It has taken several years, many tears, and thousands of dollars to learn that James has no legal remedy to overturn his wrongful conviction. The following is a timeline of events and legal pursuits since he was releasted from Atascadero State Hospital in April 2004.
April 14, 2004
A hearing is held at Riverside County Superior Court with Deputy District Attorney Carlos Monagas and James’ public defender, Sylvia Graber-Pastrone. The only person present in the gallery was Elizabeth S. Thompson, Ph.D., James’ former unit psychologist. At the hearing, Mr. Monagas did not present any information about the victims’ recantations to the judge.
Dr. Thompson asked public defender Sylvia Graber-Pastrone, why DA Monagas had not brought up the victims’ recantations to the judge. Her reply was, “He doesn’t need to know. Now is not the right time.” Mr. Monagas stated to the court that the DA would be dropping the petition to recommit James to another two-years at Atascadero State Hospital. He informed the judge that “four doctors” found James to no longer met the SVP criteria. Two of these reports declaring that James did not meet the SVP criteria were written in 1998 by Dr. Hallon and Dr. Donaldson. They were used by the defense at James first commitment trial in 1998. The third evaluator who stated James did not meet the SVP criteria was Amy Phenix, Ph.D., who headed up the panel of SVP Evaluators for the California Department of Mental Health. Prior to writing her evaluation, she had listened to the audiotaped recantations of Eddie and Randy. The fourth doctor was Elizabeth Thompson, Ph.D., James' treating psychologist at Atascadero State Hospital from 1998 to 2004. She was asked by Deputy DA Monagas to write up a “report” that outlined what the unit treatment team would be recommending at James' upcoming trial. The judge orders James’ release forthwith.
April 19, 2004
James is released from Atascadero State Hospital and is dropped off at the Greyhound bus station in San Luis Obispo with $200 in gate money, of which, $60 buys his bus ticket. James is picked up by Elizabeth Thompson at Santa Maria, and driven to San Bernardino County to meet his 19-year-old son and his 2-year-old grandson.
April 20, 2004
James is greeted by members of the S.A.F.E. Task force at the Santa Ysabel Indian Reservation, where he is registered as a high-risk Sexually Violent Predator. James makes his home on the reservation in an RV.
James and Elizabeth hire Riverside attorney John Aquilina for $2500 to look into the possibility of overturning James conviction based on the recantations. Mr. Aquilina, who was recommended by James' previous public defender Sylvia Graber-Pastrone, was a public defender in 1985 and actually represented one of James’ co-defendents, Richard Harrison. We thought this would be a plus. A waiver is signed. Weeks later, Mr. Aquilina informs James that he cannot find any court records on the two cases because the filing system in the court "is a mess." He suggests James files a civil lawsuit. Several attempts are made to find attorneys who can help James but their fees are unaffordable, and no pro-bono options are offered.
Without his knowledge, members of the S.A.F.E. Task Force place a GPS tracking device underneath James’ truck.
Shortly thereafter, James’s son discovers the device when the truck bed doesn’t close properly. James removes the device and eventually throws it in a fire pit at his residence on the reservation.
James is arrested for Failure to Register an alleged second address, which is a violation of California Penal Code 290. He is also charged with Arson, Destruction of State Property, and Felon in Possession of Firearms. He is housed in San Diego County jail and appointed attorney from the public defender's office, which to represent him due to a conflict of interest. James is appointed an alternate public defender, who also cites a conflict of interest and is unable to represent . Finally a court-appointed attorney is chosen, Mr. Carver, who talks with James for the first time in March 2006. James explains his situation and is urged to plead guilty.
In April 2006, the trial commences. James is found guilty of Failure to Register, Arson, and Destruction of Property. He is sentenced to 22 months, with time served. After the sentencing hearing, Elizabeth succeeds in getting Mr. Carver to hear about James' who is shocked to learn that the victims had recanted two year earlier to the Riverside County District Attorney's office. Mr. Carver suggests to Elizabeth that she hire a Private Investigator to dig into the case.
Elizabeth hires Michael Newman, respected PI in San Diego County who begins to hunt down the facts. Over the next year, Elizabeth and Mr. Newman locate the “missing” court records from 1985 and 1987 in the records department at the Riverside County Courthouse. Mr. Newman interviews several key witnesses, some of whom were interviewed by the Riverside County DA’s office in 1985 and whose statements were used in the preliminary hearing. Several of these witnesses, one of whom is James’ 34-year-old neice, claims that investigators never talked with her in 1985, and allegations that James had raped her were absolutely false. Mr. Newman recommends an attorney to help with James’ case.
Prior to his scheduled release from prison, James is placed on a 45-day hold by the Board of Prison, so that he may be evaluated as to whether he meets the Sexually Violent Predator Criteria. James refuses to meet with the evaluators, one of whom was his original evaluator from 1998, and the other Amy Phenix, who evaluated him in 2004. Both evaluators report that James DOES NOT meet the SVP criteria, in large part because there is a question that the 1985 convictions may not have been valid in the first place.
James is released from Chuckawalla State Prison and moves in with his girlfriend, Elizabeth Thompson, in Ramona, California. His three-year parole begins. He meets with his attorney, James Dunn, who wants to file for a corum nobis.
James and Elizabeth are asked to move out of their house due to neighbors displeasure at having a registered sex offender in the community. They move to a downtown hotel where being a registered sex offender won't be such an issue. Eventually they move to mountain area of San Diego County, not far from James' ancestral home and reservation.
James is immediately put on high-risk parole. Over the months and years, he will have five different agents. He is on a 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. curfew and followed and monitored closely. At one point while shopping at a 99 cents store, he is contacted by his parole agent and asked why he is near a park. Unbeknownst to James, a park is located behind the 99 cents store. He is told to stop shopping at that particular store.
James and Elizabeth realize the only place they can frequent and not be near children is at the nearby casinos!
James' legal case is turned down by the Riverside County Superior Court for "lack of jurisdiction." It is eventually rejected by the 9th circuit court of appeals. There is no legal remedy for his case.
James' survives 3 years of "high-risk" parole. He is still listed on the website and must register with the Sheriff's department every 90 days.