Alleged cold case Livermore sex assault offender released from custody amid coronavirus concerns
Photo: Gregory Vien
The San Jose Mercury News shares this interesting story about a man accused of sexual assault now released because of coronavirus concerns –
“LIVERMORE — A man accused of sexually assaulting two women 23 years ago in Livermore and Union City has been released from jail in because of coronavirus concerns.
Gregory Paul Vien, 61, is suspected in the September 1997 sexual assault of a 22-year-old woman in Livermore and a May 1997 sexual assault of a 41-year-old woman in Union City. He was arrested more than 22 years later in November 2019 after DNA evidence left at the scenes connected him to the crimes, authorities said.
Gregory Vien was arrested and charged in November 2019 for five felonies related to the sex assault of two women in 1997 in Union City and Livermore. On Friday, he was released from jail on his own recognizance. (Alameda County Sheriff’s Office)
On Friday, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon granted Vien a bail reduction from his original $2.5 million to $0. He was released on his own recognizance, over strong objection by the prosecution, with the condition that he must wear an ankle monitor. He is only allowed to leave the house except to go to court, or meet with his attorney.
The release is temporary, and will be reviewed again by a judge in June.
In a statement, District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said that her office is. “vehemently opposed” to Vien’s bail reduction. “It is outrageous that an individual facing serious and violent sexual assault charges, who is a danger to the community, would be among those whose bail is set at $0,” she said.
Vien’s attorney, Melissa Adams, confirmed she made a motion to reduce bail. Bail motions can be reviewed because of a change of circumstance, in this case the presence of COVID-19. She also said his “personal medical reasons” was why the motion was reviewed, but did not elaborate what those reasons were. Certain medical reasons, such as prior cancer treatment, obesity and other criteria, combined with age, could put some at high risk if they contract the virus, she said.
Adams did not want to comment further on her client’s release.
Vien is one of nearly 900 inmates released from Santa Rita Jail in Dublin in light of the COVID-19 concerns and new court rules regarding the release of inmates. Advocates have been pushing for a reduction in the jail population to prevent the virus from spreading. As of Tuesday, there were 35 confirmed cases of the virus in the jail; the inmate population has gone down from a daily average of 2,600 to 1,746 inmates.
The jail is generally only keeping inmates inside who have been accused of serious and violent crimes. Earlier this month, the Judicial Council of California recommended local courts adopt new rules to help lower the jail population, including setting bail statewide at $0 for misdemeanors and lower-level felonies. Vien did not qualify in this category of the new emergency bail schedule.
Vien was charged with five felonies: three counts of sexual penetration by a foreign object and two counts of forcible oral copulation. Special allegations that Vien kidnapped the victims during the sex offenses were also charged by the prosecution. It’s also alleged the crimes were violent felonies, which would make Vien eligible for state prison term if convicted.
On May 6, 1997, Union City police were called to the area of Bradford Street to investigate a sexual assault. There, they found a 41-year-old woman who had been walking to the BART station after work when she was “violently attacked” by a man she did not know, police said in court documents. She was dragged to a secluded area in a nearby field, had her clothes cut off with a knife and was sexually assaulted. Police preserved DNA evidence found where she was attacked.
On September 15, 1997, a 22-year-old woman was walking around Livermore High School when a man approached her. He pulled her from the bleachers, and forced her to a dark and secluded area, police said. It was there that he sexually assaulted her.
DNA evidence found where the attack occurred was also preserved and later linked to the Union City crime that had occurred months earlier.
But it wasn’t until 2019 that police used the DNA matches to conduct what’s called a familial DNA search — looking for relatives of the suspect through genetic genealogy websites. The method was famously used in the Golden State Killer case to find suspect Joseph DeAngelo.
Ultimately, Vien was connected to the two sex assault cases and police found that he had lived in Livermore for the past several decades. Detectives, keeping him under surveillance, collected DNA samples discarded by Vien, including a Baskin Robbins ice cream spoon. The spoon was tested and matched the DNA from both the Union City and Livermore crimes.
At the time of the arrest, he lived three miles from where the Livermore assault took place.
The Union City victim also met with detectives in October 2019, who confirmed the details of the 1997 assault.
“Victim told me she was afraid her attacker was going to kill her at the time and relayed the profound effect of the attack on her life,” wrote Union City Office Joshua Clubb in a court document.
Alameda County District Attorney Office also supported “Denim Day” on Wednesday, a sexual assault awareness day where jeans are worn in support of survivors of sexual violence. The day originated after an Italian Supreme Court overturned a rape conviction in the 1990s because they believed the victim’s jeans were too tight and she helped remove them. Women wore jeans the next day to Parliament in protest.”