COURT WATCH: Public Defender Raises Concerns about ‘Pattern’ of Probation Office Arrests Just Days before Court Dates 

By Emeline Crowder and Madison Whittemore

WOODLAND, CA – There was a heated dispute last Friday in Yolo County Superior Court after Deputy Public Defender Richard Van Zandt’s client failed to appear before Judge Daniel Wolk after the probation office making a “ridiculous” decision, said the DPD, to arrest the accused on a violation of supervised own recognizance (SOR).

The accused, a transient man, is currently charged with possession of a controlled substance and a failure to register as a transient sex offender. DPD Van Zandt also noted the accused has not had means of transportation since his car was towed after a past, “low level offense.”

The dispute arose during the pre-hearing conference when Judge Wolk asked DPD Van Zandt if his client was present in court. Van Zandt replied his client had been arrested the previous day and was in jail.

According to the DPD, the accused, needing to appear at the probation office to register as a transient sex offender, failed to do so in a timely manner because of his transient status and lack of transportation.

After a bench warrant was issued, the accused eventually arrived at the probation office and was arrested by an officer, despite needing to and intending to appear in court less than 24 hours later.

Probation Officer Brian Thiessen, appearing on Zoom, defended the arrest, stating the probation office could not be sure of the accused’s whereabouts and thus issued a warrant. Because of the warrant’s issuance, the office had no choice but to arrest the accused upon his arrival to the office.

“I hope this practice doesn’t continue,” DPD Van Zandt asserted, explaining this was the second time during the past week that the probation office had arrested an accused just a day or two before their scheduled court hearing, calling the incidents a “pattern.”

DPD Van Zandt added it was “insulting” that his client was arrested because the accused has a “long history of attending court” and maintaining good contact with the public defender’s office.

According to DPD Van Zandt, “He (the accused) is the last person who should be put on an SOR violation. Who’s making the call to arrest people?” DPD Van Zandt bitterly directed at probation officer Thiessen, further grilling him as to why the accused was arrested when he arrived at the probation office.

Judge Wolk, turning to the prosecution, asked Deputy District Attorneys David Robbins and Christoper Bulkeley what their thoughts about the accused’s situation were.

“We can’t do anything but take him (the accused) to jail,” DDA Bulkeley said, showing clear annoyance toward DPD Van Zandt.

DDA Dave Robbins expressed his “frustration” toward the argument, later saying to DDA Bulkeley that while DPD Van Zandt says what needs to be said, he is fighting bureaucracy.

“This is ridiculous” DPD Van Zandt proclaimed after the DDA’s remarks.

After Judge Wolk concluded the case by confirming the court date for the accused’s preliminary hearing, DDA Bulkeley privately expressed his exasperation about DPD Van Zandt’s comments, calling his arguments a “tantrum.”

About The Author

Madison Whittemore is a rising junior at the University of California, Davis where she studies political science and psychology. After completing her undergraduate studies, Madison wants to go to law school and study criminal law while working to improve efforts for prison reform and representation for lower income citizens.

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