Parole Board Denies Kidnapper Release

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prison-reformVictim Request For Release Opposed by District Attorney –

A key question that we must grapple with in society is when has someone paid their dues.  In a fairly balanced account of the proceedings, Lauren Keene, reporter for the Davis Enterprise, describes the interesting case of Bruce Young who has been in prison since a conviction for a crime he committed on August 9, 1982.

She calls it “one of Yolo County’s more horrific crimes” and describes the kidnapping of then 3-month-old Brandon Huff who was “dangled out of a van window as the suspects led police on a high-speed chase.”

This week, Mr. Young, now 50, was denied parole for the 16th time following a hearing in Vacaville.

“You pose an unreasonable risk of danger,” the article quotes Troy Arbaugh, a commissioner on the Board of Parole Hearings as saying, following a half-hour of deliberations. The Enterprise adds, “He said while Young has made progress in recent years, a history of depression and drug abuse while in prison make him unsuitable for release.”

However, the other side to this story is one of redemption and rehabilitation.  Mr. Young has received extensive support from members of the Woodland community which includes the now 28-year-old victim, Brandon Huff, and his mother, both of whom advocate for his release.  He has succeeded with educational achievements, including vocational training and an associate degree.

But that is not enough apparently.  His release was opposed by both the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department and the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office, both which cited a 2009 psychological evaluation that deemed Mr. Young at moderate risk for violence and recidivism.

His original crime occurred when he was 22, a high school drop-out, and addicted to heroin.  He was in debt and apparently along with two teenage girls and Salvadore Sanchez, to whom he was indebted, launched the plan that culminated in a dramatic chase that unfolded on television.

He would plead guilty to charges of kidnapping and he received a sentence of seven years to life.  Mr. Sanchez would hang himself at the Yolo County Jail on the eve of his trial, while the minors who were 13 and 15 served time at the CYA until they turned 21.

Mr. Young apparently had a difficult life in prison.  He was written up many times for offenses which were both serious and administrative in nature.  He had drug problems over the years, continuing until very recently the history of drug abuse that began when he was 13.

He attempted suicide twice in 2008, which followed a string of setbacks.

But the Enterprise writes, “But Young said it was his second suicide attempt that turned his life around, convincing him to become clean and sober, take medications to treat his longtime depression and join multiple support networks within the prison. He also has taken up painting and other forms of art.”

More than 20 people submitted letters to the parole board asking for Mr. Young to be released, including the mother of Brandon Huff.

According to the Davis Enterprise, Marcia Hammill, Mr. Huff’s mother, had spent the early years of Mr. Young’s time in prison speaking against his parole.

But she said in a letter to the parole board, that she has come to an “inner understanding that Mr. Young had paid his dues.  If the board sees fit, my family and I have no issues with the board granting Mr. Young parole at this time.”

Brandon Huff also spoke in support of Mr. Young at his parole hearing back in 2007.

The Enterprise reports, ” ‘All I wanted to do was apologize,’ a tearful Young said. ‘It was the only thing I cared about. … I was very happy that he felt that way.’ “

This is a difficult call.  On the one hand, I find it interesting that it seems that the Yolo County DA’s Office probably always opposes parole.  It would be interesting to see a case where they supported it.

They talk so much about the right of victims, but in this case, the victims believe that he has served his time.  He has also apparently made some progress.

Is a 50-year-old really going to be a threat to kidnap someone again?

On the other hand, his in-prison incidents and his turnaround really are not that far in the past.  He was still having incidents in 2008.  The psychological evaluation is interesting, although it would seem he’s more a threat to use drugs than he is to commit violence.

His next hearing is in 2014, a long time to be sure, but if he manages to stay clean for the time, he will most likely be released.

I do find it interesting that district attorneys like to advocate for victims’ rights when it is in their interest to do so.  But often we have seen victims have a very different set of priorities.  They need to move on.  They often oppose the death penalty, seeking closure over more moderate punitive measures.

The support for victims’ rights seems almost one way only – a tool used to increase the punishment, but rarely are the victims taken into account when they request releases, or new trials to determine whether an individual really did perpetrate the crime, or leniency.

With that said, I think the parole board had a close call here, given the recency of problems with Mr. Young.  I would have erred on the side of early release and given the guy a chance to live out the rest of his life and see if he can be a productive citizen.  Hopefully he gets another shot in 2014.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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13 thoughts on “Parole Board Denies Kidnapper Release”

  1. Phil Coleman

    Just because the Board failed to support the plea does not mean that the victim’s plea was “not taken into account.” No evidence was offered to support this contention?

