Sacramento DA Files Motion Days before Inmates to be Released under Emergency COVID-19 Order

By Crescenzo Vellucci
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau Chief

SACRAMENTO – THE VANGUARD has learned that the Sacramento County District Attorney late Friday has created a “no-release” list of about 100 people in the Sacramento County Jail that it will oppose being released on no bail – that’s despite an emergency order by the State Judicial council last week to clear out incarcerated to avoid a major COVID-19 outbreak.

About 1,000, and maybe as many as 1,600, current residents of the county jails – many just awaiting trial and who have not been convicted, but can’t afford to pay bail – are set to be released by 5 p.m. Monday. There are some exceptions for violent inmates. But most misdemeanor and some felony incarcerated are due to go free on zero bail.

The jails can hold about 3,700 people, and hundreds have already been released if they had less than 30-60 left on their sentences.

According to a late Friday court filing – leaked to THE VANGUARD because the news media doesn’t have normal access to filings because the courthouse is closed to the public –  the DA has already created the 100-person list of targeted inmates, and may have more.

The DA is arguing the inmates should remain in the  jails, despite the Judicial Council’s emergency COVID-19 order. The list was being circulated to defense lawyers Friday night. The defense counsel are being informed they must fight for those inmates’ release even though the Judicial Council seemingly mandated it last week.

The State Judicial Council did allow exceptions to the zero bail releases for violent offenders, but it appears from the DA list that many of those the DA wants to stay behind bars are facing only traffic offenses.

In its motion filed late Friday, the DA argued, “The public safety shall be the primary consideration of bail determinations….the court can consider ‘the protection of the public, the safety of the victim, the seriousness of the offense charged, the previous criminal record of the defendant, and the probability of his or her appearing at the trial or hearing of the case.’”

The DA is asking for a special court hearing in “consideration in the following cases where the People contend there would be an unreasonable risk to public safety were the defendant to be granted a bail amount of $0.”

Acknowledging it was a difficult call to balance “both Constitutions” with the “health and safety needs of their local community with the civil and constitutional rights and liberties of individuals and groups from our communities,” CA Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, chair of the Judicial Council, defended the actions of the Council last week.

“Today, as part of our ongoing collective effort to flatten the curve, stem the spread of the virus, and  assume the responsibility delegated to us by Governor Newsom ‘with utmost care and judiciousness’ we seek to address the issues of the faces behind the cases, and those that support them in seeking relief, resolving disputes, or having their voice heard by the courts. All are ‘number one’ on our list,” she said.

“(T)o say that there is no playbook is a gross understatement of the situation. I’m confident we can preserve the rule of law and protect the rights of victims, the accused, litigants, families and children, and all who seek justice,” the chief justice added.

The Judicial Council’s emergency order:

“The Emergency Bail Schedule  (will) set bail at $0 for misdemeanors and certain felonies, with exceptions for serious felonies under Penal Code section 1192.7(c) and violent felonies under Penal Code sections 667.5(c), and other offenses such as those involving domestic violence or stalking, driving under the influence offenses, and offenses requiring sex offender registration…the application of the statewide Emergency Bail Schedule to any accused currently held in county jail custody charged with an offense covered by the schedule.

“The rule would provide that each superior court’s current bail schedule would remain in effect for all offenses other than those addressed in the Emergency Bail Schedule and provide courts with authority to revise those remaining portions of their schedules, including setting bail for court-specific conduct enhancements and any status enhancements.

Bail to be set at $0 for violations of misdemeanor probation, whether the arrest is made with or without a bench warrant. For violations of felony probation, parole, post release community supervision, or mandatory supervision, bail must be set in the same amount as bail for the underlying substantive charge of conviction under the Emergency Bail Schedule.”

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