SACRAMENTO - A state hearing officer is recommending a convicted sex offender be paid $215,200 for the nearly seven years he spent in two California prisons for failing to register after he moved from his native Rhode Island.
Charles Herbert Holmes, 50, doesn't deny sexually assaulting a 7-year-old girl in Providence in 1991, but claims the Rhode Island conviction for second-degree child molestation did not require him to register as a sex offender when he moved to California.
Holmes has a criminal history dating back to 1982, including convictions for burglary, fraud, counterfeiting, drug possession and resisting arrest.
He served three years of a ten-year sentence for the sexual assault on the child.
In 2005, Holmes was a transient in San Diego County coming off a four-year prison stretch for burglary when he was arrested for failure to register as a sex offender. Facing 25 years to life in prison as a two-striker, Holmes pleaded guilty to the registration charge and received a sentence of nine years.
Holmes was released from prison in November 2012 and just three months later was sent back to jail on a new drug charge.
In April 2013, Holmes sent a letter to the California Department of Justice (DOJ) asking for a review of his registration status because he planned to return to Rhode Island and didn't want to be forced to register there pursuant to an interstate compact.
DOJ informed him a week later that his 1992 conviction in Rhode Island did not require him to register as a sex offender in California.
In August 2013, Holmes filed a claim with the California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board seeking $100 per day for each of the 2,517 days he spent in prison for the 2005 conviction.
Because the nine-year sentence included time for two misdemeanors, a state hearing officer set the actual number of days served for the erroneous registration conviction at 2,152 days and recommended Holmes be paid $215,200.
Prior to a change in the compensation law this year, Holmes' guilty plea in 2005 would have made him ineligible for payment.
"We looked at the paperwork and found, in fact, this gentleman should not have been convicted of the crime," said chief legal counsel Wayne Strumpfer. "He's entitled to $100 per day for the time that he was in prison."
Longtime Sacramento defense attorney Mark Reichel, who is not involved in the Holmes case, understands why there may be outrage over a career criminal being reimbursed from the state's general fund, but says the hearing officer made the proper decision.
"Even if it's a technicality, if you weren't supposed to be in prison, the law says we're going to compensate you with taxpayer dollars," he said.
The three-member Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board will vote next Thursday on the staff recommendation to compensate Holmes, but Strumpfer, the board's lead counsel, said the state Legislature has the final say on approving the payout and has balked before on controversial claims.
In 2007, a convicted rapist named David Jones was legally entitled to a $74,600 payment which was ultimately blocked by the Legislature.
Holmes is now working as a cook in a diner in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and did not respond to a phone message seeking comment on his claim.
Holmes' attorney, Robert Schlien of San Diego, says the $215,200 payment was "an opportunity to make him whole."
"It's not a lot, but it's enough to get him started," Schlien said. "For seven years he was ripped away from family and friends."