Monthly Archives: September 2011

Aaron Bassler: Murder Suspect On The Run Shoots At Sheriff

FORT BRAGG, Calif. — Authorities say they are closing in on a murder suspect who has been the subject of Northern California’s largest manhunt in decades – even as they reported that he shot at a group of sheriff’s deputies Thursday.

The Alameda County deputies searching in the redwood forest where the man has been at large for more than a month weren’t hit and fired about 10 shots in response, Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman said at a Thursday night news conference.

Aaron Bassler, 35, is suspected of killing a city councilman on Aug. 27 and one other person several weeks before. Bassler is thought to be hiding out in the redwoods outside of Fort Bragg and is believed to have broken into several cabins to steal food and at least two other weapons.

Allman did not know how many shots Bassler is suspected of firing, or whether he had been wounded in the exchange. More law enforcement officers were being flown into the area to join the 40 officers involved in the search, he said.

“We believe we really and truly encircled him in a way that tomorrow may bring resolution … but I have said that for 34 days,” Allman said.

The search was scheduled to continue around the clock, with air searches, fog permitting, in the daytime. Investigators believe Bassler is hiding in the forest and surviving without help from anyone.

“We have no reason to believe people are supplying him with food, logistics, information. There is $30,000 reward,” Allman said.
Officials are asking residents and others to stay out of the forest until Bassler is captured.

Fort Bragg City Councilman Jere Melo, who also worked as a security contractor, and a co-worker at a private timber company confronted Bassler while investigating reports of an illegal marijuana farm outside of town.

It was unknown whether the gunman was stalking the officers during Thursday’s exchange of gunfire but he was using a high powered assault rifle like the one believed to have killed Melo, the sheriff told reporters. “He clearly was shooting at them with a rifle.” he said.

Police said Bassler was cultivating some 400 poppy plants and was holed up in a makeshift bunker when he fired on the 69-year-old Melo and the co-worker, who escaped and called for help.

Bassler is also being sought in the fatal shooting of Matthew Coleman of the Mendocino County Land Trust. The former Fish and Game Department employee was found dead next to his car on Aug. 11 up the coast from Fort Bragg.
Associated Press

Both men were highly respected for their love of the land and their community work. The 7,000 residents of Fort Bragg have been on edge while the manhunt by dozens of local and federal agents has enveloped their coastal fishing and lumber community.

James Bassler said he believes his son suffers from schizophrenia and for years has talked about aliens and spaceships, while crafting Chinese military stars and drawings of weapons systems. His son was arrested in 2009 after he was accused of flinging some of those red stars over the fence of the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, but was released after authorities determined he was not an immediate threat to himself or others.

Aaron Bassler was arrested again on DUI charges in February after he allegedly rammed his truck into a school tennis court. He lost his license, and shortly afterward, lost his place to live.

“He lost his truck, then he lost his place to live; all his links to the real world,” his father said in an interview last week.

Earlier this week, authorities released a photo of Bassler vandalizing a vacation cabin while holding a high-caliber rifle. On Wednesday, they confirmed his fingerprints linked him to another burglary at a cabin.

James Bassler said he had tried for years to get county authorities to have his son put into a mental health program, but that his letters and calls had gone unanswered due to privacy laws that protect his son.


Jackson’s Guard Told To Collect Vials Before Calling 911

LOS ANGELES — One of Michael Jackson’s bodyguards had barely stepped into the singer’s bedroom when he heard a scream. “Daddy!” Jackson’s young daughter cried.

A few feet away, the singer lay motionless in his bed, eyes slightly open. His personal doctor, Conrad Murray, was trying to revive him when he saw that Jackson’s eldest children were watching.

“Don’t let them see their dad like this,” Murray said, the first of many orders that bodyguard Alberto Alvarez testified Thursday that he heeded in the moments before paramedics arrived at Jackson’s home in June 2009.

What happened next – after Alvarez said he ushered Jackson’s eldest son and daughter from the room – is one of the key pieces of prosecutors’ involuntary manslaughter case against Murray.

According to Alvarez, Murray scooped up vials of medicine from Jackson’s nightstand and told the bodyguard to put them away. “He said, `Here, put these in a bag,'” Alvarez said.

Alvarez complied. He placed an IV bag into another bag, and then Murray told him to call 911, Alvarez said

On the third day of the trial, prosecutors tried to show that Murray, who has pleaded not guilty, delayed calling authorities and that he was intent on concealing signs that he had been giving the singer doses of the anesthetic propofol.

