Wednesday, January 27, 2010

California residents get 28 restraining orders against neighbor with Asperger's, PTSD

From the Orange County Register:

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. – An Orange County Superior Court judge has issued 28 restraining orders against an autistic Huntington Beach man who is accused of videotaping children in his neighborhood, taunting homeowners with his pit bull and sending defamatory letters to neighbors.

Residents at the Huntington Beach Gables community near the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station were granted restraining orders through January 2013 against John Patrick Rogers, 45. Officials say this is the third community in Huntington Beach where Rogers – who has a criminal record that includes lewd conduct, kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon – has had disputes.

Lee Gragnano, the community association's president, called Rogers' residency at the Gables a "holy reign of terror."

Rogers contends his neighbors are harassing him – leaving dog feces and oil on his doorstep, turning off his water and power, trapping him in his garage and stealing his dog. He said he has a form of autism called Asperger's syndrome and suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome from a stabbing in 1998 when he argued with a man staying at his apartment.

"They are trying to make me look like a monster," he said. "They see me as the autistic one, the unlikeable one, the disabled one."

"It is basically nasty people, and now they want to play victims."

The restraining orders granted Jan. 21 require Rogers to stay 30 feet away from certain residents except for coming and going to his home, prevent him from contacting the residents or taking photos or recordings that he has been accused of posting on YouTube.

Gragnano said the restraining orders have helped, but one neighbor called police about a suspected violation this weekend.

"Most of the normal stuff that he has done to aggravate the neighbors has ceased at this point," he said. "But when he comes out the children still hightail it back into the house."

Residents said he would sue his neighbors and then never show up in court, set his car alarm off in the middle of the night, and flash high-powered lights into neighbors' windows for extended periods of times.

"His (modus operandi) is he will do something until the Huntington Beach police said, 'Stop this,'" Gragnano said.

Gables resident Lori Burrett said the residents need to give the restraining order time. Rogers is "severely disabled,'' she said, and the neighbors need to be more compassionate.

"It is not a big surprise that someone with a disability has patterns of not being a great neighbor," she said. "I am not going to deny that he hasn't been a very difficult and annoying neighbor at times. Just give him a chance to work with the restraining order... without inciting him more."

Rogers said he has tried to befriend his neighbors by handing out flowers and Christmas presents. He said the residents opposed to him are a minority in the community. He said he would move but is financially unable to do so.

"Some of them hate me," he said. "It is a crusade."

Rogers has a criminal record during his time in Huntington Beach.

He pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon – a paintball gun -- in 2003 and was sentenced to four years in state prison and three years probation. He also pleaded guilty in 2004 to lewd conduct in a public place and was ordered to spend 180 days in jail.

He was charged with vandalism with more than $400 in damage in October but pleaded not guilty. A pretrial is set for today.

In San Diego, Rogers pleaded guilty in 1986 to kidnapping and assaulting a man. The victim testified that Rogers handcuffed him, saying he was a police officer, and drove him around in his car hitting and burning him. Rogers stopped at a bridge saying he was going to drown the victim and began chocking the man, according to court documents.

Rogers had disputes with neighbors at the Harbour Vista condominiums in 2002 and a man at an apartment complex on Sandbar Lane in 1998.

"We have talked to him for some 15 years, and he doesn't want to get along with his neighbors," said Huntington Beach police spokesman Lt. Russell Reinhart. "This is the third series where he's just a nuisance."

In 1998, Rogers and his mother, Mary Rogers, were both stabbed in the neck after an argument with a man who was staying at their apartment on Sandbar Lane. Gonzalo Alfonso Cabero Feliciano, a Spanish citizen, was later arrested in Valencia, Spain.

Rogers said the cut severed nerves and collapsed a lung.

Reinhart said there were numerous police calls to Rogers' apartment before the attack.

About three years later, Rogers moved to the Harbour Vista condominiums. Residents there petitioned the City Council and police asked them to clamp down on Rogers, who locals said was filming neighbors and slashing tires.

At that time, more than 150 calls to police were reported, and more than 500 police hours were logged in the dispute, officials said.

"He did the same thing here as he is doing at the Gables," said Gayle McCord, a Harbour Vista resident. "It was the worst nightmare in the world."

Police say in the past year they have had more than 50 phone calls from Rogers' neighbors at the Gables and have taken about a dozen police reports on his behavior. They have also issued six civil citations against him.

They struggle with responding to the neighbors' complaints because most of Rogers' behavior is not criminal, Reinhart said. Police encouraged residents to get restraining orders so they could better respond to the concerns.

"We can't go out and solve a problem when there is no criminal element," Reinhart said. "The type of harassment that he subjected his neighbors to, most of it is not criminal."