By Juan Garcia Urrutia
WOODLAND, CA – On April 21, the Yolo County Superior Court denied bail/early release requests made under the new emergency rules to defendants the court found to be public safety concerns.
The new rules issued by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of California and the Judicial Council were made to help address safety concerns surrounding the new coronal virus pandemic.
The new rules include reducing bail to zero for most misdemeanors and lower-level felonies. The council also advised California courts to consider early release requests for individuals who may be at risk while in custody.
The Yolo County Courthouse heard multiple requests for early release and reduced bail but it seems the court will not make exceptions to defendants who may pose a public safety concern.
One of these cases denied bail was Damien Thomas. Thomas was convicted with multiple felony charges including inflicting great bodily injury.
The judge found that, if released on bail, Thomas did pose a public safety concern and that the defendant has already stipulated to a prison term—and therefore denied bail. The judge said that, historically, individuals who stipulated to a prison term were not granted bail and that the new emergency rules by the Judicial Council made no exception to that. Thomas was remanded back to the state.
The court also heard an early release request for Damien Pace. Pace was convicted for violation of parole and was sentenced to serve 135 days in prison.
The defense counsel argued that Pace was needed at home, given that his fiancée was working and her children, ages five and 16, needed child care. Counsel claimed that the defendant served the crucial role of taking care of the children while his fiancée was at work and also brought in income to help support the household.
The prosecution argued that evictions were being temporarily suspended given the Judicial Council’s temporary new rules and that the oldest child of 16 was well beyond the age to babysit under state laws.
The judge agreed with the prosecution’s arguments, further stating that Pace has had “a track record of not doing things expected of him” and the court had “no confidence he will do what he needs to do.” The judge, therefore, denied the request for early release.
Lastly, the court heard a release request to be released under the defendant’s own recognizance for Thomas Warren. Warren is being charged with three felony counts. One for corporal injury, one for elder abuse and one for false imprisonment.
In December of 2019, officers were dispatched to the home of Warren’s girlfriend, age 62. Officers had received reports of the defendant threatening to harm himself. When officers arrived, Warren stated he had a few drinks but that he would calm down.
Officers left the house and about an hour later were called again. When police showed up to the house a second time, the defendant had struck his girlfriend in the face, causing her to have a swollen and bloody nose. He had also prevented her from leaving the house when the struggle was taking place.
The prosecution argued that the defendant has had a history of convictions. Warren has had seven felony DUIs since 1990 and has on multiple occasions violated the terms of his parole.
Defense counsel stated that Warren had health concerns about being in custody, given the spread of the coronavirus and his compromised health. The prosecution rebutted these claims by stating the facility had already taken steps to promote safety and that the facility had more than 250 empty beds and could maintain social distancing measures.
The judge agreed with the prosecution’s arguments and denied the OR request, further stating that the defense did not present any information about the health concerns they brought up.
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