Alvarez said he thought Murray might be preparing to take the items to the hospital, but didn’t question him.

The bags never made it to the hospital, and prosecutors claim Murray repeatedly lied to emergency personnel and did not tell them he had been giving Jackson doses of the drug as a sleep aid.

If convicted, Murray, 58, could face up to four years in prison and lose his medical license.

Defense attorney Ed Chernoff questioned whether there was enough time for Alvarez to shield Jackson’s children, survey the room and stow away the drugs in the brief period that phone records show he was in the home before calling emergency responders.

The bodyguard insisted there was, telling the attorney, “I’m very efficient, sir.”

Chernoff was not convinced, questioning whether 30 seconds was enough time for the dramatic sequence to play out. Alvarez assured him it was.

The defense attorney also challenged Alvarez’s recollection, asking whether the collection of the vials happened after paramedics had come and whisked Jackson to a nearby hospital. Alvarez denied it happened after he called 911.

Chernoff questioned why Alvarez didn’t tell authorities about Murray’s commands to bag up the medication immediately after Jackson died, but instead waited until two months after the singer’s death. The bodyguard said he didn’t realize its significance until seeing a news report in late June in which he recognized one of the bags detectives were carrying out of Jackson’s mansion.

The burly Alvarez became emotional as the 911 call was played for jurors. Jackson’s mother, Katherine, appeared distraught and her son, Randy, huddled next to her and put his arm around her. She did not attend the afternoon proceedings,

“Was that difficult to hear?” prosecutor David Walgren asked.

“It is,” Alvarez replied.

After hanging up with dispatchers, Alvarez said he performed chest compressions on Jackson while Murray gave the singer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. The doctor remarked it was his first time performing the procedure.

“‘I have to,'” Alvarez recalled Murray telling him, “`because he’s my friend.'”

Alvarez recalled seeing Murray at the hospital where Jackson was taken and sitting next to the emergency room.

“`I wanted him to make it,'” Alvarez quoted Murray as saying. “`I wanted him to make it.'”

Alvarez’s testimony allowed Walgren to present jurors directly with a bottle of propofol that they’ve heard much about throughout the previous two days of the trial.

Jurors intently looked at the bottle, which appeared to still contain some liquid.

When he entered the bedroom, Alvarez said, he saw Jackson’s eyes were open and was surprised to see the singer was wearing a condom catheter, a medical device that allows one to urinate without having to get up.

Alvarez testified that Murray only told him Jackson had a “bad reaction.” Jackson’s personal assistant, who testified Wednesday, said Murray told him the same thing.

Alvarez said it was a stunning scene, a far cry from the night before when the bodyguard stood backstage at Staples Center, sneaking peeks of Jackson performing during what would be his final rehearsal.

“He was very happy,” Alvarez testified. “I do recall he was in very good spirits.”

In another effort to cast doubt on the bodyguard’s testimony, Chernoff asked whether Alvarez, another bodyguard, Faheem Muhammad, and Jackson’s assistant, Michael Amir Williams, colluded before being interviewed by detectives two months after Jackson’s death.

The three men, who were among the first to interact with Murray after Jackson stopped breathing, have denied the accusation.

Jackson’s personal chef, Kai Chase, testified Thursday about seeing a panicked Murray come into the kitchen the day of Jackson’s death and telling her to summon security and send up Jackson’s eldest son Prince. The chef said she sent the boy upstairs, but didn’t call security.

Five to 10 minutes after Chase said she saw Murray in the kitchen, the doctor called Williams, who dispatched security to Jackson’s bedroom.

On Friday, jurors are expected to hear from a pair of paramedics who were dispatched to Jackson’s mansion and tried resuscitation efforts.

The medics believed Jackson was already dead by the time they arrived, but Murray insisted the performer be taken to a hospital for additional resuscitation efforts.

Walgren asked whether anything good had happened to Alvarez as a result of his experience in Jackson’s bedroom.

“No sir,” Alvarez responded.

Media outlets offered him up to $500,000 for interviews, but Alvarez said he always refused. “It’s caused a lot of financial problems,” he said, starting to choke up. “I went from a great salary to hardly anything.”