    It is a novel approach to try and expand the intent of Victims’ Right legislation to parole board hearings. But I think this legislation was to protect victims, not prisoners who caused them to be victimized in the first place.

    It may be possible to argue that a 50-year-old would not kidnap again. But prisoners are evaluated by all past crime history, prison behaviors and their possible risk factor if released in society. The “many offenses” while in prison, attempted suicides, and long drug history undoubtedly must have had some measurement into the decision not to release at this time.

  2. David M. Greenwald

    Your first sentence really takes my comment out of context. My point is that it seems like victim rights advocacy unidirectional. DA’s like to use them to justify harsher sentences, but rarely do they use them in the other direction. It seems to me, watching the system, that victims are used likes pawns by the prosecutor and then discarded at some point. Maybe that’s too cynical and unfair, but that’s the appearance.

  3. Roger Rabbit

    Same old story, DA’s want to fool the people into thinking they care. This is pure politics to get a press release, sensationalism, if people critically evaluate statements and press releases and look for what is not being said, they would be a more informed public.

    How many of these hearings happen that the DA ignores? The DA gets a list of all parole hearings, why doesn’t he release that list so people can see what he ignores? Why doesn’t the DA explain and report information that truly informs people so they can make an educated decision instead of just releasing half-truths and propaganda.

    It is so easy to publicize bits and pieces that make you look, it is entirely different to have an open and clear window of what really is happening. One is a cowards way and the other shows integrity, most people can tell the difference if they look.

  4. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: “…victims are used likes pawns by the prosecutor and then discarded at some point. Maybe that’s too cynical and unfair, but that’s the appearance.”

    Can you give specific data on this to back up your contection?

    dmg: “On the other hand, his in-prison incidents and his turnaround really are not that far in the past. He was still having incidents in 2008.”

    So doesn’t it seem sensible to find out whether this recent epiphany/turnaround is genuine or just self-serving – before releasing this prisoner out into society?

    dmg: “They talk so much about the right of victims, but in this case, the victims believe that he has served his time.”

    What the mother said was: ” IF THE BOARD SEES FIT, my family and I have no issues with the board granting Mr. Young parole at this time.”

  5. jimt

    DMG: Re: “My point is that it seems like victim rights advocacy unidirectional. DA’s like to use them to justify harsher sentences, but rarely do they use them in the other direction. It seems to me, watching the system, that victims are used likes pawns by the prosecutor and then discarded at some point. Maybe that’s too cynical and unfair, but that’s the appearance.”

    Not only do victims have victims rights advocates, but prisoners have prisoners rights advocates, who have access to the DA. Not only might victims be used like pawns by the prosecutor, they may also be used like pawns by the defense.

    I don’t understand your complaint; where is the imbalance?

  6. Mind_hunter53

    The guy has done about 30 years and is highly unlikely to engage in kidnapping. His write-ups may have been for completely nonviolent rule violations. If he is kept in prison, it is for additional punishment.

  7. Mr Obvious

    [quote]His write-ups may have been for completely nonviolent rule violations. If he is kept in prison, it is for additional punishment. [/quote]

    I think he’s being kept in jail because he cannot follow the rules. If he can’t follow simple rules in prison how can you expect him to follow the rules on the outside?

  8. Mr Obvious

    How can you not consider him a risk for recidivism. He cannot follow simple rules in prison when the incentive is freedom. If he can’t do that how would you expect him to to follow the rules on the outside?

  9. Mind_hunter53

    [quote]How can you not consider him a risk for recidivism. He cannot follow simple rules in prison when the incentive is freedom. If he can’t do that how would you expect him to to follow the rules on the outside? [/quote]

    Of course their is a risk of recidivism. Remember, violence tends to be a young man’s crime — this is a 50 year old who has been incarcerated for the past 30 years. While he has been found guilty of rule violations, the question is were any of these violent or threatening in nature. I am not arguing the man should be released — I am saying that the primary function of keeping him further is to punish him further, not to protect society. I am not in any way saying 30 years is sufficient punishment — but I am pointing out that the court, in sentencing him, did provide for the possibility of parole if he is suitable.

  10. David M. Greenwald

    Mind-hunter makes my point. I think he’s a reasonable risk to use drugs again. I think he’s very unlikely to try to kidnap or perform a violent act. As such, I think he deserves a chance to make whatever he can out of whatever life he has life. I think he’s served his time and then some.

  11. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: “I think he’s a reasonable risk to use drugs again. At 50, I think he’s very unlikely to try to kidnap or perform a violent act. As such, I think he deserves a chance to make whatever he can out of whatever life he has life. I think he’s served his time and then some.”

    If he is at risk to use drugs again, it is highly likely he is at risk to steal to get those drugs…

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