As the story about a voicemail message left by Governor Jerry Brown scolding Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims for her opposition to Proposition 57 goes viral, what is disturbing is the voicemail reveals the Governor’s lack of understanding of his own initiative. As both the ADDA and ALADS have repeatedly written, and the Governor’s spokesperson has admitted, Proposition 57 will allow for the early release of violent state prison inmates. Apparently, pointing this fact out irritates the Governor.
What prompted the Governor’s voicemail tirade was a mailer Sheriff Mims and other Sheriffs had signed featuring Arthur Lindsey, an inmate serving a 100-year prison sentence after being convicted in Los Angeles County. The ten charges included rape of an unconscious person, rape by use of drugs, sexual penetration by a foreign object, oral copulation of an unconscious person, possessing a gun as a felon, and using an intoxicating substance to commit the sex crimes. Under Proposition 57, he would be eligible for release after serving a scant eight years.
In his voicemail rant, the Governor chastised the Sheriff for what he called a “false” and “malicious” mailer. However, what should be disturbing to everyone was this comment the Governor left: “This guy was sentenced to 100 years, and he’s a registered sex offender, and on both accounts would not be getting out.”
Why is that comment disturbing? Because not only was Governor Brown wrong, it reveals he simply does not understand his own initiative, yet chooses to berate those who do.
First, take the Governor’s point about “100 years” being disqualifying. It is irrelevant how many years an inmate was sentenced to under Proposition 57; its very purpose is to void those long prison sentences. Instead, Proposition 57 will free inmates like Lindsey as soon as they have served their base sentence (eight years in Lindsey’s case) even if there are 92 years left to serve. How the Governor could cite the number of years left as a disqualifying factor is incomprehensible.
Second, the Governor’s claim that “he’s a registered sex offender” as a disqualifying factor is likewise puzzling. As we both have pointed out in past blogs, the offenses of rape by use of drugs, sexual penetration of an unconscious person, and oral copulation of an unconscious person are crimes which do not qualify as “violent” under the Penal Code and therefore are eligible for early release under Proposition 57. Being a “registered sex offender” is not a disqualifier either. Nor are Lindsey’s prior convictions for rape and murder which must, under Proposition 57, be totally ignored for purposes of parole eligibility.
The Governor’s response when confronted with the undeniably frightening repercussions of his initiative was to promise that if Proposition 57 is enacted he will make sure that regulations will be passed by the CDCR to disqualify sex offenders like Arthur Lindsey. Only the most gullible person would take comfort in that.
First, if excluding sex offenders from Prop 57 had been important to the Governor, he could have written Proposition 57 to exclude sex offenders from early release. He did not. More importantly, since Proposition 57 is a constitutional amendment, it is doubtful that “regulations” with the wholesale exclusion of sex offenders would pass legal challenges based on equal protection, due process, etc.
The campaign to defeat Proposition 57 has put together a great website to educate the public – www.stop57.com. One feature is a “meet your new neighbor page,” with this week’s poster child for early release being rapist Andrew Luster. He was convicted of 20 counts of drug-induced rape, fled to Mexico mid-trial, and after conviction in absentia was recaptured and sentenced to 124 years in state prison, which was later reduced to 50 years on appeal. These same inmates are also being featured on the trading cards that so offended the governor. Under Jerry Brown’s Proposition 57, Luster will be eligible for immediate release!
We are hopeful that the trading cards and website will educate both the public and elected officials and perhaps end the chastising calls from the Governor.
Michele Hanisee is President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys. The Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) is the collective bargaining agent and represents nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.
George Hofstetter is President of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs. ALADS is the collective bargaining agent and represents more than 8,200 deputy sheriffs and district attorney investigators working in Los Angeles County. George can be contacted at email@example.com.