Meet Some Prop 57 Early Release Inmates (Hopefully not on a street corner)

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Meet Some Prop 57 Early Release Inmates (Hopefully not on a street corner)

By Michele Hanisee

We extensively chronicled how the Prop 57 campaign was sold on the lie that only “non-violent” criminals would be released early from their lawfully imposed state prison terms. The decision on who gets the early release is now in the hands of the Board of Parole, whose release decisions show an appalling disregard of fact and reality. Some examples of these early release decisions are highlighted below.

  • Paul Karl Anderson — With a criminal history that begins in 1981, and included felony convictions for assault and thefts, Anderson upped the ante in 1995 when he robbed a bank with a weapon and then held a hostage upon being tracked down by federal marshals. The Board of Parole granted early release from the sentence imposed for his bank robbery/hostage taking because they determined Anderson does not “pose an unreasonable risk of violence to the community.”
  • Rodney Hansen — This inmate’s current prison stint results from a conviction for threatening his ex-girlfriend by tossing a knife at her feet, then threatening to kill both himself and her. Prior convictions since 2007 included possession of a firearm and residential burglary. Nonetheless, the Board of Parole found this inmate should be released early because he does not “pose an unreasonable risk of violence to the community.”
  • Recole Mitchell — Mitchell was sent to prison for convictions of possession of a loaded firearm in 2016, and threatening to kill his mother in 2015. Despite a lengthy criminal history that begins in 2003 and included two separate convictions for carrying a loaded firearm, the Board of Parole granted Mitchell an early release because they decided Mitchell does not”pose an unreasonable risk of violence to the community.”
  • Paul Silvas — Sentenced to prison in 2015 for stabbing the family dog to death, Silvas had a prior history of violence as evidenced by his 2008 conviction for assault with a firearm. While he incurred five disciplinary actions since being sent to prison, the Board of Parole found that Silvas “shows compliance with institutional rules” and released him early on the grounds that he does not”pose an unreasonable risk of violence to the community.”

Governor Brown promised the public that only non-violent offenders would be released under Prop 57. A bank robber/hostage taker, a gun-toting felon who threatened to kill his mother, a knife-wielding felon who threatened to kill his girlfriend, and a dog killer are probably not who the public expected back into their communities. But the public need not fret. After all, the Board of Parole has determined that none of them pose “an unreasonable risk of violence to the community.”

The ADDA has joined crime victims, law enforcement, business owners and public safety leaders working to pass the “Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2018.” We will soon be circulating petitions to put on the ballot the measure that will:

  • Reclassify currently “non-violent” crimes like rape of an unconscious person, sex trafficking of a child under 14, and other serious crimes as “violent” – to prevent the early release of inmates convicted of these crimes
  • Reform the parole system to stop the early release of violent felons, expand parolee oversight, and strengthen penalties for parole violations
  • Reform theft laws to restore accountability for serial thieves and organized theft gangs
  • Expand DNA collection to some low level convictions in order to solve violent crimes like rape and murder-and to exonerate those wrongly accused

Learn more about “Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2018” at www.KeepCaliforniaSafe.org.

Michele Hanisee is President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.
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Recent Increase in Hate Crimes Won’t Be Stopped by Prop 57

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Recent Increase in Hate Crimes Won’t Be Stopped by Prop 57

By Eric Siddall

Recent news reports confirm an increase in hate crimes. As highlighted by KFI reporter Eric Leonard, elected officials, including District Attorney Jackie Lacey, recently participated in a press conference to encourage reporting of hate crimes. They also acknowledged that the punishment is now limited by Proposition 57.

The number of reported hate crimes reported in Los Angeles County rose 24% in 2015 from the previous year, breaking a seven-year general downward trend, according to a report by the Los Angeles Human Relations Commission.

Yet, despite universal condemnation of hate crimes, Prop 57 gutted any deterrence value or punishment against these very crimes. This is because the punishment of hate motivated crimes comes in the form of an enhancement. Prop 57 now allows the parole board to ignore these enhancements when considering releasing a prisoner. In essence, the person who gets in a bar fight and the person who attacks a victim because of their race will both be eligible for parole at the same time.

District Attorney Lacey acknowledged that hate crimes may become more difficult to punish with the passage of Prop 57. Governor Brown did not join the parade of officials highlighting the increase of hate crimes. This might be because the very people his proposition helps are the very people who are committing these crimes.