State inmates could fill, change O.C. jails

Those who committed the most serious crimes in years past – anything that carried a sentence of more than one year – served time in state prisons.
Starting Saturday, that changes.As part of California’s prison realignment, county governments will house more inmates in local jails and ship fewer to state prisons.
The courts have determined that overcrowding in state prisons was so severe that it violated prisoners’ rights against cruel and unusual punishment. As part of a court-mandated plan to reduce the statewide prison population, state legislators passed a law that will keep any prisoner in county jail who is sentenced to less than three years.
Known simply as “realignment,” the plan will increase the number of prisoners in county lockups, keep more serious offenders close to home and shift responsibility for monitoring prisoners once they are released to local officials.
The new prisoners won’t include violent offenders or sex offenders but will include those convicted of lower-level crimes, including possessing or selling drugs, burglaries, some grand thefts or thieves who are repeat offenders, auto thefts and drunken drivers facing a fourth conviction.
County officials believe this will fill Orange County jails. Plans are in the works to open previously closed sections of local jails as well as enlarge existing facilities.
Under court order, the state is expected to reduce by more than 30,000 its prison population of 144,000. As part of California’s plan, roughly 1,460 convicts who would have been sent to state prison will now stay in county jail for the first year in Orange County. The plan also will alter the parole system in which felons are now automatically sent to state prison for violating the terms of their release.
Those who are sentenced after Oct. 1 and violate parole won’t be sent to state prison but instead will serve their time in county jail. Violating parole can result in up to six months imprisonment, including 10-day imprisonments known as “flash incarcerations” for minor offenses.
The realignment won’t result in a sudden flood of new prisoners back to Orange County. Busloads of state prisoners are not headed to here. Instead, judges will change their sentencing procedures, and the result will be a steady trickle of prisoners being routed to county jails.
“It’s a steady growth,” said Steve Kea, a commander with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. “We don’t expect them to come all at one time.”
While the new prisoners are only meant to include nonviolent, non-sex-crime-related felons, some worry that the realignment will result a tougher class of criminal staying in county jail.
“You are going to have some serious, hard-core criminals out there who will spend a significant amount of time in the county jail system,” said Tom Dominguez, president of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs.
Theo Lacy Jail in Orange will likely be affected the most, he said, because it is the largest local facility. While Dominguez said the current structures and facilities are adequate to handle state prisoners, the level of training needed for deputies to deal with the more serious offenders will be key.
“The job will be getting much more difficult in the future, that is an absolute certainty,” Dominguez said. “It will have more of the look and feel of a state prison system. That is a big concern, since it is right here in our backyard.”
Theo Lacy, which can hold more than 3,000 inmates, has come under intense scrutiny in recent years, since the 2006 death of John Derek Chamberlain, believed to have been beaten to death by inmates who thought he was a child molester.
At least one inmate claimed Chamberlain’s beating death was instigated by a deputy who spread a false rumor. While that charge was never proved, a grand jury investigation revealed sheriff’s deputies at Theo Lacy had systematically sidestepped their duties and at times used inmates to mete out punishment to other inmates.
The revelations led to the overhaul of jail operations and oversight, as well as the installation of video cameras to reduce blind spots at the facility.
Officials are concerned that more serious offenders, as well as the longer sentences being served there, could make the culture inside county jails more akin to a state prison.
A recent federal indictment against members and associates of the Mexican Mafia in July revealed the influence some prison gangs have in county jails.
As in most departments, tight budgets have curtailed the hiring of deputies. The department has faced more than $53 million in budget cuts over the past two years.
Orange County jails also operate with one of the lowest deputy-to-inmate ratios in the nation, with about one deputy for every 50 inmates. The Sheriff’s Department has recently started new academy classes. One class of about 30 just graduated, another is under way and a third is planned for December. Most of the graduates will start their careers in the jails.
To offset budget cuts in the department, the Sheriff’s Department began renting bed space to the federal government for immigration detainees, which generates an estimated $30 million a year for Orange County.
Housing the detainees has become a lucrative part of sheriff’s annual budget.
Currently, there are 700 to 1,000 empty beds in county jails, Kea said. The flow of new inmates is expected to occupy those beds within the next few months.
Officials believe that empty bed space and closed sections of the jails that can be re-opened to meet the need will help the department absorb the increase of inmates without affecting the federal contract, he said.
By early next year, the Sheriff’s Department hopes to be approved for a grant that would give the county $100 million to expand jail facilities.
The minimum-security Musick Jail on the border of Lake Forest and Irvine may also see an increase in inmates.
Along with reopening the women’s jail in Santa Ana, the Sheriff’s Department plans to reopen a 350-bed barracks at Musick that was closed in 2009 to save money.
More significantly, officials are working on plans to build a larger facility at Musick and are waiting for the grant that could fund the expansion. If the $100 million grant is approved, it could fund the construction of space for as many as 750 new jail beds at Musick.
But past efforts to bring new inmates to Musick have sparked heated opposition by leaders in nearby cities, who challenged the enlargement efforts in a series of unsuccessful lawsuits.
The last setback in the fight over more than a decade to expand Musick came in 2008, when the Sheriff’s Department dropped a previous bid for $100 million in state funds, scuttling a plan to add more than 500 beds, a new laundry room and a kitchen.
Jail expansion plans also brought protests from city officials in Orange when immigration detainees arrived at Theo Lacy. The protests led to a plan that awarded the city about $200,000 annually.
Irvine Mayor Sukhee Kang said Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and department officials have had ongoing, “cordial” discussions with city officials regarding the possibility of a Musick expansion.
But Kang said any plan to radically expand Musick or to maintain anything other than a minimum-security facility would be unacceptable.
“The Irvine City Council does not support planning for a massive Musick expansion now or anytime in the foreseeable future,” Kang said. “Therefore, we will pursue all avenues to make sure our community is not impacted by changes at the Musick facility.”
The county will receive an initial $23 million to handle the inmate relocation, but some worry about payments from the state after June 30.
“The scary thing for me is the ongoing funding for this. That is something we really need to pay attention to,” Dominguez said. “There is money now, but what about the following years? There is nothing permanent in government, but this is about as close as it gets.”


