Jail Phones Don’t Work to Contact Lawyers, Jail Food ‘Horrific,’ Man Charges; Judge Promises to Help Contact Legal Aid

By Carson Eschen

SANTA BARBARA – A man here in Santa Barbara County Superior Court Friday complained long and hard to the judge that he was unable to secure legal counsel because the phones in the jails “don’t work.”

Thomas Madelena was charged with two counts of criminal threat earlier this week, and, for now, is representing himself.

Madelena told Judge Clifford Anderson that he was unable to get in touch with two lawyers he had contacted previously, and that it had taken him four or five hours to make three or four calls. He said that he had tried again for four more hours that day, and that he did not get one phone call through, so he was unable to retain a lawyer.

Madelena also alleged that he was never told he was arrested or given an explanation of what crimes had been alleged about him, stating that he was just handcuffed and placed in a police car. He said that the officers only said that they had concluded an investigation about him making threats.

Madelena requested “accommodation” on the bail amount from the judge to secure counsel, based on his complaints about the functionality of the phones.

Madelena also complained of harsh conditions in the jail, charging that there was urine on the floor and that the food was “horrific.” He further stated that one of the alleged victims had never been interviewed, arguing that the entire process had been a “violation of his civil rights.”

One of the public defenders present noted that Madelena had appeared in an ex parte hearing earlier, where a visiting judge had determined he was ineligible for a public defender, although the reason was unclear.

Judge Anderson then postponed the arraignment, asking the public defender’s office to prepare a brief on why the court did not have the authority to appoint counsel. He also offered to leave a message with defense attorneys to contact Madelena at the jail.

The case is still ongoing.

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