East County News Service
December 21, 2019 (Jacumba Hot Springs) – Despite Jacumba Hot Springs already having 11 of San Diego County’s 14 released sexually violent predators, the state is proposing yet another: Thomas Joseph Cornwell, 41, who was convicted in 2008 on two counts of lewd act with a child under age 14.
Local residents protested outside the Superior Court in downtown San Diego yesterday, where Judge Albert T. Harutunian III took the proposal under consideration after the judge earlier granted Cornwell’s petition for conditional release.
The judge will issue a written decision in the future on whether or not to allow Cornwell to be released under supervision in the 2100 block of McCain Valley Rd. in Jacumba Hot Springs, a facility that the Department of State Hospitals indicates has previously housed sexually violent predators. The site is near rural Boulevard and is also close to campgrounds in a federal recreation area and two federal wilderness areas.
Cornwell’s proposed release in the rural East County community has triggered outrage among residents and Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who has previously sought help from State Attorney General Xavier Becerra to stop rural East County from taking a disproportionate number of SVPs, without success.
Jacob issued a statement which reads, “Our communities should not be used as dumping grounds for the sickest of the sick. I will continue to press state officials to end this cruel practice of concentrating sexually violent predators in rural East County. As far as I'm concerned, they gave up their right to freedom when they preyed on our young and most vulnerable. They don't belong in any town. They belong behind bars."
Alice Keyser, a resident of nearby Boulevard, has described two occasions on which she said SVPs escaped from the “supervised” housing, including one who reportedly assaulted a 70-year-old neighbor woman, an incident related to ECM at the time by multiple sources in Jacumba. However Defense attorney Solomon Change claims Liberty Healthcare, which conducts monitoring for the state’s conditional release program, has a “zero percent recidivism rate,” Patch.com reports. He further claimed SVPs returned to state hospitals after local release committed only “minor violations,” not sexual misconduct.
That’s not adequate assurance for residents such as Keyser, who has stated, “East County is overflowing with sexual predators. The citizens there are up to their gills with sexual predators, danger, and the threat of them recommitting crimes there."