Most Wanted: Suspected of molesting family member

Authorities are seeking a man suspected of child molestation.
Police suspect Miguel Recinas Lopez, in his early 50s, of molesting a family member. His bail has been set at $50,000.
Lopez is 5 feet 7 inches tall, 140 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. He has been seen in the past in Los Angeles and Woodburn, Ore., officials said.
Anyone with information about the suspects is asked to call Suzanna Howard at 714-573-3393.
Lopez is the newest member of the The Orange County Register’s list of wanted suspects. The list of suspects is gathered from local, federal and state law-enforcement agencies.
Rewards, if any, are mentioned.



Miguel Recinas Lopez, who is in his early 50s, is wanted by the Tustin Police Department. He’s being charged with child molestation. He has been seen in the past in Los Angeles and Woodburn, Ore., officials said. Anyone with information is asked to call Suzanna Howard at 714-573-3393.


Police Device Used To Steal Your Cell Phone Data During Traffic Stop

You may have heard about the Cellebrite cell phone extraction device (UFED) in the news lately. It gives law enforcement officials the ability to access all the information on your cell phone within a few short minutes. When it became known that Michigan State Police had been using the tool to access cell phones during traffic stops, it raised concern with the ACLU. Now, everyone is wondering if cops will be using devices like this elsewhere. Will this new law enforcement tool be abused, or will it be used responsibly in the pursuit of justice?
Call us paranoid, but we obtained a law-enforcement-grade software extraction tool for the iPhone to see exactly what data is up for grabs. You’d be surprised to see just how much data today’s smartphones can store — and police can access.


