By Gracy Joslin
WOODLAND, CA – Azarias Elias Michel, in a probation review hearing here in Yolo County Superior Court this past Monday, read a note to the court which detailed personal struggles with addiction and with his relationship with his mother.
However, he stressed nothing will improve if he remains incarcerated.
Michel’s rap sheet includes misdemeanor and felony charges related to petty theft, threatening to commit a crime, a few battery charges (involving his mother), driving without a license, hit and run, and automobile theft charges dating back to early 2017.
In his opening, Deputy Public Defender Joseph Gocke stated, “I do have a request on his behalf, and I have indicated to him I have no problem with him reading a note he has for the court and then I’ll make my pitch in terms of where we are between now and the next court date.”
Michel then read, “I would like to apologize for being back so soon after doing so well…I thought by interacting with my mom while trying to maintain sobriety could work, but I see now I am not ready for that relationship on my part.”
He added, “Without any distractions I think I am ready to start discovering myself again… I made a mistake, but we all make mistakes and I am not perfect.”
In addressing his addiction, Michel requested that before being admitted to residential treatment which he qualified for, he instead be released under the supervision of his maternal grandparents.
He went on about his admiration for his grandfather and, in particular, being released under his supervision would give him the support he needs to overcome his addiction and argued it would be good for his mental health.
He concluded his letter promising to maintain sobriety, attend all necessary meetings, show proof of compliance, try to pay court fees, finally get his driver’s license at the age of 24 and “hopefully rekindle the relationship with my mother.”
Afterward, Judge Dave Rosenberg thanked him for sharing and asked PD Gocke to proceed with his “pitch” on how to move forward.
PD Gocke stated he has spoken with Michel’s grandparents who were present in court and supported the request.
PD Gocke said, “I know it’s probation’s position that they want him to wait at the jail for a bed to become available… my concern is that that’s likely going to take roughly a month from where we are today.”
The public defender expressed great concern for the failure of the jail to deliver Michel’s numerous medications, noting, “My concern is that he has a number of medications. He is not receiving all of them… and he is not the only client I have heard this from.
In addition, he noted that the grandparents understand the importance of keeping Michel and his mother separated in the meantime, and to show his sincerity Michel would be willing to wear a GPS.
The prosecution said, “We are very concerned. We would ask that he stay in custody until residential treatment…this addiction does have him at this point… he is in danger of picking up even more cases if he is released at this point without the tools necessary to maintain his sobriety.”
Probation Officer Craig Seelig, in agreement, also requested he remain incarcerated and they would like to see him go straight from custody to residential treatment.
Judge Rosenberg addressed Michel directly, “I know how hard this is for you. You are 24 years old, you have another 76 years to live. I want those 76 years to be good ones.”
Michel attempted to respond but Judge Rosenberg cut him off, “No, no, I hear you… I hear you and your comments came sincerely from the heart. I am not going to release you at this time and I will tell you why.”
Judge Rosenberg then added, “I have seen this movie hundreds of times and you have the best of intentions, but I want to make sure you are equipped with what you need to succeed and so I am going to order you to be released to a residential treatment program directly from jail.”
In addition, he claimed that everyone in the room wants to see him succeed—from his grandparents to his attorney, to the prosecution, and even himself.
Michel said that he has tried to cooperate with the jail and is not sure how to get better while being incarcerated, to which Judge Rosenberg responded, “The jail isn’t perfect either. They make mistakes. Hang in there.”