Sad tale of Villasenor family emerges

There were several allegations earlier this week about Santa Ana Council Candidate Jennifer Villasenor’s family – most of my blog team felt that the issue was relevant because crime is such a problem in Santa Ana. A few of our team members objected to an anon post about this, however a pajarito found an article – after much trouble – about one of her brothers, Greg Phillips, aka Greg Villasenor – written by my old friend Larry Welborn, whom I met when I used to work at the Register many years ago. Read on, it is a very interesting, and sad, tale:

Committed against sexual predators
Courts O.C. case illustrates state effort to keep some violent offenders
in mental hospital beyond their prison terms.

Published: , 01/23/2002

A convicted rapist from Santa Ana who has served his 15-year prison sentence and believes he should be freed is being held while prosecutors seek to commit him to a mental hospital as a sexually violent predator.

Gregory Phillips’ trial in Orange County is an example of a national effort to detain prisoners who prosecutors believe are dangerous to society, even though they have served their allotted prison time.

But on Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court made that task tougher when it issued a ruling in a Kansas case
requiring proof that an offender has a mental disorder that causes serious problems with self-control.

In the past five years, California and 18 other states have passed tough laws that allow for indefinite hospital commitment of some rapists and other violent sexual offenders.
“If he is released without treatment, Gregory Phillips will likely rape again,” Deputy District Attorney Kathlen M. Harper told a jury Tuesday.

Phillips “lacks the ability to control his behavior. … There is something very wrong with Mr. Phillips,” she said.

But Deputy Public Defender Ramon P. Ortiz argued that Phillips has changed and matured while spending 15
years in custody and is not likely to be a repeat offender.

“He paid the penalty by serving his time, every day that the law allowed,” Ortiz told the jury. “Mr.
Phillips is a changed person from when he was as a child.”

Because of Tuesday’s Supreme Court ruling, Harper requested a last-minute change in instructions to
require the jury to find that Phillips has the type and severity of mental disorder that would make it
difficult, if not impossible, for him to control his behavior.

Nora Romero, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Mental Health, said late Tuesday that she did not know whether the Supreme Court decision would have any effect on the 399 men — including 14 from
Orange County — being treated at Atascadero State Hospital as sexually violent predators.

There are an additional 110 cases pending throughout the state. Romero said the department’s lawyers
are looking into the new decision.

There are more than 1,200 sex offenders confined in 19 states with similar laws who may be affected by the Supreme Court ruling.

In 1997, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of keeping sexually violent predators in mental hospitals beyond their prison terms if they have mental abnormalities making them likely to repeat offenses if paroled.

That decision did not address the issue of the offender’s ability to control his behavior.

Two Orange County lawyers said Tuesday that the new Supreme Court decision may have little effect on
California cases after the opinion is carefully examined.

“All this does is reaffirm what is already done in this state,” said county Deputy Public Defender Alan

Andrew Lloyd, a lawyer in Orange who represents several sex offenders, agrees that the decision is unlikely
to have a major effect in California.

“The majority really seems to say that common sense is the best approach,” Lloyd said. “It is obvious that some of these people are very dangerous and you don’t want them out in public. But the sexually violent predators are a small number.”

California enacted its Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) law in 1996 as a way to keep some rapists and other
violent sexual offenders off the streets rather than be paroled after serving their time in prison. The statute requires prosecutors to prove that an offender had committed at least two violent sex crimes in the past, that he had a mental disorder and was likely to reoffend if released.

If a jury found all three criteria to be true, the offender would be committed to Atascadero for treatment rather than be released on parole.

Harper said in her final arguments Tuesday after a two-week trial that Phillips, 33, fits those requirements.

The jury deliberated about 90 minutes Tuesday afternoon without reaching a verdict.

Phillips qualified for civil prosecution in the SVP program because he committed multiple violent sex crimes in 1985 and 1986, and because two mental-health experts believed he had a mental disorder and might be a danger to society if released on parole.

He was one of at least 10 children being raised in Santa Ana by his divorced parents. In his childhood, Phillips was always doing poorly in school or not attending at all, according to testimony introduced at his hearing.

He also was subjected to periodic beatings by his mother, according to testimony from his older sister.

In 1985, shortly before his 16th birthday, Phillips started committing a series of sexual attacks that landed him in adult prison on a 20-year sentence. With time credits, Phillips has served his complete sentence, Ortiz said.

The attacks included knocking a 13-year-old girl off her bicycle and forcing her to perform a sex act, and burglarizing a home and raping a woman in her bedroom. Later, after he was released on bail in the first two offenses, he confronted a 31-year-old woman in a church parking lot, choked her, punched her, bit her, threatened to kill her and forced her to commit a sex act.

Phillips first served one year with the California Youth Authority and then was transferred to the state Department of Corrections.

While serving time at Calipatria State Prison in the Imperial Valley, he started exchanging letters with a woman who had been an acquaintance of his mother. Within months, they were married — after the bride signed an acknowledgment that she was aware of the crimes Phillips had committed.

In 1995, Vicky Phillips gave birth to a son. She testified last week that she wrote daily letters to her husband and visited him every weekend, rain or shine. She testified that she ran up phone bills of up to $900.

“How do you explain love?” she said.

Vicky Phillips, who said she earns close to $200,000 annually as a real estate broker, testified that her husband is “the best father I have ever seen.”

She also said she almost divorced him in 1997 after he didn’t get out of prison on parole, as expected.

Phillips had earned a parole date and was about to be released when he learned he had come afoul of changes
in state law inspired by victims’ rights advocates.

There are at least a dozen other SVP hearings pending in Orange County, Harper said.

California followed several other states in enacting SVP legislation in 1996 after a series of victim’s
rights laws allowed judges to give rapists and other sex offenders harsher sentences than ever before,
including some life terms. Lawmakers then turned their attention to inmates who had received lighter
sentences and were about to be paroled.

Phillips could have avoided the SVP hearing had he stayed clean during two brief periods on parole in 1998 and 1999.

During his first taste of freedom, Phillips lied to his parole officer about his whereabouts and was sent back to prison. On h
is second chance, he tested positive for methamphetamine use, and his parole was revoked again.
Because he was back in state prison awaiting a new parole date, he qualified for the SVP program.

Phillips has been in Orange County Jail the past 18 months fighting the SVP commitment.

Register staff writer John McDonald and The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact Welborn at (714) 834-3784 or

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"Admin" is just editors Vern Nelson, Greg Diamond, or Ryan Cantor sharing something that they mostly didn't write themselves, but think you should see. Before December 2010, "Admin" may have been former blog owner Art Pedroza.