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Molester to remain at state hospital?

Trial in Orange County will decide if he can be released to relatives.

January 04, 2008|David Reyes | Times Staff Writer

A 68-year-old pedophile who preyed on young boys should remain in a state mental facility because he is "not curable," a prosecutor said in opening statements to an Orange County jury Thursday.

Sid Landau "has no boundaries" when it comes to children and deserves to stay in state custody where he has been housed for the last seven years and continue treatment, said prosecutor Amy Pope.

Landau has admitted to abusing 10 boys. Pope said Landau, who became the face of Megan's Law in the 1990s, remains a menace.

Landau's attorneys, however, said that age has curtailed his sexual appetites and that prostate cancer and other ailments have made it unlikely he could ever act on them again.

Michael J. Aye, a lawyer representing Landau, urged jurors to keep an open mind, despite unpleasant details they would hear during the trial about his client's sexual abuse of boys.

Aye conceded Landau's prior convictions for molestation but said his client's diagnosis of a mental disorder was outdated and he deserved to be released.

In addition, he said psychological experts would testify on Landau's behalf that because of his age, research and studies used to evaluate him as a predator were faulty.

"The likelihood of his reoffending . . . is slight," Aye said. "People over age 60 have a very reduced chance of recidivism."

Landau is expected to take the stand and testify during the civil proceeding.

This is Landau's second trial on whether he should remain in custody or be released to relatives in Queens, N.Y. The first ended when a judge declared a mistrial in June 2006 after jurors deadlocked 11 to 1, with the majority voting to release Landau.

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 motels around Orange County, until he was arrested on parole violations in 1997.

In court Thursday, Landau wore dark dress trousers and a white shirt, and sported a neatly trimmed beard with gray whiskers. He seemed spry, although he has undergone quadruple-bypass surgery and wears a pacemaker. He wore headphones to amplify sound because of a hearing problem, his attorneys said.

Despite Landau's age, Pope told jurors that he remained a danger to the community and fit the criteria to remain in a state mental hospital. She described him as an athletically fit man who walks three hours a day for at least 10 miles.

Landau was convicted in 1982 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 alerts residents to sex offenders living in their area.

In 1997, Landau was jailed again for violating parole by striking a TV photographer, and yet again in 1998 after authorities found family photographs of him with his young grandnephews in his room. A condition of his parole was to avoid children.

In 2000, after he had served his time, prosecutors filed a petition under the state's Sexually Violent Predator Statute, which allows offenders who are deemed a continual threat to remain in state custody after their sentences are completed.

For most of the last seven years, Landau had been at Atascadero State Hospital while awaiting trial to determine whether he should be released. He was moved to Coalinga State Hospital in March 2006. Much of the delay was caused by several replacements of attorneys on both sides.

During a brief hearing without the jury, Aye pointed out that Landau has been ordered to be housed at a mental facility but that it was not a commitment order to receive treatment.

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david.reyes@latimes.com

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