By Elena Rawlinson
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – It was a busy day Tuesday in Judge Gale Dekreon’s San Francisco County Superior Courtroom—a common thread throughout several of the cases the court heard involved the plan called “pretrial diversion,” to divert people out of jail and the system.
California pretrial diversion refers to a series of programs that provide eligible defendants with the option to participate in agreed upon programs in exchange for expungement/dismissal of their original charges.
California has three types of pretrial diversion programs. The first is the low level misdemeanor diversion program. This establishes that those defendants who are involved in non–violent drug and other offenses may participate in rehabilitation in education—anger management, life skills or similar programs—rather than serve time in jail.
The second diversion program is mental health diversion. This serves those defendants who suffer from mental health issues to receive mental health treatment rather than criminal prosecution.
The third and final diversion program is the military/veterans program. This allows California military personnel suffering from trauma, PTSD other military-related ills to pursue treatment and support in lieu of prosecution.
Marrero Cruz was one such defendant who qualified for one of the three outlined diversion programs. He was ordered to be present in court on June 29 but appeared to be absent when the judge called his case.
Judge Dekreon noted that Marrero Cruz was missing from court, hadn’t completed his required public service, but had paid his restitution in full.
Marrero Cruz’ counsel—Assistant Public Defender Alejandra Ramirez—explained that Marrero Cruz had completed his public service but hadn’t submitted evidence of his work to the diversion division.
With this new information, Dekreon granted a bench warrant stay. The DA objected to this stay–arguing that Marrero Cruz had previously come to court several times and had been granted slack but the lack of proper evidence that he’d completed his end of the diversion program was indicative of noncompliance.
The PD asserted once again that Marrero Cruz’ counsel had seen the evidence of public service completion and it just hadn’t gone through the correct channels yet. Judge Dekreon ultimately passed the bench warrant stay and set a court date for Aug. 3 for the defendant to clear up the matter.
Judge Dekreon forged on, issuing a number of bench warrants for court no-shows. In addition to these warrants, pre-trial dates were set for those who had appeared in court for an arraignment, and public defenders were appointed as counsel for several individuals whose financial situations qualified them to receive services from the Public Defender’s Office.