By David M. Greenwald
Woodland, CA – Judge Peter Williams on Wednesday granted a defense motion to strike sex offender terms and conditions for a man convicted of misdemeanor indecent exposure (PC section 314) and misdemeanor possession of meth (H&S section 11377).
“This one is I guess a little bit interesting primarily because normally I would agree with (the prosecution), but I just feel like you were one witness short of getting me to where I needed to get, that is the person who actually did the assessment and how it was that was that was going to help with the treatment provided,” Judge Williams explained. “I don’t have that information. I have distance snapshots of evidence that you’ve given me.”
He said that the parole agent who testified was doing the best that he could.
“I don’t have enough evidence to sustain your argument, because of that, I don’t find that there’s a nexus. I don’t find that there’s a rational basis for the registration at this point,” he said. “I think Agent Lou was doing the best that he can, particularly given that I’m not sure he even knew he was here for half of this.”
On June 13, 2022, the client admitted to a violation of parole, he was reinstated back on parole and was sentenced accordingly. However, Public Defender Martha Sequeira requested they delete a term of parole.
Agent Steve Lou testified during the hearing that he had been notified that for the GPS monitor that was part of the client’s terms and conditions of parole, the battery had died.
One of the issues at question was whether the client was assessed for a risk of repeated sex offenses.
In her arguments, Sequeira pointed out under the penal code, that the court has the authority to modify terms of parole pursuant to her motion.
“The defense believes that the evidence submitted by this officer is insufficient to establish the nexus between a 2015 misdemeanor conviction to the imposition of the terms of conditions of a sex offender parole,” she argued. “That is not the intent of the legislation. The intent of the legislator was to allow parole, the discretion to decide which paroles to make these terms and conditions. An arbitrary decision-making machine that puts these parole terms and conditions on everybody who has a conviction that would require 290 was, is an abuse of discretion.”
She said, “It actually shows the lack of using discretion in determining which parolees to apply it to, what you have here is an individual who almost seven years ago was convicted of multiple misdemeanor offenses that require 290 by themselves. Those that probation would not require either GPS for the term of probation, nor would it require sex treatment.”
She noted that he was convicted in one case, multiple charges, but that the sentencing court did not require a sex offender treatment program nor did it require a GPS tracker.
She argued, “The parole board has decided arbitrarily to make them terms and conditions, regardless of an individualized need assessment. And that’s where the defense is submitting to the court that they’re abusing their discretion.”
She added, “It would be one thing if this parole agent could articulate a reason for it, if there were anything that they could point to, to suggest that (the client) needs a treatment program, a sex offender treatment program, all they’re saying is that that’s one of the conditions we make 290s do, and he has to do it.”
She argued, “That’s ridiculous, judge, what has he done other than that commitment offense seven years ago to show that going to sex offender treatment is necessary to get him rehabilitated into the community?”
The judge noted, “It’s not that we don’t know any assessment was done. The witness here had no knowledge of it. We don’t know that because we don’t know anything with respect to the assessment or not.”
Sequeira argued, “The defense’s position is that this term and condition is not rationally related to rehabilitating (the client) and making him successful in the community.”
She noted that the GPS violation “is a condition that inhibits his ability to be successful because of his transient nature of the GPS violation.”
One of the problems that Sequeira pointed out is that parolees who are homeless or having housing security issues still have to charge their GPS batteries which often require them to go to places like Starbucks to charge their batteries.
“Look judge, this is the reality, if parole is telling homeless people that they should go to Starbucks to get their GPS tracker (charged) and then they’re violating them when their battery goes dead, they should have a responsibility to go ask Starbucks if it’s okay to send parolees there to use their electricity for free.”
Judge Williams noted, “You’re making an argument that will be better made probably to the legislature. And I say that only because what I heard the agent say was that was one of a number of options. All of the others, which sounded like they were publicly sanctioned.”
Deputy DA Aaron Rojas attempted to address the nexus between the sex offender registration classes and his parole status.
Rojas argued, “Parole has determined that (the client’s meth use is the driving factor in what him caused him to offend with the sex offenses in the first place.” He noted, “since his parole, he’s been violated multiple times for use and possession of meth, so that would indicate that it is still an ongoing issue for him and his lack of participation in any type of treatment programs, shows that it is relevant and there is a nexus between that behavior and having the conditions as part of his parole as the assessment goes.”
Rojas added that the parole agent did testify that he was assessed and he scored a seven, “which puts him as a high-risk sex offender. So, although he hasn’t had any additional offenses that were sex crimes, because of that determination and the fact that he is required to register pursuant to 290, because of his previous conditions, there is a nexus there.”
Judge Williams, however, felt that Rojas needed to have a witness with direct knowledge of the assessment. As such, he ruled that he did not find a nexus and ordered those boxes stricken as terms and conditions.