By Kim Minugh and Sam Stanton
The 55-year-old sexually violent predator arrested Wednesday after allegedly twice visiting Del Campo High School was released today on bail, online jail records indicate.
Hugh Levell Stewart, left, was being held on $5,000 bail. He has a criminal record dating back to when he was 11 and has a history of rapes, sexual assaults and stays in two of California's mental hospitals for sex offenders, a prosecutor told The Bee today.
Stewart, a 5-foot, 7-inch, 150-pound registered sex offender, had been sent to Atascadero State Hospital in June 1979 as a mentally disordered sex offender after he sexually assaulted an 11-year-old girl in Alameda County in 1978, said Stephen Taylor, a veteran prosecutor with the San Joaquin County District Attorney's Office, who has handled Stewart's cases for years.
That was one of numerous rape or sexual assault cases involving Stewart as he bounced from prison to hospital to prison and, eventually, won his freedom after two Stockton juries were unable to agree on whether he remained a threat to the public.
In a jailhouse interview with The Bee, Stewart said today he never stepped foot on the Del Campo High School campus. He said he doesn't even know where it is.
"I haven't got a clue about what happened at that school," he said.
Wearing an orange jumpsuit, on which he had drawn a cross over his left breast, Stewart said he's been a law-abiding citizen since his release from state hospital. He said he tries to find work where he can, hasn't touched alcohol or drugs since the 1990s and keeps to himself. He said he hasn't run afoul of anybody.
"I'm courteous even in my driving," he said.
Stewart was living with his sister in a Fair Oaks apartment without restrictions, other than a requirement that he register as a sex offender every 90 days.
Stockton prosecutors ended their efforts to keep Stewart held at the Coalinga State Hospital after the two hung juries, and he had no recent run-ins with the law until his arrest Wednesday.
Sheriff's officials say Stewart had been seen twice on the Del Campo campus, which was under scrutiny because of a series of recent attacks on students in the area. Stewart is not believed to be connected to those attacks but was arrested on charges of being on school grounds without lawful business and providing false information on his sex offender registry, both misdemeanors.
Stewart was at Atascadero and, later, Coalinga State Hospital, since 1999 and had sought his release through court hearings every two years. Before 2006, SVPs were allowed such regular hearings, which Taylor said allowed offenders to learn how to behave in front of juries.
"As time went on, of course, they got better and better and better," he said. "It was classroom work for them, so they learned and learned and learned."
State officials said Stewart's release from Coalinga came without restrictions on where he could live or go, although a state Supreme Court decision in February indicated that the 2,000-foot limit that keeps offenders away from schools and other areas with children -- Jessica's Law, approved by voters in 2006 -- could be applied retroactively to include Stewart and others with convictions pre-dating the law.
Call The Bee's Kim Minugh, (916) 321-1038.
Criminal history highlights
Hugh Levell Stewart, 55, has a long criminal history dating back to when he was 11. San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Stephen Taylor said court records show Stewart's first arrest was for burglary and that he was sent to the California Youth Authority as a ward of the court.
Since then, court records and officials say his offenses include:
â€¢ A petty theft arrest at age 13.
â€¢ An April 1970 charge of sodomy on a 9-year-old boy.
â€¢ A 1975 case in Alameda County where he forced his way into a home and tried to sexually assault a 24-year-old babysitter. She resisted and ran away, and Stewart was convicted of burglary.
â€¢ A May 1978 case in Alameda County where he assaulted an 11-year-old girl in an apartment complex carport. He was convicted and sent to Atascadero State Hospital in June 1979 as a mentally disordered sex offender. He was sent to prison from Atascadero in 1982 after doctors said he was not cooperating with treatment and was a danger to society.
â€¢ An April 1985 Alameda County case where he raped a 16-year-old babysitter who was watching four small children. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison and paroled in 1991.
â€¢ A 1994 arrest on petty theft and traffic violations.
â€¢ A 1997 conviction for shoplifting a $2 item from a drug store across the street from the Stockton courthouse. That sent him to prison, and as he was being evaluated for release in 1999, he was deemed to be a sexually violent predator and sent to Atascadero.
Stewart later was transferred to Coalinga, winning release in recent years after two juries failed to agree on whether he remained a danger. (Dates of those trials were not immediately available today.)
- Sam Stanton and Kim Minugh