WASHINGTON — On Friday, May 21, Representative Jay Obernolte (R-Hesperia) presented testimony at a placement hearing for Orange County sexually violent predator Lawtis Rhoden who has tentatively been ordered to relocate to Twentynine Palms.
Below are Obernoltes remarks:
Thank you, your honor, for giving us the opportunity to address the court today. I am proud to represent California’s 8th Congressional District, which includes the community of Twentynine Palms and the Morongo Basin.
I have heard from the Twentynine Palms community, and they are extremely frustrated. Our community is not a dumping ground for problems faced by other areas. Mr. Rhoden has no history with the community, and absolutely no connection to San Bernardino County. His latest crimes were committed in Orange County, while others were committed in Los Angeles County. His domicile is in Orange County, and according to law, he should be placed there. The claim that there is nowhere in either Los Angleles County or Orange County that he can be placed strains credibility.
My constituents also feel that the court doesn’t understand how problematic this placement would be for a community like Twentynine Palms. This town is home to the largest Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in the United States, and there is a housing shortage on the base. Many military families with children live in the community, and in many cases, spouses are at home alone with children during a servicemember’s deployment. Additionally, Twentynine Palms is near Joshua Tree National Park, which has over three million visitors annually. These visitors, many of whom are families and young women, stay in these residential areas during their visit.
The proposed placement of Mr. Rhoden is in a dense residential neighborhood filled with women and children. School bus and transit routes are close by, and an area where children play is only feet away. At a community meeting I attended in Twentynine Palms, a seventeen-year-old girl spoke through tears because she and her thirteen-year-old sister live across the street from the proposed placement site. These girls are the same age as Mr. Rhoden’s prior victims.
Your honor — I implore you to weigh these facts, to hear the stories today, and to reconsider the placement of Mr. Rhoden in Twentynine Palms. Don’t dump this sexually violent predator into our community.