By Michael Apfel and Destiny Gurrola
MODESTO, CA – A truck driver with six kids was denied bail and release by Judge Carrie Stephens in Stanislaus County Superior Court Dept. 4 this past week because the judge cited a public safety concern and a lack of ties to the community.
In a prior preliminary examination, the court found sufficient evidence to bring the accused to trial on one count of felony vehicle theft, noting his criminal history across several states.
The early case management conference began with the accused’s public defender filing a motion for the accused to either have a reduced bail or to be released on his own recognizance with no bail, noting, “Our request would be asking the court to reduce bail to a nominal amount, or in the alternative release him on his own recognizance.”
Though the accused does have a criminal history, the defense highlighted the minimal history in California as well as the ambiguity regarding the severity of his potential out-of-state cases.
“He does have a fairly minimal criminal history in California. He only has two misdemeanor convictions here. There is some out-of-state activity, but it isn’t entirely clear which are convictions,” said the public defender.
The defense cited Ward’s employment as well as his need to provide for his six children as an interest for the court to grant the defense motion.
“He does have a full time job. He was working for the company in this case and another company as a truck driver full time. He has six kids that he helps support,” argued the public defender.
The accused then added in the direction of the judge, “I just want to get this conviction over and get back to my kids.”
The judge, however, was not persuaded by the defense arguments, sharing a principal concern for the accused’s criminal record in several states.
Said Judge Stephens, “I looked at his criminal history. I see that he has a driver’s license from Texas. He has recent criminal history in Texas, Illinois and California, both in Riverside and San Bernardino County. I have concerns about the defendant’s ties to this community. I also note that there had been warrants issued in other jurisdictions besides California for failures to attend to criminal matters. I’m not comfortable releasing Ward on his own recognizance.”
Judge Stephens was similarly unwilling to grant the defense’s request to reduce bail, adding, “(H)is criminal history suggests keeping bail at the same amount for public safety reasons, also for the defendant’s ability to appear in court, desire and willingness to follow the court’s orders to appear in court, and as much as he ties all over. Maybe because of his employment, but he’s got a criminal history in those places too, so that’s the big concern with warrants having been issued.”
Deputy District Attorney Ney Montenegro expressed similar concerns.
“The People have the same concerns as the court. The defendant does have criminal history in Texas, Nevada and California. The People would oppose the motion.”
The defense requests were denied, though further requests pertaining to the accused’s bail could be addressed later, depending on facts in the preliminary hearing. The prosecution agreed to delay any offers until the next hearing. The defense waived time for trial, and the next proceeding was scheduled for April 5.