Eric Siddall is Vice President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.
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Proposal to free cop killer underscores threat of Prop. 57

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Proposal to free cop killer underscores threat of Prop. 57

By Eric Siddall

The state parole board has again demonstrated the folly of Governor Brown’s radical experiment with public safety– Proposition 57.

Under this initiative, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) would have the ultimate power to release inmates. The sentencing decisions by judges would be disregarded. The legislature’s assign punishment ignored. The plea agreements made between prosecutors and defendants would become meaningless. CDCR alone will decide when felons are released back on the street.

The argument for this shift of power from judges and prosecutors to CDCR is that the parole board is comprised of rational and thoughtful people who would never grant freedom to those who could pose an ongoing threat to society. However, their actions give us little confidence that this is a promise that will be kept.

Most recently, the board for a third time recommended that a brutal cop killer Voltaire Williams be granted freedom. Williams, as you may recall from a number of our previous blogs, played a central role in the 1985 murder of LAPD Detective Thomas Williams (no relation) in front of his young son.

Due to intense pressure from the ADDA and law enforcement agencies throughout the state, Williams was denied parole two previous times after parole board panels recommended he be freed.

However, the idea that someone who helped orchestrate the assassination of a law enforcement professional should ever be allowed to walk our streets simply defies reason. The parole board decision to grant parole to this killer or to Manson Family killer Leslie Van Houten, is evidence, that the parole board will gleefully distribute get-out-of-jail cards to the worst of the worst.

Disturbingly, with the election just a few days away, Prop. 57 appears to have solid support from state voters. A USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times survey showed 57 percent of likely voters are backing this disaster of an initiative, while only 31 percent opposed it.

Prop. 57 represents a clear danger to public safety. It is imperative that all of us do everything in our power to educate voters about the chaos that passage of this initiative will unleash on every community in California. The challenge is enormous, but we must persevere to the very end.

Eric Siddall is Vice President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.
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Costly Lies Funded by Facebook

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Costly Lies Funded by Facebook

By Eric Siddall

As the public learns inmates convicted of violent crimes will receive consideration for early parole, and all inmates not serving a life without parole or death sentence will be in line for earlier release via newly invented sentence credits, the backers of Prop 57 appear a bit worried. Thus, the news that Mark Zuckerberg gave $1 million to the “yes on Prop 57 campaign”. Apparently, it takes a lot of money toconvince people of the falsehoods which are the foundations of Prop 57.

Perhaps Mark Zuckerberg, living behind his gated and guarded estates in Palo Alto or Hawaii, doesn’t care that Prop 57 will allow rapists an early release from prison. Or, maybe just wants to buy a little political influence with the Governor, and figures a $1 million contribution to the issue that Governor is spearheading is a way to accomplish that goal.

As to the Governor, it’s becoming increasingly hard to understand his arguments for Prop 57. On the one hand, the Governor touts Prop 57 because it gives judges the sole power to decide whether a juvenile will stand trial as an adult. This was the cornerstone of the initiative the Governor hijacked so he could bring his inmate freeing scheme to voters. But, apparently, the Governor’s trust in judges only goes so far. To hear the Governor tell it, a Parole Board is in a better position to decide how much time an inmate should serve, not judges who, before imposing sentence listened to victim’s statements, as well as those of the prosecution and defense.

One thing is very clear; Prop 57 is designed to drastically reduce the state prison population, not because of overcrowding but because of an ideology that discards victims and wants to give ever more chances to convicted criminals. Recent changes in the law has have already reduced the prison population and lessened punishments. Realignment legislation transferred nonviolent, nonserious felons from state prison to county jails to serve their sentences. Proposition 36 amended the “Three Strikes” law to release additional inmates. Finally, Proposition 47 reduced many theft and drug offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, again shifting sentences from state prison to county jail. As a result, the prison population has been reduced 24 percent from the high of 2007.

As Gregory Totten, Ventura County District Attorney made clear, what is also undeniable is that more lenient treatment of criminals has not made the residents of California safer. Instead, violent crime is up, with a 10 percent increase (15,000 more cases) in 2015 alone, including homicides (up 9.7 percent), robberies (up 8.5 percent) and rapes (up 36 percent). Property crime has soared near double-digit statewide in each of the past two years, while the rest of the country saw property crime rates drop.The state Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates that if Prop. 57 passes, 30,115 inmates will be eligible for early release. Tragically, the result will be that more residents in California will become victims of crime.

