Ex-TV 'psychic' convicted of sex offenses to stay hospitalized

mfountain@thetribunenews.com, ppemberton@thetribunenews.comApril 28, 2014 

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the facility where James Hydrick is being treated. He will remain hospitalized at Coalinga State Hospital.

A former martial arts instructor, self-described psychic and one-time television star convicted in the late 1980s of sexual offenses against teenage boys will spend at least another year in custody after a jury decided Monday that he still poses a threat to the public.

The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office won a unanimous ruling from jurors Monday following a monthlong civil trial for James Hydrick, 55, who was convicted in 1989 of lewd and lascivious acts against six boys and sentenced in Orange County to 17 years in prison. He completed that sentence in 2006 but was sent to Atascadero State Hospital for treatment under California’s new sexually violent predator law.

Under a 2006 change in that law, the District Attorney’s Office can file an extension petition and hold a jury trial to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person should be recommitted to the hospital for an indeterminate term. If a jury concludes the person no longer meets the criteria as a sexually violent predator, he can be released on parole.

During the trial, the jury heard from a number of witnesses, including psychologists who evaluated Hydrick during his commitment.

The District Attorney’s Office sought more hospital time for Hydrick during a trial in May 2013, but a jury voted 10-2 in favor of releasing him. The hearings required a unanimous verdict, so a hung jury was declared.

The District Attorney’s Office then had the option to either allow Hydrick to be released or to pursue a second trial.

The office decided to pursue a second trial to keep him hospitalized. But since a jury nearly freed Hydrick a year ago, this time the prosecution tried a different strategy. They called several of Hydrick’s past victims — now adult men — to recount his past crimes.

One victim, whom The Tribune is not naming because he was a minor victim of a sex crime, testified that Hydrick used his martial arts skills to draw him in before sexually molesting him.

During his testimony, Hydrick denied any inappropriate behavior with the young men.

Hydrick’s attorney, San Luis Obispo-based Ray Allen, argued against county Deputy District Attorney Linda Dunn that Hydrick has spent more than two decades in custody and has not exhibited sexually predatory behavior in that time.

“He’s been incarcerated for 26 years,” Allen said Monday following the verdict. “You would think after 26 years something would come up, something would surface, but nothing has.”

Hydrick will be heading back to Coalinga State Hospital. According to the District Attorney’s Office, he will be eligible to file a petition for release in May 2015.

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