This report contains graphic descriptions.
FORT WORTH -- A sexual predator who has admitted molesting 22 children has been ordered back to prison after he failed to abide by provisions of his civil commitment, including a requirement that he keep a "thought journal."
Edward Lynn Russell, 44, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for 11 violations of the commitment order and was assessed a $10,000 fine for each guilty verdict.
Prosecutors maintained that Russell never tried to change his sexually deviant habits.
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"Any violent sexual predator that gets kicked out of treatment and admits to molesting more than 20 children deserves to be in prison," said Bill Vassar, Tarrant County assistant district attorney.
It was the first time that a Tarrant County jury has been asked to decide a case involving a sexual predator accused of violating a civil commitment order.
Russell's defense attorney, Dan Pitzer, argued that his client was set up to fail.
Besides being required to keep a thought journal, Russell was obligated to tell his counselors what he was thinking before, during and after masturbation, something he would never have agreed to had it not been a condition of his civil commitment, Pitzer said.
Lawrin Dean, clinical director for the company that administered Russell's therapy, testified that the thought journal gave therapists insight into what was needed to change Russell's deviant sexual behavior.
"We are trying to manage their behaviors so that they are not as high-risk as before," Dean said.
The civil commitment process starts with a diagnosis that a person is a violent sexual predator. Once a person is committed, the ex-convict has no choice but to abide by the criteria set up by a judge and a panel of experts on sexually deviant behavior, Pitzer said.
The civil commitment program was designed for violent sexual offenders who have completed their prison time but are still deemed too dangerous to re-enter society without intensive supervision. Texas is the only state that conducts its civil commitment program on an outpatient basis, Dean said.
Russell also violated the civil commitment order by having casual sex with one of the young men living at the halfway house where he stayed, by disengaging himself from the GPS device that was supposed to keep track of him and by not taking his medications.
Still, "he's not committed a crime," Pitzer said.
"It's not illegal to leave your monitor alone for 17 minutes," Pitzer said. "... It's not illegal to have casual sex unless you're a sexually violent predator. It's not illegal to flirt, unless you're labeled a sexually violent predator. It's not illegal to forget to take your pills, unless you're a sexually violent predator."
Russell had convictions for sodomy in Alabama and a conviction for a sexual assault of a boy under age 12 in Van Zandt County, Vassar said.
Russell also admitted to therapists that he molested a female infant and befriended a family for four years so he could molest their son. Russell convinced himself that the children wanted to have sex with him, Dean said.
"It's difficult to understand the thinking that a sexual predator uses to justify molesting a child," Dean said. "We want the thoughts they use while they are masturbating so we can challenge those thoughts."
When Russell hid his thoughts by not filling out the thought journal, it indicated that Russell did not want to face that challenge, prosecutors said.
Russell agreed to be placed in a civil commitment in 2008 and has been treated for sexual deviancy for the past two years. Russell consistently violated program rules and was not serious about trying to complete the therapy program, prosecutors said.
"Russell had chance after chance after chance after chance," said Alana Minton, Tarrant County assistant district attorney. "For two years they tried to work with him. You heard from both his caseworkers. ... They said we were trying to work with him. Ladies and gentlemen, how many chances does one man get?"
Out of the 5,500 felons eligible for the civil commitment program in Texas, only 180 were chosen to be committed, lawyers arguing the case said.
"The violation of a treatment program should not be used to send this man back to prison," Pitzer said. "No more than it should be used to send back the gang member. This program is designed to make the participant fail. The rules were designed to send people to the pen."
Pitzer said he will appeal the conviction.
Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752