After earning nearly unanimous support in the Legislature, Governor Jerry Brown today vetoed Senate Bill 722 by Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel). The bill would have cracked down on sex offenders who willfully remove or disable their GPS (Global Positioning System) tracking devices.
“I’m very disappointed that Governor Brown rejected my bipartisan bill,” said Bates. “The savage murders of at least four Orange County women at the hands of sex offenders – who previously removed their GPS devices – clearly show the need for SB 722. If anyone deserves to serve longer prison terms, then it should be violent sex offenders who tamper with their GPS devices. I will work with stakeholders to consider next steps as existing law is not just or cost-effective enough for the victims who lost their lives.”
According to the State Board of Parole Hearings, “the number of new GPS violation charges for sex offender parolees initiated prior to serving time in custody – in other words, new charges that occurred when they should have been serving time for an earlier violation – has increased after realignment from 99 cases in the 15 months prior to realignment to 495 cases in the 15 months following the start date of realignment.” Approved by the Legislature and signed by Governor Brown in 2011, realignment is the shifting of thousands of inmates from state prison to county jails.
A killing spree in Orange County that left at least four women dead shows the need for stronger penalties for removal of a GPS device. In 2012, Franc Cano and Steve Gordon, who were on release from state prison for prior convictions of child molestation, cut off their state-mandated GPS ankle bracelets and left California by bus. By the time police caught up to the pair, the penalty they received for removing the devices was minor. One was sentenced to ten months in prison and the other received just eight months. After their release, four women went missing and the two men were arrested for their murders.
SB 722 would have applied to violent sex offenders convicted of the most egregious sex crimes, including rape, spousal rape and continuous sexual abuse of a child. Had SB 722 been in effect, Cano and Gordon would have faced up to three years in state prison for cutting off their devices, possibly changing the course of subsequent events.
SB 722 was supported by groups and individuals such as the California State Sheriffs’ Association, the California District Attorneys Association, Crime Victims United of California, the Peace Officers Research Association of California, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, the Orange County Board of Supervisors, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore.