Judge Finally Allows Woman to Serve Community Service in Lieu of Jail Time

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Alameda, CA – It took a lot of doing but an Alameda Court judge finally allowed a woman to do 88 hours of community service rather than serve her 11 days in jail.

Melody Ditico was originally ordered to do 90 days in county jail as part of a violation of probation from March 8, 2019, to be served through the Sheriff Work Alternative Program (SWAP).  But she had some starts and stops and then the pandemic hit.  She completed 17 days of SWAP and served about 17 days in actual custody as well.

According to attorneys for Ditico, she still had 11 days to serve in SWAP, but the program has been closed since March 2020.

Judge Jason Clay ordered her to surrender on Friday, to serve her remaining time at Santa Rita Jail.

Public Defender Jennie Otis asked that the court stay the imposition of the sentence given that the defendant is unhoused and the Delta variant is extremely virulent.

“Sending her in to Santa Rita to serve what I calculate 11 days for a two-year-old sentence, in the middle of what some are saying is the worst time of this pandemic is a risk to her health, as well as a risk to the population inside Santa Rita,” Otis argued.

Otis pointed out that her last arrest in Alameda County was September 6, 2019—almost two years ago.

Otis asked that the 11 days be converted to either credit for time served or community service.

But the prosecutor wasn’t having it.

“She’s failed during her first year to do her 90 days,” the prosecutor responded.  “I don’t see SWAP opening any time soon.  This misdemeanor probation is five years old.  I’m asking the court to go forward with its original order and have the defendant do the time in custody.”

He pushed back on the concerns about COVID, citing the number of 15 active cases at Santa Rita among over 2500 inmates.

Otis pushed back, “I would note that her record is all nonviolent.  She has all misdemeanors.  She has completed 17 days actual days of SWAP before the program closed down.”

Otis added, “I think the district attorney and I can come to some sort of resolution that avoids her going to jail.”

The judge said, “Well, it looks like we’ve been dealing with this case at least since April. So you say that you think that you can come to a resolution. Why hasn’t a resolution been reached within the past four months?”

The prosecutor responded, “We’ve discussed this.  First off, she cannot be depended upon to do something other than county jail.  She’s demonstrated that.”

Otis responded, “This is a non-violent woman who is charged with conduct from over two years ago.”

The prosecutor responded: “Because she didn’t do her SWAP when she was supposed to, and now time has transpired, she should be absolved of what she agreed to do?”

However, when they returned from recess it was agreed that she would serve the time as community service rather than in custody.

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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