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Sex offender released, now in Oregon

Sex offender released, now in Oregon

April 12th, 2011 by JENNIFER DOBNER, Associated Press in News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A convicted sex offender released from Utah custody last week after being deemed incompetent to stand trial has moved to Oregon.

Utah Department of Corrections records posted online show Lonnie Hyrum Johnson with a Hillsboro, Ore., address. A Multnomah County sheriff's spokeswoman in Oregon said Utah authorities had given notice that Johnson was moving to the area and that he would be moving to a sister's home.

"Our folks were notified earlier today that he would be moving here," Lt. Mary Lindstrand told The Associated Press. "We don't know when he'll be here."

Johnson has 10 days to register as a sex offender with the state of Oregon upon arriving, Lindstrand said.

Johnson is required to register as a sex offender because he pleaded guilty to the rape of a 16-year-old girl in Washington state in 2006.

Last week, 4th District Judge James R. Taylor ordered the 38-year-old released from the Utah State Hospital - despite pending criminal sexual assault charges - after doctors said they couldn't restore his competency. Johnson had been at the hospital for more than two years.

In Utah, Johnson faces nearly two dozen counts of rape, sodomy and aggravated sexual assault for alleged inappropriate contacts with his stepdaughter and her cousin over five years beginning in 2001. Both alleged victims are now adults.

Christy Danner, the mother of one of the alleged victims, said she expected Johnson would leave Utah because he has relatives in both Oregon and Washington.

"We are afraid that he's going to have access to other girls and before he gets back her in six months, this could happen again," Danner told The Associated Press on Monday. "And what if he doesn't come back? Granted they can put out a warrant for him, but the thought of more victims is scaring us."

Taylor has ordered Johnson meet with new psychiatric evaluators in October and set a Nov. 17 date for a competency review.

Utah court records show Johnson has a cognitive disorder. Prosecutors charged him in 2007 and a judge deemed him incompetent for trial the next year and ordered him confined at the state hospital.

Two weeks ago, when it appeared Johnson's criminal case might stall out over the competency issue, prosecutors petitioned for a civil commitment. A judge in that proceeding, however, said Johnson didn't meet the legal criteria.

Under Utah law, a defendant is incompetent for trial if he suffers from mental illness, cannot understand the charges against him or is unable to participate in his own defense. For a civil commitment, a doctor must find that a person's mental illness makes him a danger to himself or others.

It's not clear when Johnson was actually released from the state hospital and privacy laws prevent officials there from commenting.

An email message seeking comment from Johnson's sister, Cindy Lorenz, who also lives in Oregon, was not immediately returned Thursday.

Lorenz has said the Utah allegations against her brother are false and stem from a bitter divorce battle between Johnson and his wife. She has also told the AP that she believes her brother's civil and medical privacy rights have been violated during the case.

Deputy Utah County District Attorney Craig Johnson declined to comment about the case or Johnson's relocation on Monday. Johnson has spoken out about the need to alter Utah law to address the legal loophole between a defendant's competency for trial and the standards for civil commitment.

Danner said since last week's hearing, she's been contacted by the father of Elizabeth Smart, who waited more than seven years to see the man who kidnapped and raped her in 2002 prosecuted for the crime.

Brian David Mitchell was twice deemed incompetent for trial in state court and the case stalled over a similar treatment impasse. Mitchell was deemed competent, however, in the federal court system and convicted last year. He faces a life sentence in federal prison when he appears before a judge in May.

"Ed Smart has contacted us and he's very interested in trying to get involved. He says it might have gone this way for Elizabeth's capturer," Danner said. "He's very interested in trying to get some legislation passed. I'm happy about that."