By Elizabeth Garabedian
SANTA BARBARA, CA – Judge Von Deroian here in Santa Barbara County Superior Court Thursday denied the pretrial release of Victor Herrera, citing concerns that he is a danger to the public and the alleged victim because of behavior-influenced by his meth addiction.
Herrera appeared in court via zoom to hear the scheduling for his preliminary hearing and pretrial custody status regarding his stalking case.
Judge Deroian noted that she reviewed the pretrial supplemental report and the original trial report, but Deputy District Attorney Megan Chanda said that she thought the court needed more information and that the facts outlined in the pretrial report “don’t nearly depict the incident and facts in this case.”
DDA Chanda added Herrera had been stalking the alleged victim for years and he had two prior domestic violence convictions with the same victim; one felony that was reduced to a misdemeanor. Herrera also had two violations of a protective order filed against him in 2015 and 2017.
Pretrial services reported that Herrera repeatedly called, messaged the victim via social media, and showed up at her work.
“That grossly understates the facts here,” Chanda said in response to the report. Chanda cited one incident where Herrera, while allegedly “in some meth-induced psychosis,” drove around and called the victim, telling her that she and her child were going to die.
He then allegedly called the child’s daycare facility and the center had to be locked down because of the “perceived threats” he was making.
“This is an ongoing severe situation of harassment,” Chanda stated and noted that Herrera had not followed the protective orders against him, and violated his probation multiple times. While the protective orders have expired, it has been made clear to Herrera that he is not to contact the victim.
Chanda brought up additional concerns that Herrera will not abide by pretrial release terms if he is released from custody. Pretrial services did not include GPS monitoring as one of the terms for Herrera, so the people are concerned that he will not be monitored upon release and the district attorney’s office will not be notified immediately if he violates his pretrial release terms.
Chanda opposed against his release because there is no specific living facility that Herrera will be released to address his substance abuse, and she does not believe that the terms pretrial services have laid out “are even remotely significant enough” to protect the victim and the public in general.
Herrera’s attorney, Michael Carty, cited police reports from the victim where she indicated that Herrera should be released to a substance abuse or mental health facility for treatment because she recognizes that he has a substance abuse problem.
However, despite the previous protective orders she filed against Herrera, Carty claimed that the victim would not fear for her safety if he were released. Carty continued by laying out a possible plan for Herrera to be released to a “sobering center” where he can work on a program suggested by the people at Credo 47.
Defense counsel Carty does not believe that Herrera is 5150 or “in my opinion not 1368 today.” Upon arrest, Herrera was taken to be evaluated by a mental health expert who found “there were no underlying mental health conditions.”
Judge Deroian ruled that the court was not inclined to release Herrera at this time, explaining, “I have serious concerns not only for the alleged victim and the child they share but also for… the entire day care that had to be locked down because of Mr. Herrera’s threats.”
Judge Deroian stated that the lockdown and threats have lasting effects on the parents and children attending the school, which is concerning for the court. She is also not sure what Credo 47 will provide in terms of treatment other than a place for Herrera to stay once released.
Judge Deroian wanted to see a stricter residential treatment plan because “it seems that the mental health issues he displayed were drug induced… and it seems that everyone who knows Mr. Herrera agrees that he has a significant drug problem, specifically his addiction to crystal meth, that at least in part motivates his behavior.”
After Judge Deroian’s statement, Herrera began speaking about the daycare facility lockdown, trying to offer a different explanation. Despite Judge Deroian’s warnings to refrain from speaking because it could negatively impact his case, Herrera continued claiming that he allegedly received a call that his family was in danger, so he was trying to save them by calling the victim and the daycare facility.