Rees Takes Plea Agreement in Death of Baby Justice, Faces Six Years in State Prison


During a press conference on Tuesday, District Attorney Jeff Reisig said, “This is not a happy day.  Baby Justice Rees is dead and nothing with bring him back.”  But he said that “this is a day where justice has finally prevailed.

“Frank Rees pleaded to several charges related to his role in the death of Baby Justice, and he will be sentenced to prison.”  He said, from the beginning, the team of prosecutors and investigators on this case “believed that Frank Rees was culpable in some way for the death of Baby Justice.”

On the eve of what would have been a contentious and lengthy trial, 31-year-old Woodland resident Frank Rees pled no contest to three charges in connection with the death of his infant son, Justice Rees. Rees pled no contest to felony abusing or endangering the health of a child, involuntary manslaughter, and administering a controlled substance (to Samantha Green).

In taking the plea, Mr. Rees agreed to serve six years in state prison.

Mr. Rees had faced a maximum sentence of nine years had the case gone to trial and he had been convicted.

Baby Justice was 19 days old when he died from environmental exposure due to neglect on February 23, 2015.  His mother, Samantha Green, was convicted of second-degree murder a year ago September and
sentenced to 15 years to life after a lengthy trial.

Jeff Reisig said that the successful prosecution of Ms. Green was “not the end of the case.”  He argued, “We all believed that Frank Rees contributed to the events that led to the death of Baby Justice that cold night in that slough in Yolo County.”

He called prosecutions like this very difficult, very rare and “almost unprecedented.”

At the time, the DA’s office was criticized for the delay between the prosecution of Samantha Green and the prosecution of Frank Rees.  Mr. Reisig now was finally able to explain that delay.

On Tuesday, he explained, “We carefully reviewed all of the evidence in this case.  We carefully reviewed all of the evidence that was presented in the trial of Samantha Green.  And we carefully reviewed the law and legal precedent that exists that would support successful prosecution.”

Ultimately, he explained it was evidence that Frank Rees was providing methamphetamine to a new woman who was pregnant “that triggered our decision to file.  We simply could not wait any longer.  It was the right decision.  And hopefully Baby Justice can finally rest in peace.”

Supervising Deputy DA Ryan Couzens, who prosecuted both cases, explained that Frank Rees agreed to plead to charges of involuntary manslaughter, felony child endangerment and administering the controlled substance to Samantha Green.

In response to the question of how long he will actually serve, Mr. Couzens explained that was a complicated question.  Mr. Rees was arrested back in February and he will be entitled to that time in terms of custody and conduct credits.  “He is eligible for parole after a certain point as well,” he explained.

Mr. Couzens explained that there was a significant development in the trial today in that the judge allowed evidence in of Mr. Rees’ meth usage after the death of Justice Rees.  He explained, “Part of our case involved presenting evidence of things that occurred not only before the death of Baby Justice – to show this conscious disregard for life that is necessary to prove manslaughter.  But also we were trying to show events that occurred after the death of Baby Justice.”

Mr. Rees was found with meth on March 5, a couple weeks after the death, and he was contacted in February 2017 at the same address with a new girlfriend – they both had meth on their person and she was pregnant.

Mr. Couzens wanted to introduce those acts “to show that Mr. Rees had that indifference to life at the time of Justice Rees’ death and the court agreed with us on that theory and allowed that evidence to come in.”  Mr. Couzens felt that would allow the jury to hear more and get a broader perspective on everything that shows Mr. Rees’ mental state at the time of his son’s death.

“It’s not unusual for someone to plead after there’s been a significant development that would affect their chances of success at trial,” he said.  He said that while it was not a complete surprise given the ruling, they were not particularly expecting him to plead.

Supervising Deputy DA Rob Gorman reiterated that “these cases are not easy.”  He said, “A child who is killed, especially the way that little baby passed away, it’s awful.”  He said this case has lived with the prosecution team since the day the baby was found in 2015.

He said, “All through the prosecution of Samantha Green, we had our eye on Frank Rees.”  He said, “What we needed was a theory under the law that would attach responsibility to Frank Rees for the death of his child.”

Two months after Ms. Green was sentenced to life, the sheriff’s department contacted Mr. Rees at his parents’ home, finding him with three grams of meth, “which is a significant amount of methamphetamine” and “he was in the company of a woman who described herself as Frank Rees’ girlfriend and she was eight months pregnant.”

He said, “When we received that information we know how that movie ends.  It ends in the death of possibly another child.”

At that point they got to work to find a theory under the law allowing them to charge Frank Rees for the death of his son.  “We went after that case full force,” he said.

Mr. Rees will be sentenced on December 5 to six years in state prison.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

Come see the Vanguard Event – “In Search of Gideon” – which highlights some of the key work performed by the Yolo County Public Defender’s Office…


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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One thought on “Rees Takes Plea Agreement in Death of Baby Justice, Faces Six Years in State Prison”

  1. Tia Will

    Preface: I am a biased reporter with additional information on this case which I cannot disclose because of HIPPA violation. Any information on which I base my comments would have been available to the DAs office although I cannot disclose it. Views expressed are mine alone as an ob/gyn not directly involved but with knowledge of this case and, be forewarned, complete disgust with the outcome.

    DA Reisig claims that justice was done in this case. I claim that this is untrue and not only was justice not done, but that the further harm was done by allowing Mr. Rees the opportunity to walk free, participate in the usage of meth while impregnating another woman also using meth and thus exposing yet another fetus fathered by Mr. Rees to this debilitating drug.

    The problems and injustices as I see them:

    1. Medical/Social service : It was suspected that both Ms.Green and Mr. Rees had been using meth and in her case were on meth near the time of delivery. It was suspected by nursing staff that they were both using during the post partum period. It was known that baby Justice was had meth withdrawal symptoms. It was known to the discharge readiness assessment social service worker that Mr. Rees had shown disinterest in the birth, the baby, and the adequate provision for his older children witnessed by his statement that “he did not have time to access social service benefits for them” ( paraphrased). Despite these multiple red flags, baby Justice was discharged home to the care of his parents. Please note “parents” plural, not just his mother.

    2. DA’s office chose to charge Samantha Green with second degree murder despite evidence that she could have been suffering from meth induced psychosis and/or post partum psychosis ( which was apparently not even considered) thus getting the harsher sentence while ignoring the fact that in order to have Justice discharged to their care, both parents had to agree to take charge of the care of the infant. So why the disparity in charging and sentencing ?

    3. It would appear that the DAs office believes that the care of an infant should by default be in the mother’s hands, even though Mr. Rees clearly stated at the time that he left the home to go have sexual relations with yet another woman, he knew that Ms. Green was not in a fit mental state to care for the infant, because of the multiple doses of meth which he had administered to her.

    So from my point of view, what the DA chose to do had the following consequences: 1. Ms Green with a potential life sentence. 2. Mr. Rees, a known meth dealer, left free to continue usage and sale of meth and impregnate another meth user. 3. Mr. Rees 6 years potential sentence after which he will again be free to continue his pattern of meth/paternity/neglect.

    Justice ?  I don’t think so.

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