At 67, Sid Landau has had quadruple-bypass surgery and prostate cancer. He wears a pacemaker. His teeth are mostly gone, as is his hearing. He did terrible things as a younger man, his lawyers say, but age has curtailed his sexual appetites, and illness has made it unlikely he could ever act on them again.
Still, prosecutors say, the serial pedophile who became the public face of Megan's Law in the 1990s remains a menace. Ailments or no, they say, his grandfatherly appearance might fool people into thinking he is harmless.
On Wednesday, an Orange County jury deadlocked on whether Landau should remain in custody, where he has been held in mental hospitals for the last six years, or be released to relatives in Queens, N.Y. After jurors announced they were deadlocked, 11 to 1, with most voting to release Landau, Superior Court Judge Robert R. Fitzgerald declared a mistrial.
The district attorney's office said it would retry the case. "Our position is steadfast, that he's a danger to the community," said spokeswoman Susan Kang Schroeder.
Landau became one of Southern California's most recognizable pedophiles in the 1990s when police, enforcing Megan's Law for the first time, distributed fliers in his Placentia neighborhood identifying him as a convicted sex offender. Death threats and protesters chased him from his home, and then from motel to motel around Orange County, until he was arrested on parole violations in 1997.
During Landau's three-week trial in Santa Ana, his sister-in-law, Linda, testified that he could live with her and her husband in Queens, where she said they would supervise him closely. She said Landau would do volunteer work at a local synagogue, do repairs on property that the family owns, and visit relatives in Israel.
"Wherever we go, we would take him with us," she said.
She said she was comfortable with Landau as a housemate, no matter how many children he molested, because she believed he had changed. She acknowledged that there were young children in her family who would be visiting her.
"This family in general doesn't realize the risk," prosecutor Andrea Burke told jurors. "People's guards are going to be down when they see someone of his age, not knowing what his past is."
Though Landau has been convicted of molesting two boys, he has admitted to abusing 10. Authorities said they believed the actual number to be still higher. The prosecutor said he victimized lonely boys, luring them to his home with a pool table, pingpong table and video games.
Prosecutors said Landau failed to understand his problem.
In 2000, Burke said, Landau refused sex-offender treatment at Atascadero State Hospital. Burke said Landau was not comfortable around women, or peers in general, which steered him toward children. "That's who he bonds with -- that's who he communicates with," she said.
Defense attorney Leonard B. Levine said that with Landau's ailments and age, the chances of him preying on children were "so unlikely as to not meet the standard of the law." With radioactive seeds implanted in his body to fight his prostate cancer, the defense said, sex was painful for Landau.
"Your oath was not to punish him for what he's done in the past," Levine told jurors, but rather to determine whether he was likely to molest again. "At the age of 67 they do not re-offend -- very rarely.
"It's time for Sid Landau to go home."
In 1982, Landau was convicted of molesting a 10-year-old boy and served two years in prison. After a 1988 conviction for molesting an 8-year-old Anaheim boy, he served eight more years. He was paroled in 1996, the year California introduced Megan's Law, which alerted residents to sex offenders in their midst.
Soon, Landau became the first to face the wrath generated by the law. When Placentia police told his neighbors of his presence, protesters drove him out of the neighborhood and hounded him from place to place around Orange County.
In 1997, he was jailed again for violating his parole by striking a TV photographer and yet again in 1998 after authorities found family photographs of him with his young grandnephews in his San Francisco hotel room. As a condition of his parole, he was to avoid children. Also in his possession were stuffed bears with yarmulkes, which authorities called a lure for children.
In 2000, his time served, Orange County prosecutors filed a petition under the state's Sexually Violent Predator Statute, which allows sexually violent offenders who are deemed a continual threat to remain in state custody after their sentences are completed.
For most of the last six years, Landau has been held at Atascadero while awaiting trial to determine whether he should be released. Much of the delay was caused by attorneys on both sides being replaced several times. Since March, he has been held at Coalinga State Hospital. Under the statute, the state must renew its petition to keep him in custody every two years, and Landau has the right to petition the court annually for release.
"We think it's a waste to spend $140,000 a year to care for an old man who's no longer a danger," Levine said. "He's already done his time. It's been 18 years since he molested anyone."