As Jackie Lacy, Los Angeles District Attorney, pointed out, “They are recommending release of people we never would have expected would have occurred so soon. I’m concerned about people who really haven’t served a significant amount of time.”

Zuckerberg’s million dollars cannot hide the fact that Prop 57 allows – indeed, it requires – parole consideration for very serious offenses, including rape of an unconscious person, human trafficking, lewd acts against 14- and 15-year-olds, domestic violence, active participation in a street gang, inflicting corporal injury on a child and assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer. And parole consideration is required after the defendant serves the sentence for a single count (less time off for good behavior), even if the defendant was convicted of additional crimes.

The saying goes that lying is a costly activity. The “yes on Prop 57” campaign is proving this adage in spades.

Eric Siddall is Vice President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.
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Governor Brown’s Statement in Support of Prop 57 Provide More Reasons to Vote “No!”

By Eric Siddall

Governor Brown is quoted in today’s Los Angeles Times, providing his reasons why voters should support Prop 57, the early release of felons initiative.  Every one of his statements lacks both merit and a basic understanding of the criminal justice system.

First, the governor claims that his act would restore “deliberative thought” to a process driven by district attorneys chasing headlines and seeking re-election with a “quiet parole board” making reasoned parole decisions.

The reality is that very few crimes make it into the newspaper or are featured on TV or radio.  The vast majority of prosecutions result in prison sentences known only to judges, prosecutors, victims, police, and defendants. The cases that capture media attention are ones that involve murder-which carries a mandatory sentence. This “quiet” parole board the governor champions will become an unaccountable Kafkaesque prison release machine so “quiet” that victims won’t even be aware that the felon who victimized them is back in the neighborhood.

Next, the governor claims that if prosecutors are upset that with his listing of crimes eligible for release, that’s their own fault because prosecutors “created the damn violent list.”  False. The problem is not the list. The problem is your “damn amendment.”  The “damn violent list,” as you call it, singles out certain violent crimes for harsher punishment; it didn’t absolve other crimes of their violent nature or lessen their punishments. It was you, Governor Brown, who wrote Prop 57 and decided what crimes should be eligible for early release under its provisions.  We are simply pointing out that your amendment is poorly drafted.

Further, Prop 57 gives state prison officials constitutional authority to invent early release credits for all inmates not serving life without parole or a death sentence.  Governor Brown assured the Times that credits will be limited. How? Not by the state legislature, because it takes that power away from them. Not by judges, because it takes that power away from them. Instead, all credit making power goes to the Department of Corrections. In other words, it goes to the governor. Small comfort since Governor Brown will only be in office for two more years. The truth is the governor’s deliberate failure to include in Prop 57 any restrictions on invention of new sentence credits means there can be no confidence this new power will be used wisely.

The real reason Governor Brown is pushing Prop 57 is because he wants to try something new. He wants to experiment with public safety and see what happens. He wants to turn back the clock to a time where sentences were short, victims had no rights, and the felon was king. We simply cannot afford this radical experiment.

We will continue to fight against Prop 57. Please like and share our video: https://www.laadda.com/no-on-prop-57

Eric Siddall is Vice President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles. To contact a Board member, click here.

Rapists, Human Traffickers & Other Violent Criminals to Be Set Free If Prop 57 Passes

By Eric Siddall

As the Sacramento Bee pointed out, “The term ‘nonviolent felony offense’ comes from the language of the governor’s sentencing measure itself. If the measure is approved by voters, it remains to be seen how ‘nonviolent felony’ will be defined.

Governor Brown is spending millions of dollars on false radio adspromoting Prop 57, repeating that it only applies to “non-violent felons.” This claim is an attempt to fool the public into believing inmates who have committed crimes involving violence will not be eligible for the measures’ early parole.

In prior blogs, we have highlighted the multiple crimes of violenceeligible for early parole under Prop 57: including rape of an unconscious person, rape with a foreign object, assault on a peace officer causing injury, assault with a  deadly weapon, and many others.  The Governor has pushed back, citing the Attorney General’s ballot description that it only applies to “non-violent” inmates amongst other defenses.

Turns out, as the italicized quote above highlights, there was absolutelyno analysis by the Attorney General of the type of offenses and inmates eligible for release.  Instead, the Attorney General has acknowledged they only parroted Brown’s description of crimes eligible for early parole under Prop 57.   In short, instead of doing their sworn job the Attorney General’s office played politics.

