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Six months ago, Cary Verse was running out of places to go. The 34-year-old sexually violent predator, who had been released from Atascadero State Hospital a year earlier, had so far been kicked out of the three counties he had tried to live in. News stories kept track of where he might be living next. Reactions from worried neighbors ranged from distaste to tears. But that’s mostly behind him now. Last weekend he was at home hosting a party for his family and friends and singing “I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends.” “He had finally found a home and it was the end of a long journey,” said Anthony Ashe, an East Bay attorney and unlikely friend. A year ago Ashe and his wife, Araceli Ramirez, only knew Verse from TV. But they were touched by his plight, and decided to extend a hand. “He presented himself quite well,” Ashe said. “I just felt people weren’t giving him a chance.” Verse served two prison sentences for sexual assault, the most recent one for six years for assaulting a man at a Richmond homeless shelter in 1992. After that sentence, he was civilly committed to Atascadero for five years as part of California’s Sexually Violent Predator law. Ashe, a criminal defense attorney, and Ramirez, a juvenile-law attorney and part-time Contra Costa County Juvenile Court commissioner, decided to offer Verse a cottage behind their Bay Point law office in eastern Contra Costa County. “I was raised to believe that if you were in a position to help someone, you were automatically blessed,” Ashe said. But by doing so, the couple cast themselves at the center of a firestorm. Verse had already been placed in Mill Valley, San Jose and Oakland before being forced to move from each city, largely because of neighborhood protests. Verse then seemed headed to Contra Costa County because a newly changed state law required sexually violent predators to be placed where they had committed their last crime. Neighbors held vitriolic protests. The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors asked Ramirez and Ashe to rescind their offer. A neighborhood group that Ashe and Ramirez gave free space to next to their law office moved out. And at one public hearing, a woman became so angry at Ashe that she hit him. Ramirez and Ashe had expected the controversy. But there were also those who accused the couple of seeking attention for themselves. “I think that’s totally ridiculous,” said their friend Rhonda Wilson-Rice. “I think they did it because it was the right thing to do. A lot of us will say what the right thing is, but there are very few of us who would do it.” Wilson-Rice, a lawyer who handles juvenile dependency cases, said fellow lawyers have been much more supportive than the general public has. “I think people in the legal community — because we deal in these ideals — can understand and are not critical of them,” she said. Although similar in social outlook, Ramirez and Ashe have dissimilar styles. A criminal defense attorney and one-time deputy DA, Ashe is quicker to smile, more outspoken and more casual in his dress. At a recent lunch in Pittsburg, they showed up separately — Ramirez in business attire and Ashe in workout gear. He had just biked in from Walnut Creek. Ramirez may be reserved, but she’s also known for taking a stand. While serving as a court commissioner in 2002, Ramirez drew sharp reaction from the press for threatening to send two middle-school-aged brothers to juvenile hall for shooting a spitball at a schoolmate’s face and permanently injuring his eye. The boys’ parents took their story to the media, which drew more attention to Ramirez’s seemingly harsh punishment — until it was learned that the boys had reputations as schoolyard bullies who had been disciplined many times in the past. Ramirez gave the boys a week in juvenile hall and scolded their parents for not being focused enough on their kids. Today, she shakes her head at the episode, which received national attention. “It should have never made the papers,” she says. Ramirez is similarly disgusted by the actions of some of Verse’s protesters. While many angry parents said they feared for their children’s safety, Ramirez argued that the majority of sexual assaults against children are committed by someone the child knows, such as a family member or a friend. “The parents were lashing out, without thinking about what they could be doing to make their children safe,” she said. No one feels stronger about Ramirez and Ashe than Verse himself, who works as a carpet cleaner and has become something of a caretaker for the couple’s office complex on Willow Pass Road. “They’ve been everyday heroes to me,” Verse said. “It’s the people who don’t do what’s popular who are the real heroes.” Verse has met the couple’s four children and considers Ramirez and Ashe friends. The feeling is mutual. “I guess there is a friendship developing here that was somewhat unanticipated,” Ashe says. Since he arrived in Bay Point in mid-February, none of the fears residents had about Verse have come to pass. Verse is chemically castrated, wears satellite monitoring equipment and needs approval for just about everything he does. He can’t drive a car and he must document every phone call he makes. “We have not heard a single complaint, none whatsoever,” says Contra Costa County sheriff spokesman Jimmy Lee. The last negative incident happened in March, when Ashe asked a passing motorist to help him lift a cargo container off the top of his car. “He said, ‘I won’t have anything to do with that property,’” Ashe recalls. But that’s OK, he says. The next driver helped. Federal Glover, a Contra Costa County supervisor who represents Pittsburg and Bay Point, disagreed with the decision to place Verse in Bay Point. But he gives Ramirez and Ashe credit for following through. “They stepped up to the plate at the time they saw a need,” Glover said. “I didn’t agree with their decision . . . but I certainly have a great deal of respect for what they’re doing.”

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