Ron Wright | American Thinker
The District Attorneys of Tulare County and Riverside County, Tim Ward and Mike Hestrin, respectively, and Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco and Riverside City PD Chief Larry Gonzalez, held a joint press conference on April 12, 2023. These DAs are not radical Left Soros-supported prosecutors. Instead, they are at wit’s end regarding the unintended consequences of Assembly Bill 109, the California Public Safety Realignment Act, for serial low-level felony offenders.
In my experience, 8% to 10% of offenders commit most crimes, including violent ones. The others re-offend at a much lower rate. From a resource allocation perspective, it would be more practical for the criminal justice system to focus on the 8% to 10% population and divert the others. I would include in the serial offender definition, retail theft gangs who plague many commercial businesses across jurisdictional boundaries. These serial theft gangs seldom are caught and prosecuted because of the decriminalization of shoplifting. Every day, serial offenders are in custody. They aren’t committing new crimes.
AB109 released low-level felons from state prison back to their home counties for incarceration and supervision (AB109 local state prison). Riverside County DA Hestrin expressed his frustration “Frankly, all of us up here on stage have had enough…. We cannot protect our public; we are getting no help from Sacramento, the laws don’t back us up.”
Chief Gonzalez said, “There was a time when theft, specifically repeated theft, was met with a consequence …. These days, they have been legislated away and our community is suffering….” Sheriff Bianco added. “They [legislators] don’t care what we think, they care what voters think…. Until we can get the voters fed up and the voters start calling them, it is not going to change.”
Tulare Co DA Ward said they were, “calling on state legislatures to amend AB 109, which has tied their hands when it comes to prosecuting habitual criminal like Timothy Bethell, a ‘poster’ child for catch-release-and repeat criminal.”
Ward said, “Everyone in the state of California is living under the tyranny of crime or the fear of crime because of things coming out of Sacramento like ab 109.”
Timothy Bethell is a serial offender convicted of 14 felony counts of burglary in Tulare Co. in 2021. Bethell received a four-year sentence in state prison, suspended to grant him two years of local probation. However, Bethell violated his probation by committing another burglary. Instead of violating him and sending him to state prison to serve his four-year term, the court sentenced him to one year with one year of mandatory supervision. Bethell was released in May of 2022 and returned to his home county of Riverside at his request.
In the summer of 2022, in Riverside County, Bethell racked up another five business burglaries. Bethell was sentenced to three years in local state prison but was released three days later because of jail overcrowding. Bethell failed to report to probation. He returned to Tulare Co. and was arrested again. Bethell was sentenced to five years and four months in local state prison “after pleading guilty to 20 counts: 17 felonies of theft, burglary, attempted burglary, and vandalism [and three misdemeanors].”
Riverside DA Hestrin shares the concerns of his law enforcement colleagues:
AB109 and Prop 47 have had a disastrous impact on our communities. These laws have significantly diminished the ability of local prosecutors to hold repeat offenders accountable for their criminal behavior. Unfortunately, the Bethell case is not an exception or an outlier but all too common. The justice system has become a revolving door for thieves . . . They can count on being releas[ed] early from their . . . sentences if there is any punishment at all. This is untenable situation has left us unable to deter this rampant criminality and lawlessness.
Riverside County, CA’s chief law enforcement officers are not pleased with the unintended consequences of AB109’s results and subsequent actions of the progressive-dominated California State Legislature (here) and Governor Gavin Newsom. However, social justice reform advocates quickly point out that in prison populations, minorities are disproportionally represented and assume this is from racial discrimination and deserve early release (a debate for a later time).
Because of prison overcrowding and court rulings, AB109 sought to reduce the state prison population by sending nonviolent felony offenders back to their home counties for incarceration and supervision (in local state prison). Local county jails are squeezed between AB109 mandates and federal court orders on the local jail population. Hence, inmates receive early release. Local jails are not intended for long-term inmates but hold pretrial offenders and those serving less than one-year sentences. Increased caseloads slam local county probation offices. AB109 failed to address serial offenders like Bethell, who are released early or not detained at all. Once released, they wreak havoc in the communities. There must be provisions to up the ante so serial offenders like Bethell are deterred or incarcerated. These serial offenders will quickly commit multiple crimes before being caught again and successfully prosecuted.
Governor Gavin Newsom is traveling the country touting his successes (the California way). Newsom’s “successes” and sweeping “reforms,” others say, “are not what Californians identify as the most pressing problems . . .” Newsom’s soft-on-crime policies and George Soros-funded district attorneys aren’t doing well. Tucker Carlson has this to say about Newsom and his policies. Tucker quoted Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco who is not pleased either:
In the last 10 years, criminals have become increasingly more violent and brazen. What we are seeing in response to these very lax laws on crime, the push to decriminalize everything, the push to lessen the penalty for something or even take away the penalty for crime is basically emboldening criminals to do more. It’s really horrifying for law enforcement and it is horrifying for the public that has to deal with it.
Under the cloak of social justice reform, the radical Left decriminalized many crimes by selective prosecution and no cash bail releases before trial without considering victims and public safety in many states nationwide. There is a hidden political agenda of the radical Left with decriminalizing and no cash bail – to sow havoc and chaos to destabilize our local communities:
NGOs funded by George Soros and others dropped millions of dollars into local district attorney races to elect far-left prosecutors (as many as 70). Under the veil of social justice reform, these prosecutors implemented policies including no cash bail, which released violent serial offenders without regard for public safety. The released, ruthless, violent criminals commit new murders, rape, robberies, and mayhem before trial. Again, to wreak havoc and chaos within our communities, who then, in fear for their safety, will willingly relinquish their civil rights in exchange for totalitarian controls.
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