To set the facts straight, this past opposition law enforcement leaders from throughout Southern California, including District Attorney Jackie Lacey, Sheriff Jim McDonnell held a news conference to speak out againstProp 57.
The simple and undeniable fact is that Prop 57 makes numerous inmates who have  committed violent crimes eligible to be released years early from their prison sentence.  Any ballot argument or statement by the Governor that says to the contrary is completely false.
Eric Siddall is Vice President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles. To contact a Board member, click here.
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Proposition 57 Will Hit Minority Communities the Hardest

By Eric Siddall

We have an incarceration problem in this country. Minority communities bear the brunt of this harsh reality. We need to acknowledge this fact and discuss a smarter, nimbler, and more humane approach to this challenge.

But we also have another problem. Far too many people of color are victims of crime, a fact often overlooked in the current criminal justice debate. We need to acknowledge and address this harsh reality as well.

Prop. 57 presents itself as an answer to this problem, but a closer look at the initiative indicates it will only make things worse for California’s minority communities.
First, a few important statistics. Despite representing 6.5 percent of the state population, blacks comprise 24 percent of its prison population. Male blacks who drop out of high school face a 70 percent chance of going to prison, compared to 17 percent of similarly situated whites. These facts should give us pause and demand reflection.

However, behind these incarceration numbers are numbers that are equally terrible. In the United States in 2015, according to the FBI, more than 50 percent of all murder victims were black, despite the fact that blacks comprise only 12 percent of the US population. 7,039 African-American men and women were the victims of homicide, out of a total 13,455 homicides nationwide. This means blacks suffer a rate of victimization more than four times higher than their representation in the overall population – this is unacceptable.

To be sure, overall homicide rates have dropped substantially since the early 1990s, which is something for which we should be thankful. In 1993, the year before California’s Three-Strikes was enacted, there were 1,944 homicides in Los Angeles County. By 2015, this number had dropped to 649.

Despite this remarkable reduction in the overall rate of homicides, minority communities still face the most significant impact of crime. Today, within a 5-mile radius of the Compton courthouse, there are approximately 118 criminal street gangs. In the past six months, there were 528 violent crimes in Compton per 10,000 residents, including 21 homicides. Fourteen of the 21 homicide victims were black, despite the fact that Compton is 40 percent African-American. Compare this to Brentwood which had a mere 18 violent crimes per 10,000 residents and suffered no homicides.

Frankly, considering these numbers, it might seem easy for the Westside family to vote “yes” on Proposition 57. Crime is not something they experience on a daily basis. They don’t have to take a different route to school in the morning because there is a yellow tape blocking off a crime scene. Crime for that family is an allegory. It is a conversation piece.

For the family in Compton, crime is a daily reality. Every other week, there is a body bag carrying a young male away to the coroner’s office. Every night there is an airship hovering over the city while a pursuit occurs on the ground of a carjacking suspect. If you look at a gang map, almost every inch of Compton is covered by a gang claiming a part of the city. Brentwood doesn’t even have a gang map.

My opposition to Proposition 57 is personal. For the past eight years, I was assigned as a prosecutor in the South Central Judicial District. This is an area that covers Compton and Watts. When I see these numbers, it makes my blood boil, because behind each number is a wounded family and community. Too often, I have sat in my office with a mother and father grieving over their young son. What I find morally reprehensible is that we continue to allow neighborhoods like Compton and Watts to experience huge murder rates while Brentwood is safe and sound.

This is no doubt that we need to take a compressive approach to crime that goes well beyond incarceration. We need to acknowledge that our high incarcerations reflect a societal failure. We need to address the socio-economic issues that underline the many problems of lower income communities.

Proposition 57 does none of the above. Read the one-page summary – the Proposition allows tens of thousands of violent, dangerous and career criminals to be released early.

It disarms us from attacking the criminal element, it releases prisoners back into vulnerable communities, it does nothing to address recidivism, and it breaks the promise we made to victims and witness. Proposition 57 is a well-intentioned disaster that will only lead to more crime, more death, and devastated communities.

Prop 57 – A prescription for disaster

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Give me 2 minutes of your time and this video will explain why you should vote NO on Prop 57.
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Law Enforcement Murders Expose the Bankruptcy of “Criminal Justice Reform”

By Eric Siddall

The recent murder of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sergeant Steve Owens, Palm Springs Police Officers Jose Vega and Lesley Zerebny by career criminals is a bitter tragedy for their families, and a great loss for all of law enforcement and the communities they bravely served.

