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Autistic man faces three-strikes conviction

May 28, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A Huntington Beach man who suffers from a form of autism known as Asperger syndrome, as well as Tourette syndrome, is facing a possible third-strike conviction. He could go to jail for years, even life. He's accused of malicious mischief in his neighborhood.People live in gated communities like The Gables in Huntington Beach to keep trouble out. But what's being described as a two-year "reign of terror" came from within one community, allegedly at the hands of a resident.

John Patrick Rogers is a 45-year-old man with Asperger syndrome and Tourette syndrome. He has a history of run-ins with his neighbors and the law.

"I think he's dangerous, yeah," said local resident John Harris. "I think he's just waiting to go over the edge."

Harris has lived at The Gables for 15 years, said Rogers has harassed dozens of residents. So much so that neighbors hired an attorney and filed 37 restraining orders against him.

"He's done this over and over in different communities, the same exact pattern of harassment and stalking," said the residents' attorney, Flora Camaj. "Flashlights in the windows, phone calls, posting defamatory letters, calling Child Services, calling Animal Services on people's dogs."

Rogers was arrested last week for causing $400 worth of damage to a neighbor's car in October 2009. He is charged with felony malicious mischief. Because he pleaded guilty to two felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon in 2003, a conviction in the 2009 case could would result in a third strike, which could mean a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

Advocates for Rogers said that's a punishment that doesn't fit the crime. But his alleged victims say he needs to be off the street.

"No matter what your mental issues, there's a lot of young families in here," said Gables resident Jacob Harmon. "Young little kids running around, and when these people are starting to feel threatened or in fear because of another individual, then, I think, something has to take place."

"Obviously, we believe he knows the difference between right and wrong or we wouldn't prosecute him," said Orange County District Attorney Robin Park. "When you see him, you can't help but have some sympathy with him."

Rogers will appear on court June 1.

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