COURT WATCH: Judge Jails Homeless, Indigent Man on $10,000 Bail Pretrial; Defense Calls Jailing ‘Offensive’ 


By Kiana Khatibi and Ivan Villegas

WOODLAND, CA – Calling it “offensive” —the pretrial jailing of an “individual who’s unhoused, transient, and struggling in Woodland to spend $202 on groceries or other necessities” —Deputy Public Defender Danielle Craig opposed a judge’s decision at an arraignment hearing here in Yolo County Superior Court this week.

Judge Daniel Wolk assigned DPD Craig to represent an indigent man charged with using personal information of another to obtain goods, a felony, and multiple misdemeanor cases of unlawful possession of paraphernalia used to smoke or inject.

After beginning the hearing, the defense entered pleas of not guilty to all counts and DPD Craig began by summarizing the facts of the case.

“I’ll just note for the court that these are mostly misdemeanor possession charges…allegedly (the accused) took a debit card and went to Walmart, making three purchases totaling a grand total of $202.98,” said Craig.

The DPD continued, arguing, “having someone who is poor in custody for no other reason besides being poor feels offensive. So I’d be asking for (the accused) to be released (pretrial on no bail). He has no ability to pay any bail amount.”

Referring to the report suggesting supervised own recognizance release, DPD Craig acknowledged probation’s argument that releasing the accused without a plan to address his mental health and substance abuse issues “would be setting him up to fail.”

In response to this argument, DPD Craig argued “caging him would also be setting him up to fail,” adding the accused should be released because he was transient living in Woodland near the courthouse and probation “could work with my office to provide him (necessary) services.”

Judge Wolk then turned to Deputy District Attorney Carolyn Palumbo, who immediately took issue with the DPD’s words, arguing, “First of all, it is wholly inappropriate to make reference to a person being caged as if they’re an animal…that is completely, completely inappropriate.”

The DDA then pointed out that appropriating someone’s ID is an “offensive” crime, creating “a huge hectic problem for that victim of that crime,” and that the accused had missed more than one court date. “I will concede this is not a crime of violence, however, the question is will he come to court?”

Following DDA Palumbo’s statement, she asked probation to weigh in on the issue.

The probation officer discussed how “in 2019 we were supervising him in some capacity and I’ve seen a lot of notes where, again, we were struggling to make contact with him. We noted he was unhoused, apparently we were reaching out to the public defender’s social worker…to try to figure out where he was.”

In response, Judge Wolk stated how, despite the accused’s mental health and substance abuse issues that DPD Craig previously outlined, “there’s a concern on the part of the district attorney and probation that if the court were to release him he just might not come to court.”

Judge Wolk gave the defense the last word, and DPD Craig stood her ground, arguing how the accused “is currently shackled and currently housed at the Yolo County jail for offenses that I believe are directly tied to his struggle to survive.” She further argued that there were other ways to get the accused to show up to court.

Judge Wolk claimed he sympathized with DPD Craig’s argument, yet ultimately, in his ruling not to release the accused on SOR, noted how “there is a real concern of the court that were the court to release him on supervised own recognizance, that there would be a real concern regarding public safety, as well as him not appearing in court.”

Judge Wolk also discussed how the felony that the accused committed is not a “victimless crime.”

Following this, the defense said they would be entering time waivers for the misdemeanors but not for the felony, prompting Judge Wolk to ask the accused if he understood the terms of time waived that were established.

The accused then spoke up, asking, “Can I ask a question?”

After saying that he “somewhat” understood the time waiver, the accused was advised by Judge Wolk to ask his question, aimed at probation, to his attorney first, reminding him that he is on the record and that anything he says can be used against him.

“I want this to be on the record, not off,” insisted the accused.

Ultimately, the accused’s question was not asked, and the judge ordered that he could ask his question to probation at the next court date.

Bail was set at $10,000 for the felony and $1,000 each on the misdemeanors and a preliminary hearing for the felony and the misdemeanor cases was set for April 26.


About The Author

Ivan Villegas (he/him) is a criminal justice graduate from CSU Sacramento. He wishes to continue his studies in law school starting in fall 2023. He is interested in immigration and international law, and hopes to use his degree for a career as an immigration attorney.

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