SAN FRANCISCO -- A Contra Costa man convicted of committing a sexual crime against a minor 24 years ago has been granted release from a state hospital and will be allowed to live in Bay Point near an elementary school -- much to the dismay of some local residents.
Charles Christman, 69, was an El Cerrito resident when arrested in 1989 for a lewd act with a young boy under the age of 14. He was later found guilty of that act and six similar counts from the early 1980s in San Francisco, Contra Costa deputy District Attorney Derek Butts said. Since then, Christman has been in state prison and later Coalinga State Hospital.
Christman received his conditional release last February after completing a program with Liberty Healthcare, but he has not been able to find a place to live.¿
After unsuccessfully looking at hundreds of possible Contra Costa sites, attorneys Anthony Ashe and Araceli Ramirez offered up a cottage on their Willow Pass Road property. They also put up Cary Verse, a sexually violent predator, in 2005 after he had several failed stops elsewhere in the Bay Area. Verse has since moved across town.
The main point of contention argued before San Francisco Superior Court Judge Garrett Wong on Tuesday was the proximity of the cottage to Willow Cove Elementary.
Butts argued a straight line to the property violates the quarter-mile distance that a registered sex offender must stay away from a school or park. defense attorney Pam Herzig countered that it "cannot be measured as the crow flies," but rather how someone would travel, putting it as 1,531 feet.
Herzig also noted that seven registered sex offenders live near the school.
Contra Costa sheriff's deputy Kenneth Marchese and Willow Cove Principal Lynne Plunkett testified that hundreds of children walk in the area before and after school and patronize a local minimart.
"I'm fundamentally against it. I think it puts students at risk and is not appropriate," Plunkett said.
Wong ultimately decided Christman could live in Bay Point. The alternative of releasing him as a transient could be more dangerous, Wong said.
Further, Wong said, Christman has Parkinson's disease and that walking is a challenge.
Few residents in the unincorporated community have heard about the case, but the few who have voiced their displeasure this past week: A handful protested Saturday outside Christman's new home on the 1900 block of Willow Pass Road.
"My No. 1 concern is that we weren't informed of this and kept in the dark," resident Eva Garcia said. "The goal was to have this done quietly without the knowledge of the community. What upsets me the most is that there was no time to appeal in court."
Unless an appeal is filed, Christman is slated to move in to Bay Point on or before March 12. He will have court-mandated quarterly reports to monitor his progress and must wear an ankle monitor with a GPS that alerts Liberty Healthcare if he enters the school or park area.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.