Orange County District Attorney Press Release
For Immediate Release: September 8, 2014
SANTA ANA – The Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA) is informing the public that a serial rapist will be released into the community after a jury determined that he did not meet the criteria of a sexually violent predator (SVP). William Sabatasso, 59, has been in a state mental hospital for seven years, where he was committed after serving 50 percent of a 26-year prison sentence. Sabatasso will be released today and has stated plans to move to Arizona, where he will live with his mother and sister.
Under the law, persons convicted of a sexually violent offense are subject to mental health reviews once they have completed their criminal sentence. There are three criteria that must be met in order to designate a person as an SVP. First, the defendant must have committed a sexually violent offense against one or more victims. Second, he/she must be diagnosed with a mental disorder. Finally, it must be found that he/she is likely to reoffend as a result of the mental disorder unless he/she is held in custody and treated. Department of State Hospitals evaluators must find that the respondent meets these criteria before the People can file a petition. After a petition is filed, the next stage is a probable cause hearing. If at the probable cause hearing the court finds the People have met their burden of proof, the respondent is then entitled to a jury trial. If these three conditions are met and the petition is found true by the jury, the defendant is admitted into a mental care facility.
If a unanimous jury finds beyond a reasonable doubt that the respondent meets the SVP criteria, the respondent is committed to a secure mental care facility for treatment until he/she is safe for release. If the jury opines that the respondent does not meet the criteria, he/she may be released from their commitment.
Evidence Presented in SVP Trial
During the SVP trial, the People presented evidence that the respondent has a lengthy criminal history involving multiple sexual and violent arrests and convictions.
On April 6, 1978, Sabatasso forcibly raped 26-year-old Jane Doe #1 after meeting her at a bar. He was convicted of one felony count of forcible rape and sentenced to 10 months in jail.
On March 2, 1979, Sabatasso forcibly raped 20-year-old Jane Doe #2 after meeting her at a bar. He was convicted of one felony count of forcible rape and sentenced to six years in state prison.
On May 16, 1984, Sabatasso violated the terms of his parole by raping 22-year-old Jane Doe #3. He was sentenced to one year in jail for the parole violation.
On Dec. 4, 1986, Sabatasso raped 15-year-old Jane Doe #4. He was convicted of one felony count statutory rape and sentenced to one year and four months in jail.
On Jan. 8, 1988, Sabatasso forcibly raped 24-year-old Jane Doe #5 after meeting the victim in a bar. He was convicted of one felony count of forcible rape and sentenced to 10 years in state prison, but was released in 1993 after serving 50-percent of the prison sentence.
In 1993, Sabatasso met 21-year-old Jane Doe #6, who was selling flowers at a restaurant. Sabatasso followed Jane Doe #6 and convinced the victim to stop her vehicle under the guise that he wanted to buy flowers. He then punched the victim in the face and stole her money. Sabatasso was convicted of one felony count of robbery and sentencing enhancements for prior serious felony convictions. He was sentenced to 26 years in state prison and served 13 years of his prison sentence.
In 2007, Sabatasso was scheduled to be released from prison, but the OCDA filed a petition to have Sabatasso committed as an SVP, and he was sent to Coalinga State Hospital pending his SVP trial.
The People argued that Sabatasso continues to pose a danger to the community based on his violent criminal history and history of sexual assault convictions, but the jury decided that Sabatasso did not meet the SVP criteria.
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
Susan Kang Schroeder
Chief of Staff
Director of Public Affairs