With the adoption of AB109 in April 2011, California's Legislature and Governor Jerry Brown announced that the State would no longer take responsibility for criminals convicted of roughly 500 of what they defined as "low level" felonies, such as assault, spousal abuse, commercial burglary, drug dealing, identity theft, and auto theft. AB109 (which the Governor called Public Safety Realignment) prohibits prison sentences for these offenders. Instead the law requires counties to sentence them to terms in overcrowded local jails, or a combination of jail time and probation, home detention, or a treatment program. At the same time, criminals released from prison, whose most recent felony was one of these new "low level" crimes, are automatically placed on county probation rather than the more intense supervision under state parole. This includes criminals whose record of prior crimes includes child kidnapping, child sexual assault, home invasion, and murder.
As a result, repeat felons are being cyclically arrested and released much earlier and with much less supervision than they would have been prior to Realignment. This continues until they commit a violent or serious crime such as rape, robbery, aggravated assault, or murder, leaving victims permanently scarred and sometimes killed. Since March of last year, the Sacramento-based CJLF has been compiling news stories of crimes committed by criminals released under Realignment. In February, the Foundation also reported on the FBI Preliminary crime statistics for 2012, which showed sharp increases for the first time in over 15 years in all categories of crime in California. That report is here.
According to San Bernardino County Probation Department Spokesman Chris Condon, the way offenders are classified as non-sexual, non-violent, and non-serious is an issue. "The most recent offense is taken into consideration for sentencing, not past offenses, which poses a problem all its own. . . "Three out of 10 people coming to us had serious violent felonies prior to their last offense." (Daily Press, March 30).
Sex offender Jerome DeAvila was arrested February 26, 2013, for the rape, robbery, and murder of his 76-year-old grandmother in Stockton. Her body was found dumped in a wheelbarrow in her backyard. DeAvila had been in and out of jail about a dozen times over the previous 12 months for parole violations. His most recent release was on February 20, 2013, after being arrested for violating his parole by not registering as a sex offender. Despite a 30-day jail sentence, he was released one day after pleading guilty due to a court cap which mandates releases when jails reach their population capacity. According to the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office, DeAvila was released under AB109. (The Stockton Record, March 1). Records from the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office indicate that DeAvila was released within 24 hours of being arrested in almost all of his nearly dozen arrests in the past nine months. (The Record Searchlight, March 17). San Joaquin County Chief Probation Officer Stephanie James said, "With so many people getting released early, jail is not a meaningful consequence." (The Stockton Record, March 12).
On March 17, 2013, 28-year-old Anthony Ibarra was found murdered in Santa Maria. Eight defendants have been charged with his death. All six are facing charges of murder, street terrorism, committing murder for a criminal street gang, lying in wait, torture, and kidnapping. The special circumstances associated with this murder make the six offenders eligible for the death penalty. (KCOY News, March 26). According to the Santa Maria Police Department, four of the six charged were on Post-Release Community Supervision under AB109 at the time of the murder. Ramon David Maldonado, 37, Reyes Gonzales Jr., 42; Pedro Torres, 54; and David Murillo Maldonado, 55; each have served multiple prison terms and committed numerous parole violations. Even though all four have a history of firearm offenses and gang activity, only their most recent offenses were considered when they were labeled as non-violent, non-serious, and non-sexual offenders and placed on county supervision.
Transient sex offender Jerome Anthony Rogers was arrested for the November 14, 2012, home invasion murder of 76-year-old Mary Beth Blaskey. According to San Bernardino Police Chief Rob Handy, Rogers's DNA matches samples taken from the crime scene. Rogers is also being investigated for the December 2010 murder of Wanda Paulin, 86, and the September 2005 murder of 90-year-old Josephine Kelley. Rogers's criminal history includes sodomizing a 14-year-old girl. Rogers was sentenced to 36 months probation late last year for failing to register as a sex offender. (San Bernardino Sun, April 8).
Michael Anthony Wyatt, a felony sex offender, was arrested on a Clovis high school campus in March. He was released from Fresno county jail because of overcrowding, a direct result of Realignment. (ABC 30, April 6). Wyatt was rearrested on March 28 when a concerned parent reported Wyatt walking with two children down a street, which violated his probation. He was heading toward a field where children were Easter egg hunting. At the time of Wyatt's arrest, officers found lubricant and condoms in his possession. Since June 2012, Wyatt has been arrested and released more than 23 times under AB109. Some of these arrests include sexual battery and committing a lewd act. (ABC 30, March 28).
On April 10, Sergio Ballesteros was arrested for the attempted murder of a man in El Monte. The victim was stabbed in the neck multiple times but survived. According to El Monte Police Sergeant Ben Lowry, Ballesteros was on Post-Release Community Supervision at the time of the attack. (San Gabriel Valley Tribune, April 11).
Over the past year, supporters of Realignment initially told Californians that the law was working to reduce recividism and saving tax dollars. Later, we were told that compiling news stories about crimes committed by criminals set free due to Realignment was ‘fear mongering' and that the FBI data, showing that crime was increasing was not conclusive. Now we are being told that Realignment can succeed but it will take more time.
"How many innocent Californians must have their lives ended or seriously damaged until the excuses end and our elected representatives in Sacramento take action to stop this?" asked Foundation President Michael Rushford.