Sex predator closer to freedom

But John W.J. Keeney, who was committed after crimes in the 1990s, will be closely monitored in his new environment.

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WALLA WALLA -- A sexually violent predator who was civilly committed after a series of local sex crimes in the 1990s has been ordered conditionally released to a less-restrictive alternative, but still will be closely monitored.

John W.J. Keeney, 36, has been detained for sex-offender treatment at the Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island since 2004. But he reportedly has made enough advances that the state Attorney General's Office has agreed to allow him to live at the Secure Community Transition Facility in King County.

Walla Walla County Superior Court Judge John Lohrmann signed the order Tuesday releasing Keeney to the residential facility.

The SCTF is continually supervised by employees of the state Department of Social and Health Services and equipped with security cameras.

Keeney will be allowed to leave only for approved activities, including work if he gets a job, and always will be accompanied by an SCTF staff member or approved monitoring adult. He also will be subject to electronic monitoring and must comply with dozens of other strict conditions.

In addition, he must continue sex-offender treatment and participate in behavioral management and life-skills training.

The order signed by Lohrmann says the conditional release is in Keeney's best interest and "includes conditions that will adequately protect the community."

In September 2004, as Keeney was to be released from prison for the latest of his sex crimes, the AG's office filed a civil-court petition claiming he met the definition of a sex predator. He was transferred to McNeil Island and at the end of a trial in Walla Walla in May 2006, a jury agreed he should continue to be detained until his condition improved.

The jury decided Keeney suffered from a mental abnormality or personality disorder making him likely to reoffend. He was diagnosed as being attracted sexually to adolescent girls and to be suffering from antisocial personality disorder.

Based on his progress in treatment, Keeney petitioned a year ago to be released unconditionally. A trial to determine whether his condition has changed enough that he no longer meets the criteria of a sex predator had been scheduled to start next week in Walla Walla County Superior Court.

But the proceedings have been canceled because of the agreement by both sides to release him to the SCTF. A trial could be reset at a later date.

Keeney's last criminal conviction was second-degree child molestation for groping a 12-year-old girl in a Walla Walla eating establishment in 1996. He served eight years at various prisons for that crime.

He also was convicted in 1991 of second-degree rape by forcible compulsion for raping a 12-year-old Walla Walla girl at knifepoint.

His criminal history also includes other sex crimes in the 1990s.

Terry McConn can be reached at terrymcconn@wwub.com or 526-8319.

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