Thursday, September 25, 2008

California hair fetish rapist faces indefinite civil committment

Convicted rapist facing hospital stay extension
By Michelle Durand

Prosecutors are seeking to keep incarcerated a convicted rapist with an alleged hair fetish in a state hospital wing specializing in sexually violent predators.

Timothy McKnight, 51, has already been extended past the completion of his 20-year state prison sentence. If a jury finds McKnight meets the legal criteria for being a sexually violent predator, it can choose to continue keeping the Brisbane rapist at Atascadero State Hospital.

In 1988, McKnight pleaded no contest to three counts of rape and oral copulation in Brisbane and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. At the time, McKnight had a prior conviction on his record. Prosecutors said McKnight assaulted the victim at gunpoint and had a “fetish regarding women’s hair” but did not elaborate further.

McKnight was recommitted to the state hospital at the end of his prison sentence and came up for evaluation every two years under a 1996 law governing sexually violent predators. Offenders found to have committed two violent acts and have a mental disorder can be held beyond their sentence if deemed a sexually violent predator.

With the advent of the so-called Jessica’s Law, hospital wards like McKnight now face indefinite commitment because the legislation removed the two-year re-evaluation requirement. A commitment as a sexually violent predator now means possible indefinite commitment or — on the chance an inmate is found safe — indefinite freedom.

This hearing is the first for McKnight since the law changed. The sexually violent predator extension trial is estimated to last one week before Judge Jack Grandsaert.
McKnight remains in custody as a state hospital patient.

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