By Criminal Justice Legal Foundation
When Realignment took effect in October 2011, many in law enforcement warned of the unavoidable consequences to public safety it would cause. As the impact of shifting the responsibility for thousands of felons from the state to California counties began to play out, newspapers and television reporters have focused on the issue. In recent weeks, news reports continue to paint a picture of innocent people fighting for their lives and property against criminals on the street because of Realignment. The Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation has been compiling reports of crimes committed by criminals free under Realignment for over two years.
On February 18, a Central California woman was luckily able to fight off a criminal who had broken into her home just hours after being released from county jail after conviction for a similar assault. Patty Guerra of the Modesto Bee reports that 18-year-old Aaron Modisett-Hollie was arrested last December on charges of kidnapping, assault with the intent to commit felony mayhem or rape, and false imprisonment. He was convicted on the assault charge and sentenced under Realignment to a year in county jail. The judge reduced the sentence to 89 days after he factored in time served and good behavior credits. But due to jail overcrowding caused by Realignment, Modisett-Hollie was released on Monday, February 17, after only seven days.
According to investigators, hours after his release, Modisette-Hollie saw the woman in her front yard as he wandered her neighborhood and waited until she went back inside her house. He then broke in through a window and reportedly threw the woman to the floor, but she used a shard of glass from the window to stab him several times. Injured, he fled the scene and was later arrested. Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said that the crime was a direct consequence of Realignment, “We house the worst of the worst and we’re forced to release the best of the worst, all due to realignment and jail bed capacity,” he said. Christianson mentioned that even before Realignment went into effect, his department was struggling with jail overcrowding, and this legislation has only exacerbated the problem.
On January 2, Raymond Moreno was arrested in Long Beach and later convicted on charges that include a violation of a gang injunction and being an ex-felon in possession of a loaded firearm, burglary tools and drug paraphernalia. Prior to Realignment, these charges and Moreno’s prior record would have made him eligible for state prison. Under Realignment he was sentenced to 180 days in jail and released on February 8 due to jail overcrowding. On February 9, Long Beach Police report that Moreno approached an unsuspecting victim sitting in a vehicle in the area of 15th Street and Chestnut Avenue and attempted a carjacking, but the victim was able to escape and report the crime. Moreno was later arrested. Jonathan Van Dyke of the Long Beach Grunion Gazette Newspaper reports that Moreno is one of many convicted felons whose criminal history represents the dark side of Realignment. The Long Beach Police Department reports that during 2013, there were more than 800 arrests from Realignment offenders. Two were for murder, ten were for assault with a deadly weapon, and the rest were a host of other serious felonies.
A February 20 story by Melissa Pinion-Whitt of the San Bernardino Sun reports that police in Riverside have arrested 34-year-old Erik Dean Boettcher, who was free on probation under Realignment. Authorities say he abducted and sexually assaulted an 11-year-old girl who ran away from home. On February 14, the victim told police of the attack and officers were able to arrest Boettcher days later. Investigators say he picked the girl up and drove her to a secluded area where he sexually assaulted her before driving her to a motel where he gave her drugs and proceeded to sexually assault her again. He is currently being held in county jail without bail.
Residents of the Northern California city of Fairfield are being victimized by increasing rates of robberies and violent crimes. The city’s police captain believes a big contributor to the increase is Realignment. On February 14, Ian Thompson of the Daily Republic reported that along with increases in violent crimes, the city has also been afflicted with a 43% increase in arson, a 25% increase in auto theft, and a 10% increase in burglary. City police have partnered with county sheriff’s officers to keep tabs on felons that have been released from state custody, noting that the large majority of people arrested last year were individuals released under Realignment.
These stories and new reports indicating that probation officers in Los Angeles, tasked under Realignment with keeping track of thousands of sex offenders, are being overwhelmed and cannot respond to alerts from GPS monitors that have been cut off or otherwise disabled, should be a serious concern to the Governor and the California Legislature.
“But Governor Brown’s response has been to set a new record for granting parole to life sentenced murderers, rapists and kidnappers and cut a deal with federal judges to weaken California’s Three Strikes law so that more habitual felons can be released early from state prison,” said Foundation President Michael Rushford. “How many law-abiding Californians have to become crime victims before those supposedly representing them in Sacramento take action to change this terrible law,” he added.