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Appellate Court Blocks Order to Transfer Paroled Serial Rapist

March 19, 1994|JENIFER WARREN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN FRANCISCO — A rural county's crusade to banish a paroled rapist hit a snag Friday when an appellate court blocked enforcement of an order that would have forced state officials to move him.

The ruling by the 3rd District Court of Appeal left the fate of serial rapist Melvin A. Carter, who was paroled Thursday near the Modoc County town of Alturas, in doubt pending court action next week.

"We figured we'd hit a few brick walls, but we're certainly not giving up," said Joe Colt, chairman of the Modoc County Board of Supervisors. "We're going to keep fighting until somebody listens and we win."

Carter's parole has ignited controversy because he confessed to 100 rapes and served half of a 25-year sentence he received for 12 of them. Initially, state corrections officials planned to release Carter in the Bay Area county of Alameda, where he committed most of his crimes.

But after a public uproar, Gov. Pete Wilson altered that decision, ordering him sent to "as remote a location as possible." On Thursday, he was sneaked into Modoc County in the trunk of a car and released at the state's Devil's Garden Conservation Camp, which houses minimum security inmates who work on fire crews.

Outraged that Carter was being shipped to their ranching community, residents quickly rose up, staging raucous rallies and candlelight vigils and threatening to kill the rapist.

Early Thursday, a Superior Court judge issued a restraining order forbidding Carter's release in Modoc County. In seeking the order, the district attorney argued that the state violated a law requiring that parolees return to the county where their crimes were committed unless special circumstances exist.

On Friday, the state attorney general asked the appellate court to overturn the restraining order, arguing that Modoc County had no authority to block Carter's release. The state's lawyers said Carter was not paroled to Alameda County because many of his victims live there and it hosts several college campuses, which were Carter's targets. If the court had sided with Modoc County, corrections officials would have been required to relocate Carter--and, indeed, were preparing to do so. Instead, the court delayed a resolution, requesting further information from the district attorney.

Meanwhile, Modoc County residents laid plans for a protest trip to Sacramento on Monday and continued to demonstrate in downtown Alturas. On Thursday night, Carter was burned in effigy. One popular sign bore the face of the rapist overlaid with the cross hairs of a gun sight and the caption: "He Won't Be Living Here Long."

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