COURT WATCH: Homeless Man in Jail for Allegedly Vandalizing Chopped Down Tree; Judge Releases Him after Explanation

By Citlalli Florez

WOODLAND, CA – An accused homeless man was released from county jail here last week on his own recognizance and no bail after a public defender, after reviewing the documents, told the court the accused should have been released earlier for alleged misdemeanor vandalism, causing less than $400 damage.

At the beginning of the hearing, Deputy Public Defender Sarah Macdonald asked for an interpreter, but Judge Christopher Chandler said, “The interpreter checked in before the break, and no one indicated that they needed the interpreter, so he went to work somewhere else.”

DPD Macdonald responded, “I don’t mind going on the record.” She said they could explain what was going on later after the case.

DPD Macdonald added, “(the accused) is in custody (jail) for misdemeanor vandalism and a misdemeanor theft. I don’t know why he was originally released on supervised OR. Apparently, he came in on his own for vandalism, and they charged it as a misdemeanor, and then he was released on supervised OR, he never reported, and then he came in on a theft case.”

According to DPD Macdonald, the accused should have been released on straight OR because it was a misdemeanor, charging there is no way that the District Attorney’s office could have won the vandalism case based on the facts and lack of evidence.

Now, said the public defender, the accused is in jail for both the theft and vandalism cases, arguing, “That vandalism case, I don’t see how he could ever get a conviction on that case; that’s quite silly.”

The alleged vandalism occurred on a chopped down tree in Freedom Park. The park is now chained so that no one can enter. DPD Macdonald continued: “It will be very difficult for them to prove the vandalism.”

Regarding the theft charge, DPD Macdonald commented, “When you read the police report, it looks like other things are going on that are underlying this behavior, not a desire to steal someone’s trunk tool organizer that’s filled with paper.”

DPD Macdonald suggested the accused should be released on OR to be able to report to her office on Monday so that a mitigation specialist could provide services so that he could be “centered” and try to see if there is anything he could do for the community.

The accused is not believed to be a flight risk because he has no money to leave the community and is locally unhoused, said the DPD, adding the accused doesn’t seem to be a public safety risk.

Deputy District Attorney Carolyn Palumbo explained, “The initiation of the supervised OR occurred when (the accused) came in on a preliminary hearing for his felony vandalism matter. The amount alleged is under $400 for that case,” and the prosecution reduced it to supervised OR.

Palumbo added, “There was a request for OR at that time, and Judge Dyer chose to elect a supervised OR route. So when he (accused) didn’t check in for probation and didn’t comply with the supervised OR conditions…a warrant went out on his arrest for the misdemeanor vandalism case…he picked up the petty theft matter and then another case which was pushed for a follow-up yesterday.”

DPD Palumbo noted, “He came in for arraignment yesterday, and the arraignment judge at that time elected to keep him in custody. There was bail set on the petty theft case at $1,000.”

Judge Stephen Mock asked, “How long between the time the defendant failed to check in with probation to the point he got arrested on theft?”

DDA Palumbo stated the probation department tried to contact the accused on Aug. 23 and 24, and filed the revocation Aug. 25. The petty theft allegedly occurred on July 31. There were no convictions found on his file.

Judge Mock responded that he didn’t see public safety issues warranting incarceration. Given the theft charge, the judge released the accused on OR with a search condition.

About The Author

Citlalli Florez is a 4th year undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley. She is currently majoring in Legal Studies, Chicana/o Studies, and Art Practice. She intends to attend law school in the future with the purpose of gaining skills to further serve her community.

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