Defense Calls Prosecutor’s Protective Order for Pretrial Release ‘Unlawful’

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Interior of the County Courthouse building (Santa Barbara, California).

By Leila Katibah

SANTA BARBARA – During an arraignment Tuesday in Santa Barbara County Superior Court Deputy District Attorney Justin Greene issued a criminal protective order for the accused, Philip Meyerhoefer, to not contact two individuals for the duration of three years.

The protective order is part of a condition of his supervised pretrial release from jail, which includes GPS tracking, taking all prescribed medication, appearing at court when directed, and obeying all laws.

According to the written order, the accused is only to be released upon bed availability at a behavioral wellness center where he will reside and be treated for his mental conditions.

However, Deputy Public Defender Mark Gregory Saatjian stated the protection order was not communicated to him in any correspondence with the prosecution, arguing that “the alleged victims are not in a domestic relationship with the client,” because this particular protective order is typically issued in domestic violence cases.

“So, Mr. Saatjian, you’re asking for a stipulation to release and I mean, that’s kind of part of the deal,” responded DDA Greene.

DPD Saatjian noted, “It’s not a lawful order typically to have this outside of a domestic relationship,” adding the accused has no way of getting in contact with the two individuals, and therefore suggesting this matter be tabled at trial.

 “That’s news to me” responded Judge Denise deBellefeuille, “I don’t agree with your assessment. You can address this with the trial department if you think something should be done differently, but I’m going to issue the stay away order at this time.”

DPD Saatjian asked if the order could be issued without prejudice, because as of now it is not removable from his record. Judge deBellefeuille responded, “You can change it with Judge (Thomas R.) Adams,” who will be handling the case beginning in early December.

Meyerhoefer is facing felony charges of attempted carjacking and cruelty to elderly or dependent adult, coupled with two serious felony enhancements. His father was present during court to support his son, arriving from Berlin, and Judge deBellefeuille instructed him he may visit his son in jail. 

“Your dad is here because he loves you. He’s come a long way because he cares about what happens to you. You’re going to be okay. You have to take your medicines and just breathe,” concluded Judge deBellefeuille. The accused took a deep breath and thanked the judge.

After the matter was concluded, Deputy Public Defender Mary Huft, who was also present in the court Zoom room, stated she had the case citations “for why the court cannot issue criminal protective orders unless there’s certain evidence outside of past harm in non-domestic violence cases,” adding she could share it with the courts if interested. 

“I’m always interested (but) I think it’s an issue for Judge Adams to deal with now,” responded Judge deBellefeuille, as the matter had already been concluded and assigned to Judge Adams for future hearings.

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About The Author

Leila Katibah is an undergraduate student at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is double majoring in Sociology and Middle East Studies with a minor in Professional Writing. After graduating, Leila plans to attend law school to pursue a career in Public International Law.

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