Sacramento County judge orders molester freed from prison

Posted on March 4, 2010. Filed under: Courts, Parole |

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

Published: Friday, Feb. 26, 2010 – 12:00 am | Page 2B

A Sacramento judge has ordered the release of an imprisoned child molester who has served more than 20 years on his 15-to-life term.

Superior Court Judge Sharon A. Lueras issued her 17-page order on Wednesday in response to a habeas corpus petition filed on behalf of Robert Winston Precobb, a 55-year-old multiple offender.

Precobb was convicted in Sacramento in 1988 on one count of molesting a victim under the age of 14. He received the 15-to-life sentence based on prior convictions in 1979 and 1980, in cases that involved victims who were 12 and 17 at the time, according to Lueras’ order.

In her ruling, Lueras found that a 2006 California Supreme Court decision changed the law underpinning one of those prior convictions that qualified Precobb for his 15-to-life term.

The high court’s decision found that non-forcible oral copulation with a 17-year-old boy – the facts of Precobb’s 1980 case – can’t be used as a predicate offense to trigger a life sentence.

Lueras then resentenced Precobb to 14 years and four months – time he’s already served – and ordered him released from Mule Creek State Prison.

She also ordered that he be kept “free from any parole period” and that he not be subject to the residency requirements imposed by the state’s version of “Jessica’s Law.”

Precobb must still register as a sex offender, Lueras ruled.

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman Oscar Hidalgo said Thursday the agency is reviewing the order before it releases Precobb.

“There’s a process which we go through to release each and every inmate up for release, whether by court order or the natural release on an inmate’s time,” Hidalgo said. “There’s the important component of notification of victims, and in this case, he has more than one victim … .”

Sacramento attorney M. Bradley Wishek said he is seeking an order to have the corrections agency explain why it has not released Precobb.

“The court has found that he served roughly three times what he lawfully could have served,” Wishek said. “Once the judge made the order, and he was to be released, there was simply no reason for them to continue to refuse to follow the law.”

The state attorney general’s office opposed Precobb’s release. Deputy Attorney General Daniel B. Bernstein said in court papers that Precobb “waited 20 years after his sentence was imposed before challenging its constitutionality.”

Even though the Supreme Court case that enabled Precobb’s release did not come down until 2006, Bernstein argued in a court memorandum that the inmate “could have brought the same claim years before that case was decided.”

Bernstein’s papers also said that Precobb’s now-successful challenge to the constitutionality of his sentence opens the door for “many other prisoners” to go forward with similar claims.

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