On August 23rd, Judge John Feeney issued a ruling striking his December 2016 order for conditional release of Joshua Cooley from the State Hospital in Coalinga, a locked psychiatric facility for sexual offenders. Cooley has been housed at Coalinga since 2010, after a Humboldt County jury found him to be a “Sexually Violent Predator”.
Feeney’s December-2016 order for Cooley’s release and the proposal of several specific placement sites that followed – including several in Humboldt County – received substantial opposition. District Attorney (DA) Maggie Fleming opposed the original order because the majority of psychological experts who had evaluated Cooley did not conclude that he could be safely returned to public life. As the State proposed specific placement sites, the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office, along with other District Attorneys, individual citizens, community service providers, and law enforcement, presented reasons why Cooley’s release at those locations would not be reasonable. In the effort to place Cooley, the State made over 7 specific proposals for placement and considered more than 7000 potential sites.
Judge Feeney’s recent ruling relied not only on the inability to place Cooley, but also on his recent behavior at the State Hospital, which included refusal to participate in treatment programs. The ruling means that Cooley will remain confined at Coalinga unless a judge concludes that he could be safely returned to public life. Cooley’s potential for release will continue to receive annual evaluation.
DA Fleming stated: “Achieving the right outcome in this case depended on citizens making the effort to get involved, along with exceptional effort by Assistant District Attorney Stacey Eads to clearly and comprehensively present the People’s position in many written communications. I appreciate the efforts of everyone who provided Judge Feeney with the information he needed to fairly evaluate Cooley’s current condition and potential for release, and to make the appropriate decision.”