NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Former New York Gov. George Pataki testified Tuesday about how more than 100 sex offenders came to be institutionalized after they finished their prison sentences.
Pataki testified in Manhattan federal court. Six convicted sex offenders have sued him and the state.
As WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported, a cool but at time frustrated Pataki told a lawyer for the plaintiffs that he never ordered the program that sent them to psychiatric facilities after their prison terms were up, despite a press release from his office saying he did.
Pataki announced in October 2005 that every sexually violent predator in state custody would be evaluated for involuntary civil commitment once their prison sentences were finished.
The governor testified he simply told his team to come up with something that was legal. A state court ruled the program unconstitutional, and now the rapists and child molesters want Pataki to pay, Silverman reported.
Pataki said he approved the program after an assemblyman and a prosecutor suggested it could be done under existing law.
A plaintiff, convicted of gang raping a 16-year-old, said he felt like part of an experiment at the hospital on Wards Island and complained about his roommate there.
That roommate happened to be the East Village Cannibal, who famously served his dead girlfriend to homeless people in the 1990s.
Pataki’s lawyer has said the governor was just trying to protect the public.
About 20 states now allow certain sex offenders to be detained at psychiatric facilities after their sentences are served if they have a mental disorder that would make them more likely to offend again. For several years, Pataki had tried to get state legislators to address the issue unsuccessfully.
After a newly paroled rapist killed a woman in 2005 in a suburban mall parking lot, Pataki’s solution was to use existing laws to direct prison officials to have the worst sex offenders evaluated for involuntary civil commitment once released from prison. The practice was halted in late 2006 after a state court found that the 12 men who were committed should have been entitled to hearings before it happened, but some of the prisoners remained in psychiatric institutions years afterward.
Barbara Hathaway, a lawyer for the state, argued that the plaintiffs ended up getting the treatment they needed, calling it “a case of no harm, no foul.” Under the program, 800 people were evaluated and 127 were committed, she added.
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