January 19, 2012

Scotland County Jury Declares Prisoner a Sexually Violent Predator

After listening to nearly a full day of arguments from both parties, it took a Scotland County jury just a little over a half hour to hand down a civil commitment for an Adair County man, declaring him a sexually violent predator.

Brian E. Craig, 35, was committed to the custody of the Missouri Department of Mental Health for confinement in a secure facility for control, care and treatment, until such time as his mental abnormality has changed so that he is safe to be at large.

On July 14, 2004, Craig pled guilty in Scotland Court on one count of child molestation in the first degree, stemming from his arrest July 3, 2003 in Adair County. The case was heard by Judge Gary Dial and prosecuted by, then Adair County prosecutor, Mark Williams.

According to court documents, Craig was sentenced to seven years in the Missouri Department of Corrections. Execution of the sentence was initially suspended, and Craig was placed on five years supervised probation. Just two months later that probation was revoked and on October 27, 2004, Craig was sent to the prison.

As Craig was nearing the completion of his prison sentence for the crime, the Missouri Attorney General's Office, initiated a possible civil commitment process under Missouri's Sexually Violent Predator Act, which became law in 1999.

The process began in the fall of 2010, in anticipation of Craig's release date on October 19, 2010.

On September 21, 2010, the Missouri Department of Corrections certified that Craig met the criteria of a sexually violent predator as defined by statute. The review was performed by a multidisciplinary team consisting of experts from the DOC and the Missouri Department of Mental Health.

The attorney general's office then submitted those findings to a state-mandated Prosecutors' Review Committee, which consisted of prosecuting attorneys from Greene, Lincoln, Crawford, St. Charles and Scotland counties. The committee voted 5-0 on September 30, 2010 that Craig met the definition of a sexually violent predator.

Following the completion of those steps, the attorney general's office, filed a petition for civil commitment of Craig, with the filing, as required by law, being made in the original court of his criminal commitment, which was Scotland County stemming from the 2004 criminal case that came to the community on a change of venue from Adair County.

On October 14, 2010, Judge Karl DeMarce heard from the state, represented by Monty Platz of the attorney general's office, as well as from the defendant and his council, and the court found probable cause existed for the civil commitment trial.

Following numerous continuances, the trial was held, beginning Wednesday, January 11th, 2012 and concluded on Thursday January 12th.

Under the law, the court is required to complete an annual review of Craig's status to determine if probable cause exists to believe the defendant's mental abnormality has changed so he could be deemed safe to be at large and will not engage in acts of sexual violence if discharged.

If probable cause is determined during any annual review, the court can schedule a hearing on the issue, with the burden of proof falling on the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Craig's condition remains such that he is a danger to the public.

The Department of Mental Health can also petition the court for the defendant's release if it determines his condition has changed.

The defendant also can petition for his release upon finding of new evidence that his condition has changed.

According to a press release from the attorney general's office regarding a similar finding in December 2011 in a Green County case, there have been 178 sexually violent predators committed in Missouri since the Sexually Violent Predator law became effective in 1999, including 16 in 2011.

For comparison, there are currently more than 15,000 registered sex offenders in the state of Missouri according to the state registry maintained by the Missouri State Highway Patrol, of which 2,311 are currently incarcerated on criminal charges.

Sexually Violent Predator commitments are handled by the Public Safety Division in Attorney General Chris Koster's office.

Following that December case, Koster stated "It is critical that we keep those who could commit further violent sexual acts off the streets and away from those they could harm. It is important for individuals who are deemed sexually violent predators to get the help they need while the community is protected."

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