Baby’s crosswalk death sparks another suit

HUNTINGTON BEACH – A chain-reaction crash last year that killed an Australian baby while her mother was pushing her in a stroller through a crosswalk has sparked another lawsuit, this time from the motorist whose stopped car was hit from behind by a distracted driver.
Caryl Johnson, 53, of Huntington Beach alleges in her civil complaint filed Sept. 16 in Orange County Superior Court that the fatal accident, caused when her car was sent hurtling into the pedestrians, left her permanently disabled and with emotional scars.
Johnson is suing the city of Huntington Beach for allegedly maintaining a dangerous intersection, at Springdale Street and Croupier Drive, and driver Robert Anthony Casares, 50, of Huntington Beach, for negligence.
Johnson’s husband, Ronald, also is listed as a plaintiff on the lawsuit. He alleged loss of consortium against both defendants for rendering his wife “unable to perform work, services and duties as a spouse.”
At the scene of the accident on Sept. 7, 2010, Johnson complained of neck and back pain, according to police reports.
Her attorney, Jason P. Fowler, was not immediately available for comment.
Huntington Beach City Attorney Jennifer McGrath said Thursday she could not comment on the latest lawsuit.
Survivors of Ruby Rose Gould also recently filed a lawsuit against the city and Casares. That civil complaint, which also names Johnson as a defendant, came after the city, in February, rejected claims filed on behalf of four of Ruby’s relatives seeking $40 million in damages.
The fatal collision played out before the horrified eyes of Ruby’s mother, Renee Gould, and two of Ruby’s young cousins as the four were crossing the street to go to a mall to buy a birthday gift for a relative.
The impact of Johnson’s 2006 Toyota Tundra being thrust into the pedestrians sent Ruby’s tiny body hurtling some 40 feet. Ruby, just days short of her 4-month birthday, died of severe head trauma several hours later at a hospital.
Renee Gould, 31 at the time, suffered a dislocated shoulder and fractured vertebrae. Ruby’s cousin, Daisy Chuntz, then 11, sustained a broken leg. Jacob Chuntz, Daisy’s 7-year-old brother, was not physically harmed but witnessed the accident.
Renee and Ruby Gould were wrapping up a three-week visit with Renee’s sister, Kylie Chuntz, who lives near the intersection, when the tragedy struck.
Ruby’s father, Rob, flew out from Australia shortly after the accident to be with his wife, as angry neighbors voiced outrage over an intersection they’ve long felt was unsafe, with poor markings and cars that zoom by on Springdale Street.
Rob and Renee Gould had spent three years trying to conceive Ruby, their first child.
According to police reports, Casares was driving his Chevrolet Tahoe northbound on Springdale Street when bumps from train tracks caused his laptop computer to begin to slide out from a carrying case on the passenger seat.
Casares briefly looked down to secure the bag to prevent the laptop from falling and did not notice that Johnson had stopped in front of him to let the pedestrians cross, according to police reports.
Casares’ car was moving at about 40 mph when he slammed on his brakes, but he was unable to stop and plowed into Johnson’s truck. He activated his brakes about a half second prior to impact, according to police reports.
Casares was not using a cell phone at the time of the accident, according to police reports. Tests showed he last spoke on the phone 10 minutes before the crash and last sent a text message 35 minutes before the fatal accident.
In March, Casares — a married father who is employed by State Farm Insurance — pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and was placed on three years of informal probation.
He also was ordered to make a $5,500 donation to the Joyful Child Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes the protection and safety of children, and also was required to complete 300 hours of community service as a school crossing guard.
His driver’s license also was suspended for six months.
According to lawsuits filed by the Gould family and by Johnson, the city of Huntington Beach failed to operate a safe intersection. Alleged deficiencies cited in the lawsuits include overhead flashing lights that are not always working, lack of sufficient markings on the pavement, and lack of pedestrian-activated warning lights.
Before Ruby was struck and killed, the city had a sign posted at the intersection alerting residents about an upcoming public hearing to discuss possible removal of the crosswalk. Residents had complained that children were endangering themselves by using the crosswalk to get to a nearby school.
In April, the city started a grant application process to try to secure funding for a signal at the intersection, Laurie Payne, a city spokeswoman, said at the time.
Payne also said that overhead flashing lights now are on 24 hours and that a crossing guard has been reinstated at the intersection during school hours.


State to begin sending inmates to O.C.

