Convicted Child Sex Offender Considered High Risk of Reoffending, Will Remain in Custody

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By Sahaily Zazueta

MODESTO, CA – Richard Michael Cuthbert appeared via Zoom from Coalinga State Hospital in a probable cause hearing in Stanislaus County Superior Court last Friday to determine if he would be a danger to the health and safety of others—based on the likelihood that he will engage in sexually violent criminal behavior due to his diagnosed mental disorders.

Judge Robert Westbrook found probable cause to keep Cuthbert, a convicted child sex offender, in custody.

Cuthbert was found guilty in 2019 of the felony charge of committing lewd and lascivious acts with a minor under the age of 14.

Dr. Michelle Vorwerk, a forensic psychologist, appeared via Zoom to testify as a witness for the prosecution. Dr. Vorwerk, who interviewed Cuthbert May 5, 2021, testified as to the findings of her violent sexual predator evaluation of Cuthbert.

Deputy District Attorney Samuel Luzadas asked Dr. Vorwerk about the criteria necessary to determine whether or not Cuthbert would be a danger to the safety of others if released on parole.

The criteria includes whether or not the person has committed a sexually violent offense, whether or not the person has a diagnosed mental disorder that predisposes them to criminal sexual acts, and whether or not the person is likely to commit a future sexually violent offense without appropriate treatment in custody.

In her evaluation of Cuthbert, Dr. Vorwerk stated that she relied on reviews of his criminal record, his mental health and medical records, his interview answers, two risk assessments, and his protective factors.

Dr. Vorwerk determined that Cuthbert met the first two criteria. Cuthbert was convicted of a qualifying sexually violent offense in 2019, and he is diagnosed with two qualifying mental disorders: pedophilic disorder and borderline personality disorder.

However, Dr. Vorwerk stated that she determined that Cuthbert did not meet the third criterion. In her interview with Cuthbert in 2021, Dr. Vorwerk conducted two risk assessments to evaluate Cuthbert’s likelihood to commit a sexually violent predatory crime if released.

One risk assessment evaluated Cuthbert’s likelihood to reoffend based on static, unchangeable characteristics. The second risk assessment evaluated Cuthbert’s likelihood to reoffend based on dynamic, changeable characteristics.

Cuthbert’s results from the static risk assessment indicated that he had a slightly above average level of static risk. Compared to other sex offenders, Cuthbert ranked in the 65.7 percentile.

Cuthbert’s results from the dynamic risk assessment indicated that he had a high level of dynamic risk. He received a score of 15 out of 26, which ranked him in the 92 percentile compared to other sex offenders.

Dr. Vorwerk stated that she asked Cuthbert about his willingness to receive treatment. She stated that he told her he did not feel he needed help and did not want to receive treatment because it had been four years since he had committed his last sexual offense.

Dr. Vorwerk also assessed Cuthbert’s protective factors as part of her evaluation. One of the four protective factors include whether or not the offender has been in the community without sexually reoffending two years after they have been released from their most recent sex offense.

In regard to this protective factor, Dr. Vorwerk stated that Cuthbert “has not yet been released from his index offense, so he would not qualify as having this protective factor.”

As to the three other protective factors, Dr. Vorwerk testified that she found Cuthbert did not qualify as having any protective factors that might mitigate his risk of reoffending..

Combining the findings from both risk assessments, Dr. Vorwerk testified that “most sex offenders recidivate between 5 and 12 percent of the time and Mr. Cuthbert’s score is 13.6 percent, so he is above the average risk for committing another sex offense.”

Dr. Vorwerk summarized her belief that Cuthbert is at a high risk of reoffending “based on my assessment and evaluation of him that he is likely to commit a future violent sex offense without treatment in custody.”

She added that she believes he is “a serious and well-founded risk in the community without being in a locked setting.”

Dr. Vorwerk stated she believes Cuthbert is a danger to the health and safety of others because “starting at the age of 23, he began using child pornography and reinforcing his sexual arousal to children by masturbating and ejaculating to those images over a period of 15 years.”

Dr. Vorwerk testified that she is “specifically concerned about his lack of insight in that if he were released into the community, he is telling me that he would not receive treatment for his mental disorder as he believes that it is no longer a problem given that it has been four years since these offenses.”

Dr. Vorwerk also stated that she is concerned that Cuthbert is at a high risk of reoffending because he was not able to establish adult relationships in the past, which caused him to “seek out sexual gratification from children.” She said she does not believe Cuthbert has the necessary coping skills to deal with his pedophilic interests.

Dr Vorwerk explained, “The trajectory of his offending is also very concerning in this case. He initially began viewing child pornography and masturbating to those images on his computer. That escalated into watching children on video surveillance, then progressed to actually taking videos himself in real life, and finally culminated into actually molesting a child.”

Judge Westbrook stated that based on Dr. Vorwerk’s testimony, he found that there was probable cause “to believe that the defendant is likely to engage in sexually violent predatory criminal behavior upon his release.”

After having made the probable cause finding, Judge Westbrook stated, “I admit I am at a loss as to what the next step is.”

Deputy Public Defender Amy Kennedy asked Judge Westbrook to schedule a trial setting date. The defense and prosecution are scheduled to meet on June 17 to set a date for trial.

Cuthbert was ordered to remain in Coalinga State Hospital.

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About The Author

Sahaily is a senior undergraduate student at California State University Long Beach, majoring in Criminal Justice with a minor in Human Development. She aspires to become a public defender.

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