In the Palm Springs murders, the suspect charged has gang ties and was convicted in a prior shooting. In Los Angeles, Sheriff McDonnell commented that Steve Owens death should start a serious conversation about policies that allowed the gunman to cycle in and out of custody for years.

The recent and proposed changes to our criminal laws, led by Governor Brown, the State Legislature, and via ballot initiatives foisted on the public by pro-criminal “justice reform” groups, have made and will make all Californians less safe. They are the driving reason why California’s violent crime rate increase was more than twice the national average in 2015, and why California suffered near double increases in the property crime rate in 2014 and 2015 while the rest of the nation saw property crime rates decline in both those years.

First, let’s start with the supervision of the violent career criminal charged in the execution murder of Sgt. Owens following his release from prison in 2014 after he served a six-year sentence for armed robbery. According to news reports, we have learned that on three separate occasions in the last two years he was arrested for new crimes, suffered two new criminal convictions, but no parole hold was ever placed on him by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). A September 2015 arrest for driving under the influence resulted in a 28-day jail sentence and probation; an April 2016 arrest that resulted in another sentence of probation and credit for 15 days’ custody, and in July 2016 he was arrested again.

Had the justice system worked properly, this violent criminal would have had his probation revoked for the April 2016 or July 2016 arrest, and this felon would not have been on the street and able to murder Steve Owen. Instead, in what it is clearly an attempt to game statistics and make the recidivism rate for violent ex-felons look lower than it actually is, it appears that parole holds are not be being placed on violent felons when they violate probation by having either new arrests or convictions for new crimes.

What keeps me up at night is that if Prop 57 passes, the people at CDCR are the ones Governor Brown assures us will be carefully screening the tens of thousands of inmates his Prop. 57 makes eligible for early release from prison.

Next, thanks to Prop. 47, the stolen firearm that the career criminal had in his possession was only a misdemeanor offense. The pro-criminal folks behind Prop. 47 reduced the crime of possession of a stolen gun from a felony to a misdemeanor offense; Governor Brown vetoed a bill earlier this year that overwhelmingly passed the state legislature and restored the crime to a felony.

Further, although this career criminal has two prior robbery convictions, Prop. 36 wiped away the potential 25-life sentence, the judge previously had the discretion to impose for being an ex-felon in possession. Passed in 2012, this proposition changed the three strikes law by permitting life sentences only when the current crime is a serious or violent offense. Felon in possession of a gun is not a qualifying offense. Also, AB 109 ensured that if this felon had been sentenced to prison for possessing the gun, a violation of parole upon release would result not result in a return to prison, but instead a short stint in local jail.

If Prop. 62 is approved by the voters in November, the career criminals charged in these recent cold-blooded murders of peace officers will not face the death penalty. Instead, they will at most face a sentence of life in prison without parole. I say at most, because if you read the writings of those who lead the campaign to repeal of the death penalty you know a ballot initiative to eliminate life without parole is next on their agenda. In their view, replacing the death penalty with life without parole removes “one terrible idea only to replace it with another” as in their view “life without parole is as dehumanizing as death itself, and in some ways, it is even worse.” This is one reason why I, like other Deputy District Attorneys, support Proposition 66 – would preserve the death penalty for the most heinous criminals by enacting critically needed reforms to the system.

California ended the crime wave that started in the 1970’s and continued into the early 1990’s with measures such as determinate sentencing and three strikes. Incarcerating for lengthy periods of time felons who had committed violent crimes and had long criminal records led to a remarkable and sustained drop in crime. Proponents of lowering criminal penalties claimed that public safety would be enhanced, but that has been disproved by crime statistics, just as their estimates of “cost savings” through decreased incarceration have not materialized but in fact have in fact been dwarfed by the increased costs to residents and businesses from the rising crime rate.

In years past, Steve Owen’s death in the line of duty by this poster boy of a criminal justice system gone awry would have led to the serious conversation Sheriff McDonnell called for. However, since California is only in the early stages of a crime wave unleashed by these changes, with the proponents still claiming it is “too early” to draw conclusions, I am not optimistic that a serious conversation will occur. Instead, it will take a few more years for the public to accept statistics proving the arguments of the pro-criminal crowd for reduced penalties only led to more crime. Sadly, those statistics will consist of tens of thousands of real people unnecessarily victimized because of foolish experiments on the hardworking residents of California.

Please share this blog on social media.

Eric Siddall is Vice President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles. To contact a Board member, click here.