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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Alabama D.A. seeks to keep sex offender out of facility he calls ‘target-rich environment’

An Alabama district attorney is asking for an injunction to prevent the placement of a “violent sexual predator” at a facility in one of his counties.

C.J. Robinson, the district attorney for the 19th Judicial Circuit which covers Autauga, Chilton and Elmore counties, filed the paperwork on Friday. He wants to stop 54-year-old Tyrone Bennett from being housed in Cararstar Health Facility in Prattville.

Robinson said housing Bennett at the facility does not comply with the minimum standards of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act.

“This is an extreme measure,’’ Robinson said, “but one that is required to try and keep our community safe.”

Bennett is a registered sex offender with eight prior felonies in Jefferson County, including rape, sodomy, and sex abuse of a under the age of 12. Court records show he also has multiple convictions for failing to comply with the registration and notifications of the SORNA Act.

Earlier this month, Jefferson County Circuit Judge Kandice Pickett ordered Bennett to be housed at the Cararstar facility at 425 Pratt Street in Prattville.

“This address is within hundreds of feet of schools, parks, churches, daycares, playgrounds, the city pool, the splash pad, and numerous other things SORNA exists to protect from lurking sex offenders,’’ Robinson said.

“This is a target-rich environment of children, and I will do everything within my power to protect them,” Robinson said.

Efforts to reach Pickett for comment were not immediately available.

Robinson also said prison reform in Alabama and the nation’s immigration policy have resulted in children being sexually assaulted in the 19th Circuit.

“I have watched our failed Alabama policies, like prison reform and early release, result in two Autauga teenagers kidnapped and sexually assaulted by a man who should have been in prison in October 2022),’’ Robinson said.

“I have watched our failed federal immigration policy result in an illegal alien with a criminal history be briefly detained at the border, only to then be allowed to enter our country, come to Autauga County, and sexually assault a teenager in the bathroom of a local restaurant (in May 2023),’’ he said.

Bennett was previously in the custody of the Alabama Department of Mental Health after he was found not guilty by reason of insanity in a SORNA charge. He was ordered released in 2017 to a Carastar facility after having been deemed to have received the necessary treatment, and no longer posing a threat, court records show.

In March of this year, mental health officials sought a modification for Bennett, asking that he be placed to a different Carastar facility, where he would still receive care and oversight.

Pickett last week, after several previous orders, issued a second amended order for release with conditions for Bennett, not that on May 16, “the court was made aware of concerns from law enforcement in Autauga about the defendant’s residency at a Carastar facility that was within 2000 feet of a school and/or a childcare facility.”

The judge issued an order that Bennet must comply with the SORNA Act, and said that it has been determined that Bennett no longer poses a real and present threat of substantial harm to himself or others if released with 14 conditions that include him being placed in the Prattville facility with no unsupervised access to the public.

Robinson said that’s not good enough.

“I refuse to sit back and allow a judge from Birmingham to enter an order that is contrary to Alabama law and put more Autauga County children at risk,’’ he said. “If that is a result of her individual wishes, or the result of a recommendation of the Alabama Department of Mental Health, I don’t know, and I don’t care.”

He said he is seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent Bennett’s release to the Prattville facility until there can be a hearing. He said he is confident he can show the facility is not SORNA compliant and should be ineligible to house any sex offender ever again.

“I love the 19th Circuit,’’ Robinson said, “and thank God in Autauga, Chilton, and Elmore Counties we still have judges who honor the rule of law and who still care about the public safety of our communities.’’

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