By David M. Greenwald
One of the more baffling things about the Yolo DA’s position on zero bail is that the office really seems to be talking out of both sides of its mouth at the same time. Is this due to an absence of leadership at this point? Multiple accounts have indicated that, since his close victory over Dean Johansson in June 2018, DA Jeff Reisig has largely checked out.
Or is something else going on?
The Yolo County DA’s Office continues to put out press releases attacking zero bail—or at least attacking the fact that, in their view, some people who have been released on zero bail have committed additional crimes.
In early September, the DA claimed that, since April 13, “266 individuals have been arrested and released on zero bail a total of 305 times, with some benefiting from $0 bail on multiple occasions.”
The Yolo DA last Friday put out another press release—this time noting that Denis Bugreyev was arrested and released on zero bail four times in the weeks prior to his allegedly stabbing a woman, nearly to death.
ABC 10 covered this story last night and captured a key quote from Melinda Aiello, Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney with the Yolo County DA’s Office.
“It’s a get-out-of-jail-free card,” Aeillo said. “There’s no real risk assessment done and there’s no consequences because they’re not even brought back to court for four to five months.”
But what gets curious here is that it appears that the DA in a June letter to Judge Sam McAdam, the presiding judge, said that they supported the continuation of zero bail.
In a letter from Melinda Aiello, she wrote that “we recognize the on-going need to maintain a reasonable jail population and after consultation with County Counsel encourage the court to return to its Emergency and Provisional Bail Schedule that became effective March 26, 2020.”
So has the DA’s office changed their position? Have they argued for remanding people into custody? It appears not. So what’s the angle here?
When I spoke with Tracie Olson, the Yolo County Public Defender, on our recent podcast, she said, “We know that people have been released on zero bail and been rearrested.”
But she said that “most are re-arrested on misdemeanors” or “probation violations,” which don’t amount to a crime.
She addressed the issue of Bugreyev. “He was put on probation by consent of the parties,” she said. He was picked up on zero bail afterwards, first with a drunk in public.
“The DAs have the ability when they see cases come through to ask for deviation for zero bail,” she pointed out. “Judges have the authority to deviate from zero bail.”
So, from her perspective, “I think it’s very simplistic to say it’s zero bail and then end of story.”
Olson pointed out that when Yolo County made the determination as to whether to keep zero bail, they solicited the opinions from all of the stakeholders in the process and they all agreed—Judge McAdam, public defender, probation, sheriff, and DA—to keep zero bail.
Judge McAdam said at that time that if there are cases that shouldn’t be zero bail, “utilize the statutes that are in place.”
Olson told me, “I am personally not aware of any that have had a request for zero bail, the request was denied, and then they went out and committed a new crime.”
Tracie Olson further said that she was not aware that the DA has requested either ending zero bail or changes to it.
“Usually those sorts of policy questions—they are emails that include all the parties,” she said. “I have not seen any emails or requests to re-look at zero bail.”
I need to spell out two points here that are critically important.
The DA’s office in their press release went into great detail about the Bugreyev case—his probation, the additional crimes, including one for possession of a dirk—and yet at no point did they make the request that zero bail should not apply in his case or that he should be remanded to custody.
The second point is just as important: They have sent out a lot of press releases on zero bail—I would estimate over 10, and by a fair margin. And yet, they have never formally asked for either an end to zero bail or changes.
The comments made by Melinda Aiello on the record with News 10 seem to be completely at odds with the DA’s stated position to the judges. The DA has the power to make such requests and their view would be given a good amount of weight. Yet they have not.
I asked Tracie Olson about this second point as well.
“It’s been confusing for me,” she said. Normally, as she pointed out, you can understand their point even if you don’t completely agree. “Not 100 percent sure what they’re trying to influence here.”
She added, “That one actually does perplex me.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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