offenders to return to the county where they committed their crimes does not apply to Roberts, who was released not from a prison but from the SCC, which is run by the state Department of Social and Health Services.
Lindquist said his understanding is that Roberts is in Tacoma, because of the services available.
“As I review his history, he shouldn’t have been released in the first place, and now we have to deal with him,” he said.
“What happened here, and I can’t explain why,” Lindquist said, “is that two experts looked at his history of offenses, looked at his lack of success in treatment and yet couldn’t find that he possessed the mental abnormality necessary for him to be confined.”