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Jury decides sex offender needs indefinite mental health care

Thursday, October 11, 2007 | 9:25 p.m. CDT; updated 8:08 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — A Boone County jury ruled Thursday that a Columbia man — convicted more than a decade ago in a sexual assault case — is a violent predator and should be held indefinitely at a Missouri Department of Mental Health facility in Farmington.

William G. Bradford, 37, of Columbia pled guilty to three counts of forcible sodomy involving his 3-year-old daughter in 1995 and spent eight years at the Farmington Correctional Facility. He has remained at a mental health facility since 2003 awaiting his civil commitment trial, which began Wednesday.

Ted Bruce, prosecuting for the attorney general’s office, said in his closing arguments that the goal of the statute is not to punish Bradford but to avoid sexual crimes from happening again.

“This is a chance to break the cycle,” Bruce said. “He needs treatment.”

A little known state law defines a sexually violent predator as a person with a “mental abnormality” that predisposes him or her to committing sexually violent acts. Those classified as sexually violent predators are civilly committed to a mental health facility until they are deemed to be rehabilitated.

“It’s punishment even though the state tells you it’s not,” said Bradford’s attorney, Kirk Zwink, in his closing arguments.

“Being locked up forever sounds like punishment to me,” he added.

It’s been law since 1999, and as of 2006, no one civilly committed in Missouri has been released. Twenty states have civil commitment statutes, including Kansas, Nebraska and Illinois.

But civil commitments in Missouri are rare. When the law was enacted, state officials estimated that 45 sex offenders would be deemed sexually violent predators each year. But estimates from state psychologists show that far fewer offenders are actually locked up under the law.

A Missouri public defender challenged the law in 2006 citing the federal prohibition against double jeopardy.

However, in 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that civil commitment does not qualify as punishment, excluding it from double jeopardy.

In the Bradford trial, the state presented its expert witness, clinical and forensic psychologist Kent Franks, Wednesday.

Franks testified that Bradford had two separate mental abnormalities — psychopathy and pedophilia.

“In my professional opinion, he meets the requirements of a sexually violent predator in the state of Missouri,” Franks said.

When Franks evaluated him in June, Bradford said he had an ongoing sexual relationship with his younger sister throughout his childhood.

“He looked at his daughter much like he looked at his sister and tried to recreate that intimacy,” Franks said.

Clinical and forensic psychologist Luis Rosel testified Thursday afternoon that when he first spoke with Bradford, he met the medical criteria of being a pedophile. Now, Rosel said, he’s not so sure.

“He’s been confined for the last 13 years, so it’s kind of hard to tell,” he said.

Rosel said Bradford is a psychopath, but Rosel said he doesn’t think Bradford is a sexually violent predator.

Rosel said there is a profound difference between committing 10 offenses against one victim and committing 10 offenses against 10 victims.

“I’m sure the victim would think otherwise,” Bruce said.

Bruce told the jury in his closing arguments that Bradford needs to hear the message loud and clear.

“You have the opportunity to do something here for the community and that is to prevent a crime from happening in the future,” Bruce said.

Bradford was to be taken Thursday evening to the Missouri Department of Mental Health facility in Farmington.

— Lee Logan contributed to this report.


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