By David M. Greenwald
Banning, CA – In an unusually pointed ruling Riverside County Judge Jorge Hernandez shut down pursuit of Jeff Perrotte on parole violation, dismissing the action against him with prejudice and warning parole not to further pursue the matter.
As the Vanguard has previously reported, Perrotte was convicted of murder for his role in the 1992 death of Frank Sinatra’s close friend, Jilly Rizzo. He had been released in 2015, but was reincarcerated from 2016 until July of 2020 for a technical violation of parole.
Perrotte was reported to be in possession of two unopened beer cans in 2016, which led to his reincarceration until just last summer.
On April 8, the Vanguard published a lengthy expose on the bizarre case. Days later, Perrotte reported that parole agents were stepping up harassment of him, and his belief was that this was in retaliation for his article. That led to his arrest on May 14.
The big problem that Hernandez had in this case in evaluating the PVDMI (Parole Violation Decision-Making document), is they found Perrottee has a low risk assessment, no “stabilizing or destabilizing factors,” and finally it was not clear how contact with a purported gang member in prison even related to Perrotte’s underlying crime.
According to his attorney in a May interview with the Vanguard, the incident that led to Perrotte’s arrest began with a tip that Perrotte might be involved in selling cell phones to people in the prison.
“That’s total BS,” defense attorney Laura Sheppard said, but it did get the parole agents to look up Perrotte’s phone calls into the prison. “They found a call between him and another inmate.”
Sheppard described the actual call as “totally innocuous.” A ten-minute conversation where Perrotte and the incarcerated person were simply shooting the breeze.
However, Perrotte, it turns out, has a parole condition that says he can’t talk to gang members.
“That parole condition is unconstitutional,” Sheppard believes. The law, she explained, says you can only have parole conditions if they have some rational connection to the parolee’s crime. Perrotte has never had any gang affiliations and his case was a drunk driving case. “Jeff has never had any gang involvement whatsoever, either in prison or out of prison. They’re not allowed to even put that condition on him.”
Judge Hernandez concludes from this that, “In Perrotte, they leapfrog. They just jump from, you know, no intermediate sanctions.”
Judge Hernandez found that the complaint was “defective on its face.” He said, “It didn’t follow the rules and regulations that govern P.V.D.M.I. It did not do what they were supposed to do.”
He also lent credence to the defense theory that there was a prejudice against Perrotte at work here.
The judge noted that the PVDMI document “was put there so that we wouldn’t have disparate treatment based on parole officers’ likes and dislikes of parolees or supervisors’ likes and dislikes of people within their office or the parolees.”
The judge dismissed the allegation regarding the gang term and condition of parole, saying “that one I will dismiss under 1385 because on that one, I find that association is not narrowly tailored to defendant’s crime, was not narrowly tailored to his conduct in prison, and was not narrowly tailored to his conduct post-release.”
Sheppard added, “I would like to ask your Honor to also basically modify probation to eliminate that unlawful, unconstitutional condition going forward.”
The judge responded, “There’s really nothing to say that Perrotte is a gang member, was a gang member, associated with gang members, affiliated with gang members, supported gang members, or protected by gang members, any of that.”
The prosecutor, Chianello responded, “After hearing the attorney general provide information to the Court with information contained within the ‘C’ file and Mr. Perrotte, People would submit.”
The judge then granted the request to strike the gang condition as a parole term.
The prosecution’s only real argument against the defense was to object to the hearing being held “because of the untimeliness of defense’s motion to me.” He noted it was 73 pages long and “I haven’t had time to adequately prepare any type of argument, including an oral one at this point.”
Judge Hernandez shot down the argument, noting that the two key cases that the defense relied on were just seven and five pages long.
“So normally, I would say, you know, if there were a ton of cases, I would say I understand where you’re coming from,” he said. The judge said he read through the cases on Thursday and was able to get a full grasp of the law and believed the defense motion on point.
Laura Sheppard raised the concern that parole would simply re-violate Perrotte at a later point in time.
“I think my finding is not that factually it didn’t justify. I’m saying that they just didn’t follow the rules. They didn’t do what they were supposed do,” the Judge said.
In addition to the gang charge, they also accused him of driving outside of the scope of his work, a violation of his terms and conditions.
The scope of the ruling was that they could not go from a technical violation of parole immediately to revocation of parole, putting him back in custody.
Shepard pushed for “dismissal of this revocation with prejudice, precluding them from refiling it.”
The judge didn’t go that far, as he said that he could “increase his supervision” or “his limitation on driving,” but added, “I’m just saying they can’t put him back in custody.”