Cayuga County judge rules inmate’s civil confinement hearing should be open to public

Despite a motion from an Auburn defense attorney and support from the state Attorney General’s office to keep an Auburn Correctional Facility inmate’s civil commitment hearing closed to the public, a Cayuga County judge ruled the hearing should be open.

An ACF inmate, referred to only as Donald G., is scheduled to be released from prison after serving time for unspecified sex offenses. Before his release, a civil commitment hearing will be held to determine whether or not the inmate should be released or committed to a state psychiatric center. Civil commitment is used by some states to keep offenders in custody who are at risk of committing additional crimes upon release.

Donald’s defense attorney, Adam Van Buskirk, filed a motion on Jan. 22 requesting Judge Mark Fandrich close the court proceedings under the state mental hygiene law that states a defendant may request to close a courtroom to the public “for good cause shown.” Van Buskirk argued that closing the court would protect the identities of witnesses in the case, including at least one who is a victim of Donald’s, and to protect his client from retaliation at the prison.

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