Monday Morning Thoughts: Really – What Is the Yolo DA’s Position on Zero Bail?

By David M. Greenwald

Another press release noted that a West Sacramento man was charged with attempted murder after being arrested on September 15, less than a month after being placed on felony probation. The DA argues, “Between the time he was placed on probation and his arrest for attempted murder, (Denis) Burgreyev was arrested on five separate occasions for committing other crimes.”

Given the sheer number of cases one could probably argue that Burgreyev should not have been eligible for release on zero bail—especially after committing new crimes while on probation–but part of the problem is that with the exception of of possession of a concealed dagger, almost all of the new “crimes” were very minor.

With that said, for most of the last six months since the original zero bail schedule was set in late March and extended in June, the Yolo County DA has been attacking it. Despite, as we showed earlier this month, that in fact his office gave it a go-ahead in June when the state order expired.

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 on 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.”

Give News 10 credit here—they actually did a balanced job of covering this story—as many of the stories that we see are one-sided, simply taking the word of the district attorney’s office.

Here they quote Judge McAdam, the presiding judge.

“We believe that the current Bail Schedule is working well here in Yolo County and as a matter of public health, we should stay the course,” said Judge Samuel T. McAdam in a June statement.

They also take the rare step of quoting a group supporting zero bail. In this case, that was Stephen Munkelt, Executive Director of the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, a criminal defendant advocacy organization.

“The presumption is that people should have their liberty until they’re convicted,” Munkelt said.

Munkett makes strong points, noting that it is a small percentage of people who fail to show up to court or commit a new crime when they are released.

He also notes that “the loss of employment and family ties while a person is held in jail awaiting trial are detrimental to communities.

“We need to be releasing more people and be much more careful about who we can’t trust to be in the community while their case is happening,” Munkelt said.

There are two points not raised here. One is that COVID represents a much greater threat to public safety than the release of people on zero bail—and we know from the stats we have been tracking from CDCR and the jails that far more people have died in custody from COVID than because of early releases or zero bail.

And the other issue is the fairness of bail itself—we allow people with the means to purchase their freedom to be released on bail, while those without those resources stay in jail where they potentially could contract COVID.  Voters will get to decide on that issue in November on Prop. 25.

There is one more point—the article says that the “the Yolo County DA’s Office is asking for the $0 bail policy to be reconsidered.”  When this came up a few weeks ago, they had not officially asked for the policy to be reconsidered.

The other point that we raised, and ABC 10 did, is that the DA’s office in June agreed to continue 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.”

Have they changed their view or are they merely trying to raise the point while keeping the policy in place?

The real question is: Where is Jeff Reisig himself? He has rarely been heard from since since the pandemic began. And what is his office’s position on zero bail? Do they want it ended? Do they want it amended?

It seems like rather than the frequent potshots at zero bail—the continuation of which his office authorized—the public deserves clear direction.

—David M. Greenwald

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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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  1. Sharla Cheney

    I thought that release was going to be dependent on an estimation of risk, rather than bail.  I understand that COVID-19 has added a level of complexity to determining who is released and who is detained, to allow for some level of social distancing in the Jail, but is this being done currently?

  2. Dave Hart

    Who makes the determination that someone is a safety or flight risk?  In this case, and if I understand it correctly, the stabber was arrested for low level crimes that did not indicate a safety risk.  Then he became a stabber, so now he is being held.  So the zero bail policy is working insofar as there is no crystal ball available.  What am I missing?

    1. David Greenwald

      Ultimately the judge determines custody status. One thing that I learned however – the DA is complaining about his release on zero bail but the DA’s office never asked or requested he be remanded.

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