Sex offender Hanf back in jail, considered for predator program

State prosecutors are seeking to have convicted sex offender Daniel Hanf, 31, placed in the state's sexually violent predator program for treatment.

A registered sex offender who has served prison time for attacking multiple women is back in the Charleston County jail, awaiting a trial to determine if he should be indefinitely locked away for treatment when his sentence runs out.

Daniel Hanf, 31, is scheduled to be released from state prison next month after serving his time on a 10-year sentence for sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl in North Charleston, state records show.

State attorneys are seeking a civil commitment for Hanf under South Carolina's Sexually Violent Predator Act, which would allow authorities to keep him locked up for the purpose of alternative care.

Before his present prison term, Hanf served time in connection with attacks on two other women. He also drew notoriety in 2006 after cutting off his electronic leg monitor while awaiting trial and eluding police for more than a week.

The predator act, passed in 1998. is reserved for the state's most dangerous sex offenders. It requires a court proceeding to decide whether a person suffers from a mental or personality disorder that makes him likely to commit sexually violent acts. Once confined, offenders receive mental health treatment, drug and alcohol counseling and other services aimed at helping them control their behaviors.

For some, this can become a life sentence.

A date for Hanf's commitment trial has not been set, but he was transferred Tuesday from Broad River Correctional Institution in Columbia to the Cannon Detention Center in anticipation on a pending court appearance, state records show.

Hanf's attorney, James Kristian Falk, said he could not discuss the substance of the case without his client's permission. But he said he has filed a motion seeking to dismiss the state's request, due to the failure of the state Attorney General's Office to meet a deadline for submitting expert documents in the case.

State Department of Corrections records show Hanf has a scheduled release date of Feb. 12. Falk said Hanf is expected to remain at the county jail until the matter of his commitment is resolved.

The state Attorney General's Office was closed Wednesday due to the winter storm that struck South Carolina. Agency spokesman Mark Powell said he had no access to files or attorneys involved in the case, leaving him unable to comment or provide updated statistics on the predator program.

South Carolina is one of at least 20 states to enact laws under which sex offenders can be sequestered for treatment for life in the name of public safety. These measures gained traction in the 1990s when growing public fears about sex offenders coincided with prosperous times in which state budgets were flush with cash.

In 2010, The Post and Courier reported that South Carolina shelled out about $7.4 million each year to treat those confined under the act. At the time, 119 predators were housed in the program. In 2012 The State newspaper reported that number had grown to 157 people.

The state Department of Mental Health runs the predator program. Most of these offenders are housed in a unit deep within the maximum-security Broad River prison, in a wing originally designed for death-row inmates.

As of 2010, authorities had screened 5,498 offenders, and 192 - around 3.5 percent - had been committed as sexually violent predators, authorities have said. By that same year, the courts had released 65 people from the program after they received treatment. Six others left in caskets after dying in the program.

Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said her staff had recently been informed by the Attorney General's Office that Hanf had been evaluated and recommended for treatment through the predator program.

In 2006, Hanf was charged with sexually assaulting a teenage woman he knew on Folly Beach. Then he was arrested for a second offense after he assaulted another acquaintance while she was sleeping inside a friend's Mount Pleasant apartment, authorities said.

Though Hanf was sentenced to three years in prison in connection with those incidents, he was released after about four months, partially because of the time he already had served in the county lockup.

Shortly after his release in April 2008, Hanf was accused of attacking the 17-year-old he met in North Charleston, sexually assaulting her after she passed out, police said.