Responsibility for confining and monitoring thousands of convicts from the state falls into the hands of county governments Saturday, the result of a major overhaul in California’s correctional system.
Instead of being sent to state prisons, many felons will remain in county jails. Thousands of parolees who would have been monitored by state parole officers will now be supervised by county probation. And instead of going before a state parole board, violators may now go before a local judge.Known as “realignment,” the shift spells major changes to the justice and corrections systems across California, and the effects will be felt in Orange County’s jails, probation offices, courtrooms, streets and budgets.
“We know there will be some impacts, but it is impossible to know what they will be,” said Kenneth Small, Huntington Beach’s police chief and president of the Orange County Chief of Police and Sheriff’s Association. “There is the potential for a crime increase. Obviously, there is some degree of monitoring who is coming out, but that is not a perfect system. There are just a whole host of issues.”
Using historical data from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, local departments have attempted to predict the effect on local agencies.
Known as the Community Corrections Partnership, a committee made up of officials from law enforcement, courts and the county health care agency, as well as prosecutors and public defenders, has been meeting to devise a plan on the local level to address the changes. A tentative plan is expected to be sent to the county Board of Supervisors for approval after the changes go into effect.
The Orange County Register interviewed officials in many of the affected agencies to assess what the effect of the realignment program will be.
Plans are under way to deal with the changes, including the reopening of county jail facilities, construction projects and the hiring of personnel in the sheriff’s probation departments. In a three-part series, the Register will review the effects of the realignment program on the county, where there is concern over the impending changes.
Gov. Jerry Brown has touted the program as a long-overdue change to the state’s correctional system but acknowledges the changes were prompted by a court mandate to reduce the state’s 144,000-prisoner population by more than 33,000.
“There’s no appeal to Congress, there’s no appeal to Sacramento, there’s no appeal to the Legislature,” Brown said in a statewide conference last month about the realignment. “We’ve got to do something.”
With the new system beginning Saturday, county governments are expected to take on new responsibilities with the help of state money.
Orange County expects to get about $23 million from Sacramento to fund the program through June 30. The funding, based on a state estimate that 3,434 additional offenders will be supervised locally at any point in time, will come down to the county on a monthly basis.
A tentative plan created by county officials calls for the Sheriff’s Department to receive about $13.6 million, with the $6.6 million earmarked to the county probation department, a little more than $2 million for the county health care agency and a little less than $700,000 set aside for city police agencies.
“It’s pretty complex and pretty comprehensive,” said Robert Rangel, spokesman for the Orange County Probation Department, which will be the lead in handling the changes.
Despite the initial money, local officials continue to be concerned about whether the state will provide funding in future years or if county governments will be left to foot the bill.
Local police departments are also worried that state money is being primarily allocated to county agencies, not city departments that will deal with an increased parolee population on the streets.
Brown pledged to push for a state constitutional amendment guaranteeing funding for the realignment process, but funding issues have not been the only concern for local officials.
Law enforcement has tried to estimate what the effects will be on the local level, yet some are not easily measured, such as the impact on crime, a possible change in culture at county jails and if rehabilitative efforts at the county level will be more successful than with the state.
According to information from the state department of corrections, the recidivism rate for state prisoners is about 70 percent.
To prevent crowding in county jails, the realignment plan is reliant on alternatives other than incarceration, such as using GPS monitoring, home confinement and rehabilitation programs. But experts and law enforcement officials remain skeptical, pointing out that budget cuts on the local level have reduced many of those programs.
“I don’t get a sense there’s a real investment in (rehabilitative) programs,” said Sara Wakefield, an assistant professor of criminology at UC Irvine. “Rehabilitation is an active process, not just, ‘Let’s not watch people.'”
Though officials have stressed alternatives to jailing convicts, little investment or planning has been done on the rehabilitative side, Wakefield said.
“I’m in favor of reducing the prison population, but this seems like a combination of moving costs from state to county,” she said.
Many local law enforcement officials are not optimistic.
“The impact is there’s going to be an increase in crime,” said Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff for the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. “What’s frustrating for us in a general concept is this is being done to save money for the state (by) transferring the cost of crime (to the county.)”
In Orange County, officials estimate that about 1,460 convicts that would have been sent to state prison will stay in county jail for the first year. Also, those who are released from state prison after Oct. 1 and have not been convicted of a serious sexual or violent offense will be placed on post-release supervision and be overseen by county probation officials.
“That’s the first year; after that, everyone is guessing,” said Rangel of the probation department.

Instead of heading to a parole board, those who violate the terms of their release can now be sent to county jail for a 10-day “flash incarceration” or face a county judge for a lengthier time behind bars, said Judge David Thompson, assisting presiding judge of the Orange County Superior Court.
But before convicts are sent to jail, probation officials will have leeway as to whether they should be referred to social programs, Thompson said.
“The focus is to prevent recidivism with treatment programs,” he said.
For the first year, 328 additional cases will be reviewed in county court, Thompson said. But the number of cases that appear before a judge will be determined by how successful rehabilitative programs are on the local level, he added.
The mechanics of setting up 300 additional cases and the costs associated with it can add up, he said. Inmates have to be transported from jail, more inmates have to be kept in holding cells and the personnel must be present to supervise them as they wait for hearings.
“The 328 (cases) is clearly a burden on the court,” Thompson said.
It also means additional work for prosecutors, who will be involved in preparing the cases, said Joe D’Agostino, Orange County senior assistant district attorney.
“We’re not talking about misdemeanors. We think we’re talking about felons that have been convicted on felonies that would have in the past gone to state prison. These are the people that are back in our jail system,” he said.